Wednesday WTF is this I don't even...

Last week it was partial clitoridectomies on intersex children and/or girls deemed to have "abnormally large" clitorises, and doctors using a vibrator on them to "test sensitivity".  

This week?  Experimental, off-label use of a drug contraindicated for pregnant women, given to women pregnant with fetuses suspected of having congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) - an intersex condition whereby a female (XX chromosomes) fetus develops "masculinized" genitalia - *without* the oversight or approval of an IRB. They allege that this off-label usage will "...restore this baby to the normal female appearance...compatible with her parents presenting her as a girl, with her eventually becoming somebody’s wife, and having normal sexual development, and becoming a mother."

So these doctors, and these parents-to-be, are willing to give/take potentially dangerous drugs that have *not* been approved for this activity, purely so that their daughters' bits will "look right" according to their definition of what women's bits should look like.  As if a child born with "ambiguous genitals" is incapable of growing up, having "normal sexual development" - and who defines "normal" for this, anyway? - and, if she chooses, getting married and having children, unless the doctors "fix" her with potentially dangerous medication before she's even fucking born.  Intersex people are not "broken", they do not need to be "fixed", and that's the assumption this non-clinical trial is working off of.  Truly worthy of a Wednesday WTF.

But wait!  It gets worse!

A few researchers in particular believe that this drug could not only prevent "ambiguous" genitalia...it could prevent lesbians and tomboys.  It seems that higher prenatal exposure to the androgens this drug suppresses correlates moderately with homo- or bi-sexuality in women - and also with insufficiently-womanly behavior, such as "...lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”  Oh noes!  How terrible!  Women who don't want to be housewives and girls who don't spend their childhoods fantasizing about having babies!  Get me to a fainting couch so I may clutch my pearls in safety!

But I think this is my favorite quote from this metric fuckton of FAIL:
“Gender-related behaviors, namely childhood play, peer association, career and leisure time preferences in adolescence and adulthood, maternalism, aggression, and sexual orientation become masculinized in 46,XX girls and women with 21OHD deficiency [CAH]. These abnormalities have been attributed to the effects of excessive prenatal androgen levels on the sexual differentiation of the brain and later on behavior...We anticipate that prenatal dexamethasone therapy will reduce the well-documented behavioral masculinization . . .”
You've got to be fucking kidding me.  So low maternalism and "career and leisure time preferences" that have "become masculinized" are abnormalities to be cured?  This is, quite literally, doctors saying that they want to *medically treat* female fetuses in utero to be "more appropriately feminine".  And where is the line drawn?  How do we define "low maternalism" here?  I'm sure a woman like me, who doesn't even like children and is vehemently opposed to ever having any, would be considered insufficiently maternal.  But what about a woman who hasn't thought much about it beyond the "Eh, maybe someday" point?  Is that maternal enough?  What about a woman who knows she wants kids, but not until she's 30?  What about a woman who assumes she'll have kids someday, but who never thought about it as a child?  Remember, they were worried about childhood fantasies of pregnancy and babies as a marker of appropriate gender behavior. 

Talk about playing God.  These fuckers are literally trying to change future women's personalities, desires, and bodies before they are even born, in order to better enforce our society's vision of "appropriate" gendered behavior.  This is absolutely sickening.  I desperately hope our sense of ethics catches up to our sense of technology SOON, for all our sakes.

3 Months of Nickels - What Price Misogyny?

Remember a couple of months ago, I blogged about Nickels For Change, the pair of college students who were committing to setting aside $.05 per incident of misogyny they experienced in their lives, while writing to those media sources and others who perpetuated it, to raise awareness of their campaign?

They've just posted an update on the Feministing Community blogs.  Between the two of them, in three months, they have raised...


At a nickel per incident, that's 1,511 incidents of "victim blaming, rape jokes, gender binary bias, and racial discrimination."  In just three months.  Let's break this down:

$75.55 in three months.  Thats...
1,511 incidents in three months.  Which means...
503 incidents per month.  And dividing by 30 gives us...
16.8 incidents per day.  So between them, they experienced...
an average of approximately 8 unique incidences of sexism/racism per person per day.

And I'll point out, that's the incidents *they noticed*.  Most of us are familiar with needing to turn our brains half-off just to get through the day without bursting into an incandescent ball of rage, so that only the more egregious (and everyone has their own "wtf threshold") moments make it past the filter to piss us off. 

So the next time someone pulls the "post-feminist" or "post-racial" bullshit, point them at the Nickels for Change project.  And ask them to imagine what it might feel like if they had to endure an average of 8 slurs against some deeply important aspect of their identity every day.  Post-feminist my ass.

What About Teh MENZZZ, Part Eleventybillion

I was linked, on Monday morning, to this PSA about conflict minerals and the situation in the Congo, sponsored by Raise Hope for Congo, an organization that focuses on the horrible rape epidemic in that region.  

 (It's a video in the style of the Mac vs PC commercials.  The Mac guy [young, white hipster-type dude] asks the PC guy [older white man in a business suit] what he's got in his pockets, and he pulls out some rocks, listing them off as tungsten and other minerals that have fueled the conflict in the Congo, and the Mac guy says "Oh, I use those too.  I guess we have more in common than we thought."  A title card at the end is the logo of the agency that made the PSA, Raise Hope for Congo, in which the "O" in "Hope" is replaced by the Venus symbol.)

