New writing! Swimming Through My Life:
LINK to Meg's House
Is All Masculinity Toxic? Introducing Neo-Feminism
by Shelley Pineo-Jensen, Ph.D.
My previous post regarding the article "All Masculinity is Toxic" drew some helpful critiques by friends and relatives. I have restructured the piece and added more explanation of the point of the piece - which turns out to be the idea of Neo-Feminism.
Neo-Feminism is not a linear extension of the waves of feminist action directed at bringing women equality; it is post-feminist in the sense that it advances a human identity that is queer, free from constricting gender roles, and advances the goal of equity and freedom for all human beings, regardless of their plumbing. Gender is a construct that values half the population at the expense of the other half; like all the binaries (white/non-white, straight/queer, Christian/non-Christian, able-bodied/disabled, old/young, male/female, et al) it distributes power in a supposedly "natural" way, whether by "god's" ordained reality or some self-serving explanation of evolution.
I am proud of this work. I hope you will read it and leave a comment below.
LINK to "Neo-feminism" under the Queer Theory pull-down
All masculinity is toxic? That seems like a bold claim. How can this be true? Hold onto your hats and follow the logic chain . . .
Check out my new article under the Queer Theory pull down
After moving to Wenatchee, there were few opportunities for swimming. We drove down to see the town pool when we first moved there and discovered that it had been closed because it took its water straight out of the Columbia River, and it was no longer sanitary. The lake water at our various camping places was always very cold. Perhaps we were invited to swim once at the home of one of my father’s colleagues, but the memory is unclear. Mostly I remember that that the fatuous wife and mother (of a fat boring baby) promised us “Boston Coolers” all day while we sat around bored – there must not have been a swimming pool, right? – and finally she prepared the highly touted treat, and it was just an ordinary root beer float. Not that there is anything wrong with a root beer float but after her build up to this strange and exotic dessert, I expected something more spectacular. What did I want? Sparkers and ruby dust? But anyhow, swimming was a bust in Wenatchee.
We moved to Orange, California in 1964, the summer before eighth grade. At that time, Orange was not part of the great wasteland that is present day Orange County; it was in individual city (town?) that was bordered by orange groves and undeveloped chaparral with no other municipalities but for Santa Ana to the south. We had one car which my father used to drive to work at Santa Ana Junior College, later Santiago Community College. I walked everywhere. I rarely took my/our bicycle out of the neighborhood. I think that the one speed bike that was the delight of my Wenatchee days was just too slow and clunky; or perhaps it was that there was a possibility that it would be stolen. Walking was something I did with friends, and I had many. Many children living near me was one of the advantages of Primrose Drive from 1964 to 1970.
I went with my family to the Orange Plunge frequently when I lived with my parents in Orange. The Plunge was the centerpiece of W.O. Hart Park, which everyone pronounced Wo (woah) Hart. In the beginning, my mother would be there. My father would drive us over and swim for about ten minutes and then disappear, probably to a nearby bar, but it was never discussed. My mother would swim with us for a while, coaching us on our swimming a bit and showing us tricks like swimming underwater and turning somersaults underwater. Then she would lay on a towel or take the baby, which at this point was Emily, outside to a free wading pool. The Primrose house had no air-conditioning, so swimming was quite a relief on those hot summer days.
Later, Jayne and I, and perhaps other siblings, would walk all the way to the plunge and spend a hard-earned quarter for entrance to paradise. I was not a good swimmer still, and for the first couple years I swam about exclusively in the shallow end. I would sometimes work my way up the side of the pool, swimming a ways and then grabbing the edge. The lifeguards didn’t like it and I would be busted. They wanted to see me swim all the way across the pool without touching down. Eventually, I could perform this feat, slowly dog-paddling the width of the Olympic sized pool. Suddenly, I was permitted to swim in “the deep end.” What a lovely sound that was – it was a major accomplishment in my swimming progress.
I was, by this time, going to the pool with my friends plus my sister Jayne. We shared friends, or as she like to put it, I “stole” her friends. Perhaps this is true. The only child my age in the neighborhood was a boy and if there were any slightly older girls, I do not remember them at all. Each time we went to the plunge, we would dare one another to go off the high dive; once I had tried it, I always did one jump and rarely, a dive, on every occasion that I visited the pool. Once a day was plenty; it usually hurt some part of my body, whichever stray part was sticking out or hit the water first. Also problematic was the long swim over to the ladder. But it was a symbol of courage and daring do. Just as it scared me, it always made me proud, because it frightened me and I still did it.
I much preferred the regular diving boards but again I was constantly in trouble with the lifeguards. One time I was swimming too near where the divers entered the water. I learned a rule that one could not swim around on the side of the ladder closer to the diving boards. But my big crime was diving towards the edge of the pool, swimming straight at it, and then grabbing the edge of the pool and working my way down to the ladder. I had to prove that I could swim the width of the pool again and again. I finally learned how to just dive straight off the board and swim out as far as the ladder and then cut over.
I also learned how dive making a neat hole in the water, splitting it with my hands, and descending deep into the blue, finally swimming up when I was running out of breath. Then I would invoke my shabby dog paddle and make my way to the ladder. But the power of diving deep, of descending into the opaque abyss, was tantalizing and refreshing. Popping out onto the surface into the air was leaving a strange world of unreality and quiet into a cacophonous party, jagged sounds interrupted by splashing water and shrieks. The other girls like to lay on their towels and “sun-bathe” but I spent nearly every minute in the cool oasis, swimming underwater with my eyes open like a bigger girl, suffering the chlorine sting for the silence and the solitude.
