What would Halloween be without The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Enjoy everyone and happy Halloween.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Hello readers, thanks again for another week of great conversations. I know that we had a few controversial posts this week but this is exactly what causes us to either perfect our arguments or consider a different path. The point of WM is to have the difficult conversations. At this time, I would also like to remind everyone about the open guest posting policy. If you have an original or a cross post you would like to see here, don’t be shy about sending me an e-mail.
I am still having problems getting Intense Debate to obey. For some reason it is still sending far too many comments to moderation. I am trying to approve them as quickly as possible but if you don’t see your comment appear, please send me an e-mail and I will hunt it down for you.
I have added a few new features to the comments. I have made it a little easier for you to share a post via social media. There are now smiley faces etc that you can add to reflect an emotion. You can put a youtube video in and my personal fav, you can also create a poll on any issue in the comments. I hope that we can all have some fun with these new features.
Below you will find a list of some great posts that I found this week. Please show these bloggers some love and check them out. When you are through, don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Sickness & struggle, part 7: Medicare changes
By David Hoskins
Published Oct 29, 2009 8:50 PM
On Dec. 8, 2003, former President George W. Bush signed into law the misnamed Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. The Act, better known as Medicare Part D, was touted as a landmark reform to provide seniors and the disabled with a prescription drug benefit, more choices and better benefits under Medicare.
The evidence demonstrates that, in reality, this legislation has been a corporate giveaway to the same insurance and pharmaceutical companies that make billions of dollars by denying care to those who cannot afford it and overcharging those lucky enough to have health insurance.
Medicare Part D represents government collusion with industry to redistribute huge amounts of taxpayer money to the health corporations. President Bush and congressional leaders of both parties, in typical right-wing fashion, adopted the language of populism and reform to carry out this redistribution of wealth away from poor and working-class taxpayers.
Taxpayer fleecing revealed
The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform examined confidential information on drug prices to compare the costs of drugs purchased under Medicare Part D with those purchased through Medicaid, a federal-state program that provides health care to 60 million individuals living in the U.S. The findings were published in a July 2008 report titled “Medicare Part D: Drug Pricing and Manufacturer Windfalls.” (oversight.house.gov)
The report findings provide a scathing indictment of this so-called reform. Medicare Part D pays an average 30 percent more for prescription drugs than does Medicaid. Administrative expenses and profits of private insurers account for nearly 10 percent of Part D costs, nearly six times that of traditional Medicare.
This produced in excess of $3.7 billion that went straight to the drug manufacturers in the first two years of the program. Johnson & Johnson received the largest windfall, making $615 million off the program in 2006 and 2007. More than $500 million of that additional revenue came from the sales of just one drug—the anti-psychotic Risperdal. Bristol-Myers Squib received a boost of $400 million, including over $200 million in additional revenue from sales of Plavix, a heart-attack and stroke medication.
The report arrives at its estimate of $3.7 billion by examining the 100 drugs most used by beneficiaries. If the discrepancy is the same for other drugs as it is for the top 100, the windfall could actually be billions of dollars more for the pharmaceutical companies.
Much of this money is obtained as the result of a dual-eligibility provision which transferred the drug coverage of elderly and disabled individuals who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid away from the more cost-effective Medicaid to the Medicare Part D program.
The dual-eligibility scam portends even greater profits for the rapacious drug companies. Dual-eligible beneficiaries are expected to consume $432 billion worth of prescription drugs in the first 10 years following the report’s publication. If Medicare Part D negotiated the same prices that Medicaid receives, the cost of these drugs would fall by an estimated $86 billion.
None of these figures address the larger imperative of removing the private pharmaceutical firms from the equation altogether, but they do illustrate the real intent of Medicare Part D—to pad the already flush coffers of the big drug companies with public funds.
Donut hole fails sick, elderly
One of the biggest failures of Medicare Part D is the gap in coverage popularly known as the donut hole. This refers to the gap that exists between the initial coverage limit and the eligibility threshold for catastrophic coverage. During this period enrollees are responsible for paying all prescription costs out-of-pocket with no assistance from Medicare.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 71 percent of plans offered no assistance with gap coverage in 2008. Last year the coverage gap totaled $3,216 for plans offering the standard Medicare Part D benefit. The gap is projected to grow to more than $6,000 by 2016. (kff.org)
The donut hole is criminal by any reasonable moral standard, especially in light of the vast revenues the drug companies have managed to squeeze from the Medicare program. The pharmaceutical industry has essentially arranged to secure for itself billions of dollars in extra monies each year through a system that leaves those most vulnerable—the sickest of the elderly and disabled—stuck with paying thousands of dollars out-of-pocket during their time of greatest need.
The three most profitable drug companies made more than $28 billion in combined profits in 2008. Profits like these made the pharmaceutical industry the third most profitable U.S. industry in the midst of a severe recession, according to Fortune magazine. (cnnmoney.com, May 4)
Medicare Part D reveals what the ruling class and their capitalist politicians in Congress really mean by “reform.” The only wealth redistribution they are interested in is that which comes with corporate welfare. Health care reform, as it was implemented with Medicare Part D, means bolstering the coffers of the most profitable industries in the country.
Next: The impact of technology on health delivery and access.
Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Wanda is everywhere you turn these days. Whether she’s doing specials on HBO or chatting with Oprah, she has something to say about everything. In an effort to create a buzz about her new late night show, she is doing the rounds. I certainly wish her luck. It has been a very long time since Black people had a voice outside of the dog pound (yep, Aresenio reference)
When Sykes came out as a lesbian in an effort to fight Prop 8, her commentary was very telling about the ways in which sexuality is assumed. “I never had to tell my parents I was Black, but I had to tell them that I am a lesbian.” Since that time, she has gone on to declare her sexuality as her largest marginaliszation. As a matter of course, I tend to avoid critiquing someone’s lived experience but this…this is just pure ish. Thanks Wanda for supporting a hierarchy of oppressions. Are you going to get a gay is the new Black tattoo as well? Will it help you to fight the last great civil rights battle on the planet?