It's a good PSA, I think.  A cute spoofing of the well-known Mac vs PC commercials, easily understood, etc.  And oh, I should really know better than to read the comments on ANY YouTube video...but there you go.  When I clicked over the first time, the top-rated (and thus promoted to the top of the comments thread) comment was:
I think it would be more universally appealing if your logo didn't make it seem like it only helps women.
Ahem.  To quote from RHfC's website:
The RAISE Hope for Congo campaign aims to build a permanent and diverse constituency of activists who will advocate for the protection and empowerment of Congolese women and girls.
So, some fuckwit on YouTube couldn't be arsed to take TWO FUCKING SECONDS to go to RHfC's website and see that, in fact, it *is* an organization focused on supporting and helping women, before he got his pants in a bunch about "Why are you so focused on women, what about teh menz, huh?"  Because 
helping women is totally not universally appealing, amirite?  Who wants to help women, ew?

Listen, random douchbro: that sting of being left-out you are feeling right now?  That twinge of unwantedness that is making you all pouty, because you are not obviously the Person This Is Meant For?  That is a feeling that positively fucking HAUNTS women.  And also PoC, and queer people, and trans people, and disabled people, etc. etc.  So before you lose your shit over one goddamn PSA, kindly remember that you get 90% of the rest of society's messages that explicity make you feel wanted and targeted and paid attention to, and back the fuck up off of insisting that you get all 100% of it, ok?


Bryan Fischer's Stupid Is Showing. Again.

You know, I could probably start a separate blog dedicated solely to chronicling the AFA's Bryan Fischer's unchecked headlong rush into offensive obsolescence, and never run out of material.  I'm almost ready to at least add a "Bryan Fischer" tag so it'll be easy to sort for specific instances of his bullshit around here.

Last week and over the weekend, there's been much discussion of a new study showing the rise of childlessness among women, and particularly that it seems to be correlated with educational level - the higher a woman's educational level, the less likely she is to have children.  Mind you, this is correlation, not necessarily causation; it could as easily be that higher education (grad and postgrad work) is more attractive to women who never intended on having children anyway, or that women who want children realize the unfortunate truth of how difficult it is in our society to balance childrearing with the time necessary for advanced degrees and the career that usually goes with them, as it could be Fischer's hypothesis that education "...is leeching the maternal instincts right out of the female lemmings...".  Direct quote, by the way.  Apparently, Fischer thinks we eeeevil feminazis have gotten our vicious claws into higher education and are using it to brainwash women out of fulfilling their godly duty as mothers.  

In his usual fashion, Fischer then goes about rambling through two or three unconnected subjects, trying to tie them all together.  This time it's some incoherent nonsense about a "general environmental theory" supposedly shared by all liberals, that humanity is simply a blight upon the earth...don't ask me, it doesn't make sense to me either...and Margaret Sanger's infamous position on eugenics that we need fewer babies born to the "unfit", so therefore liberals are less fit for babies than are good Christians who properly view babies as God's blessings, QED.  Or something like that.  

At any rate, his point is that therefore, conservatives can win the culture wars by just "outbreeding" (his term, not mine) us.  Which is patently stupid.  The political/religious beliefs of a person's parents are no guarantor of a person's own political/religious beliefs as an adult.  I am a case in point; my father is a proud Teabagger and a Christian, and here I am, a heathen queer progressive activist.  Not that the plural of anecdote is data or anything, but flip through any thread on Shakesville discussing one's family, and you'll see quite a number of progressives who grew up inculcated with conservatism and yet broke out of it as adults.  The children of Christian parents may grow up to embrace that faith themselves.  Or, they could just as easily grow up to become atheists, agnostics, Jews, pagans, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc.  Fischer's ridiculous notion of "outbreeding" his way to victory in the culture wars is predicated on the notion of infallible transmission of values from parent to child, a concept eminently not supported by reality.

Oh, and the other little, tiny, minor, inconsequential problem with this "surefire strategy"?  The study made no mention of the religious or political beliefs of those women who did have children.  Absent any data on that point, Fischer just conflated "higher education" with "evil librul", leaving his entire premise ("Libruls aren't breeding anymore!") without even the slightest scrap of factual support.  And of course, when one's premise is trashed, it can no longer support one's conclusion.

But hey, his closing sentence is funny enough to make the stupid worthwhile:
Let them fume in their childless rage while we celebrate the joys of parenthood and along the way implement a sure-fire long range strategy for taking our country back.
And to that, all I have to say is: CHILDLESS RAGE SMASH!!!


Quote of the Day, Too Long for Twitter Edition

Seen at Pam's House Blend, in comments on a guest-post from a lobbyist telling us we "ought to thank the President" - in other words, shut up, you impatient queers, and be grateful for the crumbs we've tossed you! - a beautifully succinct description of the real difference between Dems and Repubs (and why I'll be voting Green from now on, until the Dems actually grow a spine and start keeping their campaign promises and getting shit done):

The choice between Republicans and Democrats...
... is a choice between being deliberately murdered and being locked out in the bitter cold until exposure does their dirty work for them.

Yeah.  Sadly, this really does sum it up.  /sigh

Dove's "Real Beauty" Campaign - Not TOO Real, Please

For those who aren't aware of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, it's a marketing effort by Dove, a bath&body brand owned by Unilever (which also owns the Axe brand of male scent products, with its stultifyingly misogynyst advertising; make of that what you will) to combat the effects of an increasingly-narrow airbrushed "perfection" standard of beauty, and particularly the effect that has on girls and young women.  They have workshops on self-esteem for girls, and their ads feature a *relative* variety of skin tones and body types.  Mind you, I've never seen an actually *fat* woman in a Dove RB ad, and it's still primarily young women, about 2/3 of them white.  But baby steps, right?  Women a little thick around the hips with thighs bigger than sticks and a greater than 1:10 ratio of WoC to white women is a start, right?  I would be terribly cynical and demanding to see even such meager signs of progress and get cranky and start pushing for *real* change, right?