Link to Non-Fiction -- Memoirs -- Swimming Through My Life
Near the end of my time in Seattle (my father took a master’s degree from University of Washington when I was nine and he got a job teaching in Wenatchee) we went on an outing with my Grandma Chandler, my mother’s mother.
I’ve looked at maps trying to figure out where the beach was – my guess is Seward Park. Between my mother and my grandma, there was sure to have been a fabulous lunch, perhaps fried chicken and potato salad. Maybe watermelon and cookies or cake. Or donuts. Grandma did like to buy us donuts. (“Say Pat, do you think we should stop and get some D-O-N-U-T-S?” And I would yell “YES!”)
So I found a picture of Seward Park taken in the 50s and it seems quite possible. The main thing about my life-long swimming adventure is that on this occasion, the water was NOT freezing cold. It was warm and lovely, due to the shallow nature of the geography of the shoreline. You had to walk out a long ways to get to waist deep. Jayne and I stayed near the shore and pretended to swim while actually just walking around on our hands. This led to my actually dog paddling around and figuring out that I could dog paddle quite a long distance.
This is a red-letter day in my life story because that was the day I learned to swim. I was still not confident in the water and would never swim where I could not stand up and be head above water. It was so validating to have accomplished something I had worked so hard on for so many miserable days in that cold cold water of Union Bay. I learned today it’s really called Lake Union, but whatever. That’s how I remember it.
And I can still remember how unpleasant it was to try to swim in that cold water. I tried so hard and I hated it so much. Then one day, I swam in shallow warm water and boom – I could do it. I could swim.
It makes me feel good to think about that, even today at age 71. And it does my heart good to remember Grandma Chandler. She was a sweet and gentle soul, the kind of Christian anyone could aspire to be, and merry too with a humorous wit and a kind and diplomatic nature. I feel her warmth as I feel the warmth of some beach in Seattle when I was nine years old.
Link to Non-Fiction -- Memoirs -- Swimming Through My Life
I attempted to learn to swim in Union Bay in Seattle at free lessons offered every summer. My mother and my siblings would walk from our tiny cottage to Madison Park Beach, taking turns pushing the stroller. My favorite memory of this time was watching my mother sitting on the bench next to the water to watch us. When we arrived, she would take a ball of string out of her purse and measured the distance from the bench to the edge of the water. Then she would tie one end of the string to her wrist and the other to the wrist of the baby. I’m the eldest of six so there was always a baby in the family. I’m not sure which baby this was but it was probably Smith, the fourth child.
I was about six the first time I took the class. I took the class for at least three years and never learned to swim. The water was just too darn cold for skinny little me. You could enter the freezing cold bay water down concrete steps and I could easily stand in water about chest high. There was a wall at the edge, just like a swimming pool.
We started by learning the dead man’s float. You just held onto the edge and floated with your eyes closed. When my brother Ronn joined the class, he cried when they said we were going to learn the “dead man’s” anything at all. Later that day, when my father learned of Ronn’s distress, he suggested that we all call it the “Superman” float, and that actually worked.
So I could do the dead man’s float and hold the edge while I kicked. I could perform a meager dog paddle, but I had to stand up ever couple feet. Every year on the last day of class, we lined up by height in the water and were expected to swim the distance between two poles (that held the rope and buoys signaling the supervised swimming area).
I paddled with all my might for about five feet and then touched ground and watched the rest of the class swim down to the finish line, earning a cool patch you could sew onto your jacket or something. I never got the patch. On the last day that I would ever take the free swimming lessons, my friend Nancy Armstrong came with us. She joined in the test and won the patch. There is a picture of us that day, somewhere in the family effects, showing big strong Nancy with weak shivering Shelley, clutching a towel around her skinny frame.
Link to Non-Fiction -- Memoirs -- Swimming Through My Life
As a teacher . . .
I made red/green flags, that is 1/4 sheets of of red and green construction paper, stapled together, one on every students desk. All day, but particularly during math practice (i.e. homework, but done in class) a red flag meant "I need help on a problem."
With some adult help (special needs para-educators, parents, the reading specialist dropped by during her free period) we roamed the room, flipping the flag from red to green when we arrived to help.
One youngster (fifth graders are 10 years old) required numerous visits, since when I got there I just helped with the next step, scaffolding, if you will.
One of my favorite moments of teaching was when I got to his desk yet one more time and he saw me walk up, he flipped his flag over to green and just waved me off with a flick of his hand. I loved that moment of "I don't need your help and I'm concentrating so go help someone else" moment - a little wave of his hand.
If you wouldn't love that moment, you probably shouldn't be a teacher. I loved my ten years of teaching. The standards based movement, and NCLB in particular, drove me out of teaching.
But I did go from there to graduate school at UO, which is why you get to call me . . .
Check out my new short story, a continuation of Madge's adventure in the near future.
A Day Late and A Dollar Short - Part II
Please leave a comment if you like it. If you don't like, keep it to yourself, bub.
~ Dr. P-J
A new poem by Dr. P-J:
I Am an Ocean
Leave a comment if you like it.