Saturday, December 19, 2009

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks again for another great week of conversation.  I would also like to thank this weeks guest posters, your contributions help to broaden the conversations on the blog.  If you would like to guest post here, please send a link to a post or your original via e-mail.

This Sunday at 8pm, please join Monica, everyone’s favourite Gus, Allison McCarthy and I for our holiday show. We will be discussing our memories of our favourite holidays.  We will also be joined by the unhusband, Mayhem and Destruction who has prepared a special song to sing.  We really look forward to chatting with you.  The call in number is 347-326-9452 and you can find us online here.

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Below you will find links to posts that I found interesting this week.  Please take the time to show these bloggers some love.  When you are done, don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

The Intersectional Feminist: An Interview With Mathee Rojas and Cleaving, Sexism and Polyamory: Dirty Talk on Julie Powell

Why James Chartrand Wears Women's Underpants

The anti-abortionists argue…..

A Study in Endurance and Ableism

Do we act differently when we think white folks are watching?: Toward a Definition of Coonery

Things that are not our business, Duggar Edition

The Cautionary Tale of the Kehoe Twins: Is This About Surrogacy, or Whether or Not Disabled Women Can Parent

Mulled Wine And Carols

Dignity Village – More Than A City

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For Rush Limbaugh Health Care Is Like Houses

Rush finally admitted the truth of the Republican position on healthcare.  He obviously does not believe that ensuring that people have access to health care is a moral issue.   Rush, like any other man of privilege values capitol over people.   He can afford to be academic about this issue because when he needed treatment for his addiction, he could afford it and in fact, any health related issues that occur with Limbaugh in the future will not cause him any financial distress.  Money is only a mute point, if you already have it. 

Tommy Douglas is the father of socialized medicine in Canada and he is considered one of the greatest Canadians to ever live.  Our system is not perfect and in fact, I highly doubt that any system run by a capitalist government will be, however; one can be certain that in Canada if you are sick, money will be the last of your concerns.  I have never had to worry about co-payments.  I have never had to argue with an insurance company regarding whether or not I need a test that my doctor has suggested.  All of the treatments that I have undergone have been decided between my doctor and myself.  There is a reason that Canadians live longer than Americans – SOCIALIZED MEDICINE.  Even Cuba has a better standard of care, with one doctor to every six patients than Americans.  What does it say, that a poor island with nowhere near the GDP of the U.S. can afford care for its citizens?

The people that are most likely to have an issue with socialized medicine are those that don’t need it and that should speak VERY loudly to the American population.  Even as these rich people scream about cost, they ignore the fact that the NHS (U.K.) was created out of the ashes of WWII.  From the outside, it seems as though Americans have endless resources to wage war, and no concern for their citizenry.  If you have money to spend on death and violence and no compassion for the weak and vulnerable, it speaks of a society that indeed is suffering a moral crises. 


Friday, December 18, 2009

The Chipettes Sing “All The Single Ladies”

Because I am easily amused….

Corduroy Stone Ex Gay Therapy Finally Recognized As Harmful

What if you were a young person struggling with your identity?  What if you felt that it was secret that you could not share with anyone because society has made it clear that you are somehow deviant and or diseased.  What if you fear that those that you love the most will reject you?  These are the fears of a young LGBT person seeking answers while praying desperately for a reason to hope.  We are talking about a very vulnerable group of people.  This vulnerability is not because there is something wrong with them but because we live in a culture that daily reinforces heterosexual privilege.  Far too often young members of the GLBT community turn to these horrendous ex gay therapies hoping to change something that is immutable – their sexuality.

“He asked how large my penis was,” McAlvey explained of Jones’ therapy. “He asked if I shave my pubic hair. He asked what type of underwear that I wore. He wanted me to describe my sexual fantasies to him and the type of men I’m attracted to. On one occasion, he asked me to take my shirt off and show him how many push-ups I could do, which I did not do.”

How is this supposed to cure him of his homosexuality? It is abusive and is clearly an example of some of the worst predatory behaviour. 

According to Truth Wins Out, Patrick McAlvey made his experience public in August and yet it took until December for Exodus International, to officially cut ties with its Lansing affiliate Corduroy Stone.  The delay implies that they were more interested in covering up their shameful behaviour than admitting the harm that these so-called therapies cause.

“Mike Jones used to be able to say he was an Exodus International affiliate governed by a Board of Directors,” said McAlvey to Truth Wins Out. “Exodus has removed their affiliation and the Board of Directors has dissolved.  Now he’s just some guy.  He’s not a mental health professional.  He’s not a pastor.  He’s just some guy with made-up theories and outlandish techniques claiming he can help people change their sexual orientation.  He is dangerous and I hope people steer clear of this predator.”

While it is wonderful that Mike Jones is facing some sort of accountability, in truth all of those involved in ex gay therapies need to be stopped.  They are preying upon fearing and encouraging self loathing.  What good could possibly come out of this sort of action? It is time for the government to step in and do something about these organizations before they can cause anymore innocent people harm. 

H/T Pams House Blend

Happy Friday Open Thread

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Well it is officially the last weekend before Christmas.  Once again, I am unprepared for the big day.  I still have gifts and stocking stuffers to buy, damn TV moms for making it all look so easy.  (Yeah, I know you are done Sparky and I don’t want to hear about it. Yes, this is me sticking out my virtual tongue out at you)  Please use this thread to celebrate that it is Friday or share your upcoming plans for the weekend.  If you are like me, at least a part of it will be dedicated to putting together the finishing touches.  Is it any wonder that by the time the turkey hits the table I am to exhausted to enjoy it?

Chuck Norris: ObamaCare, The Virgin Mary and Slut Shaming, Wow That’s A Trifectar

image Chuck Norris has become very vocal regarding his political views.  The man should clearly limit is talents to either a weak punch or hawking his exercise equipment on late night television.  Perhaps if we chipped in and got Ron Popeil to give him a few lessons on selling things that no one wants, good ole Chuck would focus his few talents in an area that would be less harmful to women. Perhaps, together they could create a flo-bee for a new generation.

In an article for Human Events: The conservative underground ( of course it has be underground because exposed to the light of day, the ridiculousness would burn like a vampire being exposed to the sun), Norris states:

But the big question and bottom line, as Hatch asked, is: "Why should people of conscience be forced to participate in any aspect of abortion?"

Washington certainly has reached a new low by forcing American citizens who oppose abortion to pay for abortions via their taxes in this massively comprehensive way. Is it intentionally trying to spark the next Boston Tea Party? When our greatest values are thrown under the omnibus, how do they expect us to respond? (Washington's wild spending and abandonment of traditional values and our Founders' vision is what prompted me to add a 64-page expansion to the new paperback version of my New York Times best-seller Black Belt Patriotism, being released in January through Fidelis Books. See the new Web site at http://www.BlackBeltPatriotism.com.)

Clearly the man has no respect for trees.  How many innocent trees lost their lives in order for him to sell his patriarchal, misogynist swill to the world? Clearly he is no lover of mother earth because he is willing to throw her under the bus to pollute her waters by throw tea bags…but hey, didn’t they already try to do that this spring and fail?  Oh well, failing is what neo-cons do best.

