The worst articles I’ve read all week

Something’s gotten into me. I didn’t feel like fighting all week long, but today…I’m jumpy. So here are the worst articles I’ve read this week:


Breastfeeding baby doll: creepy or groundbreaking?

Mostly, I can’t believe anyone would take issue with a baby doll that “eats” in the fashion in which babies have taken their nourishment since the beginning of time.

“I just want the kids to be kids,” Bill O’Reilly said on his Fox News show when he learned of the Breast Milk Baby. “And this kind of stuff. We don’t need this.”

Maybe, we don’t need Bill O’Reilly telling little girls how to play.



Why White Women Voted for Romney

This one was so bad, I made a spelling error in my angry comment in its combox.

A few highlights:

“To be sure, these voters weren’t, in the main, the sort of women who write for the Times, or even read it.”

They were all stupid and illiterate, I guess.

“Why did so many white women vote for Romney despite his shift to the right on women’s issues during the G.O.P. primaries? One way to tackle this question is to ask why so many white men voted for him.”

Or, you might consider asking a representative of the demographic in question.

“Without much doubt, attitudes about race—and even outright racism—played a role, although one that is hard to quantify. But it’s far from the only thing. Income is important. On average, white men and women tend to be richer than non-whites, and voting Republican is strongly correlated with income. (In families that made less than a hundred thousand dollars a year, Obama won by eight points. In families that made more than a hundred thousand dollars a year, Romney won by ten points.) Age is another factor. Whites, on average, tend to be older than non-whites, and older people (male and female) tend to vote Republican in greater numbers. Religion is also part of the story. Most white women, like most white men, are churchgoing Christians, a group that is strongly Republican—especially evangelicals, who voted for Romney by almost four to one. Then there is ideology. Just as there are conservative men, there are conservative women.”

Is there really only one choice a woman can make in the voting booth without being accused of racism, classism, fundamentalism, senility, and voting on her husband’s behalf?

We’ve come a long way baby!



And here’s one from the Patheos Pagan portal:

Five Reasons to Vote for Obama

“Pagans are a diverse lot…. But I think there are two qualities central to our beliefs that prevent any honest Pagan from voting for Mitt Romney. First, almost universally we honor the sacred dimensions of the feminine and how those values manifest on the Earth.”

Author then goes on for almost two pages equating women’s empowerment with women’s sterility.

Call me confused.


Closing statement:

Really, keep it up, and I’m buying a “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” t-shirt.

“Hunger”: Interview with Jack Baumgartner, Part IV
Possible Arson at Catholic Church in Indianapolis
“Go On”: Interview with Jack Baumgartner, Part III
Marriage as a crime prevention program
About Elizabeth Duffy
  • Clare

    “Just as there are conservative men, there are conservative women.”

    What…you mean…women have political opinions..just like men??

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      Only if the white male columnists at the New Yorker allow it, Clare.

  • Dwija {House Unseen}

    The way some people want to discuss the way one race/gender does _________ but then insists that the other, and certianly not they, are racist/sexist, makes my brain explode. Which is super duper messy so I really wish they would quit it with that.

  • The Crescat

    I think it’s a sign of the end times that you were even reading any of the trash on the pagan portal.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      I didn’t want to seem unneighborly, but then they kept trying to unsex the divine feminine, and I had to speak out.

  • Clare

    NOBODY unsexes the divine feminine. Or puts her in a corner.

  • Dan

    All worthy candidates. I would also like you to consider this article which may or may not be on the same topic:

    I suggest you have a basin handy when you read what passes for analysis and intelligent writing for our “Anointed Class”.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      I can’t comment on this one–it’s entirely speculation about someone else’s marriage. I try really hard not to go there.

  • Owen

    If it’s OK, I’m going to skip reading them. If they are the worst you’ve read I’m happy to trust your judgment and not offer my self an occasion to sin. Speaking of sin, after the opening line, I um, skipped your article. I need peace sista.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      Smart move, Owen.

