12.21.2009

Adventures in Holiday Shopping

All I wanted to do was pick up some cheap holiday lights in peace, but no, Sexism and Racism weren't going to let me alone for that long, especially not in a retail environment.

Exhibit A: White-as-Default, Yet Again

So white people holding a baby is just a "holiday ornament". But a black angel holding a black baby is a "cultural accent"? This is like "I have a black friend" for your holiday decorations; pick up an ornament with PoC on it to accent your collection! >.<

Exhibit B: Boys Will Be Boys and Girls Will Be Girls AND THEY WILL NEVER OVERLAP.

Because gods forbid a boy and a girl might actually like the same toys. Oh noes! If boys and girls play with the same toys, gender roles will not be sufficiently enforced upon their delicate little child-minds, and society as we know it will collapse! Quelle horreur! What do you do if you know a girl-child who likes playing with matchbox cars and toy soldiers (probably what are in this grab bag), or a boy-child who prefers dolls and ponies? Do you get them the bag that matches their gender, or the bag that matches their interest and field objections of "but this says it's for a boy/girl!"? Enforcement of arbitrary gender roles FTL.

(And to think at the advent of camera phones, I scorned them. "What could people ever need that for?" I used to ask. Lol.)

12.03.2009

NY Marriage Equality Voted Down; Repubs Blame Dems???

(I know this happened yesterday, but I was having a Why Fucking Bother? day by that time; my teaspooning arm was too tired to move.)

So New York State had an opportunity to legalize same-sex marriage yesterday. Democrats in the state Senate had been fighting to bring the bill to an up-or-down vote, and for awhile it looked like it wasn't going to happen. But then yesterday, it finally came to the floor, and...lost. 24-38. The fun part? All 30 Republicans in the Senate voted against it. So, apparently, did 8 Democrats, who had previously said they would vote for it. Lying fucks.

But the best part comes in a press release from Log Cabin Republicans (via):
"Today we share in the frustration and disappointment that the Senate did not pass the marriage equality bill. We are deeply saddened that the Democratic Conference failed to secure the votes they promised, undermining the possibility of a credible bipartisan vote of conscience on the merits of marriage equality.

Winning marriage equality in New York requires the Democrats to keep their promises, and Log Cabin will continue to work to ensure that Republicans vote their conscience when that finally happens."

Wait...what? The party of NO, who could muster NOT ONE SINGLE VOTE for marriage equality, is going to blame the party that brought the bill to vote (over Republican opposition, mind you) and who got all 24 yes votes? Even if the Dems had "secured the votes they promised", that still leaves NOT ONE SINGLE REPUBLICAN voting yes. So who the fuck are the LCRs to lecture on this? "You get every one of your people behind it, and then we might, maybe, stick one or two votes out on this. Maybe. If you're good."

Oh, and for the record? Those Republicans who voted against marriage equality? They WERE voting their consciences. The Republican party is as anti-gay as the pope is Catholic. What makes you think that's going to change?

12.01.2009

Nativity or Nothing

It's that time of year again. The air is cold, the carols are incessant, the lights displays are extravagant, and anything that isn't specifically Jesus-oriented is going to be decried by the ever-persecuted Religious Wrong as part of the "War on Christmas". Stores that use "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" go on the Naughty List for daring to acknowledge the existence of more than one winter holiday. Towns that have Holiday Parades or Holiday Trees (the shite at that last link deserves a post of its own, frankly) face protests from the vocal minority that demands that THEIR holiday be THE ONLY holiday. And the battles rev up again over where one can place nativity scenes visible to the public.

On the surface, that would seem to be a simple enough issue. Private property is fine, so long as it doesn't violate local size-of-display laws. Public or government-owned property can go one of two ways. The easier way is to not allow religious holiday displays of any kind, so as not to favor any one religion over another in violation of the Establishment Clause. However, if a town wants to display a creche on public land, they can, so long as they also allow displays from other religions so as not to show favoritism. It's an all-or-nothing situation. And honestly, I can respect either choice.

Except in a situation like this one. The city of Chambersburg, PA, recently changed their policy to restrict all holiday displays. Fine, right? Except they only did so when, after 14 years of happily displaying a nativity on their memorial square, a local atheists group asked permission to put up a sign of their own about celebrating Solstice. Immediately the Borough Council unanimously voted to remove and ban all signs from the square in question. So the city in essence admitted, through their abrupt policy change spurred by the terrifying specter of enforced non/religious plurality, that the previous "inclusive" policy was really only intended to allow for Christian displays.

Council member Elaine Swartz argued before the vote that her concern, shared by her fellow members, lay more in the anticipation that groups of all viewpoints would suddenly bombard the square with their own signs and messages if council were to allow an atheist sign.


Oh noes! Quelle horreur! Groups of all viewpoints might want to put up signs if you let the atheists do it! Give a mouse a cookie and Christianity will no longer dominate the landscape, and we can't have that.

The atheist group in question intends to pursue legal action against Chambersburg for their sudden and discriminatory change of policy. I wish them luck. And a great big fuck-you to Christian hegemony as personified in incidents like this; the faster it falls the happier I'll be.

Let the Victim-Blaming Begin!

[trigger warning]

The six defendants in the absolutely horrific gang-rape case in Richmond (where as many as ten men raped a 15-yr-old girl for around two hours at the homecoming dance while as many as 20 people looked on and quietly passed the word around to their friends to come watch too) have entered not guilty pleas today.

The linked story is, for a mercy and a wonder, quite free of the usual shit reporting about rape. The assault is called what it is, not "forced sex" or any of that crap. But they include a quote from one Shyan Mason, a friend of one of the defendants, that literally made me cry.

"As far as with the girl, I'm not saying she is a bad person, but I feel that there had to be something that attracted them if they did it"


I'm sorry. WHAT? What. The. Fuck??? "Something that attracted them"? So you're not saying she's a bad person, of course, just that she brought it on herself somehow and so it's totez her fault that she was brutally gang raped for hours. She attracted them, that temptress; they couldn't help their poor widdle selves. Right.

How about we try something new for a change? BLAME THE FUCKING RAPISTS. Instead of blaming the victim of a crime, let's just go ahead and blame the perpetrator instead. Novel concept, I know.

And you know what? Even if there was "something that attracted them," that does not give them a green light to rape her! Her attractiveness is not her consent. You are not entitled to her body just because she attracts you. How is this a difficult idea to grasp?

Excuse me; I need to go watch videos of adorable kittehs to restore my faith in the world now.

11.30.2009

...And Suddenly, It's Personal

So it seems that Courageless Campaign has backed out of the 2010 Prop H8 repeal effort. (via) That leaves Love Honor Cherish as the only major organization still working on the 2010 repeal effort. Right off the bat EQCA ignored public sentiment and opted to wait for 2012; Courageless Campaign, however, said they would go forth with a repeal effort in 2010, following the will of their constituency. They asked their members and the community at large, and an overwhelming percent - I don't remember the exact numbers anymore - said do it NOW. Waiting is not acceptable.

But now they've folded. The analysts say chances aren't good, so they're turning tail and running to wait on the sidelines with the other big kids - EQCA and Lambda Legal - for 2012 to roll around. To hell with what the community wants, to hell with the people who want their goddamn rights back already. Just wait. The numbers don't look good for this year. So sit tight with your thumb up your ass just like we are, and put up with being second-class citizens for two more years. It's not that hard, right?

And this time it's personal for me, in a way it wasn't before. I mentioned in my last post that I'm engaged. I also mentioned that I refuse to take advantage of the institution while it remains a heterosexual privilege. So this? It means I have less chance of getting married soon, too. Where before I would have just been pissed off, this time I read the news and started to cry. This doesn't guarantee defeat, no...but without ANY of the state's major organizations on board, things are looking pretty dismal. Thanks a whole fucking lot, Courageless Campaign. I stopped working with and donating to EQCA when they chose to wait; guess this means I'm going to quit giving my time and money to you, too.

But I will not stop working toward the repeal of that hateful law. My teaspoon will not stop. I am all. fucking. in. With or without the big kids on my side.

11.25.2009

Wednesday WTF: Lessons in Gaming While Female

Over the past few days, I've introduced Fiance (a gamer, like most of my friends and Others) to the hilarity that is Zero Punctuation. ZP is a video game review series, in videos where the narrator - Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw - talks reallyreallyfastasiftheresnopunctuation ("punctuation" apparently including spaces between words), illustrated by cartoons and little black monsters. ZP is known for heavy snark, sarcasm, ridicule, and general misanthropy. We watched reviews on Tomb Raider (good gods, the boob jokes!), Mirror's Edge, Sonic Unleashed, the GTA series, Prototype, and a few more. Now, ZP isn't perfect for a progressive to watch by any means. "Lame" gets used a fair bit, and Yahtzee is fond of gay jokes. But today we decided to look up his review of Sims 3...and wow, did all misogynistic hell break loose.



Transcript (punctuation added back for readability and irrelevant bits omitted in ...s):
Well, fuck. I really didn't want to end up in this position. The only reason I bought The Sims 3 - after dark and while no one was watching, obviously - was as an emergency fallback for when the summer games drought kicked in. I was hoping to have Ghostbusters by now, but I guess time makes fools of us all. Australian release times, to be precise.

...

