"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Social Justice in the News

I'm up to my neck in assigned reading and homework, so forgive my lack of posting. I did take time to read my daily e-mail from the New York Times, however, and I thought I would pass along some interesting stories:

Despite Denials, Gays Insist They Exist, if Quietly, in Iran: For a country that is said to have no homosexuality, Iran goes to great lengths to ban it, but gays and lesbians keep a low profile to avoid government interference.
The New Affirmative Action: Colleges want diversity. Students want diversity. There's just this little problem with the law.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Feminist Film of the Week: The Education of Shelby Knox

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This documentary ended up not being quite what I expected. Rather than focusing specifically on the content of the "abstinence only" sex education being taught in her Texas high school, it dealt more with a young girl's struggle with reconciling her consevative Christian upbringing with her emerging liberal views. Which I found fascinating, because I can totally relate.

Luckily, I didn't grow up with parents that made me pledge my virginity to them at a formal event, and they never blatantly told me that they thought homosexuality is a sin, but they (along with most of my hometown) were conservative, church-going Republicans, and it felt revolutionary to me when I started to have my own thoughts and realize that I was, in fact, an atheist and a feminist.

The scene where the school board prays together before their meeting hit especially close to home. I can remember accompanying my mom to PTA meetings as a very small child and watching all the parents bow their heads to say the Lord's Prayer before getting down to business. I suppose I shouldn't be at all surprised that this is still going on, even though it's so obviously a violation of the separation of church and state.

I wish that the film would have told more of the facts. That the filmmakers would have made sure to include the real truth after showing footage of the ridiculous pastor/"abstinence educator" spouting lies about condom use and STI prevention.

I also wish that Shelby (and her parents in their process of coming around to her ideas) didn't harp so much on the idea that she was fighting for comprehensive sex ed so that, even though she was still waiting for marriage, all those other kids who don't have her kind of home life and parental support will know how to be safe when they have sex. That bothered me a little, even though I can understand where she is coming from I'm sure she felt (and still feels) plenty of unspoken pressure to make sure that her parents still know that she intends to remain "pure" for them and for God, even while fighting for better sex ed at her school.

But I liked the movie. I liked watching her think for herself and stand up to some pretty powerful religious conservatives, asserting that they have no right to tell her she can't reconcile her liberal views with her faith. I liked that LGBT issues were addressed along with sex ed. I liked that Shelby became an ally in the cause of her fellow students who were fighting for the right to have a Gay/Straight Alliance at their school, despite the wariness of her parents and peers. I like that she didn't compromise.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jena 6 Stuff

Kevin from Slant Truth has a great roundup on what's going on in Jena today, including the link to the CNN video coverage of the protests. Check it out.
Also, BlackAmazon made my day with the information that David Bowie (my most best favoritest musician EVAR) made a hefty contribution to the Jena 6 legal defense fund.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Today in the News

New York Times: Alabama Plan Brings Out Cry of Resegregation
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - After white parents in this racially mixed city complained about school overcrowding, school authorities set out to draw up a sweeping rezoning plan. The results: all but a handful of the hundreds of students required to move this fall were black - and many were sent to virtually all-black, low-performing schools.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bill Maher hates you. Along with all women everywhere. And he hates your babies, too.

Cara at The Curvature often blogs about the "Offensive Remark of the Week", but I think this one wins the award for the most Offensive Three-Minute Monologue of the Year.

I've never watched him consistently, and he's never been one of my favorite people, but I could always get behind some of Bill Maher's political (anti-war, anti-Bush) views. Apparently, his "progressive"-ness does not extend to his attutudes about women. I have defended him before, because I sometimes sympathize when people are criticized or censored for saying controversial things. Except, of course, when the things they say are hateful, ignorant, objectifying, and totally idiotic.

Watch the video of Bill Maher's commentary on recent breast-feeding activism. Start watching at seven minutes in for the idiocy:

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but I'm appalled that something this hateful and blatantly degrading was allowed on the air.