If you're inclined to support the Dove RBC, and tell me to hush and not interfere with their worthy work, just read this casting call and then tell me that again.
RATE: $500 for Shoot date & if selected for Ad Campaign (running 2011) you will be paid $4000!
USAGE: 3 years unlimited print & web usage in N. America Only
Well groomed and clean...Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.
Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles! A DOVE GIRL!!!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!
Wow.  So, uh...first of all, to whoever typed this, there's this button on the far left of your keyboard, right next to your left pinky finger.  It's labled "Caps Lock".  Please to press it, make sure the little blue light on your keyboard goes OUT, and then type this out again.  >.<

But on to the substantive criticisms, of which there are oh so very many...
Can I just say how very sick I am of the "real woman" thing?  All women are real women, period.  Being an actress or model or participating in a reality show does not strip a woman of her womanhood.  Actresses, models, and reality show participants, are still "real women".  I mean, what are they implying here?  That one turns in one's "woman card" when one begins a career in the aforementioned areas?  What is a female model or an actress then?  A nonwoman?  An unwoman?  A fake woman?  Plus the history of the term "real woman/man" as a slur against trans people.  Please, just stop using the term "real woman" entirely.  (Oh, and "anyone" is one word.  Not "any one".  Grarr.)
Apparently real-women™ have flawless skin, and tattoos and scars are flaws that unacceptably mar one's flawless real-woman™ skin.  Speaking as someone who is woman, real or otherwise by these standards, and who also has one tattoo (more to come someday when I have money and an artist to work with) and numerous scars from a variety of sources, fuck you very much.  I LIKE my scars.  I like the character of them.  I like the slashing one across my right calf, which really came from a slip of the razor in the shower, but which I like to think looks like the kind of scar that could come from a rock-climbing accident or some other kind of cool badassery.  I like the knobbly scar across the base of my middle finger's knuckle on my right hand, courtesy of a moment of lost temper when I was 16 and punched a tree really really hard after a fight with my then-boyfriend.  My scars tell where I've been and what I've survived.  Frankly, I think it's a lot less realistic to expect a grown woman to have gotten through life WITHOUT scars.  (This is not to say women who have no scars are any less real; just a lot rarer)  And that's not even getting into the tattoo question.  I'll just quote the sign at the shop where I got mine done: "The only difference between people with tattoos and people without tattoos...is that we don't care that you don't have any."
  • Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.
Ahhh, I see.  So when Dove says the RBC is attempting to "[widen] stereotypical views of beauty" (from their about page), they forgot to add "...but not too far."   Don't kid yourselves; they're still looking for a certain beauty standard here, one nearly as narrow as the one we've already got. 
  • Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!
Because if you don't have "beautiful hair" - and how are they defining that, btw?  Particularly for black women, "beautiful" hair is a concept fraught with problems.  Do they mean straightened hair or natural hair?  Would an afro count as beautiful hair?  Dreads? - you're not a real-woman™ either. 

I guess Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is just more of what we've already got.  Be "real", but not too real.  Curvy, but not too curvy.  Naturally fit, so your figure better not be the result of dieting or working out.  Of course, you still need to be fit, but not too athletic.  Your hair needs to fit our definition of "beautiful" and life had better never have marked you and left you with scars.  Flawless skin only.  This shit is, at best, slightly less worse than the current level of restrictiveness in our beauty standard.  It's certainly not the beacon of transgressive self-acceptance Dove likes to pretend it is.  I was a little wary about this already, given that Dove purchases fund Unilever, which also spends its money on Axe's egregiously horrible sexism-fests...but after seeing this casting call, I can safely say I'm *really* not a supporter of the Campaign for Real Beauty, or of Dove as a brand. 

It's a great theory...just a really, really shitty execution.

A Blogger's Simple Guide To Fucking Up, Gracefully

I just recently saw a textbook example of How Not To Respond To Being Called Out, that I wanted to share with you as a way of setting out a guide for How To Fuck Up Right.

Readers who know me outside of this blog might know that, over the past year, I've developed a sudden interest in makeup.  Specifically, bold and bright makeup looks (vehemently NOT the "natural look", which I might explain about why I find that approach to makeup to be anti-feminist in another post if anyone's interested) using products purchased from indie mineral makeup companies like Fyrinnae, Meow, Aromaleigh, and Spell.  My ex-girlfriend recommended a couple beauty blogs to me so I could learn about it by example.  These days, I mostly follow - reading and commenting, taking product recommendations from, etc - Fresco Phyrra and Grey's Gothique.  Phyrra and Grey both run giveaways/contests from time to time, sponsored by various indie companies, and I almost always enter.

Last week, there was a post on Gothique, a giveaway opening with the following text (all hail Google cached pages):
 Gypsy Style, free flowing, carefree and colorful.  Although once a derogatory term, gypsy has come to define and entire style of not only life, but of fashion and beauty.
"Gypsy" is a term with a fucked-up history, a racial slur used to refer to Romani and other similar ethnic groups.  It's where the term "gypped" comes from, which means to cheat someone.  Some Roma do use the term to refer to themselves, but as I understand it, that's meant in a reclamatory fashion, like the way I use "queer", and shouldn't be assumed to be ok as a general use word.  And Grey even acknowledged the problematic nature of the term in her contest text, but without any awareness of the fact that, although apparently plenty of people have appropriated it as a term to reference an "entire style...of fashion and beauty", it's not thereby magically washed clean of its bad history and fine to use.