I have to admit, I'm surprised that The Sims 3 even exists, considering that EA's usual policy of releasing a new fraction of a game every time the cocaine bucket runs dry seemed to be serving them perfectly well. [black monster with a bow on its head, denoting "female", sits in front of a computer with a bottle in hand] But I guess even Sims fans occasionally demand something more every now and again, when they're not drinking Bacardi Breezers and having periods. [blood shoots out from beneath the desk]

I know what you're thinking: "Yahtzee, you inappropriate menstruation joke, why the reluctance? The Sims is more popular than a chocolate cunnilingus machine [a row of monsters-with-bows carrying a lump of chocolate with a tongue marches by], and afterwards doesn't make you feel fat and ashamed! [one bloated-looking monster-with-bow lays next to the tongue, chocolate smeared around, seeming to cry] It's introduced millions of people to gaming and has made enough money to buy a lapdance for every depressive in the Western world!" [monster-with-bow wags its "ass" toward a cartoon emo dude] But this exercise assumed that you are the president of The Sims Fan Club.

Well, I could say that the majority of its audience are casual gamers, [a monster-with-bow standing next to a Bejeweled game screen pops up] pronouncing "casual gamers" the same way I pronounce the word "tapeworms", [a picture of a tapeworm pops up next to the m-w-b and Bejeweled screen] but that argument's a bit "no true Scotsman." Truly, my objection comes because what I am is a critic of games, not a critic of computer programs that you just fuck around in.

Ok, let's try to be professional about this. [in a mocking, girlish voice] "Oh, boy, The Sims 3! It's like The Sims 2 but plus another 1!"

...

I couldn't find any snooker tables or jacuzzis for my planned entertainment lounge, and there's very little variety of hairdos! Yes, my new vagina is growing quite nicely, thank you for asking.

...

But the most evil thing is the player. [arrow points to a monster-with-bow sitting in front of a computer, then shows a monster-with-bow dropping a cage over two tiny Sims] Trapping Sims, Truman-Show-style, to toy with their lives, not even for fun, but to indulge a twisted power fantasy [m-w-b starts boinking the Sims together in a manner to simulate sex] without having to go through all the trouble of birthing children of their own to abuse. [m-w-b runs toward a trio of miniature monsters pushing a lawnmower] So I guess what I'm saying is that all women are evil. Bewitching innocents with their insidious emotions and absorbing our manhoods into their rank, blood-streaked spam sandwiches. Who needs 'em? Incidentally, I'm still not gay.


So from this, we can learn:

1. The Sims is a game one should be ashamed of playing. Okay, fine, a lot of people feel that way. Whatever. Just personal opinion.

2. The Sims is only played by women. Also, the defining characteristics of women are drinking of girly drinks and bleeding! Or, no. Fiance plays Sims, so did my brother for awhile. And I happen to like rum-&-cokes and will do tequila shots with my friends; Ex-Boyfriend liked the "girly" drinks and the only alcohol I've ever seen Fiance drink was Smirnoff Ice (which is more or less the same as a Bacardi Breezer). So this means my ex and my fiance are women, and I'm a man. Right. Extra misogyny points for the contempt positively dripping from Yahtzee's voice as he refers to these Bacardi-Breezer-drinking-crotch-bleeding people.

3. Women love chocolate and cunnilingus, but it makes them fat and ashamed, as they well should be! Many women do like chocolate. Many women also like cunnilingus. However, chocolate doesn't make one fat, and there's no shame in eating it or in receiving oral sex. Besides, plenty of men like chocolate and oral sex, and you don't hear "fat and ashamed" jokes being made about that.

4. "Casual gamer" is code for "woman who thinks she's a gamer", and also those "casual gamers" are equivalent to tapeworms. If A=B and B=C, then women gamers are about as worthy of respect as tapeworms! Wow...just...fuck a whole bunch of that shit. I guess all I do as a woman gamer is play Bejeweled and The Sims, and that makes me as deserving of contempt as a tapeworm.

5. The Sims is not a game. It is just something to fuck around with. Therefore playing it is not a Gamer Activity. 'Scuse me, Mr. High Horse, can you come down and talk? Cause I'm reasonably certain that all your precious video games are also "just" programs to fuck around with. What makes The Sims less worthwhile than your fucking-around-programs? Oh, that's right. Because it's played by WOMEN. Who, remember, are like tapeworms. Of course you don't have to respect it.

6. Only women care about things like furnishing a house or hairstyles. Having a vagina is a prerequisite for this. A man loses Manliness Points if he cares about Woman Shit. Ah, gender stereotyping/reinforcement of prescribed gender roles. Always good to see you. Again.

7. Women. Are. Evil. I'm sorry, that last paragraph is just...words fail me. Sims are a substitute for giving birth to children purely to abuse them??? What in the..."blood-streaked spam sandwiches"? This is just the most egregiously gratuitous display of "EW GIRL COOTIES" I've seen in a damn long time.

Fuck you, Yahtzee and ZP. I really did love ZP reviews. Now all I can hear is "I'm a raging misogynist!" over and over again when you talk.

11.24.2009

I'm Back!

'Ello again! Personal circumstances took a huge nom out of my life for a couple of months there - three breakups (including the 6-yr relationship with Boyfriend), one new relationship, an ex getting nasty about the new one, moving into a new place, getting engaged...oh, and I wouldn't even be alive save by the grace of whatever gods sent me Fiance, who with my mom's help kept me alive through the worst suicidal period I've ever had and nursed me back to sanity afterwards - but I am back to the blogosphere and ready to dive in once again.

Look for tomorrow's Wednesday WTF! It ruined my evening, so I'm getting revenge by blogging about it. ;-)

8.30.2009

CA Passes Equal ID Act!

So it turns out California can still do SOME things right. (via) Our Legislature passed the Equal ID Act yesterday, providing a means for California-born transpeople (living in state or elsewhere) to use a court order gotten in the county of their birth to have their CA birth certificate reissued to reflect their gender accurately. With a 22-14 vote in the CA Senate, the bill now moves on to the Governator's desk. After his repeated vetoing of bills that would have legalized same-sex marriage that made it to his desk (Congratulations Vermont for being the first to do it the right way, but I'll always be bitter; it should have been us. Thanks for nothing, Governator.) I'm wary of trusting Schwarzefucker to do the right thing for our community. But we shall see.

But while we're at it, why don't we lean hard on the 14 "no" votes? Just because it passed, doesn't mean we should be complacent. Teaspoons ahoy! If you're a California voter, go here and click on "Your Senator" in the sidebar to go to an interactive district-finder.

Sam Aaenestad
Roy Ashburn
John J. Benoit
Dave Cogdill
Dave Cox
Jeff Denham
Robert D. Dutton
Tom Harman
Dennis Hollingsworth
Bob Huff
Abel Maldonado
Tony Strickland
Mimi Walters
Mark Wyland

8.26.2009

Caster Semenya's Chromosomes: None Of Our Business

Everyone and their sister in the progressive blogosphere has posted about the fucked-up way the International Association of Athletics Federation is treating Caster Semenya. Short recap, if you haven't heard: Caster Semenya is an 18-yr-old runner from South Africa, who just took the gold in the 800m at this year's World Championships in Athletics. Her time was so impressive, and she herself so lacking in our normative ideas of "appropriate" femininity, that the IAAF decided to force her to undergo gender testing on the suspicion that she isn't "really" a woman. For a more thorough explanation of just why this is fucked-up, try here, here, or here (read the comments, that's where the gold is).

Now, there is a petition going about taking IAAF to task for their shameful treatment of Semenya. Tell the IAAF to stay out of Caster Semenya's pants!

Remember Tranny-Alert, and how fast they scuttled away before the righteous blaze of our progressive fury? Let's do that again, shall we? Add your name. Tell the IAAF it's not ok to demand gender-testing of Caster Semenya.

Wednesday WTF: Snapshots in WTF from a weekend at the cabin

I'm going to do something a little different for this week's Wednesday WTF.

This weekend past, I was invited to join a group of friends and family in going up to their cabin in the mountains. It's very isolated, requiring about 20 miles on a dirt logging road to even get to the nearest town, and then another mile or two on what amounts to a trail better suited for horses and pack-mules than cars. I, my mother, and my younger brother joined our friends Don and Cindra to drive up. At the cabin we met Don's father, Earl, who had built the cabin back in the 60's, his best friend Dwayne, and Earl's girlfriend Cathy.

Mamana had warned me ahead of time about Earl and Cathy and Dwayne. They are very traditional in their thinking, she'd said. The men do Important Outdoor Things and the women sit around playing dice and cooking for the men. The older group are sexist, racist, and homophobic, she told me, and I needed to be prepared to deal with that.

She wasn't wrong. So I present: Snapshots in WTF from my weekend at the cabin!

Afternoon, Day 1: Cathy, sloshed on two Bloody Marys and three vodka/waters, leans close to me during a political discussion and says, "I voted for Obama. But I have to tell you, I just don't like n-----s." When I look at her, stunned, she says, "Oh, it's just my generation." I'm too startled at the outright admission of racism to say anything, and the conversation moves on without me.