The transcript:
"And finally, new rule - and I never thought I'd be the one to say this - but DON'T show me your tits! (laughter) Last week the world's first nurse-in was held to protest the case of a woman who was breastfeeding in public and asked by an Applebee's manager not to leave but just to cover up a little bit. Because the wait staff got tired of hearing, 'I'll have what that kid's having!' (laughter) I'm not trying to be insensitive, here. I know your baby needs to eat, but so do I and this is Applebee's, so I'm already nautious. (laughter) Breastfeeding a baby is an intimate act, and I don't want to watch strangers performing intimate acts. At least not for free. (laughter) It cheapens it. But breastfeeding activists - yes, breastfeeding activists, called Lactivists (laughter) - say this is a human right and appropriate everywhere, because it's natural. Well, so is masturbating, but I generally don't do that at Applebee's. (laughter and applause) Not in the main dining area, anyway. I mean next thing, women will be wanting to give birth in the waterfall at the mall! (laughter) Look, there's no principle at work here, other than being too lazy to either plan ahead or cover up. It's not fighting for a right, it's fighting for the spotlight, which you surely will get when you go all Janet Jackson on everyone (makes flashing motion of opening shirt) (laughter) and get to drink in the oohs and ahhs from the other customers because you made a baby! (laughter) Something a dog can do. (laughter and applause) Only in America do women think they deserve a medal for having a kid. In China women give birth on their lunch hour and that afternoon they're back on line painting lead onto Barbie dolls. (laughter and applause) But this isn't really about women taking their breasts out in public - as much as I'd like them to. It's about how petty and parochial our causes have become, and how activism has become narcissism. It's why Al Gore can't get people to focus on global warming unless there's a rock concert. Melting icebergs, brought to you by Smashing Pumpkins. It's why there will be no end to this dumb war until there is a draft, because at the end of the day, Iraq is somebody else's problem. And by the way, there is a place where breasts and food do go together. It's called Hooters! (laughter and applause)"

(via Feminist Law Professors - with great links to 2 other posts)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Feminist Film of the Week: Bend it Like Beckham

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You've got to be kidding me.

"At one point, an assailant cut the woman's ankle with a knife and used the N-word in telling her she was victimized because she is black, according to the criminal complaints."
If that's not a hate crime, I don't know what is.
"Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham said his office would pursue other charges first because they carry stiffer penalties. West Virginia's hate crime law carries a sentence of up to 10 years."
I suppose it's not so bad if it's a strategic move for toward a tougher sentence... But wait.  It IS that bad.  Why on earth would a hate crime law carry a maximum sentence of ten years?!  Isn't there something wrong with a hate-crime law that prosecuters have to avoid when it comes to crimes that should result in longer sentences? 
Or maybe THIS is the reason it's not being called a hate crime:

"One of the six suspects arrested in the case, Bobby Brewster, had a previous relationship with the victim, Abraham said. He said Brewster had been charged in July with domestic battery and assault after a domestic dispute involving the same woman.

"She obviously had some sort of social relationship," Abraham said. "That is based on the fact that she was present at his residence on a prior date."

If true, that evidence would undercut the hate crime law, which applies to crimes motivated by racial hatred and not by non-race-related conflicts."

I don't understand why previous relationships would "undercut" hate crime law.   Assuming "racial hatred" can't exist if the parties are acquainted?  A previous relationship excludes the possibility of "race-related conflicts"?  This just doesn't make sense to me.

And if this horrific event and its non-hate-crime status haven't outraged you enough, it also seems that the insidious victim-blaming has already begun.


