Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Its part of being a grownup I guess

I lost a dear friend on Friday. He had Adult Onset Still's Disease which is a form of arthritis with autoimmune complications. He had been getting extreme treatments recently to try and keep his body from killing itself. He was 23.

I met him when I was 17 and he took to my group of geeky friends like he was born to it. He was smart, and an artist. His musical talent ranged across the board, and if you follow the link above, people are posting pictures and videos all over his Facebook wall of him doing what he does best. He offered to teach me how to knit, and I never took him up on it.

He brought DJ equipment to the reunion of our group (we called ourselves the Spiders From Mars) and rick-rolled all of us when playing Nirvana. He was sweet and loving, and has left many people behind who miss him terribly.

No commentary here, just my way of telling my friend that I miss him, and shouting out his memory into the void.

This isn't the first time I've lost a friend,a dn it won't be the last, but it doesn't hurt less.

I love you Moses.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Not Forgotten.

Its been a year, and we have come to it again.
Another year, and another list of people who but for the intolerance around us every day, would still be here, still be alive, still have a future.

This year, we remember: Yasmin and Noelia of Honduras, Taysia Elzy and Michael Hunt of Indianapolis, Kátia Otacílio Vilela and Marcela Cairo Souza of Jataí, Brazil, Alexa Rojas Castro of Monterrey, Mexico, Cynthia Nicole of Comayaguela, Honduras, Aline Da Silva Ribeira of Castelfranco Veneto, Italy, Caprice Curry of San Francisco, Rovilson Teixeira of Londrina, Brazil, Minja Kochis of Belgrade, Serbia, "Víctor Manuel" Albor Camacho and "Juan Carlos" Guillén Bautista of Acámbaro, Mexico, Nicole Castillo García of Tarapoto, Perú, Cita Solorzano of Asunción Ixtaltepec, Mexico, Camila Hernández Nieto of Sincelejo, Colombia, Noor Azlan Khamis of Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, Will Teixeira da Silva of Recife, Brazil, "Ailton" Correa Maia, Juliana Martins, Fernanda Botelho, Jenifer, Dara, and Rafaele of Curitiba, Brazil, Cristy of Guatemala-City, Guatemala, Puttalakshmi of Bangalore, India, Camila Pereira of Uberlândia, Brazil, Cris Francisco das Neves of Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Brazil, Vicky Londoño Chavarría of Ibagué, Columbia, Pequeña P of Gualeguaychú, Argentina, Miriam Nunes Lucas of Ribeirão das Neves, Brazil, Guimarães de Lima and "Wanderson Wanderley" Teixeira da Rocha of João Pessoa, Brazil, Kirsi Ubrí, Jeva Padilla, and Ramon Martinez of Santiago, Dominican Republic, "Julio" Avila Albarracín of Mar del Plata, Argentina, Ebru Soykan (aka Dilan Pirinc) and Hadise of Istanbul, Turkey, Adriana Sánchez López of Juchitan, Mexico, Eda Yildirm of Bursa, Turkey, Sasha Estefania of Caracas, Venezuela, Smail L. of Valencia, Spain, Gisela "Roni" Galante of Gualeguaychú, Argentina, Melek K and Cagla of Ankara, Turkey, Jimmy McCollough (aka Image Devereux) of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Carneiro de Sousa of Fortaleza, Brazil, dos Santos of Varzea Grande, Brazil, Diksy Jones of Wellington, New Zealand, Tigresa de Souza Reis of Feira de Santana, Brazil, Xiomaran Duras of Caracas, Venezuela, Foxy Ivy of Detroit, Papucha of La Victoria, Peru, Kelly (Frederick) Watson and Terri Benally of Albuquerque, Tanya Ardón and Catherine of San Salvador, El Salvador, Carla Regina Bento of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Anita Fajardo Ríos of El Carmen, Mexico, Luana of Maceió, Brazil, Kamilla of Volgograd, Russia, Christopher Jermaine Scott of Philadelphia, Cesar Torres of El Paso, Beyonce (Eric) Lee of New Orleans, Kanan of Setapak, Malaysia, Tyli'a Mack (aka NaNa Boo) of Washington DC, Paulina Ibarra of East Hollywood, Kristina Muça of Tirana, Albania, Andrea Waddell of Brighton, UK, Destiny Lauren of London, UK, Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado of Cayey, Puerto Rico, an unidentified victim in Gebze, Turkey, an unidentified victim in Milan, Italty, an unidentified victim in Guayaquil, Ecuador, an unidentified victim in Baltimore, an unidentified victim in Penang, Malaysia, an unidentified victim in Algeria, an unidentified victim in Honduras, nine unidentified victims in Guatemala, fourteen unidentified victims in Brazil, and eighteen unidentified victims in Venezuela, and all the other trans women and men around the world who lost their lives to transphobia this year, whose faces we never saw and names we never heard, because they were living on the margins of societies who did not respect nor want them.

And Melissa at Shakesville makes the excellent point that today we should remember all of the trans people who died not just because of violence, but because of apathetic inaction and active discrimination.

I remember all of you today, and keep your memories close to my heart. No one deserves to be forgotten.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I distinctly remember explaining this before.

Maybe I will get less shit from people if I throw this at them.

Lack of exercise not to blame for teen obesity?
Study: Physical activity levels unchanged in 20 years while kids got heavier
Most American teenagers are not as active as they should be but a lack of exercise does not seem to be to blame for the rising rates of teen obesity, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers, using government survey data from 1991 and 2007, found the amount of physical activity among U.S. teens has not in fact changed significantly over the past two decades while the population, including children, has got heavier.