Lastly, as we near the eve of another Christmas, I wonder: What would have happened if Mother Mary had been covered by Obamacare? What if that young, poor and uninsured teenage woman had been provided the federal funds (via Obamacare) and facilities (via Planned Parenthood, etc.) to avoid the ridicule, ostracizing, persecution and possible stoning because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Imagine all the great souls who could have been erased from history and the influence of mankind if their parents had been as progressive as Washington's wise men and women! Will Obamacare morph into Herodcare for the unborn?

image What’s a little holiday slut shaming between devout Christians right?  Perhaps, if womens bodies were not stigmatized, being an unwed mother would not be problematic?  It seems like a reasonable assumption to me.  Instead of giving birth in a manger, socialized healthcare would mean pre-natal care (shocking I know) and a safe delivery in a hospital but hey it’s only baby Jesus right?  Who needs good medical care when you are giving birth to the son of God?  Interestingly enough, I think Herod would be more inline with present day Conservative positions than Obama but hey who needs historical accuracy and logic when you have disciplining and slut shaming to do.  Of course, Mary did keep her legs crossed but being a woman in a patriarchal society means that no matter the situation, you are always guilty of something.

America doesn't need to turn the page on culture wars, such as the one on abortion. It needs to reopen the pages of its history to our Founders' elevated views of and rights for all human beings (including those in the womb), as documented in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. We need to revive and re-instill their value of humanity back into society, our children and our children's children.

When all else fails, just call upon the founders because they weren’t in the least bit flawed, like every other person that has walked the planet.  We can just ignore that the rights that they were fighting for benefitted privileged, rich, educated White men, who interestingly enough, aside from the educated part, are quite a bit like Norris himself.  Women and Blacks weren’t even considered people but hey, why let a little thing like that tarnish the image of the saintly founders? Perhaps, the lure of manifest destiny and the slaughter of millions of First Nations peoples kept them to busy to consider the morality of their actions.  You know how it is when you get an idea in your head, if you a goal driven person.

When you examine who is touting conservative values, how can their views be taken seriously?  From Sara Palin to Chuck Norris, not a one of them has a functioning brain cell between them.  They always hearken back to this mythical past, ignoring that in reality, for those living during that time it was a nightmare.  Before the women’s movement there were no domestic violence shelters.  How many women lived with their abusers with no possibility of escape?  Before Roe vs Wade, how many women died in back alley abortions?  If the past was perfect, we should ask who was it perfect for because I am certain that an unemployed, single Black mother has it rough today and she would have had it even worse in previous times. 

When we pull the curtain away from the wizard, what we see is failed logic desperately employed to reduce the lives of women, while maintaining patriarchal power.  If Norris is so concerned about teh babies, why isn’t he actively working to fight child poverty or for better education in schools? The bottom line is that none of this concern troll knuckle twisting is really about concern for children; it is about disciplining women for daring to demand control over their reproduction.   If children really mattered, they would not be abused, undereducated, and used as a political tools by people. 



Being Suicidal (Trigger Warning)

Kateryna Fury is a 25 year old writer of Science Fiction and Fantasy. She advocates for equality with a focus on Women with Disabilities. Of all the things that could be stated in a biography it is important to stress that her diverse experiences color her outlook just as yours do.

Before I share my writing today I am giving a bit of a prologue. This is serious, and this post is a long time coming. My scooter is repaired thanks to your support, and that is one of the better things. I have a full time caregiver who is fantastic, and I am working on getting better.I will write about the good stuff soon.

Please read more, I am covering this due to the serious trigger warning. I don’t do that often.

I turned the world off for a while. Everyone knows I was drowning, struggling. My existing issues have grown beyond what I am strong enough to endure long term. That said, I am extremely suicidal. Yes, you can be less suicidal and more suicidal. In the end, I still know I won’t kill myself. That is actually the point of writing this. I may want to die, but I keep reminding myself of one thing in many ways. I don’t really want death, I want relief from my pain. If I am dead, then there is no relief.

It sounds stupid to me, the closer I get to that edge. When I close my eyes the vibrant garden I live in is dim, it’s dark in there. All there is is me, and this darker space that sucks at me, tugging me, the voice whispering, “If you die, then no one will care, so why care?” or “You know the only way to truly be free of pain is to die. You’re just a fat disabled woman, no one loves you.” There are a thousand variations, and all of that? Lies. I live in physical pain and always have. I probably will for the duration of my life. I am tough, I can take it. If I couldn’t I would’ve expired from ouch long ago. Ouch is not a prescription for death.

So why am I reliving the darkest parts of my life? Why am I unable to stop playing the most painful moments? Why am I unable to get the word rape out of my head? Because I was. Because it is trauma. I have been traumatized again. My doctor today said some powerful words when we talked, as she helped me fight my insurance for a therapist. I still don’t have one and I am scared. We went over as much as I could talk about with the previous incidents and I finally said out loud what I can barely think. He raped me. I didn’t write it here, I did report it, then I shut down. I accused myself of backsliding into the behaviours of my past, which I have struggled hard to over come. I mentioned I am afraid I may be becoming agoraphobic like my mother claims to be, and may really be. I was being cruel.

“Stop. You can’t backslide from new trauma. You can have the same reaction to similar trauma but this is fresh. You have more progress to make now, but you have skills from surviving and healing before. It’s a new wound.” It’s a new voice in my darkness. I am not the same person I was when I began this life, I am far different. I feel old, I feel tired. I feel like dying. I came very close. November is always difficult for me.  That post has a trigger warning. It triggers me to live through Thanksgiving day. I cannot eat turkey and if it is offered at times become irrationally angry. Maybe it is rational, but it is hard to explain. It took me years to get to the point where for three months out of the year (October, November, December) I was not shut off and suicidal. I am still ahead of the game. I only shut down for the month.

I also know the extenuating circumstances in regards to my physical existence, environment, whatever you want to call it contributed. I had no bed again, the mattress I had was defective. I wasn’t sleeping, I kept forgetting to eat. I also endured the struggles of eating disorder anew. I haven’t had to fight myself on food like this since I was a child. I have eaten. Twice today, after this I am going to make myself eat a third meal. I can’t do it without effort. Food appears to me to be disgusting. I have been dealing with Bulimia Nervosa since I was 8 years old. Being starved is a trigger. That would screw up anyone.

Food makes me want to die. Food is also killing me. My cholesterol is high because of my will to live. Yes, in this rambling post written as fast as I can type and almost as fast as I am thinking I have the contradiction. I am suicidal with a will to live. Of course I am. Everyone who wants to die is human and human comes with that will to live. Sometimes we choose a slow way, bad food when we know it hurts us, bad people, drugs. Slow death is appealing because we can deny it. I can’t. I am consciously choosing to live. My heart is beating. I want to keep it that way.

I am writing this because I often receive little emails or big ones from some of you, mentioning how my ability to endure reminds you that you can and you don’t want to die. So here is my plan for living until tomorrow.

Step 1. I look at the consequences. The most important thing in my life is my Service Cat, followed by my Silly Cat. No one would take care of Sprite and William if I died. They would be pushed into the same world that hurt them. They would be separated at best, and William likely would be put to death because he is disabled. Sprite would likely be poisoned due to her allergies. The images in my mind are horrid, likely overly dramatized, but effective. I must not die because of them.

