Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Penis Mom

KarensBlogBig

When I was little I wanted to be a lot of things: Johnny Carson's replacement; A Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader so good I was the only one on the team; an artist with my own wing at the Boston Museum of Fine Art - you know, normal stuff. I wanted to be a lot of things, but I never- I PROMISE you - ever wanted to grow up to be someone known a The Penis Mom.

But here I am.

It all started way back in early November, when my 13-year-old's teacher sent an email to parents saying they were doing a little Pumpkin Chunkin’ – this is a very cool physics project where the kids launch pumpkins with a trébuchet. Awesome. Except the email asked for help setting up the trébuchet. Help from dads. That's right, dads. Are there any strong dads who can help? So if you know me, you know I’m cautious. I sat down at my computer to check the facts, first looking at the calendar to see what year we were in - yep, still 2011. So with time-travel ruled out, we were only left with the possibility that we had somehow slipped into an alternate universe, one where teachers have giant balls. Balls clearly big enough to toss such gender-biased questions out into the wind without concern for where they might land. And thus began my verbal rant. I am uncertain how long it lasted, however when I finally came up for air my husband/editor had made dinner, cleaned up, and put the kids to bed.

At that point, I sat down to respond to the email.

Dear teachers and parents:

     Are you guys seriously only asking for Dads?

     Is lifting done with a penis?

Thoughtfully yours,

- Karen

Simple and to the point, right? But, before I hit send I remember that email goes to all parents and sometimes people reach this interesting conclusion that I am a little too edgy. So, I decide to get a second opinion from the voice of reason. I go into my editor/husband and read my response. Now, if you know my editor/husband you know how completely insane this is [Editor’s note: What?! Insane?]. It is like a Stegosaurus asking a T-Rex if she appears too aggressive. Wait, some of you may not have toddlers; let me try that again. It is like a gentle breeze asking a hurricane if he should ease up a bit on the blowing. If I am edgy, my editor husband is flying off the edge, not even realizing there was one. If I am a little over the top, he is bouncing off the top as high as he can reach. He is not the man to ask for help when you need to know how the norm will react.

And yet I do.

"Is the penis thing too much?" I ask.

"Too much? It’s insufficient. Why don't you ask if it needs to be dads because there’s going to be some cocking on the unit? Tell them I’ll bring my friends Dick Johnson, Peter Hard-on and Chubby E. Rekshun to help..." And so it went on this way. As he continued on and on, it got quiet in my head. My hands reached for the mouse, moved the cursor over my email, and I clicked Send, thinking "Well, at least I am not him."

This is not the first time this rationalization has gotten me into trouble.

Within hours my penis-lifting comment had apparently bunched more than a few panties.

Parents were horrified. Who knew this might happen? Not us. OK, we probably knew - but seriously? Asking exclusively for dads to help is offensive on so many levels to me. I am freakishly strong and could mount a trébuchet with the best of them [Editor’s note: Um, honey, you don’t actually mount a trébuchet]. As someone who was a single mom for a good long time, I take issue with the assumption that every home has a dad to contribute. But most of all, I resent the message we are giving to our daughters that because of their gender, they are unwelcome to participate in physical tasks - that they are not strong enough and that only a man qualifies. I resent the message to all our children that we judge the value of contribution based on sex and not competence. What the hell year is this? I better double-check that.

Still 2011.

So, I received a slap-on-the-wrist email about how correspondence should be g-rated because some of the students are on the email list. I was slightly confused by this because, in my mind, “penis” is g-rated. Honestly, I would love to have been more colorful - but that would have been inappropriate. I was also slightly confused because it seemed perfectly OK with everyone to send socially regressive requests out that diminish our girl's sense of worth - but they are now circling the wagons because I used the word penis? To thirteen year-olds? Really?

To further complicate and add humor to this situation, I signed the note Karen. Now I did this mostly because my name is Karen. However, that also happens to be the name of the school principal. This caused quite stir because everyone thought the principal sent the penis note. Tee hee hee. I didn't plan it that way, but I love a good farcical mix up.

Karen the principal sent out a note of clarification, reminding us that emails must be "all Disney all the time." Tee hee hee. That part made me laugh – however the next part did not:

"For the record I'm not a fan of lifting things though, and I don't really like the mud "

This is what the principal said in response to the email protesting asking for only dads. Hmm,,,interesting. So, don't rock the boat about gender discrimination because we girls don't like getting all dirty and doing hard work.

This does not make me feel better.

Ladies, this is not a situation of the men holding us back - we are holding ourselves back because we don't want to step forward if it is icky and muddy. If you want equal pay - guess what? It comes with equal obligation to show up for Pumpkin Chunkin.

Asking for strong parents is smart. Asking for only the ones with a penis is inefficient and a little too Mad Men for 2011.

When I showed the email thread to my thirteen year old boy, I was a little worried he would be embarrassed and ask me why I can't be more like normal moms. But he didn't. Instead he offered "Screw them - that is cool."

Now, I could focus on the fact that my boy just said "Screw them" and how wildly inappropriate that is - or I could just be happy knowing I am doing something right with that boy and embrace the fact that I am now known at school functions and throughout the land as "The Penis Mom."

More from Karen:

Orangina
It is a VAGINA, People

Kick
Kick in the Aspergers

House
Sometimes Your House Burns Down

283 comments:

  1. They just caught up.. you've always been a Penis Mom to us... on behalf of your siblings...

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  2. Most cool...my name is Carley...I would have done the same thing..I have two children ages 29 year old girl and a 19 year old boy and they have worse come from my mouth..my own mother tells me i have a mouth of a trucker and a surpents toungue where appropriate of course..I work in construction and at times with up to 1300 men, they have often stated they are proud of me because I get dirty..meaning I get up every morning and sludge in the trenches just as they do, and I carry my own weight...as for those ladies that got their paneties in a knot..they really need to lighten up or get laid more often...good for u Karen..more women do need to speak out just as u did. Thank u for writting this article the first place..Carley Sinclair of Port Coquitlam, BC,Canada

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  3. What a great story!! Thank you for your courage to be you and not hold back. Now, if many more woman would....

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  4. Maybe when they said "trebuchet", what they meant was that students put a pumpkin on Dad's penis, and then with a mighty flex of the pubococcygeus he launches the pumpkin into the air. That would actually be pretty entertaining, and give students a twist on the ol' "My dad can beat up your dad" taunt. Yeah. That must be it.

    And I would have said "Hugh G. Rekshun".

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  5. I am a father of two fantastic girls (5 and 7) and a brother to three wonderful sisters. I am all for equality between the sexes and my son and I play and work exactly the same as my daughters and I.
    I do think, however, that the reasoning behind the request for Dads to attend the Pumpkin Chuckin' event should receive analysis. From my experience the vast majority of parental involvement for kids at school is from their mothers. I know due to work requirements I'm able to attend events far less than I wish and to have the school put out a call for Dads to particpate in an event with the kids and other Dads fills me with excitement. It urges me to move mountains to get myself there.
    At a time where kids need more input in their live from their Dads and not less, sometimes a direct call to the kids Dads is what's needed to get their participation.
    Granted, the undertones of sexism and the lack of appropriate response from the school leaves a lot to be desired, but lets give our teachers the benifit of the doubt that they're actually trying to do their best for our kids.

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  6. If only the school had responded as Toby said above . . . alas, they did not.

    -Roy (another active Dad)

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  7. I laughed at this and then I cried at the fact you even needed to write a note like that. Good to know gender inequality is alive and well.

    In our family, I would be the one working on the trebuchet, not my husband. Husband + any sort of power tools = probable emergency visit. And quite frankly I know a lot of women who wear the tool belts in their families.

    I get Toby's 'dad bonding' comment, but why does it have to be for something that requires manual labor? Why not have them organize the Mother's Day tea, instead?

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  8. Go, Penis Mom! I'd be shakin' my head too if a note like that came home!

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  9. Being the husband of the last commenter, I take offence that me armed power tools would equate to a trip to the hospital. I'm very handy with tools. And by tools, I don't mean my penis.

    The only time I went to the hospital was when I jumped into a street lamp when taking pictures of zombies and while that may sound comical it was actually true (they weren't real zombies, I wouldn't be taking pictures of them if they were. Well, maybe).

    In any case, shouldn't the word Penis be capitalized?

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  10. As a female pilot, I've discovered that many people believe that operating an aircraft is also done with a penis.

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  11. You are my hero.
    I like what Toby had to say, it would have been nice if the request for parental participation came in a prodding "hey dads, give mom a break" sort of way ... But it didn't. And you pointed it out. So that means that there will be a group of moms that adore you and a group of moms that will vilify you as THAT P-E-N-I-S woman. Your kid gets it. You got the point across. You rock.

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  12. Awesome post. Hope you're ready to always be know as "Penis Mom" ;). I'd love to put a link to this post on my blog. Let me know if you're cool with that.

