Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Asshattery Does not Cease


"So now we got a czar, we got a domestic violence czar - I had a story, that's what she's calling about - the opening hour of the program, they just hired a domestic violence czar. An adviser. They're not calling it a czar, but it's a czar. It's a domestic violence adviser. What the hell kind of advice are you gonna get? About the only kind of advice - I mean we're talking about democrats here, right? We're talking about the party of Bill Clinton. So I assume If you're going to have a domestic policy adviser, the advice you're gonna get - put some ice on it. Your lip's a little bleeding and swollen - put some ice on it, as you leave the swanky motel room. Domestic policy - domestic violence adviser - why do you need any advice on that? There are some instances where it's justified and you need an adviser to tell you when, in case the woman's a republican and the husband's a democrat, it's perfectly understandable why there would be domestic violence, we've got to allow for this? What the hell are we doing here?"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Obama woos LGBT leaders | Salon News

Obama woos LGBT leaders | Salon News

I guess this is my answer.

"I know that many in this room don't believe that progress has come fast enough, and I understand that," he said. "It's not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half century ago."

Let's see it, Mr Obama.

Excess Pounds, but Not Too Many, May Lead to Longer Life - NYTimes.com

Excess Pounds, but Not Too Many, May Lead to Longer Life - NYTimes.com: "The finding adds to a simmering scientific controversy over the optimal weight for adults. In 2007, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute reported that overweight adults were less likely than normal weight adults to die from a variety of diseases, including infections and lung disease."

Don't Bother Making Accessibility a Priority

Translators Scoff at LinkedIn’s Offer of $0 an Hour - NYTimes.com: "Translators Wanted at LinkedIn. The Pay? $0 an Hour."

In a phone interview, Mr. Irwin said he was surprised that LinkedIn “would have the effrontery to ask for a professional service for free.”

As someone who started on the path as a translator (I later changed my mind, but that's a story for another day), I'm affronted by the sheer wackiness of this. LinkedIn is a supposedly respectable networking site for professional people, and has a user base that extends far beyond English-speaking shores. Yet, in what seems like a half-hearted attempt to make their site more accessible to those who are already paying for the use, they opted for a "wiki-style" translation process, going so far as to contact people who listed their occupation as translators and asking them to "volunteer" for the initiative, which such incentives as "upgraded accounts, and none ('because it's fun')."

Translation is a field that has trouble enough gaining notoriety, but good translators have an acceptable number of well-paying professional opportunities (though too many of them are freelance). Asking a freelancing translator to do what would essentially be a major linguistic overhaul of a professional, well-funded website (if their ad-base and account upgrade fees are any indicator) is a sham.

An aid agency, a shelter, or an otherwise underfunded, understaffed entity could justify it, and would probably be able to find plenty of people willing to help. It just disgusts me that, as Mr Irwin is quoted above, "LinkedIn would have the effrontery to ask for a proffessional service for free."

Political Memo - Political Shifts on Gay Rights Lag Behind Culture - NYTimes.com

Political Memo - Political Shifts on Gay Rights Lag Behind Culture - NYTimes.com: "Monday, 250 gay leaders are to join Mr. Obama in the East Room to commemorate publicly the 40th anniversary of the birth of the modern gay rights movement: a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York. By contrast, the first time gay leaders were invited to the White House, in March 1977, they met a midlevel aide on a Saturday when the press and President Jimmy Carter were nowhere in sight.

The conflicting signals from the White House about its commitment to gay issues reflect a broader paradox: even as cultural acceptance of homosexuality increases across the country, the politics of gay rights remains full of crosscurrents."

I'm wondering what happened with this today. The situation regarding the Obama administration's thus-far lackluster approach to LGBT rights is precarious for everyone involved. On the one hand you have a significant group of people that desperately need legal recognition in order to achieve the rights of the privileged class, and on the other hand you have Obama risking a significant portion of his voter base. There are an awful lot of political incentives for both parties to make something happen here.

Hopefully the political sphere will catch up with the rest of us.

Questionable Natures

I'm certainly not the only one who has raised an eyebrow at this ruling:

Madoff Sentenced to 150 Years - NYTimes.com: "In pronouncing the sentence — the maximum he could have handed down — Judge Denny Chin turned aside Mr. Madoff’s own assertions of remorse and rejected the suggestion from Mr. Madoff’s lawyers that there was a sense of “mob vengeance” surrounding calls for a long prison term. Mr. Madoff’s crimes, the judge said, were “extraordinarily evil.”"

