when the status quo frustrates.

Sluts and Mothers

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Generally, two things only women can be.

I’ve seldom been a slut–I was never able to say that before, or anything else on the topic of how much of a slut I was or wasn’t, because I never had a definition before that I felt satisfied any kind of consistency (internal or external). However, I have finally lucked out and stumbled across the bestest definition of s-l-u-t evar:

as the awesome Kelly Huegel pointed out, is a female person who has had sex with more people than any one person calling them a slut considers acceptable

Actually, by that definition I may never have been a slut, since as far as I know nobody has ever called me one. However, since the strong possibility always exists for any woman that at some point in time somebody somewhere has called her a slut outside of her hearing, I may have periodically been a slut. The closest I ever came to this face-to-face was the one-and-only-boyfriend-who-ever-asked-me-what-my-number-was, and appeared to be either deeply shocked or deeply impressed by said digit once it was delivered to him. (I returned the favor and asked him for his, and thence learned that his was, oh dear, lower than mine, which likely had some influence on the rather odd number-asking behavior and response to my response.)

I am mostly indifferent to the social construct that is a slut, but given my lack of personal dealings with the meme, I suspect a lot of my indifference stems from my privileged status as generally not being considered one. I have instead spent most of my sexual life married, which has resulted in more frequent accusations of codependency (not true–yes, I have checked with a psychologist on the possibility of that or any other quirks in my cortex–there are quirks, but not that one). I will say I have managed to spend the past five years only married for less than one of them, though I somewhat spoil that by having to admit that I have cohabitated for three.

Which is why I did really enjoy this piece from Jezebel, which has generated (unsuprisingly) all kind of bloggy feedback, both positive and negative. Not because I ever experienced the joys of “sluthood” myself, though I considered the idea on several occasions throughout the years, but because I know what it is to find well into my adult life that I was not only a serial monogamist but that I was a completely unintentional one, with unpleasant psychological results at the ending of the last foray into committed relationshiphood. I also found myself completely burnt out on the emotional roller-coaster ride, though my personal centering solution to this wasn’t to embrace casual sexual encounters. I figured out long ago that I am by nature monogamous, and in spite of the bewildering (to me, anyway–why does anyone care what someone else’s personal consensual sexual preferences are, really..? but oh, silly question–if that were the case, this wouldn’t be the behemoth it is) attempts by some to portray monogamy as unnatural and damaging for everyone. I have to admit, though, that my lack of interest in casual sexual encounters when monogamy is not an issue as everyone involved is totally single has eroded a little over the years. (Why this is, and why I feel I am naturally monogamous in general, is totally worth exploring further and I am gonna do it. Soon. Really!) But it still isn’t much of an interest.

But it’s really old news that only women can be sluts. I have periodically heard in passing, some man or other playfully labeled a “slut,” but it’s pretty meaningless in that context. For women, it can clearly become life-dominating. For Jaclyn Friedman, author of the Jezebel piece that prompted this train of musing, it clearly was as well. Frankly, I find the thought of it exhausting, the burden I and every other woman is supposed to shoulder at puberty (or even before, sometimes) based upon the fact that heterosexual men (the dominant variety) want to have sexual intercourse with us. Besides my history of not having to deal with it much personally, I suspect this exhaustion is the other main reason I am mostly indifferent to the slut meme–I don’t want to think about it. It’s not my problem, dammit! But you know, it is, by virtue of the fact that I am a woman. This is deeply irritating.

So I was already irritated when I continued my perusal of Feministe’s front page and got to this gem:

Diets all around!

Well, here’s some research that can’t possibly be misconstrued: a new study published in The Lancet has documented an association between the amount of weight a mother gains during her pregnancy and the birth weight of her infant. Since birth weight can be used to predict adult BMI, cue the ZOMG! Obesity! commentary. “For babies, studies are just now beginning to show that the effects of tipping the scales at birth may linger throughout life. Many experts suggest that excessive nutrition in pregnancy creates an abnormal uterine environment that permanently changes the baby’s brain, pancreas, fat tissue and other biological systems, said a co-author of the study, Dr. David Ludwig.”


I ate like a pig during both my pregnancies, once I was able to keep food down at all (in other words, not the first trimester or the first half of the second trimester). Though I may actually be insulting pigs by comparing my gestating eating habits to their usual ones. I gained about fifty pounds both times–I kid you not; when I stood on the scale in the delivery room while in the middle of labor with Offspring No. 2, I weighed in at 197 pounds. Not only did I consume vast quantities of food, it was whatever type of food I madly craved at the moment, which was quite the bewildering variety. (Yes, I drank pickle juice straight out of the jar, among other things. Pregnancy is weird. Avoid it until you are 100% sure it and its lifelong semi-autonomous consequences are what you really, really want.) Some of this food was great stuff for anyone, like the cucumber-and-tangerines kick I went on in the eighth month of pregnancy with one kid. Some of this food was not so great, like the french toast obsession I developed in month six or seven with the other kid.

