September 30, 2009

I support democracy in Guinea, and elsewhere

Posted in Media, News, Politics at 12:08 pm by The Lizard Queen

A friend of mine has a bumper sticker on her car that says, “I support democracy in Iran.”  Now, obviously I agree with that statement, and I understand her motivations for putting the sticker there.  However, sometimes the trouble with bumper stickers and bumper sticker-style statements is that they can come of as sounding exclusionary.  “I support democracy in Iran” — but what about, say, Honduras, or Taiwan, or Liberia?  I think it’s safe to say that my friend supports democracy in other countries as well, but I can’t help but be reminded of the media coverage of the Iran election and fallout versus the media coverage of election- or democracy-related unrest and violence in other countries.  As other bloggers before me have discussed, it strikes me as problematic.

I thought of the Iran coverage yesterday when I came across an AP article discussing pro-democracy protests in Guinea:

CONAKRY, Guinea – Guinea‘s government said Tuesday it would investigate why troops opened fire on protesters at a pro-democracy rally. A human rights group said 157 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured.

While saying it would investigate, the government continued to maintain that the protest was illegal. It also said far fewer people died than reported.

Hospitals were flooded with patients Tuesday, and the death toll rose through the day.

Presidential guard troops fired on 50,000 people at the main football stadium Monday, shattering hopes that this West African country was shedding the yoke of dictatorship.

Some of those at the rally, upset that a military officer who seized power in a December coup might run for president in January elections, had chanted: “We want true democracy.”

I don’t watch much TV news, particularly since right now we don’t have MSNBC, otherwise I would no doubt be watching Keith Olbermann’s and Rachel Maddow’s shows on a regular basis.  That was true in June, too, though, and I still heard tons about the post-election unrest in Iran.  As far as I can tell, people aren’t talking about the unrest in Guinea the same way, and I can’t help but wonder why not.  I don’t have any firm thoughts on the matter, just vague ideas, the bulk of which were already covered in the Feministe link above.  At any rate, though, I wanted to call attention to this story, and state that my thoughts are with the pro-democracy protestors in Guinea, along with others around the world who are struggling to create or maintain governments of, for, and by the people.


April 24, 2009

Adventures in local news reporting

Posted in Government, Media, News, Politics, Reproduction at 1:41 pm by The Lizard Queen

I’ve not made much of a secret in my offline life of my feelings for our local newspaper, the Topeka Capital-Journal: I’m not a big fan. I think it’s biased and poorly written/edited. (Check out an example that made it to the blogosphere a couple of months ago here.)  As much as I’d like to support local print news, then, I tend just to ignore the CJ.  Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to avoid; today while I nuked my lunch I glanced at the front page of a copy that had been left on the break room table.  The top two stories focus on Governor Sebelius and the national spotlight that’s currently shining on her.  It only took a few sentences for the top of my head to come flying off (emphasis added):

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ decision to veto Thursday a bill amending Kansas law on late-term abortions occurred at a critical juncture in her bid to become a Cabinet secretary in the administration of President Barack Obama.

Sebelius, who supports abortion rights but says she personally opposes the method of birth control, said the vetoed legislation likely would have been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.

Now, maybe they’re paraphrasing words Sebelius herself used, but a cursory search makes me dubious that that’s the case.  I think that sentence conflates — whether deliberately or unintentionally — abortion (the termination of a pregnancy) with contraception (the prevention of pregnancy).  At best, it’s clumsy.  At worst, it reflects an anti-choice bias.  Either way, it frustrates me.  And the thing is, I do think it’s possible to report on this issue without writing things that make my head explode (see this article from the Wichita Eagle).  So — what gives, CJ?

April 23, 2009

Guilty verdict in Angie Zapata murder trial

Posted in GLBT issues, Media, News, Trans issues at 10:12 am by The Lizard Queen

Yesterday Allen Ray Andrade, the man who brutally killed Angie Zapata, was found guilty on all four of the counts with which he was charged, which included first degree murder and bias-motivated crime.  The jurors rejected the “trans panic” defense (the idea that Andrade killed Zapata in a fit of angry passion after discovering that she was trans).  It breaks my heart that, as much as the verdict may feel like justice, it won’t bring Angie back.  Nevertheless, I’m stunned — in a good way — that the jury found him guilty.

Autumn Sandeen’s coverage of the trial over at Pam’s House Blend has been excellent: here are some highlightsRead the rest of this entry »

September 24, 2008

Lindsay Lohan, the media, and what it means to be an “out” celebrity

Posted in GLBT issues, Media, Musings at 2:57 pm by The Lizard Queen

I don’t normally read the celebrity gossip rags, like People and OK! and Us. That’s not to say I don’t get as caught up in the lives of celebrities as any other average American, but you know, there’s only so much time in a day.