So, I have some issues with Wanda…then it happens. The publicity release that this outspoken, intelligent Black woman is now a mother of two. So, I take a moment to celebrate and be happy. As a mother I know what a blessing a child is. This little person enters your life and is completely dependent on you for survival and as a reward for your loving attention, they change your life and even your view on the world. Is there anything more soothing than holding a sleeping child?
Since Wanda’s life partner is a woman they used a sperm donor. Today the twins are six months old, without a drop of African American blood flowing through their veins. When asked if she was concerned that the children would not look like her, Wanda’s response was “we’re lesbians we’re not fooling anybody”. Even if they had used the sperm from a Black man, if he did not have a genetic link to her, there was never any possibility that they would look like her.
Somehow, I cannot take comfort in that as the reason why it should not matter that a Black celebrity willingly chose to avoid parenting a Black child. It seems that unless Black children can be used as accessories to let the world know about your commitment to fauxgressive policies, they have no value. Black children languish in the system but this did not stop DeMarcus Ware and his wife Taniqua from adopting a White girl. What better way is there to announce to the world that you have moved on up than raising a Black child.
We could wrap ourselves in some happy happy joy joy, with the belief that a child is a child but let’s just deal in a bit of reality for a moment; children are not more equal than any other group of people on the planet. When famous Black people are either having White babies or adopting them, it speaks to an internalization of racism. Yes I said it. How much more of our energies are we going to direct to supporting and glorifying Whiteness, while ignoring the plight of our people?
Sykes, Jackson and DeMarcus made a conscious choice not to love a Black child and in the process turned their backs on the child within themselves. We don’t live in a rainbow coloured world, where race has ceased to matter. The decisions we make speak loudly about our comfort level and acceptance of ourselves. As a visible Black celebrity you are held to a higher standard. If you profess to love our people, then your actions need to back up your words.
From a very early age Black children learn that they are not as special as little White children, no matter the energies their parents devote to building a positive self esteem. The same people that pinched my boys cheek when he was an infant, now follow him around their store waiting for him to steal and he is only eight years old.
A pregnant Black woman learns as her belly reveals her condition that rather than marvelling at the display of life, many are worried that she is brining another hip hop dancing, rap video making, thug into this world. That is exactly what Black children are to Whiteness, potential rapists, drug dealers, thieves, entertainers, or sports stars. The world does not look at Black children as though they possess the possibility of changing the world.
Investing in Black children is investing in the future of Black people. When you move in celebrity circles it may seem as though your class position has transcended race, but as Toni Morrison said in her famous 60 minutes interview, “if you have White friends you should be aware of their limitations”. Never be surprised if in the case of emergency, it is you that is thrown under the bus.
Thanks Sykes, Jackson and DeMarcus for wearing the sell out hat. When little Black children wonder why it is that they continue to struggle so hard, they need look no further than your decision to avoid supporting them, to know why Whiteness continues to send them on the path to destruction. If we don’t care about our babies, how the hell can we expect anyone else to?
This is a guest post from Sanguine Dream of Danny’s Corner of the Universe
Yeah I know that's an aggressive title but I'll also add that no matter who you are feel free to substitute "these" for whatever body parts you want. Testicles, ovaries, breasts, hell your two middle fingers if you want to go classic. Point is I think that "Man up." needs to be removed from the vocabulary just like using the word dick to describe an unlikable person or pussy to describe a coward.
Tonight I read this post at Renee's place. She does a good job of critiquing an Onion story about boys are forced into specific gender roles via Halloween costumes (a phenomenon that is rarely touched on) and also touches on how males that don't perform these roles properly are rendered invisible. Go check it out. My purpose here is about a phrase she used in her post.
It takes the form of telling a child not to cry, or to man up in the face of fear, even withholding of affection. (emphasis courtesy of me)
Oh how I've grown to despise that phrase. Now just to be clear Renee isn't telling those boys they need to man up by conforming to someone else's image of being a boy/man but is pointing out how that shaming language like that is used to make boys and men do things they would normally not do or to not do things they would normally do.
That line invokes fear. Fear that can be used to cause shame. Shame that can be used to take power over males.
This fear can override a boy's better judgment. Want a boy to do an insane stunt that he knows will likely severely injure him if not kill him. Tell him to man up and do the damn stunt anyway. This shame can be used to cause a man to go against his personality. Want a man to think that he is not aggressive enough with the woman in his life (and if that partner is not a woman...well that's a post all its own)? Tell him to man up and put her in her place (most of the time this would not include the escalation to violence but it can). This power can lead a man beyond what he has set as his reasonable limits. Want a man to perform a sex act that he would normally not do? Tell him to man up and don't be scared to slap and choke her if she says she wants him to.
Now I know a lot of people would just say that its his responsibility because he did those things and that the problem is that he gave in to that shame and fear which granted his teaser those powers over him. True but at the same time there is the very real problem of people using these tactics for they are proof that people have their idea of what it is to be a man and they are willing to impose this image on men and boys in order to get what they want. And for those of us who don't dance the dance they want us to dance and dance it to their tune this can be very problematic.
Yes that is a picture of my left hand about a month ago. Part of the male gender role is that we are supposed to be dirty and not care about things like taking care of our fingernails. That's for women in salons for 3 hours every two weeks right? So you can imagine the time I've had with the fact that I actually put some effort into taking care of them. Over the years I've had commentary ranging from, "Men aren't supposed to have long nails". to "Those are an instant hysterectomy. Cut 'em!" to "I'm gonna hold you down and cut them for you." and my personal favourite, "How are you supposed to get pussy with nails like that?"
So by simply not obeying one rule of manhood I'm effectively declared to be not a man. This is a big problem. For people to try to label my gender (and in some cases question my sexuality) based on a single act stinks of trying to get me to conform to their idea of what a man is supposed to be. And I can only imagine that it is only worse for men that go outside the norm even farther than I do. A lisp in the voice? The occasional dangling wrist? A fondness for skirts and makeup? Wearing an angel costume for Halloween? Having sex with men? The list goes on. Pushed out of the man camp and used as a target for ridicule, insults, and abuse in an effort to protect their precious image of what a man should be.
