Link Farm and Open Thread #15

Posted by Ampersand | March 22nd, 2006

Please use this thread to post whatever you'd like, including links to your own stuff. Meanwhile, there's plenty of good reading out there:

Wampum: Final Voting for 2005 Koufax Awards
"Alas" didn't make it to the final round (sob! wail!), but many great bloggers did. Go vote!

Salon: The Battle To Ban Birth Control
Curtsy: Blackfeminism.org

Persephone's Box: Inside Every Polite Woman is a Valerie Solanas Screaming to Get Out

A Womb Of Her Own: In Which Melissa Is Shocked By Racism In Midwifery

Definition: Trans Issues Are Women's Issues

The insistence that transwomen are not “real” women, is, at its heart, fueled by the idea that biology equals destiny: the idea that one’s body parts define that person completely, that there is no individual room for change or variation, that a woman is only as good as her ability to give birth (therefore, as good as her uterus), or to serve as a sex object (therefore, as good as her vagina, as good as her breasts), or as a caretaker, a mother, a housewife, a passive decoration (therefore, as good as her ability to conform to “acceptable” gender roles).

And that, no matter how you disguise it or dress it up, no matter what excuses you might give about male privilege or socialization or experience in a transwoman’s history, is not feminism.

Peek: Quick! Vote While The Black People Are Gone!
How hurricane Katrina will help the GOP grab more elections.

Big Gay Blog: Blogger Strong-Armed By Ex-Gay Group

Well if you haven't yet heard, the ex-gay group Exodus International has served Mr. Watt, and at least one other blogger, with a cease and desist order for creating a parody of a billboard ad Exodus sponsored in Orlando, Florida.

Life, Law, Gender: Life In Hell

Transgender women are more likely to end up in prison than virtually anyone else. The oft-quoted statistic about African American men — that one in four has a history of incarceration — is dwarfed by the available stats on people who are male-to-female, or MTF. A San Francisco Department of Public Health survey conducted in 1997 found that almost two thirds of MTF respondents had been incarcerated. (Curtsy: Jay Sennett.)

Marginal Notations: feminism and authenticity, a.k.a. "i'm more of a feminist than you are"

ASCENT Blog: About that maverick congressman who proposed to censure Bush. No, not Fiengold; Conyers
Why does it take a white maverick to get progressives' attention?

Woman of Color Blog: a conflation of desperation with enjoyment

No recreational facilities exist, and they prohibit residents from holding meetings or informal social gatherings in the community. As a result, leisure time for males is largely spent drinking alcohol. They prohibit news letters, bulletin boards or other forms of communication as is the installation of cable television services. Many residents we spoke with expressed concern with the level of social control in the community, a worker explained to us that they threatened them with losing their job and sending them back to their country if they were seen talking to outside agencies.

Tennessee Guerrilla Women: 400 Disabled Protesters Take Over Downtown Nashville
Whoo-hoo! They're protesting cuts in Medicaid.

A Quote From A "Pro-Life" Philosopher: Remember, abortion is all about father's rights

Both man and woman are parents, and the woman carries the child. Yet surely to be a parent, a generator of the fetus, a procreator, is to have a closer relationship to the fetus than merely to contain the child physically. And we can raise the question, again, of whether in fact such a husband is allowed to live out his pro-life convictions in our society. It is not even clear that the husband is "free not to have an abortion", as the bumper sticker alleges, if his wife wants to have one.

Bloodless Coup: On Those Anti-Globalization Protesters Arrested in 2002

Long story short, the police arrested a number of people (the article says "about 30″) who were guilty of (wait for it…) looking like they were going to break the law.

Giant Lego Aircraft Carrier
Wow. Curtsy: The Argument Clinic.

New Statesmen: Was It Worse Under Saddam?

On 8 March, International Women's Day, Yanar Mohammed, leader of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq, announced that more than 2,000 women have been kidnapped since the fall of the regime.

Many women live isolated lives, their social contact limited to conversations over the telephone. Those who continue going to work, particularly in the Shia south, can find themselves harassed by Islamic militias. "Morality police" in Basra are likely to stop them as they enter schools and government buildings, checking they are wearing the hijab. This Taliban-style enforcement continues despite guarantees under the new constitution that women should be free to choose how they dress.

Ilyka Damen: "Shut Up, Sit Down and Scale Back" Is Not Feminism

I said I wasn't going to attempt to define an "official feminist position" on any issue, and I am not.

But I am going to tell you what I think of Cathy Young, IWF, iFeminism, and former Bangles lead singer Christina Hoff Sommers: I think they're more convincing as misogynist apologists than as feminists.

Pandagon: Bush admin decides that being queer is a security risk

Creative Destruction: The Wisdom of Jonah Goldberg

I have found a number of bloggers out there who are really good at presenting their own point of view, while also being intellectually honest about the views of people who disagree with them. There are also a lot of bloggers (of all stripes) who seem to be victims of the Moral/Intellectual Fallacy: the idea that anyone who holds Wrong Views must do so because of personal evil or personal stupidity.

Bloodless Coup: New Survey Shows That Students Think Liberal Professors Are Fair Graders

Professors who students think are liberal are generally rated more favorably by students on whether students are encouraged to present their own viewpoints, whether grading is fair, whether the learning environment is comfortable, and whether they care about the success of students.

Mind the Gap!: White Privilege Blogging

Reuters: Women's Rights In Syria

Though such cases are greatly underreported, Da'ad Mousa, a prominent Damascus lawyer and women's rights advocate, said that more than 100 cases of so-called "honour killings" were reported in Syrian newspapers between 2000 and 2003. The majority of the men involved, who killed a female relative suspected of an illicit sexual affair in the belief that the liaison tarnished the family's "honour", went unpunished.

Vegankid: Gender Is Required
This cracked me up.

Brownfemipower: Getting Priorities Straight

Right now, i think that many of us have no choice but to position ourselves (that is PROTECT ourselves) in a way that is mean or offensive to white folks. when i know for a fact that most of the white parents in my neighborhood look at my little chicano/a kids and see *trouble maker* *Drop out* *teenage pregnancy* *poor* *uneducated*, I really don't feel much like working on trusting white folks much–cuz i'm not going to let my kids be fucked up by *their* shitty beliefs. i'm not going to work to dispell their beliefs about my kids, i'm going to talk to my kids and give them the power, education, self assurance and self love to realize that those folks are fucked up individuals. That way my kids deal with racists on *their* terms, not the other way around. (Curtsy: Egotistical Whining.)

