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Archive for March, 2012

Book Review: The Baby Trap by Ellen Peck

Posted in Book Reviews on March 19th, 2012
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My husband just turned 30, and I’m on my way there as well by the end of the year. Sometime during this decade we will probably decide to have children. People who are childfree remind me that this is not my only option, and I want to discern my own desires from the cultural and social pressures that surround me. In part, I have been reading up on the childfree movement. Several times, I heard mention of a book, “The Baby Trap” by Ellen Peck. It’s out of print, but available for free online in several formats.

Published in 1971 – it was one of the first books to advocate not having children as a valid option. For that reason, I understand why it’s considered a classic and revered by childfree people. However, the book is so incredibly sexist that I don’t understand why anyone would encourage women to read it today.

Peck’s argument about the cultural pressures on women to have babies and the vapid consumerism that is selling maternity as much as it’s selling toys and clothes is worthy of praise. It was groundbreaking. But in praising her for that, people seem to overlook the overarching theme and argument she relies most heavily on in her book – directed entirely at women – which is that if you have children, you won’t be able to spend all of your effort on pleasing your husband and he will stop loving you and divorce you.

Other arguments made in the book are about the cost of having children, financially, socially and medically to the parents – and also ecologically. In the 1970′s many people believed that the world was so overcrowded as to be headed for an epic disaster, and so I can forgive her alarmist rhetoric on that topic. Despite that, an ecological argument for not having children is still valid today.

In fact, I think any reason for not having children is valid. People who don’t want to be parents should not be parents. Whether they are concerned about climate change, want to travel or just plain don’t feel like it – I would never impose my opinion on any other person’s reproductive plans.

However, where Peck’s book disappoints me is where she veers off into implying that no one should have children (just as silly as saying everyone should) and that grown men are incapable of adjusting to fatherhood, which is why I found the entire book so distasteful.

Lori is thirty and looks eighteen. She’s fickle, irresponsible, and inclined to fly off to the Azores for weekends, not, usually, alone. She dates married men, because most of the men she knows are married.

The last time I saw her I asked if most of the married men who took her out had children. Her answer was immediate.

“Are you kidding? All of them. In fact, when they pull out the kids’ pictures at a cocktail party, I know they want to get serious for the evening. Lots of times it’s an unmistakable signal. Almost code for, ‘Look, I’m married, honey, I won’t fool you, but it’s just because of these kids; my wife means nothing to me.’

“Sure, it’s the guys with kids,” she continued; “the ones who don’t have kids still like their wives.”

The ones who don’t have kids still like their wives.

That’s not a typo. Peck restated that sentence for emphasis, hoping to make the readers’ blood run cold. She also had an annoying habit of calling women “girls” throughout the book.

In her chapter on the consumerism of modern parenting (probably the best in the book) she included this vignette:

And the salesman was approached by a distraught- looking man, whom I’d seen wandering around the store for some time, come to think of it. In a barely audible voice, and with nervous glances at the other girl and me, he asked the salesman for a “a . . . a . . . do you have … a … a breast pump?” His embarrassment had made the last two words shrill. He glanced over his shoulder at us again, then the salesman led him cheerfully down the aisle.

What was wrong? That man’s wife had evidently needed a breast pump; he’d gone to buy one for her. What was wrong with that, I asked myself. Well, the fact that he had seemed so nervous about it— embarrassed would be more the word— that was what was wrong with it. He looked like a twelve-year-old boy looks when his mother sends him to the drugstore for Kotex. And I think Philip Roth has described that feeling well.

Yes, because the character of Alexander Portnoy is to be taken as representative specimen of healthy male sexuality. Perhaps we should do a case study on Humbert Humbert and responsible step-parenting next?

I wanted to figure this out. Why does a boy or a man feel embarrassed or humiliated at having to buy a woman things like Kotex or a breast pump?

….

They’re accoutrements to female reproductive physiology. In asking a man to get them, is there kind of an implicit subjugation involved? Is there?

A psychologist I’d interviewed the day before, Nathaniel Branden, had said, “To the degree that aspects of reproduction are overemphasized, aspects of sexuality are de-emphasized.” Would that man, that night, see his wife’s breasts as, well, alluring or romantic?

There is no way to tell, of course. But it is possible that wife-as-babynurse is not at all the same as wife-mistress.