One thing I've learned about being a man is that you have be a man on your own terms. If for you that means hunting deer at 6am then knitting at 6pm then dammit do it. If for you that means having sex with your boyfriend at 8pm then playing video games together at midnight then dammit do it. If you wear flannel, jeans, and boots for your day job then wear heels, hot pants, and a halter top at the club at night then dammit do it. There doesn't have to be a set script for being a man and frankly I'm tired of playing by it.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Please make sure to watch the entire video.
National coming out day was October 11, so I am late to this. I actually didn’t even know that a day for this even existed, until I saw this video. What makes this video important is not the cards but the revelation of just how damaging homophobia is. We know that for gays and lesbians it manifests in terms of physical assault, employment and housing discrimination, corrective rape and even murder. What we do not think about is how walking around with that kind of hate towards another being is truly harmful. Hate is a destructive emotion and it damages all of the potential goodness that we have inside of us. Congratulations to this man for letting go of his bigotry and hatred, not many are able to make such a wonderful transformation.
As part of my journey accepting my new identity, I have determined to chronicle my feelings. When you are able bodied you take the ability to do what you would like for granted. I walked through this world with a sense of confidence because I could count on my body to submit to my will. When I became a mother, I never worried about meeting the physical needs of my child. I chased him around the park and swooped him up in my arms with the greatest of ease.
Even though I have been blessed to have two beautiful healthy sons, in the back of my mind, I have always thought about having one more child. Of all of my identities, mother is the one that I cherish the most. There are times that I look at my children and become so overwhelmed with love that I cannot speak. Their smile or big brown eyes warm my heart in way that I cannot describe. Not a day goes by that I do not tell them of my love for them.
Shortly after I had given birth to my second son, I began thinking about having one more child. I wanted to try for a little girl. As a womanist, I felt that there was so much that I could offer a little girl. I thought about empowering her with a strong sense of self. I thought about the sweet times when we cuddle and giggle over the ridiculous. I even thought years ahead of shopping with her and going out to lunch.
Today those dreams are no more. Due to all of the drugs that I take to manage my various illnesses, I can longer carry a child to term. It is a loss that sometimes makes me unbearably sad. When I speak about this, there are those that are quick to point out that I should be thankful for what I already have. What they do not understand,is that to me, this is yet another example of the ways in which I feel betrayed by my body.
If you are born differently abled, the state of your body is absolutely normal to you but if you come to this identity after being fully abled, it is a loss. I think that it is important to acknowledge this for exactly what it is. I have had doctors tell me that this is not healthy or normal. I have been encouraged to medicate myself into a false state of happiness. Being sad makes people uncomfortable and to own this sadness as completely as I do, even more so.
The woman that I was four years ago is gone forever. The woman that I thought that I would become ten years from now will never appear. This is a loss and it is traumatic. I have only lost one person in this life who was close to me and dealing with this disabled identity is very much the same sort of feeling. It is natural to mourn and this does not mean that you do not accept or love your new identity; it means that the person you were before was also of value.
My eyes have been opened and I no longer possess the same naiveté or wonder. I know what real and lasting pain is. Loss is inevitable in life but when that loss is you, how can you ever prepare to deal with that? I have learned that this mourning must happen on my own time schedule. I have learned that my tears and my frustration are a part of this journey. The super crip mythology would have us ignore this because the differently abled are expected to internalize our feelings and not burden others, but being honest about the anger and the hurt can be cathartic.
I don’t think we should fear embracing this and accepting it for what is. Differently abled means just that- things are different for you now. Different does not have to mean bad but taking the time to adjust is absolutely necessary. You had to learn to creep before you could walk and walk before you could run and this should not be treated any differently. It is a metamorphosis of being but unlike the caterpillar, you don’t know what will emerge until the journey is done.
This is a guest post from Monica of TransGriot
Many of you long time readers know how much I love the Tom Joyner Morning Show. 'The Fly Jock' and co host Sybil Wilkes and J. Anthony Brown have the ears of 11 million predominately African American listeners with their syndicated radio show based in Dallas.
If you want to get an idea what Black America is thinking about and what we're saying about the issues of the day, this is one place you tune in.
This story begins in 2008, when Joyner was one of the subjects for Henry Louis 'Skip' Gates latest instalment of his PBS series African American Lives II. Genealogical research on Joyner's family uncovered the story of his great-uncles Thomas and Meeks Griffin who on September 29, 1915 were executed for a crime they didn’t commit.
It was one a shocked Joyner didn't know about, and nether did his father Hercules.
The Griffin brothers along with Nelson Brice and John Crosby were executed for the April 24, 1913 shooting death in his home of 73 year old John Q. Lewis, a wealthy Confederate veteran living in a town 40 miles north of Columbia, SC.
Lewis was apparently having an intimate relationship with a married 22-year-old Black woman named Anna Davis. Suspicion initially turned to her and her husband after the murder.
"It is plausible to believe that the sheriff did not want to pursue Mr. and Mrs. Davis because if they were tried, it would have led to a scandalous discussion in open court," Finkelman wrote to the South Carolina pardon board on October 2, 2008.
The Griffins were framed by Monk Stevenson, who received a life sentence for doing so. Stevenson later said to a fellow inmate he did it because he knew the Griffin family was wealthy enough to hire a lawyer and felt they would be acquitted
The Griffin brothers were indicted in July 1913 and given just two days to prepare the case. The family was forced to sell 130 acres of land to finance the defence as their lawyer sought a delay.
The request was denied and it left them just one day to get ready for a capital murder trial that would eventually last four days.
“I don’t care if you had Thurgood Marshall defending you; nobody could prepare for a murder trial in a day,” Joyner said in an interview with BlackAmericaWeb.com.
Of course it doesn't take an MIT grad to figure out what the results of a court case will be in early 20th century Jim Crow South Carolina when the murder victim is white and the accused are Black.
Can you say, "unanimous guilty verdict?" Thought you could.
