October 9, 2009
The example of Murphy Brown should not be practiced by those who propose to defend Family values.
Hey there, Mr. or Ms. Freeper! I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but the season in which Murphy Brown — a fictional character, I feel I should point out — became a single mother happened almost twenty years ago. You might want to try out this newfangled thing called getting the fuck over it.
I s’pose I might as well be talking to my shoes on that point, though, no?
June 4, 2009
So much has happened lately: the issues of torture and the abuse of detainees continue to rear their ugly heads. President Obama nominated Justice Sotomayor for the Supreme Court (and the wingnuts, predictably, went completely batshit) on the same day the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8. Dr. George Tiller was murdered. On all of these subjects I tend to find myself vacillating between being at a complete loss for words and babbling incoherently, and ultimately I feel like there’s really nothing I can say that others haven’t already said better. I’m not a journalist; I need time to let things stew before I can adequately articulate my thoughts and feelings. To wit, when Evil Bender told me on Sunday that Dr. Tiller had been murdered, first I said, “No,” partly disbelieving him entirely and partly hoping Tiller had been shot and rushed to the hospital and had been thought to be dead but would actually turn out to be alive. My next response was to tear up and say, “Motherfucker.” Neither word makes for a particularly substantive blog post.
Okay, so why am I going into this now? Well, something goofy came across my desk this morning that I thought would make for a nice lighter-side post, but I was concerned that without having at least acknowledged the other things going on in the country these days, it would come off as insensitive (at the least) and/or as if I’d been living under a rock. So. There we are.
January 16, 2009
The Family Security Matters consortium has released its Third Annual List of America’s Most Dangerous College Courses, and naturally Michael Bérubé was all over it. (Er, in the sense that he wrote about it on his blog, not that he appeared on the actual list.) Go here to check out his coverage, and read the whole post, because he includes his “remarks to Anne Neal of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni at our National Communication Association debate on ‘diversity in higher education’ last November,” which are well worth reading. A passage I was particularly struck by:
I currently serve on a task force that is trying to make Penn State more accessible, in class and out, for students with disabilities. (A subject you don’t often hear mentioned in these debates.) But the rationale for the formation of this task force, which is charged basically with getting people to obey a federal law, is that it will enhance diversity at Penn State. I’ll take that rationale if I have to, but given my druthers, I would prefer to talk about doing justice to students with disabilities, just as I would prefer to talk about doing justice to women and minorities who were barred from institutions of higher learning for centuries.
After reading Bérubé’s post I clicked over to the FSM list (the first time Bérubé referred to the Family Security Matters consortium as FSM in his post, I did a confused double-take, because for a moment I took the acronym as referring to the Flying Spaghetti Monster), hoping for a wingnuttery-inspired larf. Not really any luck on that point, I’m afraid; Bérubé already covered the best stuff. However, I was intrigued by this “dangerous” course: Read the rest of this entry »
October 14, 2008
The newest Obama-related scandal that the right wing is trying to push is the fact that a mentor referenced in Obama’s 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, is actually Frank Marshall Davis, who was a poet and writer, was accused by HUAC of being involved with communist organizations, and authored, pseudonymously, a book titled Sex Rebel: Black. The National Enquirer (…I know…) describes Sex Rebel: Black as a “hard-core pornographic autobiography” and a “shocking tell-all” in which ”Davis admits to seducing a thirteen year-old girl, voyeurism, exhibitionism, bisexuality, rape and sadomasochism.” Erick Erickson at Red State translates this information into wingnut for us in a post called “Obama’s Special Relationship”:
The National Enquirer now suggests Barack Obama had an underage, gay affair with a pedophile. Yup. That Frank Marshall Davis guy Barry says was his good friend? Turns out he was a perv of the first order and liked young boys.
How many things are wrong with that single paragraph? There’s no such thing as an “underage affair with a pedophile.” Affair connotes consent, something a child cannot provide. Calling it a “gay affair with a pedophile” conflates pedophilia with homosexuality, one of the oldest smears in the book. Davis was one of Obama’s childhood mentors, not his “good friend.” There’s nothing in the Enquirer article that suggests Davis “liked young boys,” which doesn’t mean he didn’t, but, to come to that conclusion, one must connect “pedophilia” with “bisexuality,” without regard for the former being an aberrant criminal proclivity and the latter being a healthy sexuality. It is a true clusterfucktastrophe of erroneous conclusions and fucked-up (possibly deliberate) misunderstandings about sexuality and sexual assault.
But most awful is the breathless reporting which implies that the possibility Obama was sexually assaulted somehow reflects badly on him. What terrible judgment he has, to have had “an underage, gay affair with a pedophile” at 10 years old! It’s a sentiment similarly proffered by another prominent rightwing blogger (to whom you can get via Brad) who wants to know: “When is someone going to question how these associations must have warped Obama’s views and render him unstable, and unsuitable for the Presidency?”