On Accessibility

Ever since Miss Crip Chick inspired me to read and blog about the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon, disability issues have been a little more on my radar screen. Today, this one piqued my interest. The New York Times has an article in which food critic Frank Bruni examines the accessibility of restaurants.
My father uses a wheelchair, which means that we have to think ahead about accessibility nearly everywhere we go, but the article made me stop and think about why I don't usually worry too much about restaurants.  And I think it's because I live in the Midwest.  Where I live, nearly every eating establishment we are likely to visit is only one story, with large waiting areas and lots of floor space between the tables and booths.  They all have expansive parking lots with anywhere from two to twelve designated parking spaces.  There are always ramps, and many of them have automatic doors that will open with the press of a button.  While they may not be the most cultured or character-filled places to live, it's been my experience that urban-sprawl midwestern suburbs are at least new and up-to-date enough to comply with the ADA.
Then I compare my surroundings with the environment discussed in the article, and I can see where the problems are.  I love New York.  But when I visit there, I can really notice how much smaller everything is.  I have to completely readjust how I navigate my surroundings so that I can slink around and among crowds and squeeze into and through tiny spaces.  I've eaten some of the most amazing food of my life in New York restaurants, but spent the entire time nervous that if I slid my chair three inches backward, I would slam into someone else.  I take for granted that even though it's a slight inconvenience to wait for a table while flattened against a wall and to  carefully ascend the narrow spiral staircase to the second level and to squeeze into the itty-bittiest restroom I've ever used in my life (we're talking airport tiny), I can still physically manage to eat at my favorite Upper East Side restaurant: Serendipity 3.   

"But older structures aren't subject to the same requirements. Ms. Davis lives on the Upper East Side, and she said most of the established restaurants she visits in her neighborhood have tiny, inaccessible restrooms.

"I dehydrate before I go out to dinner," she said. "I don't drink anything for an hour and a half.' She also carries around a 12-pound fiberglass ramp that she uses if a restaurant has a step or two up to its entrance, as many do. If a restaurant has a whole flight of stairs, she's out of luck."

Bruni's article makes a good point about wait staff having good intentions in trying to be as helpful as possible to their disabled diners, but how these intentions do not necessarily make up for the lack of accessible facilities.  Or, it often happens that the building may have measures in place for accessibility only to be so tightly packed with guests that they cannot be gotten to.  Not without asking everyone in your path to move, that is.  That doesn't quite count as "accessibility", does it? 
Aside from awareness, the article also dishes out a list of some of the top accessible dining spots in NYC.  I may choose to support these places the next time I go there.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I definitely didn't need this today.

I picked the wrong day to watchdog. I probably should have known better than to look at conservative sites for material today. It's September 11th, after all. Today of all days, for no other reason than my own emotional well-being, I should have only read the writing of kindred spirits.

I would have been fine if I had just done that. If I had just read Zuzu and Jill at Feministe, Amanda at Pandagon, and everything written by Melissa and her crew at Shakesville today, I would not currently be filled with the kind of hopeless feminist rage that makes you wonder in disbelief at how much we still have to fight for equality.  Because while the sites I just mentioned (along with all of the other wonderful feminist, anti-racist, and social justice sites I read) talked about 9/11 today in constructive ways that criticize our government for this unnecessary war or draw our attention to other atrocities that are going on right now, the stupid, fucking Mens News Daily decided to wax nostalgic about the tragedy with a repost of a 2001 article that dared to state the "obvious" - that the biggest heroes on that horrific day were not women, but men.
That's right.  MND blogger Glenn Sacks thought the best way he could honor victims, survivors, and rescue workers today would be to put the ladies in their place by reminding us that most of the people doing the dirty work of saving lives that day happened to have penises.  He didn't have to say it himself, though.  He just reposted an article written on 9/21/01 by Christie Blatchford, in which Blatchford implies that the high ratio of male to female firefighters must mean that women are incapable handling emergencies:
"There were, of course, plenty of women among the 6,000-plus victims still buried beneath the WTC and the Pentagon, and plenty of illustrations of how well they conducted themselves at the moment of truth, calling home to say brave goodbyes. And it is certainly true that among the estimated 300 firefighters who were lost, and among the police and ambulance personnel who perished, were some women who died as heroically as their male colleagues. And it is true, too, that among the fire and police who have worked so tirelessly in that immense crematorium in the endless aftermath are some women.

"But you know what?

"Most fire and police departments resolutely remain predominantly male.

"Most of the firefighters and police who were killed were men.

