March 25, 2009

Thanks, WordPress!

Posted in Apropos of nothing, Blogging at 10:27 pm by The Lizard Queen

Evidently I’m not just the Lizard Queen, but also a Newt Regent — WordPress tells me I could make this blog for just $15 per year! I have no inclination to claim that URL nor to spend money on a blog that five people read (waves at y’all!), but it’s always good to know what my other titles are…


Hump Day Poetry: Lucille Clifton

Posted in Poetry at 9:25 pm by The Lizard Queen


i was leaving my fifty-eighth year
when a thumb of ice
stamped itself near my heart

you have your own story
you know about the fear the tears
the scar of disbelief

you know the saddest lies
are the ones we tell ourselves
you know how dangerous it is

to be born with breasts
you know how dangerous it is
to wear dark skin

i was leaving my fifty-eighth year
when i woke into the winter
of a cold and mortal body

thin icicles hanging off
the one mad nipple weeping

have we not been good children
did we not inherit the earth

but you must know all about this
from your own shivering life

—Lucille Clifton, 1996

“It’s not okay to hit,” and other things we were supposed to learn in preschool

Posted in Feminism at 1:20 pm by The Lizard Queen

A meme I’ve encountered in comments threads twice just today alone goes a little something like this: you women and your allies want to be equal with men, right? So, a man and his girlfriend should both be treated equally, right? Ergo, Chris Brown and Rhianna were equally at fault for him beating her up, and should be treated equally and regarded in the same light by the media and bloggers and anyone else in the position to scrutinize the behavior of public personae.

No, seriously, that’s the argument people are trying to put forth (or at least seem to be). Check the comments threads here and here. I’m not naïve enough to think these commenters are arguing in good faith; what they’re trying to do is say, “If you want to prevent women from being assaulted, then you can’t have equality, ‘cause women need to be protected, see?”

It’s the kind of logic that makes my brain hurt. Let’s try looking at it from another angle: two men are out on the town, doing whatever it is menfolk do when women aren’t around. They’re doing their thing, maybe having a few beers, whatever, when one of them insults the other. Maybe it was a really awful crack about the other man’s beloved grandmother and a donkey; maybe it was just good-natured ribbing. Either way, the man who was insulted proceeds to beat the crap out of the other guy. The man receiving the beating would be expected to fight back, and ably so (file under “patriarchy hurts men too”), but the simple fact is that the man who threw the first punch is the one who’s legally culpable. The two men are equal, but one assaulted the other. Simple, straightforward.

I mean, honestly, isn’t this stuff we were supposed to learn early on in our socialization? “I don’t care if he called you a boogerhead, Billy – we don’t hit.” “Hitting your sister is not okay, Jackie – I don’t care if she took your favorite Transformer and wouldn’t give it back.”

So, yeah, maybe Chris Brown felt like Rhianna was provoking him. Maybe he needs anger management training, or therapy, or meds. Maybe his family has a history of abuse, and that’s the only way he knows how to deal with conflict. Maybe this will be an opportunity for him to get the help he needs. If so, bully for him. None of that justifies his assaulting Rhianna. It is not acceptable to beat one’s partner. Ever. Period. What’s left to discuss?

March 20, 2009

Phrases guaranteed to make me so angry my vision blurs

Posted in Feminism, Rape culture, Sex at 12:07 pm by The Lizard Queen

[Trigger warning.]

[ETA: I originally learned about this from Cara (to whom I should have given a hat-tip in the first place, but I got distracted by linking to another post of hers), who has now taken her post down.  I don’t normally read Jezebel, so I didn’t realize I was tapping into a bit of a hornet’s nest there.  I’m going to leave this post as it is for now, largely because I’m just not sure what to do about it, how best to edit it if I ought to, etc.  In the meantime, though, I think this post from Ilyka is very much worth reading.]

= Any variation on “let’s not throw the word ‘rape’ around, hmm?”  (With the obvious exception of when the subject at hand does not actually involve forcible sexual contact in any way, shape, or form.)

Is there a lifetime limit on the number of incidents one can refer to as rape?  Does it really make sense to think that calling any non-consensual-sex rape will somehow cause people to take the “worse” acts of rape less seriously?  (Because, honestly, does western culture even really take some of the more extreme cases all that seriously to begin with?)  And in what universe does calling “surprise”-non-consensual-anal-sex rape qualify as “throwing the word ‘rape’ around”?  D’you think that maybe the fact that feminists like me insist on calling non-consensual sex RAPE means not that we don’t take rape seriously, but that we take ALL non-consensual sex incredibly seriously and believe in calling a spade a fucking spade? Read the rest of this entry »

March 18, 2009

The Laramie Project in schools

Posted in Education, GLBT issues, Movies at 2:45 pm by The Lizard Queen

[This began as a comment on Vanessa’s post over on Feministing, but it started to get long-winded enough that I figured I might as well post it on my own blog.]

I think I can see the CYA/”plausible deniability” tactic inherent in the district saying Taylor wasn’t forced to resign “because of homosexuality” — I’ll bet their rationale would/will be that Taylor was forced to resign because of insubordination. According to the USA Today article*, “Taylor says she was let go for complaining to the board member” about the principal’s actions.

