Thursday, March 10, 2005

It just boggles my mind that a high ranking Polish government official is taking on Ikea for its sexist instructional pamphlets

There was a time when the mere mention of the word “feminism” in Poland would make people laugh. Did you know that American women are asking that sexist language be removed from school texts? Laughter. Hey, in the States, women are demanding that employers focus less on their appearance and more on their performance. Laughter. And so on.

So you could have knocked me over today when I read in the Polish paper that the Polish Minister for Social Affairs is spearheading the campaign to make Ikea redesign its pamphlets providing instruction on the assembly of furniture.

Why have we missed the boat on this one in the States? It seems that there are more than two thousand brochures with Ikea instructions and not one of them has a sketch of a woman doing the assembly. All guys. And the women in Poland are livid. [Why do I think that, after a day at work and an evening of housework and child care, it is indeed the women who are assembling tables and beds…]

The Minister herself states: I’m right there, putting the screws into the furniture, as are thousands of Polish women! [What did I say?] That’s how attitudes toward women are shaped, in these little ways – claims a representative to the Parliament. And I am sitting here reading and this time I’m the one chortling away. Because finally, issues of sexism are, to the Pole, no longer simply funny.

You just call out my name...

In demonstrating that he can say something nice about President Bush, Oscar writes: he was good to his friends.
I wonder if that’s true…Because I am going to guess that most of Bush's friends are not residents of Crawford Texas, it being a mere piece of lint on a map. Therefore, they are long distance friends. And in my experience, long distance friendships* suck.

Oh, I am asking for emails of protest here: my longdistance friends sustain me! We keep in touch!** We call each other when we are needy!

Yes, all that may be true (though disproportionately so among women, who appear to have a more expansive relational horizon than do men, especially over long stretches of time – at least that has been my experience). These friendships are curious, though, because availability appears to matter not at all. It becomes mostly about "knowing" that someone is there. A friendship conducted 99% in the imagination. How is it that it deserves to live under the same label as the proximate friend, the one who tracks your weeks and takes you out to dinner when you need to be taken out to dinner?

I received an email this morning from a long-distance friend. He writes: “I feel really bad about the way our friendship is going” and he then lists all the opportunities not taken, the broken contact (so that he knows little about my winter and I of his), the months of not writing.

Having moved an ocean away from very many very close friends, I have to say that over the decades, they become mere specs on the horizon – name entries in an address books, email writers upon occasion, a phone call maybe, and then loaded with some good days of intense love and camaraderie during the rare visit. Sustaining? Not in the everyday.

We need a new category for those who are away: they are, as the cliché would have it, our anchors. They may keep us from drifting away, from feeling displaced and lost. All fine and well. But let’s be honest: when we step out on the deck each morning, we don’t give them a second’s thought. We look to the left, to the right, never down below. We ignore them, they ignore us. Anchorships (an odd combination of terms, to be sure) are not friendships.

Maybe it’s easy if you have the resources to pull in your anchors on a regular basis and invite them for a week-end at the ranch. Maybe long distance friendship is much improved for the wealthy (must their lives be made easier in this respect as well?). Maybe Bush is, indeed a better friend than I am to my far away group and they are to me.

* Not the friends, mind you, I am writing about the friendships.
** My latest favorite from my long-distance friends: we read your blog! -- Thanks guys. That really makes me feel "connected," especially since, in the absence of you having any, I don't read yours.