Better To Desecrate It Than Remove It?

A mayor in Tennessee has found a...unique way to respond to a potential lawsuit against the cross displayed on his town's water tower: he had one of the arms of the cross removed.  (image via)

A white water-tower against blue sky, painted with the town's name of "WHITEVILLE", with a white cross with one horizontal arm missing atop the tower
This is, mind you, the mayor who called Freedom from Religion Foundation, who was handling the lawsuit against the town on behalf of an anonymous resident who complained about it, "terrorists" for attempting to force the town to remain religiously neutral. 

His decision to remove one arm is intended to satisfy the legal requirement - it's no longer technically a cross, just an odd nightstick-shaped thing (which, given the increasing police power/abuse of power in this country, is probably a chillingly appropriate symbol) - while disobeying in spirit, as the three-armed un-cross serves as a reminder of what it used to be.  His comments on removing one arm of the cross reiterated the accusation of "terrorist!" against FFRF and their anonymous client, also calling them "cowardly" and "shameful".

The lawsuit and the decision to desecrate the cross on the water tower to avoid removing it has sparked, in turn, a movement among the people in the town to put crosses in their yards, to "[symbolize] that we as a community still have faith. Just because you don't believe doesn't mean we don't."  They say you can't go down a street in the town without seeing at least two crosses.

I hear that and all I can think is, who are the real terrorists now, if we're going to use that kind of language?  These people are so invested in their public display of their faith, so convinced of their religion's supremacy, that they feel the need to put hundreds of crosses around town and make their town as unwelcoming as possible for anyone who's not a Christian - or even those who are Christian but prefer not to make gaudy display of it as a political point. 

I think their own Bible says it better than I can (Matthew 6:5-6, New International Version):
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."


Not With A Bang, But A Whimper: How California's local governments' "moderate" response to #OWS might be more dangerous to the movement than outright crackdowns

In Oakland, after the police used tear gas and rubber bullets on Occupy protesters, the mayor released a statement (PDF) apologizing for the excessive force and listing a "compromise" position which would ostensibly allow Occupy to continue without police opposition - so long as nobody stayed overnight.

The San Francisco mayor's office says he supports the protests but is citing "health concerns" and saying they can't stay much longer.

Fresno justifies their intent to remove Occupy protesters because they "failed to meet permit requirements" such as "limiting the gathering to about 20 people" along with, predictably, not staying overnight.

I read these stories and I wonder if, in a way, California's generally-liberal nature is actually working *against* the Occupy movements here.  This is California, we love us a good protest, but do it quietly and only during park hours with a small number of people, if you please.

Oakland's "no camping" stance is ridiculous because...err, you do realize that the point of Occupy is to, well...occupy?  To take over and hold a space in the name of the people, as a visible community together against oligarchic oppression?  "Only during daylight hours" completely fails to address this.  Without the community, without the living-together-encampments, Occupy is just another Tea Party.

San Francisco's "okay but not too much longer" stance misses the point again: an Occupy that lasts a couple weeks then goes home is just a blip on the radar; to do the work that Occupy is trying to do, it needs to make it clear that it's not just a passing fad, that it's a serious movement that will not just go away and cannot just be ignored.  It's taken nearly two months for #OWS to gain even the piddly amount of mainstream media coverage it's gotten.  It would have been no coverage at all if they'd gone home after a week or two.

Fresno's complaint about the protest being too big for a permit is basically a gentle request to defang your own movement; the point of the Occupy protests is to show a massive display of solidarity.  To demonstrate the 99% principle, to show that we really do outnumber the 1%.  Making sure only 20 people show up sort of defeats that purpose.

And that's the problem with these demands.  They are so reasonable on the surface and designed to appeal to the moderate person's sense of compromise, but to comply with them would strip the essential meaning from the Occupy protests.  They would see them reduced to a useless, token gesture, easily ignored and dismissed.  But because they're framed as moderate, common-sense compromises, to reject them and continue to preserve the core principles of the Occupy movement leaves it open to being painted as "radicals" who refused to negotiate with the authorities.  Bad PR, and fodder for mainstream media attempts to discredit the movement - "We tried to negotiate, but those hippies wouldn't budge!"  And I am very much afraid that disregarding the pseudo-reasonable demands of local governments who are trying to compromise the movement into irrelevancy will set the stage for ever more violent clashes as they use that refusal as justification for "extreme" tactics out of "necessity".

