Favorite Daughter Peels Off Virgin Seal

24 03 2007


Standing in line at a fancy grocery store, I spotted a display among many :


Excuse me? I thought. Extra extra? Isn’t that a little unnecessary?

That is to say, I never really understood the concept of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to begin with. Is it made from olives that aren’t allowed to touch other olives? Are they modestly shielded from life’s elements by tarps?

And Extra Extra Virgin Olives – what on earth does that entail?

Or does the “virgin” refer to the oil itself? Has it never been mixed with another oil, commingling and developing new, brassy flavors? I certainly hope not, one takes for granted when one buys olive oil that it is, in fact, olive oil, and not some other hybrid. But then it seems that they shouldn’t have to bellow about its virginity so explicitly.

Having all these thoughts in the line at the store, I suddenly reached a breaking point. I wanted to tap the older woman in front of me on the shoulder and ask her my question, maybe she’d know the answer. But no, that wasn’t enough. I wanted to stand up in a shopping cart, I wanted to address the store at large, I wanted to shout it to the heavens: “Isn’t just being a virgin enough for you people anymore?”

Read the rest of her oily prose, and lots more, at Cocking a Snook Too . . .



28 responses

25 03 2007

Racy virgin ingredients for stirring up a patriarchy in the NYT book review section today, even where this book is historical and cultural more than pointedly political — Favorite Daughter is poring (or pouring, as in olive oil?) over it right now.

Sweet Chastity
“Virgin: The Untouched History” by Hanne Blank
Published: March 25, 2007

. . . Virginia, the first English settlement in North America, was named for Queen Elizabeth I’s most celebrated attribute (which makes me wonder whether the state’s tourism officials want to reconsider whether Virginia really is for lovers).

. . . Blank gives the history of the so-called “virgin cure,” the belief that men could be cured of sexually transmitted diseases by having sex with a virgin. . . In 18th-century London, one in every five capital rape cases involved children under the age of 10, and the rapists commonly cited the virgin-cure myth in their defense. . . . it persists in southern Africa and is a major contributor to the escalating AIDS crisis.

The thrust of Blank’s book seems to be that for many eons, in patriarchal societies, women needed to prove they were virgins so that their deflowerers could be assured of paternity and thus take care of the offspring — and that, gee, that was kind of miserable and sexist. Under the Roman Empire, fathers had the right to kill their daughters if they had sex before marriage (or outside of it later), and the right to kill the offending male as well.

. . .In an era marked by a “chaotic maelstrom of virginities,” Blank’s book is a useful, if sometimes clumsy, antidote to our confusion.

25 03 2007

Read the whole first chapter here. It occurs to me this thing we call virginity is no less elusive than this thing we call home education!

Virginity is as distinctively human a notion as philanthropy.
We invented it. We developed it. We disseminated the idea throughout our cultures, religions, legal systems, bodies of art, and works of scientific knowledge. We have fixed it as an integral part of how we experience our own bodies and selves.

And we have done all this without actually being able to define it consistently, identify it accurately, or explain how or why it works.

How do we define virginity? How have we defined it in the past? How do we tell who is and isn’t a virgin? How do we know what virginity is and does and means? These questions, so basic to a book like this one, tempt even the most thoughtful of us in the direction of snap judgments and pat answers. We live in a culture that does not appreciate ambiguity when it comes to either sexuality or morality, after all, and virginity is inextricably twined with both.

As adolescents, we learn that there is a right answer and a wrong answer to the question, “are you a virgin?” What the right answer is might well depend on who asks us and under what circumstances. . .

It is, we are taught, a solid-state thing, on or off, yes or no. We operate under the assumption that those two options are not only adequate to the task of identifying this particular status, but that everyone who uses them means the same thing. But as many of us have discovered, this is far from the case.
Real life is too full of messy and confusing variables. . .

25 03 2007

Speaking of messy and confusing variables, don’t tell me the Definition Dog-mas are on their quixotic march again, holding homeschool purity balls in which the virginity thief to be battled comes in the fiendish guise of virtual programs and charter hybrids, anything so attractive that parents and kids might be seduced and thereby sully their program purity — the shame of it all!

A character in the movie Broadcast News says it would be a great world if our insecurities and desperation made us more attractive. But they can’t. We KNOW this and yet, insecurities coupled with inchoate lessons about public psychology seduce us into all sorts of wrong-headed campaigns that make things worse instead of better — not just to getting dumped privately. You can get dumped or dumped ON by the public too, say as religious, political or business figures, or your whole group can get dumped or dumped on, say as school or home education folk.

