December 23, 2008

Deep as the sea of Yoko

Posted in Feminism, Music at 5:50 pm by The Lizard Queen

Over at the Curvature, Cara is in the midst of an exceptional series about Yoko Ono, feminism, and the Beatles.  Here are a couple of brief excerpts from what she’s written so far:

Introduction: Oh Yoko!

Yoko Ono’s name is tossed around as an insult, sometimes “jokingly,” sometimes really and truly hatefully.  Any woman who dates a male band member and expects to be treated like a person, or any woman who is seen to in some way cause a change in a male artist of any kind, is particularly at risk of being called “Yoko.”  To a lesser extent, so is any woman who expects to be given equal consideration as her partner and her partner’s friends friends. Why is it an insult, exactly?  Well, because “everyone” hates Yoko Ono.  She’s a mentally unbalanced, scheming, money-grubbing, castrating bitch. Oh, and she broke up the Beatles.  Or so they say.

. . . If you actually take the time to read Beatles history, you’ll see pretty clearly that the cracks in the band were showing for some time before John Lennon even met Yoko.  John was growing away from the Beatles musically, struggling with drug addiction and with the insecurity he seemed to feel in varying degrees throughout most of his life, and was therefore lashing out and pulling away from the group.  Paul McCartney was making a power grab for control of the band, one that he was winning and John felt powerless to stop — and while John had a tendency to be nasty to the people closest to him, Paul had a tendency to be extremely condescending and controlling.  George Harrison was resentful of John and (especially) Paul’s refusal to take his songwriting and musicianship seriously — even though despite being neither the greatest songwriter or vocalist in the group, he was absolutely fucking brilliant.  Ringo Starr never had a serious problem with any of the other Beatles, but was feeling incredibly marginalized within the band and distraught over the disharmony.

The other thing that changed my mind was John himself, and his persistent, repeated earnestness in professing that he wanted out of the Beatles long before Yoko and she only gave him the strength to do it; not to mention his proclamations of happiness and rightful insistence that anyone who hated Yoko and didn’t respect their relationship certainly didn’t love him or have his best interests at heart.

And realizing that Yoko wasn’t to blame for the Beatles breakup makes you ask a question. Why does the myth persist?

Part One: The Ballad of John and Yoko

John saw Yoko as a similar musical talent who he wanted to work with and who he thought could do the Beatles some good. Of course, whether or not this was a reasonable belief is another story. Though a big fan of Yoko as a person, a thinker and an artist, I do not enjoy her music. I also don’t pretend that I am a great arbitrator in taste — and Pop Feminist has a good feminist defense of her music.  But in the end, it’s really not the point. The Beatles didn’t reject Yoko because they thought she was a crap musician — the thought of Yoko as a legitimate musician never actually seemed to cross their minds — but because she was a woman, and because the role of a Beatles woman was at home waiting for you all dolled up, not sitting by your side.

John asserted more than once, and entirely correctly, that they never would have treated any other musician like that. He said that he brought Yoko in and expected that she would be treated with the same respect that their other musical buddies got, and would play with the band just like they did. Instead, the Beatles didn’t even have the decency to say that they didn’t like Yoko’s music, to argue with her when they disagreed, or to discuss the situation with John. They just ignored her. And I’d say that gave John and Yoko both the right to be pissed the fuck off.

. . . Now, I’m not saying that Yoko was never an asshole to the Beatles. I’m sure that she was. I’m saying that she was hardly the only or the worst asshole in the room. They were all acting like assholes — but as the history gets told, Yoko’s the one who bears the blame. The truly amazing thing is that in order to actually believe this, you have to totally erase the fact that John wanted her there. She wasn’t showing up in her own car, throwing hissy fits or tracking them down at secret locations. No, sadly for her detractors this misogynistic stereotype didn’t fit Yoko at all.  When Yoko showed up at a meeting that everyone seemed to think that she had no right to attend — even when it was to discuss major decisions that would, as John’s wife, affect her own financial future — it was because John brought her. She didn’t infiltrate, she was invited.