So I starved myself (involuntarily, I assure you, not to mention dehydrated myself badly) for half of both my pregnancies and gorged like food was going to be gone tomorrow for the other half. I gained probably about as much weight as was recommended for the Octomom to put on (nope, neither of my pregnancies were even with twins). And yet–and yet–

Baby no. 1: male, full-term, 7 lbs 15 oz and 21 in. long
Baby no. 2: male, full-term, 7 lbs 15 1/2 oz and 21 in. long

According to kidshealth.org:

Most full-term babies weigh somewhere between 6 pounds, 2 ounces and 9 pounds, 2 ounces. Their average length ranges from 19 to 21 inches.

Hmm. Does the fact that at 5 feet 8 inches, I’m the shortest person in my family, and the only person shorter than me in the kids’ dad’s family is my sister-in-law at 5 feet 7 inches, and that in neither family is there an adult male below 6 feet in height, have anything to do with anything..? But even taking that into account, the kids weren’t outside the average range in length and were comfortably within the average weight.

Well, how about now though…? Maybe my goatlike approach to ingestion during pregnancy had a delayed response–

Baby no. 1: still male, 18 years old. 6 feet 4 inches tall. 160 pounds. (Actually a bit of a problem, as he is only 4 pounds over the underweight limit for an Air Force enlistee of his height. He has been advised by his recruiter to start scarfing down protein and hitting the gym for some weight training.)

Baby no. 2: still male, 13 years old. 5 feet 4 inches tall. 97 pounds. (According to standard charts for the US, this puts him at about the 80th percentile in height and 45th percentile in weight for a boy his age.)

…maybe I’ve starved them since birth, to hide my grotesque fetal abuse?

I know, I know, one piece of anecdata does not a refutation make…but it does make it hard for me personally to really take this seriously. It makes it very easy for me to see it as yet more womanshaming, safely targeting a role that only, indeed, women can and do take–there’s no way at all to slither out of gender-specific blame here, baby!

Let’s give the ladies a rest for a day, folks. Okay?

Get Over It

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

A friend of mine was talking the other day about this guy who was yelling at her on the street, and how uncomfortable it was for her. Not an uncommon event, not even for her, but this one was a little frightening because he started following her for a bit. She posted it on her facebook page, and got the normal comments of support. Then she got this comment:

Oh get over it. You’re bitching that someone though you were hot enough to try and talk to.

Harassment is a compliment, dontcha know. Now, I could just go “Asshole says things assholes say” but I think this is a very small illustration of something that women, particularly feminists who point it out, deal with when we point to the many, everyday ways we have to deal with shit in a patriarchy and how those things are completely minimized.

Liberals and Progressives like to say things like “context matters” a lot. A noose hung at the “white” tree where some black kids dared venture is a very different symbol than a noose in a western movie (though they both have the broad stroke of being “threatening”). The context of the first makes it “racist”. The context of the second makes it different. The same is true of the shit women deal with.

If I was an alien being who popped in from the land of Egalitaria and I have never experienced sexism before in my life, the random frat guy that barked at me when I was waiting for the bus would have been baffling, but not rage-inducing to me. Was I doing something wrong in a social context? Was it a warning that I didn’t understand? I would assume from the looks that were delivered with it and the tone of the barking activity that this was a judgment of me in some context, and a judgment met with approval by his peers with him, but I would probably find it more weird than embarrassing. In the real world, it was rage-inducing because I knew exactly what I was doing “wrong”- I was being insufficiently attractive to a guy while in public. Hell, I’d probably say “I was existing in public while female” and that’s probably all the “wrong” there was. I went to happily joking with my husband while waiting for the bus to mad as hell in the context of a bark. I took care of it in my normally mature fashion*, but I had the added benefits of it being in public, with my Hubby, and they were unlikely to come back and escalate the situation. In a different time and place, I probably would have just been silent, realizing the powerlessness of the situation and the added danger that comes from the ever-present threat physical violence.**

The context of a guy barking at me was a context where guys feel free, nay encouraged, to comment on women’s body’s like they are entitled to them. One incident is something that is easily forgettable. One incident where you know that you are going to get an equal level of social support, or more level of social support is equally forgettable. Such an incidence happen to me once when I was walking down Minneapolis. An extremely inebriated individual yelled at me “Hey! Do you know you have really big tits!” not once, but twice at me and was aiming for a third time when I acknowledged him by saying “Yes, I know”. I had my Hubby, I had my friends with me laughing at this guy, but the friend of this guy was busy trying to get him to shut up and saying “not cools” at him. This incident did not make me feel embarrassed, nor threatened, nor have the effect of taking up any of my mental or emotional state. This event did not cause me to pause at the idea of wearing a shirt that was low-cut or a push-up bra. The only thing memorable about this incident is the fact that it was actually a little bit funny to my social group. This event is something, that while annoying, is easy to “get over”. Someone barking at me is in a context of social encouragement, dozens of similar events that I have to ignore if I want to be in public, and an all-pervasive attitude of entitlement.