Can secular home education be schoolish and dogmatic and desperately literalist about dictionary definitions, neurotically looking for love in all the wrong places, and expect that strategy to result in answers the public will mark right instead of wrong for kids?

The answer to THAT might not be clear to quite all of us yet, but apparently it isn’t for lack of repeating the material every year! — like reciting the ten commandments or memorized pickup lines in a bar (take your pick, both are blind, deaf and dumb and will lead to more ostracism rather than fellowship, much less love) while the happy patrons “at home” in that environment are bemused by the incongruity of both and wouldn’t touch either one with a ten-foot pole. . .

Compare that to this far more attractive but less clearly spelled out Thinking Parent approach :

So where we’ve ended up is with a very eclectic approach to homeschooling. We use what works for our kids, but most of the time you don’t know what will work until you try it. We’ve also progressed, I think, from centering on curriculum and methods to a more goal-directed approach. Our main goal is to try to instill a love of learning in our kids. We want learning to be a lifelong activity for them, that they participate in because they want to learn and they find it rewarding. On the more practical side, our goals are for them to be able to think independently and critically, and to be able to research a given topic thoroughly. We would also like them to be prepared for college when they reach that age, but I think if we succeed with the other goals, that will take care of itself.

25 03 2007

With some time and distance, it IS becoming clearer and more clearly connected in my mind.

I can see the fundamentalist twist to the whole We Stand for Homeschooling thing now. For its most literalist soldiers it’s not so much a political debate as a religious so-it-is-written-so-shall-it-be-done stand against unjust
persecution. Martyrs to the cause!

For example, this is definition literalism at its worst, 100% mutually exclusive either-or thinking like success-failure, good-evil, pure-sinful, or virginal-deflowered (homeschool-charter school!) but see how it argues the opposite, that it loves and accepts us all, just the way we are in all our unique and very real complexities and imperfections! — as with the Doublespeak “teach the controversy” argument for creationism in science class, suddenly the intolerant are the ones who resist the intolerance and absolutism!

“To those who would seek to vilify others for acknowledging public school-at-home is not homeschooling, I would encourage tolerance for other’s viewpoints and a greater respect for our homeschool diversity.”

(I’m not linking the blogger of these words because anyone who knows what I’m really ranting about, knows where to find plenty of her dogged irrationality if they’re looking.)

This person is, I see, a regional representative of the Maine homeschool “ministry” set to feature at its big conference April 20-21 The Reverend Paul Veit, working on his doctorate degree in Creation Apologetics and about to open a (swear to God) “Creation Evidence Museum and Training Center” in Bridgton ME.

What I learn from this is that there is no possible “factual” definition of any educational construct this “homeschooler” could “create” that would fit me literally, legally or any other way . . .

So much for credibility or even the use of perfectly clear DICTIONARY words like evidence, museum, degree, education, doctorate, and while it may not be sufficient to persuade the public of its stated beliefs, this wacko literalism of The Word is sufficient evidence to persuade me of something else — public schooling versus homeschooling as an “issue” is all about god versus government, prayer versus public, to see which of those warring powers you and I will be forced to accept over our most private life choices.

I define home education as complex personal learning and thinking truly independent from both church and school indoctrination, which better fits description like this from edge.org :


“The mind is an unfathomable tool; it projects and imagines. It can conceive of unending processes, it can remember extinct events and it can create the weirdest gadgets. . . And surely not by deliberate consensus, just think of the debates, controversies and battles we would be facing if anybody could arbitrarily choose how to see the world — and try to impose this view on her fellow beings.

. . .A true Realist . . .will not stoop to choose between Beauty and Truth, he will have the tenacity to stick it through until Truth is caught shining in her own Beauty.

Sure there are messy proofs, we have to bushwhack through a wilderness of ad hoc arguments, tours de force, combinatorial jungles, false starts and the temptations of definitions ever so slightly off target.

25 03 2007
26 03 2007

Thank you Greg Laden, for helping me clear up my confusion and reluctance to rock the ship of state and the status quo.

Your blog commentary should be required reading (if I believed in such a thing.) Creation apologetics and homeschool separatist apologetics use the same prayer book, the same playbook, the same intentionally separate communication channels and the same canny lies, constraint mechanisms, conspiracy theories and fallacious logic, to the same committed ends.

. . .one or more creationists will often imply that the evolutionary biologists (or their supporters) seem a little defensive. This is an astute observation. Even when the discussion is about something like home schooling, the evangelical wing of the home schooling culture (which is substantial, probably a majority of it) does the same thing … “Every point of view is valid” … “What is wrong with introducing the discussion in the classroom” … “Why not teach the controversy” … etc.