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  13. High five "penis mom." I'm known as "the liberal" and in Southeast Texas that is considered quite the derogatory term.

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  14. Hi!

    I agree with @Toby that they were trying to stir up some (less frequently present) dads. (I am also a big fan of giving the benefit of the doubt... as I hope people will do for me when I do not communicate well; such as now? ;))
    @PrincessJenn, I am on the PTO board at my kids' school - and can personally vouch that manual labor requests have a much higher response from dads than organizing a tea type request - however, we do not distinquish between sexes when we offer a volunteer opportunity. :)

    Fresh out of high school I worked in a paper mill. I was the only female on the shift regularly and learned pretty quickly that much of the strength chores were actually skill; that I COULD "do it" and as well as the men. Oh, those poor male "rookies" who came in wanting to assist me (such gentlemen) and then had to stand back and watch me when they were not able to. lol A most incredible experience for a young woman's ego and confidence, I must say. So I learned to assume that I *am* able instead of that I am not - a lesson I share with my 6 year old daughter. She is strong and useful as well as smart and beautiful.

    Go Penis Mom!
    ~~carleen

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  15. I love a woman who pokes things with sticks!

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  16. Good on you, Penis Mom. Is it that hard to just write "parents" instead of "dads"? Recently my daughter had a party at an indoor rock-climbing centre & I needed some extra adults to hold the ropes for the kids, so I asked if any PARENTS could stay and help. Now, the parents who did, were all fathers, but that's not the point.
    It annoys me similarly if I see school newsletters/emails asking for mothers to help in the classroom or in the school canteen. You don't need a vagina to cut and paste with 5 year olds or serve Vegemite rolls :)

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  17. I'm sure the 13-year-olds were giggling - aren't they supposed to know the names of body parts by that age, though? Thirteen is seventh or eighth grade, and that's when I had 'health class'.

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  18. Don't need a penis for most things. What ARE they teaching them in school these days?

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  19. Magpie sent me. So glad she did. I like your style!

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  20. I am sooooooo with you on this one. I am a teacher, and I can't tell you how many times I have sat in the teachers' lounge when someone will come in looking for "a man to help." I ask what they need, then as I stand up to go help, I place my hands on my breasts and say, "Oh, I don't think these will get in my way."

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  21. Dear Penis Mom,

    I read your awesome post after spending the afternoon pruning trees, chopping wood, moving logs and digging in my muddy garden.

    Next year my daughter will be enrolled in the very same program with your son. Thanks for paving the way for us! I totally agree with you! Except... do you think I should change my name?

    Just wondering,
    Karen

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  22. You are awesome. I'd like to think I would have the stones to send that email, but I'd probably just forward it to a few of my friends on the list instead of doing a Reply All. Which is why you are awesomer than me.

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  23. As a single father with 50% custody of 3 children, I find it offensive that schools continuously send invitations to mothers and forget the fathers. I also find it offensive that mothers are invited to Father’s Day events (because not all children have fathers) however fathers are not allow to attend Mother’s Day events (because every child must have a mother so there’s no need for the father to attend).

    Maybe I could use the same line of thinking for all the emails that go out to mothers from my child’s school asking them to attend morning tea each Thursday. I guess schools must think that mothers are the only ones that look after children. Perhaps they believe that mothers either have nothing to do while their kids are at school so would enjoy the company, or perhaps mothers (and the school) don’t want fathers to know that they are taking it easy while fathers are working their backsides off.

    Anyway, you made me laugh with your post as it made me realise that some people have way too much time on their hands if they can complain about something so petty. Obviously you’re a feminist who believes that if you aren’t included in absolutely everything, you’re being treated unfairly or discriminated against!

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  24. Actually, I applaud your diplomacy.

    Except, and this is a teensy one: having taught in schools and now have kids in schools where moms do all the volunteering, maybe this was the teacher taking the opportunity to offer something to the dads that they felt they could/should help out with. Something, you know, manly to do with kids. Stupid, I know. But sometimes we must bow to their level.

    I think I might've just emailed the teacher individually. Sometimes they have an agenda to reach out to certain parents... I know I did when I taught.

    At any rate, I'm super glad you did email someone something about it.

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  25. Yeah, I'm a 25 year old male, who is 6'4". I weigh the top side of 245 if I just pooped. I am asked to do physical things for people that they can easily do themselves, and I do it to be nice. I don't wanna be expected to build shit all the time, and if I do, I want people to see me doing it alongside strong women, not for them. Go Penis Mom, Go!

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  26. This is brilliant! I once made a casual comment to my mother-in-law (mistake) that her son never cut our toddlers' finger nails. She said, "Well, that's not something a Daddy does". I said, "Why not? Do you need a pair of breasts or a vagina to cut children's finger nails?" She looked as if I had slapped her in the face with a penis, haha! (I must admit though, it was not 2011; it was 2008).

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  27. I have asked the very same question with the very same wording a million times, and my children have not been embarrassed by it either. Instead they are now frequently critical of gender issues and the behaviours considered appropriate for people with certain genitals. I would have been asking for playdates and sending flowers had I got that email. I would have felt my kid was in a great school with like minded parents.

    Also Disney has a grab bag of sins FAR worse than "penis". Keeping it ALL Disney ALL the time might open some pretty troubling floodgates.

    Good on you honestly.

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  28. I feel like you and I have the same mindset.
    I usually get into trouble for speaking up too.
    Done good lady. Done good.

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  29. Well, I do love your email.

    However, in a lot of volunteer activities other than boy scouts and sports which involve boys crushing each other in testosterone hazing events (football, hockey, etc.), it's always, always, always only the moms who show up, whether their child is a girl or a boy, whether both parents work. So we get all these events with parents taking part with their kids, but really, it's only a bunch of XX chromosomes. Which is fine. But I also come from the line of thinking that a penis is also capable of helping to cook meals at a Girl Scout event or to be there to support the son who is in the ballet recital by making costumes, etc.

    So I applaud your email. But I can also understand if the teacher's email wasn't meant exactly as it seems.

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  30. I love it! I do think we pigeonhole ourselves and other women into roles that are becoming outdated and unfair. Be proud to be the penis mom! On a side note, there was a parent/teacher introduction night at our preschool where at least one parent had to be present and I sent my husband. He told me he was the only dad there and I felt very satisfied...and have been looked at as the oddball mom ever since. You may not have a penis, but be very certain, you have balls : )

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  31. Marci, I agree! I think there is also an unfair stigma when dads do get involved in untypically Dad Events. Then the thought is "Well, where's the mother? Why isn't she doing her job?" Even if Dad is fully capable of brushing hair into a ponytail before a dance recital. Can't win.

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  32. I run across this and similar stigmas and misperceptions constantly. One of my favorites is the old biddies at the playground who ask me if I'm "babysitting" my 4- and 6-year-old sons when we go to the playground. The inference is that a father can't be a primary caregiver or choose to spend time with his children because he WANTS to. Shocking!

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  33. Oh dear, how I love you, though I don't even know you!! Thank you for being willing to humorously point out the inherent biases being sent when folks make assumptions like this. As a teacher, I think I would have cracked up at this response.

    Good luck to you, and congrats on your new reign as Penis Mom.

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  34. And we wonder why we have trouble getting girls/women into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields? How many female engineers did they potentially overlook with their initial note? When they have a bake sale do they think only the mothers know how to cook? I suppose the next step was they thought only the boys would want to chunk the pumpkins? I hope the stir you caused will cause them to rethink their wording next time they call for volunteers.

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  35. The fact is, for the most part, woman are not as physically strong as men. However, moving around a trebuchet and pumpkins is not the same as building Stonehenge. Besides, I am smart enough to know how to use things like levers and pulleys. Perfect time for a STEM lesson on overcoming the physical world. The thought of an education institution calling for just men makes me shake my head.

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  36. Beautifully written. My email would probably have been about 56 raving paragraphs, complete with references, and would have been much less funny.

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  37. Great post ... found it via a link on Facebook.

    This line is sad, but true... "we are holding ourselves back" so thanks for being ballsy enough to click send, both on that email and on this post!

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  38. bwahahahahah! May I join you in the "Penis Mom" club?

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  39. The best compliment I've ever received is from another female soldier I met once who remembered me FIVE years later because I was "the only female carrying all of [my] own gear.". The thought that I would have asked for help startled me. Why would I ask for help when I went through the same training as my male counterparts? Sure, all that gear was heavy (two loaded duffle bags, full rucksack, helmet, flack vest and a personal bag the same size as a military duffel), but it was MY gear and MY responsibility. I'm glad I didn't have the need to ask for help. It was a very freeing and very motivational compliment.

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  40. Just found your blog, but I will be back! You RAWK! As a mom to a 2.5-year-old girl, I would be proud to be a "penis mom" like you -- if we don't teach our girls that 1) They are physically strong and competent; 2) Even if something does happen to be outside their level of physical strength, the important thing is to show up and TRY and 3) You have to stand up for what you believe in, because no one is going to do it for you, then who will? Good for you!

