Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A note

What is happening in Gaza is not a war. When you have a population that is packed, wall to wall in one of the smallest strips of land in the world, minimal resources for basic necessities like food, water and medial supplies, and you react to their tossing outdated explosives at one spot in your large, rich country by sending in one of the most well-fed, well-equipped, and well-trained militaries to kill everyone, militants and civilians alike, that is not war. That is a fucking massacre.

Israel blames Hamas for primitive homemade rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli city of Sederot. In 2001-2008, these rockets killed about 15 Israelis and injured 433, and they have damaged property. In the same period, Gazan mortar attacks on Israel have killed 8 Israelis.

Since the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Israelis have killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly a thousand of them minors. Since fall of 2007, Israel has kept the 1.5 million Gazans under a blockade, interdicting food, fuel and medical supplies to one degree or another. Wreaking collective punishment on civilian populations such as hospital patients denied needed electricity is a crime of war.

The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.

from Juan Cole's website

I can't believe that I have to state something that bleeding obvious.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gaza Update

The body count in Gaza has climbed to 348 Palestinians and 4 Israelis.

Israel has rejected international attempts at truce.

Israeli officials said the military blitz against Hamas targets is just the "first of several stages" of military action.

Medical officials in Gaza have also put the number of wounded at about 800. Considering the lack of medical supplies that are allowed to enter Gaza, which is little better than a walled in prison, those wounded are unlikely to survive.

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What crime have these people committed that they deserve being dehumanized like this? Voting for Hamas? little light makes a point about this particular argument that I find difficult to disagree with:

Tell me what you would do! Tell me! Who do you believe, who do you listen to, who do you rely on? You are walled into a prison with guns pointed at you all the time. Food is not allowed in, fuel is not allowed in, medical supplies are not allowed in. You lose count of family members violently dead or maimed. Your schools and hospitals and places of worship are destroyed, your neighborhood is full of rubble with few buildings intact, and you cannot expect to live to thirty. And you don't know any of the people on the other side of that wall.

Who do you listen to as a reliable source? The guys with the guns pointed at you, who took the food away and tell you you deserve to have nothing, but who the outside world tells you are decent folks acting justly? Or the people you're told are evil scumbags, but who provide you food, medicine, a little pride, a little order, and the promise to fight for you? Who among you, looking at your hungry, sick child, is going to listen to the person telling you that you shouldn't be allowed to care for them over the person handing you bread and antibiotics and a little civil infrastructure? Do you listen to the asshole who gives you food, or the asshole who takes it away? When you have nothing, no dignity, no hope, when you've got nothing to lose, who do you listen to? What do you think you would do differently? Do you honestly think that, with a gun pointed at your family, you wouldn't be grateful for even a vile human being who tells you you don't deserve it and points a weapon right back?

I don't think I'm that saint. I don't think you're that saint. You want to say you'd know better?


I really don't care what anyone says. Inflicting this level of suffering on a group of people with as few resources as the Palestinians in Gaza have is NOT justifiable. Inflicting this kind of suffering on any group of people is NOT justifiable.

I have heard argument after argument that the Palestinians started it and therefore deserve this. Bullshit. The Palestinians are living in some of the most resource deprived, most densely populated places in the world. There are people who have been living in refugee camps for half a fucking decade. They get angry and toss some rickety rockets over the wall at the people making their lives hell, and we rush to justify their oppressors sending one of the most well-funded and equipped militaries in the world back at them.

Living in fear because your government insists on treating another group of human beings like animals DOES NOT justify the taking of lives, especially on this scale.

To add a disclaimer: No, I do not think that the violence perpetrated by Hamas is right, as it clearly leads to continuing the cycle of violence. However, Israel has the power to stop these cycles before they start, and the Palestinians do not.

To quote Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville, "...sometimes, at a certain point, being right becomes less important than doing the right thing."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel...I Just Can't...

Gaza body count: Palestinians-271 Israelis-1

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From the linked article:

Israeli jets have launched a second day of airstrikes against the Gaza Strip on Sunday. Despite international condemnation over what is being called a disproportional response, Israel is not excluding a ground offensive. According to Palestinian officials, 271 Palestinians have been killed so far for only one victim in Israel.