Those of us who teach evolution are occasionally approached by a student, a parent, or in the case of High School teachers, a fellow teacher who wants to bring up the topic of creationism. We cannot help but notice that the kinds of things they say are always the same. It is as though they have all learned their lines from the same places. It is hard to believe, after a while, that these individuals are not part of some vast conspiracy.

And, of course, they are.

I found a course on the Internet that is advertized as “Perfect for home-schoolers or public school students who wish to counter the evolutionary teachings found in public schools….”

You betcha there’s a real threat to education freedom including real homeschool freedom in all this, but it’s a threat to our credibility as capable of teaching our own anywhere, not the silly “created” threat of homeschools being confused with virtuals and charters — it’s the threat of real educators and Thinking Parents being confused with these anti-intellectual wackos and religious dominionists that should give free people reason to fear as factually demonstrated here, in Greg’s own school-think confusion of us with them.

Or being subsumed into the Borg of either one.

26 03 2007
Nance Confer

Greg’s own confusion of us with them
I haven’t been over there in a couple of days. Does Greg STILL think we are all cut from the same cloth?


26 03 2007

Speaking of labels assigned and assumed, here’s a piece by Joseph Epstein, originally printed in the Weekly Standard and reprinted in the current issue of Vocabula.

I could easily re-write it as “Don’t Call Me Homeschooler.”

Don’t Call Me Ishmael
Joseph Epstein

The magazine Edge, on its tenth anniversary, recently asked a number of scientists and thinkers what they found in the world or in their particular lines of interest to be optimistic about. I’m pleased to say that I was not asked. I am of course not a scientist, but I might possibly have passed for a thinker. I’m pleased, though, that I didn’t. A certain portentousness, sententiousness, general pomposity goes with being a thinker. Nobody has ever called me a thinker, and I’d like to keep it that way.

I have on a few occasions been called a “national treasure,” which I much resented. You never want to be known as a national treasure. Walter Cronkite is a national treasure, so is Studs Terkel. Russell Baker may be a national treasure. Poor Bill Moyers seems to have been born a national treasure. The actress Helen Hayes was a national treasure. A national treasure is someone you can count on to say predictably uninteresting things while giving off the blurry aura of wisdom.

I don’t think I’ve ever been called a “humorist,” which is fine by me. A humorist, poor fellow, is under the pressure of being relentlessly, and therefore drearily, funny. Much better to be sometimes witty, or even faintly amusing, than to be a humorist. When I first met Sidney Hook, he said that he was surprised that I wasn’t a fat man. I asked him why, and he said that he found a lot of my writing funny, and people who are funny are often fat: “You know,” he added, “like Falstaff.” But at least he never called me a humorist, and I shall always be grateful to him for that.

I’m afraid that I’ve been called “professor” hundreds of times. True, I taught at a university for thirty years, but I did so without any advanced degrees. Besides, professors don’t even look like professors anymore, and I look nothing like what they nowadays do look like. They wear backpacks and Nike gym shoes and baseball caps turned backwards. I prefer to think of a professor as the man who plays the piano in a bordello (“Hit it, professor”). The reason I never liked being called professor is that it is synonymous with “academic,” and over the past forty or so years, “academic” has itself become synonymous with “ridiculous.”

Because of my past university connection, I’ve also often been called “Doctor,” which causes me to giggle, at least inwardly. Sometimes I’ll say that I have no doctorate, or sometimes I just let people doctor me. A time or two when people have called me Doctor Epstein on the phone, I have told them to read two chapters of Henry James and get right into bed, instructing them that I’d be right over.

I have also been called a “man of letters.” This once seemed a great honorific, but today there is something musty about the term, something that suggests not an endangered but a vanished species. I don’t believe I have ever been called America’s “last man of letters”; Edmund Wilson was always called that, and how it must have galled, if not bored the pajamas off, him to have heard it so often.

An “intellectual” is another thing I’ve been called on various occasions, though never, I’m pleased to say, a “public intellectual,” a perfectly empty phrase. “Intellectual” is another of those words that has gone from approbative to pejorative in recent decades. An intellectual is someone who lives on, off, and through ideas, and used to be unconnected with institutions. Now an intellectual is someone who offers his opinions on talk shows and Op-ed pieces; hence the adjective public. Intellectuals have come to be known for not having a genuine stake in things, for being usually wrong in politics, for being distanced from reality, for being without responsibility. Not a good thing to be called, an intellectual.

In the good–bad old days of Time magazine, under the then famous “Timestyle,” where concision was important, a person was usually designated by a single world, thus, socialist Thomas, philosopher Dewey, critic Jarrell, editor Luce. Had I been born twenty or so years earlier, I might have appeared in Time as “essayist Epstein.” Nice to have evaded that.