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  41. That is awesome...but you must also remember that, in 2011, not all dad have penises. Equality for all. Transgender daddies too. <3

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  42. I can appreciate both schools of thought ( how dare they & benefit of the doubt) but we seriously need stop stop segmenting, good intentions or not.

    Sounds like we need Penis Mom and Soft Curves Dad.

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  43. Amen Sister! If that is how you earned the title, then I say wear it with pride.

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  44. I would have done the same thing. Having worked in a warehouse for 7 years, I used to be able to lift 80 lbs from the floor to above my head. That's fallen to about 50, but it's still more than some men can lift. I am continually irritated by these "ladies' tool kits" that have a pretty pink hammer that weighs about 2 lbs. You couldn't drive a finishing nail with that thing! Just because I don't have an extra appendage doesn't mean I can't handle something with a little muscle.

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  45. @actsinglefather:

    As a 90% custody single father for 12 years, I understand your angst. That said, I think that if you are being intellectually honest, and not just having a knee-jerk emotional response, you'd have to realize that BOTH versions (yours and Karen's) of the offensive missives are, well... offensive.

    I've been on the receiving end of both types of messages, and I've alienated over half my cohort because I protest both versions. And this is living in one of the more (allegedly) liberal cities in the country... Oh well.

    @Amanda Exactly!

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  46. I'm totally in support of you and your efforts to help your school get a clue. Your principal's reaction was sad and clearly she didn't get your original point. (BTW. I like mud. I also like lifting heavy things. It makes me feel tough.) I'll stand up with you as a penis mom any time!

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  47. Way to go, Penis Mom!!

    When I am questioning whether or not to "rock the boat" I always mentally return to a quote that was posted in my eighth grad history teacher's classroom: "Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes."

    We should never be shamed into being quiet about injustice. I want to buy that principal a subscription to Ms.!

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  48. I'm one of those horrible (according to some) child-free women, but honey, I love this post!

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  49. Based on your picture you should be called the Boob Mom. HOT! but you're totally right. Fuck those gender biases.

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  50. Would it be possible to get the text of the school's original letter where they asked for dads quoted here?

    I applaud you for standing up on this and not just letting it go. Too many people seem to think it doesn't matter or is just being "too PC", but I think tact and sensitivity are important for schools to demonstrate to students as a good example rather than gender (or other) stereotypes.

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  51. I do hope that was tongue-in-cheek, Jack Smirking.

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  52. Awesome - fabulously awesome!! What I want to know is did you say anything else? I think a word with the principal might be in order...

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  53. "Except the email asked for help SETTING UP the trébuchet".
    I don't recall seeing anything regarding LIFTING....setting up is what it said.You know...lifting large wooden planks,wenching platforms...typical(but certainly not exclusively)male activity.Would you have been just as "OFFENDED" if the school put on a bake sale,and asked for Moms to help?? I seriously doubt it. Perhaps if you would have re-read the request instead of reacting to what it DIDN'T say....

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  54. I would have less trouble thinking of the email as a call to arms for reluctantly participating dads if the writer had let off the adjective "strong." This implies that weak dads need not apply, since there is a need for strength. So, if you choose to look at it that way, it's still exclusionary.

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  55. I would comment.....but maybe its best I wait a bit.....as I'm pretty sure I'd leave quite a few pissed off broads in the wake......wait......I meant ladies.....no wait.....I meant gender equals.....oh hell....whatever......I'm sure glad I'm old......this equality debate.....we aren't equal......never have been....aren't supposed to be......jmo.....

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  56. I had to make a similar comment to be allowed to run an audio board at the TV station I worked at in 1979. But... it WAS 1979!! Imagine my dilemma when I had to prove in 2003!!!!! that I could run an audio board for my church. What analogy do I use now??? I just said, Well... I think I have all the anatomy parts I need to operate slide pots. Is there some anatomy part that you all are using that I'm not aware of?????

    Next week I was in the sound booth running the audio. The Church never sounded better LOL

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  57. Perhaps it was just a way to get more fathers involved.....

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  58. Bloody Awesome!

    VIVI Ginsberg Smith

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  59. Love the post! I had something similar happen when my son (now an adult) was in second grade. He came home and told me women are only good for cooking and cleaning. I was a asi8ngle parent at the time and loved "playing" with power tools then and now. Instead of trying to reason with him, instead I went on strike for a week, ONLY cooking and cleaning. When something got broke that he wanted fixed, I would simply explain that I couldn't since I was only good for cooking and cleaning. His tune changed by the end of the week. :)

    My son, as an adult can not only use power tools but he can also cook and clean. Heck, I love to cook and am considered to be quite a good cook and he's better than me now!

    Anyway, he is now the father of a two year old girl who gets legos and trucks from her paternal gramma. Reason for this is I remember my frustration as a child of not being allowed to play with my brother's matchbox cars or legos as they were "boy toys", instead expected to play with barbies and the 0other doll stuff given to me. I built them houses and furniture instead. I also dug a hole in our backyard and buried the toy cooking set I was given at the age of five, then refused to tell my mother where I buried them. :)

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  60. You know, both the original email and some of the comments are so disturbing to me. They're trying to get less involved Dads? How about just involving all parents equally??
    You know, I remember this same situation in reverse with my friend Vincent. He's divorced and handles most of the in-school stuff (if not all) for his daughter. Got a letter from the school one day about how "all the mothers" are invited to breakfast with the teacher. Well, since he's the only one involved in Olivia's academia, he was justifiably angry that the teacher would cut him out like that. Or any Dad that wanted to be involved.
    Maybe its reasons like this that Dads aren't involved, or that mothers get the bad rap. How many would be involved if they weren't seen as "penis mom" or some other BS.

    As for disney appropriate, send the clip of the minister getting the hard on in The Little Mermaid and assure them that penises exist in Disney as well.

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  61. "All Disney all the time" usually means killing the mother. As we found out when our daughter could not be pried away from the videos.

    But she proved smarter than we were. The lesson she took from Beauty and the Beast? At age 4, when her mom was arrested for political protest she said, well, "a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do."

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  62. I'm a mom of 2 boys who does a lot of heavy lifting with my vagina. I also happen to be the Cubmaster of my oldest's Cub Scout Pack. I can't tell you how many times I get comments about being a female Cubmaster. "Oh, another pack that can't get the dads involved," "Are you a single mom?," "The dad just seem to leave everything to the moms these days," etc.

    Then I just smile that killer mom smile (you know the one) - the one that made me a top manager in an all-boys' firm.... "Well, seeing as I love to fish, camp, hike, and be outdoors, I love the fact that I finally get an excuse to be a boy scout." I HATED girl scouts. I break out at the sight of a glue gun. Don't ask me to scrapbook a page for a teacher gift - I hired a friend to do mine. If you want a campfire built, or a great PERT chart, I'm your gal.

    And when our sons in particular see moms involved in things they love, it says to them far louder than words that women are equal partners with men. The boys in my pack respect me, and the den leaders (male & female) do too, because I care for the pack and the boys and I put together a great pack program. In part, because my XX makes it x-tra special.

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  63. 1. That nickname should clearly be a badge of honor.

    2. I would have been even more pissed, too. I would have sent a note explaining that no, I would not help, because the request clearly insulted my wife, who is better at engineering projects of all types than I, anyway.

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  64. I've never seen a note from school that didn't just ask for moms, so asking for dads would have floored me. That said, every time I read one it pisses me off. Why can't they type out "parents"? This isn't Twitter.

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  65. I am a man, and a librarian by profession. As such, I volunteered many hours one year at my daughter's grade school library. I read stories, helped with homework, helped kids find sources and books and more. At the end of the year, in gratitude to the library volunteers, the library staff had the kids prepare a big poster. It covered most of a wall, and said in great big letters: Thanks to Our Library Ladies. I didn't volunteer the next year.

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  66. @Ink Monkey Magazine

    When I'm trying to get parents involved, I absolutely try to get all parents involved equally - as do most of the activities my kids are involved in, or school. However, very unequally, it's overwhelmingly women who turn up.

    And when I bitch about it out loud, overwhelmingly, I get some crap from a lot of men - and women - how "Dad is at work, at the *real* job, doing something important, like earning money for the family." And the message loud and clear is that activities which involve caring for and teaching children are still the realm of women. This is not complimentary when that "special skill" of teaching or volunteering to help with children is laced with the undertone of "because you have nothing more important to do, anyway"...as if volunteer time with children isn't important enough for men to take part in.

    It's the reverse of comments some men receive when they are seen in public alone caring for their children: "Oh, how nice of you to babysit for your wife!" or pats on the back for wrangling children, as if having a vagina confers some special power in organizing, disciplining, and caring for kids.

