Mar 01 2012

Monster truck

I offer this photo as proof of auntliness. Nothing cracks up a couple of nieces more than careening around a farm in a Gator full of horse poop.

Whenever I think about the rude awakening they’re about to get, patriarchy-wise, my lobe explodes and I have to beam back to Obstreperon for a transplant.


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  1. someonered

    Aw, cool pic. Wonder if they asked to drive it yet.

    That same feeling overwhelms me on a fairly regular basis. One teen and one preteen so they’re already noticing. So often the feeling turns to resentment, cause it would be nice to offer them some ‘it gets better’ type words of encouragement. But that’d be a lie.

  2. Rachel

    They look awesome. I feel the same way about my nieces, who are currently two and three year old shrieking fountains of delight. I happened to comment to my mother, once, that the elder niece Rosie is going to have a tough time of it since she has a big flat (gorgeous) nose and mounds of incredibly frizzy hair, whereas her almost-twin has the big-eyed, wispy blonde, patriarchy-pleasing look of a Raphaelite angel. Mom never let me hear the end of it and insisted I was calling Rosie ugly (never!) but I see now I was wrong anyway. They’re both gonna suffer in their own way. At least they, and your nieces, will have aunties around from whom they can get the real scoop. I swear, nothing caused me more pain as a youngun than people denying that what I saw around me existed.

  3. Embee

    Look at those smiles! The fun emanates from this picture.

    Twisty, your bearing witness to the truth of their experience will help. And you will give them a vocabulary for the incomprehensible awfulness of it all, which is more than a lot of us had (until we found you).

    That photo really reminds me of childhood (and adulthood, actually) around the barn with girlfriends. I understand now what I didn’t then: the barn was a real escape from the patriarchy. With the exception of the occasional visit from the farrier our barn was populated entirely by non-bepenised folk. No one told us we couldn’t lift that hay bale or work that horse; to the contrary, we were expected to perform like fully-functioning humans and treated accordingly. Ageism went away…teenagers hung out with elementary schoolers, grown women enjoyed the company of teens as equals. Experience and talent were the only marks of distinction.

    Thanks for the nice trip down memory lane!

  4. tinfoil hattie

    Allow me to wax sentimental: I can’t believe how much they’ve grown. They must LOVE their Spinster Aunt! I’d have loved tooling around in that thing!

  5. Keri

    Better they be riding the gator and having fun then out door-to-door selling lesbian planned parenthood propaganda in the form of a cookie.

  6. Notorious Ph.D.

    Someonered, it *does* get better (which is not to say it goes away, ever): It gets better when you hit about 40 (earlier, if you’re very lucky) and realize that you’re invisible anyway, so you ought to stop giving a fuck.

    Then you immediately wonder why it took you so long to figure this out, and why you wasted 40 years, already, trying to win an unwinnable game.

    You become able to answer that question “Why don’t men like me?” for yourself: “Because, on some instinctive level, they sense my wholeness and awesomeness, and it scares them, unless I’m actively making myself small.” It’s not you; it’s them (and P). And you realize that, given a choice between being authentically you and being the junior partner in a couple, you’re now gonna pick yourself every time — if nothing else, to show those fantastic little nieces that there’s another path.

    It doesn’t make patriarchy go away, globally, locally, or even personally. But you at least get to reclaim your own head. And that qualifies as “better”, in my book.

  7. Fede

    Amen, Notorious Ph.D.

    And having seen blamers of all ages here, I will add that it’s good to know you are never too young, nor ever too old, to wake up and get advancin’.

  8. shnurki

    This is such a heart-warming picture….

    My two year-old niece is my favorite person in the world. She eats five-course meals and is on track to be at least 6 feet tall. Her favorite toys are model animals who enjoy racing, doing flips, and hugging/kissing one another. She goes to a super- progressive hippy daycare (which, incidentally, costs $3,000 a month- that’s right, anyone can balance work and happy child-rearing), and her parents enforce gender roles only minimally (??!?) I’m worried to death, however, about what will happen when her baby brother arrives in a few months. The parents say he will be held to all the same standards that she is, but my parents are already making comments about getting ready for the wildness of having a boy. I’ve also noticed my mom stepping up the pro-doll rhetoric and the anti-tallness rhetoric, in subtle sorts of ways.

    It’s mind-boggling to hear that from my mom, who has suffered extreme psychological damage from patriarchy, as testified by frequent outbursts of self-loathing. It’s like she can’t help but revert to the notions about gender that have been forced on her – or worse, she’s not comfortable with the idea of other little girls growing up free of these notions. Very upsetting.