Indymedia: Iranian Police Attack International Women's Day Demonstrators

Iranian police and plainclothes agents yesterday charged a peaceful assembly of women’s rights activists in Tehran and beat hundreds of women and men who had gathered to commemorate International Women’s Day, Human Rights Watch said today.

Blac(k)ademic: Fuck the L-Word
Just when you thought TV can't get any more racist or offensive…. Blackamazon concurs with Blac(k)ademic's view of The L Word.

The Bloviator: Background Information About Wafa Sultan
This powerful video of Wafi Sultan speaking out for women's rights and against terrorist violence has been getting tons of links and email rounds (the video is very entertaining, but if you prefer there's a text transcript here). (Note that the link is to Memri, a group that has been accused of anti-Arab racism.) On the one hand, it's thrilling to see a woman speaking out on Al-Jazeera against misogyny and violence; but on the other hand, I can't help but be suspicious of a video that plays so fully into a Western triumphalism narrative. For a fuller background on Ms. Sultan - containing both negative and positive - be sure to read the Bloviator's post.

NOW Breaks With Democrats, Endorses Alan Sandals For Senate
The Democrats, in contrast, are endorsing anti-choice candidate Bob Casey.

TMPCafe: Credit Reporters Give Special Privileges to V.I.P.s

Did you know, for example, that while you need to sweat out your credit report,the credit bureaus keep a special "V.I.P." list of prominent citizens whose reports are specially tidied up so they look cleaner than they really are? If the big boys never experience the harassment or increased costs of a credit ding, then they are a lot less likely to insist on more legal oversight.

Political Animal: One Way Having A Woman On The Supreme Court Matters

Lawyers, Guns and Money: Should Children Have The Right To Vote?

Pandagon: IWF Rejects Amanda's Submission To Their College Essay Contest
Gee, I wonder why? Here's a sample:

A month later, my roommate approached me in one of her usual panics. "Amanda, I’m pregnant again!" she said. I guess she’d taken my lectures about the evils of the birth control pill a little too closely to heart. She explained to me that she had the cash, but she still needed a ride to the clinic. She swore up and down that this was only her 5th abortion, but I had learned not to believe anything she said after she kept swiping Sudafed out of my purse to keep her dorm room methamphetamine lab in operation.

Reappropriate: Anti-Fat Bigotry on "The Apprentice"

Do they really believe that abortion is murder?

Posted by Ampersand | March 21st, 2006

I really like to assume the best of everyone, even people I disagree with.

And I try hard to take what opponents say, at their word.

But sometimes it's hard.

A lot of people who favor forced childbirth for pregnant women say that they believe that an abortion, even early in pregnancy, is identical to child murder. Have an abortion, shoot a four-year-old in the head; morally, it's the same. Or, anyhow, that's what they claim to believe.

In contrast, pro-choicers tend to think that the abortion criminalization movement is motivated by a desire - perhaps an unconscious desire - to punish women for having sex.

I used to reject that latter view as a pointless ad hominem attack. Nowadays, I'm not so sure. Although I've met some rank-and-file "pro-lifers" whose policy preferences were consistent with a belief that a fetus is morally indistinguishable from a child, those folks usually have policy preferences which are totally out of step with the abortion criminalization movement as a whole.

In contrast, the leaders of the abortion criminalization movement have consistently put their political weight behind policies which make little or no sense if they genuinely think that abortion is identical to child murder. And those same leaders routinely endorse policies that make a lot of sense if their goal is to penalize women who have sex. And they've done so with the apparent backing and blessing of the vast majority of the rank and file. Let's review:

Chart of policies or positions favored by powerful anti-choice leaders

Almost none of their policies make sense if they really see no difference between the death of a fetus and the death of a four-year-old. However, nearly all their policies make sense if they're seeking to make sure that women who have sex are punished. After years of seeing this pattern repeated again and again, it's difficult to take them at their word.

UPDATE: Molly Saves The Day has several good posts along similar lines: See her posts 20 Questions - Baby-Killers Edition, which partly inspired this post; More Questions For People Who Want To Make Abortion Illegal; and Which Is It?

Heads-Up: Ortho Evra Contraceptive Patch Warning.

Posted by Kim (basement variety!) | March 20th, 2006

Recently there was a conversation on the safety of contraception for women, and whether or not it was ever fatal and how. I got this in the mail today due to having used ortho products in the past, and decided to share it as a heads-up to any women that might use or have used the Ortho Evra contraceptive patch. By the way, this is by no means offered in any ‘anti-birth control’ manner; in fact I’m very much for the safe and informed use of contraception period. So anyways it seems a potential class action suit is being prepared and they are seeking women who might have suffered effects by using Ortho Evra contraceptive patch - here’s what I got:

Dear Kimberly;

On November 10th, 2005 the FDA approved new warnings for Ortho Evra contraceptive patch alerting patients and doctors that the patch exposes women to higher levels of estrogen than most birth control pills. The new warning says users are exposed to about 60% more estrogen in their blood than if they were on typical birth control pills. This increased exposure to estrogen may increase the risk of suffering blood clots or blood clot related injuries such as stroke, heart attack, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

If you, your loved one, or someone you know has suffered one of these conditions while using Ortho Evra patch, please call us.

The toll free number is: 888-649-4832

Moulten & Meyer L.L.P.

If nothing else, this is good information to have / know when you’re in the market for contraception, or someone you know is in the market for contraception.

Monday baby blogging: Amp bitches about junk mail edition

Posted by Ampersand | March 20th, 2006

My credit card companies keep on mailing me "convenience checks." These are checks I can use just like an ordinary check, except that the money will be charged to my credit card and I'll be charged fifteen bucks for the privilege.

What puzzles me is that they're called "convenience" checks. As I recall, the sales pitch for credit cards (back when mass-marketed credit cards were new) was that they were supposed to be much more convenient than writing checks. Okay, so now, in order to make the credit cards I use instead of checks because they're more convenient yet more convenient, I'm now supposed to write checks instead of using credit cards?

Yeesh.

In fact, they're damn inconvenient, because I can't just throw blank checks into the recycle bin and leave it on the curb; I'm fine with people going through my recycling for the bottles with deposits on 'em, but blank checks is another matter. So they have to be shredded.