    Everything I know how to do as a parent, I taught myself or learned from others, from how to breastfeed to naming 300 types of construction equipment so I could enjoy conversations with my kid who loves construction equipment.

    So yes, I'd love "welcome all parents" to be the message. But it would be equally wonderful if all parents took the job of parenting and volunteering seriously, for all their children, whether it's a mom helping her daughter learn how to change a tire, or a father helping his son apply stage make-up for a dance competition.

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  67. And last thing I'm going to say about this, but any parent who uses someone else's stupidity as an excuse to not volunteer anymore is ONLY hurting their child. Not sending a message.

    Send a REAL message, like the email the author sent. And keep volunteering. Sour grapes only hurts your own child.

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  68. Hi Karen- I'm the assistant editor of HuffPost Parents and I LOVE this post. We'd like to post this on HuffPost- if you're interested please email me: jessica.samakow@huffingtonpost.com

    Look forward to hearing from you!

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  69. We've only just met but I have to let you know that I love you already, Penis Mom.

    (Auto correct keeps changing "penis" to Pennsylvania, so your kid's school is not the only place where people are confused about what qualifies as PG.)

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  70. As the PTO president at my youngest child's school, I would be offended if any group only wanted dads to help with a task. We have several families with only two moms, and I imagine it makes their children feel totally excluded.

    I am also constantly trying to reinforce to my own two daughters that the word "penis" is actually the correct and only acceptable terminology to use if you happen to need to discuss one. I don't think cute names for body parts make them any cuter, and may actually diminish their importance. A penis can be dangerous to a girl in a certain set of circumstances, while a willie or a wee-wee not so much.

    While I may not have sent that exact same message to my membership--we are Pre-K through 5th- I would have had no issue with such a message going out to my older child's school- 6th-12th.

    I think the principal voicing her opinion that she doesn't want to get dirty or lift things is just that, her opinion, and I might have been inclined as a parent who had not sent the original message that it's fine to be a girly-girl, but I am not one and would appreciate an invitation to do the heavy lifting when the opportunity arises.

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  71. All Disney, all the time? Cool.

    Lion King:
    Plagiarize the Japanese via palette swap, steal a story from the Bible and/or William Shakespear, redraw, bill as first original story released by company.

    Fantasia, Song of the South, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book:
    Blatant out-and-out racism in the form of demeaning racial stereotypes on a scale that makes Richard Pryor's White Guy voice seem plausible in comparison.

    Merchandise: Sweat shop labor and accusations of human rights violations.

    Parks and Land Management: deaths of local fishing populaces, 3k people quitting at Euro Disney due to unacceptable working conditions, ect., ect., remember: all things are acceptable as long as you seem family oriented but are strictly out for profit like any top American corporation. Put that in the principal's pipe and smoke it.

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  72. I love this. And I think I love a little bit too.

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  73. I think you are awesome. and sometimes we have to send messages to jolt ppl out of their standard way of thinking things through. and sometimes it is hard to be the sh^% stirrer. I appreciate you taking one for the team.

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  74. Knowing many children who have grown up in non-traditional families, even "parents" is often inaccurate. Grandparents? Aunts and uncles? Court appointed guardians? Lovely mentoring next door neighbors?

    How about "volunteers"?

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  75. Dear Karen,

    I think you may have been my siamese twin separated at birth. Awesome.

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  76. This summer I was in Atlanta with a friend of mine when his car broke down. Now this friend just happened to be the same person I lifted weights with four times a week, so I knew for a measurable and consistent fact that I was significantly stronger than he was. However, when it came time to push the car to safety I was told by the friendly gentlemen who stopped to help us that I was not allowed to push the car. I had to steer it while my nice--but not at all muscular--friend got to ineffectually aid them.

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  77. single mom here. I have to do it all and I do it when I can. I say, good for you and if it were me, I'd do it too. Just out of curiosity, would a strap on count? Then would I be qualified ?

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  78. @skydash (many comments above ago)...
    ""Except the email asked for help SETTING UP the trébuchet".
    I don't recall seeing anything regarding LIFTING....setting up is what it said. You know...lifting large wooden planks,wenching platforms...typical(but certainly not exclusively)male activity."
    Reread your comment above and you clearly typed lifting as one of the requirements of setting up! You totally contradicted yourself.

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  79. What I find hilarious is that "actsinglefather" lambastes Karen as a feminist for complaining but spent the previous 5 sentences addressing his own prejudicial struggles. d00d, if you want to criticize, don't bring up the stuff you obviously think is unfair in your own life that is *practically the same*. You just reinforced how these things grate on people and how perspectives do make a difference.

    Yes, we get that you're not whining about it, however, some people aren't as passive-aggressive as you.

    Also, Karen the Principal manages to squeak out, "For the record I'm not a fan of lifting things though, and I don't really like the mud". What I love about this is the whole statement really is "For the record I'm not a fan of lifting things though, and I don't really like the mud AND I AM A WOMAN". Great, Karen. Well, you're not every woman and you're not a representative of the entire gender.

    Penis Karen, I have 2 daughters and I know they they will be brought up chopping wood, powerlifting and doing martial arts. They may not stick with any of that (my 3 year old is insistent she will be Barbie when she grows up...), but at least they will know they have the choice and power to pursue anything.

    Good luck with the trebuchet.

    K

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  80. You'd get along great with my wife.

    Kudos. Most excellent post...

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  81. I agree with Roy and Toby.It would have been nicer if you had called the teacher and talked to her instead of getting affronted so easily. Being nice is good. Not trying to offend people is good. Thinking that you are more advanced than that poor teacher because you let your children swear is arrogant. I feel for that teacher, who was just trying to get both parents involved in the kid's education, and got sworn at because of it. ( and yes, I have a doctorate and a fellowship and chop down trees and backpack in the wilderness and like mud even more than my husband and I do not use the word penis and screwed in conversation)

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  82. Much ado about nothing. What a waste of life. Equality is not pettiness.

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  83. I think you rule and for the record find it equally troubling that the word "penis" is considered pornographic. We make our children feel ashamed of sex and their bodies by making the scientifically correct anatomic term for ones genitals an improper term. While we're at it-lets us girls go out and buy beauty magazines, compare ourselves to the models, make ourselves puke, and then get manicures afterwards-all while avoiding getting dirty or lifting anything.

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  84. Somehow, I have not gotten past the image of you mounting a trebuchet . . .

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  85. I don't know you personally, but I believe I think you are the kind of mom I aspire to be. Rock on.

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  86. Excellent!! I am so glad that I've never had to deal to any of this crap at our wee school because I'm afraid I would react rather like your husband!

    Good for you!!

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  87. You are a penis, mom! Wouldn't it have set a better example for the other moms and girls if you had simply responded by volunteering with your obviously female name? Instead you chose to overreact assuming the teacher was launching some insidious plot to move the thinking of her class back to the dark ages. Don't overthink next time and act appropriately. By the way, this comes from a guy who helped his daughter with her classroom assignment by making a petit fours and caramels and building a model of William Shakespeare's Globe Theater. Now, before you go over the edge, hit the roof, and respond badly to my comment, you should know that I found your story very amusing and offer this affront as entertainment and a training opportunity for you.

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  88. I won't lambaste you for thinking this way, but I do think it went a little far. Keep in mind: I am a guy and penis is probably the cleanest derogatory word I would hear at some work places.

    That said, if I was a women, I would have just asked if Mom's can help too.

    Also, if I wrote the initial e-mail, I would have been a bit more sensitive and said any strong parents. That covers both genders.

    One last point I want to make is that whoever wrote the mail probably wrote it innocently and no matter how pissed off I would get, I would take a step back and think about it. Did they follow gender stereotype? Yes. Did they do it to single me/you out? No! We let ourselves get offended way to easily and our response to that offense often says more about us then it does about them. What do they think about you now? Think your a rabble rouser? Think your obnoxious? Think your an idiot? All of these things probably would come to mind.

    Note: As a Dad, I possibly could have received a mail asking for Mom's to make something for a bake sale and I would have just made it and took it in. I wouldn't have taken offense. I would have also dazzled them in saying YES I MADE the delicious cookies! Yes I am a guy and YES I can cook! That does MORE to change the stereotype than acting in a negative manner. At least in my opinion.

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  89. Not trying to play too much in the devil's advocate space, and I'll state that I did find this funny. However, did you ever stop to think of the intent? Was the intent to demean women? Was it to say that women can't do these types of things? Most grade schools are filled with the moms doing all the volunteer work. Sometimes schools and teachers have to be creative in how they get the dads involved. And yes, having the dads involved in the schools is very important. I say this as a proud WatchDOG at my son's school. Maybe they called for men because this is not only something they know that dads can sink their teeth into, but also knew this is one way to get the dad's off their keisters, away from their jobs, or whatever else they are doing so they can and will come participate in a school function? Dads are scarce around most grade schools and I think this could have been a great way to get them involved. Could it have been worded better? Probably. But could your point not have been made just as well by asking if strong moms are allowed to help as well?