The case was appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court, but they upheld the verdict, saying the denial was insignificant to the outcome of the case.
There were people who saw the monumental injustice of the case. The Griffin brothers were well-liked in the community and more than 150 citizens of Blackstock, SC. asked the governor at the time for their sentences to be commuted. Many prominent whites in the community, including the mayor and former sheriff of Chester County, came to the defence of the Griffin brothers.
"I heard this case, and I don't think I could have given a verdict of guilty," one magistrate wrote.
Professor Gates noted that “White people petitioned the governor to exonerate them,” but to no avail.
Joyner's quest to clear his uncles’ names took him, his sons, Gates, legal historian Paul Finkelman and South Carolina attorney Stephen E. Benjamin to the South Carolina Board of Paroles and Pardons earlier this month.
They presented their case to the seven member board for the state to exonerate his maternal great-uncles, which the board unanimously granted.
Dwayne Green, an African-American member of the pardon board, said he admired Joyner for seeking the pardon. "He's not only done his family a service, but also the people of South Carolina."
"There's no statute of limitations on doing the right thing," Green said. "There's so much good that can come out of this public show of mercy."
The unanimous vote, he said, was heart warming and satisfying. "It's a great opportunity to show how much South Carolina has changed," he said. "While change comes slow, outcomes like this are a positive sign."
It marked the first time in South Carolina's history that a posthumous pardon was issued in a capital murder case.
Joyner immediately relayed the news to his listening audience moments later.
Joyner told CNN's Don Lemon in an interview the ruling won't bring back his great-uncles, who were electrocuted in 1915. But it does provide closure to his family. "I hope now they rest in peace."
Gates said, “It’s just a great day. Justice was served for the Joyner family. I’m sad that it happened to the Joyner family, but I’m glad justice was served….We can’t change the past, but we can change how the past is remembered.”
And in this case, the Griffin brothers, after almost a century, have finally received justice thanks to their great nephew and a host of people working diligently to clear their name.
(Dear D skip to the next post, this is not for you)
Editors note: As a heterosexual woman I am writing this piece from this position. I would appreciate the perspective of lesbian and or bi women in the comment section though.
At any rate, this got me thinking about the ways in which we talk about sex. As women there is a lot of discussion about the refusal of men to go down, as though cunnilingus is the only sexual act. Don’t get me wrong, I am HUGE HUGE, HUGE, fan of that but when we reduce sex to acts that we perform on each other, it turns sex into a paint by numbers fresco. The genius of great art is not color coded.
The porn fucking that we see imitated every night on prime time is heavily reliant on what we THINK each gender should desire. After having sex with the same partner for a long period of time, it can be like going to an ATM, guaranteed to get what you need but ordinary nonetheless. This can especially be the case if you decide to play gender roles in bed: ya know, nipple twist, cock grab, penetration, orgasm. This is why it is important to be honest with each other about what we really want sexually.
But to be honest with your partner about what you want sexually, you first have to be honest with yourself. For a woman, this can be an extremely loaded proposition. For instance, do you like to be called names? What if your thing is tons of dirty talk? If a man calls you a slut or a whore as you are walking down the street and this makes you madder than hell, but in the act of fucking it makes you sopping wet, what is a good girl to do?
As much as we fantasize about wild and uninhibited sex, how many times do we take the easy way out for fear of rejection or because we understand that women are only supposed to approve of certain acts? Feminists/Womanists will talk about the patriarchal world and the effects of male domination but does this limit our ability to appreciate a good dick? Does it make you a colluding supporter of male hegemony, if giving head doesn’t make you instantly declare fellatio degrading? (well ya have power differentials to consider and all) What if making your partners eyes roll back in his head because you are giving him an awesome blow job is just your thing?
When we roll back the sheets, we don’t leave our assumptions and gender training behind, no matter how sexually evolved we claim to be. Some of the very things that turn us on, like having a man be an extremely sexually aggressive partner, are based in the fact that women are taught to be demure. When a man grabs your ass and you moan; is it because it feels good or is there a part of you that wants to be figuratively taken?
What about a man that believes in slow wet kisses? What if he likes sex long and soft? Does that suddenly make him feminine because he believes in foreplay and delaying the moment of climax? There is a reason why performance anxiety exists. Just as some women fear being seen as the aggressor least it be understood as an indicator of morality, some men fear not being able to live up to the hungry sexuality that is constructed as naturally male.
So there we lie, male and female, trapped by roles that have long since become normalized; neither fully satisfied but both bound by the limitations of the gender binary. Sex is not nearly as subconscious and instinctual as we construct it to be. If nothing is outside of discourse, how could something as filled with moralizing and guilt like sex escape harmful construction?
It is important to know what you like sexually and why, because it will speak to a part of you that is oft ignored and forgotten. Your baser self is invisible in our ever day discourse because even as we have created these urges as a part of encoding gender with meaning, we have also learned to discipline them in such a way as to construct them as animal and uncouth.
Is anyone really having monkey sex when performing gender is the first and last lesson that we all learn? This is not to say that we are not achieving arousal and orgasm but have we reached the point where we can unburden the mind (the most powerful sex organ), long enough to just enjoy what feels good without shame, regret, or self flagellating. Perhaps, even though we consider ourselves to be evolved and civilized, we still have much to learn from animals.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Joy Behar had the misfortune recently of interviewing Joe the Plumber. Of course much of what he had to say was homophobic and ridiculous but he did make a point that often occurs in conservative conversation, which I believe is very much worthy of further conversation.
Wurzelbacher: Me being an American, I'm allowed to have that opinion and not be chastised for it. (emphasis mine)
Wurzelbacher: I served my country, um, and I—
Behar: So do a lot of homosexuals. If we would let them, more would.
Wurzelbacher: Well, that, that being said, I'm not, I'm not—what I'm saying, though, is I'm allowed to have my own opinion without being chastised for it. I, you know, my family's foughten for this country, I've foughten for this country—
Behar: Listen, listen Sam. Samuel—
Wurzelbacher: —therefore I deserve that right.
