On PantheaCon and "Respectful Dialogue"

[Continued TW for transmisogyny, misgendering, genital-essentialism, and for the love of all the gods do not read the comments anywhere without a stiff drink handy.  Possibly also some tranquilizers.]

I wrote a post about the genital-essentialist Dianic Wiccan elder Z. Budapest's "for genetic women only" ritual at PantheaCon 2012 last week, which was apparently one of the first-off-the-mark posts about the incident.  In following the other posts and commentaries that have run like wildfire through the pagan blogosphere in the week following, I have encountered again and again and again calls for "calm/peaceful/respectful dialogue", asking us all to treat this as a teachable moment, a learning experience, asking us to "work from love" and seek healing for our community.

The problem with that is that we are responding to an act of emotional violence - that it is psychic and verbal violence, rather than physical, does not change the violent nature of the act - that was in no way calm, respectful, peaceful, from love, or seeking healing.  (Calling trans women "transies" and describing them as "men who just won't respect women's boundaries" is pretty much the fucking definition of not-respectful.)

So why is it incumbent upon trans women and their allies to "work from love" and "engage in respectful dialogue" to "bring healing to our community"?  Why is it unacceptable to be visibly, openly angry at this bigotry on display from one of our community elders?  To quote from one of my favorite writers: "When someone engages in divisive behavior, any resulting division is that person's responsibility."  Z. Budapest engaged - repeatedly! - in the divisive behavior of excluding and misgendering trans women, an act which causes explicit mental, emotional, and spiritual harm*.  Any resulting division in the community, then, is her responsibility (and to a lesser degree, her supporters').

So why is there so much tone-policing going on in the form of these calls for "respectful dialogue"?

I am not a Wiccan, and so I do not adhere strictly to their notions of dualistic balance in things.  But I do feel that this is a situation that is terribly imbalanced.  Anger is a valid response, too, just as valid as any calm, reasoned, respectful choice to engage in dialogue, and yet it is being rejected as "making things worse", in favor of framing respectful dialogue as the One And Only True Way to make any progress on this issue.  To add one's voice to the repressive drumbeat of CALM RESPECTFUL DIALOGUE ONLY is to visit a second harm on those who have already been harmed - to add insult to injury, as it were - by saying, in essence, "You are not allowed to be angry at this violation of your right to feel safe in this community.  You are not allowed to be angry at the bigotry and hateful rhetoric this person and her supporters have used to exclude you.  If you want to participate in the conversation, you must choke down your anger, swallow the hurt, and gently, quietly, politely reply, educate, and dialogue with someone who has no interest in being educated or entering in mutually-respectful dialogue with you."

Because here's the thing: quietness and respect are not synonymous.  Z. Budapest may not have raised her voice when she read her statement to those who sat in silent witness on behalf of those excluded at this year's ritual, but that does not make her words respectful.  She may not have screamed in the face of a trans woman "YOU'RE A MAN AND I HATE YOU", when she posted her little transphobic screed in response to the uproar last year, but there was no respect in what she said.  So why, why on Earth are we expected to respond with respectful dialogue and education to someone who has shown no interest in reciprocating?

In particular, in going back through links to the various pieces I've read in preparation for hitting publish on this post, The Wild Hunt's continuing declaration of being "a place where all voices can be heard" struck me.    I respect that, as a large pan-pagan news blog, there's a natural desire to both be and appear neutral on contentious issues like this one.  But the problem with being "a place where all voices can be heard" is that, to be quite blunt, not all voices deserve to be heard.  When some voices are spreading misinformation and causing harm, they don't need to be heard.  To use a worn-out old example, if someone stomps on your foot, and you want to say "Ow that fucking hurt," does a counterpoint "No, it didn't!" really need to be heard, honored, and respected?

Productive dialogue is not always possible in every situation.  And indeed, it is a manifestation of privilege to insist that it should be.  As Sonneillion said on last week's post, we have HAD dialogue.  Tons of it.  Oodles of it.  An entire anthology, "Gender and Transgender in Modern Paganism".  A conference.  And this still happened again.  We are still having the same damn conversation, the same "dialogue" all over again.  It hasn't worked.  What's that saying, about doing the same thing over again and expecting different results?

Respectful dialogue is not possible, will not be possible, until those who have caused this divisiveness in our community, and those who have supported and defended them in doing so, are willing to back down and listen, which they have shown no signs of.

Respect is earned.  Dialogue is not an obligation on the part of the oppressed.  If the pagan community wants respectful dialogue, hold the oppressors accountable to that standard first.

*I have spent the past week and a half watching an acquaintance of mine (you know, that awkward grey space where you're mutual followers on Twitter and Tumblr and have spoken briefly about inconsequential things but never really interacted more directly, even though you actually like the person and think you might be able to be friends), a pagan trans woman, hurting over this.  I have watched her speak on her blog about how psychically hurt and emotionally weary she is, and how much harm this exclusionary bullshit has done to her, while my heart has ached in sympathy for her pain.  So anyone who wants to argue that this kind of public misgendering and hateful statements isn't *really* harmful, or isn't *really* violence, can GTFO.