Israel is reponding to rocket attacks perpetrated by Hamas which killed one Israeli. I will repeat that, because it bears repeating. Israel's government and military is killing almost three hundred Palestinians including children in response to the death of one Israeli.

Let me put this out there right now: any violent death is a tragedy regardless of how many are killed. HOWEVER, 300 to 1 is disproportionate force. Especially considering that it is widely known that Hamas, a paramilitary organization, is responsible for the single Israeli death.

And of course, while most of the world is decrying the extraneous violence of this situation, the US is blaming Hamas.

"The message from the United States is that Hamas is a terrorist organization that is firing rockets into Israel and they fired them onto their own people as well," Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said.

"The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.


Even the Dutch government, who tends towards virulent anti-Arab and Islamophobic policies and positions is calling Israel's actions almost a war-crime. I am so very sick of the "arab=agressor" stance of our government. Just because Israel is our friend, this does NOT put them above reproach. It doesn't change the facts. And this ignoring of the facts mainly serves to make the US look like anti-arab assholes once again. The next time someone tells me that the arab world needs to fix its anti-American sentiment before we can work with them, I might just bite their damn heads off.

Julie from Modern Mitzvoh has this to say:

If you can’t figure out why this is unacceptable - if you insist on an eye-for-an-eye mentality, in which one Israeli eye is worth an infinite number of Palestinian eyes - then quite frankly, you’re a privileged fuck with no concept of how violence is perpetuated or what the phrase “human rights” actually means.


I could not have said it better.

ETA: Anonymous comments will be rejected. If you want to engage in discussion, at least have the intestinal fortitude to post with a username.

Veiled Contempt - Introduction ( aka The "Why I Opened This Can o' Worms" Edition)

I seriously doubt that this is a concept that has not been spoken of before, but I have never talked about it here, so it is new in one way at least.

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When Islam and women in Islam are discussed in Western classrooms, or at dinner tables, or even in foreign policy discussions, what are the first things that are mentioned?

Usually, its one of two things: Hijab(often mistakenly called Burqa and generally falsely conflated with Saudi or Iranian forced dress codes) and "honor" killings. Both are pointed out as examples of exotic otherness and supposed Muslim/Arab (another false conflation, but I digress) savagery in comparison with supposed Western "liberal" attitudes towards women, gender "equality" and moral superiority. "Well, WE don't treat OUR women like THAT." Generally, much nodding of heads back patting and ego fellating ensues.

This attitude amuses me (and by "amuses me," I mean it makes me want to repeatedly bash my head into a wall) because of one underlying flaw in the rush to promote ourselves as superior whiteness/Westerness, namely that Western women are treated very similarly, the only difference being the exact way that sexism is expressed. The underlying attitudes, about a woman's place, her function, what she should look like, her responsibility for participating in the public sphere, and her punishment for violating the patriarchal demands placed upon her, are almost exactly the same and differ mainly in degree of severity. The only other major difference is the form of support that our judicial systems grant these actions. Again, the rationalizations are eerily similar, and the only difference in support is whether it is tacit, or open. Even in the law, the only differences become a matter of degree.

So, I decided that I had too much to say (no surprise there) about all of these subjects, so I would start a series. At this moment, its only this introductory post and two subsequent posts, but I'm flexible. I will be drawing from a variety of sources, including blogs like Muslimah Media Watch, news sites, feminist theory, and my own observations in both the Middle East and the US. My intention is to make clear that when it comes to sexism and treatment of women, no one has the moral high ground. This can end up opening into an on going series if the information is available.