Well, several people apparently emailed Grey about her usage of the term; I wasn't one of them, but when I went back to it and refreshed to check on the comments a couple days later, I discovered she'd changed the description to say "modern bohemian" instead of "gypsy".  In comments, a few people had noticed the change as well and asked Grey about it.  She said she'd gotten "angry emails" and people had been "nasty" to her about it, so she'd changed it.  She also said she'd been hurt by people "nitpicking" when she was just trying to be nice by hosting a giveaway.  (I can't quote exactly, as Google's cache seems to be from before any comments were posted, so this is all from my memory.)

That minimizing of a very legitimate complaint of racial insensitivity as "nitpicking" bothered me, especially with the "But I'm being NICE here!" defensiveness.  So I replied, first thanking her for taking the criticism to heart and changing the description, and then adding in a second paragraph that racially problematic language is significantly more important than a "nitpick" to a lot of people, myself included.

Now, I don't know what happened in comments after I said that, because I wasn't able to check back until the next day.  For all I know, shit really *did* get nasty after I posted.  But lo and behold, when I did get to go back and check again...the entry was gone, with a 404 error in its place, the giveaway apparently canceled without a word.  This was over the weekend, and so far, not a single acknowledgment of the situation has been forthcoming.  Not even an "I've taken down the contest cause it was too much drama" or anything, much less an apology of any kind.  Which leads me to conclude that, called on her accidental screwup, her response is to pretend it never happened.

Incidentally, the last time I saw this happen, it was another makeup blog, and another makeup blogger.  Wonder if that's coincidental...?

But all this is to say, that in almost every possible way, this was handled Wrong.

1.  Instead of making a tone argument about the people calling you out - "angry emails" and saying they were "nasty" to her - understand that you made a mistake that has harmed people, and they have a right to be angry or upset about it.
2.  Instead of using intent as a defense - saying she was hurt because she was called out while she was "trying to be nice and give away stuff" - acknowledge that intent is not a shield from the effects of your words and/or actions, and don't try to hide behind it.
3.  Credit where credit is due - she *did* change the offending word, which was the right thing to do.
4.  However, instead of deleting the evidence by removing the blog post entirely when things got too much to handle, just close comments or declare the contest canceled.  It looks less like there's something to hide that way.
5.  For the love of all the gods...APOLOGIZE.  It is possible to apologize and admit fault without losing face, and in fact, I know I personally respect a person a great deal *more* for having the maturity to acknowledge their fuckups instead of hiding from them.

I don't post this intending to pick on Grey.  I love her blog, I follow her on Twitter as well, I think she's a great person with an adorable kitteh.  However, I also think she handled this really badly, and as a general principle, I really wish people were taught how to fuck up and apologize for it with grace, instead of (as most people do, including myself sometimes - no, I'm far from perfect in this respect) getting defensive and reacting by pretending nothing ever happened.  So based on this, and the other experience I had with a beauty blogger and drama, here's my Blogger's Guide To Fucking Up Gracefully:

1.  If you accidentally write something offensive, don't bother trying to change the offensive bit without acknowledging what used to be there with an editor's note or something.  Google cache will have the original, odds are, and all it does is make you look like you're trying to hide what happened.  This is the internet.  Once it's up, it's out there forever.  Work with that, not against it.

2.  Short of personal attacks - and no, saying you're being racist/sexist/homophobic/etc is not a personal attack.  I'm talking about personal name-calling, threats, harassment, etc. - do not make any attempt to police the tone of people calling you out on your fuckup.  If they're calling you out, it's because you did something that hurt or pissed off other people.  They have a right to their feelings.  Do not try to minimize that.

3.  Do not try to use your intent as a defense.  No "But I didn't mean it like that!" or "Hey, I'm trying to be nice to you here with this review/giveaway/whatever, how dare you not appreciate that and call me on things instead?"  If you bump into someone and knock them over, does the fact that it was accidental make their bruised butt hurt less?  Intent is the difference between an inconsiderate privileged person and an -ist asshole.  It is not the difference between offensive and not offensive.

4.  If your readers offer you links in support of their argument against whatever you said, click through and read them.  Read the pages those pages link to, too, if applicable.  And I mean, really read.  Don't just skim and huff to yourself that "I'm not like that, so this totally doesn't apply to me." and then close the tab and put it from your mind.  If you can't do all that reading right away, at least reply saying you've seen the links and will get to them asap.

5.  Examine your reaction.  Defensiveness is natural - nobody likes being called on shit, after all.  Be honest with yourself, though.  Do you feel that nagging shimmer of "oh, shit...I think I really did fuck up..."?  Remind yourself that it's ok to fuck up, that a fuckup is not the end of the world, and that you will actually gain respect for handling it with maturity and grace.  Face your emotions.  Try not to let them overwhelm you too badly.  It'll be ok.

6.  Once you have a good grasp on what you fucked up and why it was wrong, fix it and/or apologize.  Change the offending word/sentence/etc, if applicable, and leave an editor's note about the change.  If people contacted you individually, reply to them personally with an apology.  Also post a public apology on the offending post, and if it was egregiously bad, create and post a separate apology.  DO NOT give the Politician's Nonpology ("I'm sorry if you were offended").  That's a cop-out, and will just piss people off more.  Remember that an apology is a sign of strength and responsibility, not weakness, when it's done right.