  9. Lovepug

    SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! IT’S MOOOOOOOOONSTER TRUCKS! One day only! El Ranco Deluxe. All Day Monster Truck Action. Green Gater versus The Dudely Dunebuggy of Doom! See Spinster Aunt dominate The Patriarchy. Don’t miss all the truck stompin, engine steamin, metal crushing action. You do not want to miss this event.


  10. Lidon

    “And you realize that, given a choice between being authentically you and being the junior partner in a couple, you’re now gonna pick yourself every time —”

    This sums it up for me COMPLETELY.

    Adorable photo! I like the horsey butt, too!

  11. TriciaMilitia

    How lucky those little nuggets are to have a Spinster Aunt. How unlucky we all are to have to live under the P.

    For some reason, this post made me think about the last two years- I’m still just learning to wrap my head around the all-encompassing P. In doing this, I must have sent out some magnetic vibe that repels all men and attracts all rad women. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever had since shirking the P.
    Together, we steal away with our dogs- away from boyfriends, husbands, jobs, crap families, etc., buzz up a few pitchers of margs, and bang away on our instruments together. This sisterhood is a new and liberating experience to me, and I don’t know how I ever survived without it, or ever could again.

    Thanks, Twisty.

  12. Kali

    it *does* get better (which is not to say it goes away, ever): It gets better when you hit about 40 (earlier, if you’re very lucky) and realize that you’re invisible anyway, so you ought to stop giving a fuck.

    I wish my niece doesn’t have to wait until 40. She is 16 now and fortunately seems to be doing very well, focusing on academics, sports and music, and not boys. I hope it continues this way. She’s got a beautiful mind (a genius and a gold-medalist in an international math competition) and a beautiful heart. I hope she doesn’t throw all that away for a boy. That’s my biggest worry.

  13. Twisty

    A couple of notes about the recent fotos:

    1. That Gator, manufactured for manly men by John Deere of ironic scenester headgear fame, has a fixed seat and steering wheel. It is sized for a 6-foot dude. To drive it I have to hunch way forward with my butt on the edge of the seat because I am only 5’8″. Fucking fucks.

    2. The horse rump in the banner belongs to my pet Arabian Pearlie. She is a white horse, but this photo was taken the day the drought ended, when she became reunited for the first time in over a year with her first love, mud.

  14. CH White

    I get to drive a similar rig at work (as a gardener) but it’s a Kawasaki Mule and is sized way smaller. It fits me fine but the dudes don’t like it much. I doubt it’s because it’s a partly Japanese brand because the nearly identical screaming orange Kubota utility trucks are more like the Gators.

  15. Fictional Queen

    You look AWESOME!

  16. Doctress Ju'ulia

    Oh, I love the picture. How rugged and happy and strong y’all look!

    I was a Girl Scout and I biked around selling cookies- got ambitious one day, biked really far outta my hood, and showed up to the house of another Scout. Her mom laid into me for selling cookies on her daughter’s “turf”. We used to keep all the cookies in a huge stack in our entryway (my mom was one of the two leaders of our troop- the other was the lady who yelled at me for starting a turf war) and I’d steal as many boxes of Thin Mints as I could and eat them in my closet. I wish I could’ve driven a Gator around, I’d have liked it better than selling cookies… can I be a Twisty niece, too? I’m available for adoption… heavy machinery is the bomb.

    Notorious PhD, may have to quote you for truth. I’m going to be 37 in May, and I’m going to celebrate my invisibility by not ever “dating” dudes again. The last d00d was the last fucking straw.

  17. Notorious Ph.D.

    Mad props to Lovepug for “dudely dunebuggy of doom.”

  18. Etch

    I’m a much younger Blamer and my mother Blamed before me. I’m consistently terrified for my little sisters in this exact same vein. One of my sisters is special needs, which makes the ableism concern stronger, but my other is just… a little me. I see her brightness and potential then think about how far I’ve been ground down by the system, and I’m so young (25), and it makes me want to burst out in tears. I blame. I blame.

  19. camille

    Yay to not dating dudes! I don’t know how widespread of a thing this is, but I know several girls (actual girs age-wise, not girls as in i’m-infantilizing women) who went from “rude awakening, patriarchy-wise” to “the last d00d was the last fucking straw” in just a couple of dudes. Girls who can be attracted to any gender, but who have actively decides not to date guys because of how even the nicer ones treat them.

    “Guys suck, I’m gonna turn lesbian” is, for the most part, just some thoughtless and marginalizing thing that straight girls say during breakups. But “guys suck, and I’m not going to act on any attractions to them, and I am going to act on my attractions to women, and to most people that will look like me turning lesbian” is a survival strategy while the patriarchy still lives, and lives strongest in the hearts of dudes.