Apparently fatherhood is demeaning, subjugating and emasculating to men, and motherhood makes a woman lose all sex appeal forever and ever. That’s why no one ever has more than one child!

The book continues with a much more coherent analysis of media and cultural messages about parenting, and how these pressure people into making choices they otherwise might not have. But these chapters are also littered with anecdotes about how great it is to be child free because you can buy other things with your money and go on vacations. Apparently materialism is okay if it’s not related to parenting. There are several times where this is stated explicitly,

I freely admit that spending nearly all your money on clothes seems a bit unjustifiable in this troubled world. But I would defend her doing so for two reasons. First, I see nothing wrong with self-indulgence if it doesn’t have any negative social consequences for anybody else. (There are, by contrast, brands of self-indulgence that are destructive. In case it hasn’t come across, I think that indulging yourself with a large family is a destructive kind of self-indulgence. But the surface materialism of fashion, while it does nothing particularly good for the world, doesn’t really hurt anybody, either.)

Her environmental analysis is way off if she thinks that rampant consumerism of any kind is okay.

Chapter Six, “Husbands and Babies” is the one where the sexism is the most egregious.

[A] wife who has no children to preoccupy her time and attention can give that time and attention to her husband. She is more of an attentive companion and a loving woman than a mother-of- two-or-three has time to be. And her husband thrives on this attention.

Nearly every man wants this kind of attention from a woman. I don’t think many men have enthusiasm at the prospect of offspring.

The adult male, it would seem, who has a clear and confident grasp on the world and on his life wants to live that life himself, rather than spend most of it “watching his young grow up.”

Now, there are husbands who want their wives to stay home, be “domestic,” have children. In the opinion of therapist Helena Lopata, “Such a husband is either not very wise, or inwardly he does not love his wife very much. Let’s look at such a situation in real terms. He wants her confined to the home, while he is out in the world of work. He gives her limited and routine tasks while he is out growing, learning, creating, being challenged and stimulated by conditions of competition within his field. He is, by asking for such a situation, creating marital incompatibility: first, in terms of conversation; then sexually. And there is virtually no way around that. Such a husband, in long-range subconscious terms, is aiming toward the dissolution of his marriage, denying future possibilities of relating to his wife as a companion. These men, you see, do not feel comfortable with emotional closeness and intimacy. This is their way out.”

I know in the 70′s there weren’t mommy blogs and all, but I’m pretty sure women who were stay at home mothers did things other than stay indoors all day cleaning and changing diapers. And while I am not a psychologist, I doubt “becoming a father is a passive aggressive way to divorce your wife” and “men are emotional children who need their wives to mother them” makes any sense at all as generalizations.

The chapter continues, and Peck gives several examples of men angry that when they became fathers…they were no longer men without the responsibilities of fatherhood.

“I used to break my neck getting home,” a taxi driver in Dallas told me. “I knew just how to get every green light and make it home in fifteen minutes flat after my shift. We’d have a beer; we’d put the steaks on; we’d talk about the kooks that turned up that day… Or go to this bar a few blocks away for a nightcap and dance… It was great. All the guys thought I had the greatest wife around. Now, I get home to a kid screaming, and a wife who doesn’t notice if I’ve come in the door or not half the time, she’s that busy with the kid. I take the longest way around I can find.”

If anyone was reading this book did not know that having children means that you can’t just randomly go out drinking on weeknights, Peck has done a public service. But I think everyone else on the planet who isn’t that guy is left puzzled.

Peck goes on to talk about the financial stresses of having children, and the way it limits one’s career choices. Again, this is something that should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for more than two seconds.

Then there is a bit on how parents have less sex than they did beforehand. Again, it makes sense that this is a source of stress to parents, but the way Peck frames the argument – we should sympathize with men who divorce their wives for that reason, as if women who become mothers maliciously withhold sex by definition.

As a British husband who had just left his wife explained to me, “There were few occasions when we could be free of the babies’ needs. There were fewer occasions of sex, it was as simple as that. And therefore there were fewer occasions when everything went right and was fulfilling. This led to some trouble in other ways. It was simply not the same. It was not the marriage I had bargained for; she was not the wife she had been before, not responsive to me …”

As someone who is not a parent, I can’t begin to imagine the demands of taking care of an infant. But what did he expect to happen? That all of Peck’s empathy is with him, and not his wife who now must take care of the demands of parenthood entirely on her own is astounding.

