December 18, 2012
A prologue: My thoughts and heart remain with those who lost loved ones in Newtown last Friday. I am so, so heartbroken that we as a society did not do better by those children and their caretakers.
I suppose I should further preface this post by stating unequivocally that my thoughts here are solely my own opinions, and do not reflect the viewpoints of any of my employers. Furthermore, I do not pretend to speak for other teachers at any level. These musings simply reflect where I stand on this issue at the moment.
This post contains musings on past mass shootings and the potential for similar events in the future. If you would rather go look at GIFs featuring adorable dogs and children, I completely understand.
September 30, 2010
Tyler Clementi played the violin. He won a scholarship for his playing, and as of this fall he was a member of the Ridgewood (New Jersey) Symphony Orchestra—pretty impressive for an 18-year-old college freshman, and he’d been playing in the RSO since high school. A friend recently said this* about his talent: “When you picked up the violin and began to play, it was as if everything just paused until you put it down again.” Here is a photograph of Clementi playing, courtesy of the New York Times**:
That picture reminds me so much of one of my friends from high school; I like to think that if I’d met Tyler when I was his age, we would have been friends.
Perhaps that’s part of why I’m so thoroughly heartsick that Tyler Clementi appears to have killed himself last week. (The phrasing “appears to have killed himself” is a pretty heavy dose of denial on my part, but since today’s ABC News article—linked below—states that “Officials are still trying to determine today whether a body pulled from the Hudson River Wednesday is Clementi”… I guess I just want to believe that he might not actually be dead, that this was all some elaborate scheme for revenge. I’m not sure what that says about me, exactly.)
Here’s what happened, via the New York Times (linked below): Read the rest of this entry »
May 11, 2010
The panel opened with a discussion of what slut-shaming is, and Sady, who was the first to offer a definition, was careful to note that being labeled a slut can happen to anyone, even to people who have never had any sexual contact of any kind.
Ha! That brought back a memory I haven’t revisited in a very long time indeed. Just before or just after my 13th birthday (I have a vague feeling like it might have been on my 13th birthday itself), a sort-of friend of mine called me a two-timing slut, and I was absolutely devastated. Here’s more or less how it went down, with names changed to protect the young and foolish: Read the rest of this entry »
April 23, 2010
I’ve been on a Liz Phair kick lately, focused especially on Exile in Guyville. A couple of weeks ago now I found myself in a dilemma, as I had “Fuck and Run” stuck in my head all day, and normally when I have a song in my head, I’ll sing it, I’ll listen to it multiple times, etc.–but I was at work, and that’s not exactly a song that can be called “safe for work,” in the parlance of our times.
So, with that background, you can perhaps imagine my delight at the recent Tiger Beatdown post that discussed “Fuck and Run” (plus another song by some dude)! That got me thinking about a couple of related things that would have been sort of tangential and derailing to put in the comments at TB, but that’s part of why I have my own blog, no? Here we are, then: Read the rest of this entry »
February 16, 2010
I was fairly young when I first learned the phrase “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” but it’s stuck with me. It seems like maybe I learned it in the context of making friends (“If you’re nice, it won’t be a problem! Well, unless you’re an introvert, and/or socially awkward, in which case you might kind of be on your own…”), but when it echoes in my head these days it seems to be more in the context of advertising, of sales pitches, of evangelism (in both the literal and figurative senses). As a consumer, I’m more interested in what FedEx can do for me than what UPS can’t, you know? I appreciate that that’s mostly a personal preference, of course, and that negative advertising isn’t going anywhere soon.
That sort of mindset did lead to a fairly unpleasant interaction this afternoon, however. I came across a display promoting The H2O Project, and decided to stop and take a look; I need to drink more water anyway, I’ve been toying with the idea of abandoning my slavish devotion to diet soda (So fizzy! So caffeinated! So wonderful!), and I had vague memories of the project from last year. I asked the student manning the booth what the deal was, and he went into a fairly rambling sales pitch involving donating money to groups that dig wells in Africa and pointing to a picture of a guinea worm emerging from a child’s leg, then saying “don’t look at that if you’re about to go eat lunch” (too late!). I stuck around and listened, because I myself was once an undergrad fumbling through a pitch explaining why a passerby should get involved in my organization or activity of choice, and I knew he’d get to the heart of the project sooner or later. I couldn’t help noticing that the project was sponsored by a religious group, and that the student wore numerous outward displays of his faith, but I didn’t expect that would be a problem. Making sure people in developing countries have potable water is something people of any or no faith can get behind, right? Read the rest of this entry »
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?)
December 3, 2009
This is one of those irregular verbs isn’t it? I am down on my luck, you are feckless, they are fraudulent money-grubbers.