Maybe the next time I have a doctor tell me that I'm lying about my exercise rate because I'm still fat, I can point this out to them.

A girl can dream, right?

Friday, November 13, 2009

This is hardly a surprise

As the title here suggests, I am not in the least bit surprised that the Republican National Committee's health insurance plan covers abortions. I am not surprised for two reasons.

Number 1, most US insurance plans cover abortions because it is part of providing comprehensive health care to cis-women. It is a needed procedure, not to mention a legal one that is part of having a right to control ones own body, which applies to so much more than just abortion.

Number 2, because throughout my time of being aware of the heated anger over debating abortion, I have noticed that a good deal of those who opposed women having the right to choose suddenly support it when it is their daughter, or themselves that need the procedure. And its because underneath all of that moralizing, it comes down to thinking that some women don't deserve to have a choice. It isn't about "teh poor widdle baybeeez" cause if it was, these same fucknecks would support social programs that allow women who couldn't afford an abortion, or who swallowed their morality hook but don't have the resources to raise a child to be able to do so. (And before anyone starts whinging about "welfare queens," try being on welfare. It enables you to eat, and if you are lucky it helps you pay for a place to live. "Welfare queens" are a racist, Regan-era myth.)

Since this story broke, the RNC has stated that they are re-assessing their current insurance plan. I find it slightly ironic that if their little Stupak bomb does what they want and kills health care reform, they are going to be limited to about 15% of the insurance companies out there who actively do not cover abortions. Because even with all of the asshole things that insurance companies do, they still recognize that abortion is an important part of cis-women's health care. When there are insurance companies with a better handle on reality than you, well, I don't need to point out what that says about you.

It still doesn't make this expectation on the "liberal"/"progressive" side that cis-women will take yet another one for the team here any better, but it does make me chuckle evilly. Because I'm a bitch like that.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I hate that I'm associated with you.

So here I was on Tumblr, minding my own business, looking at crochet posts when I came across this little jem:

Palestinian women crochet kippot for Israeli Jews

Reuters has uncovered the fact, well-known in Israel, that many kippot (skullcaps) worn by religious Israelis are crocheted by Palestinian women.

Now, this surprises me in the way of not at all, despite the fact that I was not aware of it previously. How else is a group with no option of an open economy supposed to make money but by servicing those who keep their economy limited. At this point in the article, I'm just sorta waiting to see where it is going, since the opening is fairly inconspicuous.

Almost every house in the village of 3,000 west of Ramallah makes the little caps. It's a social event as well as a helpful cash-earner. Women bring their wool and needles to each other's home to crochet and chat.

"We make qors (the Arab name for kippah translates as 'disc') while having a gossip," said Umm Ali. "We meet each other and we make money at the same time," added the mother of three, whose husband is unemployed...

So here, I start getting a little leery. "Helpful-cash earner" sounds a bit cheerful considering the alternatives. I'm not sure if its the passive language that brings to mind discussions of women's activities from a Jane Austen novel, or the slightly patronizing "what fascinating things these quaint people do!" tone that bothers me more.

Six Palestinian skullcap dealers distribute the wool, needles and the models to women in this village and 10 neighbouring villages.

The finished articles are collected each week and shipped to Israeli retailers. The skullcaps are also exported to the United States.

The women of Deir Abu Meshal, known for its traditional dress embroidery, say that to them it's merely a business.

They say they have no qualms about furnishing skullcaps for the people of the occupying power or the Jewish settler, who may be living on Palestinian land.

They say the work is convenient: they don't have to travel.

"Without this knitting business, people here would be very poor," said Nema Khamis, 50, who passed on her skills to her five daughters and daughter-in-law.

Okay, still not doing too badly. We have the admission that conditions are hard enough that without this work these women and their families would be much worse off. There still is a great deal of context that is being glossed over, but it is a short article, so to one degree we can forgive that.

Then this:
A great example of economic cooperation which benefits all sides. Most impressive: these women claim to make five kippot a day, each. Now that is speed. The only kippot I've ever made, as a teenager, took me months. It's a wonder they have any time to bring up children.....

So much little patience...or bile with which to puke. "Economic cooperation"? "Benefits all sides"!? Lets get one thing straight, just because it doesn't actively make a bad situation worse, this DOES NOT make it a benefit, okay? And "cooperation" would imply that these women get something beyond bare necessities from the work they do. And what the fuck is up with this "these women claim" shit? They have been doing this out of necessity for decades. Get that? DECADES. This is in no way equivalent to your little "crafty phase" at fifteen! It took you months because you had the privilege of not having to learn how to work for a living until you were almost an adult! When these women were fifteen they had already been learning how to do this for, most likely, at least five years. I would also shitcan that condescending "its a wonder they have time to raise children" crap. You gotta feed them if there is ever a hope of raising them.

I hate this. I hate this entitled attitude that thinks itself so worldy and I hate hearing it come from people who think they understand suffering because they participate in a seder every year, or their Grandmother remembers the Holocaust. Here's a tip, your Grandmother or Great Grandmother who remembers the Holocaust? They understand. You never will, and vicarious experiences do not mean that you have any concept of what it is like to live in perpetual imposed poverty.

At best, this author is simply woefully ignorant of the reality of what poverty in a place like the West Bank means. At worst she is dealing backhanded jabs at people who are fucking being EXPLOITED. And I used that word deliberately. When your choices are "do this or watch your family starve" then you don't have much of a choice. Its exploiting their poverty, and exploiting their position after being the ones who helped create it and maintain it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Like a breath of fresh air

I cried. I did. I have gotten so used to hearing bullshit after bullshit after bullshit about this, and hearing someone call this bullshit out for what it is just hit me right in my heart.
Rep. Alan Grayson calling out both Democrats and Republicans on the health care debate(Transcript below the video):

"Madame Speaker, I have words for Democrats and Republicans tonight."