So, be on the lookout for my first post, probably sometime next week.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cocky



H/T to Womanist Musings and Feministing

Transcript:

We are often told that we are living in a mans world, and this culture no image represents power more than the phallic symbol and if the penis equal power then I am illegally armed. My body full of freckles and curves is like a stealth bomber, I fly just under everyone's radar, but only because they choose not to see me. Only because no one wants to believe that a sweet petite green eyed girl like me could ever possibly be packing heat. They say it's not the size of the wand but the magic that it does. Well after many months on estrogen my penis is pretty darn small, but she has supernatural powers. She is like some pissed off ancient Greek goddess. My penis changes the meanings of everything, and because of her every single one of my ex heterosexual girlfriends has slept with a lesbian, and every guy who hits on me these days could be accused of being gay. Because my penis bends everyone who is straight and she can make the most entitled catcallers and womanisers scurry away with their balls between their legs. All because of six small words, I used to be a man. And being a transsexual I realize that most people see my femaleness as a fa├žade, as an elaborate hoax, but I am more real than any of them could ever hope to be. I am real because unlike them my gender is not based upon what other people think of me and that may make me an object of ridicule but I am not the butt of anyone's joke, because I know that people make fun of trannies because we are the one thing that they fear the most. I am more badass than any gangster, more dangerous than any marine core , my penis is more powerful than the cocks of a million alpha males all put together. Because when a man is defined as that which is not female and a woman is defined as that which is not male, then I am the loose thread that unravels the gender of everyone around me. They say it's not the size of the boat but the motion of the ocean, well my penis gives most people sea sickness. It makes people dizzy because most people are not secure enough in their own masculinity or femininity to serve a night in the sack with me. My penis turns simple sexual pleasures into political acts. She turns biological impossibilities into cold hard facts. My penis is the curiosity that you have been told will kill your cat. See, my penis can be deadly, especially to me, and I have hear d almost every true story about what frightened macho boys do to trannies; every bludgeoning and mutilation, bodies beaten beyond recognition and I have imagined it all happening to me first person. Everytime I get up in front of a crow to perform one of my outspoken word pieces, I can feel myself morph into a slow moving target. After the show when I walk back to my car I will be holding my breathe half expecting that inevitable blow to the back of the head. Sometimes I wonder why it hasn't happened yet, and sometimes I wonder why they just don't get it over with and sometimes I just wish I was dead, I wish I was dead. You see I never wanted to be dangerous and I spent most of my life wishing that I didn't have a penis. I used to hate my body for not making any sense to me and these days I often hate it for being so in between. Some mornings I can hardly get out of bed because my body is so weighed down with ugly meanings that my culture has dumped all over me. You see I have made to feel shame and self loathing so that everyone else can take comfort in what their bodies mean. And if I seem a bit cocky it is because I refuse to make apologies for my body anymore. I am though being the human sacrifice offered up to appease other people's gender issues. Some women have a penis, some men don't and the rest of the world is just going to have to get the fuck over it. If I am destined to be the loose thread that unravels the gender of everyone around me then I am going to pull and pull and pull and pull and pull until everyone is exposed, till they all finally see that all along that they were merely wearing the emperor's new clothes . I know that people don't like it when I turn the tables on them but what the hell else am I supposed to do, play a hand from a deck of cards that was stacked against me? If I seem a bit cocky, it's because I have spent my entire life being backed into a corner and like a frightened animal packed full of adrenaline and sick of hunger and hiding I am finally desperate enough to come out fighting.

In Memoriam...

One year ago today, Benazir Bhutto, the first woman to lead a Muslim nation, was assassinated.

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She faced massive hurdles in her rise to power, and subsequent loss of it, and as soon as I learned who she was, I knew I had found a true hero and role model. Her death, two days before my wedding, shocked and pained me more than I can possibly explain. It had been clear for a long time that if there was anyone who could start to restore sanity to the tense situation that is Pakistan, it was her. Her death sent the whole area into chaos that it is still recovering from.

She continues to inspire me, even today.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oy Vey

My apologies for the recent lack of posts to all those out in the interwebs that read us. Holiday time is nuts when you work retail, know what I mean?

I'll Never Let You Go

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One question I hear at work, every day, without fail:

"Is there a Starbucks/Dunkin' Donuts or any kind of coffee place in here?"

The answer to both variations of the first part of this question is a resounding "No." There are no Starbucks in the airport at all, and the Dunkin' Donuts is two terminals over. You have to exit and re-enter security to get to it. As for the second part, all it takes for someone to see the only coffee place in this terminal when they are standing and talking to me is for them to do a 180 degree turn and it is right there, large as life, with a huge, bright orange, purple and green sign. This indicates one of a few possible issues for the person in question.