  • SquickedOut

    Does that doll truly not make you cringe? Nothing wrong with little girls mimicking breastfeeding, but the little halter top with electronic sensors at the nipples takes things a bit too far, IMO. I think it sexualizes children’s bodies in an inappropriate fashion. Breastfeeding is part of being a sexually mature female (in the real sense of the term). It’s one thing for a child to choose to imitate her mother on her own, but for an adult to place something over her child’s nipples in order to help emulate adult female breast activity is going a step too far. O’Reilly is right — let kids be kids.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      It really does not make me cringe at all.

      Kids, little girls especially, have always played at being grown-ups. It is not an inherently bad thing. The goal is to give them good models.

      Emulating a nursing mother is a reasonable and pure expression of her ultimate desire to grow up and fulfill one of many natural potential outcomes of her feminine life.

      Emulating Kim Kardashian in hot pink leopard prints that say “pink” in bold letters across her bum is sexualizing her body.

  • SquickedOut

    (My comments are next to Squicked out’s, in bold–E Duffy)

    Yes, but the halter top with the little flowers over her nipples and electronic sensors? How is that the girl emulating her mother? In about the same way that little girls from my generation played with bottle fed dolls that made sucking and squeaking noises. That’s just creepy and bound to be confusing. I somehow managed to breastfeed my kids without the halter top, pasties and electronic sensors. Guess I was doin’ it wrong…

    Also, as Catholics, sexuality and reproduction are all part of the whole person. Now, this artificial “realization” of an adult female’s breasts seems to be okay as long as it promotes one part of the sexually mature female, but the artificial “realization” of a sexually mature female’s body by putting a child in a skimpy bikini or generally trashy outfit is not.

    That’s a very, very confusing message for a child.
    It’s a confusing message for me too. What are you saying here?

    Also, do you really want your little girl sitting next to a couple of adult men with this weird top on, her nipples clearly marked by the pasties and sensors, holding a doll up to her nipples, and regaling them with suckling noises? No. Generally, my daughter doesn’t play with adult men.

    Sorry, I think this is sexualizing a child as much as dressing her up as a stripper for Halloween is.

    Little girls don’t have breasts for a reason. They’re children. They’re not sexually mature. Where do we draw the line? Do we aid our children in playing out sexual intercourse? Enhance the experience for them with electronic add-ons and life-like sound effects? Menstruation? Actual child birth?
    I tend not to introduce the topics of menstruation and sexual intercourse until the child is approaching puberty. Breastfeeding, however, is something they see and imitate from day one.

    Seems like little girls are happy to play at being mommies merely by using their imaginations, I agree with you–I don’t think the extraneous sound effects on this particular toy are necessary. I just don’t think they’re inappropriately sexual. which is as it should be. This doll strikes me as something adult women with political agendas will force on their daughters. This statement strikes me as presumptuous.

  • SquickedOut

    So you don’t have any adult males in your house, not even during holidays? You don’t take your kids to the park where dads might be there with their kids?

    I can see you’re confused about the inappropriate sexualization of little girls by this toy. You’re saying we shouldn’t sexualize our little girls when it comes to actual sexual activity, but it’s okay to enhance their nipples to emulate sexually mature female nipples if it’s all about breastfeeding — in other words, promoting breastfeeding trumps the inappropriate sexualization of the child’s nipples. That’s where the agenda comes in. To me, being okay with this doll but not okay with children’s clothing that emulates sexy, adult female attire smacks of an agenda.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      You got me. I think breastfeeding is a really good idea. I have no idea, however, what political agenda that associates me with. Do tell what it is, and I’ll sign myself up.

      • SquickedOut

        Not political. Just agenda. The two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

        But that’s the thing — thinking breastfeeding is a good idea is one thing. Encouraging it is one thing. Doing something wrong to promote it is another. That’s the “agenda” part. You’re so focused on the agenda part, you can’t see that there’s something creepy and inappropriate about this toy. If nothing else, it’s just appallingly tasteless and immodest. What’s next? A halter top with fully formed breasts and nipples instead of the pasties? Where do you draw the line? Or is breastfeeding such a god unto itself, nothing else matters?

  • Clare

    Actually, the only real sexualization here comes from the attempt to make every part of the female reproductive capacity an erotic act defined by the male gaze. This is the kind of thinking that that keeps Victoria’s Secret the standard of womanhood.