"Let's start with the Democrats"

"We as a party have spent the last six months, the greatest minds in our party, dwelling on the question, the unbelievably consuming question of how to get Olympia Snowe to vote on health care reform. I want to remind us all that Olympia Snowe was not elected President last year. Olympia Snowe has no veto power in the Senate. Olympia Snowe represents a state with one half of one percent of America's population."

"What America wants is health care reform. America doesn't care if it gets 51 votes in the Senate or 60 votes in the Senate or 83 votes in the Senate, in fact America doesn't even care about that, it doesn't care about that at all. What America cares about is this; there are over 1 million Americans who go broke every single year trying to pay their health care bills. America cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that there are 44,780 Americans who die every single year on account of not having health care, that's 122 every day. America sure cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that if you have a pre-existing condition, even if you have health insurance, it's not covered. America cares about that a lot. America cares about the fact that you can get all the health care you need as long as you don't need any. America cares about that a lot. But America does not care about procedures, processes, personalities, America doesn't care about that at all."

"So we have to remember that as Democrats, we have to remember that what's at stake here is life and death, enormous amounts of money, and people are counting upon us to move ahead. America understands what's good for America. America cares about health care, America cares about jobs, America cares about education, about energy independence, America does not care about processes politicians or personalities or anything like that."

"And I have a few words for my Republican friends tonight as well. I guess I do have some Republican friends."

"Let me say this; last week I held up this report here and I pointed out that in America there are 44,789 Americans that die every year according to this Harvard report published in this peer reviewed journal because they have no health insurance. That's an extra 44,789 Americans who die who's lives could be saved, and their response was to ask me for an apology."

"To ask me for an apology?"

"That's right. To ask ME for an apology!"

"Well, I'm telling you this; I will not apologize. I will not apologize. I will not apologize for a simple reason; America doesn't care about your feelings. I violated no rules by pulling this report to America's attention, I think a lot of people didn't know about it beforehand. But America DOES care about health care in America."

"And if you're against it, then get out of the way. Just get out of the way. You can lead, you can follow or you can get out of the way. And I'm telling you now to get out of the way."
"American understands that there is one party in this country that is favor of health care reform and one party that is against it, and they know why."

"They understand that if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation"

"They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace they would blame him for destroying the defense industry."

"In fact, they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich tomorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon."

"But that's not what America wants, America wants solutions to it's problems and that begins with health care, and that's what I'm speaking for tonight."

"I yield back the balance of my time"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Important Thinky Thoughts

So, I have hit a bit of a wall. I have begun narrowing down my group of activists and perspectives that fit what I agree with. This has left me with a group of people who I respect and who have perspectives that I value. There is a recurring theme within this group. They are largely trans women, women of color, people with disabilities and various combinations of each.

One thing that is very common is a rejection of feminism, not for the same reasons that many antifeminists do either. This rejection comes from the fact that feminists have and continue to engage in oppressive behaviors towards these groups and ignore the intersections which affect these people the most. And when called on it, a great deal of feminists will get pissed at the person telling them "hey, you are standing on my neck!" instead of examining their praxis, or their groups ideas to see if they are truly exclusionary. Then the whole thing turns into accusations of personal attacks and nothing ever gets DONE.

I think the problem is in labeling ourselves as feminists. We end up making it a part of our identity instead of a tool to help us achieve our aims. I don't know about you, but my aim is to end oppression, and I focus on oppression based on gender. Hence why I use feminism as my major tool. That is the only way that an anti-oppression ideology can work, in my view. It must be a tool.

There is a danger in making an identity out of an ideology. It leads to fighting about identities instead of discussing actions. It prevents us from being able to critically examine our theories and praxis and revise them when necessary. It renders our ideology and our actions insufficient, impotent and infertile because we end up missing the needs of those who truly need to be helped.

I'm considering eventually dropping the identification of feminist and instead becoming someone who uses feminism as a tool. I'm not sure I want a word for that...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fuck Godwin's, I'm Pissed

Just a note to the entire fucking world.

Lets talk about appropriation. Specifically the appropriation of suffering. More specifically the appropriation of specific events that don't affect you personally as a code word for some other considerably lesser things that has upset you.

A good example you be comparing anything that isn't rape to rape. Example: "The IRS really raped me this year." Paying your taxes=/=not rape.

The example that I would like to specifically address though, is comparing anything to Nazis, Hitler or the Holocaust that has no direct ties to any of these things. Someone saying something that you don't like or disagree with IS IN NO FUCKING WAY LIKE NAZI GERMANY. Using this a silencing tactic against those you have societal power over, that is an asshole thing to do.

How dare you take this incredible tragedy that my family and other have experienced and use it against oppressed people, or anyone for that matter, as a silencing weapon. Do you have any idea what it is like to live with the knowledge that you could not ever have existed simply because of who you are? I don't think you do. Until the day that you look at a picture of someone who looks almost exactly like you or your sibling, or your parent, and you look at the little piece of paper telling you which camp they were sent to and when they died and what number was tattooed on their fucking arm, you don't fucking know. Until you feel the weight of "that could have been me," then you don't fucking know. Until you realize that you live in a world that for the most part considers people who would rather see you dead than share oxygen with you and these same people are considered the "reasonable" side, YOU WILL NEVER FUCKING KNOW. Until you have to adjust to living your life each day knowing that this could be your last day because your very existence threatens someones fragile ego, and a jury of THEIR peers think that protection of that ego makes murdering you a reasonable reaction, YOU WILL NEVER FUCKING KNOW.