Step 2. I remind myself that if I die, then I can’t FEEL the relief. I crave it, but I have to work for it if I want to enjoy it. I don’t really want to die, I just want the pain to stop. I want to stop hurting, regretting, fearing. I want my front door to stop making me want to scream when I am alone if I open it. I want to stop thinking of my father of my abusers beyond him. I want to stop it all. I want to live in this garden of light again. I can’t be there if I am dead.

Step 3. I call a crisis line. I cannot do this alone, and since I have no corporeal support network, I reach out. This is the hard part. They don’t want me to do it either. So I talk, sometimes I just cry. Most areas of the US have crisis lines. I’ll list a few at the end.

Step 4. I call my (insert someone I care about here). I’ve called my mother, just to talk to her. I’ve called my sister who is as important as my cats. I’ve called my friend in California. Him mostly, because he isn’t a trigger for my issues. Sometimes I call my own voice mail.

Step 5. I promise myself to wait until tomorrow and reassess. Things are getting better, because I am trying.

The important thing that I am doing now, to keep living, is trying to get into therapy. I shouldn’t HAVE to fight the insurance or discrimination though I am. I should  have what I need. I am even open to taking an antidepressant. I haven’t needed help for years, but I really do now. The point of anti depressants is to help you get undepressed. That does mean they are a tool and not a forever patch. So, I can someday get back off of them when I am okay again. I have spent about half my life on them, when it was used to control me. This terrifies me. I also know that I can’t do this without help.

Reaching out to someone, anyone is the hard part. Society stigmatizes suicide. We are shamed for feeling this way. i am sure this reads like a PSA now. Shamed for feeling, shamed for needing, shamed for our pain. A lot of my suicidal reasoning comes from oppression anyway. Fat shame, slut shame, rape shame, victim blame, suicide. I am far from alone. I am not going to google statistics to prove it. I am going to look at my world full of hating, stupid, Bush voting bigots. I am looking at the others who are oppressed, disabled, persons of color, persons of alternative sexuality, persons who are on the sexual spectrum and identify between woman and man despite their bodies. People who are oppressed likely have the highest rates of suicide because it is hard to find people that give a damn.

I don’t want to tell people I am suicidal because they will almost inevitably spew out some myth about suicide, “It’s selfish.” Sure. So are you (censored). Selfish is human. It’s perfectly natural to want pain relief. It’s prescribed like candy for everything. Go take your Tylenol and get rid of a headache. Selfish. “Only bad people do it.” Hardly. Suicide can effect anyone anywhere on the spectrum of society. “But don’t you love (insert thing).”

Anything you hear about suicide with that kind of tone, that is full of shame is best kept to yourself. I don’t want prayer. I want relief. Some people may actually feel relieved by your prayers, you have to assess that one for yourself. I don;’t want your god. I don’t want your pity. I just want to stop hurting. I want the abyss to shrink away, and my flowers to return. So if someone reaches out, offer them something better. Just listen, suggest therapy if you know that won’t send them screaming off.

Most suicidal people don’t necessarily need to be committed. Some people like me, live for years with it. I spent the span of 10 years feeling suicidal. 8-18. I can do it again.

If someone does commit suicide, it’s easy to blame them since you can’t ask why. I am sorry if they did. Just remember, they hurt. They wanted relief.

I am not drinking, smoking, or reaching for any crutches this time. I am afraid. i don’t want to fall. I don’t want to deal with the world. I am making myself. I am tired of fighting and hurting just to get basic human needs. I am tired of feeling threatened. I am tired of BEING threatened. I am tired of society and the lies they tell me. I just want to breathe.

Those promised numbers:

Suicide Helplines: 1-800-273-8255
Agora a New Mexican Crisis Center (The one I call) 1-866-Help-1-NM
1-800-SUICIDE
1-800-784-2433
1-800-799-4TTY (4889) (TTY for those with hearing challenges)


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bulimia Study: "Treat Blacks" and "Treat Bulimia as an Addiction"

For far too long eating disorders in the Black community have been ignored.  The joke has long been that anorexia  or bulimia are something that happens when the main provider loses their job.  Eating disorders have long been understood as something that occurs with middle/upper class White girls and women.  Race is no protector from the harmful images aimed at women or its effects.

Today, I wanted to share my conversation with Michelle Goeree, a USC economics professor, who, along with researchers from the University of Maryland and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, published "Caught in the Bulimic Trap?"

Their study found that African American girls are 50% more likely to be bulimic than white girls and that girls from low-income families are more likely to be bulimic than girls from middle- and high-income families.
Goeree says those results surprised her.

"Prior to this research, we also held the popular conception that eating disorders (and bulimia) were more common among girls from white, mid-to-high income families," Goeree says.

"We were less surprised after we realized that insurance may not cover the expensive doctor visit where a girl with an eating disorder gets diagnosed," she adds.

"If two girls both suffer from bulimia nervosa, but one is from a low-income family and the other from a high-income family, which girl is most likely to be diagnosed if it requires a visit to the expensive psychiatrist?" Goeree asks.

"Girls who are African American and/or come from low-income families are much less likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder conditional on having an eating disorder," Goeree says.

In other words, we all have the idea that bulimia impacts middle-class white girls because they are more likely to receive the diagnosis when, according to the study, African American girls are more likely to exhibit and persist in bulimic behavior.

As I mentioned yesterday, as many as 11 million Americans have an eating disorder. Bulimia nervosa, the life-threatening disorder that Goeree's study focused on, is characterized by a cycle of eating unusually large amounts of food (bingeing) followed by compensatory behavior to purge the food, such as vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting or excessive exercise.

Goeree's study also found something that was equally compelling -- "bulimic behavior is consistent with an addiction."

Once again we can see the intersection between race, class, and gender combining to effect to the lives of WOC.   How many women die because they do not have the capitol to seek help?  How many of them go undiagnosed because bulimia is understood to be a disease effecting only White women? 

The following is from Women’s Health .Gov:

Who becomes bulimic?

Many people think that eating disorders affect only young, upper-class White females. It is true that most bulimics are women (around 85-90 percent). But bulimia affects people from all walks of life, including males, women of color, and even older women.  It is not known for sure whether African American, Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian and Alaska Native people develop eating disorders because American culture values thin people. People with different cultural backgrounds may develop eating disorders because it’s hard to adapt to a new culture (a theory called “culture clash”). The stress of trying to live in two different cultures may cause some minorities to develop their eating disorders.

 

What causes bulimia?

Bulimia is more than just a problem with food. A binge can be triggered by dieting, stress, or uncomfortable emotions, such as anger or sadness. Purging and other actions to prevent weight gain are ways for people with bulimia to feel more in control of their lives and ease stress and anxiety. There is no single known cause of bulimia, but there are some factors that may play a part.

