Dear Js,

Here’s a puzzle for you: If you have a daughter, how would you raise her?

What does it even mean to be a woman? Are there right ways? How are the ways we screw it up? Do you raise her like a girl? Like you would a boy?

If you must know where these strange questions are coming from, I’ve been reading a book called “Women’s Ways of Knowing.” Mama bought it and I was curious. When I first picked it up, I cursed it for being garbage and tossed across the room. I said, “This isn’t about women at all, and this isn’t even good research. It’s more about the effects of oppressing a class of people, such that they become uneducated and helpless. You can replace ‘woman’ in every page of the book with ‘stupid’ and it would still be valid.”

Of course, mama yelled at me again for being insensitive and defended women, as well as that acclaimed piece of feminist porn.

Then I picked it up again. It made me think… maybe there really aren’t many differences between men and women. Maybe most of the differences do trace back to the oppressive environment of the past.

“What if all the ways women are different from men are because of their history of oppression (and little to do with gender)?”

So, I started reading the book again with a new purpose. I set out to reduce the rambling sad-excuse-for-“research” shoveled across by the authors to try to distill them down to gender-neutral equivalents. The way the book tried to explain the “Women’s ways of knowing” is like someone trying to categorize raindrops. When you could just say that rain comes from rain clouds, and rain is water.

It’s like someone trying to explain what a grapefruit is from scratch. (A fruit with a soft & porous skin with an edible pulp.) When you can just say it’s “like an orange.” (A larger, bitter orange.) Simple.

So, I made it my mission to translate the gobbledygook grapefruit description of the content into “like oranges”. If these traits were not unique to women, what “oranges” were they like?

I discovered a handful. The most prominent is:

A woman is a freed slave. And my theory is…

Being a modern woman is a quest for self and voice after false freedom from silent slavery

I believe this sums up the entire 254 pages of the book. The book pretty much just dawdles around the 327 nuances of that one line I just wrote. There. I saved you the trouble of reading it. You may now donate it to the feminist pornography fund.

I know, I must sound like a woman-hater. I don’t think I am. I just think the book is missing something. It was radical and important when it came out, and yes, women are still oppressed. But many things have changed. And many things have changed in a way that renders much of the book obsolete. Which, I think is a good thing. Because now, we finally get to shed the fat and keep the juiciest meat of it.

So this is my contribution as a male reader of this book in the 21st-century who also happens to be a scientist. Here’s how I propose to update this book: While the book mostly describes the symptoms, I will try to explain how to fix things. And how to transform the information into productive tips you can use to actually do something with.

So, I’m going to break my theory down. (This is not scientific by any means, by the way.) I’ll then even use it to explain some pointy topics like “Pseudoscience”, “Why women like pretty things”, “Why women suck at science” and “Why women feel and men think.”

The first important thing to note is that this was written in 1986. Which was after they wrapped up their “research”, which probably started in the ’70s. I’ll explain why this is relevant in a bit.

In general, there is a lot of baggage, mainly because women were once thought of as lesser humans. Barely given more respect than the house dog. Times have changed, but like the blacks and slavery, women still carry the hidden baggage of their ancestors’ past. What past?

Silent slavery

Imagine being isolated. Your opinions don’t matter. No one cares what you have to say. The world says you don’t know much because you didn’t go to school. And nothing you know seems to be of any value. So you live silently, among other people like you. Like a member of a community of outcasts. You’re expected to serve, give generously. Doing anything for yourself is considered selfish. Family first. Kids first. Husband first. Home first. Mother’s advice first. Dog first. Even when you look beautiful, it’s for someone else. There is a “place” for women. Because you don’t know anything. And nothing you know is worth anything, your place is to shut up, listen and do as you’re told.

I imagine that’s what it was like for some women not too long ago. It was slavery of the mind. Which, to me, is much worse than slavery of the body, because it’s invisible. It’s harder to ignore something you can see. But if you can’t see the slavery, it disappears with the silence.

Unsung heroes of Science

Unsung heroes of Science

With physical chains, unlock them and you’re free. But what have we done to unlock the mental chains? How free are the mind of women today from the baggage of yesterday? Talking with your mom, and considering not much has changed for emotional health and scientific thinking, I’d say there’s still much work to be done. Because it’s not just a woman on the inside. The average person is a moron, and that means the majority will reinforce the status quo of enslaved women.

It’s good to have faith in people. But never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups…

This week, the first Indian-American was crowned Miss America. Morons were outraged: "An Arab/Muslim Won Miss America!" Never mind that she was born in Syracuse, grew up in Michigan and lives in New York City. And never mind that 49% of the next generation of America will not be white.