One cut doesn’t kill someone. One cut probably doesn’t even scar, especially if you throw on some salve right away. But a million of the same size cuts can kill a person.

*Yelling at him to fuck off while delivering the boob of justice at him- if there’s nothing that I can do to get him to stop I’m getting an emotional release from the encounter.
** Or maybe not. I’ve been known to invade the personal space of someone who has been yelling at me in the middle of the night by myself. Being suicidal is marvelous freeing in the context of not being afraid of death.

Why Am I Not Supposed to be Offended Again?

Monday, April 12th, 2010

I have, in the intern, been working for the U.S. Census. It’s fairly routine work- lots of paperwork, lots of calling people, but hey, I need money to pay the bills.*

Today we had an exterminator come to our house to take care of our ant problem. He noticed my Census badge, and started asking questions about why we need the census in the first place (because it’s in the constitution) and telling me that he only put the number of people in his household (then you’re going to get someone to come to the door). It was becoming increasingly obvious that this gentleman was a fan of Michele Bachmann so I talked about what the information was used for and why it was important. I explained to him that the information was used for a lot of really important things- districting of the state and federal governments, genealogical information, sociological information, and information for lawsuits and making sure the Voting Act is not being violated**. Finally, I reassured him the information is confidential.

We went on to talking, and he said that he had the solution for “fixing the deficit”. I said “What, taxing people more?” while my husband said “Cut Senator paychecks?”. He said “No- tax government jobs five percent more. If you work a lazy make-work job fixing up parks for 20,000/ year, you should only make 19,000″.

WTF? I just got done saying I worked for the federal government. Not two seconds ago in fact. We had a brief discussion of the amount of work it entailed, including him expressing concern that I was not allowed to carry any form of weapon on my person. And, without even knowing how much I made, he determined that it was 5 percent too much.

I said “I don’t know, I think we could probably fix the deficit if we went back to the tax rate under the Reagan administration. You know, 50% at the upper end.”

He responded he didn’t like the idea of half his paycheck going away.

I said that the 50% was only income over 200,000 dollars (wrongly, it was actually 175,000). He laughed and said that’s twice as much as what he made. I then changed the subject to talk about my kitty which he was petting.

After he left, I got even more upset at this guy. Not only was he saying that government workers were overpaid (they aren’t) and that someone who’s not making a subsistence wage needs to make even less (20,000 is only 50% over the poverty line for one person, not accounting for relative poverty) but he has the audacity to say this while making 100,000 dollars a year. I’m sure being an exterminator is a hard job, and for all I know, he does his job very well (I’ll tell you if I see the ants disappear). But, all I saw him do is take 5 minutes to spray a can and then spend 15 minutes talking. I know for a fact that maintaining a park takes more effort than that- spraying insecticide is only one of there tons of jobs to do. And him going, to my face, that my labor is not as valuable as the unsteady pittance I made is quite frankly one of the rudest things I think he could say to me.

You know, some day the odds are that I will live in an actual house and make enough money that I will actually have to fill out the the long tax form. And I hope when I get to that age and that level of security, I will remember what it feels like to live in a shitty basement apartment, worrying about when the next paycheck is coming in (and how much it’ll cover) and if going out to see a 10 dollar play is a justifiable expense. I want to remember the burning embarrassment when I tell the local community choir that I don’t have 50 dollars on hand to pay for the dues (and have them pull me aside to say that there are hardship scholarships available for me***). Because that’s the only thing I can think of when people tell me that I make too much money while they’re making way more than me- they don’t remember, or they never were, in my situation.

*Everyone, send in your Census form.
**Seriously, send in your Census form. It’s really, really important that you send in your Census form.
*** It seems like a sick irony that when I have all the time to do the community building stuff, I don’t have the money, and when I can eek out the money, I don’t have the time.

Today’s Giggle Moment

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Scholars of boys and men converged Wednesday at Wagner College, in Staten Island, N.Y., to announce the creation of the Foundation for Male Studies, which will support a conference and a journal targeted at exploring the triumphs and struggles of the XY-chromosomed of the human race — without needing to contextualize their ideas as being one half of a male-female binary or an offshoot of feminist theory.