That’s all well and admirably said. Those issues aside, however, I still have questions.
A brief tangent: One of my academic interests when I was in graduate school (and currently) was (is) the area where fiction and nonfiction overlap: books like W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants and Gertrude Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, the roman a clef and memoirs of fictional characters, and so on. I find it interesting that we decide whether or not a book is true based on where it’s shelved in a library or bookstore, when it seems to me that the issue is so much more nuanced than that.
That said, then, by what criteria is the National Enquirer deciding the veracity of Sex Rebel: Black? I can imagine it’s written in the first person, but so are many novels, especially those written in the 20th and 21st centuries. Someone at the National Enquirer has purportedly read the book, while I’d never even heard of it before today, but I still wonder why they’ve decided that it’s the true story of Davis’s life, rather than the fictional life story of a character named Bob Greene (under whose name the book was published). Would these same people (both the folks at the NE and the wingnuts who are writhing in glee at this new information) believe that Humbert Humbert was actually a stand-in for Vladimir Nabokov, that Humbert’s life story was actually that of Nabokov? (I probably don’t actually want to know the answer to that question, do I?) Might it not be possible that Davis was attempting something in a similar vein?
The whole thing just frustrates me. And to be honest, I feel like a bit of a tool now for dignifying this rubbish with a response. Is this really what American political discourse has come to?
ETA: By following various links I came across this Telegraph article from August, which is apparently where the whole thing came up in the first place. It contains more information about Sex Rebel: Black, with the following passage probably being the most relevant (emphasis added):
In a surviving portion of an autobiographical manuscript, Mr Davis confirms that he was the author of Sex Rebel: Black after a reader had noticed the “similarities in style and phraseology” between the pornographic work and his poetry.
“I could not then truthfully deny that this book, which came out in 1968 as a Greenleaf Classic, was mine.” In the introduction to Sex Rebel, Mr Davis (writing as Greene) explains that although he has “changed names and identities…all incidents I have described have been taken from actual experiences”.
Now, I could be completely wrong on this. Sex Rebel could be the gospel truth of Davis’s life, and Davis might have published the book as Bob Greene for strictly practical purposes. But I remain unconvinced that this is not a situation wherein the author is being conflated with a character he created.
February 7, 2008
The title question is more or less rhetorical. My real question on the subject is this: did they hate them this much in 2000? I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the other side of the aisle at that point; indeed, I was less politically aware in general. I do have one McCain memory from that primary season, though. He’d been asked a question that boiled down to, “What would you do if your daughter got pregnant out of wedlock?” His answer, if I recall correctly, was something to the effect of, “We would sit down and have a discussion as a family.”
I remember neocons being up in arms about that response, as if any answer short of “I would force her to have the baby! Young people have to learn that sex has consequences!” constituted a betrayal of the “Pro-Life” cause. I on the other hand, was fairly impressed. I think he answered the question that was actually asked, first of all, and furthermore he answered it the way I think a real person (as opposed to someone who’s sold his soul to the political machine) would answer. I’ve always been far enough to the left that I had a very hard time imagining a scenario in which I would actually vote for McCain, but his answer that day gave me a certain amount of respect for him.
Unfortunately, the pandering to the right he’s done since 2000 has completely eroded that respect. From my perspective, McCain seemed to be a viable candidate in 2000, and he’s only moved further to the right since then. I understand that he has some stances that are unpopular with the neocons, but that doesn’t seem to me to explain the animosity they’ve been exhibiting toward him.
Still, if McCain is the Republican candidate, and neocons decide they’d rather vote for a Democrat than McCain, then who am I to argue?
December 6, 2007
(Apologies to John Lennon, wherever he may be, for the title.)
I think it’s fairly obvious to anyone who isn’t Bill O’Reilly or a writer for World Nut Daily that the War on Christmas is a fabrication (and also, quite possibly, a very clever marketing ploy). Still, given the insistence of folks like… well, BillO and the writers at WND… that the evil secular humanists are trying to take Christmas away, I thought I’d contrast two moments from my day as an illustration. Read the rest of this entry »
November 10, 2007
Moving from New Mexico to Kansas, pro: in just over three months I’ve gotten to see two musicians I’ve been wanting to see play live for years, and the opportunities for live music keep coming. (There’s live music in Albuquerque, but the nationally touring artists I want to see have a tendency to skip over NM.)