This week, the first Indian-American was crowned Miss America. Morons were outraged, “An Arab/Muslim Won Miss America!” Never mind that she was born in Syracuse, grew up in Michigan and lives in New York City. And never mind that 49% of your generation of America are not white.

The shackles are invisible, but they are real.

False freedom

Aren’t women technically/legally equal to men now? Free to become an astronaut, free to chase dreams like Amelia Earhart. Sorta, maybe. Maybe not. The biggest cage around women in the past was the lack of education. Mainly, women lacked the tools to figure out for themselves what was true and what was not.

When you don’t have the tools to verify if something is true, anything can be true. It makes you more susceptible to influences like Authority (believing someone because he has a uniform, fancy title, pointy hat or because he speaks eloquently) or Group Effect (not knowing any better, you follow what everyone else around you is doing).

Science didn’t help much, because back then Science was “cold”. Science was just understanding visible phenomena, that it seemed like Science could only explain the physical world. And the physical world outside belonged to men. The woman’s world was her family, relationships, her community, children. Things that could not be seen. So to adopt scientific thinking was thought of as to sacrifice passion and emotion. And so Science stayed mainly a man’s world. And women were left to struggle to search for answers elsewhere…


On January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff. It left a trail of smoke across the morning sky as it disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean. Some crew members survived the initial breakup, but the crew compartment was not designed for emergency landings. From 65,000 feet, the cabin hit the water at over 200 mph, with a force of over 200 G’s. There were no survivors.

The cause? A catastrophic flaw in the O-ring seal of the solid rocket booster. The real cause? NASA managers knew about the flaw but disregarded warnings from engineers. They had already suffered embarrassing delays, so they looked forward to redeem themselves by telling a Victory Story at President Reagan’s upcoming State of the Union address.

After an investigation commissioned by President Reagan, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman produced a damaging report that NASA buried. His final warning:

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

Carl Jung said, “Man cannot stand a meaningless life.” From birth to death, we yearn for meaning.

While you can satisfy your quest for meaning many ways, reality cannot be fooled. Reality doesn’t care about your feelings or opinions. The truth is vicious. It is blind. It hurts.

And there’s the pickle. We are wired to avoid pain. The average person wants to pick and choose only the truths that feel good, and reject the ones that hurt. So without discipline in your scientific method, unless you have the training, like Feynman said, you won’t know how hard it is, how gingerly you must tread and how meticulous you must be to uncover the truth.

Hence, Pseudoscience — easy answers and always exactly what you want to hear, like the Devil whispering in your ear. Convenient explanations for difficult questions. With Pseudoscience, you can choose what you want to believe that ALSO agrees with your lifestyle, your philosophies, your opinions and your wardrobe. Imagine that!

That’s the difference between the Science and Pseudoscience. Science accepts that theories can be wrong. Pseudoscience does not. And that’s what’s counterintuitive. The average person struggles with Science because the answers aren’t absolute. The more answers you discover, the more questions you uncover. Pseudoscience offers convenient and absolute answers.

Such as: God.

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away” – Philip K Dick

Now, on to a lighter topic…

Why women like pretty things

We are all cognitive misers. Whenever possible, we rely on shortcuts to the answers. We NEED to rely on shortcuts. If we didn’t have shortcuts, we’d be crippled every time we need to resolve a decision from scratch. We’d be a tiger’s lunch before we have time to determine its species.

Prettiness is a shortcut that says, “If it looks good, it’s probably good.” If you don’t know any better, you rely on shortcuts like visual cues. But it goes a little deeper than that. In the slave era, women were uneducated, had no confidence in their ability to make important decisions and did as they were told. Anyone could be right, because who were they to say someone else was wrong?

If you choose by logic, you have to defend your logic. If you choose by color, style, looks, you’re “expressing yourself.” You don’t have to think. If you choose by emotion, you just have to Like. So my toy theory for why women seem to be more inclined to choose pretty things is because it’s a shortcut that signals quality, and because explaining a purchase by emotion/preference is subjective and free from judgement. Of course, other factors matter as well, but I think those factors matter equally to male and female. Of course, I could be wrong.

The biggest flaw of the book is it cons readers to think that “ways of knowing” implies that different women think differently. I think the real picture is that all these “ways of knowing” can describe any one woman. The differentiator being how much time a woman spends “learning to learn”. But it doesn’t even matter if you’re a woman or man. The stages can apply to any person as they become grow and become more “self actualized.”

In other words, imagine a ladder of knowledge: At the bottom, people start “Mystified by the world”. Near the top, you have a “Person at peace with his or her knowledge of everything (or lack thereof).”