Evening, Day 1: Earl and Don are teasing my brother about getting into physical fights with a woman (in the hypothetical). Earl says, "If you win, you haven't proved anything, cause all you did was beat a girl. But if she beats you, you're humiliated for life!" I shake my head, close my book, get up and walk toward the cabin to go hang out with the women in the kitchen. Don thinks this is funny, and calls toward my retreating back, "Right, J?" I pause and shoot him a dirty look, then go inside. I can't think of anything to say that won't get me in trouble. In the kitchen, Mamana takes one look at my face and says "How bad are they being?" I say, "Bad enough." I am no help in the kitchen, and we both know it, but I'd rather stay in with the women where the explicit sexism won't be so rife.

After dinner, Day 1: The women start clearing the table while the men sit and talk. Earl starts telling some hi-fucking-larious story about having dinner with a woman who asked his help with the dishes: "I told her, I'll throw them out the window and buy you a new set first!" He finishes by giving a Very Serious Pronouncement that, "I'll do my own dishes if it's just me. But if there's a woman around at all, I don't touch them." Because all women = self-motile dishwashing appliances. I hiss between my teeth and shoot a dark look at Mamana; she shakes her head. It's Earl's cabin, and he's the patriarch here. I can't challenge him.

Night, Day 2: After a particularly lucrative game of dice, Cathy folds her increasing stack of dollar bills into a thick wad. She waves it over her head and exclaims, "Look, I've got a n----- bankroll!" I look incredulously at her. She says, "What, haven't you ever heard the term before?" I reply coldly, "No. I don't normally hang out with the kind of person who uses that word, you see." My patience is wearing thin, but I am still a guest here and don't have the standing to be any more outspoken about it.

Dinner, Day 3: During a discussion of older actors, Rock Hudson, closeted gay actor who died of AIDS in the 80's, comes up. Earl decides to share another hi-fucking-larious piece of wit:
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
If he had liked girls
He'd still be with us!

Thankfully, I didn't actually hear most of that at the time, just the last couple words. I asked my brother about it after the fact and got the rest. If I'd heard it at the time, I don't think I could have managed to keep myself from flipping the fuck out at him. As I wrote in my notebook that evening: "Hah, hah, fucking hah. Cause AIDS is totez about being gay, and people dying of an incurable disease is comedy gold!!!" Who the fuck makes a goddamn JOKE about that shit? *incoherent noises of rage*

If that isn't enough for a Wednesday WTF, I don't know what is. Next week will resume the usual WTFery of the world, I just had to vent my personal WTFery this time around. Ah, it's good to be home, with access to the feminist blogosphere and reality-based discourse once more.

Words Mean Things

Words Mean Things.

This is a phrase that comes to mind with increasing regularity these days. It seems to me that certain unscrupulous people like to play games with words, to make them mean things they do not actually mean. I am going, therefore, to start tracking these incidents, in order to remind people that words do, in fact, mean things. And that perhaps they should be more careful in how they use those words to mean things.

Let's start with feminism. In the comments at Liss' reprint of The Terrible Bargain (which, by the way, is the most stunningly brilliant bit of writing I have ever read. Read it now.) at CiFA, some idiot said:

For example, if a woman driver cuts me up, I might think, 'Stupid bitch!' in anger. This is clearly a gendered insult -- but I don't think it's misogynistic. I consider myself a feminist and still use these terms.


Um. Really? Dear commenter, let me introduce you to feminism, wherein it is not acceptable to use gendered insults, even in anger. You acknowledge that "bitch" is a gendered insult, but you see nothing wrong with using it and still calling yourself a feminist? Feminism: you do not haz it.

In case your enlightened feminist brain cannot think of a single alternative to shout at a woman who's upset you on the road, let me supply some ideas: Stupid fucker! Fucking asshole! Shithead! Idiot meatwad! Mindless fuckwit!

Now that you have these alternatives, I invite you to continue upon your merry way, and either mend your gendered-insult habits or stop calling yourself a feminist. Because Words Mean Things, and for so long as you're willing to use gendered insults, you are not a feminist.

8.13.2009

Blog Break

I will be taking a short break from posting here. I am dealing with an epic explosion of nastiness in a couple of my relationships right now, and it is taking all my energy just to keep going through the days while this is going on. I can't focus or think long enough to blog anything coherent.

My apologies; I should be back within about a week, probably.

8.08.2009

Activist, Educate THYSELF: The Importance of the STFU&L Phase

Hey. You. Shut the fuck up...and listen.

I know it doesn't sound very nice. And it's not. But it was exactly the slap upside the head that I needed not too long ago, and I am forever indebted to Renee of Womanist Musings for saying it. I came to the blogosphere naively full of completely-unexamined privilege, discovered WM, and when one of her characteristically blunt and no-nonsense posts on whiteness prodded me right in the privilege, I flipped and argued with her, telling her it "wasn't really racism" and that she was taking things way too personally. She turned right around and told me in no uncertain terms that, as a privileged young white woman, if I wanted to be at all taken seriously, I needed to shut the fuck up and listen, for a good long time, to those who had lived the experiences she was talking about.

I felt like a puppy who had just been scolded for getting into the garbage! My pride was stung, my privilege smarting from that solid whack on the nose. I nursed my privilege for a couple of weeks, not reading her blog at all. I don't remember what it was that prompted me to return to her space. Maybe it was just the nagging guilt of "She's probably right, you know..." that I felt more vividly the more I thought about it.

But I returned. And it was probably three or four months of reading, processing, shutting the fuck up and listening, before I began to comment again. I sought out Peggy McIntosh's Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack list, read Womanist Musings and TransGriot and The Angry Black Woman, began to note examples of what these bloggers talked about in my daily life, and, in short...educated myself. I learned how to behave as a privileged person in the space occupied and owned by the oppressed class. I learned how not to appropriate, and how to defer to the lived experiences of those with less privilege than I when talking about what is and isn't oppression. I learned, basically, how not to be a privileged asshole.*

And right now, after another dustup on Feministing Community, wherein a man came in and put up his first post basically saying "Hi feminists! Please prove to me that harmful sexism still exists in Western cultures by telling me how you experience it." and many of us took affront at this wielding of male privilege in a feminist space, I feel the need to pass on Renee's wisdom. Shut the fuck up, dude. Shut the fuck up and LISTEN, before you start spouting off. Educate yourself by shutting up and listening to us, by seeking out reading material on your own, by LISTENING to what has already been said. Not by demanding, no matter how politely, to have your hand held and information spoon-fed to you.

I know it's less fun this way. The STFU&L phase is not over in a day. It takes time, and effort, to educate yourself on the experiences of a life you've never lived. But this is how it's done. The first step is to learn...by shutting the fuck up and listening while other people talk.

*Not that I'm any less privileged now than I was before, but I am not generally an asshole about it these days, or if I slip and am called on it, I check my privilege and listen. So still privileged, but not a privileged asshole.

Apparently, I'm A Guy

Last night I was playing with my Analytics account and seeing where I got traffic from, and ended up on a message board where someone had done a link roundup of posts about the stupid Evony ads, including my post from a few weeks ago. My post seemed to be a favorite in the discussion, and I was reading along in quiet anonymity, happy to see my words having an impact in a forum I'd never even heard of (power of blogging ftw!). And then I got to this:
... when I saw that ad (the one where the woman is enjoying "post coital bliss" as the guy put it) ...

The guy?

Wait, guy? What guy?

That sounds like my description of that ad...

Oh. Me. That person is talking about my post. I'm "the guy".

There is nothing on this site that specifically describes me as a woman. But there shouldn't have to be, to remove me from the default class of "guy". "Guy" should be the term you use for someone who positively identifies as a man, not the catchall assumed term. The poster could have said "as the blogger put it" or "as that person said" or something neutral. But instead they chose to say "the guy". Because if you're not immediately, blatantly female...you're a guy. Women are a special class of Not-Men, and everything else is Men.

Perhaps this shouldn't bother me so much. Perhaps I'm taking it too seriously. But it was physically jarring to see myself described as male by a bunch of total strangers in a forum where I wasn't able to stand up and say, Hey, I'm not actually a guy. Just so you know. A woman wrote that.

Does that get any better, easier, less infuriating at least? Or will it always feel like that when you're misgendered online?

Unpacking the Holy Knapsack

Inspired by Peggy McIntosh's seminal privilege list, "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack", and prodded by hearing quotes from several Christians yesterday who apparently feel that they are being prosecuted for their faith because the City Council of Lodi won't pray in Jesus' name anymore, I thought I would try my hand at creating a religious privilege list.

