Friday, May 15, 2009

Did we mention that Dan Choi's gay?

Enjoy. Oh how I love Jon Stewart!

An alum asks: is Princeton overrun by ladies?

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

Approximately 8 people (men and women) have sent me this letter from the May 13 Princeton Alumni Weekly, so I'm writing a brief post about it, even though I would really, really just prefer to ignore it. John H. Schmid, Jr., a member of the class of '45 (which makes him older than my grandfather AND John McCain), has expressed his discontent with the "feminization" of his alma mater, lamenting the loss of the "distinctly masculine flavor" of days gone by. The only example that he cites deals with changes to the taproom of the Nassau Inn - apparently the staff decided that they needed to cater to the new wave of womenfolk, and turned it all frilly (I think there's a plan to make the decorations tampon-themed, just to make the men really uncomfortable).

It's hard to take the letter seriously, because it's clearly just grumbling - Schmid complains that he's surprised that "other male graduates are not upset by these developments," and rounds off his letter by sniping at the women of the PAW editorial board. More than anything, it reminds me of last year, when I was working at Reunions (an experience which no amount of money could entice me to relive). One elderly gentleman decided that it would be appropriate to grab my ass as I walked by, holding two large coffee carafes (which were empty, luckily for him). Another, after missing his chair and crashing to the ground next to me, showering me in beer, accused me of stealing his chair and called me a "dumb broad." These little reminders of Princeton's history - only 20 years ago, there were still all-male eating clubs - don't surprise me, but they are saddening, especially because dialogue about feminism is still hard to find today.

But really, I think it's good to be reminded that there are living alumni who don't want women or minorities at Princeton (one of them is even on the Supreme Court), and that this history is very real. There's a tendency to assume that because we don't confront sexism on a daily basis, we've eradicated it. But John H. Schmid, Jr., has very kindly pointed out that conversations about feminism are still extremely relevant - while his half-reasoned rantings are still getting published in Princeton magazines, the fight's not over yet. This year, all of the eating club presidents are still male, and as well as a large percentage of the USG. I don't think that we ladies have created our feminazi man-eating paradise at Old Nassau quite yet - just give us another ten years or so.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thoughts from Anna Rose, Part 8

This is the eighth in a series of posts about my experiences with a sexual pain disorder, and my journey toward a cure.*

This week a friend asked me, "But what's good?" and I was forced to think about my disorder in a slightly different way. That happens a lot, actually. As new minds look at it from new angles, I need to turn it over and over, adjusting my point of view and reassessing my emotions. Pelvic floor dysfunction is a Rubik's cube.

She asked me this question from a purely pleasure-related stand-point: Despite my problems with intercourse, what still feels good? That question is easy enough to answer. I get pleasure from anything focused on my clitoris, which is just a normal, healthy clitoris, thank the stars. Some women aren't so lucky. I get all the same pleasure anyone else would when any other part of my body is touched in the right way. I even get some pleasure from intercourse, depending on factors like my mood, the tightness of my muscles, the position, everything else on my mind, how much water I've drunk that day, et cetera and onward. It's not something I do a lot, and there have been spaces when I've chosen not to have sex at all, but there have also been times when I've had a lot of sex--by my standards, at least. And sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse. My standards are low, perhaps, but I know pleasure when I feel it.

When she asked me that question, I took it more profoundly than it was given. My immediate response was, "I know a man's not with me just for the sex."

I see that as a distinct advantage. I'm not modest, I'm a good-looking woman. Besides that, I'm open, fun, and easy to talk to. There are many men in my past who want to have sex with me. At least, they think they do. But if a man actually ends up with me, if he sticks with me, I know that I've got him for real. There are so many people who get trapped in bad relationships because the sex is amazing, or they get taken advantage of because of sex, and that will just never happen to me. Turning the situation around, I'll never date someone just because I'm feeling physically lonely. I'll never have sex because it makes me feel beautiful or desirable or whatever.

For me, sex is an act of pure love.

The men who have sex with me (or, rather, the one man who used to and the one who currently does) know that. They understand that I'm sharing something with them that is sacrifice as much as it is desire. And, since my pain makes sex difficult on them too, my boyfriend shares it with me with the same solemnity that I have towards it--hurting me is his sacrifice to me, as much as my pain is a sacrifice to him. The pleasure he gets out of sex is diminished when I hurt. It gives him more to concentrate on, it makes him even more careful and considerate than he would otherwise be. It means that every time we have sex, it's an occasion, and it's one we take great care with. I wish it weren't; I wish I could have spontaneous, carefree sex, but I can't. So for me, it's ritual.