…I read that sentence like, three times in a row and it still made no sense to me…so I hadn’t reached the giggle moment yet–

More than anything else, the event was a chance for supporters to frame men and boys as an underrepresented minority


Lionel Tiger, a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, said the field takes its cues “from the notion that male and female organisms really are different”…The culprit, said Tiger, is feminism: “a well-meaning, highly successful, very colorful denigration of maleness as a force, as a phenomenon.”

Paul Nathanson, a researcher in religious studies at McGill University and co-author of a series of books on misandry — the hatred of men and boys — conceded that “there is some critique of feminism that’s going to be involved” in male studies. “There are some fundamental features of ideological feminism over the last 30 or 40 years that we need to question.”

He also decried “the institutionalization of misandry” which, he said, is “being generated by feminists, [though] not all feminists.”

Um…so basically what this is is the creation of the Foundation for Anti-Feminist Studies…it’s not really about men at all, is it? It’s Feminism Sucks 101! Which is why, truly, these folks are not calling their bullshit Men’s Studies, because, uh. Men’s Studies (an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning men, masculinity, gender, and politics) already exists and has existed for the past 30 years.

Male studies’ combative tone toward feminism and women’s studies programs is one reason why Robert Heasley, president of the American Men’s Studies Association, turned down an invitation to speak at the event.

Yeah, I don’t suppose he’s too crazy about the idea of his actual, real academic discipline getting associated with a hate movement.

Edward Stevens, chair of the On Step Institute for Mental Health Research, said he wants to see male studies search for ways to improve male academic performance. “What are the ethical concerns of devoting 90 percent of resources to one gender?” he asked (though without explaining exactly what he meant).

LOL, seriously! which gender is that and how can I join up? Cuz that doesn’t describe either of the genders that I’m familiar with…this is SO funny! And amazing that anybody would want to waste their one-and-only adult life on this kind of crap, either founding it or, er, “studying” it. The Westboro Baptist Church, Ann Coulter, “Male” Studies…it takes all kinds…what would a deck of cards be without the jokers? I mean, I’ve never actually played a game of cards in which the jokers were ever used but I’d have missed them if they weren’t there in the deck when I pulled it out of the box! If I even noticed they weren’t there in the first place, I would SO miss ‘em! :D

Conservatives are Evil

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Health care reform has passed the House yesterday (as everyone in the blogosphere is talking about). I feel a little bit out side of this discussion, to tell you the honest truth. This is, functionally, what the Republicans advocated for in 1994. If the Republicans have advocated for it any time in the last two decades I neither see it as a great liberal victory nor the end of America as conservative see it. This is a band-aid over a bullet wound. Blood’s still seeping out through the edges, and you’re still going to die of blood loss, but it’s better than a kick to the head.

But the thing I’ve learned after this whole mess is to firmly, and irrevocably decide that conservatives are evil. It pains me to say this, because that means my friends, family, and coworkers are evil. But, if the word has any meaning at all, “evil” is what they are.

It is evil to advocate for people to die because they can’t afford health care. It is evil to say that money is more important than anyone’s life. AND it’s evil to advocate for shooting someone because they disagree with you (even if you think they’re evil, too).

Conservatives have absolutely no qualms calling me evil. And most liberals go with the “They just have different values” views of conservatives, or, alternately, that they’re just ill-informed. Well, let’s take a look at those “different values”.

According to the work of Jon Haidt conservatives have three “values” that liberals just don’t seem to have: purity, respect for authority, and loyalty to the ingroup. “Purity” is a nonsense value at best- a human isn’t “pure” anything. “Purity” is a great quality for metals, for water, and for air- for humans it edges is into mental health territories of the “precious bodily fluid” type. Real life is messy, trying to make everyone “pure” cuts out life. “Respect for authority” is a fuzzier, nicer way to say “Respect for hierarchy”. They don’t respect scientists in their field (people who arguably earned their respectability), they don’t respect political leaders when they’re the wrong party, they don’t respect anyone in a position of power that the determine to be illegitimate (just ask women CEOs). They also mean “respect” as “obedience”. I wouldn’t consider it respect to blindly do what someone tells you to do- I would call that insulting. What they do enjoy is the kyriarchy- white rich men on top, everyone else filtering through the bottom. Again, this is evil. This is causing harm and hardship to people over completely useless markers or markers they can’t help. Finally, their last value is “loyalty to the in-group”. This “value” is something that is at its best morally neutral (preferring the company of your friends to say, co-workers), and its worst, the evils of jingoism, racism, and pep-rallies.