But we here at "Alas" headquarters prefer not to give our money to the corporate fascist makers of paper-shredding machines. So we've developed our own all-natural and holistic method of safely disposing of those "convenience" checks.

Maddox shreds a troublesome document

(Bet you were wondering what any of this had to do with baby blogging!)

Iraq: Maybe Sistani didn’t call for homosexuals to be killed, after all

Posted by Ampersand | March 20th, 2006

In my most recent link farm post, I posted a link to a story about Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani calling a fatwah against homosexuals. The blogger Zeyad apparently translated this from an page in Arabic on Sistani's website:

Q: What is the judgement on sodomy and lesbianism?

A: "Forbidden. Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible."

Juan Cole also believes the story is true. However, Ginmar, who has significant expertise in this area, is arguing that the story is false. From an email Ginmar sent me (reprinted with permission):

Here's the evidence. Sistani has a long history of taking fatwas extremely seriously and always issuing them in the service of non-violence. The other part of the fatwa incited Shi'ites to violence against Sunnis. While homophobia may be old news, this not and all the major news organs would have reported that. It directly contradicted Sistani's earlier fatwas, ordering Shia to stand down from acts of retaliation. After the bombing of the Al Askari mosque this year he ordered Shia not to protest violently.

The original tip reported he was the leader of the BADR Corps and SCIRI. This is manifestly not true. The tips have come from one source, the guy cited in the 365 gay article. I've never heard of him before. Amongst other things, the guy got just about everything wrong and appears to have no real knowledge of conditions in Iraq. Chat room murders? People don't go out at night for fear of bombings and kidnappings. Furthermore, homoerotic friendships are common in Iraq to the point where you see men walking hand in hand down the street. Homosexuality is commonly but not openly practiced.

Finally, it appears that Sistani's website has been hacked. It's not like he has 24/7 internet access in An Najaf.

I spent a year studying the guy's actions in Iraq. This fatwa contradicts a long-established pattern of behavior and public statements, not to mention earlier fatwas issued when the stakes were far lower. Sistani's primary concern has always been the safety of the people of Iraq. He's what's known as a Quietist: he believes that religion should be an influence on people's lives, and their lives will then influence their politics.

I'm not entirely sure what's going on with his website, but this is the guy's character: he's the last person to incite violence when it's this dangerous, so something's going on. I was going to print out his website and have my NCO read it. That's the only thing I'm not certain of.

You should know this, too: Sistani issued a fatwa early in the war that instructed Iraqis not to resist the invasion. That's how concerned he is with loss of life. My biggest fear is Zarqawi's oft-expressed urge for a religious war. Iraqis don't fear each other nearly as much as they do the Iranians, and assassination of Sistani is the one thing that would guarantee a civil war. That country is like an abyss covered by tightropes supported by razor blades.

I don't know what the truth is; hopefully things will be clarified soon. But I wanted "Alas" readers to be aware that the story has been called into doubt.

2nd Big Fat Carnival: Second Call For Submissions

Posted by Ampersand | March 20th, 2006

This Ain't Living has posted the second call for submissions for the second Big Fat Carnival. Less than two weeks left!

Healthy Living

Posted by Maia | March 20th, 2006

I realised that I hadn't explained myself very well in my Body Shop thread. Or rather I'd paraphrased an argument without actually making that argument.

I hate The Body Shop, have a for very long time. I've never had a use for the dumb soaps and gels and whatever they make (although I did go through a stage when I was 14 of buying them as presents for friends, if I didn't know what else to get them). They're such a huge part of the idea that it's alternative and a moral good to be healthy, and what it means to be healthy is to fit a traditional idea of beautiful that I'd happily watch as every single one of their stores burnt to the ground.

I wanted to explore the link between health and beauty, and the idea that health is a moral good, a little bit more to explain.

The equation of 'beauty' and 'health' is really common and really insidious. The most obvious example is weight, and (despite rather a lot of evidence to the contrary) the conflation of thin and healthy. In circles (usually middle class and slightly politically aware circles) where it's not acceptable to talk about weight loss straight up, generally exactly the same conversations take place, but people are talking about 'health'. If someone is nervous of complimenting a woman for losing weight, they'll talk about 'healthy' she looks.

But it's much more common than that. Most of the examples are just laughable. Beauty sections in magazines are now called 'health' sections. Hair products claim they will promote 'healthy looking hair' (because ensuring that your dead-cells are healthy should be the priority of everyone). The state of your skin is seen as indicative of your overall health. Performing beauty routinues, like moisturising or body scrubbing, are portrayed as part of maintaining your health.

Some are more scary:

The American Cancer Society offers the "Look Good…Feel Better" program, "dedicated to teaching women cancer patients beauty techniques to help restore their appearance and self-image during cancer treatment."

Of course this is bullshit, you can't tell someone's health by looking at them, and a lot of so called health routinues won't increase your longevity, or your quality of life at all.

Now this is partly just a marketing technique, the more women challenge beauty standards, the more useful it is to have different justification for selling exactly the same products. But I think it's become a lot more significant than that, because health is portrayed as a moral good. This particular conflation is a very powerful one for fucking with people's minds, and very useful for ensuring certain sorts of behaviour (mostly buying stuff, but also not challenging the way our society is organised).

The first step to believing being 'healthy' is moral is to show that 'health' is something that is under your control. Now personally, I reject this idea as deeply offensive, as well as being wrong. Wile there are some things that you can do that will promote the length of your life, and increase the ways you can use your body, most of it is just luck. Either it's your genetics, or it's a result of environmental factors you can't control (like poverty, or being exposed to depleted uranium). It's very tempting to believe we can control our body, how long we live, how far it holds out, but most of us won't be able to.

To give a rather silly example of this I have had a number of people tell me about the quality of their teeth, how they don't have fillings, and they each give a different reason for this (they brush every day, or they eat a lot of cheese). Now it seems to me that it's far more likely that fluoridated water, and improvements in detal practice are the reason my generation's teeth are better than our parents.