Moving from New Mexico to Kansas, con: Westboro Baptist Church (the Fred Phelps clan). They were out in front of the concert venue last night, and I suppose it was naive of me to think that they wouldn’t be there, but in fact it simply didn’t even occur to me. We rounded a bend and saw those signature fluorescent signs, and I stopped in the middle of the story I was telling to say simply “Are you serious? Are you serious?”, my voice growing squeaky with indignation. There weren’t many of them, less than a dozen, probably, and there was a good group of people going toe-to-toe (not literally, though, of course) — and, of course, Tori fans are anything but easily cowed. I was especially irritated because I wasn’t prepared; I’d hoped to be able to do something significant (significant to me, anyway) during my first face-to-face with the WBC, but without having prepared there was little I could do aside from splutter furiously (or, you know, squeak indignantly). The good news, of course, is that there were plenty of other people more articulate than I in that moment to challenge the Phelps’s rhetoric of hate.
And the concert was, of course, fabulous. Oh, so fabulous. I don’t currently have enough time to do a review justice (and I’m not sure I’d be able to do much more than gush anyway), but the set list (which I did from memory, so there might be a couple of mistakes) is below the fold: Read the rest of this entry »
October 18, 2007
Okay, as if the cherry metaphor weren’t bad enough, now one’s virginity is a diamond? Yeesh…
Also of note is the poorly-phrased topic for the essay question: “Is sexual abstinence better for unmarried persons” (complete lack of punctuation in the original). I think what they mean — leaving aside the wide variety of interpretations for “better” — is, “Is it better for unmarried persons to abstain from sex?” However, the logical ending to the sentence they’ve constructed seems to be “than it is for ________ persons?” It’s not really a huge problem, since students would likely use the same arguments to answer either question; poor syntactical choices just get under my skin.
(Apologies to whoever linked to this originally and thus deserves the hat-tip; I’ve completely forgotten where I came across the link.)
October 3, 2007
(Post title adapted from this post by Michael Bérubé.)
So, on the one hand we have an administrator halting the performance of a play that could easily pique students’ interest in Shakespeare. On the other, though, we have Phyllis Schlafly complaining that “Shakespeare has disappeared from required courses in English departments at more than three-fourths of the top 25 U.S. universities” (see Evil Bender for an analysis of Schlafly’s problematic composition skills, of which her citing statistics without evidence is merely one example).
My guess as to why English departments are likely to offer courses that “deconstruct” (according to Schlafly — I wouldn’t necessarily use that word) Shakespeare and other Medieval or Renaissance writers is that most English majors have already read Shakespeare. They got the basics in high school, and are now ready to delve deeper, examining sexuality across the comedies, say (and anyone who thinks sex and sexuality aren’t an issue in Shakespeare’s plays is fooling themselves). Personally, I read Romeo & Juliet in 9th grade, Hamlet in 10th, Macbeth in 11th, and King Lear in 12th. (And then I read King Lear in Proseminar in Literature my freshman year of college. And then I read King Lear in Brit Lit I my sophomore year. It’s a wonderful play, but man, was I ready to get away from it for a while.) Also, I was sound tech for our drama department’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing. If anything can be taken from my experience, it’s that English majors have plenty of experience with the classics. What, then, is so wrong with both students and professors wanting to expand the canon to include more women, more writers of color, more outsiders, more queers?
Oh, wait. I forgot who I was talking about.
September 3, 2007
Recently Katie Couric was criticized by wingnuts for heading to Iraq to do in-the-field coverage. Won’t somebody think of the children?! they wailed. I’m exaggerating, of course, but not by much (emphasis in the original):
In two separate segments yesterday, Fox News attacked CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric for reporting from the ground in Iraq, calling it “a desperate move” and asking if it was a “ratings ploy or legitimate journalism.”
On Your World With Neil Cavuto, guest host Dagen McDowell featured Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, who characterized Couric’s trip as “a clear act of desperation” by a single mother whose “priorities [are] so determined by her ambition rather than her children’s welfare.” Crouse pointedly accused Couric of being a bad mother for going to cover Iraq:
I would say the same thing if this were a man journalist going out there, a male anchor, because when you look at the choice she’s making, she’s saying my ratings are more important than my children. That’s the bottom line.“
Later in the afternoon, The Big Story With John Gibson hosted New York Post columnist Linda Stasi, who called Couric’s trip “a desperate move” to gain “some sort of credibility.” “You know and I know that she doesn’t have to be there for the report,” said Stasi.
First of all, technically speaking, yes, Katie Couric is a single mother. However, generally that phrase is used as a pejorative for an uppity woman who chooses not to get married or chooses to get divorced. I think they’re trying to do the same thing here — except that in this case in particular that phrase only serves to make the wingnuts look bad, because Katie Couric is a widow. You’d think they’d be pointing to Couric as a model of wifelyhood: look at her, her husband died and she had the decency not to get remarried! She’s wedded to his memory! But evidently their frustration at a woman’s choice to remain without a man trumps their you’re-only-supposed-to-get-married-once rhetoric. Plus she kept her last name when she married her late husband, so she is clearly an irredeemable feminazi. Read the rest of this entry »