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


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


Related Posts with Thumbnails