That said, though, this past summer I started going to the gym, and many’s the time I neglected to bring reading material of my own and so ended up leafing through one of the above-mentioned magazines while on the elliptical machine. And in them I came across pictures of Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson. In them Lohan looks happy and healthy, so pretty much the sum total of my analysis of the pictures themselves was “hey, good for her, good for them, mazel tov all around.”  (Okay, I confess that there might have been some skepticism in my initial reaction, too, but between the fact that a) they’ve been together over two years, apparently, and b) it’s not actually any of my business anyway, that feeling passed after about the second week of the gym + celeb mags routine.)

What I did chew on for a while, however, was the carefree nature of the photo captions. They were, in a nutshell, normal. There hadn’t been the earth-shattering “I’m gay!” cover story, and yet the captions didn’t have that breathless “is she or isn’t she?” speculation, either. Just, “Lindsay Lohan and her girlfriend, DJ Samantha Ronson, hit up Bristol Farms for some salad vinegar,” or whatever. There might even have been snaps of the two women smooching, and the captions were still no more salacious or shocked than they would have been for a hetero couple.

It was something I wanted to write about, but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say. So, it works out well that Sarah Warn at After Ellen covered the topic last week, and better than I ever could have:

In the olden days of, say, the 1990s, you had to say actually say the words “I’m gay” or “I’m in a romantic relationship with so-and-so” to some kind of reputable press outlet to be considered openly gay, or “out.” Otherwise, you were considered “in” (or closeted). (See: Neil Patrick Harris pre-2006, or Ellen DeGeneres pre-1997.)

There are and will continue to be those who come out with words, and those who choose not to come out at all. But beginning in the early part of this decade, a new way of being out emerged that was characterized by living openly in a same-sex relationship and not denying or hiding it from the press, but refusing to actually define it with words.

She also points out that

Straight celebrities don’t announce their heterosexuality, we just make assumptions from their behavior. In the past, we haven’t been able to makes the same conclusions about celebrities in same-sex relationships, because their day-to-day behavior was not widely reported on, so an announcement was necessary to counter the prevailing assumption of heterosexuality.

That’s not so true anymore.

And she points out the positive impact Lohan and Ronson’s relationship could have:

One of the most encouraging aspects to Lohan’s story is the positive influence it may have on those young women who have followed her life and career over the last several years.

Not only will they see a very popular (if controversial) young woman living openly in a lesbian relationship, but the press is giving her girlfriend credit for helping Lohan get her life back on track.

The whole article is well worth reading.  Check it out!

August 19, 2008

Quick hit: What Women Want

Posted in Blogging, Feminism, Media at 2:21 pm by The Lizard Queen

This is what women want. I’ve only had time to briefly browse the site, but so far, so good.

[h/t Feministing]

February 25, 2008

Food and double-standards on the campaign trail

Posted in Feminism, Media, Politics at 9:07 pm by The Lizard Queen

Over the weekend I came across an interesting article in Slate titled either (depending on where you look) “What does Hillary Clinton eat?” or “How hungry is Hillary Clinton?” It’s kind of all over the place. It starts out with the idea that one’s eating habits can give others insight into one’s personality:

That food preferences are clues to personality was the firm belief of French gourmand and essayist Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, who in his 1825 work, The Physiology of Taste, wrote, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.” In the absence of an interview with the lady herself, I have pieced together clues to Hillary’s eating habits from various reports, to try to determine whether she is tough and self-assured enough to function as president or is merely a food-fashion victim who opts for the flavor of the moment. Does she indulge wild, instinctive cravings with a hat-over-the-windmill bravado, or is she an abstemiously disciplined eater who can be counted on to make the sensibly healthful choice?

Naturally, though, it doesn’t focus simply on what she eats, or even on the psychological implications therein (evidently “people who love hot chilies are considered limited risk takers”). It gets into Clinton’s personal life, from quoting from “soul-searching letters” written to a high-school friend during her college years to — of course — alluding to Bill Clinton’s infidelity:

And if President Clinton was on his own for dinner, he invariably canceled the healthful meal that had been ordered for him and asked Scheib to dig into his secret stash of prime meat and grill a 24-ounce porterhouse steak with béarnaise sauce and fried onion rings, evidence that marital cheating can take many forms.

What gets to me most is that I like the idea of this article.  Life on the campaign trail is interesting to me.  I enjoy imagining what I would ask for if I had a personal chef (“baba ghanouj, hummus, and tahini” would be pretty high on my list, too).  But I just can’t get past the notion that no one would write an article like this about a male candidate — something the author seems to acknowledge when she mentions that “Being a woman, Hillary is expected to cook, something that is rarely demanded of a male political candidate.”