I hope - and I think most likely it will happen - that the Occupy movements negotiating with the local governments stay true to their principles and refuse to conform to "acceptable" levels of protest.  But I'm concerned what that refusal might do to the general representation and public opinion of Occupy and that it might provoke further police violence.  And I'm not at all sure which path is best, in the end.



How Not To Take Criticism: Ana of Lipsticks and Lightsabers gives us another lesson

I've been staying quiet about the Team Pink Eye action going on in the beauty blogosphere this month - the premise is, a bunch of beauty bloggers have created a "team" on Susan G Komen for the Cure's fundraising website, and each week a half-dozen bloggers post pink makeup looks and host giveaways of pink products (sure hope you like pink, the Official Color of Cancerous Boobies!), which readers can enter to win by donating $5 via the Team Pink Eye page.

I've expressed my opinion of Komen here before.  Between their suing for the cure and ignoring the fact that their commissioned perfume contains toxins shown to increase one's chances of getting breast cancer, I'm not a big fan.  So every "Yay Team Pink Eye" post that's crossed my reader this month has made me grit my teeth.  But I just ignored it, because beauty blogs tend to be pretty apolitical spaces and you'll get jumped on and/or banned for asking for critical thinking before they post (I've had this happen, back when I used to read Temptalia and called her out for promoting Ahava, a high-end beauty brand that advertises itself as based in Israel and using Dead Sea Minerals in their products, but which actually has its plant on Palestinian land and is using stolen resources to make their products - my comment was deleted, although she did eventually take the post down).

Until today, when Ana of Lipsticks and Lightsabers (no, I'm not giving her link traffic; google it if you want) tweeted her Team Pink Eye post by saying "Save the boobies!" and then following up with "Breasts are pretty much the best cause".

It was the follow-up tweet that got me.  I was ignoring the first one, but "Lol breasts are an awesome cause" was too much.  So I replied by saying "What about the people to whom the breasts are attached?  Are they a good cause?"

And oh, the defensive snark that provoked!  I had dared to question her sacred humor, and that is an affront not to be borne!  I had bingo inside of ten minutes - humorless feminist, it's a joke, obviously we all *know* X is bad so why can't we make jokes about it?, but we're doing it *for a good cause*!, etc.  Complete with several general tweets (ie, not @ me) saying "Wow, I guess some people don't know cancer=bad" and the true gem of the afternoon:

Two tweets from @JediAnastasia (edited to be read from top to bottom instead of reverse order), saying "I'm sure when people are dying from cancer they'll be really grateful we put a stop to the added funding from all those anti-feminist ... breast cancer campaigns and valued them all individually as entire people before they died."
So the message here is: as long as it's for a good cause, you can say and do whatever you want, and anyone who questions your methods obviously WANTS PEOPLE TO DIE.

The point, you are missing it.  Rather badly, in fact.  And my goodness, how terribly mature of you, to take one individual's disagreement with your tactics and publicly snark about it to all your other followers!  Hell, I was even trying to be actually educational, too, as opposed to just snarky.  Explaining how "it's a joke" is a terrible excuse, and neither "it's a joke" nor "but I'm doing it for a good cause!" insulates you from criticism.

Please, people of the internet, take note of several points:
  • Intent is not magic.  Doing something shitty for a good cause does not make it not a shitty thing to do anymore.  See: all criticism of PETA ever.
  • "It's a joke!" does not work as magical criticism-deflecting Kevlar, either.  Not all jokes are funny.
  • How about, to make it simple, we'll just say: YOU ARE NEVER, EVER IMMUNE TO CRITICISM.  No matter how funny you think you're being, or what cause you're doing it for, or how apolitical you think you/your space are.  
It makes it really hard to inhabit and enjoy the super-sparkly magic world of makeup blogging, when people do shitty things and then expect it to be okay because LOL JOKING.  You don't exist in a vacuum.  Your blogs, your tweets, do not exist in a vacuum.  Please, people on the internet, stop insisting that they do.