Since we were friends long before we were lovers, he chose this path. He says he did it because he figured I was worth it. I know that he's telling the truth, because anyone who sticks around for so long with such limited physical gratification, and such grim prospects, must be in it for something other than the sex.

Likewise, in my wild college days or whatever you want to call them, any one-night-stand who was fine with my proclamation of sexlessness was someone who respected me and saw me as a full and complete person. These people were always the ones I was friends with outside my bedroom. The ones who pushed were the ones who had just recently noticed me, and for whom I was nothing but a piece of ass. The correlations were precise. Telling a man you can't (not won't, but can't) have sex with him brings out some of his character, and displays truth about his feelings for you.

For some men, the no-sex thing is an enormous challenge. There are horror stories about long-term boyfriends becoming hostile, or even violent. But I'm laying in bed next to my boyfriend, who's sleeping, and has no idea I'm telling the Internet about him, and he's just beautiful. He seems totally calm, and though I've said his body fits him perfectly, and his eyes are truly windows to his soul, those facts seem even more important now. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this man cares about me at the expense of instinct. He lies in bed with me night after night and never asks a thing. He lets me come to him. Though I'd love to give him everything he doesn't ask for, and some day I will, he will wait till I'm ready.

Having this disorder has taught me more about sex than I think most of my peers know. I've had the opportunity to think about it on multiple levels, with various degrees of involvement, and I have insight that most people are blessed enough not to. I understand sex as sacred. I know it is meant to be enjoyed, reveled in, celebrated, and deeply appreciated. For me, it's something I do when I can, and no social code informs my decisions. But I do it with great care, and with reverence.

My religion informs my philosophies as well. I'm Wiccan, and as such, I believe that sex is a reenactment of creation: The gods loved each other, and worlds were born. According to one tradition, the entire world is the result of the Goddess's self-love. That's powerful stuff. That's sex. That's why I have sex.

That's what's good.

Anna Rose

*If you have chronic pain during intercourse and you know you have no history of sexual violence, you may have a pain disorder, and you should see a doctor. Get opinions from several different kinds of doctors, especially non-conventional if possible.

To read the whole story, take a look at the whole "Thoughts from Anna Rose" series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Other kinds of gay marriages

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

There was a great editorial in the New York Times on Monday - the author, Jennifer Boylan, who is transgendered (male-to-female), wrote about the way that marriage is treated when it involves a spouse who has chosen a gender transition. This is not an uncommon phenomenon, as Boylan notes: "reliable statistics on transgendered people always prove elusive," she writes, "but just judging from my e-mail, it seems as if there are a whole lot more transsexuals — and people who love them — in New England than say, Republicans. Or Yankees fans."

This is a kind of marriage that is totally overlooked, and states have wildly varying ways of dealing with people who choose to transition after marrying a person of the opposite sex. Because it doesn't involve a strict binary definition of gender, people are often at a loss about how to classify the marriage. Is it a gay marriage, even though it didn't start that way? In some states, marriages are only considered valid if they involve people with opposite genitalia - and if that genitalia changes, too bad. Other states legislate on the basis of chromosomes. Weirdly, attempts to pin down gender on the level of DNA (which, as Boylan highlights throughout her editorial, is incredibly fluid) have actually resulted in the legalizing of marriages between women - as long as one member of the couple has a Y chromosome, they're good to go. This means that in the state of Texas, people who have androgen insensitivity syndrome but identify as female can still marry another woman.

The editorial is absolutely right in pointing out the absurdity of this system. The way that gender is defined changes from state to state, and inevitably, it comes down to the basic truth about marriage: that it should be about love, and not your anatomy. Boylan encourages us to "focus on accepting the elusiveness of gender — and to celebrate it. Whether a marriage like mine is a same-sex marriage or some other kind is hardly the point. What matters is that my spouse and I love each other, and that our legal union has been a good thing — for us, for our children and for our community."