7.  DO NOT EXPECT PRAISE FOR APOLOGIZING.  Acknowledging, fixing, and apologizing for your fuckup is a minimum standard of decent human behavior (and it's a sad, sad commentary on our society as a whole that well-handled fuckups are so rare that people think they are owed special treatment for magnanimously apologizing, but I digress), not a superhuman feat of generosity for which you are owed praise-songs and cookies on a silver platter.  People may thank you for apologizing and dealing with the issue, if they are so moved.  Then again, they may not, and that's totally up to them - and you will undo all the good stuff you've done in handling it up to this point if you turn around and get pissy because your apology and restitution aren't garnering you the adoration you think you should have for it.

8.  Lastly, integrate the lesson and carry it forward with you.  If, for example, you fucked up by saying "penis-bearing people" when you meant "men" (which marginalizes trans men and women who have not undergone GRS and essentializes gender to genitalia, and which is something I've been called out on before), next time you're writing about gender and want a pithy way to refer to men, figure out another way and catch yourself if you start to use genital definitions of gender.  When you write on a topic you've been called out on before, reread it BEFORE you hit "post".  Fucking up out of ignorance, if you handle it well and apologize and everything, is understandable and usually forgivable - ONCE.  You get a lot less clearance for the same maneuver if it happens again.

So there you are.  A blogger's guide to fucking up gracefully, without alienating your readership through obstinacy and defensive posturing.  While I imagine most of my usual readers are progressives who could have written this just as well as I could - fucking up, both well and poorly, are often-discussed topics among many privilege-aware people - my hope is that this can be a post you can point people to from outside the feminist/progressive blogosphere.  Like, for example...makeup bloggers.  ;-)


Happy Blogiversary To Me

My fiance and my blog share a birthday, isn't that cute?  ^_^  Everyone toss in a Happy Birthday for Ozz, yay!

It's been one year today since I started posting in earnest, more or less regularly - I had the blog for some six months before that, but only posted once every month or two until June 26 of last year.  Given that it's been a year, I want to take a moment to ramble about why I do this, and what's been holding me back in it.  If you have no interest in maudlin ramblings, no worries, feel free to skip this one.  I won't hold it against you.  Grab yourself a WTF Brownie on your way out.  ;-)

I realize I have been infrequent and inconsistent in my posting lately.  It's not that I've been too busy, or that the world has provided me with insufficient quantities of WTFery - trust and believe that's NEVER a problem >.< - or anything like that.  It's a combination of Teaspoon Exhaustion - where you're overwhelmed by the stunning volume of crap you're trying to shift, in comparison to the tininess of your teaspoon, and suddenly your teaspooning arm is too tired to raise and your teaspoon seems to have grown inexplicably heavy, so you're left staring at everything that is so wrong and feeling utterly helpless to go about making it right.  Other people might call it activist burnout. - and a nagging worry that has plagued me on and off since I started blogging seriously one year ago.  

Every so often, I look at this blog, and I wonder...why am I doing this?  Is anyone listening?  Does this help anyone, add any value to the world?  I know I have followers, and even a few regular commenters - trust me, I know all your names (without looking at the Disqus record of posts, even), and you are a large part of what keeps me going at this; you have my eternal love and gratitude for being a voice back from the wide darkness of the Internet, my dears, letting me know I'm not just talking to an empty room - but there's this part of me that says, Yes, butYes, but there are so many other feminist blogs.  Even a couple other pagan feminists.  And queer feminists.  And the main feminist blogs, they are so big!  And so beautifully well done!  How could you think to compete with the vibrant, gorgeous community of Shakesville?  Yes, you have some readers, but shouldn't you just cede the field and let the dozens and hundreds of other voices, more experienced and older and wiser than you, take care of it?  Yes, you have some readers, but what value do you really add to the conversation that other people don't already add, and better than you can?

And then I almost lost this blog, this Wednesday past.  My Google account got hijacked somehow and used to send a malware link to my whole address book.  Gmail's filters caught it before it could get out (so if you've ever emailed me, don't worry, it shouldn't have gotten to you...and if you haven't, why the hell not? ;-) ), and disabled my account.  My main Google account, on which I keep documents, my Reader subscriptions, my email...and this blog.  I was just sorta cranky about it, until I realized that this blog was part of the account that I could lose.  It panicked me.  I freaked the fuck out at the thought of losing it, having to start over...and then I realized something.  It never crossed my mind, in those ten minutes of panic before I got my account reinstated, to just...let the blog go.  If I really didn't think this meant anything, if I really didn't think this blog was valuable to anyone but myself...why was I so terrified at the prospect of losing it?  Why did I not consider for so much as a single moment anything but starting over and going on, even if I couldn't get this blog back?

Apparently, I have more faith in this place and this work than I knew.  And really, that was all the answer I needed.  Maybe I add distinct value, uniquity, to the feminist blogosphere.  Maybe I don't.  Maybe people would notice if I never posted again, and maybe they wouldn't.  But even if the only thing this accomplishes is the presence of one more profanity-laced voice raised against the kyriarchy...so be it.  I will keep standing here, shouting curses and analyses at the oppressive power structures of our world for as long as they keep on existing and oppressing.  If you want to be part of that, come in and be welcome.  If not, no hard feelings.

So happy blogiversary to WitchWords and I.  Here's to as many more as it takes. 


Wednesday WTF: The Religious Wrong's Hypocrisy...

...It never ceases to amaze me.  

The Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade has named for its grand marshal a 10-year-old boy, Will Phillips.  You might recognize the name.  He was in the news for awhile some months back, for publicly refusing to stand and recite the pledge on the grounds that the "liberty and justice for all" is a lie, since LGBT people/couples/families are denied legal equality - despite pressure from his teacher, principal, and classmates.  An awesome and brave kid, you'd think, right?