One possible issue is that their eyesight is failing them. Always possible, and there really is no way for me to tell if this is the case. That is an understandable reason to ask about the "popular" places, actually, as I assume their logos could be easily recognizable for someone with vision issues.

Another possible issue is just obliviousness. We see examples of that all the time here. People asking where the bathrooms are when there are simple signs everywhere indicating this, or asking how to get to baggage claim when the biggest signs in the terminal give this information in 5 inch tall letters and arrows. We used to get the same issue at the movie theatre I worked at for years. Some people can't be bothered to read signs and they figure that anyone with an airport badge or in an employees uniform is here to do nothing more than answer their questions, no matter how inane. To be fair, at the movie threatre that was the case. Not so much at the airport, but I digress.

However, the most likely reason for ignoring the obvious coffee shop in favor of asking me where the well known national chains are is, I suspect, training. We are trained, by the constant exposure to commercials and the ubiquitous presence of these places, that if we want coffee and pastry, then Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts is the place to go. You know the country runs on Dunkin'. We are taught through branding and advertisement practices, (which are becoming subtler and subtler) that these are the places you go for these products because only they do them "right."

Honestly? I have never gotten a coffee or a pastry from either of these franchises that tastes significantly "better" or "more right" than anywhere else, including when my spouse brews coffee for us in the morning. Every cup of coffee tastes different depending on who brewed it, how clean their instruments are, the quality of the water, and a hundred other factors that can change just by walking across the street to the other Starbucks. We have been convinced that because we got a product at a specific location then it must be right regardless of the actual flavor, consistency, etc. We are so well trained that we will be faithful to brands for brand-names sake, ignoring actual quality in the process. We will memorize a brand-specific menu and think that we can get these things the same anywhere without actually knowing what we are putting into our bodies. "Frappaccino"... "Dunkaccino"... Do you even know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino or what a macchiato is? Do you even need to know?

What I want to know is why. Why in the world do we trust big brand names? There are constant examples of criminal greed, fraud and indifference to public good...YOUR good...in the corporate world, generally from some of the biggest names. Why the hell do we trust them? In a small local store, the owner and employees are responsible for the business and business practices. It is not hard, should something happen as a result of this business' actions, to figure out who is responsible and who shoulders the penalty. In the corporations, the business itself is a singular entity for the purpose of public relations, taxes, and our relationship to them, but when something happens as a result of how the business is run, suddenly there is no single person who is actually responsible for how this business functions. We have seen this again and again. We continue to see it now as the economy is forcing the corporate world to eat their own.

And yet, we continue to cling to this idea that a big recognizable name means we can TRUST them, or even that we OWE them something and therefore must remain exclusive customers. This sounds like an abusive relationship to me. I for one am going to start working on a shelter for victims of economic violence, where we learn that corporate logos can't love you back, and that you don't need them to survive.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Defining Sexism

A comment on this entry at Shakesville really tweaked my interest. First, the comment:

"A little off topic, but I just wanted to jump up and down a little waving my arms in frantic protest over [another poster]'s insistence that various "isms" - sexism, racism, what have you - are monodirectional.

For one thing, it's problematic because this isn't the way the vast majority of people use these words. For just about everyone (not to mention every dictionary under the sun) racism (to choose an example) is prejudice or discrimination based on race, full stop. Limiting the word to institutional prejudice or discrimination against specific racial groups in specific cultural contexts creates all kind of confusion - not least because not all the world is made up of the kind of neat binary hierarchies of oppression this kind of definition demands.

For another, society is not a monolith. Even if racism is by definition cultural and institutional, the idea that every institution and sub-culture within a society shares the same biases isn't really tenable.

To return to sexism, far simpler to say (as the OED does, actually) that it is sex-based prejudice and discrimination almost always directed against women."


This poster isn't the first to make this spurious argument and zie won't be the last.