And I say, amen to that. And let the storm continue to gather.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Love and marriage

by Thomas Dollar

When it rains, it pours, and since last November’s setback in California, advocates of equal marriage rights have had a good 2009. The Iowa Supreme Court declared heterosexual-only marriage to be unconstitutional. And more promisingly (at least for those of us who like democratic change), activist legislatures in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire approved same-sex marriage. (NH Governor John Lynch has 10 days to sign or veto the bill, or let it become law without his signature.) New York could be next, depending on how a notoriously craven and slippery club of 62 people decides to act.

The last three months notwithstanding, opponents of same-sex marriage claim to have millennia of tradition and history on their side. Princeton’s own Professor Robert George wrote in 2003 - after the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts struck down discriminatory marriage laws in that state—that the Court “ignored the philosophical and social reasons that have, for millennia, provided the ‘rational basis’ for understanding marriage as the covenantal commitment of a man and a woman.”

The Rev. Rick Warren, who gave the invocation at Obama’s inauguration last January (and has since begun to back off slightly from his anti-gay marriage position), claimed that:

“I'm not opposed to [hospital visitation rights] as much as I'm opposed to redefinition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I'm opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage. …For 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion - this is not a Christian issue. Buddhist, Muslims, Jews - historically, marriage is a man and a woman.”

So, from what these guys say, we’re supposed to believe that during 5,000 years of beautiful tradition - from Moses down to Sandy Koufax - marriage has consisted exclusively of one man and one woman. If you believe this, I have a bridge in Sierra Leone to sell you. Not only has heterosexual monogamy not been the exclusive definition of marriage, it hasn’t ever even been the most common form of marriage. “Traditional marriage” looks a lot more like “an older guy marrying a child” and “one guy having multiple wives” than like Ward, June, Wally and the Beav.

Most societies throughout history have accepted polygynous marriage (one man marries multiple women), although most men in these societies could not accumulate the resources necessary to take more than one wife. Today, polygyny is legally recognized and practiced in most majority-Muslim countries and most countries in Africa - including by some presidents.

I live in Sierra Leone, which is a traditional country with traditional values. Homosexuality is illegal here, but Traditional Marriage is one of four legal categories (along with Civil, Christian, and Muslim Marriages). A man may marry up to four women in Muslim and Traditional Marriages. The 2007 Gender Act sets 18 as the age of consent—but 56% of girls are married by that age. This should surprise no one: it’s a very poor country, and clothes, food, and schools (only primary schools are free, and those only in theory) cost money. Men have stuff, women have sex. The more stuff a man has (which usually means, the older he is), the more women and girls he’ll get. That’s tradition.

Of course, Prof. George and the Rev. Warren aren’t really talking about traditions in Darkest Africa—they’re talking about tradition in The West. And they’re right, inasmuch as the Christian West has advocated institutional monogamy (at least in theory) to a much greater extent than other parts of the world. But even the traditions of the English-speaking peoples are not really what today’s society is looking for. Philippa of Lancaster married King João I of Portugal in 1387 so that her father, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and 1st Duke of Aquitaine, son of King Edward III of England, could cement England’s alliance with Portugal to combat the growing menace of the Franco-Castilian Axis. And it wasn’t just the weird royals and aristocrats who did this: for all classes, marriage was an economic institution. It was about money; it was about guarding titles and properties; it was about protecting children from illegitimacy (which had legal, not just social, consequences); it was about accumulating and consolidating fortunes—but it was not about love.

And therein lies the problem with the “traditional marriage” argument: that what we call traditional—a man and a woman falling in love and marrying out of mutual affection, somewhere in some little chapel - is actually quite novel. Contemporary, Western, heterosexual marriage is the product of an egalitarian, urban-industrial society; the decline of land-based wealth; and the cultural importance of personal freedom and autonomy (for both sexes). It’s revolutionary—and the fight to extend this concept of marriage to same-sex couples is merely a logical extension of a revolution that already happened. If you want to stop them from redefining marriage, I’m afraid you’re a century too late.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My new worst fear

by Chloe Angyal

I have never been afraid of heights. I have never been afraid of dogs. I think snakes are pretty cool. My worst fear, for as long as I can remember, has been the fear of being raped.

For years, I have feared that one day, I would be walking down the street at dusk or on my way home from dinner, minding my own business, walking freely and without fear, and that someone would grab me. And no matter of fighting or screaming would be enough to stop him from violating me, from taking control of my body out of my hands, from raping me.

That was my old worst fear. The scenario of stranger rape, or “real rape,” as I’ve heard some people call it, still terrifies me. But now there’s something else I fear even more.

