October 13, 2011
There’s a photo being shared around Facebook (I tried to find a version I could link to, but wasn’t able to); I’ve now seen it twice on my feed. In the photo, what appears to be a young woman holds a hand-written note up in front of her face. In that note, she tells her audience that she is a senior in college and will soon graduate debt-free. She has worked hard and lived within her means, eschewing luxuries like a new car or an iPad, and is thus able to live comfortably. “I expect nothing handed to me,” she says, “and will continue working my ass off for everything I have.” She goes on to say, “That’s how it’s supposed to work,” and concludes, “I am NOT part of the 99 percent and whether you are or not is YOUR decision.”
I have a problem with this narrative. First of all, that last part appears to be based on a misunderstanding of what “we are the 99%” actually means. That statement is based on the distribution of wealth in the United States, i.e. the fact that the top 1% of the population control a sizeable chunk of the country’s wealth. The 1% is made up of the billionaires, the CEOs on Wall Street, the rich folks, the ones who use “vacation” as a verb, and so on and so forth. The 99% is the rest of us, the workaday folks, the ones who are really only one major accident or illness or layoff away from losing everything, no matter how much we believe that if we follow all the rules (don’t spend more than you earn, neither a borrower nor a lender be, keep your nose to the grindstone, etc.), we’ll always be able to live comfortably. And many of the 99% will indeed always be able to live comfortably, especially the middle class white folks. For many others, though, things don’t always turn out so rosy.
Secondly, here’s the thing: I understand how reasonable people can disagree on the efficacy and nature of the Occupy Wall Street protests. What I don’t understand is a) how and why people translate “hold Wall Street accountable for its actions” into “by demanding the aforesaid, I abdicate any and all responsibility for the decisions I myself have made,” and b) how, when faced with a choice between sympathizing with the “unwashed masses” of the 99% and the Wall Street CEOs, people who are in similar income brackets to my own would choose to sympathize with the CEOs. Sure, I’m in debt because I made some arguably questionable decisions—decisions that I nevertheless stand by today. But you know who helped me back up when I was at my lowest? It sure as hell wasn’t Bank of America. It was my friends and family—again, members of the 99%. We, i.e. the American people, bailed Wall Street out; they’ll only return the favor if they deem us an acceptable risk based on our credit scores, income, and other assests. How does that not strike more people as fucked up?
I guess people repost pictures like the one I describe above because they want to believe that’s true—again, that if you follow the rules, you’ll be okay. It actually reminds me of a certain variety of rape apologism, the one that appears to buy into the idea that if you follow a particular set of rules (this time it’s be a “good girl,” don’t drink or do drugs, don’t go places with strange men and DEFINITELY don’t have sex with them!, don’t dress in any way that could be termed indecent, etc.), you won’t get raped. Nevermind that people are often (usually?) raped by someone they know. Nevermind the innumerable survivors who’ve been raped in their own homes. Nevermind that both sets of rules rely on a fair amount of denial and magical thinking (child abuse? sudden catastrophic illness? whuzzat?). This is what we’re told, and what many people choose to believe: follow the rules, and you’ll be safe from harm.
And if you truly believe that, I’ve got a bridge or two you might be interested in.
October 7, 2011
I imagine that many of you have now seen the Think Progress article discussing the fact that the Topeka, KS city council is considering decriminalizing domestic battery. I wanted to take a moment to dig a bit deeper into the specifics, and figure out what we can do to make a difference in this situation.
Here’s what’s going on, as best as I can figure out: to save money, the county in which Topeka is located, Shawnee, opted to stop prosecuting misdemeanors committed in Topeka. This meant that a whole bunch of domestic battery cases were dumped on the city, which is ill-equipped to handle them. The solution proposed by the Topeka City Council is that they repeal the part of the municipal code that bans domestic battery. The rationale for this is that it would force the county to start prosecuting those cases again. While I understand that impulse, the move strikes me as short-sighted and potentially dangerous. My hope is that between the council and those of us who live here and care about such things, we have to be able to come up with a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve literally decriminalizing domestic battery.
Locals: please contact the city council. It might be worth mentioning that this is making Topeka look bad on the national level, and could well be considered detrimental to local business and investment. It might also be worth contacting the Shawnee County District Attorney, Chad Taylor.
Thank you for your time and consideration!
December 18, 2009
Recently I overheard a conversation in which a woman stated that because she’s a feminist, she opposes prostitution. Another woman chimed in, stating that she, too, opposes prostitution, and that no woman ever chooses to be a prostitute. Those were actually the words she used: “no woman, ever.” She went on to say that a woman might become a prostitute voluntarily to try to escape poverty or what have you, but that that’s not really a free choice.
I thought of that conversation today as I reflected on the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, which was yesterday. I agree with Jos of Feministing when she says that the notion that “sex work cannot really be a chosen profession, regardless of what sex workers themselves might think . . . leads to the continued criminalization of sex workers rather than efforts to make it a safer, non-exploitative job.”