And with good reason. Clearly, Madoff was engaged in fraud on a colossal scale, which cost a great many people a great deal of money. Some of them could afford the hit; others could not, and there's no denying that lately, any financial hit is painful. I get that.

The problem is that the Madoff sentencing comes on the tail of things like this:

Furor Builds Over Child Rapist's Sentence

David Harold Earls, 64, of the southeastern Oklahoma town of McAlester, pleaded no contest last month to first-degree rape and forcible sodomy. Normally, the rape charge carries a sentence of between five years to life in prison, but the deal he struck with prosecutors called for 19 years of his 20-year sentence to be suspended.

(Effectively sentencing Earls to one year in prison)

And, more importantly, ideas like this:

Is Rape Serious?

Why don’t police departments treat rape kits with urgency? One reason is probably expense — each kit can cost up to $1,500 to test — but there also seems to be a broad distaste for rape cases as murky, ambiguous and difficult to prosecute, particularly when they involve (as they often do) alcohol or acquaintance rape.

The point being, of course, that fraud will keep a man off the streets, but violent criminals (if the victims are even able to bring them to court) will be back on the streets before the evidence can be fully processed.

Proving once again that, here in America, money is worth much more than humanity.

Ten Things Wrong with Sarkozy's Burqa Ban

Via the Czech

1. Mandating how women should dress is mandating how women should dress, whether it is a mandate to wear a burqa, or a mandate not to wear one. When a man tells a woman how to dress, it’s paternalism and subjugation one way or the other.

2. Plus, as Dori points out, a man telling a woman that too much of her body is covered, and that she needs to expose more of it to his view, is pretty weird. How much modesty is too much? How much exposed flesh is enough to satisfy Sarkozy?

3. A Christian man imposing rules of dress upon Muslim women does little to actually foster the kind of gender equality he claims to be advancing.

4. Sarkozy talks as though there is no “subjugation of women” among the non-Muslim denizens of France. As though France is a wonderland of gender equality. According to WikiGender: “Compared to other countries, France has always been rather late in adopting gender equality as a goal and designing policies to achieve it.” So why suddenly all this concern for a certain subset of French women, who just randomly happen to come from a community hated and feared by many in France?

5. What other items of clothing does Mr. Sarkozy disapprove of? Do they also happen to correspond to certain disfavored, marginalized communities?

6. Any attempt to “eliminate” burqas in France will only serve to further marginalize the women who wear them. Burqas, for some women, represent a compromise. Some individuals believe women are not supposed to be seen in public, or be looked at by men outside of the family. In this extreme view, women would be entirely confined to the house and removed from outside society unless they can put on a burqa and go out. Eliminating the burqa for these women would mean eliminating their access to the world. Better conditions for such women require a little more work than outlawing a piece of clothing.

7. Eliminating burqas in France would not mean that women’s oppression in Muslim communities would end. It would simply be a cosmetic change that would do nothing to actually work with communities and empower French Muslim women to achieve equality. It is a measure that ignores all nuance and avoids all honest work to actually tackle the heart of the problem.

8. All this “eliminate the burqa” talk fits just a little too snugly with the popular “Islam oppresses women” meme that Christian Westerners like to toss around, particularly when they are trying to frame a “War of Civilizations”.

9. Also, doesn’t this just come off as a cheap attempt at burnishing his Women’s Issues credentials while effectively only harassing a marginalized, already-persecuted minority? And doing little to nothing to further true societal equality for all women in France?

10. What real issues do French women, and French Muslim women in particular, actually face that Sarkozy is completely avoiding by diverting attention with this stunt? Why randomly target French Muslims now?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

My comments on: Female Impersonator: Apologies and Excuses: Eating as a Pathology

I posted this comment:

I was literally just thinking about this, because I think that so much of the bad relationships we have with our bodies as women are directly related to bad relationships with food.
Even for women without an official disorder, as you say, there is a nasty relationship. Every bite must be guilt-ridden, even if it's something healthy and we're hungry. I know that this is true for a measurable percentage of men, as well (which says something to society at large), but the vast majority of women view food as something to be minimized, avoided, controlled, and only truly enjoyed in the company of other women, and with an "excuse," if at all.
Attaching guilt to an inherently vital life function is probably a bad idea.