I’m afraid that one night, after we’ve both had a drink or two, a male friend, someone I’ve known for a while or have flirted with in the past, makes an unrequited move on me. I rebuff him and he doesn’t believe I mean it, or he believe I mean it but thinks he can change my mind. I’m too drunk, or too tired, or too physically weak to hold him off, and he forces himself on me and I can’t stop him. When it’s over, I try to talk to him, to ask him why he would do such a thing, and he tells me I’m overreacting.

But that’s not the worst part of it. The worst part is that if I ever find the courage to tell people about it – the police, my friends, society at large – I’ll probably be told by a whole host of people that what happened to me doesn’t count as rape.

I had been drinking, so it doesn’t count.
He was my friend, so it doesn’t count.
I had flirted with him in the past, so it doesn’t count.
I was wearing that shirt, or skirt, or dress, so it doesn’t count.
I didn’t fight and scream and dig my nails into him in protest, so it doesn’t count.
If I talked to him afterward, it can’t have been that traumatic, so it doesn’t count.

We live in a culture that refuses to take all but the most “obvious” of rapes seriously. A culture that tells women, over and over again, that what happened to them doesn’t count as rape. A culture that asks women what they did to bring on an attack like the one I described above.

We demand that women prove that they’re not just lying for attention, or trying to ruin their assailant’s reputation, or that they just don’t want to admit that they had sex and regretted it the next morning.

We live in a culture that teaches women not to go out drinking and “get themselves raped,” instead of teaching men not to get drunk and rape people. A culture that charges women an exorbitant fee, literally and figuratively, to prove that they were raped. A culture whose lawmakers believe that raping a virgin is a more heinous crime than raping a woman who’s had sex before.

We live in a culture where the media sides with alleged rapists and condemns the few women who come forward. A culture where “rape” is a term thrown casually around to describe a particularly difficult quiz or paper. A culture where women who are raped are mocked and doubted and libeled in their own communities, among their own friends.

Date rape is my new worst fear, because in this culture, the rape is only the first half of a woman’s ordeal. There is a reason that 60% of rapes go unreported. Why would a woman ever put herself through the second half?

This is rape culture. Millions of American women live my worst fear every day. It’s time to start listening to them. It’s time to stop doubting them. It’s time to make this a culture where a woman can reasonably fear spiders or flying or dogs, but never the treatment she can expect to receive at the hands of her community when she stands up, speaks out and says, “I was raped.”

Originally posted on Chloe Angyal's blog on Skirt!

Stuff you may have missed this week

by Gracie Remington

Texas rape victims are expected to pay for their own rape kits, despite the fact that the state's Crime Victims Compensation Fund has tens of millions of dollars lying around.

An interesting article about a doctor’s decision to provide second trimester abortions.

A woman in the UK was denied access to IVF because her husband had two children from a previous marriage.

ABC’s John Stossel argues that pregnant women shouldn’t be covered under anti-discrimination laws.

A Saudi judge recently ruled that men are allowed to slap their wives if they spend too much money.

In commemoration of Mothers’ Day, the New York Times asks women’s health experts what they would give the developing world for mothers’ day.

Good luck on all your Dean's Date work! It's almost over!

Women bullying...women?

by Brenda Jin

A recent article from the New York Times reported incidents of female bullying at work. Mickey Meece has pinpointed one of the biggest problems that modern women face (in case we’ve forgotten over the past century): men are not the only ones to blame for “holding women back”; women are capable of behaving in ways that undermine other women as well.

The article raises two big questions: 1) Are women really bullying women, or is there a double standard for professional behavior? 2) Why do women feel pressure to compete with other women in the work force?

The first question is one that concerns all women in leadership positions, and one that was recently brought to attention by Hilary Clinton’s political campaign for presidency. It seems that if a female leader is too nice, she’s prescribing to traditional gender roles and is therefore a pushover. One tiny step in the other direction, however, and both women and men will denounce her as a world class bitch. Women in high-powered positions have to walk a very thin line, and unlike the benefit of the doubt that their male counterparts enjoy, any outward sign of toughness can be easily misinterpreted as aggression.