  • Culture. Women in the U.S. are under constant pressure to fit a certain ideal of beauty. Seeing images of flawless, thin females everywhere makes it hard for women to feel good about their bodies.
  • Families. If you have a mother or sister with bulimia, you are more likely to also have bulimia. Parents who think looks are important, diet themselves, or criticize their children's bodies are more likely to have a child with bulimia. 
  • Life changes or stressful events. Traumatic events (like rape), as well as stressful things (like starting a new job), can lead to bulimia.
  • Personality traits. A person with bulimia may not like herself, hate the way she looks, or feel hopeless. She may be very moody, have problems expressing anger, or have a hard time controlling impulsive behaviours.
  • Biology. Genes, hormones, and chemicals in the brain may be factors in developing bulimia.

I will be first to admit that this is not a subject with which I am well acquainted.  Like many other women, I have issues in relation to my body size and shape but they have not resulted in bulimia.  I am very concerned with the ways in which race and class intersect to jeopardize the lives of women of color.  I think this is particularly important to focus on while the U.S. is in a heated debate regarding socializing their healthcare system.   Clearly this is one condition that such a system could help to alleviate.  If we truly believed that women matter it would never be acceptable to allow this sort callousness in regard to their health care needs.

Rape and Racism: Why Tufts didn’t care I was Raped

Trigger Warning

This is a guest post

A rapist has taken away perhaps the most fundamental right that any human being has, and one that all women, people of color, trans people, and children have stolen from them on a regular basis: the right to control one’s own body. The impacts of this theft of choice can last a lifetime.

Supporting a Survivor of Sexual Assault pamphlet

When I made the decision to report my rape to Tufts, I was well aware that I was not a “perfect victim” but I did not know how that was going to matter so much in how seriously Tufts took my rape. I must admit that I was overly naive, but I was confident that my school was going to at least follow their own rules when it came to my report. I unfortunately learned quickly that I was very wrong. Over time I heard bits and pieces about the administration’s reactions to my assault and their subsequent indifference. Little did I know that being a woman of colour was another point against being far from a “perfect victim” who deserved justice.

Countless hours of reading about how many disadvantages I have as a woman of colour as well as a rape victim in our society brought me to the conclusion that my story is yet another example of intersectionality of discrimination. What exactly is intersectionality?

An intersectional approach to analyzing the disempowerment of marginalized women attempts to capture the consequences of the interaction between two or more forms of subordination.  It addresses the manner in which racism, patriarchy, class oppression and other discriminatory systems create inequalities that structure the relative positions of women, races, ethnicities, classes, and the like.  Moreover, intersectionality addresses the way that specific acts and policies operate together to create further disempowerment.
—- “Background Briefing on Intersectionality” Center for Women’s Global Leadership

I won’t hesitate to say that my experience with Tufts has left me completely disempowered. My gender already greatly increased my chances of being raped. My class gave me little resources and power/influence to be able to find outside help that could have preventing things from getting so terrible in the aftermath. And my race made me perceived as less believable when I reported. In the end the specific acts of admin members (not believing me, not accommodating me academically, etc) in addition to an already greatly lacking sexual assault policy lead to a very unfortunate turnout.

The issue of intersectionality in the context of rape is actually something that has been analyzed. Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, in “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” writes (emphasis mine):

Generations of critics and activists have criticized dominant conceptualizations of rape as racist and sexist. These efforts have been important in revealing the way in which representations of rape both reflect and reproduce race and gender hierarchies in American society.

…[A] sexual hierarchy [is] in operation that holds certain female bodies in higher regard than others. Statistics from prosecution of rape cases suggest that this hierarchy is at least one significant, albeit often overlooked factor in evaluating attitudes toward rape. A study of rape dispositions in Dallas, for example, showed that the average prison term for a man convicted of raping a Black woman was two years, as compared to five years for the rape of a Latina and ten years for the rape of an Anglo woman. A related issue is the fact that African-American victims of rape are the least likely to be believed.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a policy that effectively addresses intersectionality. It is hard to try and plead my case (and expect 100% equal treatment) to a group of people primarily compromised of older, privileged, straight, white men who will never be subjected to the discrimination and marginalization I will have to experience as a woman of colour. This is why training (not only just about sexual violence, but about the different dynamics that are related to it) is SO IMPORTANT.

Lisa M. Calderón, M.L.S., J.D. wrote a piece titled “Rape, Racism and Victim Advocacy” in which she emphasizes the importance of victim advocates being aware of the dynamics of race in relation to rape. The points she raises can also be applied to key university players that have to deal with student-student rape. Does Tufts University want to consciously participate as a contributor to a “society that validates certain victims while excluding others?” Remember that the reaction of the community to a survivor is a KEY FACTOR in how quickly they recover.

Elizabeth Kennedy, Research Analyst at Brandeis writes about “Victim Rape and Rape” in which black women are less likely to report,and when they do they are even less likely to get their case persecuted. A study even shows that jurors are even less likely to convict when the survivor is black as opposed to white. She finds that there are a “range of inequalities that African American women face as victims of rape.”

The Center for Public Integrity’s investigation showed that rape victims are a lot more likely to withdraw from school if they report to their university and react negatively. People of colour already have lower college graduation rates. Does Tufts as an institution want to contribute to the perpetuation of these statistics? All of these things need to be kept in mind when dealing with survivors of sexual assault. Ignoring that the class or ethnicity of a student matters when dealing with a case of sexual assault merely continues the cycle of discrimination and oppression.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Military Abortion Ban: Female Soldiers Not Protected by Constitution They Defend

Trigger Warning

image Each day that they serve, we ask soldiers to put themselves at risk for our safety.  There is no sacrifice more ultimate than  when a hero is felled in battle.   One would believe because we are asking them to risk their lives and spend mass amounts of time away from their loved ones, that we would grant them the autonomy to be able to control their own bodies, however; for women in the military such a basic right is denied.

“I have long been aware of the stigma surrounding this circumstance and knew my career would likely be over, though I have received exceptional performance reviews in the past,” Amy explains. Although Fallujah has a surgical unit, and abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures, Amy knew that if her pregnancy were discovered, she would be sent back to her home base at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune, where she would then have to seek a private abortion off-base, or she could request leave in Iraq and try her luck at a local hospital. She also knew she could face reprimands from her commanding officers for having had sex in Iraq (part of a broader prohibition on sex in war zones), and that she might not be promoted as a result: a potentially career-ending situation in the Marines, where failure to obtain regular promotions results in being discharged. Moreover, as a woman in the military, accustomed to proving herself to her male peers over her six-year career, Amy was wary of appearing a “weak female.”

Instead, using herbal abortifacient supplements ordered online, Amy self-aborted. Unable to find a coat hanger she used her sanitized rifle cleaning rod and a laundry pin to manually dislodge the fetus while lying on a towel on the bathroom floor. It was a procedure she attempted twice, each time hemorrhaging profusely. Amy lost so much blood on the first attempt that her skin blanched and her ears rang. She continued working for five weeks, despite increasing sickness, until she realized she was still pregnant.

The morning after her second attempt, she awoke in great pain, and finally told a female supervisor, who told Amy to take an emergency leave to fly back to the United States where a private abortion clinic could finish the procedure. However, Amy was afraid that she would miscarry on the 15-hour plane ride and have no medical escort to help her. She went to the military hospital instead and told the doctor everything. Shortly thereafter, her company first sergeant and other officers were notified of Amy’s condition. The first sergeant came to her hospital room to announce that Amy would be punished under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which addresses violations of general regulations, for having had sex in a war zone.