Behar: —you can have your opinion, and you're gonna get chastised for it. Just like I have my opinion [Wurzelbacher laughs] and I get chastised for it.
Freedom of speech is one of the most cherished ideals in America. Conservatives are often quick to invoke this right, when they spread their hatred and limited way of thinking. The love of free speech however, ends when it comes to a dissenting opinion. Wurzelbacher wants the right to his homophobic hate speech but it is a point of his heterosexual privilege that he refuses to believe that anyone should exercise their right to speak against his hate speech.
When conservatives claim to love free speech, what they are really promoting is group think. They wish to promote the idea that all expression should be in the service of dominate bodies and seek to label dissent as a form of heresy. The idea of free speech as a two way street is unacceptable to conservatives because the goal of such language is submission and not freedom. If you support free speech, then you must advocate for the right of someone to promote that which you would spend a lifetime fighting.
Even for men like Wurzelbacher, free speech is not truly free. His definition of freedom means a lack of consequence. Such line of thinking is counter to the very structure of society. In each decision we make there is always a consequence; it need not be negative to be understood as such. If one studies hard and achieves a good grade, it is a consequence of work. We are constantly reacting to the world around us and men like Wurzelbacher demand that this change, they are attempting to alter the very fabric of how we relate to each other.
The first amendment was not created to allow one group agency and deny it to another. It is about promoting an exchange of ideas. It is the conversations that occur between dissenting bodies that ferment change. If we are to listen to those that only repeat that which we believe to be fundamentally true, no gains intellectual or otherwise can possibly be achieved.
Wurzelbacher is not interested in change and growth because such action necessarily means the realization that though some bodies have been historically dominate, the tyranny of the majority does not necessarily represent a social good. Wurzelbacher is interested in promoting his White, male, heterosexual, cisgendered, able bodied point of view at all times.
We could easily dismiss the conversation between Wurzelbacher and Behar, because Joe clearly has idiotic tendencies. We are after all, talking about a man that argued against a tax cut for his class bracket , is openly sexist and homophobic, as well as dim enough to believe that a flat tax would be beneficial. Arguing with him is actually child's play, as various journalists have proven time and time again, however; we should not dismiss his reliance on privilege to prove his point. Men that are far more eloquent that Wurzelbacher use privilege to demand that their utterances remain above question, we simply do not recognize it as such because it comes wrapped in platitudes. If the concept of free speech is going to be maintained, it must apply to all and not just those intent upon creating a society of automatons.
Shakesville has a transcript and a good conversation on the interview between Joe the Plumber and Behar
The above is from The Onion. Once again, those familiar with the political leanings of The Onion, will totally see this as a piece of satire, but those unfamiliar will take this video quite seriously. When one creates a product, I believe that it is important to be aware that it will be distributed beyond it’s target audience.
The video is meant to be an attack on those that are homophobic, however; I believe it sends a far more direct message about gender policing. The video connects gender to sexuality, when in fact they are two very separate entities. From a very early age, we discipline children into performing gender in a very specific manner. Boys are taught to be strong and aggressive as this supports our patriarchal society; that it leaves them disconnected and emotionally stunted is often understood as unimportant.
Often when we talk about sexism, we focus on the ways in which it negatively impacts women, however; videos like this highlight exactly why gender should be a concern of men as well. If a role is so rigid that it restricts individuality, it limits personal growth. Though the example of Halloween has been used, policing occurs on a daily basis. It takes the form of telling a child not to cry, or to man up in the face of fear, even withholding of affection.
The withholding of affection is specifically damaging to young boys. As they age we are less likely to cuddle them, kiss them or display any form of overt attention. When we consider the healing power of touch and its importance in socialization, the sudden withdrawal is not only confusing to children but emotionally scaring. We believe that part of establishing masculinity is forcing the withdrawal from their mothers in order to establish a distinctly masculine persona. This means a specific rejection of the feminine that exists in all things.
Male or even masculine is not necessarily the opposite of feminine and it is only our devaluation of womanhood that makes the realization of gender fluidity seem so threatening. What makes this video so interesting is that while it seeks to challenge heteronormativity and the gender binary, it reinforces it by its erasure of gender queer bodies. True challenge means acknowledging those that do not adhere to gender whatsoever and change their presentation continually. Their invisibility in this critique helps to maintain the dichotomy that The Onion is claiming to challenge.
Invisibility is insidious because it keeps conversation focused on dominant bodies, thus reinforcing the hierarchal order of society that we have normalized. Erasing their existence even in satiric routines like this, is a reflection of the ability of certain bodies to create and inform discourse. Even the most liberal amongst us are capable of using power coercively. We have a tendency to avoid a nuanced examination of social norms because we fear revealing the ways in which we invoke personal privilege. It is far easier to look at the large connections thereby ignoring the ways in which we contribute to the very imbalance that leads to “othering".”
It would be quite easy to watch the video created by The Onion and agree that forcing boys to perform certain behaviours because of a fear of homosexuality is wrong, it is however another matter to extend that argument and examine the inherent sexism and the erasure of gender queer bodies. Hitting people with a brick only serves to create a small opening to what are often real and enormous social marginalizations. If we do not begin with the position that intersectionality is paramount, the conversation is necessarily stunted and only reinforces inequality as the norm. Where we begin conversing, is just as important as what we hope to achieve by sharing ideas.
Sorry, Men and Fun-Fems: All Porn Is Rape, All the Time (Or, If You Are Watching Porn, You Are Watching Rape)
I have been on the fence for years about whether porn is inherently harmful, or anti-feminist. The source of my ambivalence, and how i talked myself down from that particular fence are as important to discuss, it seems to me, as is the anti-porn position to which i ultimately committed.
For years, I felt ambivalent about porn. it didn't really do anything for me, but I was never inclined to agree with either the old-school radfems or misogynist religious proselytizers putting limitations what i should and shouldn't watch, or enjoy. I think my problem was a common problem for young women and young feminists: I was letting men and the male-identified fun-fems define feminism for me, and I was too young and uneducated to really analyze what I was seeing. not unimportantly, I was afraid of a radical feminist analysis, and what that would mean for me, should I decide I was anti-porn, as a young female, a sister and daughter (of white men), as a heterosexual, and most recently, as a professional in a male-dominated field. Instinctively and intellectually I knew that coming down on the side of anti-porn would cause a problem for me. I am not a fucking idiot, after all, most feminists aren't.