Further along that note, I recall a conversation I had with my mother and grandmother about the health problems raging among the elderly female population. Problems like osteoporosis and other essentially nutritional deficiencies. How much of that is because the currently aging generation of women was one that was not only raised with unhealthy relationships to food, but spent the entirety of their vital years essentially starving themselves? Of course they have nutritional deficiencies; they weren't eating enough during pregnancies which were sapping their bodies of strength and nutrients, they didn't eat after their pregnancies, and then they just didn't ever eat. My paternal grandmother has a frame exactly like my own (if I had zero fat or muscle on me my hip measurement would still probably be about 40"), and yet has never weighed more than 140lb. That, my friends, is a gaunt body.

And the saddest part, of course, is that we don't do it to ourselves. Even the rare women who do have healthy food relationships (I have yet to meet one) have to explain themselves.

Teen Relationship Violence

Ashley has written about this already, but I was mid-post when I read hers, so I'm going to be repeating a little of what she's already said.

I came across this article via links throughout the feminist blogosphere, and had to comment. While it's reassuring that there is greater recognition of reproductive control as a form of relationship violence, and yes, that there is more awareness of relationship violence itself, I must echo Ashley in reference to the slut-shaming language in this paragraph:

"The first time I got pregnant against my will, I had the baby," she says. Along with several STDs. (He'd been her only partner.) After a stint in jail for violating an ex's order of protection, he was back, promising never to hurt her, gushing about family happiness. (emphasis mine)

I assume you see the little sidebar there? It serves to reassure us that even though the young woman has several STIs, she's ok; she's only had one partner, so it's the fault of an abuser and not a slut. I noticed quite a bit of that sort of language in the article. The idea of teen pregnancy as an indicator of relationship violence IN ADDITION TO BEING a measure of "promiscuity," (because you can't get pregnant the first time you have sex, remember, ladies!) and then, later, this:

"It's clearly out-and-out control of a woman's body. Control for control's sake," says Miller. It's an urge that stems, experts say, from an inability to manage their own fears and insecurities.(emphasis mine)"

As in, poor boys are just scared and insecure, so they have to rape someone to make themselves feel better.

Despite the author's obvious message, which is, to be honest, an important one, I'm inclined to bring to light the shoddy reporting going on, in addition to some pretty nasty stereotype promotion:

And the girls: Why do they stay? Classic domestic-violence pathology, say experts. In an unfortunate mix of psychological circumstances, some girls take such intense control to mean, "I'm really special to this person," says Giggans. Plus, remember: Often, they have this guy's kid.

If the Rihanna/Chris Brown situation taught us nothing else, it's that women don't like to be told their reasons for staying in abusive relationships. My guess, having witnessed and been part of a few myself, is that there are as many reasons as there are relationships.

The article also manages to bring a little bit of straight privilege in, as well:

"There is evidence of analogous male-on-male sexual violence, but it hasn't been studied in depth."

This despite the fact that I'm sure this woman has adequate resources to look up a great number of studies and reports on homosexual relationship violence. I'm suspicious that this little aside was simply an attempt to acknowledge the fact that there might be a non-heteronormative problem here as well, but that she wasn't going to take the time to discuss it or even investigate it.

Ms Harris, I appreciate your coverage of what is certainly an overlooked symptom of relationship violence. Next time, though, perhaps your reporting should be a little bit more thought-out. A woman's sexual history does not need to be an aside to her claims of abuse; not all sexually active teen girls are being promiscuous; the idea of "classic domestic-violence pathology" is cringe-worthy and reminds me of things like this; and LGBT issues are worthy of more than a casual mention.

Pride Around The World

A collection of Pride images, via Jezebel.

For my Readers who Read

Feminist Review

Check this out.

Is there a next generation of abortion providers? | Salon Life

Is there a next generation of abortion providers? | Salon Life

I've frequently wondered about the abortion issues in a country where a large portion of doctors, particularly in rural areas, work in Catholic-supported hospitals (anything named after a Saint counts). I know that these hospitals can't perform abortions; they can't even schedule an elective hysterectomy (though for inexplicable reasons they have no problem with vasectomies). There are difficulties with planned C-sections. I'm not only concerned with where they will come from; where will they work that they will be able to provide services and still even affiliate themselves with a hospital?
Michelle Obama's hair, racial issues, African-American culture, beauty | Salon Life: "Are we moving toward a 'black hair' moment?"