  • Clare

    Oh, and since having children is something only adult woman can and should do, clearly the entire concept of a baby doll is part of the feminist/breastfeeding/hippie conspiracy to sexualize young girls.

    • SquickedOut

      No. And that’s not anyone’s argument. Children naturally play at things adults do. It’s how they learn. That little girls play with dolls, and that they emulate breastfeeding isn’t the issue. The issue is adults pushing their “play” past a certain line. The halter top is the line. It attempts to transform a child’s nipples (she doesn’t _have_ breasts, and God didn’t give her breasts at this stage in her life for a reason — she’s a _child_) into something more like a sexually mature females’s breasts.

  • Kate

    How is the nursing doll different from a Barbie-type doll that comes with a stuffed vest that you can put on to look like Mommy? I’m sure you would think that an inappropriate product, but I don’t know how you can distinguish the two. Why is it okay for a young girl to strive for the function of a womanly body, but not to strive for the form? I’m with Squicked, although I think “sexualization” is the wrong word choice (as she did too) – “realization” is closer, though maybe still not quite right.

    Imitative play is one thing, but providing tech support just makes it seem weird. Why do we want to intensify that imitation? Why are we trying to make the play real? It’s inappropriate for a girl to act like a woman. Kardashian pants are inappropriate on a little girl’s body because it is not a woman’s body. (They’re arguably inappropriate on a woman’s body, too, but that’s for different reasons and another discussion.) A little girl naturally plays at being a woman, but she shouldn’t be yearning for her body to look/act womanly. It becomes improper in that it’s no longer true play. I think this doll crosses over that line of propriety.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      Do little boys wear super hero costumes with man-size muscles stitched in? Is it inappropriate for them to want to act like a man? Do they get tech-supported weapons to make them seem more real? My boys really like it when their toys have batteries.

      From what I can tell, in this doll, the sensors serve the purpose of making the baby function rather than making the breast function. I had a baby doll that made sucking noises when she bottle-fed, and l liked having a doll that seemed real.

      I also played dress-up in my mom’s bras, stuffing them with kleenex. Maybe I was the only girl in the world who did this, and maybe it was not true play. It was imitative of a woman’s form, though not the function, and if it was sexual, I certainly didn’t get it at the time. I wanted to look like my mom, and I’m really glad my mom never told me it was bad to want to have breasts.

      I think part of the natural play at being a woman IS an expression of a yearning to look and act womanly. Why do little girls want to dress up like princesses? Has there ever been a prepubescent princess figure that a little girl has found worthy of imitating?

      Or for that matter, has there ever been a pre-pubescent super hero that a little boy has found worthy of imitating?

      I really want to know why little girls are the only ones at risk of premature sexualization in their play.

      I believe parents have a responsibility to provide positive role models for our kids to imitate. And a breast-feeding mother, to me, is a more appealing role model than a princess (It goes without saying, she’s more appealing than a pop star or a Kardashian). Even if my daughter imitated her favorite saint, it would probably be a sexually mature saint.

  • Elizabeth Duffy

    Just for the sake of discussion, it might be worth noting that children actually are sexual beings from their birth. They are not asexual until puberty, when suddenly it’s ok to see them as sexual beings. Infant boys get erections from day one, and we don’t punish them for it, even though the function of an erection is for sexual intercourse.

    There’s really not a highly visible female equivalent, other than breast maturation. And as it happens, the primary purpose of a breast is to feed infants. Their function in sexual intercourse is mainly aesthetic.

    I think the doll has value in discouraging the relatively new popular notion that the aesthetic value of a breast should hold primacy over its function in feeding infants. It could also help young girls not to see their breasts (when they get them) as a source of derision for the public, whatever size they end up being.

  • The Korrektiv Troll

    Shows up in doorway, wearing a “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” T-Shirt.
    Poor Duffy. So enslaved by the Patriarchy that she thinks her slavery is freedom.
    Ducks to avoid high-heeled shoe, runs back to New Yorker comment section.