Comparing an anything to that event that is not also genocide and/or the systematic destruction of several groups of people, many of whom are still facing oppression world-wide and making this comparison as a person of privilege makes you some of the scummiest scum that ever did scum. It trivializes the suffering of millions of people for the sake of your pwecious fucking ego. And just know that this gender-queer, Jewish dyke does not approve and will verbally force you to eat your pwecious ego. Without sauce.

Caroline Ann? This is for you and your fake-ass "apology"

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Get out of your own way please

Have you heard? Apparently institutional sexism, gender stereotyping, and social pressure NO LONGER MATTER! WHEEEEEEEEE! Glass ceilings only exist because we obey them! USA! HOPE! CHANGE! WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! ::spins frantically and falls down::

According to Rachel Simmons, author of a new book about how oppression is totes the fault of the oppressed, we ladies are just "pressuring ourselves" to fit the mold of "good girl." The article writer PROVE IT with her RIVETING ANECDOTES!

The book's author and the article writer almost get it, but then back right down. Girls and women face particular pressures that are contradictory, so its our fault that we don't succeed? WHAT? To a point, yes, we all have to take a certain amount of responsibility for the choices we make in our lives, but if we brush off the pressures of society and how that influences our choices and the consequences of those choices then we are not actually going to see a change in the structures that continue these situations.

There was also the delicious irony of the ads on the page while I was reading the article. Particularly the Accuquote life insurance ad:


(If you can't see/read it, the ad is a picture of a little girl, bent over a grave that says "FATHER" on it, and the copy reads: "If you died today, who would take care of your family?")

The irony is almost enough to make my head explode.

Friday, August 14, 2009

More on Health with added racism!

As lifted from Monica at Transgriot

I'm more than disgusted and tired of this vanilla flavored meme popping up in our national discourse. There are 300 plus million people who call themselves Americans and we ain't all White. We pay taxes, serve in its military, and have done more than our share to help this country grow and prosper. Get used to the fact that we voted on November 4 to take this country in a different direction. It's past time that our policy desires and priorities are pushed with our tax dollars as well and are front and center in the national discourse.

We were more than a little pissed when you people were in control and fracking the country up that we spent 8 years painstakingly cleaning up from the Reagan-Daddy Bush years. Now that President Obama is cleaning up Junior's mess you conservatives are all of a sudden 'concerned about the deficit'.

At least this man is tackling the problems you peeps refused to deal with. What's making you even more upset is that it's your worst nightmare, an intelligent Ivy league educated Black man with his summa cum laude Princeton educated wife that's succeeding.

So keep crying those crocodile tears lamenting the America you lost. Good riddance to that Jim Crow ridden America and welcome to the 21st century.

If you want to be pissed at somebody, aim it at the conservatives who look like you and bamboozled you into repeatedly voting against your own economic interests in the first place.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Health Care

via thecurvature



When I was 22 years old, I was very, very sick.

My insurance company, the one my father had worked for for 20+ years, mind you, refused to cover my intensive inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa b/c they felt, after I had eaten my breakfasts for 5 days in a row, that I was cured. Never mind that my heart rate was 43bpm, or that my mind was completely gone, or that anorexia happens to be the psychiatric disorder with the highest mortality rate: they felt that I could do just fine at a half-day program which consisted of two meals and no medical care, or with a stay at the state psych ward for a week or so, which, not to get all Wurtzel on you guys, is basically a motel for crazies, where people struggling with everything from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to suicidal ideation are thrown together in a big room to sit around, watch television, take their medication, and not kill themselves.

My parents, afraid that I was going to, you know, DIE, put me in the state hospital for medical monitoring purposes, as my vitals were quite bad, and my mental state wasn’t much better. I had a phone interview with an inpatient facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma that specialized in eating disorder treatment—one of the best in the country, for the worst cases, and halfway through my interview, a psych tech hung up the phone, saying, “It’s quiet time now.” When I cried about it in my room, another psych tech came in and told me to “stop whining.” Really top-notch care for the mentally ill in the USA.

Tulsa had a bed ready for me the next day.

Trouble with Tulsa was, my insurance company refused to cover it, on two grounds:

1. It was out-of-state, and why would I need to go to a hospital that specialized in eating disorders, the illness that was KILLING ME, when I could stay at the Cuckoo’s Nest and get yelled at by techs with no training in ED treatment (or humanity) for a few weeks?

2. They did not consider anorexia to be a “real” illness. It was, in the eyes of the insurance companies (and in the eyes of many in this country who have not experienced/do not understand mental illness) a matter of willpower: I was just another girl who wouldn’t eat her damn dinner. All she has to do is eat! She’ll be fine. And all the schizophrenic has to do is stop seeing things! And all the bipolar person has to do is stop cycling! You know! Real easy shit.

But my parents, knowing better, sent me anyway. I don’t come from money. My parents don’t come from money. I don’t know how they got it. They refuse to talk about it, still. If there is one thing that motivates me to stay in recovery (almost six years!) it’s that I know they sacrificed A LOT to get me there. I talk about my parents a lot. It is because they are my best friends. They saved my life. I believe they were helped out by family members, old friends, etc. I guess my parents should move to Russia, or something, what with accepting help from neighbors and friends to pay the damn medical bills.