South Dakota Requires Doctors Be Psychic, Divine Patient's Future Before Providing Abortion Services

Not quite - not yet, anyway - but that's pretty much where they're going.  (And I wanted to have fun with an Onion-style headline, so nyah.)

Remember that terrible South Dakota law, which was injunctioned (can that be a verb?) almost as soon as it passed, that required people seeking abortions to receive biased "counseling" from unlicensed pseudo-clinics renowned for their lies, misinformation, and manipulative tactics?

Well, they're amending it this session, and there's slightly-less-worse news, and ridiculous news.

The slightly-less-worse is that they're implementing a requirement that the counselors people will be forced to see at crisis pregnancy centers be licensed.  So at the very least, it won't just be a random volunteer spending an hour telling the pregnant person they're going to Hell and they need to go live with a good Christian family and give their baby up for adoption.  It'll be a licensed counselor condescending to and shaming them for choosing not to continue their pregnancy!  Isn't that much better?

The flat-out ridiculous is the whole new section on pre-abortion physician counseling.  The pregnant person must have a consultation appointment with the doctor who will be doing the abortion, and the doctor must, according to the new amendment to the law, probe into their religious beliefs and personal views, their mental health conditions, and precisely how difficult they found the decision to abort, in order to create a profile of "risk factors for adverse psychological reaction" (one of which is simply "being under the age of 22", for bonus age discrimination points).  Maybe it's just me, but I really don't expect to have to explain my theosophy on the universe when I go to the doctor to access a medical procedure, you know?  The whole thing sets up a nearly-impossible standard of attitude and history for people seeking abortions to meet.  Now, not only do you need to be pregnant and not want to be, and also receive counseling, you need to disclose your religious beliefs, and convince your doctor that it was totally an easy decision, in order to "qualify".

Oh, and all this information?  Goes on a form that is to be entered into the person's permanent medical record.  Cause I know I totally want details on my religion and decision-making process to be part of my medical records.  That's absolutely where it all belongs.  Right?

It's like South Dakota is taking the usual paternalism of anti-choice ideology and turning it up to 11.  Now your doctor is supposed to discourage you from getting an abortion, if you so much as found the decision hard to make.  Have these people ever lived?  Because life is full of difficult decisions, and a decision being a hard one to make doesn't necessarily make it wrong.  Why is it so impossible to treat pregnant people as though they are capable of making their own decisions without the intervention of multiple people pointing out every possible downfall and flaw of what they've chosen to do?  You cannot swaddle and coddle people from every possible consequence of their choices, and for a party that regularly decries "nanny-state"-ism, this is the absolute epitome of that kind of intrusive "caretaking" from the government.

Or in other words, it is the ultimate in concern-trolling.  "Here, let's make absolutely certain you're not in any way ever going to regret this, by putting eight billion onerous burdens on you and making you jump through a dozen hoops at every turn, just to make sure you've really thought about it and are really, really, really, really, really, really, really sure that this is what you want."

Hence why I said, in the title, that it won't be long before the GOP is trying to demand that doctors peer into the future and know for sure that an abortion won't in any way negatively impact the pregnant person's life, before providing services to them.  Because gods forbid people be free to make their own mistakes or hard choices, if those mistakes or hard choices include exercising control over their reproductive lives.  That just wouldn't be Freedom.


When Even Liberty Counsel is Against Your School Prayer Bill, You're Doing Something Wrong

You know who you pretty much never, ever, ever see come down on the same side of an issue?  The ACLU and Matt Staver's Liberty Counsel, one of the major conservative/Christian law firms that is often seen involving itself in gay rights and abortion issues.

And yet here they are, both aligned on the "please don't do this" side of a Florida bill designed to allow prayer in schools, even at mandatory events.  Admittedly, for different reasons - Liberty Counsel is taking the pragmatic approach of "You do realize you're going to get sued the instant this is implemented, right?  And you're probably going to lose," while the ACLU is taking the ideological approach of "This is just a shitty idea, remember that whole church/state issue?"  But it's still pretty funny to see Liberty Counsel agreeing with the ACLU on anything, no matter the reason.

The text of the bill (PDF) shows that legislators are trying to work it around to be Constitutionally-defensible from a "student's rights" angle.  It specifically permits students only to "deliver an inspirational message" during any student-run section of any school event, and specifically disallows school faculty from being involved in the determination to give a message, choice of student to give the message, or the content of the message.  It's the same tactic that has been tried in cases over graduation prayers - if the prayer is delivered by the student, does that make it not a state-sponsored or -endorsed message, even if it's happening at a state-sponsored event like graduation?  What about the individual student's First Amendment rights to free speech?  The answer from the courts has been mixed - it's been said for certain that school officials cannot choose a student specifically to give a religious message, although a student chosen to speak for other reasons (like a valedictorian, chosen for their GPA) may, in some jurisdictions, include religious content in their speech, so long as it's non-proselytizing or non-sectarian in nature (and rulings on that restriction vary by jurisdiction as well).  When the courts consider cases like this, another highly relevant factor is whether it's taking place at a mandatory or optional event.

Since this bill doesn't specify, which leaves the door open to prayers at student-run parts of mandatory events, it leaves them wide open for lawsuits about proselytizing in schools.  Even if it's students choosing to give public prayers, and students doing the speaking, if it's done at a mandatory event like, say, an elementary school assembly, it's not okay.