I was also screwing up my analysis, in that I was giving too much credence to my own “feelings” about what I saw, and knew, about porn, and consumers of porn, having watched it myself, and dated men who ran the gamut between being literally and problematically “addicted” and “meh” when it came to using and possessing the stuff. I wrongly believed that my ambivalent “feelings” were somehow neutral, and unaffected by the culture I lived in–a culture that fully embraces not just porn but rape, too. I think that too is a common problem for feminists: an objective analysis that comes down on the side of anti-porn is at odds with how some of us ”feel” subjectively about watching it. In other words, watching other people fuck doesn't necessarily bother me. I just didn't get that visceral “yuck” feeling like so many feminist women and religious zealots alike claim to get when watching, talking about, or analyzing porn. and I wrongly assumed that having done some rudimentary analysis and come to a conclusion, that i had done my due diligence, and that I was done.
But for all thinking people, and all feminists, its the objective analysis, not our subjective feelings that takes us into the weeds. Considering that a misogynist rape-culture is the backdrop against which we all live, and against which we conduct all of our daily transactions, we would be right more often that not, if we embraced this credo: our subjective selves are not “us”. We literally cannot trust our own feelings on this issue, although our feelings are not completely irrelevant. Pro-porn or even ambivalent sentiments are part of living in a rape- and porn-culture, but that's not terminal to a feminist analysis of porn. At the same time we live in a porn- and rape-culture, we also live in a puritanical and slut-shaming one. We need to know, objectively, what is informing our opinions, no matter on which side we ultimately land.
What I came up with is this. You don't have to be skeeved out by porn, to be an anti-pornography feminist. You can be anti-porn FIRST. in my experience, the ick-factor followed closely behind, once I realized what I was looking at, and talking and thinking about, when i was looking at or analyzing porn. For reasons I will more fully explain below, it was my objective analysis of the concept of consent that lead me to the conclusion that porn is rape. to be clear: I did not use an objective analysis to explain, explore, or justify my pre-existing, subjective revulsion to porn. This is an important point, particularly against the anti-feminist barrage that women and feminists encounter daily, by men who are only too eager to dismiss women and feminists for being overly-emotional about every subject that affects them (as if responding emotionally to emotionally-charged subject matter is ever inappropriate). Despite my ambivalence, I performed an objective analysis of porn from the perspective of consent versus non-consent, and I came to believe that its objectively, inherently harmful, and anti-feminist. that is, when I realized, objectively, that what i was looking at was rape, I began to feel revolted. so, while I could have done this sooner, even before the revulsion kicked in, it’s time, now, to get down off the fence, and get real. The answer to the question, i believe, is YES. Porn is both inherently harmful, and anti-feminist. Furthermore, I believe that all porn is rape, all the time. Here's why.
In a nutshell, porn = rape because of the consent “problem”. Even at the most basic, non-feminist, penis-loving, women-hating level, the lowest level we can hold ourselves to and still claim to be a nation of laws, and civilized human beings, I think we can all agree that where there is no consent, there is rape. You do not want to be on the wrong side of the consent problem: if you find yourself there, you are a rapist. but porn falls on the wrong side of it consistently, and in many ways.
When analyzing the consent “problem,” straight-away, porn-consent and real-life consent are at odds. firstly, and problematically, in porn, consent is a non-issue. If its considered at all, its presumed. for the porn-consumer, the question of consent never even comes up: a woman’s very presence on film acts as her consent as far as he's concerned. But in real life, a woman’s mere voluntary presence does not equal her consent to anything except being there. And for the male porn-performer, the contractual nature of the transaction–and the industry–acts as the woman’s consent to whatever comes next. Except that, it doesn't.
Although porn presents the opposite picture, just because a woman initially says “yes” does not mean you get to do whatever the fuck you want to her. The “free-for-all” nature of even mainstream porn is especially problematic, when it escalates, always, to include acts that most people would not willingly participate in, such as gang-bangs, and “rage-in-the-cage” styled death-matches where the woman is presented as being “versus” the man. Both ethically and legally, without a constant negotiation and re-negotiation of consent, there is no consent. This renegotiation occurs when each party, always, has the option of ending, altering, or decelerating the action, at any time. Consent, by definition, is a living, breathing, thing, and cannot be given prospectively. the constant renegotiation required in consensual sexual encounters simply doesn't occur when deals are struck, and contracts are signed beforehand. Did you hear that? Let me repeat it: consent does not occur, in porn. therefore, porn is rape.
Furthermore, if the male performer is legitimately to know whether a certain sex act is wanted, that understanding can only occur through constant communication with his partner. In real life, these communications are spontaneous, and can take the form either verbal cues (“yes”) or are evidenced by the woman’s enthusiastic engagement with her partner. but in porn, the woman is acting. That is, her communications to him are inauthentic. He should know better than to engage in this act, then, if he doesn't know whether its wanted, or not. is he no longer legally or morally culpable for rape, just because he is getting paid to do it? In real life, you have to be sure its wanted. In porn, what, you don't? or, it doesn't matter? Bullshit.
What we have in porn, then, on both sides of the screen, are men who don't give a shit whether the sex acts being performed on a woman are wanted. We have “consent” that was given prospectively, which means quite literally that it wasn't given at all. In other words, we have rapists raping women, and men watching episodes of rape, thousands in a lifetime, but convincing themselves each time that they are watching ”sex.” Somehow, consent has been entirely removed from the equation, but make no mistake. Removal of consent from the sexual equation means we are dealing in rape.
The other problem is in bringing porn-behaviours and porn-mentalities and porn-desires into your real life, and most of us acknowledge that men (including men who are advertisers…and fashion designers….and law enforcement) tend to do exactly that. But porn-consumers appropriating rape-mentalities and behaviours are not the only problem with porn. Men who watch porn are indulging rape-fantasies, and can become rapists if they bring these behaviours into the bedroom. But the men who participate in porn really are rapists under a consent analysis. And the female actors really are being raped.