At the hospital I saw women have to leave early, saw them disconnect the tubes, saw them pack their bags, sick sick sick, and walk out the door, because the insurance companies stopped paying. So to the “Leave my Aetna alone!” crazies, I’d like to say: your insurance company doesn’t give a fucking shit about you. AT ALL. You are nothing but a number on a claim form, and if you ever get sick, or if your kids get sick, and I mean SICK SICK HOSPITAL SICK, you are fucked. Because they will only care so much before they decide you are on your own. And then, I suppose, you’ll start looking around, wondering who is going to help you.

And then, I suspect, you will show up to rallies with a very different message on your signs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ethnicity Crisis Part 2: Make Me a Matchless Match

(read Part 1 here)

So, when we left off, my burgeoning, two-decades-in-the-making- Jewish identity was languishing in the back of my mental dresser drawer as that one piece of clothing that you never wear but can't get rid of for fear of hurting the people who gave it to you, because you know what went in to making it and just casting it away turns the guilt up to eleven, because you may want to wear it someday, but just not now, the colors are all wrong, it doesn't fit your style, what it means to wear it is a fact that you aren't ready to face.

I backlashed against this rising awareness of where I came from and what that meant in relation to my place in the global hierarchy by diving head first into pro-Palestine and anti-occupation political stances. I dove so deeply, so quickly, that for a long time, all I could do was criticize Israel. I did so relentlessly, zealously, and very, very harshly. I still do in many ways, in the same way that I criticize my own government for actions they take in my name that I don't support, though I think I was and am tougher on Israel in general. This is not to say that my criticism does not have value on its own merits. I was careful to be very academic about my critique, the problem was how I tied that critique to my own identity and my own self-worth. The critique was personal as well as political. I desperately buried my sweater under a pile of slogan bearing t-shirts and hoped no one would notice it.

I spent years doing this. Years getting into fights with family members about the occupation, years insulting Israeli politicians and arguing in university classrooms about Israeli military actions, years rejecting Israel as a part of me, as I wanted no part in the subjugation of others. Somewhere in this process, I began seeing more Antisemitism, and I stepped up my rejection and criticism of Israel as a shield from receiving that same bigotry, while quietly rankling at it. Every once in a while I would mention my sweater, the fact that I had one at least, just to keep the conversation on track. The more I mentioned it, the more it grew on me. Just its presence in my mental wardrobe (yes, I will be beating the crap out of this analogy) made aspects of this part of myself harder to ignore in the world around me. Others noticed it too. I kept encountering random people who wanted to talk about my Jewishness.

I started toying with the idea of learning Hebrew, and edging towards wanting to get to know that part of me. I had been really attracted to Islam when I first started studying the Middle East, and had come to the conclusion that conversion was not for me. I wasn't interested in the whole "God" thing...what I wanted was the community. The concept of "ummah" appealed to the part of me that fell in love with the musical "Hair" at 16 and realized that what was missing from my life was a sense of responsibility and support both to and from a community of my choosing. Even with that felt wrong. Like I was romanticizing this concept from a position of privilege. This all came down around the same time that I started helping to moderate an anti-racism livejournal community, and snapped together in a discussion of appropriation and spirituality. I had my own ethnic traditions to draw on for these things. Did I really need to co-opt someone else's? Especially if it was not the precepts of faith that I was interested in?

In this same space of time, I got married. It was a non-denominational event seeing as I'm fairly agnostic, and my spouse is fairly atheist. It was also a sudden elopement that my parents happened to be around for. My mother, upon being informed of what we were about to do, whipped off her tye-dye shawl and conscripted my family and the friends that were there, along with random passers-by (we were at a folk festival) to hold it above us as we said our vows and then gave it to us as our khuppa (canopy designed to represent that we will always have a home/roof with God...I think...I could be wrong about that interpretation.) My spouse loved it. I understood what the gesture meant to my mother, and appreciated it in my own way.

My spouse has since been drawn in fairly close to the Jewish side of my family, and has even expressed an interest in raising any children we may have with Jewish traditions.

So, basically all I'm getting to in this entirely-too-long-and-navel-related post is attempting to bring across the tension around this for me.

Eventually, something had to give.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ethnicity Crisis Part 1: Tradition!

I have been having a bit of a crisis the last year or so. This is going to be long, so I might split it up into parts.

Some background:

My father is from a mostly Greek family. My mother is from a mostly Polish/German/French family. Dad's family is Greek Orthodox Catholic. Mom's was raised Jewish. My parents are both second generation American. As far as cultural/ethnic background, they made sure we knew where our genes were from (more than the above list, but I'll spare you the complex details of my family tree) and that was pretty much it. As far as religious training, well...both of my parents walked away from the faith of their families at fairly young ages. My dad declined his confirmation as a teen. My mother is the only child in her family to not have a Bat Mitzvah. They raised us fairly agnostically, with one caveat. We did the major Jewish holidays because my paternal grandmother made my parents promise to raise us in the Jewish faith due to how the Catholic church treated her for getting divorced when my grandfather abandoned her with six kids.

So I grew up doing Seders and lighting Channuka candles, but it was something done as an addendum to the bigger, flashier, heavily marketed holidays. We would open Easter baskets after Seder, or celebrate only one night of Channuka and combine it with a Christmas tree trimming party. The other holidays were celebrated with dinner at Grandmom's but without any context of what those holidays meant.

My mom gave me the choice between Hebrew school and dance classes as a kid. I wanted to be a ballerina, and I had no reason to learn another language, so I chose dance classes. I preferred "A Chorus Line" over "Fiddler on the Roof" even though I could sing the entire score from both.