"Most of the most astonishing acts of courage that we know about, from the man who in one of the towers stayed with his wheelchair-bound colleague so he would not die alone to the male passengers who apparently rushed the hijackers on flight 93, were performed by men.

"Most of the people doing the dirtiest work -- day after day driving the big trucks in and out; clearing the site of giant chunks of debris, concrete and metal; moving the earth; picking up tiny pieces of skin and muscle that thus far form the single biggest category of remains and placing them into little envelopes and the little envelopes into zip-up body bags -- were and are men, in the main blue-collar, working-class boys.

"Even most of the wondrous political leadership, from New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani to George W., has come from men."

Where does one even begin?!  She mentions the fact that there WERE women rescue workers who died, only to immediately dismiss them as irrelevant in order to point out that they were mostly men.  She never provides statistics so we know just how many women she is choosing to marginalize, and it also doesn't occur to her to question WHY men make up a majority of firefighters, police officers, and politicians.  Does it not occur to her that this could have something to do with centuries of denial of rights for women or socialized gender roles that keep women from pursuing such occupations?  (I'm going to reluctantly refrain from commenting on her "wondrous political leadership" comment, since she wrote this at a time when no one was exposing their lies or willing to criticize them for anything.)
But wait.  There's more.  While Blatchford was so busy being enamored with the hunky firefighters, she did happen to take notice of the nearby activity of the womenfolk:
"Women made sandwiches and served 'em, walked about with trays of hot dogs (and even, incredibly, packets of mustard and relish), ministered to the sick, consoled the grief-struck and looked on, with worshipful sidelong glances, in wonder at the men."
To those of you thinking, "Oh no she didn't!", I regret to inform you that she did.  And if that wasn't blatantly insulting enough, she continues to cut us down to size by telling us we have no place being firefighters or cops in the first place:
"I am old enough to remember what some call the "feminization" of these very organizations, and the military, that began all over North America.

"As the rhetoric went then, integrating women into these places would be good for the men, would gentle their inherent violence and risk-taking, temper the soaring levels of testosterone, somehow better the culture.

"The truth is, it did nothing of the sort. If anything, the women who became firefighters and police and soldiers took their cues from the men. And in the end, there remains such comfort in this, in knowing that, push come to shove, should you find yourself in crisis, in a burning building or a car crash, the ground treacherous and shifting beneath your sandal-shod feet either literally or metaphorically, a burly figure will be coming for you, and he will be driven enough to find you and strong enough to lift you up and away."

I can't even imagine how offensive these words must be to a female firefighter, EMT, or law enforcement official who works her ass off every day only to be told that she isn't fit to be a leader, or that she isn't tough enough to do her job.   

OF COURSE I don't think that it is wrong to honor the efforts and sacrifices of everyone who answered the call to duty on September 11th, 2001 and all of the days and weeks and months following it.  But I DO think it is wrong to honor the efforts and sacrifices of only one group to the exclusion of others, especially when that group happens to be the privileged and more powerful majority. 

 I am genuinely PISSED OFF that Blatchford wrote such horrible, ignorant drivel six years ago, and I am positively FUMING that anyone respected this view enough to republish it.  Romanticizing heroic actions is one thing, but unfairly attributing the characteristics related to those actions to one sex and one sex only is completely ludicrous.  And I'm sure that Sacks felt more comfrtable posting this "politically incorrect" idiocy simply because it happened to be written by a woman.  The whole thing (including the comments section) smacks of a "You see, boys?  They're not ALL feminazi bitches!" attitude.  Read it all if you can stomach it, but I won't blame you if you'd rather just avoid such nonsense.  Especially today of all days.





Friday, September 7, 2007

A Post from Riverbend!

Via Feminist Law Professors: Riverbend Blogs That She Is Now In Syria
I've written about her before and was an avid reader of her blog before her last post this past April, which annouced that she and her family had made the difficult decision to leave Iraq.  After all that time, she posted yesterday, telling the story of leaving her home.  I am glad to know that she and her family have made it safely, and I hope she is in a position to continue writing about her experience.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lord Vigo Makes it Official

After months of uncertainty, it's now official that Republican Fred Thompson is running for president. So I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone why I think we should be especially wary of him.