Also, quite frankly, I think convincing oneself that no woman would actually choose to be a prostitute—and nevermind how that framing erases prostitutes who aren’t women, and sex workers who aren’t prostitutes—ultimately enables one toward seeing sex workers as less than human, “disposable persons,” as Michael from Sex in the Public Square put it yesterday. He used the phrase in a paragraph wherein he makes some important points:
We also need to consider the way violence against sex workers is customarily framed as situational or predatory, or how when sex workers are the victims the job and not the person becomes privileged, and the crime becomes portrayed as just another disposable person. What is not conveyed by such reporting is how it is the state itself that becomes the agent of violence, creating the structural factors that shape and facilitate the observed violence. Similarly the agents of social control, policing and criminal justice, are the major determinants of much of the violence. We must also realise that the agents of social control are just tools by which society disciplines subdominant cultures and that equally destructive is the violence of stigmatisation.
The memorial Radical Vixen participated in yesterday sounds like an excellent way not only to memorialize fallen sex workers, but also to focus on their humanity. I recommend checking that particular piece out, as well as the writing she’s done in the past and will do in the future about her fellow sex workers.
(I’m a bit concerned, though, that all of us are sort of preaching to the converted. How might we go about getting this message out to the public at large? How do we go about changing the dominant culture?)
November 10, 2009
To begin with, for the record, here is the pertinent section of the Stupak-Pitts amendment:
SEC. 265. LIMITATION ON ABORTION FUNDING.
(a) IN GENERAL—No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.
People who believe that women might have valid reasons to seek an abortion outside of danger of death, rape, or incest, and who understand that many women, should they find themselves in a position where they need or want to terminate a pregnancy, would need that procedure covered by insurance that is funded, entirely or in part, by the government, find this amendment unsettling, to say the least. (See Ann, Jill, and Shark-Fu’s takes.) The idea that the amendment will probably get removed in committee? Not particularly reassuring. The idea that the amendment is only talking about induced abortion, and couldn’t possibly be used to refuse coverage of an elective D&C to remove an incomplete abortion (as in, after a miscarriage, also known medically as a spontaneous abortion)? Yeah, that one’s also not particularly reassuring. The idea that this is not a big deal, it’s just politics, we have to look at the bigger picture? That’s not reassuring, and it’s patronizing! Whee! Read the rest of this entry »
April 17, 2009
Today marks the 13th annual Day of Silence, a day during which LGBTQ students and their allies refuse to speak (at least traditionally; as the event has grown, so have the ways to observe the day expanded — check out the list here), in order to call attention to bullying and harassment of LGBTQ youth in schools. Here’s the text from the GLSEN’s speaking cards:
Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.
Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover would have turned 12 today. Earlier this month he hanged himself, after being subjected to anti-gay bullying since the start of the school year. His case is an indicator of the extent to which anti-LGBTQ bullying can affect students beyond those who openly identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans:
[Carl's mother, Sirdeaner] Walker said her son had been the victim of bullying since the beginning of the school year, and that she had been calling the school since September, complaining that her son was mercilessly teased. He played football, baseball, and was a boy scout, but a group of classmates called him gay and teased him about the way he dressed. They ridiculed him for going to church with his mother and for volunteering locally.
“It’s not just a gay issue,” Walker said. “It’s bigger. He was 11 years old, and he wasn’t aware of his sexuality. These homophobic people attach derogatory terms to a child who’s 11 years old, who goes to church, school, and the library, and he becomes confused. He thinks, Maybe I’m like this. Maybe I’m not. What do I do?“
Today my heart goes out to Carl, his family, and to everyone else affected by anti-LGBTQ bullying, harrassment, and violence.
February 19, 2009
There has already been good coverage of Aasiya Hassan’s muder at the hands of her husband at various sites, namely Shakesville and Feministing, but I wanted to post a couple of things I was sent today via Facebook. First, there’s an article up at The Guardian’s Comment is free site that reiterates that this case illustrates not one particular group’s propensity toward violence, but the problem of domestic violence in America as a whole:
The entire world reacted with shock and outrage as Muzzammil Hassan, a Pakistani-American businessman and co-founder of Bridges TV, was arrested for the gruesome murder of his estranged wife. Aasiya Hassan, an architect and MBA student, had recently filed for divorce and received a restraining order against Muzzammil as of 6 February 2009.
Contrary to some spurious reporting, this was not an “honour killing”, a barbaric practice that has its own unique motivations and historical culture, rather it personifies the all too common phenomenon of domestic abuse. Asma Firfirey, the sister of the deceased, stated Aasiya suffered last year from injuries that required nearly $3,000 of medical bills – allegedly the result of spousal abuse. . . .
This horrific tale is one example from the epidemic of violence against women that has been intentionally ignored by all communities – not just Muslim and Pakistani. For example, in the United States, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44.
Sadly, despite the universality of the problem, the antiquated tropes of “the savage Muslim” have emerged to crudely tar all Muslims and South Asians with the same brush.
Kneejerk reactions like this ignore the millions of Muslim, Pakistani and immigrant couples who share the same joys and burdens of marriage like any other, yet never resort to violence, abuse or murder.