The book tries to make these issues “women”, but I think the biggest influence was the environment they happened to be in. Even today, the scars from history are powerful enough to repress women. People are sensitive about blacks and slaves. You can’t use the word “Nigger”. But their slavery was one of physical chains. No one talks about the intellectual slavery of women.

And that’s why we’re doing nothing to fix it. Again, “false freedom” — burning bras as if the bras are physical chains. The chains are not physical. The chains are in the mind of every woman, reinforced by the world around them. What’s changed in education for women? “Freedom” – Yes. Opportunity – Yes. But it is a false freedom. Like releasing the rope from the leg of a circus elephant that was chained from birth. The memory of the rope is powerful enough to stop an adult elephant from even trying to escape.

A Solution

What we’re missing is giving women (and men) the tools to learn how to learn. Plus, the discipline to endure the pain of learning (and being wrong), because you can’t cafeteria-style pick what you want to be true.

We don’t need report cards that reinforce memorization and GPAs. Think about what’s graded. The curriculum has hardly changed. How can this be? Science has made tremendous advances. Even in areas that were once “fuzzy” or unscientific as “feelings”, we now have more mature Behavioral Psychology fields. And our understanding will only improve. That’s the beauty of Science – knowledge doesn’t lead to arrogance. It forces you to be humble for not being able to know everything. And it is a path to more learning.

But still, we teach our kids the same damn garbage.

How can we say we’ve made a better world for women, when what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching our children hasn’t changed?

Plus, schools don’t think it’s important to teach you the things you can never learn from books — the things that women in the past have spent more time learning than men.

Things like Patience:

“Patience is one of those feminine qualities which have their origin in our oppression but should be preserved after our liberation” – Simone de Beauvoir

But that’s the fatal flaw of formal education. Formalization requires standardization. Which requires schools to become factories that blast the same thing to everyone, insensitive to whether or not a child demonstrates interest or curiosity about the topic at a particular time in his/her life. Shove it down. Hold their noses and mouths. Make them swallow it. Cram it.

The most efficient way to teach mass children is the least effective way for any individual child to learn. School is the most efficient way to exorcise the curiosity and natural scientist out of every child.

Okay, done ranting. Back to the question: “How do I raise you?”

Well, I have no plans to raise you like a girl. I don’t think I should raise you like a boy either.

Here’s my take. I’m with Carl Sagan, who said, “Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.”

And Rachel Carson wrote: “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

I think the solution is not to try to raise you. But to protect what you and every child is born with — fearless curiosity.

Anyway, I’ve overstayed my welcome this week, so here’s my weekly summary.

First, for my little snowflake:

You’re teething. Your brother makes you laugh. You can sit up by yourself now (but this is a pic of you in Bumbo). And you really want to talk. And mama is your favorite person in the world.

Next, for my Armadillo:

You got your first Potty Chart. You enjoy running on our walks. But not as much as exploring.
Who needs fancy touch-screen technology when you have daddy? I taught you to climb up the tower to wave to the train at the end of the wall. I’ve also been trying to teach you to be a safe pedestrian.

Happy birthday Mama!

You blew out mama’s candle, so I wasn’t sure if you knew. I had to ask you, “Who’s birthday is it?”:

We had a laugh discovering what happens when J has too much cupcake. It probably wasn’t a good idea before bedtime:

You almost got us, but mama was wise to your ways. You looked at mama and said, “I am two years old.” Mama got suspicious. Then you said, “So I need two cupcakes.” Mama laughed and said, “I knew it!”

That night, mama slept next to you, J, after double-boobing J2 to sleep. You two sang happy birthday one more time. She said thank you for the yellow flower in the morning. (We picked it from the secret door.) She thanked you for the candle and cupcakes. Which, by the way, was supposed to be a surprise. I tried to coach you to orchestrate the surprise. On the way back from the walk, I said we have a surprise for mama, because it’s her birthday. “What is it?” I didn’t tell you, because you can’t keep secrets. A surprise. You have to help me. You have to wait for me to give mama the surprise, then you say Happy Birthday! “OK.” Remember, it’s a surprise, so you have to wait for me to give her the surprise. “OK.”

I gave you the candle to hold while waiting for mama to come down for dinner. I said, give this to mama when she comes down. “OK.” Don’t break it. “Why?” Because we can’t use it if you break it. “Why?” The candle is for mama’s birthday. Put it there and wait for mama to come down. “OK.” You went to play with your trucks and I went to do some dishes. 30 seconds later, I hear, “MAMA! HERE’S YOUR CANDLE! MAMA! COME GET YOUR CANDLE!” Mama sushed you so you wouldn’t wake Julie up. She laughed at us. You forgot your task so I said, “Happy…” and you said “BIRTHDAY?” Mama hugged you.