So…where does that leave us, as feminists and women living in a culture that embraces porn so completely? I don't know the answer to that. It’s entirely possible that the entire porn industry is inherently problematic and cannot be corrected, and indeed, that's what a consent-analysis ends up: If legal and moral consent cannot be given prospectively, then it cannot be contracted for, period. It’s quite possible that voluntary sex cannot be legitimately commodified. But the extreme power differentials involved here, driven by literally billions of dollars means that the “right” conclusion will not carry the day. Many, many men in our lives will continue to be consumers of porn, or wont see anything wrong with it, and radfems will end up endlessly having to explain ourselves, in the face of self-proclaimed liberal men and the fun-fems who want need their acceptance.
As far as me personally, I guess i am “lucky” in a way, that I don't have to deal with numerous men in my private life: I don't have a relationship with my dad; my only brother died 10 years ago; and my partner is on the “meh” end of the spectrum when it comes to porn, having done away with his collection without explanation 7 years ago, and seems to have not looked back. But I still have to rely almost exclusively on men to sign my pay checks, and I will still have to “please” various men in various ways, knowing always in the back of my mind the repulsive scenarios they are likely to find “pleasing.” And this is the context in which I and other radfems will live our lives, unless and until something changes. if I seem “upset” about it, I am.
Editors Note: My opinions on porn are very different from that of the author. I do not believe that it is always rape because I do believe that it is possible to consent. Also, I think that it is important to note that not all porn is made by men; it is possible to find very women centric porn. Another point worth noting, is that not all porn is heterosexual. Womanist Musing is about having difficult conversations, which is why I chose to post this piece. We cannot always agree but what we must not stop doing is conversing with one another. As usual, I expect respectful conversation in the comment section.
Please feel free to use this thread to chat about what ever is on your mind. Have you read anything interesting, seen a good movie, or just heard a joke that cracked you the hell up? No subject is to silly or to controversial. Who knows where the conversation will go, have at it and I will see you in the comment section.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I was reading Spark in Darkness when I came across the following question:
If a friend or relative makes a racist or homophobic remark, do you tend to confront them or let it slide? Are you more likely to confront them if it offends you directly or someone else who seems reluctant to speak up?
I believe that the answer to the above question speaks very loudly about a personal commitment to social justice. Even though one claims to have a desire to confront isms and deal with undeserved privilege, if we allow comments to pass that devalue another, there is not real desire to fight for equality. A freedom fighter must have the courage of their convictions.
My children taught me courage. Before I had them, though I did not believe in homophobia, transphobia, sexism or classism, I was more likely to let it pass. After my first child began to speak, I started thinking about unintended lessons. I realized that through my silence, I was teaching him that the very things that I claimed to abhor were acceptable. I learned to speak out because I wanted my children to grow believing in the equal value of each and every single human being. In the eight years since I have been a mother the most important lesson that I have learned, is to have the courage of my convictions.
I have not always been perfect. At my former job, I remember an incident when someone used a homophobic slur. In fact he said, “I hate New York because it has too man F#gs”. The man in question was clearly a dolt, but the thought of calling him out at the company picnic, when we were all supposed to be having fun was too much. I invoked my privilege and remained silent. In the back of my mind, I worried about being thought of as too abrasive or sensitive. I had already developed a reputation because I spoke freely about race. The decision to remain silent is something that bothers me to this day. I look back at that moment and see it is a time of personal failure. I cannot even claim that I didn’t know his speech was offensive.
I suppose the answer to the question would be that I have not always been faithful to my beliefs, but hopefully as I grow and find the courage, I will speak far more often than I will remain silent. I see connections that I did not when I was young. I understand that one isms supports another and I have learned to listen. I may not always get it perfect because there is so much I need to learn, but at least I am committed to walking through this life with a deep and abiding belief in the goodness and worth of each person.
Your turn dear readers, have you found the courage of your convictions?
Editors Note: The following video shows a child being maced by an Adult woman. Some may consider it violence aimed at a child.
This woman was just going about her business when these children decided to show that manners was not a focus in their home. Just before she maced the little boy, he told her to suck his balls. I think that macing him really did go to far, but when you pick on a marginalized body, you never know when your comment will end up being the last straw.
Incidents like this are exactly why marginalized bodies die earlier. Each day we have to put up with attacks like this and then we are expected to happily turn the other cheek. Not everyone is going to respond peaceably. Each time we with hold our emotions and don’t respond, it comes at a cost. You ever wonder about high blood pressure and the relationship to stress? What I find interesting in times like this, is the near universal denouncement of the person who responds with violence and or rage.
How many times are marginalized bodies expected to turn the other cheek when they are assaulted? Not everyone has the peaceful disposition of Martin Luther King and Ghandi. We don’t consider that it might be a manifestation of our own privilege to demand that the person being victimized just accept their treatment. Their bodes were after all meant for abuse.
Had the kid in question never messed with the woman in the first place, he never would have ended up with mace in his eyes. She was peaceably going about her business, when he decided that he had the right to be abusive. This is the way it goes with this kind of abuse. You could be having a perfectly good day when a person decides to invoke their privilege and ruin any chance you have of happiness. If you react calmly, you might be praised for carrying yourself well under pressure but it does not teach the offender a damn thing. I honestly believe that sometimes in life, people need to get exactly what they are looking for.
Okay y’all knew it was only a matter of time before Queen appeared right?
alright last one I promise
When I think of classic rock, I think of Freddie. I simply love his voice. No one worked a stage like Freddie and I regret that I never had the good fortune to see him live. To this day I wonder what music he would have made had his life not been cut short by AIDS. He is an example of one of the great ones we lost because Reagan was such a homophobic asshole, that he decided not to take AIDS seriously.
I chose the two Highlander songs because despite how cheesy these movies are and the bad acting, I love them. Look a Sunday Shame on a Tuesday. Your turn to share, do you love Freddie, Queen or the movies? Feel free to share in the comment section.