These “values” have little sub-”values” tailing off them. “Purity” ends up meaning “anything I find icky is wrong” so it becomes “racism” (different foods and music are gross) “sexism” (women’s sexuality is scary and icky so let’s make sure they can’t get contraception or abortion) “heterocenterism” (butt sex is teh icky). “Respect for authority”‘s little sub-value is “gleefully ignorant”. They never have to look up anything because, hey, the right authority figure said so, and doing so makes you disobedient. In-group loyalty is obvious for the sexism, racism, heterocenterism, and religious prejudices, but then it also leads to nice little paranoias from everyone from agnostics to zoologists.

How could desire to cut out life, being against equality, ignorance, and paranoia be “good”? How could wanting to harm others, provided you don’t get harmed or even benefit, but a “good”? These values are wrong, and people who ascribe to them are acting in an evil fashion. And maybe it’s time that people actually started getting called on that.

My Twisted Place in the Kyriarchy

Friday, March 12th, 2010

The Kyriarchy, for those of you who don’t follow a lot of feminist/ progressive scholarship, is “a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein) which seeks to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination…Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of superordination and subordination, of ruling and oppression.” What this means is that the various “isms” are intersected and overlapping and far more complicated than just a strict hierarchy.

Sometimes, I wonder about women who seem bound and determined to keep other women down. Or people in minority communities that want to deny rights to other minority groups. Or working class stiffs allying with big business when it seems like cutting yourself off at the knees. Heck, it always seemed to me to be the weirdest phenomenon in the world when feminists are against transgenders or homosexuals are against bisexuals. But, in some twisted way, maybe it does make sense, and that sense would be that if you are both oppressed and an oppressor, it is much easier to identify with the powerful than the powerless.

I’m female, I’m bisexual, I’m fat, and I’m crazy, I’m not-Christian and I’m definitely not rich. Those don’t exactly make me on top of the heap when it comes to rights in the United States. BUT, for all the things that I’m fighting against, I have plenty of privilege I’m coasting on. I’m white, a big one. I’m middle class, I’me educated, I’m mostly healthy, I have no visible health problems, and I’ve got pretty good health insurance. More than that, a lot of the things that count against me are not as visible as other things. If you look at me, with my wedding ring on my left finger, you’re not going to think “bisexual” which is pretty helpful on a day-to-day basis. I can pass as “straight”. No one after talking to me can go “oh, yep, she’s totally bonkers”. And, though in sheer dollar terms, lower class, I’m going to be pegged as middle class or higher by people I just talk to. My clothes are of that style, and my syntax is middle-to-upper class. So, depending on the situation, sometimes I’m going to be more oppressor than oppressed. Some times I’ll be more oppressed than oppressor.

I was thinking about this today when my racist friend* and I were talking about the African-American community. He, of course was hitting all the stock crap, (they are more violent than “normal” people, they’re out-breeding us, yada yada) and I was giving the pretty much stock answers (no they’re not, no they’re not, what in Christ are you smoking?) and I finally came with “Racist friend, seriously, how many black people do you actually KNOW? You live in the middle of freaking white-bred nowhere North Dakota.” His response, was “How many black people do YOU know, if you’re oh-so-progressive”. His retort, while completely dodging the issue, did give me pause. With the exception of a few people I worked with at the thrift store, I DON’T know anyone who’s black. I have more homosexual friends than black friends. Could you imagine being a black person and not having any white friends? It is a mark of great privilege that I don’t have to be exposed to a culture other than my own (though, I wish I could figure out what my culture WAS), and in the same token, it’s sad that we have such a segregated society that’s the case. I enjoy talking to my Somalia coworkers: they told me about things that I had only read about in books, and I did my best to try and explain fundamentalists Christians to them.

I wish the world was equitable so it would be like water. I don’t have to think about getting clean water- it comes out of the faucet. It took a lot of people to get it that way, and it takes a lot of people to maintain it, but for the most part it is just there. I want social justice to be as invisible as clean water- something that you’re grateful for if you stop and think about it, but you rarely do that.

*Hey, if they get to have “gay friends” and “black friends” I get a racist friend.

Time to Hurl

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I’m sure everybody remembers this:

Aww, that’s such a romantic pict–! hmm, wait. Isn’t that guy about twenty years older than that barely pubescent girl..? I mean, I can see some serious crepe-like flesh going on under that manly-man jawline there–oh, well, it’s not like even the most superficial perusal of internet porn won’t immediately inform you that “barely legal” is an overwhelmingly common male fanta–uh, wait again. Is that hairy old dude that sweet little sex kitten is being manfully embraced by HER DAD–?