—Katherine, from the comments thread for this post at Feministe
This SF Gate article, which I found via Crooks and Liars, gave me pause, less because the idea of deliberately defaulting on one’s mortgage payments came as a surprise (though it certainly did) than because of the candid way it discusses feelings of guilt, shame, and obligation that often come with financial distress:
The main point, he says, is that too often people’s “emotions” get in the way of clear financial thinking about mortgages, turning them into what he calls “woodheads” – “individuals who choose not to act in their own self-interest.” Most owners are too worried about feelings of shame and embarrassment following a foreclosure, and ignore the powerful financial reasons for doing so.
Buttressing these emotions is a system that White labels “the social control of the housing crisis” – pressures and messages continually sent to consumers by the “social control agents,” namely banks, government and the media. The mantra these agents – all the way up to President Obama – pound into owners’ heads, says White, is that “voluntarily defaulting on a mortgage is immoral.”
On a basic level, I think I understand how (uncontrolled/uncontrollable) debt and shame came to be intertwined. When you borrow a book from the library, or a blouse from your sister, or cab fare from a buddy, you’re meant to return whatever it was you borrowed, otherwise you are, at best, kind of a jerk, and at worst, a thief. That idea then gets transferred to more large-scale financial issues: if you borrow the money for a house from the bank, then you’re meant to pay it back, and if you don’t, again, you’re somewhere between a jerk and a thief, only many thousands of times over, given how much more a house is worth than a book or a blouse or a cab ride.
Except, of course, that such a basic blueprint for morality when it comes to material things tends to ignore people’s lived realities. I know people who have had banks foreclose on their houses, people who’ve had to declare bankruptcy. They’re not immoral, nor feckless, nor fraudulent money-grubbers. Indeed, you might even say they’re simply down on their luck.
Furthermore, borrowing a book or a blouse or cab fare doesn’t usually come with exorbitant strings attached. You give the book back when you’re done reading it, and if you lose it or ruin it you pay for a replacement. You give the blouse back when you’re done wearing it, and if you lose it or ruin it you purchase or pay for a replacement. And so on. Yes, there are generally late fees associated with library books, but they’re not the kind that people go into real debt over. (Usually. There are always the folks who can’t go back to, say, Blockbuster because they accrued ridiculous late fees, but it seems like that’s a model companies are moving away from these days.) Mortgages are a completely different ball game. (“I’m going to end up paying HOW MUCH in interest??”)
In the end, I’m not really sure what to say about this whole idea aside from, “Huh. That’s an interesting notion.” Anyone else want to weigh in?
October 1, 2009
(Yes, I’m way more entertained than I have any reason to be by finding a way to title each blog entry this week with “I support…” Alternate titles for this post are “Thoughts on Banned Books Week” (*yawn*) and “Fear of a Gay Penguin,” which of course I keep accidentally mis-typing as “Fear of a Black Penguin,” though that works, too, I suppose…)
Here we are again: Banned Books Week. I support the goals of this week as traditionally stated, because I’m a big fan of the First Amendment, and I think more often than not people challenge books not because those books would truly be damaging to children/adolescents or the general public, but because they make them uncomfortable in some way. It’s intolerance, or it’s fear. I love the way commenter adipocere over at MetaFilter put it:
I love the thought processes behind banned books. “I find this offensive; I want you to remove this from my reality and everyone else’s.” It’s at once passive and blustery. MY FEATHERS ARE ALL PUFFED OUT; DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
That said, though, it seems like the momentum for Banned Books Week isn’t there this year the way it’s been in past years. And I think, maybe that’s just me, I’ve been sick, I’ve been travelling, I’m tired — but then I see it reflected elsewhere on the web. Read the rest of this entry »
August 11, 2009
Gye Nyame recently requested a post about songs I like, which I’m going to interpret relatively loosely, because on his blog he recently mentioned motets (or rather, I see as I click over to the post in question, a particular motet), and I thought, ooh! Motets! I know about motets.
When I was a junior in high school I got it into my head that I should audition for choir. I’m not sure where the idea came from (I was… okay, and really still am, when given half a chance… a dedicated band geek), maybe from successful experiences in various musicals, but I do distinctly remember my boyfriend at the time pooh-poohing the idea. (Harrumph.) At any rate, I have a good ear, which got me into the chamber choir for my senior year. In the chamber choir we focused largely on motets, about which I went over to Wikipedia to brush up my knowledge/memories.
Whereupon I discovered that I pretty much don’t know anything about motets. Read the rest of this entry »
August 10, 2009
I want to blog more—indeed, I want to write more in general. Part of the problem with doing so, of course, is that it involves… blogging/writing more. My major problem is feeling like I don’t have anything interesting to say. Perpetually. I’m a quiet person to begin with; lately it seems like waiting until I have something I feel is worthwhile to say leads to my saying nothing at all. The problem, of course, is that little phrase I feel, the inclination to self-censor my thoughts, observations, and creative impulses, because who could possibly find them interesting? Read the rest of this entry »