That night, Amy miscarried alone in her shower. Fearful of the advice of a sympathetic female officer who suggested that Amy might be charged for the abortion as well (she wasn’t), she flushed the fetus down the toilet. “I don’t believe there was ever a life or a soul there,” Amy says, “but I feel undignified for doing that.” When her nonjudicial punishment (a plea sentence for a misdemeanor-like offense) went through, Amy was fined $500 and given a suspended rank reduction.

Womens bodies bare the record of sex through pregnancy but no such visible marker exists for males.  How readily does the military punish men and reduce their opportunity for promotion based in sexual behaviour?  I suspect that this punishment is more often than not applied to female service members. We already know that women are more likely than men to be discharged for violating DADT.

It is well documented that there are extremely high incidents of rape in the military and yet even though the military is culpable of not keeping its female service members safe, they charge these women for abortions.  How cold and callous is this?  The military has always been a boys club and these rules exist to ensure that men are still in control of female bodies; accessing them and punishing them at will. 

By denying them the right to choose, the military is opening up the possibility that  women (who were never really wanted in the first place) will die.  Throughout history, no matter the circumstances, women have always found a way to exercise control over their bodies.  Outlawing abortions will only lead to women attempting this dangerous procedure on their own.  How many women have to die from botched abortions before we understand the risks involved? If a woman decides to abort a child, no legal ruling will change her decision.  That the government would force these women into taking such dangerous action, when a good medical option is available, is absolutely heinous.

We can ask these women to go to war and face all manner of atrocities but granting them the simple right to control their reproduction is too much?  Is this really showing any kind of respect for the troops?  When womanist/feminists speak about the dangers of sexism and misogyny, the denial of personal autonomy is at the forefront.  How can one truly have agency or control over ones personal body, if the decision of whether or not to reproduce is removed?


Wednesday What’s Up?

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Well it is hump day;  after today it is all downhill.  Please use this thread to chat about how your week is going.  What have you been reading and have you seen a movie you would like to recommend?  Have you gotten all of your Christmas shopping done yet?  I have so much still to do and I wish I did not have to walk into yet another mall.  Oh well, the countdown is on.  Let it fly in the comment section and I will join you.

Illegals In My Yard: A Conservative Christmas Carol

image According to Think Progress, Human events posted an offensive carol based in the song Feliz Navidad.  To prove that the holiday spirit is all about caring about a fellow human being the renamed the song “Illegals in My yard”.  The term illegal is clearly offensive and the accepted terminology is undocumented worker.

Illegals in my yard.
Illegals in my yard.
Illegals in my yard.
Sixteen arrive in a stolen car[...]

They’re getting free organ transplants this Christmas.
They’re going to have anchor babies this Christmas.
They’re going to scream “sí, se puede” this Christmas.
Those illegals in my yard[...]

They’re going to spread bubonic plague this Christmas.
They’re going to bring me lots of bed bugs this Christmas.
They’re going to pass tuberculosis this Christmas.
Those illegals in my yard.

Click here to hear the song.

Obviously this song is offensive for many reasons but what really stood out to me is that hate filled commentary is directed at Latin@’s.  If this issue was really about immigration clearly they would have noted that Latino’s are not the only people living in the U.S . without the proper paperwork.  This is about racism as much as it is about concern that undocumented workers are stealing jobs. 

These right wingers always wrap their argument in patriotism, however; it is about sustaining undeserved White privilege.  They know that the racial balance in the U.S. is tipping each day and some states are already minority/majority states.  This particularly why they are so fixated on the birth rate of WOC.  By painting them as diseased breeders they hope to stigmatize the identity of Latina women.

The constantly harp on the supposed cost that undocumented workers cause the economy without admitting that there are large segments of the US economy is dependent upon their undervalued labour.  From the garment industry to agriculture without their labour it is certain that many of the products that Americans currently enjoy would be unaffordable. 

The reason Latina workers are attempting to cross the US border to begin with is specifically because Americans have impoverished their countries.  The U.S. has long considered South America to be part of its sphere of influence and this has meant mass poverty to millions of people. The Global South has functioned as an economic colony for generations.  From swaps to unfair trade agreements the global economy is decidedly structured to favour the Global North.  To punish these people for attempting to escape the crushing poverty that the U.S has purposefully created speaks of a desire to maintain undeserved privilege.

To be clear, ones nationality is an accident of birth.  Being born in the Global North is not an accomplishment nor should it entitle anyone to a life of privilege.   This very simply concept often escapes the understanding of many.  In the name of North American privilege, the U.S government has engaged in much illegal activity in the Global South all the while wagging its finger and acting though it is morally superior.  When the gov’t sent the military to break up a strike that Chiquita workers were trying to organize, leading to the death of Latina workers where was the moral superiority?

These right wing conservatives will always say that they should fix the problems in their country and not come here without giving consideration to large number of evil dictators that the U.S has purposefully propped up because it serves their purposes.   If you want to staunch the flow of people attempting to cross the border the best way would be to start engaging in fair trade and to stop interfering in their attempts to create democratic socialized governments.  This will not happen because the Americans are addicted to their over valued dollar.  The only crime that these undocumented workers have committed is to attempt to escape the shackles of American tyranny.



What “New Moon” Isn’t

This weekend, I finally sat down and watched New Moon.  I have wanted to see it for awhile, however; I was far to busy until now.  Recently, Anne wrote a post on feministing regarding the character of Emily, Sam’s love interest in the movie.

image Bella is taken to Emily’s house after an incident with Paul in which he lost his temper and shifted into a werewolf, thus presenting a legitimate threat to Bella’s safety.  Upon arrival, one of the wolves asks her not to stare at Emily.  Her injuries are the result of Sam losing control for a few seconds while she was standing too close.

Anne wrote:

After breakfast, once Jacob and Bella are alone in the car, Jacob explains that Emily's soon-to-be husband lost his temper "for a split second," became a werewolf, and mauled her. (Earlier in the film, he has told Bella that this whole turning-into-a-werewolf-when-you-get-angry thing is actually a genetic trait carried by many men in his community.) He explains that he's worried that he's bad for Bella because he doesn't know if he can control his own anger.

It's more than a little problematic for New Moon to portray violence as an endemic trait among Native men. Yes, domestic violence is a very real problem in American Indian communities. According to Sacred Circle, Native women are more likely to experience violence than any other U.S. population. A full 64 percent of American Indian women will be physically assaulted in their lifetime. They are also stalked at more than twice the rate of other women. But to imply that this is a result of Native people's genes rather than related to other issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, or centuries of racism and marginalization, is inexcusable. (See Latoya's post on Jacob Black for more on Twilight's treatment of Native communities.)

First let me say unequivocally that Anne is absolutely one hundred percent right when she speaks about the violence that First Nation women face.  Where our opinion veers off, is when she starts to speak about anger.  Rage is something that continually keeps being misunderstood when privileged feminist speak about violence. 