And when even the Liberty Counsel and also the Florida Family Council (a Focus on Your Own Damn Family affiliate) recognize that this shit won't fly, it's time to put down the Bible and back away from the education bills.  And preferably retire from lawmaking entirely.  Although that part is probably just me.


I hear that shoe pinches, when you put it on the other foot.

Or, that awkward moment when a member of a social group which doesn't give a shit who feels marginalized or excluded when they insist their beliefs be observed everywhere, suddenly finds himself feeling marginalized by having to make room for someone else's beliefs.

Via a friend of mine on tumblr, I found this story about a Christian high school student who's Very Upset Indeed that, as part of a multicultural music concert, the school choir is singing a song penned by a Muslim composer that includes the phrase "There is no truth but Allah".

It's not like it's the only song in the concert lineup that references religion, mind you.  They're also singing, for example, a Christian song called "Prayer of the Children", which has lines like "Jesus, help me to see the morning light of one more day".  Nor is the student's participation required; it's an after-school activity for no academic credit, so participating in the concert or not isn't going to affect his grades or anything.  But he was still so upset at the inclusion of a Muslim song in the program that he quit in protest.

His quote to the local news is entertainingly honest:
This is worshipping another God, and even worshipping another prophet … I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth.
Except that you're not attending a Christian school, dude.  I looked up the high school in question, and it's a county-run public high school.  So this is nowhere near analogous to "making a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth".  The fact that you're comparing it to that is a manifestation of your religious privilege, which makes you assume that everything in the world around you is de facto Christian until specified otherwise.  Not to damage your delicate worldview or anything, but it's not.  The school choir at a public school is not a Christian choir, even if some, many, or even all of its members are Christians.  That's sort of how public school works in this country.

I can't help but compare this self-righteous jackass to the recent situation with Jessica Ahlquist, the atheist teen who went to court to have her high school remove their giant "school prayer" banner, and who received rape and death threats, people threatening her family, and her fellow students threatening to jump her at school, for her trouble.  These threats all came from "Christians" who were so angry that she wasn't okay with having a Christian prayer in her face all day at school that they felt it was okay to threaten personal violence.  And yet the moment they have to make room for someone else's beliefs to take a tiny sliver of the spotlight, they want to whine and cry exclusion and quit the club in protest.

Really, people?  Really?

If you want religious content in school settings, then you need to be prepared for more religious content than just your own.  And if you're not okay with that, then maybe you all owe a fucking HUGE apology to Ms. Ahlquist and her family for subjecting her to such hate over doing the same thing you're supporting this boy in doing.


How Are We Any Different? On The Continuing Trans*Fail at PantheaCon

This post deals with the ongoing trans exclusion by Z. Budapest in official con-sponsored rituals at PantheaCon.  Material on last year's issues can be found here.  This is to address this year's ritual and various responses surrounding it.  [TW: transmisogyny, misgendering trans women, genital-essentialism]

The broader pagan community likes to think we are so much better than other religions when it comes to openness and acceptance and tolerance.  It comes naturally out of being a loose conglomerate of vastly varying traditions and faiths, I think, lumped all together under a big umbrella for convenience (and because we do share some underlying traits).  We have to be tolerant and accepting and open, because how else could you have Asatruar and Dianic Wiccans and Gardnerian Wiccans and Chaos magicians and Satanist witches and literally dozens and dozens of other named traditions, not to mention those of us with no trad affiliation at all, all together under the same banner and generic name?  We talk a good game and feel smugly superior to those closed-minded others - usually Christians, whether we say so specifically or not - who aren't quite so enlightened as we fancy ourselves to be.

And yet we are also a community which, at one of the biggest annual gatherings, hosts a ritual/permits a ritual to be hosted and publicized - and then defends having done so - which purports to be about "healing for all women", while specifically being for cis women only.

Anyone else seeing a huge fucking disconnect there?

The relevant ritual this year was "The Sacred Body of Woman (Self-Blessing)" (link goes to PDF of the official PantheaCon 2012 program; event listing is on page 40), led by Z. Budapest, founder of the Dianic Wicca tradition.  Dianic Wicca is Goddess-focused, in contrast to classical Wicca's duotheistic God-and-Goddess approach, and is practiced almost exclusively by women (certain offshoot traditions and some covens accept men as well).  So this ritual, naturally, specified that it was women-only - but not just women-only.  "Genetic" women only.  Which is basically just the newest iteration of the term "women-born-women", a relic of 2nd-wave feminism still in use by certain groups of trans-exclusionary "radical" feminists (TERFs).

Of course, Words Mean Things, so some snarky part of me wonders if they were requiring chromosome test results before allowing people in.  That's really the only way you can tell a "genetic" woman for sure, and if you're going to use weird terminology, you should be expected to follow through on it, in my opinion.  (Why they refuse to use "cisgender" like the rest of the civilized gender-discussing world is beyond me.  Surely linguistic contortions shouldn't be necessary when there's a perfectly good, established term that means "woman assigned-female-at-birth", which is what all the "genetic women" and "women-born-women" bullshit is really intended to convey?)