Not if you're the American [White, Christian, Straight, Married] Family Association.  And for once, it's not even Bryan fucking Fischer!  The level of asshattery is about the same, though.  Anyway, the Pride parade is honoring this kid for his courage in the cause, and what does the AFA call that?

Child abuse.

No, I'm not kidding.  The AFA sent an e-blast to their groupies today that included this passage:
‘It’s shameful that adults would abuse a brain-washed child in this way,’ said AFA president Tim Wildmon. ‘He’s obviously just parroting the nonsense he’s been told by manipulative adults. For gay activists to trot out this child and make him the poster child for promoting unnatural sexual expression is a form of child abuse.
Um, wow.  Seriously?  You know, there are women's-clinic protesters who bring their children with them to harass, chase, wave signs at, and scream at women accessing reproductive health services.  Read the everysaturdaymorning blog.  Numerous stories, with pictures, of parents bringing their children - many younger than Will's 10 years - out into freezing cold weather, ass-early in the morning, to protest, often without decent protection from the elements.  They tell of one woman who likes to hold out her infant toward the women, walking backwards in front of them down the sidewalk.  I don't see the AFA condemning these people, these "manipulative adults" bringing out their "brain-washed children" and making them the "poster children for promoting unnatural hatred of women", for the "child abuse" they're perpetrating.  Wonder why that is...?

Listen, by age 10 a child should have at least a reasonable ability to conduct independent reasoning and begin questioning the beliefs of the adults around hir.  (I know that was about the age I started asking questions that got me in trouble. ;-) )  And you know these people would pitch a gigantor fit if anyone said they were "brainwashing" their children into believing in God/Jesus/conservatism/w'ev!  So what the hell is up with this assumption that Phillips is "brainwashed" because he supports an ideology different from theirs?

And let's not forget, these are the people affiliated with some of the "teachers" at Porno Pete LaBarbera's Gay Hate Camp for Kids.  So it's fine to brainwash kids to be anti-gay, outright and openly "training" them to "combat the lies of the homosexual agenda"...but gods forbid a kid decides on his own that gay people are ok and maybe we should treat them better, because then he's a brainwashed poster child for teh buttsecks and that's a form of child abuse.

Of course, all this is merely ideological prelude to pointing out the base, simple fact that this asshole is appropriating child abuse to describe a child's lack of hatred toward gay people.  I imagine *actual* survivors of *actual* child abuse - you know, the kind that involves neglect, emotional torture, physical violence, sexual violence, all those kinds of things - might have a thing or two to say about the difference between FUCKING CHILD ABUSE and a child being pro-gay-rights.  These things are not equivalent, and it is exceedingly, deeply, and in all ways wrong and offensive to conflate the two.

This rates more than the usual WTF.  This calls for something with more fuck.

What the allfucking retrofuck?


Shameful Self-Interest and False Dichotomies

Ah, conservadouches.  If they ever shut the hell up, I don't know what I'd blog about.  Probably eyeshadow and other banalities.

This time, it's Texas governor Rick Perry at the asshole mic.  At a speech to the Texas Eagle Forum (conservative group), he said the election was about more than red and blue states, it was a battle for the soul of the nation:
"We will raise our voices in defense of our values and in defiance of the hollow precepts and shameful self-interests that guide our opponents on the left."
I can feel my inner 10-year-old shouting "I know you are, but what am I?"  Shameful self-interests?  Is it shameful self-interest that feminists called out sexism against both Hillary Clinton AND Sarah Palin, despite our gigantic policy differences with the latter? Is it shameful self-interest when people of solid means advocate for better welfare policies and safety nets?  Is it shameful self-interest that people who already had insurance - including, mind you, the Dems who voted for it - agitated and activisted for the health insurance reform bill?  

Not to mention, where is it writ that self-interest is categorically A Bad Thing?  Is it shameful, to desire and seek out equality for oneself/one's identity group?  Is it a bad thing to try to gain access to the same benefits that other people already enjoy?

Contrast that, of course, with the Republican style of self-interest, wherein they seek to make changes to benefit themselves *at the expense of* others.  Megacorps with personhood rights, giving them power beyond what any other kind of group can hope to match.  Legislating a Christian version of morality to apply to all people, whether Christian or not.  That's the kind of self-interest you see on the Right; personally, I'll take the Left's version of "shameful self-interest" any day.

And of course, it can't stop at one stupid quote.  Tacking on a bonus wtf, Perry continued on to say:
"That's the question: Who do you worship? Do you believe in the primacy of unrestrained federal government? Or do you worship the God of the universe, placing our trust in him?"
Government versus God.  One or the other.  And apparently, those who support the government actually acting to govern (as opposed to letting the megacorps run rampant and waiting for the Free Market to sort it out) are not supporting, but worshiping.  Bwuh?  That's gotta be news for progressive Christians, who both worship the God of the Bible and place their trust in him, and also support the agenda of a liberal federal government.  

This has been today's edition of "...What The Hell Does That Even Mean?"


Don't Brainwash Our Children! We Want To Do It Ourselves!

One of the constant, in-our-face arguments against any progress in LGBT rights or recognition is inevitably some variant on "Think of the children!"  They really like the version that's about their children's delicate minds being "brainwashed" into tolerating queerness/gender variance by the mere presence of unashamed queers/transpeople.  I know - being brainwashed into tolerance?  Terrifying!  But it turns out the real problem with it isn't that they don't want their children being brainwashed.  They just want to have the chance to brainwash them first.