The reason that I am uncomfortable about being identified as thinker, national treasure, humorist, professor, doctor, intellectual, essayist is that none of them feels to me a good fit. Let me add here that I’m certainly not a renaissance man, and no polymath; I’m not sure I even qualify as a mere math.

I prefer to think of myself like just plain Bill, the guy in the torch song, who’s not the type at all. “Only my tailor fits me correctly,” Samuel Johnson is supposed to have said when people wished to label him this or that. Given Johnson’s reputation as a notably sloppy dresser, it may well be that even his tailor got him wrong. As for me, I don’t even have a tailor.

Reprinted with the permission of The Weekly Standard. © Copyright 2007, News Corporation.

Joseph Epstein, former editor of The American Scholar, is the author of many books, including Envy: The Seven Deadly Sins, Friendship, An Expose, and Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy’s Guide. [Somebody needs to be told about semicolons.]


26 03 2007

Yep – or let’s put it this way, he thinks that homeschooling and evangelical dominionism are: 1) highly correlated and 2) a threat to all education.

And I am sorry to say I don’t think he’s confused about that . . .

26 03 2007

Now THIS fits, thanks! 🙂

The reason that I am uncomfortable about being identified as thinker, national treasure, humorist, professor, doctor, intellectual, essayist is that none of them feels to me a good fit. . .
“Only my tailor fits me correctly,” Samuel Johnson is supposed to have said when people wished to label him this or that. Given Johnson’s reputation as a notably sloppy dresser, it may well be that even his tailor got him wrong.

As for me, I don’t even have a tailor.

26 03 2007

And this bit might explain how even disciplined, rational men of science and education a la Greg Laden, might vaguely assume the definition of homeschooler is synonymous with creationist and advocate against both interchangeably:

When I first met Sidney Hook, he said that he was surprised that I wasn’t a fat man. I asked him why, and he said that he found a lot of my writing funny, and people who are funny are often fat. . .

26 03 2007

In the hs community’s campaign to market an extra-extra virgin version of independent homeschooling, did its leaders instead spoil the vintage by packaging a muddy, bitter mix of anti-school, anti-science and anti-social lines of argument into one unwieldly bottle size artificially labeled all over as “pure” and “clarified”?

28 03 2007

I just “unapproved” an unwelcome comment from a stranger, a sort of diffuse rant about women as the true source of everything creepy. Nance can approve it if she wants, or else the ranter stranger can write us and try to explain why these peculiar personal issues with women should be welcome here, and see if we can be persuaded. Otherwise, no way and no thanks.

28 03 2007

No, I didn’t want to read it the first time, let alone approve it now.

The person also posted at Culture Kitchen and I was hoping someone there knew them or could explain the ugliness away.


29 03 2007

So Snook has a passing troll, no problem, Thinking Parents can read here to get any concerns addressed.

29 03 2007

From “Nudes and Prudes”
Why defining human meaning isn’t dictionary-level work.

. My point here is what’s in people’s heads, harmful ideas and beliefs that policy cannot fix. Stuff that hurts children when parents and teachers and role models get it all twisted. You have to THINK, not just take the written rules and beat each other over the heads with them until the stronger, louder, ruder, more heavily armored warriors are left standing.

— to me the obscenity was hers and it was spiritual, not really flesh-based at all. Her prudish and self-righteous hysteria, about skin and eyeballs and biological differences, completely missed the deeper magic (like Aslan versus the White Witch) — modesty, self-control, courage, family, compassion, civility, conflict resolution.

Humanity, not nudity. We could have been flagged by the event’s authority for a technical violation, sure, but she violated the IMPORTANT rules as parent, teacher and adult role model.

Pretty much how I see the real meaning and importance of sex and identity and virginity and homeschooling, too. These are “definitely” (from the same root as definition?) not about what the culture and your peers say, nor the money, nor enumerated government rules or labels. Much less a sign on the door or a couple of lines in the dictionary.

29 03 2007

Hey Nance, this guy really IS creepy, he’s following us around and his handles are expanding, or his personality disorder has split. Now he’s Raptorlove something, and sqeekyskweel, maybe gladiator as well as that first thing.

UPDATE July – also tied to “Angry Harry” the face of a copycat site to feministingDotcom, set up to mock women and women’s issues.