At any rate, it certainly says a lot about what you believe regarding the gender of trans people - that is to say, that it's clear you don't believe them to be their actual gender, but view them as pretenders who are "really" still their assigned-at-birth sex, which is really fucking shitty of you - when you have a ritual titled "The Sacred Body of Woman", and which has as its described purpose "[honoring] the body of each and every woman present, the beauty and grace of the feminine form in all of her infinite variety" ...but you specifically exclude trans women from the rite.

It says very clearly that you don't feel their bodies are or deserve to be sacred in the same way as your precious cis bodies.  It says you don't think their bodies deserve to be honored alongside your own.  It says, most of all, that "the feminine form in all her infinite variety" is only ever cisgender, that you just plain don't count the bodies of trans women as being part of the infinite variety of the feminine form.

All of this is awful, cissexist, transphobic, misgendering, and truly shitty.

But you know what?  If you were holding a private ritual somewhere, I wouldn't actually bother you about it, believe it or not.  I probably wouldn't be friends with you, and I certainly wouldn't attend your ritual because I don't agree with your determinations of who counts as woman and who doesn't, but it wouldn't really be any of my business unless you asked for my opinion.

It is, however, an entirely different thing when you are holding a ritual at a large public conference that people have paid to attend.  You are holding your ritual in a space rented with money paid by attendees, on con time, listed as an official event in the con program.  To do that, and frame your ritual as a "celebration of women" with a footnote that says (*some restrictions apply) instead of saying outright that your ritual is a "celebration of cis women/cis womanhood", is very very very much not okay.

Z. Budapest argued last year, and likely will continue to argue this year, that it's a matter of "freedom of religion" and "freedom to practice our Dianic tradition/beliefs" to be allowed to exclude trans women from their women-only rituals.  (And I've already seen a good few responses today that take the "freedom of religion" line to defend this year's exclusion, so it's not just confined to her.)

In which case, I would like to know something: what exactly makes TERF-Dianics like Z. Budapest any better than fundies who use "Jesus said so" as a basis to exclude LGBT people from all kinds of spaces and social structures?  I opened this post by pointing out how we pagans like to think we're above that sort of shit, especially when it comes to modern social issues.  But when you have a well-known community elder misgendering trans women and barring them from rituals at a major pan-pagan conference, and then defending those actions based on "because our religion said so" - how is that any different, exactly?

It's not.  It is exactly the same fucking thing as owners/operators of various publicly-available services, for example, such as wedding venues or florists, refusing to do business with a wedding because the couple are the same gender and that violates their religious beliefs.  It's exactly the fucking same as pharmacists who deny certain medications to customers because it goes against their (religiously-informed) conscience.  Not in degree or severity, no - but the principle is exactly the same, that of excluding people based on religious reasons.

Nobody is saying TERF-Dianics suddenly have to be welcoming of trans women in every ritual they do, or that they have to rework their whole theology around "blood mysteries" and menstruation/birth as the defining signifier of womanhood.  Nobody is infringing on their religious freedom (much like nobody is actually infringing upon the Catholic Church's religious freedom in the recent contraception wars, despite aggrieved claims to the contrary).  They can have all the cissexist theology and exclusionary policies they want in their religion.  Knock yourselves out, kids.  

What we are saying is that such exclusionary policies have no place in a major, paid-entry community gathering like PantheaCon.

The other rationalization offered as a shield against community criticism has been the usual "penises are triggering (therefore trans women in the space would be triggering)" claim.  Which has several weak points.

Okay, first of all, some people do have triggers relating to certain genitalia.  Like this woman, for example, who wrote a letter-to-the-editor for a pagan news bureau detailing her history of abuse and how, if she had gone, and any women with penises had also been there, she would have had to leave.  Except that first of all, her phrasing regarding that struck me as being kind of fucked-up: "When we disrobed, if I had seen a penis I would not have been able to stay. Even today I can’t contemplate being naked with a male."  The fact that she's conflating a skyclad ritual with non- or pre-op trans women with "being naked with a male" makes it clear that she does not truly respect the gender of the women she repeatedly refers to as "my trans sisters".  Second of all, look, I sympathize with her hurting, I truly do.  I can't even imagine the trauma she must be dealing with.  But that trauma does not give you the right to pass trauma on to others, in the form of misgendering trans women just because you haven't managed to sort out that gender != genitalia.

My second issue with this defense is that there seems to be the assumption that "safe space" means "penis-free" space.  And I wonder, why is it that "safe [penis-free] space" for cis survivors of sexual violence is presumed to be more important than "safe [transphobia-free] space" for trans women, who may also be survivors of sexual violence and abuse and need the self-blessing and healing work that this ritual purported to offer?

Lastly, let's consider the phrase "genetic women".  It's obviously designed to exclude all trans women, not just pre- or non-op trans women.  Because, um...not all trans women have penises.  Some have had bottom surgery - some are years and years past surgery, and in a ritual-nudity setting you wouldn't have any idea what a given woman's history was.  But "genetic women" and the unspoken-but-clearly-heard, "women-born-women", doesn't take that into account at all.  Which pretty much puts the lie to the idea that this was ever about creating penis-free safe space for survivors, rather than just a rationalization for expressing Z. Budapest's documented trans-hate in a ritual setting.