Unpacking the Holy Knapsack: Manifestations of Christian Privilege in America
As a Christian, you can be assured:
1. Nearly everyone you meet will have heard of your religion
2. You will not have to sit down and explain your religion every time the subject comes up
3. If you want to take the day off work to celebrate your religious holidays, your boss will likely understand A: which holiday, B: why you want to celebrate it, and C: will give it to you with little issue.
4. You can wear jewelry with your holy symbol on it and nobody will ask you what it means
4A. You can wear jewelry with your holy symbol on it, without fearing persecution or repercussions when people see it.  (h/t Michelle, in comments)
5. You are not generally asked to speak for all Christians
6. People understand that there are multiple denominations within Christianity, and will not assume that just because you and someone else are both Christian, you will automatically get along or have religious beliefs in common.
7. If you are young and Christian, people will not assure you that it's "just a phase".
8. When you tell people what your religion is, they will not ask you if you are actually worshiping a manifestation of Evil.
9. Few people will question you if you choose to raise your children to practice your faith.
10. You can assume that most people know the creation myths of your faith
11. Your religion is most often portrayed in media as a positive trait
11A. When your religion is portrayed negatively, it is clearly shown that such cases are the exception, not the rule.
12. If you appear clean-cut and mainstream, nobody will exclaim "But you don't look like a Christian!"
12A. If you "come out" to people who didn't know of your religious beliefs, they won't say "But you seemed so normal!"
13. If a public prayer is offered at some gathering or government event, you can be reasonably sure it will be offered to your particular Deity.
14. If you are pulled over while driving a car with bumper stickers pertaining to your religion, you don't wonder if the cop pulled you over because of them.
15. In a hospital or airport with a public worship space, if there are accoutrements of any particular religion in the space, they will be for your religion.
16. If you stay in a hotel, the holy book in the bedside table will be the book of your religion.
17. Public libraries carry copies of not only your main holy book, but inspirational works by other authors pertaining to your religion.
17A. When a public library chooses to carry books about your religion, they do not fear public outcry.
18. No school district or county library association has attempted to censor books about your religion.
19. If a person of your religion commits a violent crime, it will not be seen as reflecting on the entirety of your religion's validity.
20. If you are unsuccessful in some endeavor, it will not be seen as reflecting on the entirety of your religion's validity.
21. In discussions on the history of civilization, your religion will be shown to play a prominent positive role.
22. When you travel, you can be sure of finding a place of worship similar to your preferences at home.
23. It is easy to find grave markers in the shape of your holy symbol
23A. If you put up a grave marker with your holy symbol on it, people will understand what it means and nobody will look askance at it.
24. If you wish to get a tattoo of a symbol of your religion, you can be assured most tattoo artists will be willing to give you what you want.

Suggested Additions from Commenters:
25. A candidate for public office may profess your faith while maintaining a realistic hope of election.
25A. A candidate for national-level public office must profess some variant of your faith in order to be considered a viable candidate.
26. When there's a discussion of the role of religion in the public sphere/education, you can assume that your religion is the one being discussed.
27.  If an intoxicating substance is part of your central sacrament, you will not be accused of using your religion as a cover for drug abuse, nor will it render your spiritual experiences invalid in the eyes of others.
28.  Explicitly listing your religion in your social networking profiles is considered normal, not a "statement", and is unlikely to invite controversy from friends and/or family.

These are just the things that occurred to me in thinking about it this morning. Most of them, I have experienced personally, such as the tattoo artist who only did my triquetra tattoo for me because she thought it was a Christian trinity symbol; while I was there, I saw her turn away a girl asking for a zodiac symbol because "We don't do that devil-worship stuff here." Or the coworkers at a temporary job I took working for my mom, when they found out from her that I'm pagan (after I'd already quit), saying "But she's so...normal!"

What can anyone else think of to add? Let me know in comments!

Poor, Persecuted Christians

I am not a fan of religious influences in government. The persuasive speech I had to give for my public speaking class (I got a 90%, yay!), I did on why the National Day of Prayer should be abolished. "America is a Christian nation" is one of my most hated phrases. The tradition of opening government meetings, sessions of Congress and the like, with prayer, annoys me.

But if a city council must do so, a policy like the one adopted by the city of Lodi, California, is the least offensive option. I couldn't find a copy of the bylaws online, but it is quoted in multiple other sources as requiring that opening prayers be "non-sectarian and non-denominational". In other words, no "In Jesus' name" or any other particular deity. Simple, right?

Apparently not. According to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, out of 55 archived videos of Lodi City Council (LCC) meetings, 39 of the opening prayers specifically included references to Jesus. For "non-sectarian" prayers, that's an awful lot of Jesus! So FFRF asked the LCC to actually, y'know, enforce their policy on prayers at the meetings, under threat of litigation.

And that, apparently, was a terrible! affront! to an organization of self-righteous religious fuckwits known as the the Pray In Jesus' Name Project (be warned: there is enough spin on that site to leave you dizzy for a month). So they protested outside the LCC meeting this Wednesday, singing hymns and praying. Because somehow, refusing to use the name of their particular holy dude is persecution, according to several of the protestors (via):
"It's becoming harder and harder for the Christians."
"Christians are the silent majority and eventually we have to stop being silent and stand up for our faith."

Oh, you poor, poor things, having 75% of the country identify as your religion, having most of your holy days as government-mandated national holidays, having a President at all times who shares some flavor of your religion! That must be absolutely terrible! How dare we uppity non-Christians (and reasonable Christians) try to say you can't force a secular government body to pray to your particular holy dude! It must be so awful for you, having to consider that there may be people around you who don't believe what you do. So it's getting harder to...what, exactly? It's getting harder to impose your religious beliefs without challenge and with the backing of the government? You are so, so oppressed.

If that's oppression, well...we should all be so oppressed.

No Body Part Is Safe...

So it seems that no part of a woman's body is safe from scrutiny, disapproval, and the Need! to Fix! It!!



I've seen this infomercial a few times. And every time, my response is a resounding WTF??? Are beauty companies really THAT hard-up for ways to make women feel insecure? Or are they just that greedy, that they need to manufacture a new kind of "workout" for a totally un-work-out-able body part in order to sell women one more bit of shit we don't need to "fix" our bodies a little more?

Oh, for fuck's sake. Why am I surprised? Women can never be perfect enough. This is just one more way to capitalize on that, and the free market never misses an opportunity to profit from misogyny.

8.07.2009

Confronting My Privilege, Accidentally: Part 3 (Class)

Memes! I love memes. Discovered one today courtesy of What Tami Said, that presents a series of questions about the markers of class privilege in one's own life. Let's play, shall we? (I've marked my own positive answers in bold)

Take a step:
If your father went to college before you started
If your father finished college before you started
If your mother went to college before you started
If your mother finished college before you started
If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
If your family was the same or higher class than your high school teachers
If you had a computer at home when you were growing up (To be fair, in the 70s and 80s, home computers weren't as ubiquitous)
If you had your own computer at home when you were growing up
If you had more than 50 books at home when you were growing up
If you had more than 500 books at home when you were growing up (Maybe...never counted them, but we had a lot.)
If were read children's books by a parent when you were growing up
If you ever had lessons of any kind as a child or a teen
If you had more than two kinds of lessons as a child or a teen
If the people in the media who dress and talk like you were portrayed positively
If you had a credit card with your name on it before college
If you had or will have less than $5000 in student loans when you graduate
If you had or will have no student loans when you graduate (I technically finished with $13k in loans, but with an agreement with my father that he would pay them; they were only in my name so that making payments would help improve my credit rating, so it wasn't that *I* really owed anything personally.)
If you went to a private high school
If you went to summer camp (Does Girl Scout camp count?)
If you had a private tutor
(US students only) If you have been to Europe more than once as a child or teen
(International question) If you have been to the US more than once as a child or teen
If your family vacations involved staying at hotels rather than KOA or at relatives homes
If all of your clothing has been new
If your parents gave you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
If there was original art in your house as a child or teen
If you had a phone in your room
If your parent owned their own house or apartment when you were a child or teen
If you had your own room as a child or teen
If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in High School (Again, not so much with the fancy technology in the mid 80s)
If you had your own TV as a child or teen
If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline
If you ever went on a cruise with your family
If your parents took you to museums and art galleries as a child or teen
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

My privilege rating on this scale of class privilege is 21/37. That's a lot of class privilege, most of which I was unaware of until considering it now. I mean, I always knew I was extremely privileged to have been able to travel to Europe the way I did, and to have a car and computer and cell phone. Those are obvious markers of privilege. But the books (my own collection easily exceeded 50 by age 12), original art (a beautiful glass boat bought in Venice, talk about yer privilege), museums...and in particular, the heating bill question. I was probably 20 before I found out what that kind of thing costs. Any impulse to keep the heater low in winter, or not use the A/C as much in summer, or turn off lights when I left a room, was motivated by a vague sort of youthful half-conscious environmentalism, wherein I knew that leaving things to run was wasting energy, but only thought of it in terms of power plants and such. I never thought of it in terms of lowering one's bill, in the way that a less class-privileged child would have been taught.

That makes me think of the rollover minutes commercials, you know, the ones in which the mom is a nagging harpy about using one's rollover minutes because they're "just as good!" as the new minutes, while the children and husband sigh and indulge her just to make her shut up. In one of the most recent of that series, the mom uses her catchphrase - "Saving minutes saves money!" - only her son interrupts with a put-upon sigh, so that it goes more like this:

"Saving minutes - "
" - saves money. We know, Mom."

I always hated these commercials on a feminist basis, because they lean so heavily on the narrative of woman-as-nagging-bitch and the poor, poor menz that have to deal with her. But they hadn't really bothered me on a class basis until now. Now, I look at that, and I realize that we're meant to see that exchange as funny, because silly woman! to be so concerned about saving money, and her privileged offspring have better things to worry about. Isn't it funny, mocking people who actually do have to worry about money! Ha. ha. ha.

Because I look at that commercial now and realize...I was that kid. If my parents had bugged me about changing my habits as a cost-cutting measure, I would have scoffed and thought they were being oversensitive or worrying too much. I didn't have to grow up knowing what the heating bill cost, didn't have to grow up knowing every light I left on made it harder to pay that bill or the rent or buy food. I grew up able to assume the money would always be there, no problem.