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  90. Good for you! I would have been bent out of shape about the "DAD" thing as well. Annnnnndd... Since when is penis NOT disney! Do they really want kids using the other slang that means the same thing... I think not! Happy Holidays :)

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  91. I think I love you. Oh, and THANK YOU. Couldn't agree more. That is all.

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  92. For Toby, who said "From my experience the vast majority of parental involvement for kids at school is from their mothers...At a time where kids need more input in their live from their Dads and not less, sometimes a direct call to the kids Dads is what's needed to get their participation." I would point out--you still don't get it!

    Yes, dads should participate more, and maybe they do need a direct call to action because when they hear the words "parents are needed" they hear "moms should do this cuz I work and she's home eating bon bons all day". But why make a direct call for dads with the trebuchet?

    I think we should be putting out a call for dads to stir up a batch of brownies with their dicks for the next bake sale. I mean, don't people realize if you use a spoon you'll stir like a girl and the bake sale will fail?

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  93. The comment I hate is cut the chord. Yet if I had a penis nothing would be said. I am a very active single mom doing what I loved as a kid now with my son. Ok for guys but not mom???? Soccer boy scout and anything else. U r my hero. I would have done the same.

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  94. Very. Well. Said. You've got my pumpkin chuckin commitment.

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  95. Kudos!
    *sigh* What happened to simply asking PARENTS to participate? Even back when I was married, I did a large amount of things considered "guy" territory. I might call it a doo-hickey, but I know perfectly well how to use a drill. I've repaired drywall, put together heavy furniture, moved plenty of heavy things, worked on lawn mower motors, etc. I have no problem getting muddy, thanks, as that's what bubble baths are for! :D I can plan out a chemical synthesis, change a tire, and write a steamy sex scene with equal skill; plus I look WAY better in a short skirt than most men do. My point? It's not about your gender, but rather what each individual is good at doing and respecting each other no matter gender, race, sexual orientation or any of the other things people love to label people with.

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  96. I love it!!! Especially that they think penis is a dirty word!!!

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  97. First, Being a mom, I would've shown up and helped the guys set up the trébuchet. Or at least supervise if enough turned up. :-) No one would say leave to my face.

    Second, as the teacher and/or principal, I would have laughed it off and invited you. But of course, then I would have to listen to everyone else whine about your email.

    We all really need a sense of humor in life. Makes it so much nicer.

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  98. I live in an area that tends to encourage very defined gender roles as well, and the people here find me entirely alarming on a regular basis, because I don't blend. Good for you, Penis Mom.

    Sincerely, Stormtrooper Mom

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  99. Girl, you have the right attitude. I drive a semi and have no problem working next to the guys...I do my job, they do theirs and all works well. For ANY female to think less of our gender, I would suggest they become one of the "many" Sister wives and play THAT role. No offense intended there, but I do NOT share, nor play well with others. As a SINGLE mom with MY three daughters, I was the one with the tool belt, etc. or it didn't get done. So, maybe those who are afraid of a bit of dirt need to either get with the real world, or move to where time is still behind this real world. I'm sure they would fit in quite nicely...check with the Amish, THEY have DESIGNATED positions/jobs for men and women...THAT should make them feel more comfortable. AGAIN..no offense meant, just a fact given. I personally think that their way of life would be the best, only I won't give up my independence to any male.. Hope these folks can get a grip on the real side of life and leave you alone. Good luck!!!

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  100. I like the expression on your face in the pic, like you've just 'chucked' the pumpkin at the principal and are now watching the trajectory :-)

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  101. @patrice on the contrary, I do get it. It should be a carer thing. Something that my wife and I do regularly for my kids and their school be it cooking brownies (my domain and I don't use my dick), supervising sports days (my wife's territory, she's far more sporty than I) or pitching in for worker bee's (The both of us, it's a good communal activity). My point *is* that some carers don't get it and need to be encouraged with what tempts them. The teacher shouldn't be crucified for doing to the carers as they do to the kids. Use any trick in the book to get action and re-action for the benefit of participation and learning.
    Which brings me back to my other point. Think of the kids. Teach your kids about gender equality and the fact that your girls and boys can do whatever the other can do. You are much more influential in their lives than any other person. Hopefully their attitude will rub of on their community and they will make it a better place for everyone.

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  102. Clearly your son got the right message :)

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  103. ROAR!!!!

    But with all due respect, has this analysis given due consideration to the lifting power of the implement in question when given the proper motivation?

    Compared, say, to the lift of a nipple when subjected to a cool breeze?

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  104. I am the mom of all boys. to me, YOU ROCK!

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  105. Thank you so much for speaking up! Maybe if more moms were like you, more kids would grow up without these idiotic assumptions of what girls and boys can / can't do based on their gender.

    (and I say this as the proud daughter of a mom who once was lambasted by some parents for daring to tell their special snowflakes that why yes, they *could* use tools even though they were girls because boys don't hold a screwdriver with their penis. Good grief people, it's a basic body part, not an R-rated word).

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  106. I was expecting this "Penis-mom" thing to go in an entirely different direction, I guess it is because I have a penis. ;)

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  107. Don't just rock the boat. Punch a hole in it with your prodigious member and let the idiots drown in their own stupidity!

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  108. Excellent! And what a silly response from the principal. We always referred to our sons "male members" as penises. Isn't that the correct term?

    I am the only girl out of four children, and you can bet I didn't let my brothers leave me behind. I'm also not afraid to call people out on thoughtless sexism - whatever the direction. We need more Penis moms.

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  109. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  110. Have these school admins ever hoisted 200 cases of Girl Scout cookies, moved a bed or a refrigerator to clean under it, carried a case of printer paper to the copy machine, shoveled 3 feet of snow from a long driveway after everyone's gone off to school and work, packed and unpacked an entire house for a family move? What do they think that we are doing out here? BTW, my friends used to call me "The Ox." I take pride in my physical strength, and because they exercise regularly, my daughters have muscle tone any boy their age would envy.

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  111. As a mom of four "penises" and a wife of another - I want to say that truly, I love you. I love you as much as I love my girlfriends who make me feel like part of a very special club when they respond to my facebook status regarding things like "17 year old's sink trap cleaned today" with things that make it clear they have done the same. I am raising my boys to respect women, be chivalrous, but also know that they can do almost anything that my boys can. I want them to know that women capable and am showing them by example. Great post my friend (and your "editor" sounds a whole lot like my husband...)
    K.

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  112. Thanks for the Post! It's so true.

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  113. You GO Girl! Yet again, evidence of two things: 1) the feminist fight still needs to be waged and 2) women are often the biggest misogynists.

    It's shameful.

    As women we need to keep fighting this fight in our own small way every day. And we also need to get off our fat arses and get politically active. Look up Slutwalk, see if your local Planned Parenthood needs defending against religious nut jobs. Get involved!

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  114. Oh gawd, I remember being pissed off back in elementary school in the '60's when teachers would ask for "some boys" to help with the film projector or whatever -- why is this kind of thing still going on?

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  115. bravo! so glad I found your blog!

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  116. This is an awesome post. It reminds me of when I was younger (many years ago 1976), my sister went to a church pre-school. They sent a note home saying that "parents must wear dresses when picking up their children", assuming that it would be moms picking up their children. My step-dad (who was way ahead of his time) picked up my sister in a dress. Way to go to both of you!

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  117. that's awesome, next time I get some school correspondence that's addressed to my wife, I'll ask if you have to have a vagina to be involved with my kids at school.

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  118. I like your style Penis Mom!
    And I also think that it goes both ways. My husband and I always said that if we had a boy, I'd teach him how to throw a football in a perfect spiral, and if we had a girl, he'd teach her how to sew. Now our incredibly talented daughter loves to sew with her dad! (She also knows the word penis...) So the next time I get an email from the PTSA asking the moms for cookies for the bake sale - I'm inspired to have a field day!! Thanks for that! :)

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  119. Awesome post! I'm going to get blasted by my Catholic-school parent friends but this needs to get shared. I'm so tired of all the requests for help to go out to only moms while school updates or announcements go to everyone - moms and dads. What, only moms can help in the classroom? Because we're all home anyway?

    I'm a marketer of almost 20 years and have worked full-time while my husband chose to stay home with our kids. In our 5 yrs of school, he's never received a request to help.

    Thank you for allowing us to talk about the ridiculous gender inequality that still goes on today...in 2011!

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  120. I just want to "like" this SO much. So here it is. I "like" it.

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  121. Three cheers for the Penis mom! And every child should know that a penis is a body part just like an elbow, foot or a vagina. Definitely PG language!

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  122. Penis IS and SHOULD BE a G-rated word. And Bravo, from another penis mom who uses power tools, who does NOT have a penis around the house to help, and who, as a sex ed teacher, blurts out comments like, "Oh, look, that mountain looks like a penis" as we drive on vacation through New England. :-)

    Kudos also to editor/husband and 13-yo-boy who support you!