This is something we should not tolerate in our community, and I am deeply disappointed that PantheaCon organizers gave the green light to another explicitly trans-exclusionary ritual this year, in light of last year's issues.  The theme for the con this year was "Unity in Diversity", as a nod to healing the wounds caused by events last year, making it doubly - or perhaps triply, or more - inappropriate to perpetuate the problem this way.  If you are inclined to send a comment to PantheaCon's organizers on this issue, they can be reached at feedback@pantheacon.com.  Please, if you do choose to contact them, be polite, simply explain that you don't feel anti-trans bigotry should be given official sanction in our community with official rituals at a paid event.

If we want to continue to claim the moral high ground, this is something we need to address.  Otherwise we are no different from the bigots who hide their bigotry behind a veil of "because God said so!" - we've just changed the name of the god.


The Religious Right are Very Concerned About Violations of the Separation of Church and State, Guys.

No, really, they are!  Stop laughing!  Why are you all giggle-snorting into your hands about this?

They really are!  It's just that they have a very special definition of what violates the separation of church and state, that's all.

The National Day of Prayer doesn't violate the separation of church and state.  Having "In God We Trust" as our national motto is totally cool.  The Lord's Prayer is generic enough not to violate the separation of church and state, and declaring the Year of the Bible is in no way endorsing a particular religion.

The Environmental Protection Agency partnering with Universal Studios to promote the movie based on Dr. Seuss's classic story The Lorax ("I speak for the trees!"), on the other hand, is an impermissible use of government funds to "[promote] a clear ideology that has a particular religious flavor to it," in clear violation of the separation of church and state, and that is absolutely unacceptable!

The only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from this - aside from "these people are fucking ridiculous", of course - is that they genuinely believe that they are entirely exempt from the concept of separation of church and state, but liberals aren't.  (This is also supported by their collective panty-wad over Obama quoting the Bible to support his economic policies at the Annual Prayer Breakfast a couple weeks ago, which they called "over the line", lol.)

D'you think their copy of the Constitution reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion other than fundamentalist conservative Christianity"?


Quote of the Day, Republican Irony Edition

Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, on the anti-contraception campaign right-wingers are currently waging, because the idea of women* having the ability to control their fertility and thus not be quite as subject to the dictates and power of the men around them scares the everloving fuckbubbles out of these people:
"In this country the government doesn't get to tell you or your organization what your religious views are – and they could well be minority views – but the Bill of Rights is designed to protect the minority from the will of the majority," McConnell said on CBS's "Face the Nation."





*clears throat*  I'm sorry, where was I?  Before I started laughing maniacally, I mean?

Mitch, ol' buddy ol' pal, I'm glad you said that - positively giddy! - because I am going to be referring back to this quote every. goddamn. time. some conservative asshat tries to further enshrine/defends the status of Christian dogma in/to the laws of this country (see: the marriage equality debate, personhood amendments).  "You can't do that!  Your very own Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, stood up to say that the Constitution is designed to protect the rights of the minority from the will of the majority!"  I will also quote you every time your party refuses to use the law to actually protect the actual minority from the will of the Christian-supremacists around them (see: violent anti-Muslim protests, the high school atheist who received rape and death threats for suing to have her school's giant prayer banner taken down).  

Oh, and by the way, in what fever dream is Christianity a "minority" needing protected from the will of the majority at this point in this country?  

If they all keep trying to out-hyperbole and out-hypocrite each other like this, we're going to reach some kind of horrible singularity, where it all becomes unstable and dissolves into a vortex of Faux News headlines forever.

Please, Republicans.  Don't entrap us all in a hypocrisy vortex.  That would be terribly rude of you.

*Women are not the only ones who will benefit from the rules around providing hormonal contraception; however, Republicans are not nearly so nuanced in their understanding of gender as to be aware of this, and at its core they are doing this for reasons of misogyny.


More Fun With We The People

Call me a glutton for punishment, but I do still occasionally sign petitions on the White House's We The People site - mostly for the frustratainment* value when I get silly non-responses like these:

On a petition calling on the White House to support changing the national motto back from "In God We Trust" to E Pluribus Unum (which was the de facto motto prior to the 1950's, McCarthyism, and Godless Commies as the Face of Evil), in order to promote actual inclusivity of all Americans over monotheistic-deistic-religious-supremacy:  "Lol shut up we only mention nonbelievers in speeches as a token acknowledgment, we aren't actually going to do anything to reflect that you are also Americans and that a religious motto referring to capital-G singular God might not represent the actual breadth of belief/non-belief in this country.  Hurrah for religion in the public square!"

On a petition calling on the IRS to reconsider automatic tax-exempt status for churches: "Lalala we can't hear you we like churches the end."

On a petition asking the White House to officially recognize the Occupy movement and acknowledge their grievances against corporate greed as legitimate: "Yeah whatever Obama mentioned you dirty hippies in a press conference, what more do you want?  BTW banks and financial sector are our BFFs and we made a video for you that helps spin our pandering to Wall Street more effectively."

On a petition against the overreaching "anti-piracy" internet suppression bills: "We have to protect the rights and innovations of businesses!  Individuals?  What are those?  Bipartisan!  All sides!  If you have a better idea, why don't you fix it yourself?"