  20. Slipperyslope

    Wonderful photo! They look like they are having so much fun with their auntie.

    Notorious Ph.D., “reclaim your own head” thank you for those words of wisdom.

  21. yardshark

    It is pretty wondrous and yet horrible that OUR version of the loss of innocence is way different from the way the P would have it. It is heartbreaking, though, especially having lived through decades that don’t seem to have brought the Revolution yet. Ugh.

    Re: the great point made by Notorious Ph.D., that taking a Nigel can mean “being the junior partner in a couple,” I wonder what you all think about whether the dynamic is changed at all when you are a good deal older than your Nigel (I’m about to turn 48, he just turned 35. We just began our 10th year together.) Am I still a junior partner? As far as society is concerned, yes, but between us and in private, where one may say it really counts? Not so much.

    Whenever I give some “not my Nigel” here, Twisty tends to like to disabuse me of any notion that my deal is soaked with a little less P than usual, but having sampled a number of longer-term Nigels in my day (older and younger), I think it is fair to say that this time it really is different, at least in terms of my everyday experience. If anyone’s still interested in Nigels, I recommend choosing a more junior, yet *completely grown up* one, if possible. (He’s younger, yes, but is *not* immature.)

  22. CSue

    It is well-known that, the whiter the horse, the more affinity they have for The Mud.


  23. Comradde PhysioProffe

    I laud you for serving as an excellent role model for your nieces vis-a-vis proper “10 O’Clock-2 O’Clock” steering wheel hand positioning.

  24. Mujerylegs

    Bad day smited (smought? smitted?) by new blog photo and new blog post photo alike. The layout is not all bad either. Maybe I just missed them before, but I love the new-to-me-at-least Banners section. Ancient Texts is also awesome.

  25. Mujerylegs

    The new-at-least-to-me photo under About Twisty is also absolutely fabulous. I am a PhD student, and I definitely need me some glasses like that. And a toad. These are the props that I am missing in order to look the sciency part so that I get my IRB protocols signed off on and chapter drafts read and analyses not questioned on incorrect grounds by IDIOTS WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND MY METHODS BECAUSE THEY’RE OVER THEIR HEADS, WHILE THE FEMALE METHODOLOGIST WHO GOT IT WAS DENIED TENURE ON ACCOUNTA HAVING A VAGINA.

    So obviously what I need to know is where’d you get them fabulous glasses?

  26. Twisty

    “Banners” got moved to the “Ancient Texts,” even though they aren’t, strictly speaking, texts.

    I think “smote” is the word you want.

  27. Mujerylegs

    Thank you, yes. Your glorious photos hath smoted my bad day, which can now turn to gloriously productive night. Muchas gracias.

  28. Tiakristi

    Ditto on the no dudes. I suppose I can count myself very lucky as I arrived at this conclusion recently, as I am nearing my 32nd trip around the sun on this crazy patriarchy-infected planet. Does that make me old enough to join the spinster club? In other qualifications, I am the proud aunt of four lovely nieces who I wish I could scrub of their Disney princess and various other assorted pink sparkly crap before it becomes a habit for them.

    yardshark: I tried the younger dude tactic as well. Which was fun, when it was just, well for fun (in accordance with commenting guidelines, I will spare everyone the details). The last one, who was 25, was great at first; interested in my precious feminist musings, respectful of boundaries, treated me as an equal…and then BAM! We got serious and the patriarchy crept on in; it started subtly enough for me to run through the whole self-doubt game (any straight/formerly straight ladies know what I mean) before it was all too obvious what I was dealing with.

  29. Notorious Ph.D.

    I’m with tiakristi on the Young Nigel thing. I had pretty much the same experience.

    On the other hand, I like Yardshark’s formulation: “taking a Nigel.” I imagine gatherings over tacos and margaritas: Sylvie announces to her radfem peers, “I’ve decided to take a Nigel.” Radfem besties exchange significant glances, then one says, “Are you sure that’s wise?” Sylvie whips out a pros and cons list, and they all debate it well into the night.

  30. qvaken

    That photo is so fun! And it’s heartening to know that you’re looking out for your nieces.

    Nigels don’t really seem to have anything to offer. I mean, some are less bad than others, but in my experience, in the end, all that they ever do is take from you for their own gain. Whether it’s money, sex, love, compassion, support, street credentials and image (they always want to end up looking like the “right” one, in that they were horrible toward you but it was the “right” thing to do, or the “nice” one, in that they were selfish but they did it because they care about you), or so on, they’ll leech it off of you and leave you worse off than you were before meeting them.

