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.
April 10, 2012
Just wanted to use my tiny platform to point toward a few things I thought worth reading. Enjoy!
As feminist and fat acceptance movements evolved from second-wave protests to contemporary digital activism, Fat Is a Feminist Issue connected the dots between two parallel causes for human rights while championing the individual’s right to be healthy and happy at every size. Orbach’s pioneer insistence that feminists needed to talk about body image and compulsive eating, while fat activists had to acknowledge issues of gender and difference, united two notorious social-activist movements that made progress possible across a dual spectrum of civil rights.
Why “I prefer small boobs” isn’t helping (Alternate title, from comments: Female Body Image and Male Perception in the Context of Feminist Discussion: When Women Talk About Body Image on a Feminist Blog, We’re Not Actually Worried That Men Don’t Think We’re Pretty):
“Don’t worry, insecure girl, there are people out there who think you’re hot” isn’t a revolutionary perspective, and thinking it’s a necessary contribution to a thread about female objectification and body image demonstrates a lack of understanding of the subject.
We all secretly went back in time, right?
That’s the only way I can get my head around Wisconsin’s repeal of their Equal Pay Act on the argument that “Money is more important to men”, piled on top of the birth control “debate” and Georgia passing legislation based on the idea that women are anatomically and ethically identical to pigs and cows. We fell through a time vortex and it’s 1959 and half of the twentieth century didn’t happen.
October 13, 2011
There’s a photo being shared around Facebook (I tried to find a version I could link to, but wasn’t able to); I’ve now seen it twice on my feed. In the photo, what appears to be a young woman holds a hand-written note up in front of her face. In that note, she tells her audience that she is a senior in college and will soon graduate debt-free. She has worked hard and lived within her means, eschewing luxuries like a new car or an iPad, and is thus able to live comfortably. “I expect nothing handed to me,” she says, “and will continue working my ass off for everything I have.” She goes on to say, “That’s how it’s supposed to work,” and concludes, “I am NOT part of the 99 percent and whether you are or not is YOUR decision.”
I have a problem with this narrative. First of all, that last part appears to be based on a misunderstanding of what “we are the 99%” actually means. That statement is based on the distribution of wealth in the United States, i.e. the fact that the top 1% of the population control a sizeable chunk of the country’s wealth. The 1% is made up of the billionaires, the CEOs on Wall Street, the rich folks, the ones who use “vacation” as a verb, and so on and so forth. The 99% is the rest of us, the workaday folks, the ones who are really only one major accident or illness or layoff away from losing everything, no matter how much we believe that if we follow all the rules (don’t spend more than you earn, neither a borrower nor a lender be, keep your nose to the grindstone, etc.), we’ll always be able to live comfortably. And many of the 99% will indeed always be able to live comfortably, especially the middle class white folks. For many others, though, things don’t always turn out so rosy.
Secondly, here’s the thing: I understand how reasonable people can disagree on the efficacy and nature of the Occupy Wall Street protests. What I don’t understand is a) how and why people translate “hold Wall Street accountable for its actions” into “by demanding the aforesaid, I abdicate any and all responsibility for the decisions I myself have made,” and b) how, when faced with a choice between sympathizing with the “unwashed masses” of the 99% and the Wall Street CEOs, people who are in similar income brackets to my own would choose to sympathize with the CEOs. Sure, I’m in debt because I made some arguably questionable decisions—decisions that I nevertheless stand by today. But you know who helped me back up when I was at my lowest? It sure as hell wasn’t Bank of America. It was my friends and family—again, members of the 99%. We, i.e. the American people, bailed Wall Street out; they’ll only return the favor if they deem us an acceptable risk based on our credit scores, income, and other assests. How does that not strike more people as fucked up?
I guess people repost pictures like the one I describe above because they want to believe that’s true—again, that if you follow the rules, you’ll be okay. It actually reminds me of a certain variety of rape apologism, the one that appears to buy into the idea that if you follow a particular set of rules (this time it’s be a “good girl,” don’t drink or do drugs, don’t go places with strange men and DEFINITELY don’t have sex with them!, don’t dress in any way that could be termed indecent, etc.), you won’t get raped. Nevermind that people are often (usually?) raped by someone they know. Nevermind the innumerable survivors who’ve been raped in their own homes. Nevermind that both sets of rules rely on a fair amount of denial and magical thinking (child abuse? sudden catastrophic illness? whuzzat?). This is what we’re told, and what many people choose to believe: follow the rules, and you’ll be safe from harm.
And if you truly believe that, I’ve got a bridge or two you might be interested in.