The next chapter, about how women change after becoming mothers is not much kinder.

Since a mother is with a baby all day rather than with her husband, she is more aware of that baby’s needs than she is of her husband’s needs. She knows the baby’s schedule for feeding, changing, cuddling, and check-ups. How can she possibly know that her husband has had such a terrific strain at work today that he needs one hour of complete silence between 6 and 7 p.m. How can she know that he just lost an account at 3 p.m. and could really use a night out as an ego boost? The baby’s needs are simpler, and she’s in more direct touch with them, and the baby is small and helpless, so it’s almost inevitable that baby’s needs come first.

Or perhaps if the husband needs something from his wife, he can open his mouth and ask for it, given that he is a grown man, and not an infant?

A husband can see his wife’s devotion to the baby, and it’s pretty for a while. (Usually for at least one month.) His wife exhibits new qualities: concern; motherliness; responsibility; maturity.

But there’s a catch. These new qualities may not be adding on to the qualities that attracted him to his wife in the first place. They may be displacing those prior qualities: freedom; humor; impulsiveness; youth. Before a husband’s eyes, the girl he married gradually disappears and is just as gradually replaced, by a mother.

Peck continues on, with examples of more men cheating on their wives because they became mothers, seemingly seeking to validate the madonna/whore complex of every man who has ever had one. She does give examples though of women who cheat on her husbands out of boredom – but these have a much less understanding tone.

I know that this book was written a long time ago, and I tried not to come down too hard on it for being dated. I concede that at the time, academic feminism was in its infancy. I have mixed emotions about criticizing so harshly the work of a woman who put so much effort into her marriage only to get divorced anyway and die alone. But that does not make this book a good one, and I cannot understand why childfree activists continue to recommend this book when so much other more egalitarian and coherent writing has been done since. There have been studies that marital happiness decreases after children are born. But suggesting that the only reason a man would want to be a father is because he wants a divorce is ludicrous. And fear mongering about divorce, based solely on an assumption of immaturity on the part of men, is not an argument.

Book Review: F’em: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts On Balls by Jennifer Baumgardner

Posted in Book Reviews on March 12th, 2012
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F’em is an anthology of short essays by Jennifer Baumgardner about feminism, music, family, and politics. Baumgardner writes in such a personal style that the book reads like a memoir, even though not all of the writing is autobiographical.

Interview subjects include rock stars like Bjork, Kathleen Hanna, Ani DiFranco and Amy Ray, whom Baumgardner previously dated. The book covers issues like abortion, feminist critiques of popular culture, transfeminism, anti-rape activism and female sexuality. In her essays, she explores her own vulnerabilities, her romantic and family history and the ways her views about feminism have changed throughout her life.

F’em was a quick and pleasant read and ended with an essay sketching out the possibility that feminism has entered its fourth wave, or forth wave, as Shelby Knox dubbed it earlier in the book. I think that the book was organized to make this argument, but until I was done reading it, I often found myself wishing that the essays had appeared in chronological order. While many essays were very poignant and thought provoking others seemed repetitive. I think that organizing them by theme would have solved this problem as well.

Some reviewers have commented on their dislike of the title, but I like the inherent geekiness of it. Fem-inist, Femme, Fuck ‘em… the word play is something I appreciate.

Although this book can be understood as one defining the current state of feminism as it transitions into the 21st century and potentially a new wave, it’s also a good resource for the history of the third wave and how feminists with different perspectives can form a coherent movement. As someone who found my feminism because of the feminist blogosphere, I like having a primer on the days of ‘zines and Riot Grrls.

Fun Friday Cosmetics Review – Juara Perfume

Posted in Green Product Reviews on March 9th, 2012
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Ever since I read “Not Just A Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry” by Stacy Malkin, I’ve slowly started to change the way I purchase and use cosmetics. I frequently consult the Skin Deep Database at The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I don’t have any hard and fast rules, but I try to purchase products that are at least one of the following: fragrance free, have organic ingredients and/or do not contain phthalates or parabens.

I will be reviewing some of the brands of natural cosmetics that I use regularly. To see all of the posts in this series, click here.