I started this post intending just to play with a new meme - I really do love them - and maybe get some feedback, ask people what their privilege rating was by this measure. I didn't expect to suddenly realize the extent of my privilege as more than just a number on a test. I didn't expect to be confronted with the little ways in which my class has privileged me. I thought I was such a Good Progressivetm for acknowledging that I was spoiled by things like trips to Europe and Australia, and flying lessons at $250/weekend, and my own car when I turned 16; I let acknowledgment of the big privileges blind me to the need to acknowledge the little privileges, too. Things like not only having my own car, but never having to work for gas money. Like assuming every year that I'd get new school clothes for fall, and feeling slightly put-upon for having to buy them at Target instead of the mall like some of my friends did, not even thinking about those who bought theirs at thrift stores or inherited clothes from older siblings or didn't get anything new at all. Like never having to know the bus system of my hometown; without my car, I would have no idea how to get from one end of town to the other, and even after living in Santa Cruz and learning that bus system and navigating the metro systems of several cities in other countries, I don't know the public transit of the town where I grew up.

Well. Back to step one. Forth to the blogosphere I go, to read and learn and begin the work of confronting and mitigating my previously-invisible-to-me class privilege. Wish me luck.

Also, how did you fare on this list? Tell me in comments, with a link to your list if you do this on your own blog!

In which I use my blog purely to point at someone else's words and nod sagely

I want to shower this woman with SHOEZ and paint her house sparkly purple for her:
A moment of perspective: The people who are currently going completely apeshit about spending federal funds to provide healthcare to every American citizen are the same people who cheered on an almost trillion-dollar war of choice which has left hundreds of thousands of people wounded or dead. They are also the same people who call themselves "pro-life," and the vast majority of them subscribe to a religion whose central figure spent an enormous amount of time exhorting kindness, admonishing his followers to care for the poor, and healing the sick.


I mean, really, what else is there to say?

8.06.2009

On Teaspoons and Teaspooning

So it occurs to me that, of late, I've made several references to teaspoons and teaspooning, plus added a tag to that effect. Any readers coming across from Shakesville, or who have hung out there much, will understand what I mean by it. But for those who are from other places on the web, or who have come here after meeting me in realspace, an explanation might be in order.

The beginnings of the term originate from Melissa McEwan, blogmistress of Shakesville, in a post where she said:
Today is the final day of the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence, during which I suppose I have blogged exactly as often as always about violence against women, in America and abroad. Sometimes it feels like it's all I ever write about; sometimes it feels like I can't possibly write about it enough to do the issue justice; often, those feelings exist within me simultaneously. All I ever do is try to empty the sea with this teaspoon; all I can do is keep trying to empty the sea with this teaspoon.


But the idea has taken on a life of its own and grown since that inception. Teaspoon Theory is one of the defining codes by which I live my life. I define Teaspoon Theory for myself as thus:
On their own, the little things we do each day to fight the forces of injustice, hate, and bigotry, are as futile as trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon, one scoop at a time. But each person has a teaspoon they can wield, for good or for ill, and if we can inspire enough people to use enough teaspoons...eventually, the ocean will be a lake, then a pond, and eventually a slightly damp valley. Teaspoons will be what saves the world.


An email I send to my Congressperson is a teaspoon. A reply to an obnoxiously racist forward that lands in my email box is a teaspoon. A comment on a beauty blog, asking the blogger not to review AHAVA products, is a teaspoon. Being the visible feminist in class, drawing ire away from those whose feminism is still nascent and too delicate to withstand ridicule, is a teaspoon. Asking my brother for the nth time not to say "That's so lame" is a teaspoon. Each and every post I put up on this blog is a teaspoon.

Some teaspoons are easy to deploy, like a letter to a Congressperson. Some are terrifying, like calling your father out over a racist joke. Teaspooning is exhausting, often, and sometimes I wonder why I do it still. But then I remember. My teaspoon is small, but it is not alone. And in conjunction with the Law of Non-Neutrality (aka All In), choosing not to raise my teaspoon is choosing to uphold the status quo. How can I do anything but rally and teaspoon forth again?

Teaspoons ho!

Quote of the Day: American Superiority Style!

Via Bitch, Ph.D, (seriously, after you read this, go read the whole thing) on the "Not on American soil!" cries of righteous indignation coming from many on the subject of transferring/releasing Guatanamo Bay prisoners:

What is so special about American soil? What is so special about the field in Kansas, the trees in Michigan, the dirt roads of Southern Illinois that these men can not be near them? I do not believe in the sacredness of ground. I do not believe that America is God's special country that God loves more than all the other countries, and that He loves the Chesapeake Bay more than Guantanamo Bay or the Mississippi more than the Nile. Other people believe that, and they are being allowed to run our government, they are being allowed to hijack not just the public discourse but the lives and civil liberties and freedom of one hundred and ninety-six men because they think our dirt is fucking special and suddenly, anyone who does not like America or might be a criminal can not be near it. As if their subversion, their antipathy, their righteous grievances against us will travel like pixie dust through the rocks and pebbles and get in our groundwater.


And, see, speaking as someone who DOES, in fact, believe in the sacredness of ground...I still agree. Because while I believe the ground is sacred, I don't believe that the ground of THIS nation, the USA, is somehow particularly or specially sacred. Our ground is sacred; but so is the ground of every other nation on earth, equally. So this rhetoric, this "Not on our soil!" bullshit, is just one more manifestation of America's fascination with itself and our national fetish for declaring ourselves the Super-Special Niftiest Nation Evar!

Because when we say "Not on our soil!", what we really mean is, "These people are too Evil to contaminate us*. But they're good enough for all the rest of you lesser nations, so here, take them!"

Fellow Americans of mine, that's enough. Can we please get over ourselves now? Pretty please?

*This is, of course, assuming that the prisoners of Guatanamo Bay who would be released are, actually, evil, and not innocents caught up in our shitstorm of overzealousness.

8.05.2009

Neutrality Is A Lie

A few days ago, I got linked to Code Pink's Stolen Beauty Campaign, a boycott against AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories. AHAVA is an Israeli company that makes bath and beauty products with Dead Sea mineral mud and is sold worldwide. However, while they advertise as an Israeli company and product, their production facilities and visitor's center are located in the Occupied Territory of the Palestinian West Bank. It is illegal for them to label their products as "made in Israel", though they do. Furthermore, they use the mud and resources of the West Bank in production of their products, in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions, which forbid occupying powers from profiting from the natural resources of an occupied territory. The fourth Geneva Convention explicitly forbids an occupying power from removing the captured natural resources for its own use.

I read about the boycott and actions against AHAVA, filed it away in my "read more later when there's more time" file mentally...but I left the tab open and just worked around it. (I tend to run anywhere from a half dozen to two dozen open tabs at once, so it's not that unusual for me to leave something up for a few days.)

And then today, in perusing my morning's readings from the 80+ blogs I follow, I encountered a post on Temptalia, a makeup and beauty blog I follow. Christine (owner and blogmistress of Temptalia) had posted a review of AHAVA's body wash line. I read through it, and it was a glowing review of the product. I reread it. Where was the caution about the controversy surrounding the product? Where was it mentioned that AHAVA profits from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories, by stealing their natural resoures? There was not so much as a single footnote detailing even a hint of reservation about endorsing this apparently! great! product!

So I waded in, teaspoon held high, and posted a comment:
Christine, please don't advocate, product-push, advertise, review, whatever you want to call it, for AHAVA products. They advertise as being made in Israel, but the products are actually manufactured in a factory compound located in an illegal settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, using resources stolen from Palestinian land, in direct contravention of international law. According to international public law, including the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the West Bank cannot be considered to be part of the State of Israel; thus, their labeling as being "made in Israel" is false and illegal. This also means AHAVA profits by stealing, manufacturing and selling resources from Palestine: because it harvests minerals from mud pulled from the Dead Sea, from the Occupied West Bank (Palestinian) land, it is technically stealing resources. The fourth Geneva Convention explicitly forbids an occupying power from removing the captured natural resources for its own use.

You have a big following, and your words can make a difference to many people. Please use this positively, to help bring attention to the illegal actions of this company, rather than approvingly reviewing the product and recommending it to your readers.


I'll give her credit for this: she's fast on the draw. Within ten minutes of posting that comment, which got held up in moderation since I'd included a couple of links to the Stolen Beauty Campaign, I received a response by email. I won't post it here, but the gist of it was that since Temptalia is not a political blog, she didn't wish to get into a political discussion on the issue. She wanted, she said, to remain neutral. If I wanted to reword my comment as a general educational spiel to the readership instead of as a call for her to stand up and do something, I was welcome to re-post it.

She wanted to remain neutral, she said. Neutral?

The problem is, there is no such thing as neutrality. You either support the status quo, or you challenge it. By saying "I'm neutral," by standing back and refusing to speak, you support the status quo. A refusal to act is an act of refusal. To claim neutrality is a cop-out. It's the coward's way. It is saying, "This may be a bad thing, but I am not going to involve myself. I'm going to let it happen unchallenged." If you aren't a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. There is no third option. This is the very foundation of All In, the corollary to Teaspoon Theory, the two most basic laws by which I strive to live my life.

I responded to say I respected her wishes and would re-word and re-post my comment, but I also told her my views on neutrality.

When I returned to the post to retry my comment...I found it missing. She emailed me later to say she'd removed the post, pending further research. The power of teaspoons!