Now, now, maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe this is really meant to portray the pure innocence and beauty of the father-daughter bond, and I just have a dirty, corrupt mind. I’m sure another picture from the very same photo shoot will absolutely clear up any doubt I could possibly have about the theme of this particular series of Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus publicity photos–

Yep, that definitely cleared that up.

But this is old news! The new news is that the sexualization of children shown above is apparently way, way too subtle. The message has not been gotten across, dammit! And Billy Ray Cyrus clearly ain’t gonna let that happen. You know, he has another daughter, and to eliminate the confusing nature of using the daughter that might have actually entered puberty sometime around the date of the photo shoot, this one is clearly nowhere near even the beginnings of sexual maturation.

Because 9-year-olds need a sexy line of lingerie!

..little 9-year-old Noah Cyrus is set to become a lingerie model.

She’ll be teaming up with her pint-sized best friend Emily Grace to launch a children’s lingerie collection for ‘Ohh! La, La! Couture’.

The company’s website describes The Emily Grace Collection as having a “trendy, sweet, yet edgy feel, reminiscent of Emily’s true personality.”

Emily’s collection will appeal not just to little girls – the line also has an exclusive Teen Collection available to a size 14.

Goodness, I suspect you’re right about that. This collection won’t just appeal to little girls.


Monday, February 1st, 2010

An interpretation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.

A restavec (or restavek; from the French reste avec, “one who stays with”) is a child in Haiti who is sent by their parents to work for a host household as a domestic servant because the parents lack the resources required to support the child. (wikipedia)

I came across this article today, about a 9-year-old restavec named Sende Sencil.

Beaming, and in clean clothes for the first time since the earthquake, Sende, who was thought to be an orphan, returned to the hospital’s tents with the doctors.

As they walked, a man approached them on the street and reached out to grab Sende.

“I’m looking for her. She’s my family,” the doctors remember the man saying in broken English. “I’m taking her home.”

Pediatricians Tina Rezaiyan and Liz Hines, had been looking forward to the day when Sende’s parents might come to claim her, but this was not what they’d anticipated.

“She was trembling and hiding behind us. She was so scared of him,” said Hines, a second-year pediatric resident at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Flashback to 1982: Walking home from school with my best friend, Sheila.* We’d been best friends since the first grade; we walked home from school every day together, hand in hand–though not that day, because one of her arms was in a cast and she needed the other one to carry her books. My eight-year-old self didn’t even notice the cast; it had been there for a few weeks, it was part of the scenery. Only my thirty-six-year-old self stares at it, remembering how Sheila got it.

“So can you spend the night tonight?” Sheila asked me.

I could, and I did, though even my eight-year-old self dreaded it a little. Not a lot, because Sheila was there and she was my best friend and we always had such fun–putting her mom’s 45s on the plastic record player upstairs and setting it on “78″–who needed an actual Alvin & The Chipmunks record when you had a stack of 45s and a record player with a “78″ setting? And eight-year-olds think that what they see and live is the way it is for everybody–they don’t resist the system because they aren’t even aware that there is one. But the night Sheila’s stepdad broke her arm was still fairly fresh in my memory, and I had no cozy feeling that I was entirely safe from him either–he’d hurt me before too, though nowhere near to the degree he hurt Sheila.


In Defense of ReGifting

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I like to give gifts. And I mean real gifts- gifts that I’ve thought about, gifts that I’ve dedicated myself, gifts that give a part of myself to my friends and loved ones. Gifts they think they’ll use. I make my gifts to my friends, generally. Some friends get Christmas cookies in tins that I pick up from the thrift store. And, sometimes, I regift, or give hand-me-downs: books that I think my sisters will like that I’ve already read, a bed-set that I’ve used for my friend that is currently using a couch pillow and a comforter, sewn mittens for a friend using fabric scraps I caught on clearance, or something I found in the thrift store in the first place. And, if I am to listen to the mainstream media, by doing so I am committing a social faux pau on scale with farting at a wedding.

Now, one could make the argument that criticizing the mainstream media is picking the low-hating fruit. That’s probably true- after all, all of those ads on the side of the page for “Brand New Shiny Toy” and “Get Rich Now” aren’t there by accident. These sorts of messages are designed to make one think that worth is something you can put a price tag on and getting the bauble that “everyone” (or Every Woman, or Every Man) wants can be a substitute for the time and energy that pursing an actual relationship takes. The point of these messages can basically be boiled down to “More expensive gifts mean you care more” and it’s quieter message of “If you don’t spend a lot you don’t care that much”.