30 03 2007

More (via Daryl, thanks) about Greg Laden’s concerns that homeschooling is a threat to the children of America. 🙂

7 04 2007
7 04 2007

Thanks; Favorite Daughter, impure and/or exquisitely unique and blended as she believes her own identity to be, really appreciated this one —

9 04 2007

Favorite Daughter is having a very good time contending for “Best Teen Blog” in the 2006 Homeschool Blog Awards. Her blog is Cocking a Snook Too! and you can vote for her (once!) this week only, by clicking here.

She was featured on the wordpress.com homepage as the “Blog of the Minute” earlier today (for unknown reasons!) and she’s had unprecedented traffic today (in the hundreds) where some folks have seen her quirky appeal for votes and apparently followed through. They are leaving comments about homeschooling and teen voices, with links to their own blogs in turn, and so she’s getting quite an education from it all. 🙂

9 04 2007

Her chief competition seems to be a whole family of evangelists and their ministry machine. Wow — no contest, I would say.

Check this out if you want to see the contrast between what we talk about here and what the mainstream homeschool teen blog seems to be . . .

ADDENDUM – they do have lovely manners, as I discovered when Alex, one of these 18-year-old twins, commented that in fact the blog part of the ministry is something they’ve done on their own and with volunteers, pretty much from scratch. It really is impressive, better than many professional sites. Presidential candidates should be hiring these guys! So I think homeschool teens are WELL represented in this competition and I hope folks get to visit and enjoy many different blogs this week, maybe send your non-homeschool-savvy friends for a peek or two. 🙂

9 04 2007

If this means homeschooling teens ARE diverse in style, philosophy and beliefs, maybe the awards week process will give some folks the chance to see that in action?


9 04 2007

Clubmom blogger Denise recommends voting for Cocking a Snook Too here and BTW, her blog is up for an award too, so vote for it (Fast Times @ Homeschool High) in the Nitty-Gritty category!

13 07 2007

Back to the original point — how real is real and how pure is pure, and how to keep it that way and then prove it to others (love the sidewalk psychic idea!) — 😀

Stay A Virgin, See A Play For Free:
Off-Broadway Show Offers Entry For People Who Can Prove Chastity
NEW YORK, July 12, 2007

The comedy “My First Time” is based on a decade-old Web site that
invites people to anonymously share their stories about losing their
virginity. (Drew Geraci)

(AP) How do you prove you’re a virgin in the town that inspired “Sex and
the City”?

The producers of an off-Broadway show are giving away free tickets to
anyone who can demonstrate his or her chastity.

Which raises the question: Just how will the theater know?

Producer Ken Davenport, 34, said a hypnotist would screen people
standing in line for the free tickets to Thursday’s opening of his 90-
minute comedy, “My First Time,” and determine their status.

The show is based on a decade-old Web site that invites people to
anonymously share their stories about losing their virginity.

“I still have the Metallica shirt he wore that night,” one person wrote
on http://www.myfirstime.com.

The human lie detector, Sebastian Black, describes himself as a mind
reader and a psychic hypnotist. “He’s a master of body language and tone
of voice,” Davenport said.

Davenport says the “virgin” stunt serves the subject of the play –
“which is to get people to talk about their first sexual experience,
something that almost any person on the planet has in common, whether in
the United States or Rome.”

He could not say how many actual virgins were likely to be admitted to
the theater. “There are a limited number of ‘virgin tickets’ available,” he said, adding, “However, there are not that many virgins
in New York City.”

One thing is sure: It’s all about sex in the big city – and possibly
hyping the age-old but ever-interesting subject to make a little money.

Tickets for the open-run “My First Time” are going from $25 to $59.

14 07 2007

Hmmm – do the organized defenders of independent purity at home worry, one wonders, that this small financial incentive (although NOT from government) will somehow erode and eventually co-opt the freedom of all virgins to remain purely free from government?

30 03 2008

“Students of Virginity” – NYT Sunday, March 30, 2008

27 02 2009

Speaking of olive oil (and facades of purity), Lynn at Bore Me to Tears has been writing about megachurches and their mega-marketing ministers, like Rick Warren’s Saddleback, pulling back the veil on some very profitable, hard-nosed, real-world business models expanding out into our secular economies.
Church business is becoming everybody’s business. See The mega-appeal” and “Who is this man?”

I just commented there:

I’ve been thinking mega-evangelism is like olive oil importing, or the northeast sanitation business, or trucking. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those activities in and of themselves — I like clean streets and I love olive oil — UNTIL the criminal syndicate takes it over and pretends it’s just doing business, America what a country.

Then it’s the worst kind of useful idiocy, destructive idiocy that enables the criminals and hurts the rest of us individually and as a society, for good Christians and good non-Christians alike to be duped by the facade and cry, “Free market, live and let live, olive oil is an essential fatty acid and garbagemen are people too!”

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