Enter Peter LaBarbera (aka Porno Pete, for his habit of "going undercover" to leather and lifestyle events to describe in graphic detail what those scary homos are really getting up to - seriously, it's a fucking obsession, he goes to Mr Leather EVERY YEAR pretty much) and his Homophobe-In-Training Camp, where students as young as 14 will listen to Porno Pete and his line-up of speakers, including Matt Barber, Ryan Sorba, and Greg Quinlan, for three days, teach them "how to answer the lies and myths that so readily emanate from the “GLBT” (“gay”) camp." 

So it's not that they don't want their kids exposed to depictions of homosexuality/transness.  It's just that they don't want them exposed to depictions of *actual* LGBTs.  Instead, they want to shield them until they're old enough - at 14, mind you - to be trained in the hateful rhetoric of the movement and learn the version of LGBTness that is useful for that cause.  Ahh, the all-too-common stink of conservative hypocrisy.

In all seriousness, snark aside, I am deeply disturbed and offended by the idea of taking high school freshmen and deliberately, systematically teaching them to hate like this.  LGBT bullying is already a serious issue in our schools, and these people want to make it worse by combining the volatility of youthful emotions with focused training in anti-LGBT hate?  That is a recipe for teenage hate crimes right there.  And it is Not. Okay.

Let's just hope nobody signs up and the whole thing is a terrible flop.

Will The Real Bryan Fischer, Please Shut Up?

Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association - for which, of course, "family" only means straight, Christian, two-parent, would-never-consider-abortion, etc. - is not exactly known for his moderate or temperate rhetoric.  He's advocated for deporting Muslim Americans, refusing to allow Muslims in the military, recriminalizing homosexuality, killing sexually immoral people with spears (the Biblical story of Phinehas, which he approvingly cited a couple weeks ago on his radio show; he claims he was just holding up Phinehas' courage, but since that courage was expressed by killing a fornicating couple...), and my favorite on the sheer WTF??? scale, stoning to death a whale that attacked its trainers under Old Testament Law.  But today...he's just about reached Glenn Beck levels of bwuh?.

He describes a supposed tactic of insurgency fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is to bury hepatitis- and HIV-contaminated needles point-up in the ground around roadside bombs, in the hopes that U.S. military personnel will, while digging up the bomb, prick themselves and become infected.  No idea whether or not this is true, but it's the line AFTER that paragraph that has me reeling with bwuh?.
If we connect the dots here, the inescapable conclusion is that gay sex is a form of domestic terrorism.
Um.  It is?  Inescapably?  He must be playing with a different set of dots than I am, because no matter how I shuffle those dots around and connect them in my head, there is no way I can ever get "domestic terrorism" and "gay sex" to connect.  But don't worry, he will be happy to mansplain his off-this-planet conclusion!
Every time an HIV-infected male person has [unprotected] sex with another male person, it's essentially the same as plunging an infected heroin needle into his arm.
There, I fixed that for you.  Of course, it's still not true (HIV transmission is not *guaranteed* if one has unprotected sex with someone who has it, it's more of a Russian Roulette sort of thing) but it's at least less wrong.
He's passing on a potential death sentence, just as the Taliban seeks to do on a foreign battlefield.
Ok, so we're trying to draw a parallel between the Taliban and gay DEATHSEX.  Is it sad that I can honestly say I've seen weirder parallels drawn?  
It is because of the risk of HIV transmission that the FDA will not allow a male homosexual to donate blood if he has had sex with another male even one single solitary time since 1977. The second riskiest behavior for HIV infection is injection drug use.
Hopefully not for much longer, what with the whole science-doesn't-support-that thing.  But you go ahead and uncritically accept the Government Knows Best attitude about it, since it's convenient for your argument.
Now if gays are allowed into the military, they will be inevitably be put in battlefield situations where donated blood from soldiers may be necessary to save the lives of wounded comrades. An HIV-infected American soldier whose blood is used in those circumstances may very well condemn his fellow soldier to death rather than save his life.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure the military screens entrants, including a medical exam, and I'd imagine HIV is on the list of disqualifiers for military service.  A quick google confirms my suspicions in all of 3 clicks and 20 seconds, so the score for fact-checking stands at Bryan Fischer: 0, Random Blogger: 1.  Also, my military-medical knowledge is fairly limited, but I'm gonna go out on a limb here and speculate that the odds of needing an in-the-field, direct transfusion from one soldier to another are vanishingly small in this day and age.  Combine that with the odds of an active-duty soldier having HIV in the first place, and this scary scenario is laughably unlikely.
If open homosexuals are allowed into the United States military, the Taliban won't need to plant dirty needles to infect our soldiers with HIV. Our own soldiers will take care of that for them.
Oh, for the love of...I seem to recall saying this in my last post, and I know I said it on Twitter earlier, but it seems I need to say it again: THIS IS NOT ABOUT *ALLOWING* LGBs INTO THE MILITARY.  THEY ARE ALREADY THERE.  Kthx.

But I was right.  He's playing with a very different set of dots than I am, since his set apparently includes dots like GAY SEX IS DEATHSEX and THERE ARE NO GAYS IN THE MILITARY UNLESS WE LET THEM IN and ALL GAYS HAVE HIV BECAUSE THEY'RE HAVING GAY DEATHSEX.  Can we just send Fischer and Beck off to rave at each other in a dark corner somewhere away from the rest of us, please?