    I do like the concept of “taking a Nigel”. It implies a kind of… agency.

  31. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    My niece’s daughter is in her cousin’s odious wedding. As her spinster aunt, I vigorously defended her right to a) not go on a diet to fit into her dress (she isn’t even plump), and b) not go to the malignant melanoma factory for additional pigmentation. She’s thirteen; she doesn’t need to be hounded about this crap.

  32. Hoya

    @Tiakristi (et alia), couldyou elaborate on the self-doubt game? I’m fivish years into a P-approved Nigel situation (largely codified for visa reasons) and am wrasslin’ with this “regaining authentic self after feeling subsumed by Nigel and Relationship” thing. My Nigel, who is generally pretty anti-P insofar as he finds it detrimental to his self authenticity, of course didn’t *mean* for that to happen and says he’s sorry it did … But I keep coming back to hating on myself for letting that happen, when it was historically my biggest fear about the whole arrangement. I mean, I’ve been blaming with Twisty since, um, 2004? 2005? I saw Ani DiFranco like six times in the Nineties. I’ve read the first-wavers, the second-wavers, the third-wavers. I valiantly attempted Judith Butler. I have a PhD in a STEM field, and use it. I’ve had a NOW card since NARAL was still NARAL. I read Dykes to Watch Out For in 2001, ferfuckssake! How did this happen to me?!

    I really like and love my Nigel. But I’m not sure that Authentic Self won’t decide that what she really needs to stay sane is her own apartment after all.

  33. stacey

    Twisty, I was wondering why you looked so hunched over. I thought it was “curmudgeonly farmer” mode.

    Antoinette: just the concept of “thirteen-yr-olds on diets” makes me cry.

    Everyone: I cannot stress enough the necessity of the Radfem Spinster Aunt. Mine was Shirley, my dad’s younger sister, who went to university and ran off and had a CAREER, of all things. She was always taking me and my sister for a weekend, and later after she moved to another city, would have us for occasional week-long holidays when we were out of school. She was living proof that there was another path other than marriage and motherhood. She was also a necessary buffer between me and my mom, who tried her best but could never understand her volatile, emotional daughter. Aunt Shirley saved me from killing myself many times over as a teen.

    I remember when I was mid-teens, having come back from one of these week holidays, and I was talking about something and my mom said “You know, you shouldn’t believe Shirley about everything. She’s so independent now that she can’t get married and it’s made her hard.” My first reaction was, “Yes, because you’re so happy being a married woman who took time out to raiser her kids and has to work clerical because you never trained for anything…” and THAT was the moment I became a FEMINIST!

    (With the usual backsliding over boys when I was in university, of course.) (And, my poor mum… I honestly wish she’d had a better choice than to get married and have babies.)

    TL;dr. So listen up, Radfem Aunts. BE that aunt. BE that woman that your nieces look up to. Take the risk of offending your sibling – tell them that their daughters need to know that they can do anything, regardless of gender. Show them that they have choices. Be that one who loves them dearly and will listen to all their problems. Be that dazzling lady who makes her own life and can show her how.

  34. Pineapples

    aww cute pic! My neice loves riding on my Mule too. I wish I had spent the extra money and got a Gator instead of the Kawasaki Mule. Though the Mule is short friendly, I’m 5’6, so the peddles and wheel are no problem, but the Gator looks so much cooler and has the cute litle deer on it. =P

  35. quixote

    Just regain. Don’t worry about the past. Nigel, if he’s authentic, will be along for the ride. If not, at least one of you gets out alive.

  36. yardshark

    Notorious: LOL! Love the scene-setting.

    Notorious and Tiakristi: Although I’ve had worse experiences with younger Nigels too, this one isn’t turning out that way. We’ve been married for nearly 5 years out of the almost 10 so far, so we made it past getting serious. Yes, married, but as equals, as far as we can make it that way in a P world. I don’t feel I can’t be my authentic self, and he doesn’t have any stupid P-based expectations of me (that I know of, yeah, but). Can’t really agree with qvaken – I get at least as much out of our partnership as he does, but she’s probably right about *most* Nigels being 100% self-serving arsesholles.

    I think that *any* partner, though, no matter what gender, can have some effect on whether we can be our authentic selves. It’s just always a potential when you have to negotiate with another person, no matter how sympatico.