As we were eating the cupcakes, I joked with mama about our failed “surprise.” You were looking at me so I said, “The cupcakes were the surprise. You were supposed to help me after I gave mama the surprise.” You thought for a while, then said, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMA!” Finally.

One year older. Speaking of which, J, it was strange recording this video of you watching a video of yourself from 1 year ago in Puerto Rico. It must’ve been stranger for you. Maybe next year I’ll get a video of you watching a video of you watching a video of you watching a video of you.

A new favorite place: The Library

Mama took both of you to the library on Tuesday when you had no daycare. Julia woke up in the middle of story time. You told me all about it on our evening walk. You said you borrowed a book about a blue train, an old train, a new train and a black train. It was “The Little Engine that Could.” It’s your new favorite book. You don’t want to read anything else.

No volume control

You’re getting better at being considerate. You no longer yell in my ear when I’m carrying you. You try to be quiet when Julie’s sleeping, but yet she can’t sleep when you’re home. Here’s an example why: Mama says something. You yell, “MAMA YOU HAVE TO BE QUIET JULIA IS SLEEPING” 10x louder than the sound mama made. And then Julia’s mouth turns upside down and she huffs and huffs and huffs and she cries.

Fri drop off – imagination

We didn’t get to see the garbage truck. He asked, “Why do you say the garbage truck is supposed to come?” I said the garbage truck comes every Friday. Today is Friday, so it’s supposed to come today. I gave him a few more examples: The 6.28 train comes every day at 6:28. It’s supposed to come at 6:28. Same with the 6:52 train. You’re supposed to go to school on Mon, Wed, Fri. You’re supposed to stay at home on Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun. 3 days at school, 4 days at home.

So on the way to school, he used his imagination. He said do you see the Caltrain behind the trees? I said yes, it is very long. Then I figured it’s a good chance to teach him the word “Imagination”. So I said, you’re using your imagination. If something is not here but you want it to come, you use your imagination to make it come. Suddenly he saw the Mountain View train, the Caltrain, the cargo train, the garbage truck, the people train, … they were behind the houses, in the sky, behind the trees, …

Then he said Cat’s eyes are closed. Do you see? Cat is sleeping. Shhh. When I got to school and opened his door, he said, Shhh Cat is taking his nap.

He wanted to see the forklift, I said let me check the clock. We’re late today. You can see it with mama later. He didn’t resist. Then I said you can use your imagination. So he did. Walking through CCLC, he saw the Mountain View train, the Caltrain, BWAAA BWAAAA

GOOD MORNING FRIENDS. I put him down. He bit his animal cracker and touched his belly button. We missed breakfast. That wasn’t good. I couldn’t just sit him down at the table and distract him with something yummy. He wanted me to pick him up, hug, etc. I asked him if he wanted water, he said Ya so I engaged him and made him pour water into and assemble the bottle together. I walked him around the room to show him what everyone was doing. He wanted to sit on my lap, stick close to me everywhere.

Ms Ditte saw this and came to help. But she just picked him from me and J broke into tears. I said that’s okay, let me hold him for a bit. I took him back. I calmed him down and we used some Imagination to see his favorite things from his classroom window. Then he got interested in the blocks. But he was still upset I had to leave.

I put his water away and he followed me, I kept talking and he resisted verbally but his body language showed that he was managing it. Because he would let me go farther and farther from me each time.

I gave him a last hug and said I love you and he stood in the middle of the room fiddling with two blocks he picked up. On my way out, I saw Jayden come over and said HI JOSHUA. DWOOO YEW WANNA PWAY WIF ME?

Imagination saves the day
Sunday is Farmers’ Market day. Something about tigers made you want to rider the Tiger on the carousel at the zoo. “I don’t want to go to the Farmers’ Market… I want to go to the zoo…” That was your song all morning. We needed our groceries, so we dragged you into the car. Finally, I said you can use your imagination. “You can sit on your Tiger in the train.” Magic. You got in, looked for your Tiger, waved me to my Eagle and mama rode the Manatee. I pretended to go up and down on the pole. When I got tired and sat down, you said, “Don’t sit on my Tiger! Your Eagle is over there.”