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  123. Ah yes, I remember when I raised the issue of gender discrimination in a forum discussing issues affecting youth. The group had already identified the "sexier" issues of race, religion and sexual orientation. If we were going to talk about some, why not all, I though.

    I have never seen a group of previously-arguing people come together as fast as that group did. I was suddenly a target: a feminist. Actually, "feminist" did not capture the degree of angst I created; I was a "radical feminist."

    Good job on challenging the school's girls-don't-get-dirty assumption. It needs to happen and it's too bad status quo freaks out like they do.

    Go, Penis Mom!

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  124. I raise daughters. I see this kind of gender bias all the time at their school. But here's the thing - I'm not raising daughters. I'm raising lions. Not lionesses. I'm responsible for two humans to enter the rest of the world with the confidence to do ANYTHING. Regardless of their plumbing. It's hard enough to overcome the gender objections that they pick up from their friends and through media, without it being pushed on them by leaders at their school. But it happens. It's ridiculous.

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  125. My son convinced his physics teacher to allow the class to participate in the Punkin Chunkin Championship in 2003. No one had experience in this,however, my son and classmates created a trebuchet, that tossed a pumpkin far enough to win third place in the student division.Since I own a 12 foot stake body dump truck for my landscaping work, I drove my son, the trebuchet, and equipment from practice to competition downstate in order for them to participate. No one, not the kids, the teachers or other parents blinked an eye when this 50 year old female transported, assisted and cheered Team Chucker's. Way to go penis mom for reminding some of the dinosaurs that it is the 21st century!

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  126. Oh, my good lord in heaven. I have no words. No. Words. You are so brilliant and right. That is exactly the kind of thing that sends me into orbit. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  127. I'm a mother. I love muddy fields, engines, engine oil, medieval weaponry and messing about having fun with "the lads". Why shouldn't a woman pitch in with the madness?

    I'm also an ex nursing assistant, who was used to heavy manual labour in my job.

    Perhaps your son's school principal wants to be Barbie, but so many mothers do NOT!

    Good on you for speaking out!

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  128. I'm glad I read this.
    Old school can be fail school.
    Sad when men and women continue down that path, for each other, and themselves.

    Having a penis doesn't mean I like to play in the mud or lift heavy things. Now shooting things through the air - I'm all over that.
    Cheers,
    Todd
    @tojosan

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  129. Please tell me you didn't hold back and responded to the Disney Principle that all Girls did not have to be Princesses :) We can be pretty, strong and dirty all at once!

    Crazy!

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  130. I think the best way to prepare our children for their lives is to live ours pretending to be whom we are not and accepting chastisement from self-oppressing lady authority figures in control of our kids' minds. It's been working our great so far.

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  131. Good for you! That kind of nonsense needs to be called out EVERY TIME.

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  132. Maybe the teacher wanted to mount those dads and perhaps she was planning on not coming up for air and taking all they could send her. Seriously your husband is a lucky guy.

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  133. Okay... posted your story on Facebook and someone asked me why your blog is called *Girl* on Saturday... which you don't explain elsewhere.

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  134. Awesome writing. Your tsunami-force personality swept me away. Loved it, even though I have no desire to build trebuchets.

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  135. There's also classist segmentation done in many places. In my former place of employment, those of us not assigned to IT who knew such arcana as "You attach a document to an email by using control-H" or knowing that you have to dial 9 and then 001 to make an international call gets you snark like "If I knew how to dial a phone, you wouldn't have a job."

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  136. Penis Mom for President--of the World! Oh, I needed the laughs imbedded in this post--hugs to you, strong and sassy gal!

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  137. Everyone processes info in a little different way. I loved your response to an innately sexist email, plus you're a wonderful writer and storyteller. Thanks for sharing and congrats on the legs (& penis) this post has had in the virtual universe.

    My takeaway was a little different from many of the posts here, so I'm going to throw them out as food (or swill depending on one's perspective) for thought:

    1. I didn't read this to have anything to do w/ dad vs. mom involvement. I read the primary concern of Penis Mom to be that at the tail-end of 2011, a female teacher still sat in a classroom composing an email w/ a gender stereotyped meme so ingrained in her understanding of the universe that she reflexively, thus innocently, ripped off a "Me, Tarzan, You, Jane" email with nary a thought to the likelihood that unconsciously supporting structural gender equality, in fact, perpetuates inequality for ALL of us. My guess is, if confronted with this latent consequence, the teacher would hate the idea that she had inadvertently said something that limited opportunity for the amazing kids she's deeply committed to in her own classroom. Kids she wants to help to succeed at whatever they want to do - regardless of the shape of their genitalia.

    So, many thanks to Penis Mom and her funny husband for both understanding this and being willing to address it.

    2. The school personnel's aversion to the word, "penis" is deeply disturbing to me. Are we really healthier and more respectful to each other as culture because we've framed acknowledgment of primary and secondary sexual characteristics as - at best - impolite and even criminal? (My own mother was FURIOUS with me for telling my daughter to call her urethra a urethra instead of her "peepee" when she was learning to talk. How has the species survived?!)

    I personally think we've made the world a much harder place for all of us by purposely mystifying the totally mundane bodily function of sex and by vilifying the body parts typically involved in it. For heaven's sake, we live in a culture where women can be arrested for their nursing infants in public!!! I fantasize of the Occupy My Bra movement where all females, 0-100, let their gals loll about in public full-time until female breasts are as normalized as viewing the female ankle was by 1920.

    Exactly what do we expect 13yo's to call a penis? A wee-wee? (as you may have guessed, that was my mom's choice for my son) The organ which dare not speak it's name (oops, the clitoris already won that round)? A cigar? What a pleasure to read something that acknowledges that "penis" IS the G-rated term.

    3. Last, but not least, the principal's reference to Disney made me vomit - and not just in my mouth. I can't imagine anything crueler and more negligent to do to my children than to abandon them for most of their waking hours to an involuntary institution that consciously embraces and strives to be all-Disney all the time. Is it possible to identify a profit-seeking, money-grubbing corporation more willing to make it's dirty money off of perpetuating the myth of young women as naive, helpless, hapless, and not-as-smart-as-men and old women as either frighteningly ugly, manic and evil or morbidly-obese, clueless and doddering??? That principal likely suffers from Stockholm Syndrome. She's sick and deserves our help and not our ridicule, so let's get her some help.

    So, Penis Mom, Right on and Write on.

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  138. Well done, well done! I'm married to an Alpha Male and gave birth to 2 more. I used to sign my letters "From the House of Penises" - but you give that phrase new meaning!

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  139. "Penis" is "G-Rated". So is "Vagina". I swear, it makes me extremely mad when parents teach euphemisms to their kids about their body parts. It makes me upset because there is such a thing as child molestation in this world and a child must be able to say, loudly, clearly, with no mixups, when and WHERE they have been touched inappropriately.

    Based upon that alone, I would have gone onto a further rant pointing this out, and asking just what it is that parents and school are teaching kids?

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  140. Speaking for Gender Justice (an advocacy organization based in St. Paul), we loved your email and your spunk. This is not "much ado about nothing" or petty in the slightest. Gender stereotypes create cognitive bias which leads to discrimination. So rock on, Penis Mom!

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  141. There is not enough "WHOO-HOO!" on all of the Internet.

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  142. Love it.

    I wrote a similar email to members of the principal of our local high school when they opened up the new baseball field with a speech that included a line about how you can't think about baseball without thinking about fathers and sons. I reminded them that not every child has a father, not every child that plays baseball is necessarily male, and sometimes children play ball with their mothers.

    It never occurred to me to mention penises. I will try to remember that next time.

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  143. Good for you! I admire your tenacity at keeping the pot roiling! We definitely need more people like you speaking up....and keeping it up! Being brought up with 3 brothers I found that there is only one thing a man can do that a woman cannot (I will leave that to your imagination)!
    I am a teacher, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who is always encouraging my grandchildren (both male and female) to do and be anything they want, regardless of anyone saying they can't, because of their gender.
    In my writings it is brought to my attention that words used to describe the female are most often made up of male plus more - maybe that means that as the female of the species, we are and can be ALL! (if we want) - just a thought!

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  144. As a mother who does ALL the school involvement for my 5 year old son, I am happy to spoke out. I have to say I am lucky to NEVER come upon this kind of behavior, but I am sure it is only a matter of time. BRAVO

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  145. "Penis" is not G-rated. However, all your other points are valid and important, and need to be forwarded immediately to your school district leadership.

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  146. Thanks so much everyone! I am a teacher, or used to be - so I understand intent, but I just love jolting people into mindful thinking.