Disagree however you want, but the prejudice+power definition of -isms are sociological in nature and correct. The "vast majority" of people can use a technical term however they want, that doesn't mean they are using it correctly. Perfect example: paradigm shift. This is a technical term, used in scientific disciplines to indicate a sudden and complete change in how the world is viewed by a sub-group of humanity, and in Western culture, can be applied directly to inventions of mass media and mass communication and the effect this had on how the culture as a whole related to the world. In popular lexicon, we use it to indicate a change in how we behave personally, akin to "changing gears" or changing the flow of our lives. It has also been appropriated by motivational speakers for large corporations as a term to get corporate teams to expand their way of working. If one compares the two usages, they seem to have the same basic meaning, but one is technically correct within the context that spawned it, and one is popular misconception and appropriation of the first.

By referencing "every dictionary under the sun", I assume that means zie has read every dictionary under the sun. I doubt this, mainly because if zie had, zie would have noticed that most regular dictionaries are mainly catalogs of common usage in a specific arena, and do not mean the be-all end-all of a word. There is a reason that we have medical and legal dictionaries, as well as dictionaries for different disciplines. These dictionaries may have a word that is spelled the same in each of them, but based on the context, has a differing meaning. Hell, the meaning of a word can differ across languages. Some words don't translate directly from language to language, and some languages have words that others do not. Does this mean that the basic concept does not exist from culture to culture? No, it means that the concepts are viewed differently through different cultural lenses.

Suggesting that your preferred definition of isms is inherently more correct at all times is intellectually dishonest.

In actuality, you can indeed see the binary hierarchies almost world-wide, with adjustments of the standard to the specific group. Example: racial binary, between "white" and "non-white" does exist in most places that I have studied or visited. White in some areas may not look quite like it looks here, but it plays the same role. It can be found echoed through out most institutions and sub-cultures to a greater or lesser degree. The binary hierarchy of sex is also present world wide to differing degrees, even with differences in the definition of masculine v. feminine.

This poster seems to desire the simpler explanation at the expense of dismissing actual intellectual effort on hir part to challenge hir own small view of how the world works.

Sexism is not in the eye of the beholder

Let it be assumed for the purposes of this space, that the definition of -isms are the power+prejudice equation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What?!

(h/t to almost every progressive blog I read)

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I saw this last week and had to take a second to put my jaw back in place. Christ. How fucking EDGY is The Advocate! Conflating the black civil rights movement with the LGBTQI movement and it's oh-so-important fight for marriage equality.

Look, I'm queer. As queer as a $3 bill. HOWEVER, I am not so arrogant as to believe that my relatively privileged fight for the right to marry someone of the same legal sex as myself is the last great civil rights issue! Not when institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia (to name only a few) are issues that are causing people to live in poverty, face threats of and actual physical and sexual assault from not only other individuals but from law enforcement officers, face court battles to even have their victimizers recognized as such, and...lessee...um...oh yeah! FUCKING DEATH!

Don't get me wrong. I would love it if people like me could just hang up our activist badges and go home, if there really was something that was really the last civil rights struggle ever ever ever. However, as pointed out above, this is patently untrue.

Suggesting that "Gay is the new Black" ignores the existence of queers who are also of color, who have to face racism, homophobia and sexism. It also ignores the fact that a good deal of the queer community is not served by the fight for marriage equality, and effectively disappear their members who are in need of things that are more essential than marriage.

This cover implies that all other civil rights movements are over and unimportant. The only purpose something like this will serve will be to alienate members of the POC community as well as any other groups that are not served by the marriage fight. It doesn't help that the article that this cover is in reference to is actually a decent article. This cover is a disservice to the author, and to the queer movement as a whole.

In short, fuck whoever at The Advocate thought this would be a good idea. Nice breakin' it "hero."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Vultures

With the horrors of the siege in Mumbai finally over, media outlets seem to be focused on one thing: sensationalizing every aspect for consumption.

All I'm seeing is blow by blow accounts of how the gunmen were smiling, the piles of corpses that started it, pictures of people wailing in fear and terror. The whole thing is making me quite ill.

Seriously, these are PEOPLE, not news stories. These are people who have lived through some of the worst things a person can live through. The terror and pain of real people is not fucking entertainment.