"Awareness" Has Officially Jumped The Shark

At this point, campaigning for breast cancer "awareness" is kind of like asking people in America if they've ever heard of that one Jesus dude.  A veritable sea of pinkwashing, ribbons, and Susan G. "Only we can use the phrase "For the Cure" and we will spend your donations suing everyone else who tries no matter what disease they're focused on curing - oh and our specially-commissioned perfume contains a toxin known to increase one's risk of breast cancer but we don't give a shit" Komen floods us every October.  You would have to be living under a rock in the ass-crack of nowhere to be unaware of breast cancer by now.

Even so, there are less-offensive and -annoying ways to go about promoting "awareness" at which I will only roll my eyes... and then there are...well...this:

A kiosk in a shopping mall, displaying tote bags, shirts, and an assortment of other items, with pink heart-shaped balloons tied at each corner and a sign across the top saying "BOOBIES ROCK" flanked by pink ribbons
In case you can't see the sign clearly, here:

A close-up crop of the sign from the previous image, reading "BOOBIES ROCK for breast cancer awareness"

My mom and I went to the mall yesterday - thank you for buying me a massage, lunch, and a bottle of delicious alcohol, Mom! - and as we were meandering in the general direction of the entrance to leave, she said "Oh. My. God." and stopped.  So I looked where she was looking, and dead ahead of us was this monstrosity of a kiosk.  I grabbed my phone and started snapping pics of this awful piece of awfulness as we prowled around the kiosk, taking in the full force of the WTF on display.  Because lest you think that the name of the kiosk is the worst part, let me reassure you: we have only just begun our tour of this thing.

A black t-shirt hanging on the kiosk, reading "i [heart] motorboating" in large print and beneath it in small print "for breast cancer awareness"
For the blissfully ignorant, "motorboating" refers to shoving one's face between someone's breasts and shaking it back and forth while making "pbbbbbbbth" noises.  Fucked if I can figure out *why* you would do this, though.  I think it's supposed to be funny?  o.0

But I had no idea motorboating also had magical powers of increasing awareness of breast cancer!  Magical, I say!  Motorboat for breast cancer awareness!  Shoving your face into someone's cleavage and making silly noises is the best way to make them aware of the potential for cancer lurking there! 

Unless of course it's just a eyeroll-inducing lol-tastic excuse to give your motorboating jokes a sheer veil of legitimacy. 

A black can-cozy emblazoned with the main logo for "BOOBIES ROCK! for breast cancer awareness", with pink sparkly tinsel coming out of the top
This was the main logo.  There were stacks of t-shirts with this design, wristbands, tote bags, cup-cozies, everything. 

I did a little research on "Boobies Rock" before I started writing this.  It's apparently a company that purports to be, in essence, marketing breast cancer "awareness" (Fuck it, I'm going to make this post into a drinking game.  Take a shot every time I say "awareness".  With luck, I'll pass out before I finish.) to the younger crowd.  Their Facebook is full of event invites to trendy cocktail parties "for the cause", and their mission statement, taken from their blog, reads...
Our mission is simple; to create awareness through fun, fashionable and humorous clothing and accessories.
Which I'm pretty sure translates to "Hey, we have an excuse to make boob jokes on t-shirts because AWARENESS you guys!"  (take a shot)

Another hanging black t-shirt, this one reading "i [heart] hooters!" in large print, and in small print underneath "that's why I support breast cancer awareness"
Support breast cancer awareness (take a shot) because you like hooters, not because you give a shit about people struggling for their lives against a deadly disease!  That's not dehumanizing at all!

A red t-shirt with the Kool-Aid jug guy and text reading "Nice Jugs!" 
This one didn't even have word fucking one about cancer that I could see - there's a little black bar that had some kind of text but it's tiny and unreadable, you'd basically have to stick your face to someone's torso to read it if it were on a person.  The AWARENESS (take a shot) excuse is wearing away, I see.  And the Kool-Aid guy, really?  Please stop mining my childhood for your shitty t-shirts.

The piece de resistance: a black vinyl tote bag with a big pink-and-white ribbon, with pink and white text overlaying it reading "ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!"
So: boob joke, boob joke, boob joke, boobies! - and the one piece of merchandise that seems to be aimed at THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM ALL THIS AWARENESS (take a shot) STUFF IS DONE, you know, breast cancer sufferers/survivors, REMEMBER THEM?  Yeah, the people this cause is supposedly supporting and helping?  Lol, I know, it's so hard to remember PEOPLE when you've got BOOBIES on the brain.  All the tiny violins for you.  All of them.  ANYWAY!  The *one piece* of this crap that is actually *about* people directly affected by the disease you're cracking boobie jokes about...