The second question concerns competition among women in general. It is women who comment on other women’s appearance and behavior. Women constantly regulate themselves, perhaps to a higher degree than men. Even at a personal non-professional level there is a high degree of competition among women (maybe that’s why we have specific adjectives like “catty” for socially spiteful women). This level of inter-female competitiveness extends to the workplace, and some women feel the need to beat down other women in order to succeed. Especially with increased financial pressures reigning down on Americans in top positions, a competitive edge has emerged to the surface of journalistic discourse.

This competition should not be viewed not as an inherent female trait but as symptomatic of the fact that women still occupy very limited roles in society. At the same time, within the limited spheres of influence that women have, there is a push and desire for higher achievement, higher pay, and higher-ranking jobs. Perhaps it is because women seem to be so limited in their own social realms that they must compete for the opportunities that are available to them, that is to say the rather limited opportunities that are also available to other women as well. It’s a crazy, scary cycle where women who have lost a sense of agency compete with other women for that sense of agency in a world that is still unequal. The individual woman is a victim of inequality, and one of the limited ways that she can regain some sense of equality, some control over her professional and social influence, is to compete with her biggest competitor for influence: her fellow woman.

Cold War caress, from Vietnam with love

by Chris Moses

Travel can take you to unexpected places. In January, sitting at a bar in Ho Chi Minh City, watching a Manchester United football game, and variously entertained and disconcerted by the red-sequin-clad prostitute trying to make some headway with an overly awkward middle-aged Brit, I found myself at home, seven or eight years old, on the couch in our basement family room. No magical spaceship or surreal time-warp had enfolded me - hardly even the haze of over-priced beer. A song did the trick.

Highway to the Danger Zone: I hear the electric echo of those final two words as I write now, just as they were impressed upon my childhood memory. My older brother obsessed over the movie Top Gun, this song offering a pivotal refrain in the film's adventure of love and war. I can't count the number of times it played on our TV, almost like a loop each day after school. In the mid-80s of Reagan-leavened cold-war glory, this was the prime stuff of adolescent boyhood: sexy fighter pilots and willy Commie enemies. Too young to understand more than the fact that this was alluring stuff, I watched my brother in awe - he offered a bridge one step closer to the real thing if only by his greater age, strength and conviction about the importance of our worship.

In Vietnam, as the bar-goers chanted along with this ballad of military glory I couldn't help escape an overwhelming sense of irony. Here, tourists - very few Americans, mostly Europeans and Australians - chorused with their once Soviet-bloc allied servers in tribute to an archetypal production of US anti-communist propoganda. Portable and pliable yet not at all free from its imperial intonations, the music brought a somewhat softer cultural imposition, a little part of the larger wedge of capitalism in still socialist but eagerly developing Vietnam.

Whatever the romance of individual excursion or storied adventures that feature human actors - ideas travel too. Like institutions and material things, ideas get carried and they carry us as well - to and fro, whether at home or abroad or both. Indeed going away is as important for what we leave behind as for what we carry with us and the relief created by distance for identifying which is which. On the whole, however foreign or disconcerting or utterly strange a place may be, I think our baggage colossally outweighs anything that remains at home. Habits, prejudices, tastes, curiosities - combined with the thick, thick lenses through which we see: these make travel all the more than planes, trains and automobiles. So too the sense of irony itself.

The most familiar most often makes the point. A song and its memories, reminders of past vacations, comparisons and descriptions offered on postcards to friends - connections built to understand, however imperfectly. Such is the frustration that arises from what should be second nature - something as globally homogenized as Starbucks or Coke tasting different, not offering what you want, or standing behind a barrier or language or currency.

Along the way the seduction of risk and the risk of seduction plays a pivotal role, just as with a highway to the danger zone. Be it in a movie, or a song in a bar, amidst this cacophony the portability of manhood resonates with power both singularly and varied. However benign a backdrop lyrics may provide to the seedier elements of 'exotic' travel, from sex tourism to exploitative labor more generally, there's another irony mirrored back upon a first world righteousness about proper relationships, gender expectations, and development initiatives. How easily we can extract the best from the rest, a particular making of a singular West, and carry critique without cognizance of its original co-mingled causes of ill-consequence. Such baggage arrives with an ease and regularity the envy of any airline's lost luggage department.