And then the piece ended on a bit of a frustrating note, with the author apparently giving credence to Ann Althouse’s interpretation of the carrot sticks that replaced the onion rings in the Clinton campaign commercial that spoofed the final episode of the Sopranos.  Even Freud conceded that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

January 3, 2008

Bill O’Reilly likes the Gays just fine, provided they stay in the closet

Posted in GLBT issues, Media at 4:37 pm by The Lizard Queen

Christie Keith has a great piece up at After Elton: The Closet’s Last Champion: Why Bill O’Reilly wants you to shut up.  Here’s an excerpt:

It’s easy to say, if you’re a straight, white man with his own TV show, that sexual orientation isn’t important, and there’s no reason for people, famous or otherwise, to discuss it. But the closet doesn’t work that way. Queer invisibility leads to a culture of alienated teens growing up thinking no one else feels the way they do, unhappy marriages based on lies, the fear of exposure to friends, family, and colleagues, and no actual relationships with real gay people to counteract myths and propaganda. And the harm the closet does to our civil rights is incalculable.

As Harvey Milk said nearly three decades ago, coming out is one of the most powerful things GLBT people can do to promote our equality. Time is proving him right: A 2006 study found that 70 percent of straight adults know a GLBT person, and more than 80 percent of all lesbians and gay men consider themselves to be out. That visibility has meant an increase in support for GLBT civil rights and equality. People who have a gay family member or friend are far more supportive of lesbian and gay equality in marriage and adoption rights, and far less supportive of a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

With such a strong correlation between straight support of our civil rights and knowing a gay friend or family member, O’Reilly’s nostalgia for the closet looks less like the desire to return to a simpler, more innocent age and more like what it is: Second class citizenship.

Go read the whole thing.

November 8, 2007

The WGA strike

Posted in Activism, Media, Movies, Television at 8:55 am by The Lizard Queen

A handy video [via Shakes] that explains why writers are striking:

And here, Joss Whedon takes the New York Times to task for its unsympathetic coverage of the strike. A sampling:

“The trappings of a union protest…” You see how that works? Since we aren’t real workers, this isn’t a real union issue. (We’re just a guild!) And that’s where all my ‘what is a writer’ rambling becomes important. Because this IS a union issue, one that will affect not just artists but every member of a community that could find itself at the mercy of a machine that absolutely and unhesitatingly would dismantle every union, remove every benefit, turn every worker into a cowed wage-slave in the singular pursuit of profit. (There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit’. This is not a myth.) This is about a fair wage for our work. No different than any other union. The teamsters have recognized the importance of this strike, for which I’m deeply grateful. Hopefully the Times will too.

Finally, regular updates and lots of information are available at the United Hollywood blog — which is where the above video originated. I learned through that blog that the WGA actually conceded the demand for the additional 4 cents (i.e. 0.6% instead of 0.3%) on DVD sales at the eleventh hour, to no avail.

I don’t mind watching reruns (even if this goes on as long or longer than the 1988 strike: 22 weeks — and 22 weeks without The Daily Show during election season would seriously suck) and waiting longer for movies I want to see if it ultimately means writers will get paid more.

October 31, 2007

We’re tired of campaign news, but we still don’t know where the candidates stand

Posted in Media, Politics at 12:58 pm by The Lizard Queen

I came across this study via Gristmill; it compares media coverage of individual candidates as well as of 2008 primary campaigns in general.  I found the following passage particularly disheartening:

In all, 63% of the campaign stories focused on political and tactical aspects of the campaign. That is nearly four times the number of stories about the personal backgrounds of the candidates (17%) or the candidates’ ideas and policy proposals (15%). And just 1% of stories examined the candidates’ records or past public performance, the study found.

To reiterate: the politics of the season are receiving more than four times the coverage of where the candidates actually stand.  But wait, there’s more:

The press’ focus on fundraising, tactics and polling is even more evident if one looks at how stories were framed rather than the topic of the story. Just 12% of stories examined were presented in a way that explained how citizens might be affected by the election, while nearly nine-out-of-ten stories (86%) focused on matters that largely impacted only the parties and the candidates. Those numbers, incidentally, match almost exactly the campaign-centric orientation of coverage found on the eve of the primaries eight years ago.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, no?

September 10, 2007

Britney and/or terrorists versus the Arctic ice caps

Posted in Environment, Media at 8:04 pm by The Lizard Queen

Things aren’t looking good up at the North Pole: “An area of Arctic sea ice the size of Florida has melted away in just the last six days as melting at the top of the planet continues at a record rate.”

Furthermore, “Sea ice usually melts in the Arctic summer and freezes again in the winter, but according to Dr. Serreze [a specialist from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center at Colorado University], that would be difficult this year.”

However, Echidne of the Snakes states that lists that tell us what we should fear focus on terrorists and say “nothing about fearing the melting ice of the Arctic,” and Joy Harjo makes the following point:

Now why are Brittany Spears or Lindsay Lohan’s escapades more important? Maybe because they are distractions.
Might the companies representing them have an interest in distracting us?
Now why would they want to do that?

I can’t really speak to corporate motivation, but I think I can understand why people are more inclined to pay attention to fears of terrorists and/or stories of celebrity escapades.  The former comfort us; our country is fighting The Good Fight.  the latter comfort us further; our lives might be fucked up, but at least they’re not that fucked up.

What would happen if the news media suddenly stopped feeding us comfort food?

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