Right now for some reason Intense Debate is forcing me to manually approve some comments or sending them to spam. I am doing the best I can to correct the problem and approve comments quickly. If you don’t see your comment appear, feel free to shoot me an e-mail and I will attempt to hunt it down. Hopefully I can get rid of the manual approval. It is as much a pain in the butt for me, as it is for you.
This is a guest post by Max Reddick. He blogs over at soulbrother v.2. I discovered Max quite by accident and since then he has moved me with his eloquence and tender heart.
I have been composing this narrative in my head for several weeks now. However, I always push it to the rear, lowering it in priority, until I look into the face of my fourteen year old son or until the phone rings and I see my oldest son’s number on the caller ID.
But I am lost for a way in; I simply do not know where to begin. But so that I might see this project through to completion, I’ll just jump in by positing this question: “What does it mean to be a man?”
Most of what I learned about being a man, I learned from the women in my life, ironically often in those spaces often relegated to women.
As I sat next to my grandmother watching her sew, she would lovingly question me and advise me. She would tell me what was expected of me. She would tell me how I should conduct myself.
As I helped my aunts clean by moving this piece or that piece of furniture so they could sweep or vacuum behind it, they would compliment me on my spirit. They told me I had a good spirit, a gentle spirit, a giving spirit. They warned me that people would want me to change. But they admonished me not to change. My aunts ensured me that the world needed more men with just those attributes.
And it was my mother who gave me the gift of reading and writing. I am not sure when I began to read, but from my earliest cognizance, books were there, and later she encouraged me to write despite my father insisting that I play outside with the other boys, despite my father insisting that all this “work and no play” would cause me to grow up weak and effeminate.
But she would gently rebuke him, and explain to him that what the world needed was more men who could think, who could reason; the world was populated with too many men who valued brawn over brains. And often he would respond with the question of what kind of man would I end up being if I stayed in the house under women all the time. But he would acquiesce nevertheless.
And watching him, listening to him, all the while the question hung in the back of my mind, “Just what does it mean to be a man?”
I am not saying that the men in my life did not have a huge influence over the person I have become, but while the lessons taught by the women in my life were more explicit, were more like a dialogue, the lessons taught by the men were more one-sided and sometimes contradictory. Often what they said was accompanied by a nod and a wink. Often I was confused when what they said conflicted with their actions. Perhaps, I was confused because their method of instruction left more questions than answers.
No experience is more demonstrative of this than that when I left home at the age of seventeen to enter the military.
I had finished high school, but because of my age, my parents had to sign for me which much to my surprise, they did. I am not certain why I made this decision; I had numerous other opportunities, to include a full ride college scholarship, I could have pursued. But I felt I had to do this. I felt I had to leave home to find myself as a man.
And on the eve of my departure, the male elders of my family—my surviving grandfather, my father, and a host of uncles—assembled to advise me and send me off. As they stood in a semi-circle with me sitting in a chair at the center, one by one they gave me advice, sought to inspire me, and bade me goodbye.
Before that moment when the first speaker spoke, I was unaware of the gravity of my decision. And by the time my favorite uncle, my mother’s youngest brother, rose to give the closing speech, tears of apprehension were streaming down my face. He closed his speech with the charge—I still remember it know as if it were yesterday—“In every and all things, be a man. Always be a man.”
Through tears I asked him, “What does it mean to be a man?” He looked to the faces in the crowd for an answer who all looked at my grandfather, the elder male present. My grandfather stood thoughtfully, pulled on his hat and told me that this was my journey; it was up to me to determine what it meant to be a man.
And with that piece of sage like wisdom the men filed pass me, each pausing to look me in my eyes, give me a firm handshake, a pat on the back. I returned the gesture, but what I really wanted, what I really needed was for one of them, any one of them, to put his arms around me and tell me it would be alright. And with that I set off to answer the question for myself.
Along the way I have made a good many mistakes. Along the way, I have hurt some people, and I have been hurt in return. Along the way, there have been many days when I have cheered in triumph and on others I have lowered my head in defeat. Many days I have sung out loud and with glee, “I shot the sheriff, and on a few others I have found myself singing “Sweet Jesus, please be my friend.”
And I have learned that I cannot define my manhood by my sexual prowess or the number of sexual partners I have. I cannot define my manhood by the power I am able to exert over people. I cannot define my manhood by the amount of money I make, the car I drive, the size of my house, or by what I possess.
But I can define my manhood by the number of lives I have touched, the number of lives I have made better. I can define my manhood by the look of love and respect I see in the eyes of my wife and children. But most of all I can define my manhood for myself and without any outside cultural and societal paradigms.
I am still learning. I am still evolving. However, I think I have the most basic understanding of this thing now. I think that I can finally offer my sons the definition, the vision of manhood that was denied me. But most of all I know that before they leave my house, I will put my arms around them, I will pull them tight to me, and I will them know that it will all work out in the end; it will be alright. And then hope against all hope that someday they grow to be better men than I.
Monday, October 26, 2009
For any little girl, a Barbie Doll is a complicated gift because it is so completely unrepresentative of female bodies. Barbie is one of the mothers of negative body images. This is compounded when the child in question is Black. When a Black girl is given a Black doll with Eurocentric features and straight hair, what does it teach her but that she is not beautiful. Because beauty is one of the few sites of female power this can be extremely damaging.
Loanne Hizo Ostlie of Tabloach Productions has been retooling these dolls and selling them on Ebay. This dolls represent the various hair textures that Black women have. They also feature more Afrocentric styles. A child given this doll to play with, will not only learn to see herself as beautiful but understand that she has the right to claim the label of woman.
Mattel could have chosen to do this on its own but it had no interest in really creating a positive image of Black womanhood. Simply painting a White doll dark and using dark coloured hair, does not make it African American. We are not White people with a really dark tan. We have our own unique features and our own standards of beauty. Ostlie’s work is clearly ingenious and is an example of the ways in which Black women have always had to strive to ensure that positive images become part of our social discourse.