Oh, Obama Administration.  Never change, you status-quo-loving bipartisan-browbeater you.  (Only kidding!  Please, dear gods, CHANGE.  Stop running the government you wish you had and start dealing with the realities of the government you do have!  Actually stand up for actual progressives!  Stop pandering to people who will never vote for you!)

Question for the audience:  Is there enough lol in the lolsobbiness to keep signing petitions and posting responses?  Or am I the only one finding these funny and I should stop boring you with them?  Yay, an excuse to play around with polls!

Should I keep signing petitions on We The People and reporting the results?

And if you ever want to bring a petition to my attention, please, feel free to email me (address in the sidebar) or @ me on Twitter, @WitchWords.

*As in, it would be frustrating, if I were taking it seriously/expecting actual progress from it.  But now that I've written it off as meaningless bread-and-circuses sideshow, it becomes entertaining in a lolsobby sort of way.


Ending Bullying Through Victim-Blaming (Bonus Poll Bomb!)

[TW: institutional gender-policing and gender-expression-policing in schools]

I would like everyone who has ever proposed or supported anything like this to take a deep breath and repeat after me:  The solution to bullying is not to force the victim to assimilate better.  The solution to bullying is to punish those who bully.

Prompted, this time, by a school district in Virginia that wants to add a section to their dress code for students, banning what news articles are referring to as "cross-gender clothing".  The actual language for it specifies clothing "that is not in keeping with a student's gender and causes a disruption and/or distracts others from the educational process or poses a health or safety concern."

The school board members who are proposing and supporting this transphobic bullshit are pretending it's a student-safety issue, citing "boys who wore feminine clothing" (the article doesn't actually say anything about the kids in question, whether they're cis boys who were cross-dressing or femme'ing, or trans girls being misgendered, or genderqueer individuals, or what; the "boys in feminine clothing" line is from the school board member, so I don't know how accurate a description it is) who apparently had to use a faculty restroom because they felt unsafe in the student bathrooms.

The solution to bullying is not to force the victim to assimilate better.  The solution to bullying is to punish those who bully.

There are two paths to ensuring student safety in this situation.  The school can either crack down on bullying and anti-trans* harassment among the student body (supporting the victims) or they can try to regulate away the trans* kids' gender expression so as not to make cis kids uncomfortable (supporting the bullies).  I think it's pretty clear which way is NOT how it should be done, y'know?  When your approach to student safety involves coddling the bigots and bullies and reprimanding/disciplining the victims for provoking the bullies' assaults, you are very much on the wrong side of things.  Case in point: the second comment in the comments thread following the linked article is by a person in support of the proposed rule basically saying that using violence to keep people in line with social expectations is totally normal: "People wanna be different and push society to accept them, sooner or later society will push back..just saying."  These are the people this rule would support, not the people who suffer violence or threats of violence at their hands.  (As a side note, DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS.  A couple of good ones are tucked in there, but mostly it's bigots showing their asses, and nobody needs to see that.)

Of course, I actually keep lol'ing a little bit at the way they're phrasing this shitty clause.  They repeatedly refer to "cross-gender" or "appropriate to the student's gender" or "in keeping with the student's gender".  Which, um.  If you're talking about an AMAB trans girl wearing a dress or something?  Is totally in keeping with her gender.  It's not in keeping with her assigned sex, which is what the school district is really referring to, but it is in keeping with her gender.  By doing this, the school is in fact trying to force her to wear clothes not in keeping with her gender.  The school district is trying to make themselves the arbiters of students' genders, when you come right down to it.

And out of curiosity, how are they going to define "appropriate to one's gender"?  That's a really subjective concept.  Some people believe that pants are inappropriate for girls.  Are we going to end up going back to the days when girls literally weren't allowed to wear pants to school?  (My mom has told me that it wasn't until she was in high school that girls were allowed to wear pants to school!)

This rule is a clusterfuck of cissexism, transphobia, and just sheer stupidity and ignorance.  So let's poll-bomb the news site!  Go here and vote "no", if you'd be so kind.  And let's hope that the school district sees reason and/or chooses to focus on the real issues of bullying at play in this situation, instead of trying to forcibly misgender trans* and gender-non-conforming kids under the banner of "student safety".


9th Circuit Rules Prop H8 Unconstitutional!

An animated gif from Babylon 5, a 90's sci-fi TV show, of a maniacally grinning man with very tall hair giggling and tapping his fingertips together in excitement
It will of course be appealed, and I'm not at all certain of SCOTUS doing the right thing on this issue, but it's pretty damn exciting that we're batting 2-for-2 so far!

Also, is it even possible for political orgs to celebrate a victory WITHOUT immediately tacking on a request for more of their supporters' money?  I've so far gotten "YAY VICTORY now give us money plz" emails from AFER, Freedom to Marry, and Courage Campaign, and I'm sure I'll see at least one or two more by the end of the day.  Can't we just enjoy the moment without being milked for more cash?

Bah.  Still going to enjoy the moment.  Prop 8 Trial Tracker has the text of the decision available here, if anyone wants to read it.

Karen Handel Resigns from Komen (Amid Copious Spin and Nonpologies)

The good news: Karen Handel, anti-choice politician and failed gubernatorial candidate-turned-VP of policy for Komen, has resigned.