And I think, now, that I, like McCain who didn't believe in women's "health", will start putting air quotes around concepts I don't believe in. And "neutrality" is the first to get that treatment from me.

Because there is no Switzerland. "Neutrality" is a lie.

8.04.2009

Confronting My Privilege, Accidentally: Part 2 (Pretty)

Sometimes there are forms of privilege that you academically knew you benefited from, but you don't really *feel* them despite all the research and reading. Until something smacks you and says OH HAI, YOU HAS PRIVILEGE! Particularly situations in which you are temporarily unable to access that particular privilege, for whatever reason. I blogged about my revelations around hetero privilege recently, but right around the same time, I've been confronted by the temporary loss of another privilege I hadn't thought much about.

Pretty privilege.

It's not exactly a secret that cultures privilege varying forms of attractiveness, and that compliance with that standard ensures one access to what I refer to as pretty privilege (particularly for women, hello sexism, when did you come to play?). It comes up from time to time when studies are done that show that more "conventionally attractive" people get paid higher salaries, or are more likely to receive help when they're struggling with something in public, etc. It's a scientifically-proven form of privilege, and yet it gets little airtime in general.

I ran head-first into my pretty privilege last week, when a mini-rash developed on my left eyelid. I had a couple of odd, swollen, red, itchy bumps on the eyelid and browbone above it. As a result, I couldn't quite open that eye all the way; the lid was dragged down on the outer corner and the skin over the browbone pressed out and down over my eyelashes.

Now, I'm also uninsured. And yet my first thought, beyond "What the fuck is that...?" wasn't anything to do with doctors or clinics or how I could pay for treatment if this was something that required medication. It was: "Oh my god, I'm ugly."

Ugly. That's what worried me! I no longer fit the patriarchally-defined Beauty Standard for my culture, and that bothered me more than the potential health ramifications of a mysterious rash near my eye.

Now, even at my best* I don't entirely fit the Beauty Standard. I'm a bit fat (though I'm more of an inbetweenie than truly fat or thin), my nose is kind of long and pointy, my breasts are ginormous but not perfectly round and perky, I don't tweeze my eyebrows, I have a little bit of hair on my toes...I'm sure most women could go on and on about the things they know about themselves that fail to meet the Standard, and I'm no exception. But I fit it closely enough that I am considered pretty, in my cultural context. And until this happened, I had no idea just how much the bulk of my confidence stemmed not from genuine self-love, but from the fact that I knew damn well that I was close enough to beautiful to get away with it on a day-to-day basis. I could go about my business safe in the knowledge that my appearance would, 9 times out of 10, fall somewhere on a positive scale of approval for the people I encountered, and would thus garner me no negative reaction, no disapproval.

But with my droopy eye, when I went out that day to class and to run errands, I was terribly self-conscious. I felt like I was intruding, like I didn't have the right to be go out and be ugly at people. DAMN, had my vanity (and the accident of genetics that preceded it) left me with a humongous blind spot.

Why would I, an avowed feminist, be so invested in compliance with the patriarchal Beauty Standard? What place does that kind of vanity have in someone who seeks the downfall of the entire kyriarchy construct? Surely, I can find something truer in myself to have pride in and be confident about.

I've heard it said recently, "It's hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your own head." Truer words were never spoken. Harsh as it is, I'm glad I've marked the location of another set of outposts to be taken down.

*I say "best" not in reference to my objective best health, but to the times when I most closely coincide with the Standard.

7.29.2009

Wednesday WTF: CNN's Definition of "Activism"

So Scott Roeder, the alleged murderer of Kansas' only abortion provider, Dr. Tiller, is set to stand trial in September. CNN chose to report this with the following headline:
Trial set for anti-abortion activist in Kansas doctor's death

W. T. F??? No. Not even fucking close. Activism means things like protesting, organizing, donating, speaking out, calling legislators, blogging, all sorts of things. One thing that is not included under activities described in the term "activism"? MURDER, you spineless whitewashing fuckwits! Also, for the record, Dr. Tiller didn't just drop dead. He was fucking MURDERED. Remember that part?

Activists don't kill people. Murderers kill people. Learn the fucking difference, CNN.

7.25.2009

Confronting My Privilege, Accidentally: Part 1 (Het'ro)

This past week I signed my name onto the National Marriage Boycott: "We won't, until we all can." I spent $10 to support the cause by buying a Marriage Boycott ring, a black band with silver lettering reading "EQUALITY" around it, to be worn on the left ring finger in place of (or if you're already married, in addition to) a wedding band. The idea is that, by signing on and wearing the ring, we pledge to not take advantage of the privilege of marriage until it is truly a right accessible to all Americans.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I'm not the marrying sort anyway. I laugh when people ask when TNBF and I (together for five years now) are getting married, and if they persist, I start to lay out all my issues with the institution of marriage - patriarchal tradition of property rights and inheritance, none of which is really relevant to me - until they back off. When Lieutenant would introduce me to his friends as "My buddy's wife", I would always stop the conversation and correct him. (And isn't it fun, how a vehemently anti-marriage stance goes over in military company...) So it's not like I was planning to get married, now or ever.

But I *could*. If I chose to marry one of my male Others, that is. As a bisexual cis woman, dating two hetero cis men and one bisexual cis woman, I could marry either of my boyfriends but not my girlfriend (considerations of polyamory and who's already engaged to who aside). I *could* benefit from an extension of hetero privilege. It's never occurred to me to do so, but the possibility exists. Until I signed the boycott, that is.

And when I did...I was startled by how much that affected me. I hadn't realized how deeply the option of marriage was ingrained into my psyche, as a woman who dates men, until I voluntarily removed myself from that option. Until now, I didn't want to wed, but if I changed my mind the option was always there. But there have been several times over the past few days that I would be letting my mind wander, think something about "If I got married..." and suddenly stop myself, mentally noting that until marriage equality is achieved that isn't an option for me anymore.

I hadn't realized how much I still relied on hetero privilege until then. I self-identify as queer, as more-or-less bisexual, and have my entire adult life. But the way my life has worked out, there has been no point in my dating that I have not been dating a man. I have dated women as well, but not exclusively. So I have, at all times, had access to hetero privilege. I have always had the option of drawing on that, if I wanted to, and that has shaped my entire way of approaching the world.

Confronting privilege is never easy, never fun, but I'm glad I backed myself into this corner and made myself acknowledge that particular privilege, no matter how accidentally.

7.24.2009

If A Feminist Falls In The Woods...Is Falling A Feminist Act?

Recently I’ve gotten into a few heated exchanges on Feministing.com over my habit of critically discussing other people’s choices – particularly, other feminist-identified people’s choices. And in doing so, I’ve run up against an odd kind of group-think that I haven’t encountered much before. It goes like this: If a feminist chooses to do something, that thing is automatically a feminist act. To question the choices of a fellow feminist is to question her dedication to feminism itself, which is utterly out of bounds for a discussion between self-identified feminists. Or something like that.

I first noticed this on a thread about makeup and choosing to wear it or not. The original post was on Feministing Community, wherein the feminist in question said that she didn’t see why she had to give up wearing makeup in order to be a feminist, and that she liked wearing makeup. I posted something to the effect of, “You don’t have to give up wearing makeup to be feminist. There are a lot of feminists who wear makeup. In general, I view the wearing of makeup as adhering to the patriarchally-defined Beauty Standard, and thus an unfeminist act. However, I understand that 1: there are multiple ways to use makeup, and not all of them are for the purposes of meeting the Beauty Standard; 2: It is often advantageous to live in compliance with the Beauty Standard (after all, if there were no social reinforcement for the behavior there’d be no reason to do it) so it can make sense to choose to do so despite one’s principles, and 3: I myself wear makeup often, usually as a compliance measure, so I’m not saying you can’t or that I judge you for doing it. However, I would say that if you choose to wear makeup in a way that seeks compliance with the Beauty Standard, you should think critically about why you’re doing it and the implications of your decision.”

…and a shitstorm ensued. You’d think I had suggested that all feminists must get breast implants in order to attract more men to feminism, or something equally outrageous! I was piled-on by commenters chastising me for “judging” the OP. My comment was misrepresented repeatedly and I was attacked for saying things I had never, in fact, said. I replied by clarifying my comments, emphasizing that I wasn’t judging the OP for her choice, and again saying that I just felt we should think about what patriarchal structures our decisions may play into, without ever saying we MUST decide one way or another based on that assessment. All I was arguing was that we should think critically about the issue and make informed decisions. Is that such a sin?

Apparently, it is. Just try to say, particularly to the crowd at Feministing, that you think a feminist *shouldn’t* do something, and watch what happens. Any attempt to critically discuss a feminist’s choices – even if you carefully say that you’re not trying to actually stop her from doing what she wants – is automatically viewed as an attack on her person and her feminism.

So what constitutes a feminist act, then? Is the only criteria that it is something done by a feminist? Can non-feminists undertake feminist acts? Can a feminist undertake an anti-feminist or un-feminist act?

A feminist act, to me, is simply an act that promotes gender equality and seeks to undermine, overthrow, or otherwise disobey the dictates of the patriarchy we struggle against. An un-feminist act is one that upholds the patriarchal status quo, and an anti-feminist act is one that actively promotes patriarchy or denigrates feminism.