That's why I think it's wrong, the reason I think it's offensive is it promotes an idea that everyone could get better if only they tried hard enough. It turns illness into a form of personal failing. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a fantastic article about this in relation to the breast cancer industry (and yes unfortunately it is an industry):

My friend introduces me to a knot of other women in survivor gear, breast-cancer victims all, I learn, though of course I would not use the V-word here. "Does anyone else have trouble with the term 'survivor'?' I ask, and, surprisingly, two or three speak up. It could be "unlucky," one tells me; it "tempts fate," says another, shuddering slightly. After all, the cancer can recur at any time, either in the breast or in some more strategic site. No one brings up my own objection to the term, though: that the mindless triumphalism of "survivorhood" denigrates the dead and the dying. Did we who live "fight" harder than those who've died? Can we claim to be "braver," better, people than the dead? And why is there no room in this cult for some gracious acceptance of death, when the time comes, which it surely will, through cancer or some other misfortune?

The idea that 'health' is a result of our individual actions is now dangerously firmly placed. We can beat heart-attacks, breast-cancer, alzheimer's, arthritis, dementia and everything else if we try hard enough.

As well as being awful in its own right, this idea turns anything that is promoted as improving health as a moral good, even if it doesn't actually improve your longevity or use of your body.

This idea is so insidious that it has often been adopted by the left, where being 'healthy' can be portrayed as not just morally good, but alternative - or even radical. So we end up reinforcing our own version of the mainstream ideology. Constantly things that are supported for political reasons (say veganism) are promoted for their supposed health benefits, as if good politics and good health, automatically go together (I have a much, much, much longer rant about this particular topic, but it'll have to wait for another day).

I started writing this whole post because mythago asked me "why is buying soap kowtowing to patriarchal, capitalistic ideals about beauty?" I want to make it really clear that I don't think the solution to the problems that I raised is to stop eating in a particular way, or buying a particular product, or trying to live in a way that you find nourishes and sustains you.

What I do think is important is we challenge the ideology which equates beauty, health and morality, and promotes health as something we can control. We can stop praising people for being healthy, we can stop telling people they look healthy, we can stop assuming that just because we agree with something politically it'll be good for our bodies, and we can stop using moralistic language to describe food.

And that's why I hate the Body Shop.

Also posted on My blog.

Reproductive Rights Viewed From The Hilltop

Posted by Ampersand | March 20th, 2006

The pro-choice movement can be a little insular; we are in a valley whose boundaries are defined by Roe v Wade on the one side, and the ever-shrinking practical access to abortion on the other. Cherry at Tortillas Duras has written a terrific post that attempts to look at reproductive rights from the hilltop, where a broader view is possible. What reproductive rights issues are those of us in the valley missing?

Here's a sample of Cherry's post. I don't agree with everything Cherry says (for instance, would ending transnational adoption actually help "individuals who are not able to parent their children due to conditions created through imperialism," and how do the needs of those individuals balance against the needs of people who are discriminated against by domestic adoption agencies?), but all of it is interesting; I'd really recommend reading the whole thing.

View content

Link Farm and Open Thread #14

Posted by Ampersand | March 19th, 2006

Feel free to post anything you'd like on this thread, including links to your own (or other's) work. Now, here's some of what I've read recently:

Carnival of the Liberals Number 8: The Haiku Edition

One Good Thing: Letter to Alex and Chris, 12 Years In The Future
Flea reflects on rape, Hugh Thompson, and raising sons to be human beings. I can't find high enough praise to describe this letter; I won't be surprised if this wins the 2006 "best post" Koufax.

BlackAmazon: I Ain't Having It
BlackAmazon kicks patriarchal ass, in an amazing manifesto responding to threats of violence against black women in the Nigerian blogging community. Make sure you also visit Woman of Color Blog for the background to BlackAmazon's post.

Coalition for Darfur: The Silence of Bystanders

In Darfur, we have even less excuse than in past genocides. We have known about this for more than two years, we have photos and eyewitnesses, our president has even described it as genocide, and yet we're still paralyzed. Part of the problem is that President Bush hasn't made it a top priority, but at least he is now showing signs of stirring — and in fact he's done more than most other world leaders, and more than many Democrats. Our failure in Darfur is utterly bipartisan.

Vigilance: How We've Created Freedom In Afghanistan and Iraq
In Iraq, a powerful Shiite cleric calls for death in the most painful way possible for lesbians and gays. Meanwhile, an Afghan faces the death penalty for converting to Christianity.

UPDATE: Ginmar seems certain that the above-listed Iraq story is false.
On the other hand, Zeyad, who can read Arabic, claims that the call for death to homosexuals is on Sistani's official website. I don't know the truth of the matter, so I suggest you read both posts and draw your own conclusion.

ACS Blog: How the Bush Administration is undermining Title IX and women's sports

Den of the Biting Beaver: If God Is Just, Then Why Is There Rape?

Fabulosa Mujer: Anarcha-Feminism & Supporting Mothers and Children

…You don't need to "like" kids in order to support them, and their rights, as you should all people…. Mothering [is] a feminist pro-choice thing - we have the right to birth control, abortion, AND prenatal care, resources to support us after birth - the choice to have a kid as well as to not have one.

Fabulosa Mujer: Women and Weapons

Pseudo-Adrianne: Reproductive Rights Under Attack in Tennessee

A Womb of Her Own: Manley Men Lift Furnature
Melissa quotes from a hilarious interview with manhood-obsessed professor Harvey Mansfield.

Shrub.com: How To Be A Real Nice Guy

Slant Truth: Yeah, More On Why Crash Was Bullshit

Pinko Feminist Hellcat on The OC Rape Case
Sheelzebub coverage of the OC Rape Case has been nothing short of stellar; now, happily, she's set up a post category for her many posts on the subject, so they're all available at a single link.

Ally Work: Refuting the Slavery Apologists

Lucky White Girl: Impromptu Carnival: Privilege in the blogosphere
Lucky White Girl gathers some recent posts regarding the feminist blogosphere's on-going fight over privilege, civility, and moderation policies. Unsurprisingly (and, some would say, self-servingly), I agree with Noumena's view.

One Tenacious Baby Mama: On (patriarchal) (male) "Feminists"
This is one of the most interesting criticisms of "Alas" I've read in a while. (Note: There a nude image of a woman contained in this blog's background image.)

Feministe: Opting Out Of Opting Out
What if they held an opt-out revolution and nobody came? (Feministe appears to be offline right now, but I hope this link will work again soon.)