I wonder whether such a young, high-profile black woman who gets her hair straightened or relaxed as a matter of course will occasionally let it be something different: unstraightened, less straightened, or anything that doesn't bounce, lie flat or swing like a pageboy. In other words, a do that suggests her ethnicity rather than softens it.

White people tend to not realize the intense issues for WOC regarding their hair. For a white woman, her hair may be a struggle, it may be a frustration, but it is rarely a cause for anyone else's concern. A white woman will probably never be called a "nappy-headed ho" because she didn't spend hours of her time an exorbitant amounts of her money to have it changed from what it naturally is. A white woman can work with her hair as it was given to her, and her options are nearly endless.

Black women do not have the same luxuries.

This is not my fight; I will relinquish to my hidden identity that I am white, and though my hair is a frustration, unless I come out and cut it into a "dyke" style, I will probably never make any kind of statement with it. Nor will anyone read my haircut as a statement, unless it is accompanied by the revelation of a major lifestyle change.

I am, however, aware of the issues surrounding a black woman's hair. Is Michelle trying to minimize her blackness by having her hair relaxed? It has been in similar styles throughout her public life. Her daughters, however, have relatively natural styles.

What does this say about the first family and their relations to their racial community? To the white community? To other people of color? To America in general?

Because Bigotry is Not Dead

Neo-Nazis are in the Army now | Salon News: "He started his own Nazi rock group, Attack, and made friends in the National Alliance, at the time the biggest neo-Nazi group in the country. It has called for a 'a long-term eugenics program involving at least the entire populations of Europe and America.'

But the military ran in Fogarty's family. His grandfather had served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and his dad had been a Marine in Vietnam. At 22, Fogarty resolved to follow in their footsteps. 'I wanted to serve my country,' he says..."

Despite the fact that Army regulations explicitly do not allow soldiers to be active in racist groups, and that those enlisting must explain any tattoo on their bodies before signing that line, there are very few ways to verify those stories because of the "personal" nature of tattoos. You can just make shit up, which is exactly what Fogarty did.

Fogarty's ex-girlfriend, intent on destroying his new military career, sent a dossier of photographs to Fort Stewart. The photos showed Fogarty attending white supremacist rallies and performing with his band, Attack. "They hauled me before some sort of committee and showed me the pictures," Fogarty says. "I just denied them and said my girlfriend was a spiteful bitch." He adds: "They knew what I was about. But they let it go because I'm a great soldier...Fogarty left the Army in 2005 with an honorable discharge. He says he was asked to reenlist, but declined."

So this guy is a Neo-Nazi. He has tattoos of overtly racist, white-supremacist symbols on his body (listed in the article are the Celtic cross, a widely recognized symbol of white supremacist groups in the US, and the Viking carrying the staff, which is also widely used). His entire unit and his immediate superiors know explicitly, both from context and from the horse's mouth, but do not report higher. The guy fights because he hates the people, and for no other reason.

Yet Lt. Clnl Ferenbach, a man so exemplary in his personality and his military career that he flew sorties over the capital on September 11, is being discharged and stripped of many of his rights as a veteran. All this because he is gay, and someone else ratted him out to the military.

Tell me how that's in any way exemplary of what we claim to stand for, America.

A Brief Summary

Who hates who in Iran | Salon News

Outlines the connections between the various offices and councils in Iranian politics, and the people currently holding the seats, and also gives details on the conflicts between them. If you're trying to follow the Iranian situation, this is a must-read for background.


A little bit too frustrated to write a long post at the moment, but here are a few things to think about:

My Private Casbah: "My view towards religion is that if a particular god doesn't make you want to be a kinder, more loving person, then it isn't worth worshipping."

Sexism Against Conservative Women Is Still Sexism, by Amy Siskind at the Huffington Post. Tulip has some interesting thoughts on this, too.

More on Iranian feminism, from Bust.

Sexist medical assistance from Pfizer? Also on Bust.

Back to y'all later.

overheard in Chicago: making my point for me

"Gir: (blowing her nose)

Woman: 'Oh, do you have a cold?'

Girl: 'No, my date is an ass.'

Woman: 'Well, they don't get any better when you marry them, honey.'"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Unveiling the revolution | Salon Life

Unveiling the revolution | Salon Life: "The women of Iran have jolted me awake from my cable news coma. So many of the protesters are young and female like me but display a courage I have never known -- clasping rocks in their fists, kicking at baton-wielding policemen and, in the case of Neda Agha-Soltani, dying on the streets of Tehran. Judging from the flood of 'I am Neda' T-shirts and tweets, I'm hardly the only one feeling not just powerful admiration but identification with Iranian women."