My father would never call himself a feminist in a million years, but if he called out a rape joke someone made in his presence and told the person making it why that wasn’t cool, I would count that a feminist act. I am a feminist and have identified as so for years, and yet I am conscious of the fact that, when I shave my legs and put on makeup to enhance my features and dress fashionably and do my hair and show off my cleavage to advantage because it makes my life easier, I am undertaking un-feminist (though not anti-feminist) acts that indicate my acceptance of patriarchal dictates on the subject of personal appearance for women. I accept that, and own that choice.

Everyone has to make their own choices. I won’t judge a feminist for choosing to undertake un-feminist acts, or try to stop her. After all, realpolitik is the rule of the world. Purists and idealists don’t usually get very far. However, it is a dangerous kind of group-think to be unwilling to ever criticize the actions of a group member. We must take responsibility for the choices we make, and sheltering ourselves from critical analysis is no way to do that.

7.23.2009

Today in White-As-Default: Bumper Sticker Edition

So Papa Mio, always a source of conservatism in my inbox courtesy of horrid articles forwarded from the likes of the Patriot Post (Disclaimer: blogger offers no guarantee of continued good health after reading that link. Be aware of potential blood pressure spikes and spat coffee on your monitor.), sent along an email consisting of a list of pithy bumper-sticker-length slogans and phrases about Obama. It's an odd mix of the recycled-from-the-Bush-era - America: Take from the poor and give to the rich.* and If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. - and your standard-issue whinging about taxes and such structured around Obama's campaign slogans: The audacity of hype. and Yes, we can ... destroy America!

But there's one in particular that was jarring enough to stop me as I read through, rolling my eyes the whole way. It was this:
Didn't our ancestors leave Europe to get away from this crap?


Well, sure they did.** If you're assuming that you're only speaking to the descendants of the original colonists, from Europe, who chose to emigrate to the Americas. Not so much, though, if you're taking into account the descendants of the thousands upon thousands of Africans shipped across as chattel, who make up a rather significant portion of modern society. I'm pretty sure their ancestors didn't CHOOSE to leave, nor were they coming from Europe, and sure as shit taxes didn't have fuck all to do with it.

Yet another example of privileging white history as default and relegating black history to the shadows. Sigh. Not that I expect better from a middle-aged, affluent, able-bodied, white, cisgender man - much as I love him, he's got pretty much every kind of privilege possible - who is avowedly a conservative and no ally to marginalized groups...but I can still hope. And send a snarky reply-all. ;-)



*Um...isn't this kind of a liberal's complaint about conservative policies, not the other way around? I don't get how this makes the list of conservative slogans.

**No, they didn't, actually. But that's a discussion of the historical merits of that claim, which would take more time than I have for it right now. Feel free to have at in comments, if you like.

7.22.2009

Wednesday WTF: The Sex Gym

Sorry I'm a bit late with the Wednesday WTF this week, it's been a busy day. Also for the dry week this past; got a bunch of new stuff to put up starting tomorrow, be patient!

So it's been all over the progressive blogosphere how Faux News had some anal-chapeau on, wearing a "no chubbies" t-shirt no less, to talk shit about Dr. Regina Benjamin, Obama's pick for Surgeon General, cause OMGZ SHE'S FATZ! And gods know fat people are all stupid and lazy and do nothing but eat cupcakes all day long. There's no way an overweight person could also be a qualified doctor, amirite?

Anyway. So this rectal-haberdasher, named Michael Karolchyk, owns a gym, called "The Anti-Gym" (NSFW), originally in Denver but now in Southern California because the IRS raided his Denver gym after he welshed on six figures worth of back-taxes so he ran off to a new state. Anywho! This charming Anti-Gym is all! about! sex! Tagline: Have Sex With The Lights On. Which, naturally, is only for skinny people. We all know fat people don't have sex, and gods know they don't have sex with the lights on. The only way they can get any is by keeping in the dark so as not to offend their partners' delicate sensibilities.

The website is full of graphically suggestive, NSFW images of Very Thin And Beautiful people gettin' it on as a reward for their thinness. Like, for example, the two hot chicks lapping at one lollipop - seriously? That's just not even trying for creativity. Might as well add a flashing sign that says "Substitute Your Penis Here!"- or the guy with his tongue in one woman's mouth while another bites his neck, or the guy with a woman's panties in his teeth. Apparently, gods forbid you be gay, or at least gay and male. Gay and female is okay, as the image of two women with orgasmic expressions gasping at each other shows, so long as you're doing it for the viewing pleasure of teh menz.

Motivational tactics at the Anti-Gym include throwing baked goods at members on the treadmill, and if you don't measure up at their weekly assessments, you're kicked out of the gym. For atmosphere, you've got a live DJ, cage dancers, and the "Ravish Room", a sauna reserved for those members below a certain BMI.

Are you fucking kidding me? This thing is like the bastard love-child of a shady nightclub, a 70's swingers club, and one of those weight-loss boot camps. Who the fuck goes to something like this?

I think I'll just look at this gym-cum-sex-club like I look at swastika t-shirts: it's a warning label. If you're a member, I know to steer well clear of you.

Also, a tip o' the fedora to wondrous wordsmith CaitieCat for all the asshat euphemisms!

7.15.2009

Quick Hit: 15-yr-old WoC pilots cross-country flight

You may have noticed that aviation is a subject near to my roots and dear to my heart, though I no longer fly myself. So this story...is definitely sniffle-worthy.

Kimberly Anyadike, age 15, has just become the youngest known WoC to fly across the country, in a single-engine Cessna from Compton, CA to Newport News, VA. She learned to fly through an after-school program with Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum in Compton that offers lessons to at-risk and economically disadvantaged youth. Among her reasons for doing this, she says, was to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, the segregated unit of black airmen during WWII. Levi Thornhill, an 87-yr-old veteran of the Tuskegee Airmen, made the flight with her, and along the way they stopped and met 50 other veterans, who autographed the plane.

"That way, they can fly with us forever."

Sniffle. Kimberly, I salute you, and your determination to stand forth as an example of what can be done, while honoring those who came before. You are awesome. Thank you.

Wednesday WTF (Part II): Just slap some boobs on there and call it a day.

Came across this via Sociological Images, which you should be reading if you aren't already. Following is the chronological progression of online ads for a game called Evony:


Pretty innocuous, right? Dude with sword and armor. Standard for the genre. But it goes on:


Sadly, also pretty standard. Pretty maiden enticing assumed-to-be-male player. Bleh, yeah, reinforces idea of gamer=man, woman as prop, etc. But still not bad, as far as these things go. Until it continued:


Still playing the "my Lord" game, and you notice that though it uses "lover" singular, there are two fainting decolletage-y women waiting for you? Don't worry, we're not done yet:


Um, ok. Off of real-ish women and onto plainly cartoonish ones, but this one is kneeling and gazing at you piteously, begging you to save her! Also there's a suspiciously phallic phantom half-a-sword dangling over her cleavage. Seriously, are they even trying anymore? Why not just put a big red arrow and say "Look! Boobies! Right here! And the sword stands for a penis!" Sadly, however, we have not yet reached rock bottom. With increasing desperation:


So now we have a woman with an expression that could pretty easily be read as the transports of post-coital bliss, with the kind of cleavage that makes even me sit and wonder "Is that a hint of areola I see?" And the text, which no longer makes any pretense of talking about the game, but rather borrows phrasing and tone from the late-night "singles chat" ads: "Talk discreetly with other singles in your area, NOW!" See, this woman here, she stands for a hot and available real-life woman. And our game stands for you having sex with her. Don't you want to play? NOW? But we have STILL not reached the end in this race-for-the-bottom! Perceive:


Are. You. Fucking. Kidding me? Having given up even the pretense of anything to do with the game, in terms of background, font, lighting, costuming, anything at all, Evony goes for the slap-you-with-a-brick style of marketing: LOOK BOOBIES, NOW PLAY OUR GAME. BECAUSE YOU LIKE BOOBIES. EVERYONE LIKES BOOBIES. EVEN WHEN THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TOPIC AT HAND.

And after all that boob-heavy marketing? There are no queens and no women characters in the game. At all. In fact, it's apparently come up so often that Evony's FAQ had to address this:
How do I get my queen?
There is no queen in this game, the ad you saw is for marketing purposes and seems to be highly effective by the number of times this question has come up.


That sound you just heard? Was my forehead and my keyboard meeting in a glorious dance of WTF. That is all.

Wednesday WTF (Part I): There's an app for that!

Today's Wednesday WTF will be in two parts. I just couldn't narrow my wtf-ery down to one topic. Look for the second part later today.

Today's Wednesday WTF comes to you courtesy of the iPhone apps store. (via & via) There is, apparently, really an app for everything these days. New to the iPhone apps store, a purity pledge app, complete with a purity ring graphic you can display on your phone after agreeing to the app's purity pledge. WTF?

There are two ways to look at this: either it's intended for people who wouldn't have taken a purity pledge otherwise, only now it's delivered to them in this new and convenient format! or it's intended as an extension on the physical purity pledge/ring for the type of person who is already into the whole abstinence thing. Either way, it makes no sense.