Blogswarm: Revise the FDA's Ban On Gay Men Giving Blood

Currently, the FDA bans gay and bisexual men (and any other man who has had sex with men [MSM]) from giving blood.  If a man has had sex with another man even once since 1977, he is permanently disqualified from donating blood.  The ban is a relic of the AIDS panic of the 80's, when HIV/AIDS was "the gay disease", couldn't be tested for reliably, etc.  It made sense then.  But now?  Now, HIV affects every demographic.  Now, it can be detected by testing within 2 weeks of exposure.  And yet the rules are still such that if a man once had protected sex with another man 30 years ago, he will never be allowed to donate blood, while a man who has had sex with a known HIV-positive woman is only deferred for a year, after which he may donate blood again.  This is anti-gay (and apparently is sometimes used as anti-trans, depending on the personnel at a given blood center) discrimination, pure and simple, and it needs to go away. 

Right now, the FDA is convening a committee on whether or not to reconsider the ban.  They are open to public comments.  Please, email Dr. Holmberg - jerry.holmberg@hhs.gov - to encourage the committee to replace the ban with a policy grounded in science in fact, rather than discrimination.  Additional talking points and a form letter can be found here, if you want to use that.

Please email!!

Lacy-Drawered, Limp-Wristed, Will Still Kick Your Ass.

Arizona, I'm sorry.  I've tried to be patient.  But in the last two years, you gave us McCain, two separate towns have had freakouts over showing PoC on murals, you've started constructing a tent city in the desert in anticipation of all the "illegals" you're going to round up under your new Show Me Your Papers law, and now Yuma's mayor let a heaping bucket of fail fall out of his mouth during Memorial Day Weekend, on DADT.  I may have to start making "let 'em secede, no really, please!" jokes about you the way I used to about Texas.*

So what did Mayor Al Krieger say, about allowing LGBs to serve openly in the military?
“I cannot believe a bunch of lacey-drawered, limp-wristed people could do what those men have done in the past...We need solid, strong men to fight those battles.  Not pacifists.”
...Yeeeeah.  This is so stultifyingly full of fail, I hardly know where to begin.  With the erasure of women in the military ("We need solid, strong men")?  With the refusal to acknowledge that there are already LGBs serving, there have been LGBs serving throughout our military's history, that they were some of the "solid, strong men" fighting our nation's battles, they just couldn't do it openly?  With the assumption, founded on absolutely, utterly nothing, that gay=pacifist?  With the "lacy-drawered, limp-wristed" shit, drawing on ridiculous and offensive stereotypes a few decades old which have never, ever been true across the board?  With the erasure of lesbians - because going by the stereotypes this jackhole seems to be working from, gay men aren't capable of fighting, but lesbians are supposed to be as solid and strong as any man, and twice as scary?

Oh, and for a megafail bonus round, Mayor Krieger defended his statement by invoking the names of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, claiming that they would have backed him up so it's ok to be an offensive shithead who's wrong about everything.

Can we please stop acting like DADT is somehow going to "let gays into" the military?  LGB servicemembers are already serving in the military.  There are "lacy-drawered, limp-wristed" gay men already fighting these battles, so that a fuckwit like Mayor Krieger can run his mouth and denigrate the very people who have given, are giving, will give their lives for this country we share.  

You can let Mayor Dipshit know what you think of his asshattery by emailing him at Alan.Krieger@YumaAz.gov

*I know not all Arizonans are on board with their state's terrible policies of late; this doesn't change the fact that AZ is earning a metric shit-ton of horrid publicity lately, and yeah, I'm going to joke about it from time to time.


It's Personal.

There's a cop-out I see come up fairly often, among homophobes, that I'm feeling the need to address.  Because they don't want to be rightfully seen as the hateful fucks they are, they try to "soften" it - you all know the drill.  "Love the sinner, hate the sin," and all that crap.  I see that one a lot.  But there's another one I see a lot, too.  "It's nothing personal."  It's a variant on LTS,HTS.  "It's nothing personal; I don't have a problem with you as a person, I just can't support your lifestyle."  That's one I heard a couple of times in that one awful class period, the purported separation of hate for a person from hate for their sexual orientation.

And it is, flatly, pure Grade-A bullshit.

To anyone who has ever said this - for example, Oklahoma City Councilman Brian Walters, whose quote of "It's not personal. I don't hate these people. It's just a moral conviction; I cannot support them" inspired this post - let me say it simply so you can never say you misunderstood.

This is never not personal.

It cannot ever be not personal.

For you, sitting high on your good fortune to be born with a sexual orientation widely accepted and promoted by the culture you live in, it's not personal.  For you, who has never been challenged or threatened or had people insist that you "chose" to love who you love, it's not personal.  For you, who never faced being thrown out of your home and family, harassed, taunted, even murdered for loving who you love, it can be not personal.  For you, to whom the laws provide support and encouragement in your establishment of a family, it can be not personal.  For you, who have never been accused of "shoving your preferences in other peoples' faces" for the simple act of holding hands, or kissing your partner on the cheek, or even just talking with coworkers about going to the movies with your partner over the weekend, it can be not personal.

But for those of us who are queer in one flavor or another, it is always, inevitably, unshakably personal.  You are not, with your half-masked hateful words, attacking some nebulous, hypothetical "lifestyle".  You are attacking us.  You are telling me that the love I felt for my ex-girlfriend wasn't real, or was somehow bad, wrong, deviant, immoral, etc.  You are telling the children of LGB parents that their moms or dads are bad people.  You cannot speak out against such a core identity as who one loves and partners with, without speaking out against the people who hold that identity.  These are not separate or separable things.  Yes, we are more than just sexual orientation, but that orientation forms a deep and abiding part of the whole, and you cannot extract it to attack without hitting the person around it, too.

So please.  Stop trying to pretend you'd like us as people if only we wouldn't be so very gay at you.  If you're going to hate us, be honest and hate us.  The compassionate face you try to put on it is not compassionate at all, and it's not fooling anybody. 


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