My peers at school were aware of my Jewish heritage, but since I wasn't actively participating in the culture or the community, I couldn't bond with them over it. I couldn't bond with the non-Jew kids either. Agnostic childhood kind of leaves you aren't being swept into a community you may not want with responsibilities that you don't understand before you are of an age to reason, but at the same time you are watching your friends have milestones that you can't share. It was during my years in elementary and middle school that I experienced anti-Semitism directed at me for the first time, but I did not have the critical consciousness to name it as such. I learned to joke about my heritage without ever feeling a deep connection to it.

I dabbled in radical atheism, and in paganism. I found a spiritually comfortable midpoint that is not one or the other, though I still can't find anything that makes me comfortable with the idea of a deity.

I have gone to the Holocaust museum in DC. I have seen the paperwork, written in German, that recorded the fate of the members of my family who did not manage to make it out of Europe in time. I felt a stirring, a deep sadness, but at the same time, it was not a sadness that differed from how I felt about any of the hundreds of injustices that I fought against in my life. It saddened me, hurt me deeply that people could do this to other people, but I never associated it with my self. I never associated these events with me, no matter how many times I cried at the end of "The Devil's Arithmetic" or "Number the Stars" or how worn my copy of "All-of-a-kind Family" got.

In college I decided to study the Middle East. I was prompted by a gut feeling during the "discussion" surrounding 9/11 that all this talk, about Arabs and Islam and how "they" hate us because their culture/religion says to, was false. this led to studying Israel and Palestine, and the sudden realization that, when the Israeli gov't talks about benefiting Jews everywhere, they meant me, and when anti-Israel groups talked about the "vast Zionist conspiracy," they were also talking about me...

I started seeing a connection coming from me to that place on the other side of the planet that everyone in the US is always fretting about, but often with talking points from pundits that bear little to no resemblance to any fact I have ever seen as the basis of their fretting.

I suddenly felt my ethnic Jew-ness for the first time. It settled around me like a hand-me-down sweater that doesn't quite fit, is too heavy, has a pattern that is unpopular to the point of encouraging anger and/or ridicule and is shaped like someone else from years of wear. And I reacted in a way that anyone who has dealt with kids will be familiar with.

I stuffed the sweater into the back of my mental dresser drawer, behind my rainbow hot-pants, my boho skirts and my t-shirts with radical, liberal political slogans and symbols, and tried to pretend that it wasn't there. The problem was...its one of those big, floofy knit things that takes up three times its actual area when folded, and every time I opened the drawer, it had taken up a bit more space...

To be continued...

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I liked this...

The Longest Way 1.0 - one year walk/beard grow time lapse from Christoph Rehage on Vimeo.

This made me happy enough to cry

Mama Cass Eliot, an incredibly talented woman who defines the term "musical gift" on many levels...
And all I knew about her until I was in my 20's was that she died because she was a gluttonous fatty who couldn't lay off the pork products and that this was supposedly funny, when it was probably yo-yo dieting that was responsible for her heart giving out.
I only hope I can ever be this freaking fabulous.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Broken Pedestals

My parents are kind of awesome. Not always, I mean, they are human and have flaws, but as far as humans in general go, they are fairly awesome ones.

My mom is a pilates instructor/stage manager and my dad is a musician/nurse/midwife-in-training/chef. they are fairly liberal types, who raised me pro-choice and anti-war. I went to my first peace rally in first grade. My parents book collection included anthologies on anti-racism, rape activism and civil rights. They taught me that when something is wrong, you fight to fix it, even if its bigger than you.

I thought they taught me to be who I am. (Turns out I was wrong about that, apparently I have always been like this)

In the last few years, I have been noticing that my opinions, my arguments, my perspectives, fall distinctly to the left of my parents. I found myself having to debunk basic myths about sexism, racism, homophobia, and these days transphobia with them. I haven't even tried ableism, classism, or fat-phobia, yet. I simply don't have the energy.

It started when I came out to them. My mother always claims to be creating a safe space for me to just be myself in, but as soon as that self crossed her comfort lines it became a problem. My dad was worse, in that he couldn't even joke about it with me except to sweep it under the rug or pretend it didn't exist.

It has come to a head recently, specifically surrounding my partner and hir gender identity. We decided as a couple to tell my parents that we were working towards a potential transition for hir. My mother not only refused to change pronouns (which is fine for the most part as my spouse does not currently have a preference from people who know hir as a male) but accused me of being "obsessed" with my spouse's transition because I do use female pronouns. My father only had one thing to say: "As long as he's a tripod, he's a man." And more recently, my dad sent me this video: "8 Miles Wide" (NSFW also your hilarious earworm for the day. you're welcome.) The chorus? "My vagina is 8 miles wide..." So I jokingly asked my dad if his vagina was indeed 8 miles wide. He couldn't even joke about having a vagina.

That was pretty shattering. i thought I was applying principles that they instilled in me. principles of respect, and acceptance. It was, and still is, shocking to me that my parents, the people who raised me to be an activist, would be unable to move past this essentialist block of genitalia defining your gender. It is especially shocking that the man who I credit for teaching me the principles that lead to my feminism buys into the societal desire to perform masculinity and even joking about having a vagina means he needs to assert that hes a MAN! Really! He has man parts and everything!

Ignorance really is bliss...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hypocrisy Makes My Teeth Itch

I originally heard this story from my roomie, and I blocked it out for the most part because, really, who can spend every fucking day hearing about awful things happening to other people? Yeah, I could have come and put a post up here saying: "This was an awful, awful thing that happened, and that makes me sad/angry/tired," but there are six million posts like that every time a story like this hits the blogosphere, and lately I have been big on not speaking unless I have something to say.