April 15, 2011
I stumbled this morning upon this poem, by Catherynne M. Valente: A Silver Splendour, A Flame. It’s exceptional—part poem, part libretto for an imaginary vaudville show, part retelling of the Persephone myth, part kaleidescope, maybe even a bit of ars poetica, and entirely beautiful. Well worth checking out.
The Zingara Poet has begun a new series of interviews with poets, which will feature discussions with poets a bit more off the beaten path than one normally encounters in textbooks or at, say, Poets.org. The first interview, with Alarie Tennille, can be found here.
Just for the record, Liberty University (a private, conservative Christian institution founded by Jerry Falwell) received more money from the federal government last year than the Corporation for Public Broadcasting did. (Hat tip to Fred Clark.)
What’s with the abuse of figurative speech lately? First Senator Jon Kyl states that 90% of Planned Parenthood’s work is related to abortions (when the figure is actually closer to 3%), and when called on it, his office stated that “his remark was not intended to be a factual statement,” and then, after Kobe Bryant received criticism for calling a referee a “fucking faggot,” he stated that the slur “should not be taken literally.” What bothers me about issues like these is, quite simply, words mean things. “Oh, but that’s not what I meant” does not come across, to me, as a particularly compelling explanation. Even when writing poetry—a form of communication that is not generally assumed to represent factual statements or to be taken literally—if most of the people who hear or read your words take from them a meaning counter (or unrelated) to the one you’d intended, you might want to reconsider your words.
Of course, Jon Kyl’s statement ended up leading to a thoroughly amusing Twitter hashtag, so that’s something.
This article about a young woman growing up Objectivist has been making its way across the interwebs, but I thought I’d link to it as well, just in case my lovely readers haven’t seen it.
Happy Friday, all!
August 27, 2010
[My hope is to ease my way back into blogging by pointing to someone else’s writing first. We’ll see how it goes. ]
Everyone and their pet lemur is talking these days about the so-called Ground Zero mosque. I’m inclined to think that a lot of pundits are being deliberately disingenuous: they know full well that it’s a community center, not just a mosque, and they know full well that it’s not on the actual Ground Zero site. However, plenty of people out there hear discussion of a Ground Zero mosque and believe that’s exactly what’s being proposed: a mosque built on the spot where the Twin Towers used to be. I can understand why people would be opposed to that particular proposition; I wouldn’t be terribly fond of it myself, not because of any hard feelings toward Muslims, but because I wouldn’t be particularly keen on seeing any sort of place of formalized religious worship built there. (I quite like Roger Ebert’s proposal of a green field, discussed toward the end of this post.)
My point, then, is that I appreciate the various attempts being made at clarifying the discussion, at discussing the issue as it actually is. In particular, I liked what Jill Filipovic had to say on the subject close to a week ago (emphasis added):
Alvy Singer was probably right when he said that the rest of the country looks at New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers – that’s why a lot of us transplants moved here in the first place. But Republicans have made it clear that they don’t find that characterization nearly as charming as many of us do. When election time rolls around, New York is the GOP’s favorite punching bag: We’re not “real America;” we’re elitists; we’re latte-drinking arugula-eaters. For 364 days a year, Republicans are happy to characterize us as Sodom to San Francisco’s Gomorrah.
And then there’s September 11th. Any mention of that day and all of a sudden we’re a city so important, and of such hallowed ground, that local zoning laws and the decisions of our community boards should be issues of national debate.
The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” which is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque, was catapulted into the national spotlight by anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller as evidence of the supposed “Islamicization” of America. . . .
Go read the rest here (it’s the second post on the page–and for the record, I understand and appreciate what Karol Markowicz is saying in the first post on that page; I just don’t agree).
June 30, 2010
A few years ago I posted a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca entitled “So Mexicans Are Taking Jobs from Americans,” and that post remains one of the most-viewed posts on this blog. I like that, because the poet is a favorite of mine, and I think the poem is an excellent example of the power of poetry: it establishes and illustrates an argument in such a lovely and succinct way. I also like the fact that I can tell from the search terms people have used when they click on the post that there are many people who come across the post who do indeed believe that Mexicans are taking Americans’ jobs away, because I hope perhaps they read the poem, and it makes them think, makes them consider a viewpoint that hadn’t occurred to them before.
Unfortunately, if one looks at the comments on that post, one will see that there are several people who enter the search terms, come across the post, read the title of the poem, then head for the comments section. As a result, for better or for worse, those folks believe that I am alleging that Mexicans really are taking jobs from Americans. This morning someone posted a comment that basically agreed with that idea, and groused about everything from affirmative action (“You may see that someone who has a Spanish surname was chosen for the job over someone who did not”) to having to press 1 to receive instructions in English. “Yep,” I thought (while rolling my eyes), “it’s hard out here for a gringa.”