First, we need to respect and understand that rage is a legitimate emotion.  It seems that in this culture, the only people that are allowed to be angry are White men.   When people of color are angry, it is seen as marker of savagery rather than an indication that anger is just one part of a spectrum of human emotions, which we all experience on a daily basis.  Unless you walk through this world anesthetised, at some point you will get angry.

Though Sam has the ability to change into a werewolf, it does not mean that he has become a machine without emotion.  What was said in the movie is that he was angry at Emily when he lost control and she was standing too close.  It did not suggest that he intended to hit her in his fit of rage but that he lost control of his bodily functions.  Have you never been so angry that your body has trembled with rage?  Have you never been so angry that you have started to cry?  Bodies will react differently to stress and in the case of Sam, turning into a werewolf is the result.

image I could understand if Meyer had made some attempt to justify violence against First Nations women but that is not what she did.  She said that Sam lost his temper for a few seconds and this is result.  In fact, in the book, it is very clear that not only is Sam extremely sorry but that he feels guilt over the incident. Even when Paul changed in front of Bella she had to take a few steps back before he went into attack mode because she realized being that close was dangerous.  I think it is important not to forget that we are talking about a mythical person and not a real man.  There is not a Sam the werewolf running around.

As anti-racists it is important to understand the social constructions that are embedded in bodies of color but in so doing we must still leave room for the ability to understand that just like Whiteness,  POC experience the gamut of emotions.  Tell me one relationship, in which one party has never expressed anger at the other.  I love the unhusband dearly, but no one even comes close to pushing my buttons the way he can because he knows me intimately.  Sam got angry at Emily and this anger was the source of his metamorphosis. 

The Twilight series is far from perfect, however; this is not one of the many faults that it has.   When Meyer decided to give the werewolf mythology to this tribe that had nothing to do with her traditions, she was engaging in act of racism.  Sam is a werewolf and I fail to see how such a mythical being could be anything but dangerous, no matter which body had the ability to change.  In the Sookie Stackhouse series, the werewolves are all White and they are EQUALLY dangerous.  In moments of stress, anger or agitation, they change their physical form.  It is easy to jump on Twilight because it’s full of problematic messages, however; when we take the time to criticize, we should also be aware that we are talking about mythical creatures and factor that into our critique. 


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tune in Tuesday

Today I thought we go a little old school.  I have always loved Hotel California for it’s wonderful melodies and hidden messages.  It’s even the perfect road trip song.  There have been so many times I have gone on long drives singing this song.  It also reminds me of hazy youth.  Please feel free to share any memories you have associated with this song.

A Spark of Wisdom: Why do you expect one of us to be a woman in our gay male relationship?

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This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

One of the more unusual things I've found since coming out as a gay man is the odd curiosity that some straight people have towards us.

The curiosity in itself is problematic (albeit infinitely more preferable to hate). I'm gay, not an alien from the planet Zog. In  many ways the eager curiosity makes me feel far more of a freak than any amount of hate monger speculating about my eternal damnation. But that's another post :)

It's exacerbated by the fact that even complete strangers feel they have the right to ask extremely personal questions (but that's yet another topic about privilege and entitlement. I'm getting quite a to-do list here. It's good thing I like to hear myself talk :). Or read myself type, I guess).

But no, today I'm rambling about the main question I'm asked over and over to a truly boggling degree. Gender roles. Not only gender roles, but really really really silly ones that make me despair for THEIR relationships (though not nearly so much as I despair for my mental well being talking to them).

Which one of you is the man and which one the woman?

 image This question never fails to bemuse. We're both gay men. Doesn't that kind of make it clear that neither of us is the woman?

People never seem to realise how homophobic this question is. It completely invalidates and devalues gay relationships - that the only way a gay relationship can be a "real" relationship is if we somehow mimic straight people. The only way a relationship between 2 men can work is if one of us pretends to be a woman. Yeah, that's man kinds of offensive and beyond ignorant.

Of course, when I point this out they start to ask more questions because they seem to think I don't understand the question - as opposed to finding the question ludicrous

Which one of you cooks? Cleans?

Honestly, these questions say a lot about their relationships, I think. I once offered a man's wife my card since I assumed she'd need the services of a divorce lawyer soon (she found it funny even if he didn't) after he asked these questions. What, the fact your a man means you can't run a Hoover round the house?

I do most of the cleaning, mainly because Beloved thinks vacuuming  the 3 square feet in the dead centre of the room is sufficient. Even when I helpfully point out the places he missed (I'm a helper). He also decides that dusting one shelf on a cabinet constitutes the cabinet itself being dusted. I disagree. Loudly. And at length. But he does tend to hide things I'm using and make it impossible for me to find anything (he calls it tidying up. And yes, I AM reading 4 books at the same time, thank you. Leave them alone!) We both cook - however Beloved needs step by step instructions, a fire extinguisher, a builder and, preferably, a take away menu, phone and credit card. I admire his enthusiasm when it comes to cooking, but I also admire my stomach lining - and would prefer it to stay on the inside of my body.

Who Takes out the rubbish/does the gardening/does the DIY?

Again, do hammers fall from your fingers if they detect femininity? Seriously, how silly are these gender roles? It's not the 1950s any more.

In answer - no-one takes out the rubbish if we can avoid it. Advanced and complex schemes are plotted to avoid having to take out the rubbish at all cost. Beloved once had a complicated 8 part plan that took 4 hours of implementation to avoid emptying the bin (It worked, damn it. Revenge will be mine). Cats have been trained to knock over the pin, little devices to knock it over have been designed, brainwashing has been attempted. There is no lengths we will not stoop to, to force the other to empty that damn bin. The only task reviled as much as bin emptying is ironing - which Beloved does because he fears a repeat of the Sparky Waking Up To Find No Wearable Shirts incident.

We both prefer our garden to be as close to nature as possible. Which is a REALLY good excuse to say we both slack and hate gardening. Occasionally we will shackle a passing neighbour kid to the lawnmower and pay them hush money to hide our cruel exploitation. Beloved has recently taken to growing vegetables because what our meals really really need is the addition of a scrubby carrot or 3 cherry tomatoes. I'm not sure whether this counts as gardening so much a religion - since the only way anything grows is through a sheer miracle.

Neither of us does DIY. Oh Beloved tried to do DIY - and I watch and helpfully point out the many many things he's doing wrong (see? I'm such a helpful soul) while checking the yellow pages for someone to fix what he will inevitably break. I also hide his power tools - a task for which the UN sincerely thanks me.

Who buys who flowers?

Included more for wry amusement than anything. Beloved actually bought me flowers once.

Sparky: What am I supposed to do with them?

Beloved: I think you put them in a vase

Sparky: *does so* now what?

Beloved: Now you sit and watch them rot.

Sparky: ooooohkay

So we've kind of decided that the flower thing may be beyond us. I did buy him a Venus fly trap once. It was our Killer Plant. And we fed it (which was probably a bad idea) and then we fed it tofu and it became our Cannibal Plant. Then it died (can't think why). Of course I was inconsolable and could only be comforted by Beloved taking out the rubbish for a week (didn't work. Damn).

Who removes the creepy crawlies from the house?

