Is Gender Neutral the New Colorblind?

Faithful reader and friend, Em Em Li, has asked Moxie to comment on the NYT article where a pre-school in Sweden has become famous for referring to students as “friends” rather than using gendered pronouns. They’ve even created a word, “hen,” as a gender-neutral personal pronoun.Read it here.

Swedish School’s Big Lesson Begins With Dropping Personal Pronouns

Moxie’s 2 cents:  While the school’s motivation stems from trying to boldly break gender stereotypes, it is problematic to refuse to acknowledge that gender and sex do exist, matter, and shape who we are.  The harder question we need to ask is, “what do people who have the same gender have in common?” It comes back to the issue of equality vs. difference that gender scholars have been debating for decades. If we know men and women are not the same, but we think they are equal, how does that play out? The answer? No one knows; it’s complicated. But we need to keep asking the question, not moving toward a “post-gender” society.

It sounds like this school is asserting that men and women, male and female, are just the same. I appreciate their desertion of texts such Beauty and the Beast (which I just found out is the spring play at my school–yikes), and adding stories where women play many roles, men are sensitive, families are complex, and the hero is deconstructed. We need more, much more of that to broaden our narrative of what men and women are like. But in these stories, there ARE men AND women. To say that gender doesn’t matter does violence to both genders. I fear that being gender neutral is akin to being color blind. It’s not possible, nor is it constructive to pretend to not notice someone’s race. I would argue the same is true for gender. What do you think, Em Em?

For further reading check out these related articles

What’s Wrong with this Picture?


The past two weeks, the girls in the Diversity Club and I have been discussing Disney characters and how they portray women and minorities. Today we watched a portion of a video, Mickey Mouse Monopoly. It was amazing to see over and over how seductively female characters, even animals, are displayed. Batting eyelashes, disproportionate waists, revealing clothing are just the beginning.

Scene: Beauty’s family is ripped apart and she endures verbal abuse by the Beast until finally she uses her “sweetness” to draw out his softer side. They fall in love.

Message: Stay with the man even when he hurts you. Just keep being nice until he changes.

Scene: Jasmine uses her feminine wiles to overcome the villain and allow Aladdin to escape.

Message: Seduce a man to get what you want.

What are we teaching our children? They do not have the capacity to discern for themselves. The girls in my room today were appropriately appalled and eager to learn more. Is it too late for these twelve and thirteen year olds? They are years beyond the Disney phase, but Disney is everywhere. What do we do?

World Cultures is…

After an activity where students practiced teaching each other key concepts for the first time, I had them debrief. Just for fun, I threw in a wild card. Here are a few of their responses to “World Cultures is…”

World Cultures is fun, confusing, and awesome!

World Cultures is one of my favorite classes, My world cultures teacher is my favorite, is a hard subject that I don’t fully understand.

World cultures is something that I look forward to in a day and I learn a a lot of new material.

World Cultures is tons of fun and I really like how she teaches and that she only gives homework if necessary.

A place were you further expand your knowledge of the word and use it in everyday problems. Plus you learn more about real things like the world. It is different from math I love math , but it is so different you use it everyday.

World cultures is a good way for me to learn about what our world is like, not just where things are, but that too.

World Cultures is challenging but I get AH HA moments sometimes when I actually get it.

World cultures is interesting because you get to discuss things instead of listening to the teacher all day.

World cultures is BALLER

World Cultures is fun and exciting. I learn something new everyday and Mrs. [Moxie] will help me understand things that are complicated for me.

World Cultures is really interesting and fun. It is very hard, and easy at the same time, I can rely on this subject for very little, or no homework at all. It is awesome, and very interactive, and you do not know what is going to happen next.

World Cultures is open-minding and brain-bending. It makes me think about things I wouldn’t think about.

Eve Ensler: Dear Mr. Akin

Eve Ensler: Dear Mr. Akin

Since the “misspeaking” of Todd Akin this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things we say when we “misspeak.” When we say something harsh off the cuff, are we really just saying what we truly mean? When Akin used the word “legitimate” to describe rape, he made it hard for us to believe he had been involved in crisis pregnancy centers for many years. In all of the media coverage, I found this letter particularly moving. It is a bit graphic, but powerful. I don’t agree with her leap that all in the GOP believe what he communicated, but her words give an interesting perspective from a rape victim. Here’s an excerpt.

You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.

Housewiffery (that’s wiff as in swift)

So how does Moxie fare as a housewife? It comes more naturally than originally anticipated. I’m not sure how to feel about that. I found myself vacuuming while baking birthday cookies last week. It was a confusing time. However, cooking for two has been fun; especially when I’m not the one making the grocery runs!