If you're the type who has already chosen to remain abstinent until marriage, and you've already perhaps taken a "purity" pledge (and that's not even touching the plethora of issues surrounding the notion of "purity" as the absence of sexuality, but I digress) and would wear or already do wear a purity ring...why bother with the app? So you get an image of a purity ring to display on your phone. Whooo, how exciting. Also, isn't part of the point of the purity ring to A: "warn off" strangers or acquaintances that they won't be getting any with you, and B: remind yourself in the heat of the moment, when you see your ring, what you've pledged? How does this app do either of those things? Unless you walk around flashing your iPhone at everyone you talk to, or have a habit of constantly picking up and looking at your phone during potentially sexual situations. And if that's the case, you have a problem that goes deeper than meaningless apps and you should probably seek help for your iPhone dependency.

So what about those who have never been exposed to the opportunity to take an abstinence pledge? Do you really think that some random person, probably with fairly healthy sexual appetites as most adults have, is going to see a purity ring app and suddenly decide, "Hey, this sounds meaningful! I'm going to sign my name on the virtual dotted line and get a nifty ring graphic to show for it!" And if they do...how long do you think that'll last? Given that purity pledges fail to be effective even when promised by fervent believers1, do you really think Random Person is going to be swayed to celibacy by a freaking iPhone app?

And if you really do believe that...there's an app for that, too.


1. "Among those youngsters, 61 percent of the consistent pledgers and 79 percent of the inconsistent pledgers reported having intercourse before marrying", from linked article.

7.13.2009

TIME: Silly Wimmenz and their Silly Spending!

So TIME magazine runs an article on their website, titled Why Women Aren't Richer. It boils down to this: Silly wimmenz, just stop and THINK before you whip out the credit card for that new designer purse!

The author starts out by discussing the 2-5% of Americans who are "compulsive buyers", noting that compulsive buyers are about equally split between men and women. But from there, she starts talking about the 12-15% of American women who can be classified as "excessive buyers" (basically defined as those who engage in retail-therapy shopping) with no mention of any corresponding figures for American men. Is there any percentage of American men who are classified as "excessive buyers"? Is it as evenly distributed as "compulsive buyers"? And because that's not enough gender stereotyping, she goes on to propose her own, totally unsubstantiated "theory" of wimmenz' spending: It's my hypothesis that an even greater share of American women are what might be called periodic excessive buyers. They buy things they later regret.

Because gods know, men never suffer buyer's remorse. Nope. Men make completely logical, rational decisions and never second-guess themselves later. It's only women whose silly ladybrains make them indulge in retail therapy. I'll admit, I do engage in retail therapy myself - more often than is good for my wallet, for sure - but you know? Among my group of family and friends, I'm not the only one who does so. And the tendency to retail therapy is spread pretty evenly between genders, in my experience. The author, on the other hand, doesn't deign to offer even the slightest shred of anecdotal evidence supporting her "theory". Just throws it out there, like it's totally self-evident and we need no convincing, cause women just love to shop, amirite?

So can we please stop acting like women are the only ones who act impulsively, already? Or like women are innately drawn to shop? For all that this article purports to be "helpful" in offering strategies for those who impulsively spend to feel better, it's just common sense wrapped up in sexist phrasing. Lazy "journalism" at its finest.

When Public Streets Are Private Property, Part II

Following the detaining and arrest of a gay couple in SLC, Utah the other day for daring to kiss each other on the cheek in front of the LDS temple, SLC activists staged a "kiss-in" on the Main Street Plaza yesterday morning. (via) The demonstrators, both gay and straight couples and friends, gathered along the edges of the LDS-owned property line, where the God Squad waited to ensure not one affectionate toe crossed over. The couple who were detained for their Ebil Gayness the other day attended the protest as well, but stayed in the background.

I think this was a great way to draw attention to the issue and protest it - and on a Sunday morning, no less! Awesome.

7.11.2009

When Public Streets Are Private Property

Note: Yeah, I know this is turning into a wordy weekend, but when I came across this via Pam's House Blend, I couldn't stay silent.

So it seems a gay couple was walking the Main Street Plaza in Salt Lake City, Utah, when one leaned over and gave his partner a quick kiss on the cheek. Sweet and harmless, right? Not if you do it on a public street - the main walking thoroughfare in downtown SLC - that's actually owned by the virulently anti-gay Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The LDS church's enforcers showed up posthaste, roughed them up, including putting one of them on the ground to cuff him, and cited them for trespassing. Because apparently, Main Street Plaza is kinda-sorta actually part of LDS church land in addition to being a public street. And if you dare to be publicly gay on LDS property, they're gonna call the God Squad on you! I guess two men sharing an brief moment of affection was so dangerous that it justified pseudo-arresting them. After all, who knows what they were going to do next? If not for the timely and totally-justified intervention of the LDS God Squad, good innocent Mormon children might have been exposed to the heinous sight of men holding hands! Or they might have heard one man call the other "sweetie"! Those children could have been scarred for life by the knowledge that gay people exist!

This is why progressives would like religions to keep themselves to themselves. No church has the right to impose its standards of behavior in public spaces, and this kind of thing is the outcome when the line between religion and public space blurs.

Flying the White-and-Dudely Skies

My father is a pilot, flying in business aviation since before I was born. So is one of my uncles, though it was only ever a hobby for him. I took my first ride in an airplane when I was 2 months old, and Dad strapped my car seat into the copilot's seat and took me for a flight with him. I grew up shadowing him around the hangar when the bosses weren't around, sitting around in FBOs (Fixed Base Operation, customer care center for private and business aircraft and their crews, there's one at nearly every airport) waiting for him and watching various small planes take off and land for hours. I never got my pilot's license officially, but I took lessons in both glider (non-powered) and single-engine small aircraft.

So I grew up around pilots, on the edges of aviation culture, all my life. And yet it's only recently that I've suddenly realized the full force of sexism that permeates the Dudely Culture of the skies.

I'm taking some summer classes at the local community college this summer, and one of my classes is Intro to Public Speaking. Our first big project was an informative speech, topic of our choice. I picked corporate aviation, since it's something I grew up steeped in and something very few people would have foreknowledge of. Of course, my dad was my easiest and best resource for researching this speech; from him I got some "personal interview" type of information, and I also skimmed a few recent issues of his trade publications, notably Professional Pilot.

And as I wandered through the pages of their June 2009 issue, searching for relevant tidbits to pepper my speech with, something started to bother me. I pushed it aside and went about my research, but eventually I couldn't let it go any more. I started from the beginning of the magazine and went through it page by page, doing a Not White Man count. Wanna know what I found?

Let's start with the cover. June 2009's featured flight department was Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. Six people on the cover, backgrounded by their Citation jet. Four men, two women, all white. The men? CEO, two pilots, and the mechanic. The women? The CEO's wife and the dispatcher.

Within the magazine, the first PoC were to be found in an advertisement for an FBO in Mexico, about three women and a couple dozen men. The next Not White Man was a white woman beaming out from the page, laying out a welcome mat in another FBO ad - oh, THAT'S original, the woman's positioned to take Such. Good. Care. of you wonderful Dudely Dudes! Finally we come to an article with pictures of people instead of just airplanes. The verdict? 99% white men, spread out over four pages, with one white woman (the wife of an owner of one of the jets), and one Asian man (CEO of Honda's aircraft development subsidiary). Ooh, there are more women! An advertisement for an aircraft service center. Guess where the women (white, of course) are? Behind the counter, providing service for the Dudely Dude who's brought his airplane in for work. After that, I find the first PoC in something other than an advertisement: a Latino man in the feature on SEL's flight department, surrounded by more white men, both mechanics and pilots. A couple pages into the feature on SEL, there are two pictures side-by-side. One is a group of white men, all mechanics who work on the plane. The other is a group of white women, all dispatchers.

At last! On page seventy-fucking-two, I finally find a woman (white, of course) doing something OTHER than providing background support services for the Dudely Dude pilots and owners. She's a first officer photographed in the midst of performing preflight checks in the cockpit. Holy shit, there's a woman! In the Dude seats! Of course, the article is written by a white man, as have all the other articles so far.

So the count, for the June 2009 issue of Professional Pilot, stands thus: Outside of ads, a total of six women, all white, all but one support staff or wives, and two MoC, one business exec and one pilot. No WoC at all. In ads, a half-dozen women, half white and half WoC, all in service positions, positioned and framed to be the best possible assets to Dudely Dudes, and another dozen or so PoC, also in service positions. The rest of the article is filled with white men. The articles are all written by white men.

Tell me again how we live in a post-racial, post-feminist society?

And now I'm remembering the incidents I shrugged off when I was younger. The fact that I was routinely the ONLY woman at the gliderport on Saturdays when I was taking my lessons. The fact that the other pilots (men, all of them) often wouldn't want me to run the wing or hook their tow rope for them, preferring to get the other student, who was the same age as me but male, to do it for them. The "cockpit" jokes I heard so often, from my dad and his friends. "Of course we can't have woman pilots. They don't call it a cockpit for no reason! What would we call it then, a vaginapit?" And hearty guffaws would ensue, as if the idea of a woman in the cockpit was the most ridiculous thing they'd heard in years. The Hooters t-shirt, two sizes too small for me, that my dad's copilot bought for me on one of their trips and then gave to me as a "joke" (and which my dad thought was hilarious)...when I was 13. The fact that, in my 23 years of life, I cannot remember my dad ever working with a woman or a PoC (or gods forbid, a WoC!) pilot.

I decided a long time ago I didn't want to be a pilot. Shit like this, though...it's almost enough to make me reconsider, just to challenge the trend.

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