Like this needs a dedicated role? Generally I do - because Beloved has absolutely no problem sharing his living space with spiders and wonders why I do. I point out that I'd rather not have spider webs festooning the ceiling. He declared that it would be a wonderful artistic statement. I agreed and pointed out it would go very well with blood splattered walls. He said he'd consider this but was busy getting a headstart

image In the end, even some of those comments that were meant as jokes (and I think every question has been asked of me at least partially seriously - and this is only the tip of the iceberg) make me despair a little - because it shows how much of a backward view people have on gay relationships - AND on gender roles in general. We insist on trying to force people into little boxes - to such a ridiculous degree that virtually no-one fits in. I am astonished at how many women come to me with these questions without once realising how sexist they seem.

And it irritates me because we're a gay couple. We don't have to ape a straight couple to be acceptable or understandable. One of us doesn't have to pretend to be a woman for our relationship to work or be comprehended (and not even a real woman! Some 1950s Suzy Homemaker that I don't think has ever existed!) These questions ask us to conform, they say that if we're gay we should at least mimic heterosexuals as much as possible.

We're gay. We're in a gay relationship. We're happy, 'normal' (well... for a given degree of normal. I'll admit to a level of eccentricity which may be a trifle unusual), very much in love and we don't have to imitate a ridiculous Ozzie and Harriet life to make our relationship and our lives more acceptable or more palatable.


Publishers Weekly Reduces Black Writers With Afro Picks

Below you will find the most recent cover of Publishers Weekly

imageThe cover story is African American Books in Today’s Marketplace.   This image is clearly reductive. It certainly conveys the message that the work of Black authors need not be taken seriously because it is somehow tribal and other.  I am surprised that they didn’t put a bone through the models nose. Is it any wonder that Steve Harvey can publish a book in this climate?  As long as we are not saying anything challenging, or speaking truth to power, then and only then, will our work garner attention.

There are plenty of writers that labour in obscurity and many of them are people of color because our voices and our experiences are not valued.  Black characters are continually recast as White or our work is rejected on the basis of being to ethnic.  How can a Black writer possibly achieve success if this is the image that Publishers Weekly has of our work?  If we are true to ourselves we are tribal and savage and if we compromise we are not speaking our truth.

There is a market for works by Black authors and to even suggest that there isn’t speaks  of a publishing community that is concerned with keeping White voices at the forefront.  If we continually cast the work of POC as backwards, they will forever be understood as “other” and therefore without value.  Only in a racist world could the above image be understood as representative of African American writers. While there are certain things that are definitely unique to an African American experience, we are still part of the human family and therefore commonality could be found should we choose to understand our equal value.  As long as images like about remain pervasive, we cannot possibly claim to be living in a post racial world.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Harry Reid knows all about slavery

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image Slavery is one of the worst crimes that we can commit against one another. No country is free of its stain. In the United States, its legacy still haunts African Americans and stands as a wedge between Blacks and Whites. Lingering social inequalities mean that when conversations about slavery occur, language must be carefully chosen so that African Americans are not further demeaned and their experiences are not appropriated.

Apparently, Harry Reid missed this important memo when he made a very insensitive comparison regarding the failure of Republicans to support the health care bill.

“Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, ’slow down, stop everything, let’s start over.’ If you think you’ve heard these same excuses before, you’re right,” Reid said. “When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said ’slow down, it’s too early, things aren’t bad enough.’”

Is it really the place of a man who continues to benefit from the crime of slavery to decide that this is an accurate analogy to make? Reid clearly wants Republicans to be aware of the selfish privilege that is the basis of their resistance to universal health care, but obviously the standard of caring about marginalized people does not apply to fauxgressive White liberal Democrats. Whatever point Reid was trying to make was lost in the offensive words he used trying to shame Republicans.

Finish reading here

Monday Making The Best Outta It

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Well it is Monday again which means another forty hours of work before freedom once again.  Please use this thread to whine about the fact that it is Monday or chat about what you did over the weekend.  Did you read an awesome book or see a great movie?  Please share it here.

This weekend I finally watched New Moon and I also saw Crossing Over.  I highly recommend Crossing Over which is about the difficulties undocumented workers face.  In one scene a family is separated when a mother and daughter are deported.  I dare you to watch this movie and not cry.

Editors Note:  I have changed the title of this post because after some thought, I have decided that the original title is ableist despite being a play on a bad song from the 1980’s

7 Year Old Gets Hair Cut By A Teacher As Punishment

image Lamya Cammon was sitting in her first grade class playing with her hair.  The sound apparently annoyed her teacher and so she was instructed to stop.  When the girl continued to play with her hair, she was called to the front of the class with an offer of candy.  When she arrived at the front, her hair was cut in front of her fellow students.  Lamya walked back to desk where she sat down and cried.

Much of the talk regarding this incident involves the high level of teacher stress.  It is true that far too many classes are packed with kids and in some cases schools are so underfunded that teachers are providing materials out of their own pockets.  Teachers are also expected to take on the short fall of lack of parenting that now occurs frequently because of the extreme hours far that too many parents are forced to work.   Teaching today is at times an impossible task.

Even with all of these concerns, what is not being discussed is Cammon’s race.   Black women exist with very little social power and as a result it is extremely easy to devalue a little Black girl.  It is already a known fact that in the states in which spanking is legal, Black girls are subject to the most corporal discipline.  This is not because Black girls are any more unruly than any other child but that they exist as a group with no social power.  Race and gender combine to make them valueless socially from birth.

Lamya has returned to school and has been placed in another class but the damage has already been done.  Children are already powerless in our society but when they exist with a visible marginzagtion like race, gender, disability or even poverty, we are far more likely to  to take harmful action against them. Unlike White children, Black children do not have the pleasure of enjoying their innocence as the world quickly teaches them that they are second class in nature.  It is one of the greatest crimes of racism that to this day, our children are often robbed of their childhood. 

Along with dealing with teacher burnout and stress, we should examine the ways in which this affects the marginalized  students.  Marginalized students are already streamed into groups that are not college bound from an early age.  We know that by grade three students of color frequently lose their desire to learn and this cannot solely be because of a lack of parental interest.  Clearly, schools daily are failing children of color.  When incidents like this happen, not only do they cause direct harm to the child involved, there is an indirect cost to every child who witnesses. White children learn that it is okay to oppress a child of color and Black kids learn that they are second class citizens.  Everyday across the nation, hierarchy is informed by actions just like this.  Schools today teach more than the ABC`s, they teach who we value and how each body should be treated.


Christmas At The White House Failure

image Last night I decided to watch Oprah’s Christmas at the White house.  I know that Obama has a lot to answer for but something about seeing the first African American family during the holidays and the huge cup of rum and eggnog that I was drinking put me in the mood.   Like any other Oprah interview, it was filled with softball questions but honestly, I wasn’t really expecting any better.

As the two sat together arguing about who gave the best gifts and reminiscing about Christmases past, one could not help but be taken in by the love that Michelle and Barack shared.  It was a beautiful thing to see until Michelle said something that ended my spell.  When she was talking about the talent show that the fathers put on, she referred to Barracks lip synch as lame.  Just like that, my joy was over.  It fell so easily from her lips, that clearly she did not see the problematic nature of its usage.