Help Stop Intimidation from Anti-Choicers

I had just gotten my e-mail about this from Planned Parenthood and signed the petition when I noticed that Cara has already blogged about it here.

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What happens in Aurora, happens to me

Read her post and sign the petition. With each signature of support, Planned Parenthood will tie a ribbon outside the threatened clinic in Aurora, Illinois to show how many of us are in support of reproductive rights for women.

And spread the word! Post the link on your own blogs or online communities and take advantage of their e-mail feature to send the message to your friends.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Farewell, ½ Hour News Hour

Remember this little sexist gem from the Fox News "comedy" show, ½ Hour News Hour? Well apparently their genius attempts at parodying liberalism have been in vain, because the short-lived show's last episode will air September 16th. Here's another, more recent example of their right-wing hilarity:

This video really speaks for itself in showing the HUGE disconnect between the ways of thinking of conservatives and those of liberals/progressives. While, they consider things like medical care and education to be "lavish benefits", we (shockingly) tend to regard them as human rights.

All I can say is that I'm so glad this stupid show was cancelled after only 15 episodes. I understand that conservatives probably feel alienated by liberal comedy shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but what I don't think they understand is that there's a couple of inherent problems with trying to come up with a comedy news show for the right: 1) They don't have the benefit of being able to hilariously expose constant hypocrisy and bigotry, and 2) they're hopelessly unfunny. I suppose it was worth a try, righties, but good fucking riddance.

The Onion Redeems Itself

Woman Overjoyed By Giant Uterine Parasite

(via Feministe)

"All you need is a nice white lady."

I nearly fell out of my seat with laughter when I first saw this parody video about the "nice white lady" movie cliche, and now Jae Ran Kim has some great commentary about the trend on which the parody is based.  From her blog Harlow's Monkey:
"Taken as a whole, these movies suggest that people of color can't help themselves without the intervention of a white person. Even movies that aren't outwardly based on this premise often include elements of it, and I'm thinking of movies like 'Bring It On - All or Nothing' (the sequel) in which a popular white teen who is cheerleading captain is transferred to an inner city school and has to compete with her old squad in a competition, and somehow wins over her skeptical cheerleading team to lead them to winning over her snotty, rich, former teammates."
So true.  And I think the best point she makes is how although movies like "Dangerous Minds" and "Freedom Writers" may seem to be intended for a diverse audience, they intentionally put the "nice white lady" character at the center of the story.  Who would the white folks have to identify with, otherwise?  She says: "The critique gets lost because we're so caught up in empathizing with just how difficult it is for the White person to overcome their innocence/bias/prejudice/naivite/whatever so they can get on with the business of transforming 'people."  
Kim mentions the movie "Stand and Deliver" as an alternative example where someone from within the community is responsible for transforming students rather than an outsider.  I haven't seen that one, but an alternative I immediately thought of was "To Sir, With Love", wherein Sidney Poitier's character transforms the lives of his white students while withstanding racism from the community.   Can you think of any other examples that subvert the "nice white lady" story?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Jerry Lewis Strikes Again

Apparently, he's quicker to apologize for his homophobic comments than he is for his misogynistic ones

The Onion IS supposed to be funny, isn't it?

Will somebody who gets it please explain the joke to me?

Video: Breaking News: Missing Girl Probably Raped

Monday, September 3, 2007

And while we're on the topic of Jerry Lewis....