On the menu this week:

Breakfast: Spinach-Goat cheese frittata


Lunch: Cucumber Avocado Soup


Dinner: Corn Tacos


Snack: Rice Cake with PB, loose coconut, and crasins


However, school starts this week…we’ll be back to Willy’s soon enough…

*all recipes courtesy of realsimple


I’ve always known I was a lot like my grandmother, Duddie Lalley. Or maybe I just hoped I was. Her passing this week has been hard and beautiful at the same time.

As a child, I loved exploring her home–her bright pink lipstick in her neatly organized vanity, her closet full of fancy clothes and colorful shoes, her house full of Asian and European decor from her many travels, her linen closet carefully labeled with sheets for each bedroom (which made for great hiding spots), the Lorna Doone cookies that could always be found in the bread drawer, the exciting toys we didn’t have at our house like Mr. Potato Head. It was predictable and stable to be in her space. Everything was in its place and everything had its place. Grandma was always kind but firm with us. She did her share of grandma spoiling–beautiful dresses from London and kimonos from Japan that Tara and I found much more desirable than our usual wardrobe of hand-me-downs from cousins–but she consistently reminded us that good manners were important.

Trips to Naples are among our family’s best memories. Grandma taught us how to find the best shells, what to order at Pippins, how to shuffle like a real card player, how to make the best key lime pie with only 4 ingredients, and to appreciate the beauty in a pelican.  She modeled creativity with her needlepoint and lifelong learning by spending much of her time reading on the porch.

As I grew, I began to appreciate her intellect. I learned she had a Chemistry degree. In a time when women were not encouraged to be educated, she pursued a field typically dominated by men, graduating from College of Charleston in 1946. She was also a lover of history. Since college, each time I visited I would borrow books about foreign lands, The Cold War, and even about our own family fighting in the Civil War. After I moved away, we would write to each other. She would write me thank you notes for my thank you notes (as grandmothers do), she would tell me about her bridge games and New Years Eve parties that ended before 10PM, and I would tell her about my travels, new jobs, and friendships. I love having a record of her neat yet loose penmanship (or is it penwomanship?). Sitting in the armchair in her living room at Brightwood, we would talk of history and travel and politics. I will treasure those visits and her wisdom.

I was with her on her last visit to her home in Naples, Florida. Her nurse Sharon told me that everyone wanted to be Duddie’s caregiver because she treated her nurses with such dignity and respect. She was like that with all people. Her southern roots shone through in many aspects of her being, especially her cooking. However, she did not have to teach us how to treat people, she modeled it. It made me proud and teary to hear that others noticed this quality in my grandmother.

One month ago she was at our wedding. Like the rest of Baltimore, her home did not have electricity, and therefore AC, so attendance proved difficult for her. But she was there. I’d like to think she held on to life just a bit longer to be there. I’m honored to be reading the same passage that was read at our wedding from Revelation 21. It reminds me that there are beginnings and there are endings to all things, and every beginning is also an ending just as every ending is also a beginning. I know this is not new information, but it is fresh for me today.

 Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’


Ann Dudley “Duddie” Lalley, volunteer

She volunteered at Keswick Multi-Care Center and the Junior League of Baltimore

By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Ann Dudley “Duddie” Lalley, a homemaker and volunteer, died Thursday of complications from a stroke at the Presbyterian Home of Maryland in Towson. She was 86.

The daughter of a civil engineer and a homemaker, Ann Dudley Field was born in Rochester, N.Y., and spent her early childhood years in Winchester, Va.

After moving to Memphis, Tenn., where she graduated from high school, she began her college studies at Rhodes College in Memphis.

When her father was named city manager of Charleston, S.C., she transferred to the College of Charleston, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1946.

After graduating, Mrs. Lalley moved to Baltimore to take a job in a laboratory at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

While working at Hopkins, she met her future husband, John S. Lalley Sr., who worked in the blood bank.

“She told a story about how he wanted to spend time with her and would ask if he could practice his phlebotomy skills on her,” said a son, Thomas B. Lalley of Towson.

The couple married in 1950, and Mr. Lalley, who left Hopkins in 1952, went to work for what was then Peterson Howell and Heather.

Mr. Lalley, who later became chairman of the board and chief executive officer of what became PHH Corp., died in 1994.

Mrs. Lalley, who had lived in Ruxton and on Caves Road in Owings Mills, volunteered and was a longtime board member of Keswick Multi-Care Center and volunteered with the Junior League of Baltimore.

Mrs. Lalley later moved to Cross Keys and for the past decade had lived at the Brightwood retirement community in Lutherville. She also liked spending winters at a second home in Naples, Fla.

She enjoyed entertaining family and friends, sailing, and playing bridge, golf and tennis. She was also an accomplished needlepoint worker.

Mrs. Lalley was a communicant of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 232 St. Thomas Lane, Owings Mills, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday.

Also surviving is another son, John S. Lalley Jr. of Ruxton; a daughter, Nancy L. Rueckert of Ruxton; five grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Books and Friendship

“You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words…Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling…of that something which you were born desiring?”

CS Lewis