It wasn't until I started seeing the ripples around the blogroll that I realized I did have something to say...

I am officially uncomfortable with the way this story is being presented. I think that with a few exceptions, its being framed problematically at best.

It starts with the police reporting that they have removed an 8yr old Liberian rape victim from her family because her family views her status as "raped" as a shame on them. Then there are the echoes of "down with victim blaming!" and "how could a family do that?" in the blogosphere, echoes which take the police accusations at face value as soon as they hear where the girl's family is from. The more diplomatic places talk about how victim blaming is bad no matter where it comes from, but there is still that assumption that the initial domino was pushed over in good faith. No second thoughts about how maybe this bears deeper investigation considering the rampant xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia in this country. Nope, the police are totes trustworthy in matters of race and cultural honesty. they would never, ever do something based completely on stereotypes!

::steps up to podium, clears throat::


::steps back::

Now, this happened in the Southwest, so some could say that it isn't exactly a bastion of liberal thought. However, the place that supposedly is this countries such bastion is centered around places like Boston and Cambridge, and look at the shit that has gone down with their law enforcement and race relations lately.

And even if she is in danger from her family because of what these boys did to her, victim blaming, shaming and mistreatment of rape victims is a global problem (not necessarily universal, but I don't have any specific examples where it is not present,) it crosses cultures, religions, races, and traditions. Acting like this case is something particularly egregious when it happens Every Damn Day is playing into the "Western World = more advanced" meme and the inherently racist "its their culture!" meme.

Its OUR culture. We are all immersed in it, and we are ALL responsible for ending it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A thoughtful moment...

Subject: Dyeing hair while (mildly) intoxicated...

On one hand, it was fun.

On another, I seemed to have developed a blind spot for my roots and missed them all together, giving me a not-so-flattering calico look.

But in the end, making my shower look like an abattoir (because I so rarely get to use that word, like oubliette. Awesome word, oubliette, from the French verb meaning "to forget") makes the entire situation kind of a win. And I get to be a bottle ginger again for a bit.

Now if I can just con someone into buying me some red Manic Panic and helping me do my roots...

You Tell Me What's Real

Twitter has destroyed my life.

I just want to clarify that.

Thanks to @knitmeapony, I was directed to this:

19 Amazing Acts of Death Defiance

In reading it, I found this:

Annie Taylor
I thought it was a joke -Not to Annie Taylor it wasn’t. In 1901 Annie [sic]Tayler was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive. She expected fame and fortune, but as it turned out, no one at the time really cared. Sadly, she ended up dying in poverty. Although she made the journey with little injury and few accolades, Annie will still go down as the first person to ride the barrel at Niagara. (source)
Annie Taylor After

17 of the 19 feats were done by men who were given recognition, records, a place in history for what they did. The 19th feat was a male/female duo.

It did not escape me that the single feat completed by a woman by herself was the only one that garnered nothing positive for the feat completer. The initial article I read didn't even spell her name right within two sentences! The only person I knew who knew about Annie Taylor had heard the story framed in such a way to paint Annie as suicidal, and her survival miraculous, instead of an intentional, planned action. I have also heard that story before, and it conveniently leaves out her name, and shoe-horned her into the the "women are irrational and crazy!" meme.

There is a larger point to my ranting about a seemingly trivial historical detail.
Whenever someone asks why we need a Women and Gender Studies department at a university, whenever someone complains about there being a group of people devoted specifically to examining history through female-centric lenses, whenever I hear someone claiming that " are naturally just better than women, or else why would all the great artists/chefs/architects/scientists/explorers/nose pickers all be men?" I am inclined to point to something like this. Its true, it is not a coincidence that the recognized "greats" are men, because when women do something, their contribution is automatically filtered through these concepts that women are inferior, and anything done on their own is attributed to anyone except them. Their own words are obscured under this huge weight of what they signify culturally instead of who they are.

The "great" men in our history are so because they were seen as individuals able to accomplish things independently, but women are seen only as what we symbolize, so our accomplishments are either attributed to anyone/thing besides us, or to our entire gender, and even our motivations are taken from us by a hierarchy that thrives through destroying our certainty, and making us doubt our own lived realities.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

GUEST POST: Mystify People With Your Intelligence...If You Can't Do That, Mystify Them With Your Bullshit

{Ed. Note: Today, I am proud to feature this guest post by my dear friend and sister Amichandrn, who originally posted this at her place. The title comes from her very apt icon on that same post, the original was untitled.}

I am a little bit irritated. Ok, more than a little bit irritated. I opened up AOL only to be greeted with "Obama's Pick Caused Debate: New Surgeon General Has Spotless Record: Should Her Weight Matter?"

Guess what, douchebags. No, it should not.

Regina Benjamin is a patient advocate. She started a public health clinic where she treats EVERYONE, regardless of ability to pay, and still holds the position of CEO of this clinic. She was an associate dean for the University of South Alabama's medical college. She was the FIRST black woman to become president of a state medical society, as well as the first person under 40 to be appointed to the board of the American Medical Association. She's also received a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" and a Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. When her clinic wasn't making money, she did not take her salary. She has mortgaged her home and maxed out her credit cards to ensure that everyone who needs services in her town can get them. This is a woman who truly cares about her patients.

She also is trained and experienced in the field of medicine. According to Newsweek, "Most previous surgeons general have come from either government or academia."

Benjamin received a B.S. from Xavier University of Louisiana in 1979. She attended Morehouse School of Medicine and received then received an M.D. in 1984 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She completed her residency in family practice at the Medical Center of Central Georgia, and has worked in ERs and nursing homes in her years of practicing medicine.