But, it isn’t just the mainstream media. My mom is paranoid about being caught regifting, I was once told by an ex-boyfriend (who came from a wealthy family) that no gift is better than a cheap gift. And seriously, what a fucked-up idea is that? If you aren’t rich, if you don’t have a ton of disposable money to go buy the shiny, you shouldn’t give a gift? You shouldn’t enjoy the feeling of making someone feel special by giving them something all done up in wrapping paper and bright ribbon? The warm feeling when their face lights up? Or, equally as terribly, if your social circle is broke, you shouldn’t enjoy getting gifts from them? Is it really so much more terrible to get a book that’s already been read as opposed to getting nothing at all?

Getting upset about regifting is a mark of class privilege that is disgusting. Now, of course, I still of the dear belief that you give gifts because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to. I am not an owed a gift, nor is anyone beholden to give me one. But, if the gift is used, but it is still clear that it’s giving was after thought about what YOU would want and need, is that really worse than giving you a shiny that you have no use for? I say “no”. It is the thought that counts, and it is clear if thought has been given.

I know that gifts are not always given out of love. There’s social obligation, there’s expectation, there’s giving to brag. And it’s really sad, because at the end, that’s what makes the holiday season stressful and annoying, as opposed to a time of warmth and joy.

Because racism’s dead. You knew that, right?

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Interracial couple denied marriage license in La.

NEW ORLEANS – A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

“There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage,” Bardwell said. “I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.”

Yep, children from those marriages, even the ones that don’t last, I mean it’s not like they could e-v-e-r grow up to become President of the United Sta—

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

Mostly I think of “piles and piles” as describing my laundry. And did he seriously just brag about letting black people use his bathroom..?

I sure love living in “post-racial” America!

Meghan McCain Has Tits- Conservative Community Shocked

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

This morning, I woke up and opening my eyes to the thin amount of light in my room caused shooting pain to go down my temples. Every cell of my body was crying that I needed more sleep, dammit, and they were not getting up for sex much less for working at the thrift store. Naturally, I appeased the demands of my oppressed body and called in sick to work.

A few hours of sleep later, and a couple tylenol with codeine, and I’m in a state where I can comfortably look at a computer screen while sitting (though not much else). My friend jumps up to send me this conversation(typos kept in because, fuck it, that’s why):

When Your Male Privilege Stops Applying To Your Situation, It Goes Beyond Inconvenient, Doesn’t It?

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

I had seen this post by Melissa MacEwan of Shakeville before Hugo wrote about it, but I hadn’t been aware of her follow-up post til he linked to it. Basically, her emphasis in her follow-up post and Hugo’s primary message in his own were the same–in their own words:

Melissa: Feminist men who do the right thing often do it quietly, while misogynist men spew their rubbish at incredible volumes…If, my esteemed male feminist allies, you don’t want to be part of the problem, these fights have got to be your province, too. Giving yourselves the permission to not get publicly involved, or to get publicly involved only when it’s convenient and not all that risky and not all that hard, is the ultimate expression of privilege.

Hugo: I was able to assent intellectually to the principles of feminism long before I was courageous enough to espouse them in potentially hostile settings. I had to take baby steps. Identifying as a feminist in a women’s studies class came before identifying as a feminist in an all-male environment. But I felt a sense of urgency; it is male privilege that allows feminist men to pick and choose to join battles into which women are regularly drafted against their will. If we’re serious about our feminism, we can’t just be allies when it’s safe or convenient, we can’t merely offer soothing reassurance in private to the women in our lives. We’ve got to do it as publicly as possible, remembering that our primary usefulness to the egalitarian cause lies in our willingness to model publicly a different way of living as brothers, fathers, sons, husbands, lovers, bosses, students, roommates, coworkers and friends.

(emphasis on convenient mine)

Certainly this is something I’ve thought about before–even written about, rather passionately–grounded as it is in the unavoidable knowledge that women will never achieve true equality if we can’t get more than 50% of the human race on board with that as a basic societal truth. But seeing Hugo write about it made me pause for a second, because Hugo is, after all, a man…who apparently doesn’t entirely know what he’s talking about. Not when it comes to being a man representing feminism, or even anything remotely like feminism, in an all-male environment…a hostile setting.

I used to be pretty close to someone, a man, who had spent nearly 20 years in the military by the time I knew him. When he was 19 years old, he was stationed in Korea. Now, nobody in the Army brought his family over to Korea then; the Army wouldn’t pay for it and there was no real housing available there for family, schools for the kids, etc. Few Army women were sent to Korea, as nearly all the military specialties over there were either combat arms (outright banned to women) or very closely combat arms-related, in which there weren’t too many women serving to begin with. In short, it was essentially an “all-male environment”–not just for a few hours a day every few days or so, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And as anyone who has either been stationed there himself or has been very close to someone who has been stationed there knows, the standard operating procedure was for all the guys to go out together at night, get hammered, and patronize prostitutes.