Now, I love the Beatles, but Cara loves them even more.  And I think her clear appreciation of the band and her vast familiarity with all the little details of the band’s lives and day-to-day experiences — the sort of familiarity only a die-hard fan is likely to have — is a big part of what makes this series so excellent.  While I don’t know as much about Yoko Ono as I’d like, I find her fascinating (and I actually love a lot of her art, at least the pieces I’ve heard about), and I’ve never been comfortable with the vitriol directed at her in pop culture.  Cara’s series is a brilliant counterpoint to that vitriol.  If you’re at all interested in the Beatles, Yoko Ono, and/or intersections of popular music and feminism, I highly recommend checking out the series (just the two posts so far, but more are coming).

[My post title comes from the lyrics of Dar Williams’s songI Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono.”]

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Fun headlines of the day

Posted in Apropos of nothing, News, Politics, Science at 5:21 pm by The Lizard Queen

From Petulant’s morning roundup: Honey bees on cocaine dance more  [Well, who doesn’t, really?  😉 ]

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In a study that challenges current ideas about the insect brain, researchers have found that honey bees on cocaine tend to exaggerate.

Normally, foraging honey bees alert their comrades to potential food sources only when they’ve found high quality nectar or pollen, and only when the hive is in need. They do this by performing a dance, called a “round” or “waggle” dance, on a specialized “dance floor” in the hive. The dance gives specific instructions that help the other bees find the food.

Foraging honey bees on cocaine are more likely to dance, regardless of the quality of the food they’ve found or the status of the hive, the authors of the study report.

From the CNN Political Ticker: Obama: Put the journalists’ beer on my tab

HONOLULU (CNN) Many Republicans already believe President-elect Barack Obama has gotten a free ride from the national media, so they may not be happy to learn the incoming Commander-in-Chief offered to buy a round of drinks for reporters covering his working vacation on the sands of Hawaii’s beaches and the greens of its lush golf courses.

. . . In a separate pool report for print journalists, Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times added helpfully: “He chatted for a moment, telling the pool to have a beer and put it on his tab. No one took him up on the offer.”

I definitely get where the commenters who are complaining that this isn’t news are coming from.  However, there are other commenters complaining about the fact that Obama is taking a vacation at a time like this (conveniently forgetting that he’s not actually President yet), complaining that buying the journalists’ pool a round of beer constitutes a bribe, and so on and so forth.  (Not to mention the fact that the article itself sounds pretty snarky, but I’m not familiar with the writer, so maybe he’s being tongue-in-cheek and I’m missing it.)  And I’m just like, bees are on the what now?  (Translation for those who aren’t constantly quoting the Simpsons the way Evil Bender and I do: huh?)  I just thought it seemed like a nice gesture, personally.  And being in Hawaii and having a beer on Obama’s dime sounds pretty damn sweet right now…

December 17, 2008

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Posted in Activism, Feminism, Human rights, Sex at 10:16 am by The Lizard Queen

From the Sex Workers Outreach Project website:

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 Seattle Washington. 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.

December 12, 2008

Friday found poetry

Posted in Humor, Poetry at 2:26 pm by The Lizard Queen

I first learned about found poetry in a creative writing class I took my senior year of high school.  In that class we would create found poems by flipping through a book or magazine, pulling out ten or so phrases, then arranging those phrases in a way we found artful.  I wouldn’t necessarily try to argue that my creations in that vein are actually poems, but it’s nevertheless something I enjoy; it gives me a chance to play with rhythm and sound and texture without having to worry about meaning, or even having to come up with the raw material myself.  Also, I’m pretty good at reading my creations in a way that makes them sound like they mean something.  😉

Anyway, a while ago I got an email notifying me that this comment had been left on my birthday post from last year.  (And I saw there a whole bunch of well-wishes from last year that I totally never got via e-mail, which made me smile — er, the well-wishes, not the fact that I hadn’t seen them — thanks, y’all!)  I think it’s probably spam — after reading over it a few times I realized it’s probably (part of?) an article on Viagra that went through a translating program too many times — but I left it, because something about it screamed “turn me into a found poem!” at me.  The found poem I concocted from it is below, and if anyone feels like dropping their favorite found poems or sources for found poetry in comments, please feel free!