Now, mind you, I’m not saying that makes it okay, I’m just saying that’s probably their excuse.

This hits particularly close to home for me given that I showed The Laramie Project to my 100-level (college) English comp students one semester a few years ago. I did get one complaint that I was forcing my politics on the class, but for the most part my students seemed pretty receptive — as did Taylor’s students, from what little is discussed in the USA Today article. It gives me hope that as the younger generations get old enough to vote and get more involved with running for office and whatnot, we’ll be able to progress on the LGBTQ-rights front.

(It also makes me grateful that as a general rule, in theory, one doesn’t have to deal with parents when teaching at the college level. There’s little doubt in my mind that the principal in question had his change of heart because a parent complained, or at least because he feared a parental complaint.)

*On a fairly tangential note, I don’t know what to make of the article’s title, which refers to The Laramie Project as a “gay-themed film.”  It’s about a man who was brutally murdered because he was gay, and how the community responded to his death.  So, I guess “gay-themed” is accurate because the subject matter includes what it’s like to be gay, but it seems overly simplistic, and I think it also speaks to the ghettoization of LGBTQ art, film, and literature (and this is often true of ethnic art, film, and literature as well), because I would argue that the dominant culture has more to learn from this film than your average LGBTQ person does.  But that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, I suppose.

Hump Day Poetry: Philip Levine

Posted in Poetry at 10:24 am by The Lizard Queen

Detroit, Tomorrow

Newspaper says the boy killed by someone,
don’t say who. I know the mother, waking,
gets up as usual, washes her face
in cold water, and starts the coffee pot.

She stands by the window up there on floor
sixteen wondering why the street’s so calm
with no cars going or coming, and then
she looks at the wall clock and sees the time.

Now she’s too awake to go back to bed,
she’s too awake not to remember him,
her one son, or to forget exactly
how long yesterday was, each moment dragged

into the next by the force of her will
until she thought this simply cannot be.
She sits at the scarred, white kitchen table,
the two black windows staring back at her,

wondering how she’ll go back to work today.
The windows don’t see anything: they’re black,
eyeless, they give back only what’s given;
sometimes, like now, even less than what’s given,

yet she stares into their two black faces
moving her head from side to side, like this,
just like I’m doing now. Try it awhile,
go ahead, it’s not going to kill you.

Now say something, it doesn’t matter what
you say because all the words are useless:
“I’m sorry for your loss.” “This too will pass.”
“He was who he was.” She won’t hear you out

because she can only hear the torn words
she uses to pray to die. This afternoon
you and I will see her just before four
alight nimbly from the bus, her lunch box

of one sandwich, a thermos of coffee,
a navel orange secured under her arm,
and we’ll look away. Under your breath make
her one promise and keep it forever:

in the little store-front church down the block,
the one with the front windows newspapered,
you won’t come on Saturday or Sunday
to kneel down and pray for life eternal.

—Philip Levine, 1999

March 5, 2009

Rambling thoughts on Watchmen and movie reviews

Posted in Books, Movies, Musings at 12:14 am by The Lizard Queen

I’ve always thought that the best movie reviews describe both the movie and the reviewer’s reaction to and opinion on it, and those descriptions allow me to get a feel for whether or not I will like the movie.  So, for example, while I might not always agree with Roger Ebert (indeed, I think I’ve disagreed with him more often than I’ve agreed), I’m generally able to figure out from his reviews whether or not I’ll like a movie.  (Of course, he has the advantage of being the movie reviewer I’ve had far and away the most exposure to.)

I ultimately felt like I was able to glean more from Anthony Lane’s review of Watchmen than Evil Bender was, but not by all that much, and not really enough for me to understand the rancor with which Lane approaches the movie and its source material.  And you know, I appreciate a snarky movie review.  Lane gives us the cast of characters and a bit of plot summary, but spends a good chunk of time bringing the hate in a way only The New Yorker can, I suppose (Lane uses the phrase “metaphysical vulgarity” at one point, and it seems like maybe it’s tongue-in-cheek, but still…).  And I can’t help but feel like that comes across as elitist, which of course gets my hackles up.

And really, does it make any sense at all to begin a review by lauding Maus and Persepolis, then end it by wondering why the comics aren’t funny anymore?  (Topics of interest if one is actually interested in exploring a format with literary potential, rather than simply looking down one’s nose at a sort of unworthy outsider art form: graphic novels and the Comics Code Authority.) Read the rest of this entry »

March 3, 2009

Quick hit: International Sex Workers Rights Day

Posted in Feminism, Human rights, Sex at 9:50 pm by The Lizard Queen

I just wanted to take a moment to point out that today is International Sex Workers Rights Day. There’s lots of great information over on SWOP-USA, including a background on the day itself.

Also, a dear friend of mine has a pertinent guest post up on Sex in the Public Square regarding human remains found on Albuquerque’s West Mesa.  A snippet:

Thus far, two sets of bones have been identified. They belong to Victoria Chavez and Gina Michelle Valdez. Both young women had a history of drug use and prostitution; this is the one point the media coverage has not failed to announce, and it has defined for investigators the profiles of the remaining dead people. Any other features of these people’s lives is rarely worthy of mention, which leads me to believe that if it’s not salacious-seeming, it’s not salient, right?

Go check out the whole piece!