Lame as a negative descriptor is problematic because it demeans those of us who are differently abled.  It got me thinking that I wish that we had the kind of campaign that the GLBT community ran regarding that’s so gay.  Lame regularly falls from peoples lips and rarely do people stop to consider how offensive that language is.  Time and time again I have has ask people to stop using that word in conversation with me.  It takes a large amount of ignorance to use lame as a negative, when you are talking to someone sitting in a mobility scooter.

Being concerned about the word lame is not about PC speech, it is about the everyday othering of the differently abled.  When you take the time to wonder if using words like lame, crazy, idiot or retarded are really offensive, that is a sign of privilege.  It took me awhile and I must admit that I am still imperfect in terms of language but I am trying very hard to change.

It is important to learn without resisting.  When we start to attempt to quantify the word or take a linguistic approach, we are immediately ignoring the feelings of the marginalized. It is not for the privileged body to tell a marginalized group that they should not be offended by language.  It is such a basic thing and yet because of how pervasive disableist language is, the resistance to understanding the pain is extreme.

Just as misogyny leads to acts of violence and rape, so to does disableism lead to the marginalization of the differently abled.  Language has consequence because it frequently signifies which bodies we understand as valuable.  Resistance to altering ones speech is an expression of power because it says to the marginalized person that the powerful can co-opt ones existence without consequence. Lame or retard are not just words; you are speaking about someone’s life and this must be clearly understood.

When Michelle Obama used the word lame, she did so from the position of an able bodied person.  At this point in her life, she has no idea the simple everyday access that is denied to those of us whose bodies do not function like the majority.  She may content herself with the knowledge that she did not mean intentional cruelty, however; the end result is the same.  Whether or not you mean to hurt someone does not mean that pain was not the end result. Ignorance of the ways in which your language others another is not a defence either because it speaks of your ability to be able to ignore it because it is not your fight.  In social justice movements we have a tendency to focus on our particular issues, thereby ignoring the fact that all of these issues are interconnected.  When we ignore the fact that we all exist with a modicum of power or use our power coercively, we are only giving permission for this sort of debasement to continue.

Even though Michelle Obama is a WOC, she exists with a large amount of power and when she used the word lame last night without thinking, she expressed that power to reduce a group of people. How we use the power we all possess as individuals is extremely important because each of us has the ability to bring about change.  Institutional differences exist because we work hard to maintain them on a daily basis.


A visit with political prisoner Jalil Muntaqim

By Kit Aastrup
Auburn, N.Y.

Visiting a prisoner is not easy, for either a family member or a political activist. Often the only way is to take a special bus round trip to one of the many prisons located, like Auburn, in a rural setting. A prison bus from New York City to Auburn takes six hours each way and leaves in the middle of the night from Lexington Avenue and 125th Street for a 9 a.m. visit.

Jalil Muntaqim

After corresponding with Jalil Muntaqim for more than four years, it was exciting to finally meet him this fall. Happily, he turned out to be exactly the same person as he is in his letters.

Muntaqim, aka Anthony Bottom, is one of the longest-held political prisoners. He has been incarcerated for 38 years. He was only 19 years old and a member of the Black Panther Party when he was sent to prison in 1971 on conspiracy charges following the killing of a police officer, allegedly in retaliation for the murder of Black political prisoner George Jackson.

Muntaqim was targeted by COINTELPRO, an unconstitutional and clandestine FBI operation that was set up to destroy political organizations, especially those from the oppressed communities. In 1975 Muntaqim was wrongly convicted of killing two police officers in New York City, although there was no physical evidence against him and two juries failed to convict him before the State found one that did.

Muntaqim, who received a sentence of 25 years to life, has always maintained his innocence. While in prison he has managed to obtain two bachelor degrees, one in sociology and one in psychology. He was refused permission to pursue a master’s degree in public health.

Throughout his many years in prison he has taught a poetry class, participated in a sit-down strike, and was one of the co-founders of the Jericho Amnesty Movement, an organization for political prisoners in the United States, initiated by the Jericho March in 1998.

The San Francisco 8

In 2007 Muntaqim was charged in a cold case from 1971 known as the San Francisco 8 case, and he was transferred from Auburn Correctional Facility in New York to San Francisco County Jail. This case was originally dropped in 1975 because it was based on confessions extracted by torture.

At the end of July, two of the SF8, Herman Bell and Muntaqim, were sentenced to probation and time served, after Bell agreed to plead to voluntary manslaughter and Muntaqim reluctantly pleaded no contest to conspiracy to voluntary manslaughter. All charges were then dropped against Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Harold Taylor and Ray Boudreaux, with the prosecution admitting it had “insufficient evidence.”

Charges were dropped against Richard O’Neal last year. Only Francisco Torres still faces charges; he maintains his innocence.

Now Muntaqim is back in Auburn. He had been denied parole four times before, the last time in 2006. He failed to see the parole board in 2008 due to his transfer to the state of California in the SF8 case. He was denied parole for the fifth time in November and won’t be up for parole again until June 2010.

Punishment not limited to incarceration

How can a prisoner keep sane with nonstop daily humiliations? The penalty of prison is not limited to incarceration. It takes away your whole life. It penalizes your family, your spouse or partner, and your children. The routine is aimed to break down your self-esteem and your self-confidence. Solitary confinement can break nearly anyone.

When first incarcerated, Muntaqim was a 19-year-old with a pregnant girlfriend. He now has a 37-year-old daughter, grandchildren and even a great-grandchild. He has educated himself. He wants a life—with a job, with family and friends—a modest ambition but something he has not achieved so far.

He is relaxed and humorous, a little too serious maybe until you get to know him, but when a smile finally lights up his face, he is so likable. That may explain why he has received marriage proposals-which he has declined.

The United States has by far the largest number of prisoners in the world. African-American males are one-tenth of the world’s prison population. Targeted by COINTELPRO and most likely convicted with fabricated evidence, hundreds of political activists have been punished for their political activity with a lifetime of imprisonment. In the deepest dungeons of the United States they spend their lives in small prison cells, unnoticed by and anonymous to the young generation and not often enough remembered as comrades in the struggle by those still active in the progressive movement.

Muntaqim is one of those hundreds. He deserves to be remembered and honored. Free all U.S. political prisoners!

For more information on Muntaqim’s case, visit www.freedomarchives.org and www.freethesf8.org.

Aastrup, a Danish political activist and writer for the newspaper Arbejderen (The Worker), follows closely the issues of political prisoners.


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.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Why Robert Pattinson From Twilight Does Not Have A Gratuitous Ass Shot

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Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the above image is Robert Pattinson from Twillight.  Every where I turn since the build up to New Moon,  I’ve seen images of him.   He is always referred to as a hottie or a hunk.  Normally, when men are given this label it usually comes along with a gratuitous ass shot.   North Americans censors shy away from male frontal nudity and so we never really get to see the goodies.  At any rate, I was starting to wonder why Pattinson did not have a gratuitous ass shot that goes along with his teenage fandom.

imageThen I saw this picture and now I understand why.  The great teen heart throb is ass challenged.  Now, you can roll your eyes and tell me I’m wrong for pointing it out but I must admit it made me laugh like a school girl.  Even if I could get past the larger than life hair (ya know Don King is jealous), I would still need a little booty.