I have stated that I’ve gone “fragrance free.” What I mean by that is that I try not to use products that have “fragrance” listed as an ingredient. This is because that term doesn’t mean a specific ingredient. It’s a placeholder for a proprietary concoction that could contain carcinogenic chemicals. However, I still like to use perfume for special occasions.

During my last trip to Terrain I picked up

Juara Tiare Jasmine Tea Perfume Oil

Like the Yakshi perfume I have reviewed previously, this is a roll on made from essential oils. It’s a bit lighter and less greasy than the Yakshi however, and absorbs easily into my skin.

This fragrance is a lovely, light and floral. You can smell white tea and jasmine. It’s not overpowering, and quite pleasant. The package came with a small packet of Juara shower gel of the same scent.

Juara seems like a company that takes it’s social commitment seriously. Their website touts that all of their products are vegetarian and free of parabens phthalates, and sulfates and that they do no animal testing. In addition, their packaging is Forest Stewardship Council Certified.

The Jefferson Bible and its Implications

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials on March 8th, 2012
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Recently, I completed a very interesting book, entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, also known by the simpler title, The Jefferson Bible.

Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, undertook a very interesting project that most people would never contemplate: he edited the Bible. The Bible is a very hard read, in the final analysis. It has been translated and re-translated, it repeats itself, it contradicts itself, and it is full of events no one can corroborate. Jefferson, an avowed deist, was hostile to organized religion, yet believed in a creator. He decided to take several copies of the bible -written in Greek, Latin, French, and English- and literally cut and paste the Gospel passages that focused on Jesus and his teachings into another book.

The edited gospels are a much more coherent read. Jesus is born, he lives, he teaches, and dies. In this edition, he does not cure blindness, turn water into wine, or come back from the dead. Did I mention it is never implied or stated he is the son of God?

Now why is this important, today? It gives the lie to the idea that the founding fathers were a monolithic group of devout Christians. Additionally, any Christian who followed this pared-down version of the Gospel would enjoy freedom from the cognitive dissonance that plagues their faith. They might even wish to give the same treatment to the Old Testament, to remove the perplexing passages where God orders them to hate gays and masturbation, as well as avoid lobster and mixed fibers.

Jefferson’s project also is not without precedent. All widely-read printings of the Bible have been edited to some degree. His project is also not without imitators. The contributors at “Conservapedia”, a Far-Right-Wing Wiki, (I won’t link to their site) are editing the Bible in an on-going project to prove that modern Conservative thought is fully supported by the Bible. Of course, they are not as smart as Thomas Jefferson.

Just because something was written by a President does not automatically make it correct -that is an argument to authority, and a fallacy. However, The Jefferson Bible is a suggestion to all believers. Maybe scriptures really are a book of stories, but that wouldn’t make the lessons any less true. Maybe scriptures encourage cruel actions, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen, when you know the orders are unjust.

The Bible says men shouldn’t spill their seed on the ground, and wives must submit to their husbands. People really should trust themselves, and refuse to obey such commands, which they know can only cause suffering. What a depressing life you’d have to live, obeying the orders of a God that hates you.

Unpacking Catholic Outrage Over Barbara Johnson

Posted in Editorials on March 7th, 2012
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Last week, a story broke about a Catholic woman in Maryland who was denied communion at her mother’s funeral because she is a lesbian.

I read comments about this on social, media and saw many outraged Catholics criticizing the priest in question. While I think it shows how far the LGBT movement has come that this is a huge news story and so many people are outraged on Barbara Johnson’s behalf, it frustrates me. I think it’s a good sign that so many people are feeling compassion for this woman – even religious straight people. But this whole controversy is at the heart of why I left the church, so it touched a nerve for me.

In 2004, the Archbishop of St. Louis publicly stated that John Kerry could not receive communion in his diocese because he is pro-choice. This was the last straw for me. I knew that it would only be a matter of time between denying communion to pro-choice public figures and all pro-choice parishioners. Not every bishop denied communion to Kerry, but Archbishop Burke was not reprimanded in any way – his behavior was fine with the hierarchy, and there would be nothing to prevent similar actions from taking place in the future. I felt sick – I was no longer welcome in my own church. And a few years later, Pope Benedict was elected, the man who wrote memos in favor of pro-choice politicians being denied communion. This was evidence that people like Benedict and Burke showed the true direction of the church, not more moderate leaders who wanted to put as many people in the pews as possible, regardless of their disagreement with church doctrine.