  • Kate

    No one is talking about breasts as sexual except you. We’re saying there’s a line where it becomes “squicky” to imitate maturity when someone is not mature. Imitating your mom feeding her baby is one thing; putting on an electronic vest to make your girls boobs sound like lady boobs is weird. Lots of girls play at feeding their babies. I just think there’s a distinction between playing at and acting out. I see what you’re saying about play = acting, and obviously that’s true. And there is alot of gray where play/acting overlap. But there’s a line.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      Actually, Squicky’s original comment was “I think it sexualizes children’s bodies in an inappropriate fashion.”

      And, again, the vest activates the baby, not the boobs.

      But really, reasonable people can disagree about this toy. I still might buy one for you for Christmas.

      • Kate

        Nothing like passive aggressive snark to make the holidays cheery and bright.

        I agree reasonable people can disagree. I wasn’t inclined to jump into the fray until your reply to Squicked made it sound like you didn’t think so.

        • Kate

          I just don’t get why you’re digging your heels in on this one.

        • Elizabeth Duffy

          I took issue with Squicky’s notion that allowing your child to play with this doll suggests you have a political agenda.

          I also disagree with reinforcing an overly sexual popular view of breastfeeding.

  • Kate

    Also, your point about stuffing your bra: I’m sure all girls do this at some point or another, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Yes, there is a natural yearning to be womanly. My point was that I would be incensed if I were to see a product on the market that played to that. I agree that faux-muscled costumes are a similar thing.

    Yes, girls play at being womanly, and in some sense it must help them prepare to be women. But playing at womanhood is not the same as acting out mature womanhood. Girls can and should play at feeding their baby dolls *without* heavy reflection on, or awareness of their breasts.

    You have not clarified why you think girls should not play at mature womanhood where sexuality is concerned, but should where maternity is concerned.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      “Girls can and should play at feeding their baby dolls *without* heavy reflection on, or awareness of their breasts.”
      –Says who? It’s a part of their bodies that, in my experience as a girl, and as a mother of a girl, is on their minds. Are mothers really supposed to say, “Go play, honey, but please don’t think about your boobs”? That’s like telling my boys to forget they have penises–something they would NEVER, EVER forget. Kids are naturally aware of their bodies.

      “You have not clarified why you think girls should not play at mature womanhood where sexuality is concerned, but should where maternity is concerned.”

      –I didn’t realize I had to explain this.

      Sexual activity that makes babies is a hidden behavior. It requires education and context. Kids don’t know about it until you tell them. I don’t inform my kids until they’re reaching puberty, and even then, I give them only the information that they need. By the time they have this information, it’s questionable how much they still want to play with dolls, but part of their education on this subject would be about the sanctity of marriage and the exclusivity of this act to marriage.

      Maternity, however, is a very visible sign of family life, that while it’s the outcome of sexual behavior (a note of which they are unaware), is not exclusively sexual. For a child to play mother involves a bodily awareness that is not (in their minds anyway) sexual.

      • Kate

        I’m not speaking about sexual activity. I’m speaking about sexuality, which is a part of womanhood. You’re right that we’re “sexual beings” from the beginning, so maybe I should say ‘activated sexuality’ or something, except that that makes it sound like some robotic function. But the point is you wouldn’t encourage your daughter to act sexy while her sexuality remains latent. She probably will try out some dance moves in front of the mirror, stuff her bra, and such. But you wouldn’t push that behavior – in fact, you would probably discourage it if you saw it.

        I completely disagree that playing mother involves bodily awareness – it’s relational, not physical. Unless you buy dolls that highlight the physicality of it.

        • Elizabeth Duffy

          You’re right, I would and have discouraged sexy dance moves, because they’re not an appropriate behavior for anyone to do in public, not just little girls. Acting sexy is a preface to sexual intercourse, which as outlined above, has a specific context.

          “I completely disagree that playing mother involves bodily awareness – it’s relational, not physical. Unless you buy dolls that highlight the physicality of it.”

          –OK, free to disagree. Still… having not myself bought any dolls that highlight the physicality of playing mother, I can attest that there is bodily awareness on the part of children I’ve observed (mainly my own) playing mother, as evidenced by the stuffing of shirts with pillows to indicate pregnancy, and lifting of shirts to nurse dolls and teddy-bears. One way people relate to each other is with their bodies.