The situations surrounding Muslim women right now are so hot-button for me. Iran, France, and the overall treatment of Muslims throughout the West are issues I feel strongly about. On one hand, there is the group of activists including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who claim that Islam is almost always oppressive to women, regardless of its past or the more liberalized versions in the world. This group of people are those who support Sarkozy's forced unveiling of women in France.
And, to an extent, I think the burqa is oppressive. Anyone who is essentially covered in a blanket anytime they leave the house is probably not extremely comfortable.

On the other hand, of course, sit my personal experiences with Muslim women who, for reasons of their own and despite their being entirely free from forced religious or male influence, and in groups where the veil is even discouraged, choose to veil themselves as a testament to their own modesty, as it is a part of their faith. To deprive these women of the ability to express their faith is as oppressive as forcing them to express it. Furthermore, plenty of religions require us to do things that are uncomfortable, oppressive, etc, and which we do willingly and without scorn. Consider Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not accept blood transfusions; male circumcision (both at birth and in adulthood) in many religions; piercings; and even pilgrimages, which generally ask for sacrifice of food, water, or other major sacrifices during the trek. Fasting for Lent, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, or any number of other religions is also a dangerous and certainly uncomfortable religious ritual that millions of people gladly undertake for their faith. I do not find it impossible to believe that a woman would voluntarily choose to cover herself. Unless we wish to eradicate Islam from the world entirely, we should not, in free countries, force people to sin against their gods.

Personally, I think that when a government begins to legislate attire, they have crossed their boundaries. Whether forcing people to wear something, or denying them the right to wear it, such interventions are inappropriate.

And back to Iran, that whole mess is simply beyond my comprehension. Iranian politics are inherently complex and perhaps intentionally difficult to navigate. They are open to corruption, but also open to guidance at all levels. That someone could be elected without the support of the rest of the governmental bodies is highly unlikely, but election without popular support is an inherent possibility. Which is probably why the guy with such low approval ratings among the people seems to be holding his own in the election. Incumbency is the single greatest indicator even in liberal democracies; Ahmadinejad clearly had the support of his political peers or he would have been ousted long ago. The man pushing for change is inherently going to have a much more difficult time gaining a place in that sort of system.

Put simply though, that's how their system works. It's open to corruption, yes, but really, what system isn't? I dare you to suggest Western Democracy; I can come up with a dozen examples to the contrary.

I don't know what the correct solution would be.

Salon: Remembering the Stonewall Riots

Last year, I was at London Pride, and it was beautiful. This year I won't even make it to my local Pride, for reasons I can't get into. It makes me sad, and even sadder that one of my dearest friends has to miss out because I can't drive him there.


Do our problems with marriage arise from our impoverished ideas about romance?

In this article at Salon, Amanda Fortini discusses the story of Sandra Tsing-Loh and the dissolution of her 20-year marriage, in "Why Your Marriage Sucks." Her premise, along with those of her sources, is that the majority of relationships fail because of warped expectations of relationships. It's not the first time we've heard this excuse.

I'd be willing to place a lot more fault on reality than on fiction. I'm even willing to "blame the feminists," in that yes, women have come to expect more from marriage than financial support. We want a partnership, which may be suggested in romance novels, but fuck.

I suppose I should note that this is coming in on the tail end of my engagement, which is dissolving like a sugar cube in boiling water. Yes, I'm a little jaded, because for a long time I held onto the idea that this was a good man, and he is. He is a truly caring individual, and is quite attentive. But.

I am capable and competent, and I want more from my life than comfortable. I want happiness. I did not have happiness with him, and without the complications of children to hold me to it, I find it difficult to force myself to stick it out. My mom says, "they're all like that, so you might as well keep the one that's nice to you."

If they're all like that, I don't want one.

There's no reason a woman shouldn't expect her man to share the load. I don't mean "help out." The jobs need done, it is OUR home, they are OUR jobs. Not MY jobs you can help me with. Most women I know will give you this same frustration, even if she is happy in her relationship.

At any rate, I think it's more an unwillingness to put up with the frustrations of married life than disillusionment. Few women expect that we will find a Mr Darcy, and on a romantic level, are frequently perfectly happy with mediocre romance. It's when the inequality becomes so rampant that it's unbearable. We were raised to stick up for ourselves and not be walked on; we shouldn't have to exchange that self-reliance for love.