    Penis IS g-rated, right? Take a look at this post:http://girlonsaturday.blogspot.com/2011/01/it-is-vagina-people.html

    I put up a twitter link on the blog, so stop by if you would like to follow me on Twitter. Also, I am being picked up by The Huffington Post, so you can see me there on the Parenting Page.

    Thanks for your support!

    The Penis Mom

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  147. Oh, and the name Girl on Saturday came from the name Girl on Film - which started when I actually was a girl starting my career reviewing movies.

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  148. LOVE this! Awesome! I also have a son, he's 5, and while I'm pregnant and have been told not to lift more than 10 lbs at a time, I'm chomping at the bit to get through this pregnancy so I can start lifting weights again and being the powerful woman I am in that sense as well as others so that I may model this for my son and my daughter to be soon. Right now I'm modeling another sort of powerfulness in my womanhood. ;)

    Way to go, Penis Mom! ;)

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  149. While I agree with the gender equality questions raised with the teacher's note I DO NOT agree with your methods.

    This post is exactly what's wrong with this country. You didn't even take the time to find out why the teacher worded the note in that way. You made some random assumption, stewed on some perceived insult to your personal set of values and world view and then lashed out in vengeance.

    We have enough people blasting their values and opinions and not enough people trying to have a conversation, respect their fellow human's journey and find common ground. While I appreciate your courage, your approach is no better than a Limbaugh or Beck. It just causes division and bitterness and does nothing to further anybody's cause. The people who it's important to reach with this kind of message just tune you out and the people who agree jump on the band wagon and start tootin' really loud. It's a spectacle.

    I'm all for being edgy and fightin' but this was more like road rage and less like a battle for equality. Battles should be strategic.

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  150. Great essay. My 10-year-old daughter not only knows how to operate a trebuchet, she built one over the summer.

    By the way, you had me until the paragraph that started "Ladies..." It's all about inclusion.

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  151. When my children, now adults, were in elementary school the PARENTS club used to meet in the middle of the school day, thus preventing working parents of both genders from participating. Thankfully that has changed!

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  152. From my vantage point as the only male teacher at an elementary school where I work alongside 34 women I witness a shocking amount of gender stereotyping. I think it must take a great deal of effort to be so closed minded.

    Baking cookies for a bake sale, planting trees on the playground, providing childcare during a PTA meeting, et cetera are not tasks that require the use of a penis or vagina so I am always suprised when volunteers for these jobs are requested based on gender.

    Thanks for speaking out, Karen!

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  153. You have too many kids. Maybe save some resources for the rest of us and put your penis back in your pants.

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  154. @Aaron - Beck and Limbaugh are both incredibly popular and influential. Perhaps progressive thinkers should focus less on dignity and more on effectiveness.

    I don't have all the answers - I just really like raising the questions.

    @Joel - there are a number of gender references in this post, all intentional;-)

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  155. This doesn't only happen to women. I got a letter from school when my daughter was in kindergarten asking for room moms and if any moms wanted to volunteer at parties and such. People are stupid.
    Because I am male means I can't participate in "nurturing" events? Does it mean the school is sexist, or perhaps that helping at a party requires a vagina? No, it means a teacher is shallow minded and following stereotypes that don't necessarily fit anymore, or ever did. I just sent the letter back with the mom crossed out and wrote dad, I never got a request for help.

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  156. I'm gonna have to agree with Toby on this one- as a very involved stay-at-home dad, I find myself constantly frustrated at how few dad-child directed activities there are out there, and how often all parenting issues are directed straight to my wife (an amazing woman in her own right). You want gender equality, Girl on Saturday? Great, so do I. I'd love some recognition for being as involved in my daughter's life as her mom. Instead, I constantly have to deal with people asking me if I'm "giving mom a day off" when I take my daughter on daily outings. Or it was great when, in the NICU, the nurse took her away from me and passed her off to mom as soon as she started crying. What do I need boobs and a vagina to competently child-rear? Hey, wow, that's a pretty profane way to paint the issue, huh? Yeah.

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  157. Women in Egypt are being beaten and stripped in the streets and we are getting bent out of shape about an email asking for dad's to do some heavy lifting. Amazing. Would not surprise me if the school does not cancel the event in the future.

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  158. Well done! Been there, done that. I come from a time when we had t-shirts that said "Anything a woman does is women's work". Penis is said on primetime TV, therefore it is fair game as far as I'm concerned. It's not like you were calling anyone a Penis. Keep working for a world where PEOPLE are valued for themselves, for their won unique talents and contributions.

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  159. like like like!

    Here in UK we have a company called Stopcocks Women Plumbers, my my, what would the school have said about that?
    (NB in UK a stopcock is a kind of valve used in plumbing, not just naughtyness).
    Stopcocks Women Plumbers are exactly that, an entire network of women who do (excellent0 plumbing, even in schools.
    Are the British so much less straight laced and uptight that our cousins over the pond? This name is almost always met with amusement, from both genders
    Thanks for this Penis Mom!

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  160. Words matter- they are the thoughts that linger. Thoughtlessness is best countered with an apology (did you get one?) and action (which you did). If we never challenge this kind of thing, how is it to change or be seen as a problem? Though you will get plen of flak for this, it seems you can take it- I hope it will fuel you to continue to challenge the issues. My hat is off to anyone bold enough to politely call a spade a spade. What is the Disney version of penis anyway?
    Kim
    http://considerthethought.blogspot.com/

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  161. Awesome stuff!!Although,and no offense,I would've gone with your husband's suggestion.
    It's very ignorant of people,especially teachers,to assume women aren't capable of physical tasks.
    I assume people can do anything unless they tell me otherwise.
    Way to stick up for yourself!

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  162. I usually comment on my garden blogging friends postings, but this is priceless. Am forwarding it to my son-in-law to be who is working on his doctorate at Princeton in Sociology focusing on gender issues/stereo-types. Well said, well written, and I will be back to read more.

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  163. If you are ever in Spokane, Washington, let me buy you lunch! And count on me if you ever form a team Penis Moms. I'll be right beside you!

    Kelly Milner Halls
    Writer

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  164. Although I would probably have let the e-mail from the teacher pass without a second glance (I'm a homeschooling mom of one kid, the other is in public school, I'm in college full time, writing part time (freelance) and my husband works 60+ hours a week, so...) any request from school that does not require my personal attention isn't likely to get more than a second glance.

    But- I LOVE your response. Nicely put. And pfft, g-rated. Sounds like the kind of politically correct BS that tried to put our son on drugs (which would be why he's homeschooled). Way to go, Penis Mom. You've got a supporter in NY!!

    Rejoicing in the day,
    -Mary

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  165. I won't qualify myself too much beyond this: I'm not dumb, misogynistic or dumb. That said, I like your approach to cornering antiquated thinking. But as someone who has used the same bold approach to message packaging (more qualifiers I guess), I sometimes wonder if I've advanced my cause and moved the needle - or have I more just shut people down to my enlightened ideas? Worse, have I turned off those I want to influence most? Or worse-worse, those that need my influence most? Diplomacy is an elegant, often understated and definately unsung art. I've learned over time that most times I go in guns blazing, my message falls on the deaf wears of the terminally provitial. I'd try again and dial down the rhetoric.

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  166. Sorry you are so hopelessly angry with men. Too bad, maybe you will grow up one day.

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  167. OMG, I love it. As a strong, "willing to get my hands dirty and do the heavy lifting" kind of mom, I applaud you. But also as the "I'm not going camping-don't make me live without a flush toilet" kind of mom. Because who is it to anyone else to decide what I can, should, or could do? Simply because I don't have a penis.

    And really, penis is a G rated word. All my children knew it before the age of 5- and probably before they were ready to watch a lion murder his brother and attempt to murder his nephew. (And I'm actually a Disney fan...)

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  168. Husband just read posting, asked a good question... so what is penis in Disney-speak?

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  169. I don't know what penis is in Disney speak but I seem to remember in romance novel lingo it was often called "manhood" as in "She could feel his manhood throbbing hotly against her leg."

    Great article and BEST question ever: "Is lifting done with a penis?" Course my answer would be that it depends what is being lifted... my spirits, for example...? :-D

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  170. I know DIsney...and that Little Mermaid has one fabulous orgasm while arching on that penis shaped rock.

    And after having four kids, I could totally lift a pumpkin with my vagina. I could store a whole darn patch up there if need be.

    Stand tall, hard and erect, Penis mom!
    It is a name to be proud of.

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  171. Excellent story and so funny too! Here is an article my sister just happened to send me this morning - I think you'll appreciate it and I recommend you send it out to the teachers and principal of your school..
    Thanks for speaking out! http://togetherforjacksoncountykids.tumblr.com/post/14314184651/one-teachers-approach-to-preventing-gender-bullying-in

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  172. Damn the naysayers, full speed ahead!

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  173. My friend just sent your link to a bunch of us saying that I was our school's penis mom. I feel honored -

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  174. I am now forced to ready EVERY blog post you make from here to eternity!