The situation with Barbara Johnson is sad on many levels. It’s sad that her mother died. And it’s sad that a priest, who was supposed to comfort her rejected her in such a public way. Receiving communion is a big deal for Catholics. To be told that you may not do so can feel like a devastating rejection. This is why so many Catholics are outraged. It’s not just the denial of communion, which people seemed ambivalent about in John Kerry’s case. It’s that the rejection happened on a day when Johnson was mourning her mother’s death. This outrage comes from the compassion people are feeling for any person who is suffering because a loved one had died. If this had been on any other Sunday, or if Johnson had gone to the press because her priest had refused to marry her and her partner, this story would not have made such a splash. To me, this signifies that the outrage is not over denial of communion or the churches position on homosexuality, it’s that the priest publicly humiliated a woman who was mourning the death of her mother.

There are some Catholics taking the position that “a no-sin rule would bar all from Communion” but this misses the point. Most of the people who make the news for being barred from communion do so because they disagree with the church’s position on divorce, choice, or gay rights – that is their positions on sexuality. No one is barred for being a crooked businessperson, for supporting the Iraq war or the Death penalty – the first of which is a violation of the Ten Commandments, and the latter two the church could not be more clearly against. This is entirely political and it’s entirely the politics of sex and patriarchy. Being outraged that the church has turned the Eucharist – the rite most scared and holy to Catholics into a political weapon is the reason why I left the church. The hypocrisy of proclaiming it to be essential to spirituality and a relationship with God, and then denying it to people because of their personal sexual choices or opinions is the utmost hypocrisy.

The Archdioceses of Washington has issued a weak apology, but it misses the point. I find myself in solid agreement with this Catholic blogger who states that the preist was “thrown under the bus for following Canon Law.” I don’t think that homosexuality is a sin, of course. But I do think the this Father Marcel Guarnizo was in fact, simply following the rules of the church. And that is the source of my frustration with the Catholic response to this story. These people who attend Mass, give money and time to the church find themselves outraged that the church is following it’s own rules. This is nonsensical. If you are outraged, why are you still Catholic?


There is no way for any average parishioner or even priest to change the course of the Catholic Church.
You can stay, seething in outrage, you can complain – as if you were complaining to a brick wall, or you can leave, and free your conscience from the burden of supporting an institution that treats people so cruelly. *
__
*Exit, Voice and Loyalty

Dr. Vajayjay’s “Privatize Those Privates!” Not At All Like Vanessa Scott’s VaginalSurgery.Info

Posted in Editorials on March 6th, 2012
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Never in a million years would I have imagined myself to be using the word “Vajayjay” in a the title of a blog post that had my name on it – it’s a euphemism I find incredibly unsavory, especially because of its origins – but I will make an exception for this video. Produced in association with The New View Campaign, this video is a brilliant satire of the current state of cosmetic vaginal surgery. It came to my attention after a discussion with Vanessa Scott from vaginalsurgery.info in the comments section of a post I wrote asking people to sign a petition for greater oversight of labiaplasty. Apparently for some reason, this video and a link to my post were also featured on their website even though Ms Scott accused me of assuming women are “stupid easily misled.

What I find telling is that on vaginalsurgery.info, and in the comments on you tube, Vanessa and/or one of her colleagues makes light of it, claiming to enjoy the humor, “Obviously, if you see a doctor like this, RUN.” and insisting that in reality, cosmetic surgeons are nothing like that at all. However, on this blog, Vanessa used many of the same tactics that the fictional (and according to her sensationalized and “clearly put together by a group that has not bothered to talk with any women that have actually had the procedures done.”) Dr.Vajayjay did.

Creating A Need

In the video, Dr. Vajayjay is asked, “But labia are airbrushed out of porn, so this is not normal at all!” He responds, mugging angelically

“Can Dr. Vajayjay help it if this is what women ask for?”

On Political Flavors, Vanessa Scott says,

The vast majority of women I work with have been contemplating the procedures for years before they choose to go through with them. In interacting with doctors from all over the world, I routinely hear that their labiaplasty patients are the most satisfied post-op patients they have.