The bad news: her resignation statement, which has been released, is a ridiculous batch of defensive spin and nonpologies, and there's no hint that Komen, as an org, has actually learned a single damn thing from this whole sordid affair.
However, Komen’s decision to change its granting strategy and exit the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its grants was fully vetted by every appropriate level within the organization. [...] I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it. I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen’s future and the women we serve. However, the decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization. Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology. Rather, both were based on Komen’s mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy. [...] What was a thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision – one that would have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact – has unfortunately been turned into something about politics. This is entirely untrue. This development should sadden us all greatly.
TL;DR: Waahhhh, I'm the victim here, I'm being scapegoated for something the whole organization was on board with, and also pro-choicers who rallied around PP are a bunch of meanies who turned this into a political thing (because it totes wasn't before).

There are two ways we can take the claim that the whole organization was on board with and agreed to/encouraged the defunding of PP's grant.  It's either true, and the decision truly was "vetted at every appropriate level within the organization" (although the use of "appropriate" certainly lends that statement quite a bit of ambiguity; "appropriate" may just mean "my desk" for all we know), or it's a defensive attempt to deflect the hot spotlight of public criticism away from her own face.  Either way, it doesn't really win Komen back any points.  If it's true, and this was an org-wide decision, it just means the whole damn thing is riddled with anti-choicers and/or anti-choice sentiment, and ought to be tossed even harder out on its ass in the rain.  If it's the spin I suspect it is, it's a sad little lie that nevertheless means the org was infiltrated but good, and can no longer be trusted because if it happened once, it can happen again.

I'm also rolling my eyes so hard I'm surprised I haven't sprained anything at the contention that the decision "was turned into something political".  As if taking advantage of a spurious, vendetta-based sham "investigation" by a politician with an ax to grind in order to justify cutting off funding to one of the biggest providers of early detection exams to underserved communities was somehow an apolitical decision, and we who responded should be ashamed of ourselves for "making it political".  Yeah, how about no.  A former politician guided the org to make a move against another org which has been targeted by political maneuvering, and you want to claim it wasn't political?  Pfffft.

Oh, and by the way - if it was really about "distancing the organization from scandal" with a position-neutral change to grant rules, as opposed to a targeted move against PP, then why is Komen still giving grant money to Penn State, which is under very public, very visible investigation for covering up child abuse?  If you want to make the claim that your new rule is totes apolitical, you should probably make it plausible by applying the rule apolitically.

This is just more damage-control and PR from Komen, in a desperate attempt to save what little face they have left.  But I'm still going to hold out hope that enough has been shown of their unethical nature, to enough people over the course of the past couple weeks, that they will end up fading back from the public eye, making room for better orgs to carry on the work of researching cures and supporting patients and survivors, without all the drama and pink ribbon$.


The Latest Skirmish in the Birth Control Mandate Wars

Oh, Catholic Church.  Can't you ever just admit when you've lost and move on?

Rhetorical question, of course.  No, they really can't.

After the HHS ruled that contraceptive coverage was part of the definition of "preventative care" that would be a requirement without copay for all insurance plans, the Church threw a hissy.  They claimed that their religion was being disrespected.  Mind you, the churches themselves were covered by a religious exemption from the very start.  Nobody ever tried to force churches to offer contraceptive-covering insurance plans to their employees, despite what the Catholic Church claimed.  No, the problem was in Catholic-controlled hospitals and schools, which, despite being religiously-affiliated, did not meet the religious exemption criteria of primarily serving and employing those of their own religion.  So because Catholic hospitals and schools routinely employ non-Catholics, and offer services to the general public, they would be required, like all other employers, to offer insurance plans to their employees which cover contraceptives.  They appealed.  The Obama administration refused their appeal, but gave them an extra year to figure out the logistics of transitioning their insurance.

Apparently that's not good enough, and in a truly epic tantrum, they had letters from the bishops read in services across the country, condemning the administration's decision and framing it as a matter of religious freedom and civil disobedience in defense of their cherished rights to religious liberty.   Seriously, read it:
In so ruling, the Obama Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). ... We cannot--we will not--comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America's cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights.
Dramatic, isn't it?  "Cast aside the First Amendment"!  "We will not comply with this unjust law"!  People of faith as second-class citizens!  Stripped of our God-given rights!  Dramatic and scary and completely, totally, utterly, and in all possible ways, bullshit.

I know I've said this before, but obviously, it bears repeating: imposing your religiously-motivated will on others who do not share your faith is not an integral part of religious freedom.  "My religion says I have to be the boss of your underpants" is not a valid religious-liberty argument to compel the law to support your bossing of other people's underpants, and denying you the support of law in being the boss of other people's underpants is not "making you a second-class citizen" - not in any world except your fevered imagination, anyway.

And now, the next salvo has been fired - a petition is up on the We The People site, calling on the Obama administration to rescind the HHS ruling on contraceptive coverage by religiously-affiliated businesses.  (You can find it here, if you want to look - be warned, it doesn't even try to make sense in its reasoning.  Something about the government "deigning to represent transcendental truth", which, bwuh?)  NARAL Pro-Choice America has put up a counter-petition, available here, which you can sign if you have a WTP account, asking the administration to remain supportive of the ruling.