So back in a bar I try to imagine how to sing with greater possibilities. What might be of Walt Whitman more than aircraft's penetration of enemy air space? Back through my own childhood I see what has been accrued, a reminder that discovery at home takes me as far abroad as anywhere around the world. Back in time as a way forward -- Top Gun in Vietnam, these are but some of the things we carry.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day and why I'm a feminist

by Josh Franklin

Today is Mother's Day (Happy Mother's Day!), and it was a good occasion for me to think about the reasons that I'm a feminist. My own mom is one of the most impressive people I know, and I'm grateful for so much that she's done for me. I won't ask you to indulge me in an online speech about how wonderful she is, but I'll satisfy myself with saying that she's incredibly hardworking, strong and dedicated, and knowing that even a part of what she does is for me is truly humbling.

I think that my mom finds my feminism puzzling. When I told her that I was traveling to Florida to attend a conference of sexual assault survivor advocates, she seemed a bit bewildered, and she seems troubled that I want to spend my summer researching gender-based activism in healthcare. And yet, so much of my feminist conviction is rooted in my deep respect for my mother. I think the truth is that the impression left by one strong woman like her is a powerful rebuke of cultural messages of misogyny, if you're really paying attention.

I read an essay by Courtney Martin a while ago, that argued that feminism as a political unity is a thing of the past. As she put it:

I don't think there will ever be a global, or even national, uprising of women focused on one singular goal. There will be no singular feminist agenda. There will be no women's movement. And that's not a bad thing. Because there will be thousands upon thousands of women -- young and old alike -- waking up tomorrow with big ideas, lots of resources and communication tools, and plenty of conviction that they have the right and responsibility to make the world better.

I don't want to address the question of the political future of feminism right now. In my own privileged and myopic involvement with that politics, I focus on the kind of controversial issues that we write about endlessly on this blog--abortion, the hookup culture, and so forth. It's easy for me to forget how remarkable women like my mother are, and I want to take today to appreciate that. So without any more theoretical nonsense, thanks mom. Happy Mother's Day!

Reflections on Mother's Day

by Christina DiGasbarro

So today is Mother’s Day. Arguably, this holiday is one that has most successfully been hijacked by Hallmark and surrounded by an extremely consumerist attitude—it seems like everyone is expected to buy Mom cards, flowers, gifts, etc., to show her how important she is. But, setting those concerns with consumerism aside and not allowing them to obscure the intent of Mother’s Day, this holiday is definitely worth some attention, even though motherhood is certainly nothing new.

When I was younger, I used to wonder if maybe Mother’s Day wasn’t quite fair, in that it celebrates women but only those who have children, and there’s no equivalent holiday to celebrate women without children—some of whom surely don’t want children anyway, but some of whom probably would like children but can’t get pregnant or adopt for one reason or another. But ultimately, we take a day to honor mothers for two legitimate, important reasons. In the first place, a woman who becomes a mother takes on the huge responsibility of caring for another life, and the acceptance of this responsibility and the sacrifices it usually entails are to be celebrated; after all, no mothers means no children, and that means a pretty short future. In the second place, being a mother is generally one of the most thankless jobs out there.

Whether a mother is a stay-at-home mom or works full- or part-time, she is usually the one who ends up doing all the jobs that people (who can afford it) are willing to hire others to do for them: cooking meals, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, tutoring the kids, watching the kids, etc. And Mom does it all without being paid. Even when she can get some help from Dad, or from the kids, once they’re old enough to take on various chores, the majority of the domestic burden still tends to fall on her. She probably doesn’t often get thanked for doing all these things, either.

One thing to think about, considering how much mothers do in the domestic sphere, is whether we can’t get fathers more involved there, too, especially in families where both parents work (or at least want to). We’ll celebrate Father’s Day in June, but beyond celebrating fatherhood, which is, after all, the acceptance of the same responsibility as motherhood, we still have work to do on de-stigmatizing domestic work as women’s work in the currents of mainstream culture.

No matter what we can accomplish in terms of domestic and workplace equality between men and women, and while motherhood isn’t necessarily for everyone, we can’t deny the importance of that role. While Mother’s Day is, after all, only one day out of the year, and thus doesn’t really begin to cover the debt of thanks we owe our mothers, it is a nice step in the right direction. It’s not about the biggest bouquet of flowers or the flashiest gift; instead, make a really nice dinner for Mom, or tell her that she gets the day off from her responsibilities and should do what she wants to do for herself. It’s about taking the time to say, “Mom, I recognize how hard you’ve worked to raise me and the sacrifices you’ve made over the years to take care of me. Thank you.”