The Well-Timed Period: Fisking Mr. Saleton on 2nd Trimester Abortions

Lawyers, Guns and Money: Why the Health Exemption Matters

But I do enjoy the cinematography in Triumph of the Will!

Hit and Run: Breathalyzers Come Under Fire

"It seems to us that one should not have privileges and freedom jeopardized by the results of a mystical machine that is immune from discovery," Florida's 5th District Court of Appeal ruled…

Dispatches From the Culture Wars: Mor(e)on Christian Martyrs

[The ACLU and the courts are] "basically cleansing America of religion and particularly Christianity. It's almost like a genocide. It's a sophisticated genocide." –Richard Thompson, Christian right legal activist.

Vigilance: Japanese Feminist Censored by Japanese Government

Waiting For Dorothy: Abortion, Truthiness and Sciency Language
Occasional "Alas" comment-writer Emily1 critiques the South Dakota Task Force's report on abortion and finds it wanting. This is the first in a series of posts; the second can be read here.

Running With Symbols: Talking with my 11-year old daughter about abortion

Reappropriate: The V for Vendetta Buzzcut

why is it that the mainstream media seems to be focussing almost entirely on the shock of a Hollywood actress willingly cutting her hair for a role? The article I link above talks about Portman flying in the face of beauty myths, but it strikes me as sexist that almost all the publicity surrounding this film seems to be interested only in Portman cutting her hair. As if her experience as an actress are irrelevant, only what she has done to her appearance.

Sivacracy: TBogg is sexist crap.

Crooked Timber: Demography is not Destiny
Good refutation 0f the "conservatives will breed their way to victory" hypothesis.

Spore looks really cool
A sprawling game, originally named "Sim Everything," in which the player begins as a microscopic creature in a drop of pond water, and evolves her way up, and up, and up, until she's zipping around the universe in a spaceship fostering intelligent life on various worlds. What's most interesting, however, is the "massively single player online game." If you're interested in this sort of thing and have 20 minutes, I recommend watching the demo video. Curtsy: Catallarchy.

Some Links Regarding Lesbian and Gay Rights

A Womb of Her Own: De-gaying the White House Easter Egg Roll
The Religious Right blows a gasket because some children of same-sex parents might be at the White House's Easter Egg hunt. The horror! The horror!

My Amusement Park: 60 Minutes on The "Science" of Sexual Orientation
EL provides a great round-up of blogger reactions (as well as his/her own comments) to a recent 60 Minutes report on the (alleged?) physiological causes of homosexuality.

Peter Toscano: How Sexual Abuse Made Me Ex-Gay

Having been sexually abused did not make me gay; I was gay anyway. But living with unresolved childhood sexual trauma made me the perfect candidate for the dehomosexualization process.

(Via Fetch Me My Axe, who also has some thoughts).

Basic Rights Oregon: Oregon Taxpayers to Fund Anti-Gay, Church-Sponsored School

New Guest Blogger on “Alas”: Rachel of Rachel’s Tavern

Posted by Ampersand | March 19th, 2006

Since she didn't write an introductory post for herself, I'd like to welcome guest blogger Rachel S., of Rachel's Tavern, and also of the excellent new anti-racism blog Ally Work.

Rachel is super-cool, and that's all you need to know about her. But in case you want more, here's her bio from Rachel's Tavern:

Rachel E. Sullivan lives and blogs in the New York City metro area. She teaches sociology at Long Island University. Her research and teaching focus on race, African American Studies, gender, sexuality, and popular culture.

Racism, Sexism, and Heroism

Posted by Rachel S. | March 19th, 2006

In the days after 9/11 I was glued to my TV, watching what seemed to be the same cable news stories over and over and hoping that someone was going to tell me why this happened. The only refreshing new stories were the ones that followed heroes—the everyday folks who risked their lives to save others. Indeed there were many 9/11 heroes, but I quickly became frustrated at how few of those who were portrayed as heroes were White women or men and women of color. I just kept thinking; the rest of us are heroes too. Certainly, the firemen and police officers who died trying to save people in the World Trade Center were heroes, but the media and many average Americans seem to be much more content with white men as heroes. In fact, because of our race and gender stereotypes white men are constructed as brave, bold, dependable, powerful, righteous, and strong—all of the makings of a hero. Certainly the rest of us have many of those traits too, but what keeps our heroism out of sight? The contrast in the construction heroes in the aftermath of World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina reveal how much racism and sexism shape our definition of heroism.

One of the biggest factors is the occupational segregation that makes jobs filled primarily by White men heroic occupations. The best example of this would be the New York City fire department. In a city where about 23% of the population is white and male, 92% of the firefighters are white men. This is not a reflection of personal preferences, many women and minority fire fighters have faced harassment and discrimination. What makes this even worse is that the number of Black and Latino firefighters in New York has decreased since the 1960s—yes it has decreased. The police department fairs somewhat better, but still does not reflect the ethnic make-up of the city.

After 9/11 the racial and gender make up of the fire department was very obvious to any outside observer who watch the numerous pictures of heroes. On that day, out of over 300 firefighters only 12 Latino firefighters, 12 Black firefighters and no women fire fighters died. What was even more telling was the controversy that emerged over a proposed statue to honor the firefighters who died. The statue was based on the now famous photo of three White firefighters who raised the US flag in still smoldering rubble of the World Trade Center. The controversy erupted, when artists designing the statue want to deviate from the photo by having a multiracial group of firefighters depicted in the statue.

The media and many of the Americans consume it also contribute to this problem by anointing White men as heroes and ignoring others. One of the heroes was a black woman flight attendant Cee Cee Lyles, who called her husband and provided some of the information about what was going on Flight 93, which later crashed in Pennsylvania.

While her story was mentioned it never inspired the same media coverage as those of the Whites who died. Media outlets know that Whites make great victims and heroes, and they actively seek them out, when they anoint heroes in the wake of tragedy.

Now we have had another major American tragedy. Much of the city of New Orleans is destroyed, and the search for heroes is much different. Unlike 9/11, the media as had not had the convenient White male heroes for a few reasons. First and foremast the racial makeup of the city and the first responders was not as White as it was in New York. Rather than anointing the police as heroes, reporters noted that many police disappeared, and they admonished the Black police chief for this. A quick google search on Katrina heroes produces interesting results. The three groups most commonly mentioned–hospital workers; people rescuing animals, and the coast guard included numerous women. No political leaders, a la Rudy Giuliani, few mentions of police officers, and very few stories telling the stories of specific people. To many Americans, the working class Blacks of New Orleans make great victims, but they don’t make great heroes like White male stock brokers, politicians, firefighters, and police men.