          • Kate

            I’m not contesting that – I’m saying there is a line. Yes, I’ve seen shirt stuffing. I have never seen a girl ask to be tied into a pasty vest/bra (see product photo) so she can play mommy. Your point about relating with bodies is exactly what I’m saying. Girls put their babies to them b/c that’s how they see their mothers caring for real babies. They imitate breastfeeding b/c they want to imitate motherhood. A breastfeeding doll is solely for imitating breastfeeding. Imitating breastfeeding becomes the end instead of the means.

  • Kate

    Last point:
    “And a breast-feeding mother, to me, is a more appealing role model than a princess (It goes without saying, she’s more appealing than a pop star or a Kardashian).”

    A mother is certainly a positive role model. A little girl sees her mother care for the needs of her children, and she wants to imitate that. And she can model that behavior just fine without realistic imitation of the act of breastfeeding. This doll actually makes the object of imitation the mother’s breasts instead of the mother’s behavior.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      “And she can model that behavior just fine without realistic imitation of the act of breastfeeding.”

      I would agree with you here if I hadn’t seen so many little girls, of their own volition, realistically imitate the act of breastfeeding. They just do. They lift their shirts, they latch a baby on, and then they sit there nursing. This doll, I would argue, makes the object of imitation a real live baby, not the mother’s breasts, as they’ve already got the breast part down.

      • Kate

        Come on, latching on? Which hold do these little girls prefer? If they do the football, I’d like them to share tips because I never could get that one to work.

        Yes, little girls naturally put baby to body, but they are not into their breasts unless they’re taught to be into their breasts.

        • Elizabeth Duffy

          Or unless they imitate their breastfeeding mothers and the 99.999 percent of adult women in their lives who have breasts.

      • SquickedOut

        They _pretend_ to latch a baby on. Big difference from actually latching a baby on. And it’s the baby that latches on, anyway, not to be nit-picky — or would you also think a baby doll that had an electronically enhanced mouth that actually latches on to your little girls’ nipples is a good thing?

        Where do you draw the line when it comes to adults stepping in to enhance or ramp up the level of this kind of natural play?

  • SquickedOut

    Right — and imitating adult females via imagination and play is a good thing. It’s not the doll — it’s the vest. The vest just takes things to an inappropriate level. It’s weird — it’s weird for a little child to put on a halter top with little pasties/”flowers” with sensors where her nipples are in order to trigger the supposedly realistic sucking noises.

    At some point, older pre-pubescent children may play dress up and create pretend breasts, but that’s up to the child’s imagination and is a normal progression. Those same girls are probably moving away from baby doll play anyway.

    If someone created Disney princess costumes with padded inserts for breasts, mothers everywhere would be appalled (I hope). As for boys, well, it’s one thing to acknowledge that boys tend to play at fighting and will use anything to be a gun or sword. It’s another to start ramping up the reality of that play. There’s a reason we now have ratings on violent video games — it’s because enough parents recognized the danger of exposing young boys to increasingly realistic violence through these games. As for the superhero outfits, the padded muscle effect isn’t the same thing as it’s a nod to the notion of a _super_hero — a hero who is larger than life. Besides, girls have muscles, too — the same ones boys have. Boys will never have sexually mature breasts. Would you put a boy into this halter top and hand him the baby doll?

    Also, this notion that breasts are only aesthetically sexual (in the arousal sense) is just not true. I realize some women experience more sexual pleasure (to the point of orgasm, even) through sexual stimulation of their breasts/nipples than others, but breasts are definitely sexual. I don’t buy this primary/secondary notion of purpose. Sexual attraction, arousal, activity and reproduction and then the nurturing aspect of breasts are all part of one whole, not separate functions we can isolate and categorize.

    Love him or hate him, O’Reilly was right — let kids be kids. Let them use their imaginations, let them play on their own. Adults shouldn’t step in and distort that play. You can tell a lot about kids through their natural play. Once we start directing the play, distorting it, agendizing it, we pretty much lose a very important window into who are kids are, what their gifts and talents are, and even what their particular little demons are.

  • Elizabeth Duffy

    Time to move on, maybe. Should we go to this: “My boobs are only for sex”

    or this: “Doll designed to look just like ill premature baby”

    or this: “The $130 doll that gives birth with placenta”

    Just kidding.