In the end all this publicity does is make more women aware that these procedures are available. And while some will be outraged, the truth is whether you approve, ACOG approves or I disapprove, these women want these surgeries and will have them.

On Youtube, “VaginalSurgery” says,

The industry is growing because women benefit from and demand them. Who are you to choose for them?

The before and after photos in this video seem to be taken directly from vaginalsurgery.info ‘s before & after page which is heartbreakingly titled, “Good & Bad.”

Make It Science

The video has Dr. Vajayjay encouraging other surgeons to use words like “rejuvination” and “labiplasty” which sound scientific but are a lot nicer sounding than “cutting off your labia, doing liposuction on the mons and injecting collagen into the vagina.”

VaginalSurgery.info calls itself, “The Most Comprehensive Vaginal Rejuvenation and Labiaplasty site on the Web!”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists statement on this issue begins,

So-called “vaginal rejuvenation,” “designer vaginoplasty,” “revirgination,” and “G-spot amplification” are vaginal surgical procedures being offered by some practitioners.

Note that the above scare quotes are from ACOG – not The New View Campaign.

What Women Want

Dr. Vajajay advises doctors to run away when asked about research and focus on “what women want” by providing customer testimonials.

In response to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists statement that

Women should be informed about the lack of data supporting the efficacy of these procedures and their potential complications, including infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia, adhesions, and scarring.

Vanessa Scott tells me that:

The reason ACOG dropped the ball is because they know full well that their members have been doing these procedures for decades (tightenings & labia reductions). They just hadn’t been marketing them for sexual benefits. Instead of stepping up and acknowledging the procedures and providing the oversight that is now being sought, they chose to denounce them in the hopes they would scare women from wanting them.

That’s exactly what New View is saying these surgeons do – ignore research and turn the conversation back to consumer demand.

Make It Pink

Dr. Vajayjay tells cosmetic surgeons to make these procedures seem like a spa treatment. Use flowers, silhouettes and beach landscapes.

The banner for VaginalSurgery.info is a happy couple on the beach.

I don’t see anything wrong with that, per se. But it’s uncanny how accurate the parody is and to see Scott deny that it is at all accurate is quite comical.

Make it Feminist

Finally, Dr. Vajayjay advises surgeons to “make it feminist.” Remind women that this surgery is what they want and to empower women with “knowledge, choices and alternatives.”

The tagline for vaginalsurgery.info is “Compassionate Advice & Empowering Information”

Dr.Vajayjay goes on to say the best person to present this information is a woman, because, “a woman can never be sexist.”

Vanessa Scott told me:

We women are not as weak and impressionable as some would like us to believe. It is infuriating to me that we women would suggest or propagate that sentiment.

Women are not stupid and easily misled.

But since this is such a private procedure you don’t often hear them screaming from the rooftops about it. And why would they when they are deemed as “victims of society” for desiring the surgery. Is it not our right as women to desire to live happy, healthy and comfortable lives? Or does that make us weak, naive women that all want to look like porno stars?

First she claimed that I as a woman am infuriating for suggesting that these surgeries might usually be unnecessary, and that I am saying that women are stupid and easily misled. And then she dressed it all up in faux-feminist empowerment language. Make it feminist indeed.

***

I wish that this video was just a humorous infomercial for a fictional doctor that is competing for the clients of McNamara/Troy on “Nip/Tuck.” But it’s eerily close to the way that these potentially harmful procedures actually are marketed to women. The only humor I find is in Vanessa Scott’s denial that she is anything like the caricature on the screen.

Awesome Clubs Beer of the Month Club March 2012

Posted in Food and Drinks on March 5th, 2012
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For Christmas this year, Adam’s parents gave us a three month subscription to Awesome Clubs Beer of the Month Club. You can read my previous reviews from the January and February selections.

This month featured selections from Casco Bay Brewing Company in Maine and Chameleon Brewing Company in Wisconsin.

Casco Bay Riptide Red by Casco Bay Brewing Company

This beer pours a very pretty red color. It smells of malt, hops and just a hint of caramel. Pleasantly medium bodied and very smooth, the taste is not overwhelming, but it’s definitely flavorful. I mostly tasted mild hops, and a little bread and caramel.