Now, my friend was not particularly feminist–certainly not at age 19. But he didn’t want to patronize prostitutes. He’d only had sex a few times in his life period prior to being stationed in Korea; he was, he told me, frightened and repelled by the idea of doing it with a prostitute, just like that. His stint in Korea was only a month long–it was a training exercise–so, he said, he did manage to avoid having to do it–though both he and I doubted that he would have been able to continue to successfully refuse if he’d been stationed there for the standard 12-month Army rotation.

Because I don’t think Hugo and Melissa really know what a hostile all-male setting really consists of, sometimes, especially to a five-foot-nine inch, 140 pound, 19 year old boy. Like this*:

A Youth Radio investigation has found that between 2004 and 2006, sailors in the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain Military Working Dogs Division, or “The Kennel,” were subjected to an atmosphere of sexual harassment, psychological humiliation, and physical assaults.

It was inside that Bahrain kennel in July 2005 that Petty Officer Joseph Christopher Rocha, then 19 years old, says he was being terrorized by other members of his own division. “I was hog-tied to a chair, rolled around the base, left in a dog kennel that had feces spread in it.”

Rocha says that beginning six weeks into his deployment, he was singled out for abuse by his chief master-at-arms, Michael Toussaint, and others on the base, once Rocha made it clear he was not interested in prostitutes. “I was in a very small testosterone-driven unit of men,” Rocha says. “I think that’s what began the questioning-you know-‘Why don’t you want to have sex with her? Are you a faggot?’”

Youth Radio has conducted interviews and obtained documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showing that the hog-tying episode was not the first or only case of harassment and abuse during Rocha’s deployment. In another incident cited in the documents, Rocha was forced to appear in a twisted “training video.” A member of the Working Dogs Division, Petty Officer Shaun Hogan, recalls the scene.

“Petty Officer Rocha and another junior sailor…were instructed to go into a classroom by Chief Michael Toussaint, who orchestrated the entire training. And Chief Toussaint asked them to simulate homosexual sex on a couch,” Hogan says.

Next in the simulation, Hogan says a handler and his dog barged onto the scene, and that’s when “one person…would sit up, kind of wipe off their mouth, the other would get up, and they would be fixing their fly.”

Rocha says Toussaint bullied him, “telling me I needed to be more believable, act more queer, have a higher pitched voice, make the sounds and gestures more realistic…I didn’t think I had a choice…It made me feel that I wasn’t a human being, that I was an animal, rather.”

Youth Radio has obtained a copy of both Braden’s investigation and the Navy’s Findings of Fact, which detail what happened to Rocha, in addition to incidents involving other service members. The FOIA documents have been redacted, so names are blocked out, but the actions listed include: throwing hard balls at the groin, spraying down uniformed personnel with multiple hoses, and a dog attacking a sex worker on base to the point of hospitalization.

Youth Radio’s investigation includes interviewing four members of the Bahrain Working Dogs Division who served between 2004 and 2006. All say the tone was set by Chief Toussaint. Some sailors participated in the culture of hazing as victims, others as perpetrators, or in some cases both.

When discussing his own Korea experience with my friend, I suggested that it might have been different if he’d been sent there as a sergeant in his 30′s rather than as a scared private of 19–he laughed and agreed: “Oh my God yeah…I wish I could go back there now…and this time they’d be like, ‘What’s wrong with you, man? Are you gay?’ and I’d be like, ‘That’s right, not only am I gay…I am THE gay**!’” But that’s now…as a mature adult man who has been to war and seen terrible things, who has the full growth and strength of a male in his physical prime, who has had enough sex of his own choosing to feel comfortable and confident in his own sexuality–and also, as a man with the authority of a senior noncommissioned officer’s rank.

I was in the Army myself, at age 18, in a heavily male environment–I know exactly what that’s like. There is no way in hell you could reasonably expect any of those boys to buck the system, and no, not just because they would be called names, or ostracized–they would be at serious risk of physical and sexual assault…just like I would have been if I’d ever made waves myself. And no feminist alive would have expected me to open my mouth and speak out under those circumstances. Male privilege doesn’t exist anymore when everyone in the group is already male, does it..?

So Hugo’s and Melissa’s messages are important…but they are lacking context. Which would be the privilege of never having served in our glorious Armed Forces, I would imagine. If you really want to advance the cause of feminism, first you’re going to push to make those spaces safe for the young men inhabiting them. That must come first, or you will never accomplish anything real and lasting in terms of encouraging young men to speak up for gender equality. And for God’s sake don’t trivialize a situation you can’t or won’t understand by calling it inconvenient…haven’t we had enough of that from the anti-choicers?

*via Pam

**He’s heterosexual, I should mention–you get his point, though.