“I don’t want to go to school”

In the car, J says, “I don’t want to go to school.”
Why not?
“I want to stay at home with Kimi”
If you stay at home with Kimi, she cannot make lunch for you, she cannot change your diapers, she cannot help you go potty, she cannot give you a snack, she cannot read to you, she cannot play trains with you…
Because she has no hands.
“Only mami and daddy and Abu can”
And your teachers too… Ms Ditte, Ms Marissa, Ms Gina. And all your friends are at school.

In the parking lot: “Daddy, Rhino is waking up.”
Oh, we have to change its diaper and get dressed. Put on his shirt and his pants.
We took Rhino to Starfish.

GOOD MORNING FRIENDS! Jayden asked, “What does Joshua have in his hands?” A Rhino. I said to J, “You can eat it now.” He shoved it in my mouth, “DADDY – EAT IT.”

There were some fruits on the table still. “You want some fruits?” He nodded. He ate them as fast as I could put them on the table.

I pointed his attention to what all his friends were doing. Ms Ditte were tracing their bodies on a paper at the circle carpet. Arjun was rolling on the train table. The girls were drawing at the drawing table.

I hugged him goodbye and said Mama is going to pick you up after nap time. He insisted, “AFTER OUTSIDE TIME.” OK.

When I waved bye, he was standing on his chair with his knee and looking at me. I guess he didn’t want to go to school, but after he got there he was confident about himself and his surroundings. I blew him a kiss. He kept looking at me until I stepped out. When I looked in from the outside, he already looked away.

My nose is runny. My throat feels like I swallowed sandpaper. But I am happy I finished this letter to you this week.

By the way, if you must know why, because Armadillo.



P.S. As much as you ask “Why?”, I was surprised when I noticed the one thing you don’t ask why about. Getting you into your pajamas one night, you asked, “Why does mama want to stay close to me?” I said because mama loves you. I was expecting, “Why does mama love me?” But you just repeated your question. “Why does mama want to stay close to me?” Because mama loves you. (Silence.) You question everything, but you don’t question mama’s love.

P.P.S. – I’ve broken through the wall of pain. I’ve been practicing not to lose my temper when Kimi cries when you cry. One night, I just let the scene run its course. You cried. Kimi howled. After a while, you couldn’t take it. “Daddy I want you to put Kimi in the garage. I don’t want Kimi to cry.” Kimi cries because you cry. Kimi is your doggy and she is part of our family. If you don’t want her to cry, you don’t have to cry. You stopped. A miracle. By not reacting to Kimi howling, she became your feedback — an undesirable result of you crying, plus you feel that she cries because she cares about you and not because she wants to annoy you (as you would think if I continued my behavior of acting annoyed.)

P.P.P.S. – We’re feeling old this week. Mama have herself whiplash dancing with you. I got a pinched nerve spinning you. That gave me a neck cramp, nausea and a runny nose.

You, on the other hand, are so young you don’t care about anything. You made us spin you around in the living room by your hands, feet in the air. After a while we say we have to stop or you’ll throw up. You giggle and laugh in protest, “I WANT TO THROW UP!”

You’re a good big brother, J, even to us. You said, “Eat your dinner mama.” Mama said, “I’m not hungry. I just want water.” (After she gave herself whiplash.) “Eat mama.” “I’ll eat later. I’m not hungry right now. I’m just going to drink water.” You said, “You cannot just eat AGUA!!!”

P.P.P.P.S. – Mama started her weekly support group at Tiny Tots on Monday. One mom showed up last week. Then she promoted the group to her mama list on Thursday. Another mom showed up this week with the first mom. Both of them will be returning next week, and a third mom asked to join too. In a culture that celebrates instant success and overnight heroes, you don’t often get to see how things start. This is how. Small.

(Update: we went to the pediatrician’s office today to get you two vaccinated. J, with a few days of mental prepping, was okay up til the shot, but the pain caught you by surprise (I left that part out of my description and just said “pinch”). You reacted so violently you coughed and screamed at the same time for a minute. I figured you were stuck in a loop trying to scream bloody murder, so I asked, “Do you want to say something?” You said, *COUGH* “YE-” *COUGH* “-AA-” *COUGH* “-AAAAA-” *COUGH* “-AAAAA!” Eventually you calmed down and wore your sticker with pride. Julie, on the other hand, was flapping her arms and smiling right after hers.

And guess what? The pediatricians invited mama to their office lunch next Tuesday to discuss setting up a lactation program at their practice! Remember the pamphlets we made a few months ago? They liked it, started giving them out to new patients. It was a conversation piece that got our foot in the door.

Also, mama went to her office to collect her things today. It was her last day she had access to the building. She said she is happy. But she couldn’t describe it. Then she said she felt like a huge weight lifted off her shoulders. OK I’m signing off for real this time. Love ya both!)