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  175. As a soon-to-be mom (due in 6 weeks holy crap!): Thank you so much for standing up to gender inequality and helping all of us defend our childrens' right to be who they are. *Hugs*

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  176. Go get 'em Penis Mom! Next you need to work on these yahoo's that believe it is 1940. These little minds that believe that in America you have the right to not be offended. G-rated? Disney? The word is "penis". Grow up and quit snickering every time someone passes gas.

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  177. Thanks for taking the time to post this experience as it resonates too closely for many of us. As a member of a traditionally male career path (clergy) I have often had to listen to the gender sexist comments and then be told not to be offended because they weren't intentional. You have offered a reminder that all people need to be more conscious of what they say.
    Also...as a mom I've encountered similar situations. My son was always proud when I stood up in the face of gender discrimination!
    You now have another blog follower.

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  178. I like to laugh when someone farts. With biceps like Penis Mom I don't understand why she didn't run down and beat the crap out of the principle or just make a better pumpkin thrower instead of becoming a 'victim' to PC and whining about it.
    Some of you make think I don't like tough women. Some of the toughest bowmen I know are women. I love them.

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  179. I think it's a shame that you chose to reply in the way you did. Although the delivery may have been a little off, the message seemed clear. We'd like fathers to participate in their children's lives this time rather than just the moms. I can't imagine for a minute that they'd have turned a mom away who volunteered.

    Men tend to avoid school events for a number of reasons, but I think in large part many men avoid them because they don't feel entirely needed or welcome. This invitations to the dads may have simply been an attempt to help men engage more in their children's lives. An attempt that you very neatly torpedoed with your reply.

    No one likes to be excluded based on gender, but there are times where you must actively work to *include* a group because without doing so, they simply will not engage. There are lots of examples where a female twist is put on to a typically male activity to help encourage women to engage. I think if you'd spent more time reading between the lines here, you'd have seen that this was an attempt to help men engage. Or perhaps you did understand it and simply don't want men included in these activities. (I've certainly met men who would deliberatly sabotage attempts to include women in 'their' activities.)

    As to the issue with the word 'penis', I'm sure you are completely aware that the issue wasn't with the word, but with your entire reply. People couldn't attack you on that level (because you played the gender discrimination card), so they chose a different path. Not too surprising really.

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  180. This whole discussion might go viral via Facebook, which is where I found the link....I'm an only child who, as a teenager, was being raised by a single mom. She had to work, too, but still made every effort to attend events I participated in at school. Can't say the same for dad. You keep up the good fight, girl :-)

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  181. Let me chime in--what an annoying response from the school and parent community, and yes, it's hard to believe this is still happening in 2011, but I was a school-teacher, and it sounds familiar. The worst, to me, is the principal's response, which implies that personal preference overshadows gender equality and also tries to one-up you by noting which side of the gender scale *she* comes down on. I think you have set a strong example for kids, families, and the school in years to come -- not that you will directly see the results, mind you, but somewhere down the road, one of the girls in the class who is giggling about the Penis Mom will think to herself, Hunh, why is it okay for my husband to watch the game while I clean up all of Thanksgiving dinner? Get in here, Champ!

    So bravo, and thank you.

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  182. ps Also, I hate the reference to Disney. It represents a messed-up cultural norm.

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  183. I went to school at Syracuse University for Advertising Design back in 2003. We were asked to do a campaign on recruiting new students to the New House school of Design during my final summer residency. This kid designed a poster that stated, "I'M CRAIG WELSH AND THIS IS MY PEN IS" in between each line there was small copy explaining that he was a student in the design program at the University and that it was the best design program in the entire country. The program focus is on concept with markers and pens...A black sharpie is what my pen is (with a drawing of a sharpie). The faculty and visiting professional faculty loved it!!!! And the rest got a kick out of it, very clever and attention grabbing. Cudos to you for voicing your opinion and drawing fun to it in a cleaver way everyone will remember.

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  184. When people (mostly women) are surprised that I am a (female) welder I point out that I have yet to come across project where I needed a penis to do the tasks. This is fantastic, and yes you are so right that it's the women that are holding us back. It's the women that I get almost all of my gender comments from. I had a female marriage counselor actually laugh out loud in my face when I told her that I wanted to be a welder .

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  185. From a MAN'S perspective.
    Why do so many people get off-ended so quickly? Personally I don't think the penis thing was wrong but on the other hand who cares. If you don't like it just show up and be one of the "MEN" if that's what turns your crank. If they give you a hard time for showing up...well that's when you let them have it. Defending yourself when someone tells you what you can and can't do just shows how insecure you are. I’m guessing that the Penis mom has issues of always having to prove who she is. Defending yourself when someone physically stops you or forces you to do something is honourable. There are many different kinds of women in this world and the ones who turn me on the most are the ones who are confident in their femininity. Whatever happened to the days when men had a right to brag about their lack of sensitivity and their masculinity was based on their level of strength and the ability to provide and support? And what ever happened to the days when women were proud of their lack of strength and enjoyed the fact that they are soft and gentle and loving. I’m tired of living in a world where women are always trying to be the man and where they are always trying to turn the man into their best friend by stripping them of their masculinity. We need to put things back into perspective and enjoy our sexual opposites for exactly that...being opposite. I read an article the other day where a lady was upset because shortly after her marriage she found out that her man was gay. Well why was she upset? I’m sure she did everything in her power to turn him into a woman before they got married. When she found out that she actually got what she wanted she ended up getting all bent out of shape. That is why women don’t make good leaders. They are never content with what they have because they never know what they want. Come on “MEN”. Time to speak up and show off your strength and be the wild warrior you were built to be.

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  186. It does sound like the Way-back Machine. Way back in the 1950s, my mother went to join the school astronomy club - because she loved all things scientific. She was in utter disbelief when the teacher told her, "Oh, this is for boys. You should should join the sewing club."

    Needless to say, my mother spent the rest of her life trying to break down the typical gender stereotypes.

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  187. You go girl. I would say I would have done the same but I probably would not have been so concise and funny.

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  188. I guess it works both ways. I mean, The Penis Mom. That's kind of like a badge of honor. It almost sounds like a superhero. Can you imagine a note going home asking for moms to help the class plant flowers, and me writing a note "are flowers planted with vaginas?", and becoming known as The Vagina Dad?

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  189. I was going to reply, but instead I think I'll just repost a reply from an anonymous above contributor, because he(?) said it more concisely than I could have, and I'm afraid his kind of response is getting lost in all the back-slapping and post-modern PC one-upmanship. He says:

    "I think it's a shame that you chose to reply in the way you did. Although the delivery may have been a little off, the message seemed clear. We'd like fathers to participate in their children's lives this time rather than just the moms. I can't imagine for a minute that they'd have turned a mom away who volunteered.

    "Men tend to avoid school events for a number of reasons, but I think in large part many men avoid them because they don't feel entirely needed or welcome. This invitations to the dads may have simply been an attempt to help men engage more in their children's lives. An attempt that you very neatly torpedoed with your reply.

    "No one likes to be excluded based on gender, but there are times where you must actively work to *include* a group because without doing so, they simply will not engage. There are lots of examples where a female twist is put on to a typically male activity to help encourage women to engage. I think if you'd spent more time reading between the lines here, you'd have seen that this was an attempt to help men engage. Or perhaps you did understand it and simply don't want men included in these activities. (I've certainly met men who would deliberatly sabotage attempts to include women in 'their' activities.)

    "As to the issue with the word 'penis', I'm sure you are completely aware that the issue wasn't with the word, but with your entire reply. People couldn't attack you on that level (because you played the gender discrimination card), so they chose a different path. Not too surprising really."

    So yeah, it's a repost. Sorry, but it was really pretty eloquent. I'd add that this whole side riff off of "Disney" or "G-rated" conversation, and how the word "penis" shouldn't be quashed by the new moral majority or what have you, is in my view almost entirely missing the point. Of course "penis" is an acceptable word. But just like any other word, the context within which it is used grants the power to persuade, offend, inspire, etc. In this case, the whole note not only conjures up some pretty weird and decidedly NOT g-rated imagery, but it's also an overly aggressive and unnecessarily confrontational way to pose your concern (case in point, you probably wouldn't have decided to vet it by your sig other if you didn't have some questions as to the tone of the message). I've got plenty of female friends who might want to be involved in some heavy lifting activities. They'd much more likely just contact the teacher, or even the whole dislist and say, "awesome! both of child x's parents will be there, I want to flex my muscles!" It raises the same point without totally shooting down an obviously goodwill effort to involve otherwise aloof parents. It also doesn't come off as totally self-involved.

    Sorry for the long post, but it's super frustrating reading all of these replies to the tune of "yeah, you go, girl, stick it to the phallitocracy or whatever!" Because, you know, the school and general child-rearing setting is totally dominated by men and their penises, and there shouldn't be a place for them there.

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