I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that aside from being insensitive to disability issues, Lewis also proved himself to be a raging misogynist with these remarks he made in 2000 (both news blurbs via imdb.com):

Feb 14, 2000: Jerry Lewis proved himself dumbfoundingly politically incorrect on Saturday during an appearance at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, CO. As reported by the Associated Press, Lewis was asked which female comics he admires. "I don't like any female comedians, " he recalled. When Martin Short, who was moderating the panel reminded him of Lucille Ball and remarked, "You must have loved her, " Lewis replied "No, " then added, "A woman doing comedy doesn't offend me but sets me back a bit. ... I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world."
And this is his poor attempt at an apology:
September 5, 2000: Jerry Lewis has recanted his comment made earlier this year that he didn't like female comedians. On Friday, he recanted. Sort of. He told CNN's Larry King that he admires such comedians as Whoopi Goldberg and the late Lucille Ball. But he also said some of them make him uncomfortable. "Why? Because I'm old fashioned, " said Lewis, 74. "I still open doors for ladies, I still move a seat under for a lady, and my wife gets the kind of glorious attention that a lady is entitled to... I have a difficult time seeing her do this on stage, " he added, making a pumping motion under his armpit.
And this is the person America trusts to be an advocate for the disabled?


I can't go back and add it to my last post since I submitted it through e-mail, but the whole blogswarm for the MDA Telethon protest is actually located at Kara Sheridan's blog and can be found here:

Read and enjoy!

Blogging for Civil Rights: The MDA Telethon Edition

I'm sure lots of working Americans are really happy to have the day off today, but not everything is great about Labor Day. For one thing, my local conservative radio station took the opportunity to discuss why they think labor unions are nothing but money-stealing organizations that support lazy people who don't want to work. For another thing, there's the annual Jerry Lewis MDA telethon.
The telethon is widely known as one of television's longest running traditions, but it doesn't take a genius to know that that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing.  People have defended some crazy things in the name of tradition.  And as I blogged here, not everyone is supportive of this particular tradition.  Disability activism has come a long way since the telethon began in 1966, but unfortunately the attitudes underlying this annual fundraiser have not. 
I hate to make this whole argument out of analogies, and I would never want to make any unfair comparisons, but as a social justice advocate, it's easy to see the parallels between disability activism and other anti-oppression movements.  The Muscular Dystrophy Association may have good intentions with what it is trying to do with the telethon, but the problem lies with its approach.  By portraying disability as a horrible, awful thing that makes its "victims" objects of pity and somehow less than "normal" people, it only perpetuates harmful stereotypes about people who live with disabilities.  Stereotypes that affect how others view them and how they view themselves.  And here's where the anaologies come in:  We know that being anything other than a straight white male in our society means that you have a number of forces working against you.  But what if someone were to propose that the solution to inequality was not to fight for civil rights, but to find a way to make everyone become straight white males?  Do LGBTQ activists like it when people argue that they shouldn't be gay?  How do people of color enjoy being told to assimilate to avoid discrimination?  Women bristle at the idea that the way to equality is to act more like men, and of course people with disabilities have every right to be horribly offended by an annual day-long event in which patronizing "normals" try to raise money on their behalf by drumming up pity based on the ridiculous assertion that their disability somehow makes them less than everyone else.  Civil rights activism is not centered around making marginalized people more "normal"; it is about making society more fair, accepting, and accessible.   It is the oppressor that needs reforming, and NOT the oppressed.
The telethon-protest movement (which was actually started by former telethon poster children) has come under a lot of criticism for being "ungrateful" for all the perceived good the telethon has done in its forty years of existence.  But to them ( and quite understandably so), it doesn't matter how much money the telethon makes.  The donations are just unwelcome as long as they're in the name of pity and as long as the telethon contributes to the marginalization of people with disabilities.  The MDA telethon and it's host happen to be downright insulting to people with disabilities, and  HERE's what the disability rights movement would like to see from the MDA (via cripcommentary.com):
1. Immediately fire Jerry Lewis as host of the MDA Telethon.

2. Immediately stop using children in fundraising efforts. Parents can no longer consent to their exploitation.

3. Immediately hire an independent auditor to conduct an honest, impartial, objective accounting of the Telethon's costs and revenues.

4. Based on the accounting, develop a timetable for "weaning" the MDA budget away from dependence on the Telethon

(For links to other posts about the telethon, refer to the comments section of this post at Miss Crip Chick's blog.)