No the heroes in New Orleans are not the usual suspects. Their mayor and the governor are not White men, and they are being held up to more scrutiny than Giuliani and Pataki (some of it rightfully so, but still much more). Everybody knows President Bush in his fly over analysis of the Superdome was not a hero. The police were unable to patrol the city given the mass destruction, and most of the middles class White men that fit the mold of our commonly held stereotypes were almost nowhere to be found, and because the usual suspects are not available the media and many Americans have been forced to look outside the mold for heroes. This has really created a dearth of heroes; I’m not saying there are no heroes, but the New Orleans heroes have been nearly invisible compared to the 9/11 heroes

Two young African American males really exemplify New Orleans heroism. One is 6 year old Deamonte Love, who helped to take care of his younger siblings and neighbors when they were separated from their parents, a tall task for a small child. Another hero was Jabbar Gibson, who commandeered a bus and drove over 50 people to the Astrodome, even though he had never driven a bus before. Even though Gibson helped evacuate people when no one else was, people had a hard time seeing him as a true hero. The local media even speculated about what the legal ramificationswould be since Gibson took the bus.
The good news is that many people realize that Gibson is a hero, in spite of the limited media coverage. In fact, someone has started an online petition to award Gibson with a scholarship and the Presidential Medal of freedom.

Heroes come in many forms, and our ability to see and create heroes is often related to racism and sexism. Who gets to be a hero? What do you think could be done to reframe heroism and overcome the racism in sexism in the media and in the structure of our occupations?

March 18

Posted by Maia | March 19th, 2006

This weekend is the third anniversary of invasion of Iraq. So I hope you spent at least some of it at an anti-war protest (unless you support the occupation, in which case).

The Wellington demonstration was fantastic. The numbers were up on last year. While 250 people doesn't sound like that much (particularly if you live somewhere big), our numbers are up on last year (which ruins a perfectly good theory of mine about the relationship between activists involved in organising a protest and people who turned up, oh well won't stop me using it). There were even people there who I didn't recognise, but what really excited me is that some of those people's didn't just turn up, they had organised to do stuff.

But that's not the main point of this post, because towards the end of the protest someone got arrested and this lead to the usual chain reaction and four more people were arrested (even that isn't the main point of the post, however frustrated I may be about protesters inability to count. If the police outnumber us then they can do whatever they want and the best idea is to get out of their way as soon as possible). What I want to write about is the gendered insults protesters were yelling at the police.

The police were all men, and both male and female protesters were playing up the way they were acting was a sign of failure of their masculinity, some of the comments were actually about the size of people's dicks.

Now feelings were quite high. I'd made 'Louise Nicholas is a Hero' patches and given them out to a bunch of people on the demo. The police were even more violent than usual (and I'm semi-used to police attacking my friends).

But to me that's all the more reason to reject traditional ideas of masculinity (and I think it's just plain stupid to taunt overhyped, specially trained, violent cops about their masculinity).

Also posted on my blog.

Sunday Protest Blogging: Paris

Posted by Maia | March 19th, 2006

They certainly know how to protest in France. There the government proposes fire-at-will legislation, and 120,000 people take to the streets of Paris, where they occupy buildings. Here we'll be lucky if it gets beyond a few grumpy blog posts. Unfotunately I don't speak French, but if you do the Paris indymedia site looks interesting.

When I said in my post on the body shop that I don't have any time for ethical businesses, it's not because I don't think there's any hope of creating change, but because I think obsessing about your shopping can distract people. It's because I believe if people work together collectively and organise together to challenge existing power structures, then we can be stronger than they are.

Also posted on my blog.

Oh no where will I buy my ethical beauty products now?

Posted by Maia | March 18th, 2006

I hate The Body Shop, have a for very long time. I've never had a use for the dumb soaps and gels and whatever they make (although I did go through a stage when I was 14 of buying them as presents for friends, if I didn't know what else to get them). They're such a huge part of the idea that it's alternative and a moral good to be healthy, and what it means to be healthy is to fit a traditional idea of beautiful that I'd happily watch as every single one of their stores burnt to the ground. So I was highly amused when I heard that The Body Shop had been bought by L'Oreal, and that Anita Roddick is personally over 100 million pounds richer.

Now The Body Shop is particularly awful, other 'ethical' businesses are built on something slightly more solid than making money on women's insecurities about their bodies. But that doesn't mean that any form of ethical businesses will make any difference to the way our worked works. If it makes you feel any better to buy 'fair-trade' coffee and chocolate then go ahead, it won't harm anyone.

The thing is that consumers who want their products made in a certain way are no threat to capitalism. It doesn't matter whether people want pink products, or products that are slightly less exploitative, if there are enough of them (and they're prepared to pay) they become a market and that need can be met. You're not going to challenge capitalism by buying stuff (or even by not buying stuff). L'Oreal buying the Body Shop is the natural and expected outcome of a project that was always about making money.

Also posted on my blog.

Where The Campaign Against Sex Education Has Brought Us

Posted by Ampersand | March 18th, 2006

I've sometimes heard pro-choicers claim that second-trimester abortions only happen in cases of a threat to the physical health of the mother, or in cases of a non-viable infant.

That's not always true. In some cases, the fetus is disabled but viable (there's been some discussion of this on "Alas," for example in this post). In other cases, the woman may have needed months to save up the money and put together the resources (transportation, days off, etc) required to have an abortion; this is particularly the case in states where pro-forced-childbirth forces have successfully put limitations on abortion access.

And sometimes, some woman are simply ignorant of how their bodies work, and may not even realize they're pregnant until they're in the second trimester… or until it's for all practical purposes too late to get an abortion.

What puts this in my mind today is this must-read post by Angry Black Bitch. ABB isn't talking about why second-term abortions happen, but I still think it's relevant. Here's a sample:

As most of you now, a bitch volunteers with teenage mothers at several local shelters. Some of these mothers chose to have their babies and some of them were simply too far along in their pregnancies to have any viable choices beyond adoption or keeping the child post birth. This illuminates the issue of ‘choice’ in Missouri and many other states within the union. Choice has not been as simple as choice for quite some time.