...is a condescending piece of The Secret horseshit.

I'm not particularly surprised, but I am absolutely appalled.

Attitude is Everything?  That's the "encouraging" message you want to send to those struggling with a deadly disease?  Think Positive! while you're racing time to see if the treatment can kill the cancer before the cancer kills you.  Attitude is Everything! so I guess if you are going broke from medical expenses you just gotta look on the bright side and everything will be better.  What the cockjuggling fuck is this shit?

I will say that, flipping through their FB page, I see that they donate some of their profits (there's no specifics about how much or what percent of their income from sales is going to these donations) to a number of local- and state-based orgs who are focused on patient support, increasing access to quality care, etc.  And these are absolutely good orgs, not the "AWARENESS" (take a shot) kind.  So that's a definite plus.

But when you're making the money you donate by selling boob-joke shirts that completely eliminate the person in favor of LOL BOOBIEZ, I have to question whether the funds raised are worth their social cost.  The more people see of this "Save the TaTas" type of crap, the more we turn breast cancer into a boob joke instead of a serious illness.  The more we go "lol boobiez" the less we pay attention to the environmental causes and the less we focus on trying to hold accountable those whose products and manufacturing techniques contribute toxins that raise the incidence of breast cancer, even as they slap pink ribbons on their packaging for one month out of the year and reap the benefits of increased positive consumer regard.  The more we think of breast cancer as threatening the all-important titties instead of threatening people's lives, the harder we make things for survivors who have had to have partial or total mastectomies to save their lives.

Because sometimes, with this disease, you have to lose the breasts to save the person.  Because the person's life is more important than their breasts.  And if you can't figure out how to raise money without turning that priority order around, it's probably better for everyone if you just stay out of breast cancer awareness movements altogether.

(take a shot)


Dear Personal Development/Life Coaching Community: We Need To Talk.


Look, I like y'all, I really generally do.  I've found many awesome people, I've learned a lot, I've developed the tools to manage a lot of my depression and anxiety through tweaking stuff I picked up from personal development blogs and coaches.  I firmly believe that everyone deserves to live their best life, filled with passion and energy and self-actualization and creativity and everything else you teach.

But then, I run across something like this. [TW on linked article for ableism; comments actually are fairly safe to read, plenty of people calling it out]

To an extent, I understand.  Not everyone has the resources, physically, emotionally, or financially, to take on the extra struggles of raising a child with a disability - even if the only issue is trying to wrangle the system into giving your child the proper consideration, care, and accommodations they need.  It's rough.  It's different than raising a non-disabled child.  And not everyone can do that.  I do understand that, and I respect a person's knowing their limits and making decisions based on that knowledge.


If your reasoning for not wanting to keep your baby if it turns out to have a disability is "I don't want to raise a child who will probably never be independent or contribute to the world/my vision of my future is of strong, healthy children, not limited in what they can do" (that's an almost-direct quote from the linked article, btw), YOU HAVE A SERIOUS ABLEISM PROBLEM TO CONFRONT.

You are making a choice about your potential future child based on a STEREOTYPE.  A nasty, ableist stereotype of disabled people as non-contributing burdens to society, forever living with their parents, needing constant caretaking.  Some people with disabilities are like that.  Many more are not.  Someone's diagnosis at birth does not tell you where on the normative-functionality spectrum they will fall.  If you want to talk about how you're "being honest with yourself" and "honestly assessing your capabilities", how about you try also being honest about what the potential challenges and difficulties might be.  Y'know.  Do some research and make a decision based on facts instead of "icky disabled people I don't want one of those in my family". 

Between guilt-based "pay what you can (oh but there's a minimum and I'm going to shame you for not being able to pay more than that)" sales, abuse of the word "gypsy" to mean "adventuresome bohemian hipster" (I'm looking at you, Gypsy Love Warrior), and now this, well...like I said, I love y'all, but I'm not sure I can keep this up.  I would like to think that a group of people ostensibly dedicated to self-improvement and self-reflection would be self-aware enough to not fuck shit up like this, but y'all are not giving me a lot of hope.


Related Posts with Thumbnails