I never thought I'd say this - as the half-dozen lolsobtastic petition "responses" sitting in my inbox waiting to be posted here for the lulz can attest - but you know, for once I'm actually glad of the total ineffectiveness of We The People as a platform for petitioning the Obama administration to do anything.  They can sign all they want (and so can we); I doubt either petition will make even the slightest bit of difference.

In fact, I might be convinced to bet actual money that both petitions, assuming each makes the 25k signature minimum, would receive exactly the same copy-pasted response reasserting the administration's position on the mandate.

Any takers?  ;-)


The Komen Brouhaha is turning me into a hipster

It's all I can do to keep from saying "Well, I refused to support Komen before it was cool!"

At any rate, there's little I can say that hasn't already been said very well by many other people - this is some fucking outrageous bullshit, it is demonstrating yet again that anti-choicers do not deserve the moniker "pro-life" because they don't give a shit about any kind of life other than the fetal kind, etc.  What I can do, however, is make available some links I've seen in various places, so that if you had been donating to Komen, or were inclined to make a statement by starting your breast-cancer-fight donations with someone else because of this, you will have a list of alternatives.  I know that Komen's vastness and extremely effective pinkwashing efforts have made them often the *only* visible target for people who want to give to this cause, and a lot of people wouldn't begin to know where to look for alternative orgs, so here you go.  In no particular order:

As always, do your due diligence before giving money to an organization; I haven't had time to research these organizations in particular, so they may have issues as well.  Some are more focused on patient and survivor support, while others use donations more for research, which handily allows you to direct your money toward the side of the cause you prefer, or split it however you like.

Special thanks to Bebinn on Tumblr, and the rest of the feminist Tumblr community for the various posts and reposts of links I saw today and from which I collected these.


Conservatives really do want to let people die

Bryan Fischer may not be the best barometer of general-consensus conservative thought (although I personally believe he's no more, or not much more, radical than the rest of them; he just doesn't filter his bigotry because he's not running for office himself), but when he's echoing a theme we've seen from right-wingers before, only in more blatant form, it's hard not to take it seriously.

This time, he was offering a proposal on how to fix the healthcare system in this country.  His solution?  Remove the legal requirement that emergency rooms treat people who can't pay, and watch costs fall as all the sickest and poorest people exit the system - by way of death!  Quoting from the transcript on Right Wing Watch:
Hospitals should be allowed to set their own policies for services just like all other businesses, none of whom are forced to sell cars, food, or clothes to people who can't pay for them.
Because buying a car you can't afford is totally the same thing, and is absolutely morally equivalent to needing lifesaving medical care you can't afford!  o.O  One of these things is not like the other ones...

He then went on to whine that the whole trouble with the ER system is that people are using it "like corner medical clinics, for routine, non-emergency care, because they know they can get care that somebody else will be obligated to pay for."

Okay, first of all, no, they're not.  Nobody is making the trip to the ER, to sit there for anywhere from one to eight or even twelve hours, just for routine, non-emergency care.  That is a flat out fucking lie.

Second of all, you have to wonder if Fischer has ever gone to an emergency room when he hasn't had insurance.  (The answer I'm sure is "no", mostly because I'm sure he's never not had insurance - if he had, he wouldn't be so much of an ass about it.)  Like, does he realize they will usually bill you anyway?  I have known someone who had to go to the ER in a true emergency, her insurance didn't cover it, and she was getting bills for $10,000 for months that she couldn't pay.  It's not like they just patch you up and send you on your way with a friendly wave and a smile.  They do actually bill you later.

So knowing that, nobody goes to the ER for "routine" care.  What you do is you walk a knife's edge, when you start feeling sick or noticing some kind of something wrong with your body.  You google it.  You use WebMD's symptom checker.  You talk to your friends, see if anyone knows anyone who has had whatever symptoms you have, and how that turned out.  You gather information, self-diagnose as best you can, hoping and praying it's nothing major; you track the minutiae of your physical changes, and you are always asking and re-asking yourself the Big Question: "Is it serious enough to need treatment?"  The hope is that whatever is wrong with you will go away on its own - and often, it does.  The body is an amazing self-healing machine, sometimes.  If it doesn't, that's when you walk the knife's edge, pushing on without treatment for as long as you can, while hoping that whatever it is doesn't turn out to be fatal, hoping you aren't doing permanent damage to yourself by waiting.

And then, if it reaches a point where you can't function anymore, you know where you go first (unless it's a real emergency, like broken bones or something)?  To an urgent care clinic.  Not the ER.  The urgent care is usually only a couple hundred bucks, and they'll usually see uninsured patients (which many doctors refuse to do, so if you don't have insurance, you literally cannot see a doctor even if you're able to pay for it out-of-pocket).  Even if it's something really bad and they can't help you, they can usually at least tell you what it is, which you can use to decide if it's bad enough to go to the ER.

So no, nobody is treating the ER "like a corner clinic".  Fischer, please, shut up.  You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts, and you are not entitled to make up scenarios in order to demonize people coping with a struggle you've never experienced.

Not that that's ever stopped you.


Related Posts with Thumbnails