Freedom of choice requires freedom of information. The anti-choice movement has steadily been restricting access to reproductive information for years. Most of my current disgust at the advocates of anti-choice policies stems from that fact.

See, a bitch would like abortion to be rare as a motherfucker. Safe is followed by legal, which is followed by rare. My ass is one of millions of Americans who works diligently to educate my community…both men and women…on the various choices they have and options available that will assist in lowering the number of unplanned pregnancies. And a bitch averages at least 5 women per 6 month class session who have no fucking idea how their reproductive system works, what the real health risks and advantages are associated to contraception and what family planning is.

An average of 5 women…usually out of a total of 10 to 15…have to be educated about their reproductive cycle, how sex may result in pregnancy, what contraceptive methods are available to them and/or how to choose the best method. And Average of 5 women per class cycle relate misinformation about contraception…feel that using the pill may make them unable to have a baby in the future…believe that the pill may protect them against sexually transmitted diseases…feel that it is inappropriate to ask their sexual partner to use a condom because it 'assumes that they are sick'…strongly believe that they can not contract a sexually transmitted disease from oral sex…think the withdrawal method works…think that you can 'tell by looking at someone' if they have a sexually transmitted disease…and do not feel that they need to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases until they are pregnant because they 'feel fine'. […]

The sad reality is that anti-choice advocates are creating more unplanned pregnancies through their ignorance is bliss policies…and those of us in the trenches are shoveling in a downpour. A bitch struggles to understand the logic and finds that there is none.

Go read the whole, it's worth your time.

I try to see the best in everyone, including folks who are pro-criminalization on abortion. But their policies don't make sense if what they want to do is reduce abortion. No one whose primary goal is reducing abortion should be opposed to sex education, or to contraception.

But it's a perfectly sensible policy if what they want to do is make sure that women can't have sex without having children.

Curtsy: Brutal Women.

Sending Emails of Support to OC Rape Survivor

Posted by Ampersand | March 17th, 2006

From Hugo's blog:

One topic that's been well-discussed in the feminist blogosphere case has been the Orange County Gang Rape case. Sheelzebub has done a very good job of providing coverage, and recently posted the statement to the judge written by Jane Doe, the then 16 year-old victim in this horrific case.

Though the three rapists have been sentenced to six years each, Jane Doe is proceeding with a civil case. She was repeatedly harassed by defense investigators and the families of the accused; she has lived a long and horrible nightmare. One of my regular readers, Catty, has a connection with Jane Doe's civil suit attorney. She would like to collect letters of support for Jane Doe via email; these will then be passed on to her attorney and then, presumably, to Jane Doe herself. Catty is also looking for folks who live in the OC area who are willing to show up during the civil trial to offer support for this very brave and very young survivor. Contact her at the email address below.

The letters will be screened, and obviously only supportive letters will be passed on. Please email them to Catty at her email address: ihiroe@yahoo.com.

It sounds like a good thing to do. I hate that we live in a world in which the screening is undoubtably necessary.

OC Rapists Sentenced to Six Years In Prison

Posted by Ampersand | March 17th, 2006

As Maia noted in an earlier post, The OC Rapists have been sentenced to six years each in prison - although in practice, they could all be on the streets again in just two years.

As most "Alas" readers know, the three boys videotaped themselves gang-raping their classmate Jane Doe over and over (including rape with a pool cue and a lit cigarette), and then spent years legally harassing and smearing Jane Doe in every way they could. Pinko Feminist Hellcat, who has done extraordinary work covering this case, has posted a must-read review of the harassment the victim was subjected to. The extent of the harassment and game-playing is unbeleivable, and evil. It wasn't just the predictable "she's a slut" attacks during the trial, but also paying jurors from the first trial to try and change the minds of jurors from the retrail (is that legal?), and recruiting several of Jane Doe's "friends" to tell stories about her which were later proved to be lies. When Jane Doe moved to a new school, under an assumed name, to try and start over, the defense's private detectives stood in the parking lot of her new school screaming her real name at her. Everyone has a right to a defense in court, but what happened to Jane Doe wasn't a legitimate defense; it was revenge against an uppity girl for refusing to stay in her place.

So, about that sentencing:

From the LA Times:

Haidl and Nachreiner apologized to the victim. Spann said nothing.

Judge Francisco Briseño said minors and first-time offenders usually are not sent to prison, but in this case the defendants had degraded the victim — laughing and mocking her as she lay unconscious on a pool table — and were slow to show contrition.

"Their personal remorse for the victim, prior to today, was expressed in guarded fashion and at times seemed outweighed by personal self-pity," the judge said. He said he also considered that the defendants would be "marked" for life, owing to media coverage and the requirement that they register as sex offenders after their release.

The defendants also were each sentenced to three years' parole after their prison terms. Because of time already spent in jail, and with credit for good behavior, Haidl could be freed in 21 months and the others a few months later.

21 months. From Jane Doe's statement:

In my heart I knew I had to see it with my own eyes, to be able to know exactly what these three men did to me, so I chose to watch it. I remember my mouth started burning while I was watching the video because it was so dry from hanging open in disbelief. I cannot and don’t think I will ever be able to describe what I felt while watching that video. I remember asking myself, "When did I become a piece of meat and not a human being to these men? How could any sane human do these things they did?" They did things not even savage animals would do. They violated me in every way possible.

As I watched that video, I remember feeling two distinct feelings. I remember becoming furious at the animals that were attacking me because no human could do such a thing. And I remember feeling my soul and inner being completely deteriorating. I was empty. They had now taken every last bit of who I was and no longer felt human. I was like a lifeless and feelingless doll that these men thought they could use and abuse in any way they wished.

A part of me died that day, a part that I don’t know if I’ll ever get back. The part that was lost as I watched three men I called my friends and trusted completely, abuse, assault and torture me. All the while they laughed and rooted each other on and smiled like it was the best day of their life.

One of the defendant's attorneys, Al Stokke, responded to this by saying that the rape wasn't so bad, since Jane Doe was unconscious at the time. "She couldn't have felt it happen. She only knows it happened because of the videotape."

I don't think 21 months is enough. I don't think six years would be enough. I'm not even sure what "enough" would be.