These exploratory results

a rendering of the sickness
showed the numb eschewed
preserve their hubs
the way the narcotize works
to feud frailty
may also lend a hand
hands to feud inefficacy
a higher jeopardy of
quintessence default
hands scrape people with
athletic dystrophy
from an primeval ruin
brawny dystrophy is
a genetic working order
causing wasting of the muscles
peerless to an increasing decline
blood gush

but in the nucleus it
hands to certain the implement itself
with the quintessence in a stiff
prepare, it is more superior
to suffer the bumping
of weakening muscle cells
inform on us craving that
one day it inclination be accomplishable
to regale with this proposals
analyse that desire
march the bumping
it dominion father for people
with athletic dystrophy
it is noiselessness
extraordinarily primeval days

–Liz D., 2008

December 4, 2008

Me and Neil, hanging out with the Dream King

Posted in Feminism, Musings, Sex at 5:51 pm by The Lizard Queen

Last night I dreamt I had a one-night-stand with Neil Patrick Harris.

I’ll give you all a moment to stop laughing at me (don’t worry — I’m smiling as I type this), because I actually have a point here. (Sort of. Partly I just think it’s amusing that I dreamt about a hook-up with NPH, and thought I’d share. 😉 )

The evening in question didn’t actually happen in the dream. It was a nostalgic dream; I’d been watching TV and came across a news broadcast or talk show upon which NPH appeared briefly, and I sat back in my chair and remembered with a contented half-smile our encounter*, which had happened a year or two previously. EB had been out of town, so I’d taken myself out to dinner. NPH had been heading through our town for some reason or another, and was dining by himself, as well. We noticed each other, got to talking, one thing led to another, yadda yadda yadda, we had a really good time. (I only got brief glimpses of the actual sex through my memory, but it seemed like it was pretty awesome.) It was a pleasant memory, and while the incident was a lot of fun, it didn’t change either of our lives. It was clear from the fact that I was sitting in the kitchen of the same house I’d lived in before the incident, from NPH’s appearance on television, and from our apparent lack of contact since then, that the evening had not changed either of our lives, at all.

Overall, it was just a kinda goofy but pleasant dream. It got me thinking today, though, about the hand-wringing we often see from right-wing and/or religious groups about the “hook-up culture,” and how it harms young people in general (maybe just people in general? Or is it families?), but especially women. (For example, this topic was mentioned recently in an episode** of RH Reality Check’s Realitycast.) And I know that I’m maybe a little more chill about sex than many other women or people my age – and I also know that what I’m about to say is probably going to evoke a big ol’ DUH from many of the people reading this – but isn’t it possible that if hooking up does indeed cause harm (predominantly mental/emotional), might that be more because our culture tells people (predominantly young women) that hooking up is bad? (See: slut-shaming.) Again, this is not a novel concept, but I figured it’s also not something that becomes less true the more we talk about it. Maybe it’s hedonistic of me, but if one reserves sex solely for marriage — and often solely for procreation, at that — mightn’t one be cutting oneself off from some great one-time experiences, like the one my dream-self shared with dream-NPH?

*Yeah, it was totally a “Jean-Luc” moment.
**Is an individual offering of a podcast called an episode? If not, what should it be called? Hmm.

December 3, 2008

Read-ems from the last week or so

Posted in Censorship, Civil rights, GLBT issues, Health care, History, Human rights, Medicine, Racial issues at 12:53 pm by The Lizard Queen

(How is it December already?)

Recent must-reads:

On Thanksgiving and how it relates to, affects, and is regarded by North American indigenous peoples: Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians and Teaching The Young To Disrespect Indigenous Culture by Renee at Womanist Musings

On World AIDS Day: It’s World AIDS Day by Jill at Feministe and I Have No Words by Jay at Two Women Blogging

On Harvey Milk: What I’m Thankful For: Harvey Milk by theantidesi101 at Pam’s House Blend and Harvey Milk Lives by Christie at Dogged Blog

On the LGBTQ rights movement being a civil rights movement: Own Up to Your Bigotry by Mustang Bobby at Shakesville and Don’t Call it a Culture War by Ann (of Feministing) at The American Prospect

On expectations for children with Down syndrome: More on Peter Singer and Jamie Bérubé by Michael Bérubé

On freedom of speech: Why defend freedom of icky speech? by Neil Gaiman

It’s not exactly cheery material, so “happy reading” doesn’t seem appropriate. Still, I think an exhortation to enjoy wouldn’t be out of line, since I personally enjoy thought-provoking reading. So: enjoy!