The whole piece is well worth reading, and reacting to, and remembering. Next, here is an excerpt from a press release entitled American Muslims Call for Swift Action Against Domestic Violence: Read the rest of this entry »
February 11, 2009
I’m not sure how far the news has travelled, but Australia has been hit with its worst brushfires in history, the toll now at (UPDATED 11/02/09) 173 dead and expected to rise as the areas affected are searched and especially since the fires are still burning. Fires have covered a great deal of southern Australia, affecting states Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. Some of the fires were deliberately lit. Here is the latest BBC article about it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7877178.stm (UPDATED 10/02/09) Here is an Australian newspaper summary, including further evidence of arson and a prediction of a death toll higher than 200: http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,25031822-952,00.html (UPDATED 11/02/09) Death toll is now expected to reach 300. 26 fires are still blazing uncontrollably in Victoria. Aside from the death toll, the property damage has left families without homes and they are currently living in tents provided by the State and Federal governments.
At the same time, southern Australia has experienced a heatwave that has had numerous people hospitalised for heatstroke (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7860776.stm) and in far north Queensland, at the very top of Australia, flash flooding has taken at least (UPDATED 11/02/09) 7 lives, including a 5 year old boy who was taken by a crocodile after following his dog into the rising floodwaters (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7868854.stm). The floods have also destroyed property and homes but in a wonderful show of spirit, some of the flood sufferers have donated their disaster payment from the government to the Red Cross appeal for the bushfire victims.
Not to mention the ongoing drought which has affected farmers in central Australia for at least the last 5 years, destroying livelihood.
Native animals and pets are also hard hit. There have been quite adorable pictures circulating the net of the usually reclusive (and aggressive towards humans) koalas and other native wildlife drinking from cups handed to them by humans or from swimming pools or from hoses, but the reality is dire: the poor animals are dying of thirst and that thirst has overcome their natural fear of humans. Really saddening.
The need for immediate support, counselling, blood and financial assistance is enormous. In these harsh economic times, I know it’s hard for people to help, but if you can, Australians and their wildlife and pets need your help!
Click through for the list of ways you (we) can help, if you’re able. Also, I liked Liss’s idea of donating to pro-choice organizations as a response to Pastor Danny Nallish’s asshaberdashery. Just something worth considering, again, if you’re able.
January 28, 2009
Often when I’m on TV, they’ll ask what are the three most important things for people to do. I know they want me to say that people should change their light bulbs. I say the number one thing is to organize politically; number two, do some political organizing; number three, get together with your neighbors and organize; and then if you have energy left over from all of that, change the light bulb.
December 17, 2008
December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created to call attention to hate crimes committed against sex workers all over the globe. Originally thought of by Dr. Annie Sprinkle and started by the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in . International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers has empowered workers from over cities around the world to come together and organize against discrimination and remember victims of violence. During the week of December 17th, sex worker rights organizations will be staging actions and vigils to raise awareness about violence that is commonly committed against sex workers. The assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end. Existing laws prevent sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination that is perpetuated by the prohibitionist laws has made violence against us acceptable. Please join with sex workers around the world and stand against criminalization and violence committed against prostitutes.
The site goes on to list a number of ways people can participate; perhaps most notable is the march in DC.
As things currently stand in this country (and elsewhere in the world), this is what often happens if sex workers attempt to report the violence done to them:
Back in April, a law student at the University of Michigan who was doing sex work to put herself through school was hired by Yaron Eliav, a professor there. She agreed to let him spank her, but then without her consent, he whacked her in the head twice, hard enough to give her temporary vision problems.
Not only did the police decline to go forward with charges, they charged the victim with a misdemeanor for the sex work.
Sex workers are human beings (I can’t believe I even have to say that!), and therefore sex workers’ rights are human rights. Again, the assault, battery, rape and murder of sex workers must end.
September 10, 2008
During the RNC, both Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani made cracks about community organizing. The idea was that community organizing doesn’t provide a person with valuable experience as far as a future career in politics goes, and overall their remarks came across as denigrating the work that community organizers and organizations do. Kevin at A Slant Truth explains some of the problems inherent in those ideas:
It’s ironic that Palin, Guilliani and the rest of the GOP would make fun of community organizing because community organizing is the epitome of one of the central mantras of conservatism: pick yourself up by your bootstraps. That’s what community organizing is all about. It’s about people taking control of their lives and their communities and trying to make things better for themselves. It’s recognizing that no one is going to do for you what you won’t do for yourself. You can talk about “actual responsibilities” all you want, but the truth of the matter is that community organizing is taking the ultimate amount of responsibility–not only to yourself, but to everyone in your community.
To counter the Republican put-down, many people across the blogosphere took time on Monday to discuss and honor community organizing. There’s a full round-up at the above link, and it’s well worth checking out. I appreciated this statement, from the SAFER blog: “community organizing is at the heart of American democracy, and those who belittle it reveal only their lack of trust in the democratic process and their lack of belief in our Declaration of Independence’s long-delayed promise of equality for all.”