  37. Tiakristi

    @Hoya: for me, the self-doubt game goes something like this: I get increasingly uncomfortable by lack of respect/boundaries, assert myself appropriately but politely, and basically get a “yeah, yeah” but no change. Or I start to notice how he talks when he’s with his friends, and I don’t really care for it (nor does it really sound like the same guy who had deep conversations with me in the early stages). The porn issue. Etc.
    So then I assert myself louder, maybe I’m angry. An argument ensues. I’m too “demanding”, unreasonable, needy, etc etc. Then, being so trained by the patriarchy, I start to wonder if he’s right. Am I being too (whatever)? I try to compromise, feel he isn’t really, feel like shit about myself because I’m not really being me or getting what I need. So I try harder, until (and this has taken varying amounts of time, money and emotional energy) I realize that it isn’t worth it.
    Then I spend at least a few months questioning whether I am really as rad fem as I would like to believe, given how the situation went down, and how much I enjoyed (because I have been conditioned to) the initial stages, the flattery to my poor feminine ego.
    I think Notorious PhD is onto something, about how men can sense the wholeness & awesomeness & get scared by it if you’re not trying to make yourself small. In my experience, I think some men are initially attracted to it (“Look! A lady who considers herself human! I love the confidence how adorable!”) but then get scared by the implications. It’s like in order to make sure they’re bigger than you, if you won’t make yourself smaller, then they’re going to do it for you. For your own good, y’know.

  38. qvaken

    Antoinette: Holy shit! Make sure that they leave her alone! That make-sure-you-look-the-way-we-damn-well-tell-you-to shit is ridiculous, and it’s bad for her, and bad for us all.

    Hoya: The self-doubt game. Hm. It always starts with something small, like little comments here and there about that hot chick that they loved checking out when they were a teenager, or about that time when they had some awesome naughty sex with someone wild, or they’ll be late to meeting up with you, or they’ll say something to their friends in front of you that’s mildly disrespectful to you, etc etc.. If you feel bothered by these and you pipe up, then you’ll be lucky if you get an apology (and it’s unlikely to be an altruistic one), and otherwise you’ll be told that you’re the one who bears the responsibility for your reactions, not him for his actions.

    It’s like they progress gradually through levels of disrespect, testing the waters with each new action that they want to try, and shaming your reaction each time. Before you know it, they’ve either plateaued in a cycle of miserable disregard for you, or they’re progressing on to shamelessly perform actions that you once considered unthinkable, like yelling at you, swearing at you, doing sexually inappropriate things to you, or worse. By this stage, because of the life-long as well as relationship-long process of conditioning, you’re pretty thoroughly convinced that you must be really messed up for causing him to do these things, and also for reacting the way that you do when (a) you were the one who made him do it anyway or (b) it’s really no big deal, it’s normal for him to x y and z, and it’s really strange that you’re reacting so strongly.

    Okay, so I sound like a big scaremonger now, but really my interests are in staying informed, cognizant and connected. Basically, I’m all for keeping up communications about how you’re feeling and why with others in supportive communities. And, of course, protip: If you’re constantly or frequently miserable, then there’s a reason for it, and we mustn’t rule out the possibility that it comes from an outside cause.

  39. someonered

    You don’t sound like a scaremonger to me, qvaken. You sound spot flipping on.

  40. Liza

    I share your fear every day for my spirited, independent, loving, feisty, creative, talented niece.

  41. lizor

    Good blog post about nipping the normalization of abuse of girls in the bud:

    “When the fuck was it decided that we should start teaching our daughters to accept being belittled, disrespected and abused as endearing treatment?”


    On the subject of hope and gender binary notwithstanding, this piece made my day.


  42. pheeno

    So you have horses *and* a gator. That officially makes you Coolest Aunt Ever.

  43. stacey

    lizor, thanks for that link. I’m sending it to every parent I know. I’ve heard that shit from my mom and I don’t wan’t her passing it on to my wonderful, sensitive, and entirely gullible niece.

  44. Tiakristi

    qvaken: I think you elaborated on my point much more clearly than I did, thank you.

    Hoya: great link. I am sending it on to the sibs in the hope that they take it to heart. I can only speculate how differently my view on men & relationships would have been had I not been told that very thing as a child.

  45. Mare_Island

    Please always tell your niece that she is “nice and tall.” I’m thankful that my mom (5′ 11″) taught me at an early age to always hold my shoulders back and walk straight and proud. It’s something that I think all women should be taught, no matter what their size. Don’t be ashamed to take up space, and nurture the body that nature gave you.

  46. Life As I Know it Now

    . And you realize that, given a choice between being authentically you and being the junior partner in a couple, you’re now gonna pick yourself every time.

    Please, please, please–that is all I want for myself, and then I will be happy.

  47. RL

    Ah yes. But I have 3 nephews. It’s even better that way, I think. Cause then you might be able to change the men. Mama tried.

  1. Spinster aunt gives relationship advice to no one in particular » I Blame The Patriarchy

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