Despite the videotape, it took four years and two trials (the first jury hung 11-1 in favor of "not guilty") to achieve a conviction. And it's only because of the unbelievable, stunning determination of Jane Doe that the conviction happened; nearly anyone else would have folded and stopped pursuing charges under the onslaught of the defense harassment. Certainly, if Jane Doe had decided to give up, who could possibly have blamed her, under the circumstances?

The problem is not only that rape convictions are difficult to get in a system of "innocent until proven guilty." The problem is not only with the rules of evidence and legal procedure. The problem is that, regardless of the level of evidence, rape convictions are too difficult to get in a society in which a defense attorney can claim that raping an unconscious woman with a snapple bottle and a lit cigarette is harmless and still anticipate being taken seriously by the judge.

Changing the laws is important work, and I admire the feminists who have led reforms of sexual assault laws for the last three decades. But study after study has shown that reforming rape law hasn't led to more convictions, or to a greater likelihood of conviction. Changing the law isn't going to bring about more rape convictions, because the law isn't a computer program; it's a guidebook for how various human beings involved in the system should act. And humans have agency, and can choose to "bend" the law.

Two years is nowhere near enough, but it is almost a miracle that the OC rapists are being punished at all. Even faced with overwhelming evidence, and even with a prosecutor willing to pursue the case, the defense still went far beyond the bounds of decency in attacking the victim. The judge refused to reign in the defense. The first jury was one vote away from finding the videotaped rapists "not guilty."

Consider as well, that Jane Doe's case could easily have been classified by "unfounded" - or simply let drop entirely - if the cops who initially took up the case (after someone turned in the videotape, mistaking it for a videotape of sex with a corpse) had taken the perspective of the boys. Or the case could have wound up with a prosecutor who would have decided that the odds of a guilty verdict were too low, or who decided this was just a case of a drunk slutty girl and boys being boys.

As all this illustrates, at every step of the way, in our system, there are actors who can bend the law to prevent rapists from being punished - especially if those rapists are rich, fresh-faced, white boys. Even in a case where the evidence seems overwhelming, some of these actors will try to find ways to let rapists off - and in many cases, they'll succeed. As long as human actors implement the law, legal reforms will be very limited in their effect.

Real reductions of rape - and increases in the likelihood of convictions - may be accompanied by legal reforms, but they won't be caused by legal reforms. It's only by a massive alternation in how our society thinks of rape at every level - so that "boys will be boys" and "the slut defense" is understood by the average person, the average judge, and the average juror as not merely wrong but also repugnant - that real change will happen.

Comments on this thread are reserved for feminist and pro-feminist posters only. If you don't think you'd fit into Ampersand's conception of "feminist or pro-feminist," please don't post on this thread.

Right to Work

Posted by Maia | March 15th, 2006

There was a bill before New Zealand parliament that would give an employer the right to fire an employee for any reason at all within the first 90 days of employment. It got voted through to the next stage because of support from the Maori party. Now I'm assuming very few readers care enough about New Zealand politics to want all the background. But the co-leader of the Maori party is Pita Sharples, and his speech was extremely stupid. Here's an extract:

I come to this House today, desperately aware of the need of people in my constituency, in my electorate, particularly in South Auckland, to be able to walk in the door to a job. However, we are also committed to protecting
Workers' Rights - so that workers' rights are not impinged on, workers are not abused, do not suffer from exploitation.

These are heavy issues, and our caucus has grappled with the challenge inherent. What takes precedence? The Right to Work or the Workers' Rights?

[…]

The impact of systemic bias, of institutional racism, the plight of the jobless are still issues of significance for this nation - and we must have the courage and strength to consider options.

We therefore will vote on principle, wanting there to be room for discussion, but also always aware of the juggling act to protect Workers' Rights alongside the Right to Work.

There is no juggling act needed to protect Workers' Rights and the Right to Work. One of workers' rights is the right to work, and the only way to protect that right is actually protecting it. For example, if you tightened the law on fixed-term contracts, that would be protecting the right to work. If you said that people had to be employed directly, and people couldn't use temp companies and sub-contractors, that'd protect the right to work. Even a tiny bill like the Employment Relation Amendment Bill, currently before parliament, would protect the right to work (it would enact the protection parliament already tried to give vulnerable workers, but failed due to general incompetence and a ridiculously conservative appeals court).

This bill does not protect the right to work, it attacks it, because it gives employers the ability to arbitrarily deny workers' right to work within the first 90 days of employment.

Also posted on my blog

Men scarce, so women settle for less

Posted by Maia | March 15th, 2006

That was an actual headline in the Domion Post today. The story goes like this:

Callister said the most significant finding of his research was a 10 per cent increase in the past two decades in highly educated women marrying men with fewer qualifications and, in many cases, lower-paid jobs.

This had happened largely because of a lack of eligible partners of equal educational or economic status, he said.

In many cases women are marrying men with lower paid jobs? They must be truly, truly desperate.

Also posted at my blog

Heros

Posted by Maia | March 15th, 2006

Like a lot of people I'd been following the Haidl gang rape trial at Pinko Feminist Hellcat (brief summary: three extremely rich young men filmed themselves repeatedly raping a young woman who has passed out. When they were charged with rape they attempt to destroy her even more. They manage to get one hung jury, but then they get convicted. But you should really read everything Sheezlebub says about the case). Those men have just been sentanced to six years in prison.

Today Sheezlebub has the statement Jane Doe (her name is suppressed, not that that stopped the rapists from making sure everyone knew who she was) made to the court. It's awful and harrowing, but it's also the statement of an survivor.

I think Amanda from Pandagon said it best:

They called Jane Doe “trash”, followed her around, smeared her name all over town and otherwise let it be known how most of society feels about women who speak out against sexual assault. Well, I’m going to adamantly disagree.

Jane Doe is a hero.

She got these pigs off the street so they don’t do it to someone else. She put up with a lot for that sliver of a hope that her pursuit of justice would mean something. And something so small, really–to be free. To be able to have friends you can visit. To be able to go to a party, like a man can, without fear of being brutally raped. To be considered human.

She's right, and Louise Nicholas is also a hero.

In our school hall we used to have a quilt which said Me aro koe ki te hä o Hine-ahu-one, which was translated as: Pay Heed to the Dignity of Women. I'd like to pay heed to the dignity to all women who have survived rape and sexual abuse.

Also posted on my blog