Therefore, because it’s still such a prevalent mindset that immigrants are taking jobs that hard-working [white, non-Latin@, etc.] Americans would happily do if they only had the chance, I thought I’d point to an interesting campaign led by the United Farm Workers called Take Our Jobs:
Take Our Jobs is a national campaign led by United Farm Workers aimed at hiring U.S. citizens and legal residents to fill jobs that often go to undocumented farm workers. The effort spotlights the immigrant labor issue and underscores the need for reforms without which the domestic agricultural industry could be crippled, leading to more jobs moving off shore.
In response to the campaign, Grist notes:
Because really, forget Census taking — what American doesn’t want a back-breaking, hot, dangerous (workers get enslaved, poisoned by pesticides, and die from heat stroke) job with no health benefits, paid vacation, or even a living wage?
Finally, I think it’s worth noting that the aforementioned Baca poem was published in 1977. Three decades, and we still can’t get past the rhetoric of “they took our jobs!!”? Ugh…
April 9, 2010
This headline just about caused me physical pain: Obama Sasses Palin on Nuclear Policy.
Now, you know and I know that journalists often have no control over their headlines. And indeed, I don’t claim to know much about Newsweek’s “The Gaggle” blog in the first place. And furthermore, I know some folks have gotten awful sensitive when it comes to calling verbal attacks against the President “racist.”
All that said: we’re going to say that the Black dude sassed the white lady? Seriously? Y’all have noticed that he’s the President of the United States, right? Or is he still supposed to “know his place” in spite of that little detail?
[Tip of the oh-so-post-racial tiara to Sadly, No!]
March 15, 2010
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
by Randy Shilts
I knew it was bad, though I knew that mostly from other readings, because essentially, I don’t remember a time before AIDS. I remember that in grade school, “Red Ribbon Week” was about saying no to drugs rather than AIDS awareness, but that’s pretty much it. When Ryan White was battling to attend school, I was in first grade. I can remember having assemblies in years not too much later where they talked about how you can’t catch HIV through casual contact, and we can still be good friends and hold hands and hug and everybody’s happy and no one discriminates against anyone! (Of course, that was all, to the best of my knowledge, academic; I’m not entirely convinced that people would have been so sanguine had someone with HIV or AIDS actually tried to attend the school). Read the rest of this entry »
February 12, 2010
Kansas senators endorsed a plan that tells federal lawmakers to stay off their turf.
Senators voted 33-7 in favor of a nonbinding resolution (SCR 1615) Thursday that asserts the state’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The resolution takes aim at the federal government for taking a bigger role in everything from education to health care.
I’m kind of wondering where these senators were when No Child Left Behind came around, if they’re really so concerned about the federal government interfering with state sovereignty where education is concerned — but maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe they were up in arms about that, too, but since I didn’t live in Kansas at the time, I wasn’t aware of it. At any rate, it gets better (and by “better” I mean “more horrifying”):
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, asked what statement the resolution might make about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The resolution calls for compulsory legislation to be repealed.
“Would this language indeed say that those federal acts should be repealed?” he asked of Sen. Tim Owens, whose Judiciary Committee brought the bill to the full Senate. “That that would be the opinion of the Kansas Legislature to repeal those two acts?”
Owens, an Overland Park Republican, said that was a possible interpretation.
“I find that very troubling,” Hensley said.
Yeah. Me too. I have a bad feeling this is going to become a “red state” trend, if it isn’t one already, and while I appreciate that the resolution is nonbinding, I think it has troubling implications, particularly with regard to issues of civil rights.
E pluribus what now?
November 10, 2009
To begin with, for the record, here is the pertinent section of the Stupak-Pitts amendment:
SEC. 265. LIMITATION ON ABORTION FUNDING.
(a) IN GENERAL—No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.
People who believe that women might have valid reasons to seek an abortion outside of danger of death, rape, or incest, and who understand that many women, should they find themselves in a position where they need or want to terminate a pregnancy, would need that procedure covered by insurance that is funded, entirely or in part, by the government, find this amendment unsettling, to say the least. (See Ann, Jill, and Shark-Fu’s takes.) The idea that the amendment will probably get removed in committee? Not particularly reassuring. The idea that the amendment is only talking about induced abortion, and couldn’t possibly be used to refuse coverage of an elective D&C to remove an incomplete abortion (as in, after a miscarriage, also known medically as a spontaneous abortion)? Yeah, that one’s also not particularly reassuring. The idea that this is not a big deal, it’s just politics, we have to look at the bigger picture? That’s not reassuring, and it’s patronizing! Whee! Read the rest of this entry »