Casco Bay Brown Ale by Casco Bay Brewing Company

When I poured this beer there was a thick, fluffy head. It’s an attractive dark brown color. This beer smells like coffee and dark roasted malt. I tasted mostly dark chocolate with a hint of hops. It’s medium bodied with lots of bubbles. This would be a great beer to have with a dessert.

Chameleon Fire Light by Chameleon Brewing Company

This beer has a thick, foamy head. It’s a very light yellow color and a clean, fresh, malty smell. It’s light bodied and mostly the mouthfeel is just the carbonation. I tasted bread, malt, and a very slight trace of hops. Nothing out of the ordinary here – similar to Bud, would be good for a drinking game, a picnic or a day at the ball park.

Chameleon Ryediculous IPA by Chameleon Brewing Company

I poured this beer and there was a very thick head. It’s an amber color, and appears to be unfiltered. The only thing I could smell was hops – and that’s all I could taste as well. This beer is light bodied and extremely bitter. I did taste just the hint of fruit, but the hops were so overwhelming I couldn’t finish my beer. IPAs are not my favorite, but I can appreciate a good one on occasion. Ryediculous was just too unpleasant for me to continue.

Why “Condoms Are Cheaper” Doesn’t Make Sense

Posted in Editorials on March 2nd, 2012
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Craig Bannister and other conservatives who have seen their “Religious Liberty” argument about why health insurance companies should not be mandated to cover contraception fail are turning to an argument that degrades all sexually active women. But at the heart of it is that “condoms are cheaper.”

This is a very strange argument to make on the surface. Women shouldn’t demand that their insurance cover the birth control, even though it’s a woman-controlled method with many secondary health benefits because another, cheaper, male controlled method is less expensive. When you really compare prices, if that was the only thing that mattered when choosing a form of contraception, most women be using diaphragms – because they would be even less costly in the long run. There’s nothing wrong with diaphragms, or condoms or the pill, of course, but is ludicrous to say that everyone should just use the cheapest method because it’s cheapest. Who would support an amendment stating that medicare and medicaid could only supply generic drugs?

People must be able to choose the contraceptive method that is the easiest to use and most comfortable for their lifestyle – because that method is the one they will most often use correctly and consistently – the key to preventing unplanned pregnancy. No method – not even abstinence – works if you don’t use it every time.

That’s is irrelevant to the GOP, however. The needs of individual women, and individual poor women at that are unimportant to them. This idea that women are not a monolith does not occur to them, which is why this argument seems clever to them and also why they ask mind numbingly stupid questions like “What Are Women For?

So as the argument gets even uglier, it’s important to remember that we are arguing with people who have no respect for women’s autonomy or individuality. And that’s misogyny.

Archie Comics CEO Imagines A World Without Bigotry

Posted in Editorials on March 1st, 2012
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You might have heard that the “One Million Moms” have proposed a boycott of Toys ‘R’ Us because they are carrying the issue of Life With Archie that depicts the wedding of Kevin Keller, a gay character, to another man.

I’ve read this issue – being a fan of Archie Comics since I was a kid, and all sexuality is written out of the gay characters. Kevin loves his husband, that is clear – but they do not even kiss, at their own wedding. This is in contrast to the straight characters who are frequently depicted hugging and kissing. I understand why Archie Comics left out even a chaste smooch, as it still shows their wariness about the storyline.

However, any doubts I had to the commitment they have made were gone when I read this statement:

“As I’ve said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone,” he wrote. “It’s an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday. We’re sorry the American Family Association/OneMillionMoms.com feels so negatively about our product, but they have every right to their opinion, just like we have the right to stand by ours. Kevin Keller will forever be a part of Riverdale, and he will live a happy, long life free of prejudice, hate and narrow-minded people.”

I love this because he’s both standing up for what is right, and pointing out the ridiculousness of getting so upset about a cartoon. It delights me to know that he’s holding it over their head that they can’t hurt Kevin Keller – because he’s a fictional character and that they would rather tell his story than ever depict people as hateful as the American Family Association. The AFA are the people who do not belong in idyllic Riverdale, not Kevin and his husband. This is a beautiful message to send out to everyone, especially any young LGBT fans of Archie – You matter, and we see you as an important part of our community.