Oh, and let's not forget that pesky Masters degree she got in Business Administration in 1991 from Tulane University.

Take a look at her profile. I'll wait.

Ok, So why would people not want this, not just a woman, but a PERSON who has accomplished so much, to be the Surgeon General?

So far, the issues has been weight and to a seemingly lesser extent, race. (The race issue is usually associated with "OMG, OBAMA CHOSE ANOTHER MINORITY!!!!") However, I am not addressing the race issue here, as the weight issue is really what's bothering me.

In the comments sections of various reports, comments have been left by the dozens, claiming that Benjamin is NOT fit to serve as surgeon general because of her weight.

Here are some lovely examples, placed under a cut, as they may be triggers:{Ed. Note: as the cut function does not work so much here, consider this a trigger warning for egregious fatphobia}

Rather than select a fat Black woman Obama should have chose a Black woman with a body mass index of 25 or less. ~ Kevin25

I'm a pediatrician. One of the greatest health threats in our population is obesity. Now we have an obese Surgeon General as a role model. How is she to impact the nation's health if she can't even take care of herself? ~ ctg312

And you just thought that Bob's Big Boy did not have an adopted sister! Man Bob's could not buy this kind of publicity ~ KBlit

Did I see Goodyear painted on her sides. ~ affirmativeactionpresident

she certainly looks overweight..if obama wants to replace health care in the country, i think he should have picked someone who does not appear to be on the verge of a heart attack/stroke and/or diabetes due to life style choices... ~ w04equals666

Then there's my personal favorite “I refuse to let fat be socially acceptable … The President should have known better and picked a doctor who could kick start the debate on fat not perpetuate it,”

Ok, lets get some things straight.

1) The BMI is a guideline, and honestly, must be taken with a HUGE heap of salt. It was created in the 1950s using white middle-aged men from the suburbs as their sample. They never looked at women. They never looked at other races or ethnicities. The statistics were adjusted slightly in the 70s, but really? Not all that accurate.

2) Obesity does not CAUSE heart disease or diabetes. It could be a symptom of an underlying cause (Cushings, Thyroid issues), but it is not a cause, nor is an immediate indicator of a problem. For all we know, it could be that heart disease causes obesity. An example of this would be: A person has heart disease. His heart works harder and as such, he gets tired more easily, so he exercises less, causing him to gain weight. These studies that get thrown at us are correlational studies. They show that two things are likely to be associated, but they do NOT show causation. Do your research.

3) Fat people who like themselves are not in denial. We genuinely do like ourselves. It's a hell of a lot easier than hating ourselves for something most of us can't change on a grand scale.

4) Fat is necessary. We need it to used certain vitamins, as well as for brain function and development. So when you give your one-year old skim milk of soy milk because it's "Less Fattening," guess what? You just hindered them a bit more.

5) Repeated dieting is more likely to cause heart disease than being obese.

And here's a news flash for these people:

I'm obese. I always have been. I'm also healthy. My blood pressure is normal. My blood sugar is perfect. I hate cake, cookies, ice cream and most candy. I don't eat potato chips. I prefer fruit and fruit sorbet to all other desserts. I rarely drink regular soda. I exercise. I'm smart. I'm funny. I like to dance. I have a first kyu brown belt in karate. I took Tae Kwon Do. I liked to tumble when I was in high school, back when I had time. And I like myself. So where do I fit in your schema of obesity?

People assume that obesity has an ingrained link to lack of self-control, eating nothing but junk or stupidity. I want to see these studies, because my research has shown none of this.

In the end, I honestly believe the Regina Benjamin is the best choice for the position. She is well-trained, intelligent, educated, and caring. She is someone who will put the health of the American people first. Her weight is a non-issue. People who are criticizing her for her weight really need to take a look at themselves, because there's something there that they don't like that they need to deal with first.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Women as property: Part #195,678,957,231,880

This story has been making the rounds, (and I am going to quote extensively, as this story is worth getting as much detail as possible):

An Ohio lawmaker has re-introduced legislation that would include a father's rights in the abortion decision-making process. Under Roe v. Wade, fathers are left out of the equation when a woman considers whether or not to have an abortion that would end the life of their child.

Rep. John Adams, a Republican from Sidney, wants to change that and the legislation he introduced today, House Bill 252, would require the biological father's consent before an abortion can be done.

The bill would apply to any abortion and would require written consent before it can be done.

Adams told the Daily Reporter newspaper that abortion centers would "need to get consent from the biological father" before the abortion can proceed and he called the measure a "father's right bill" to protect the interest of fathers who are given no say in the abortion process.

He also said the bill provides for criminal penalties for women seeking abortions who do not obtain consent properly.

"Providing a false biological father would be a first-degree misdemeanor the first time, which means not more than six months and jail, and a maximum $1,000 fine," Adams said. "And on the second occasion, providing false information would be considered a fifth-degree felony."

Adams told the newspaper that, in cases when the mother does not know the identity of the father, the abortion would be prohibited.

"There needs to be responsibility for actions," Adams said. "As someone who is pro-life, this is also an attempt and a hope to keep the two people who have created that child together, and I suppose if you just go back to the simple beginning, there is merit to chastity, and to young men and women waiting until marriage."

Adams said the bill offers exceptions in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is threatened by the pregnancy.

Of course, in order to use those exceptions, a police report is required because that is the objective standard of whether a rape occurred or not. ::snort:: what are reported rape stats these days again? did we suddenly wake up in a world where rape victims are not subject to character assassination and criminal charges just for reporting a crime? Oh yeah, not so much, actually.

This provides obvious corridors for abuse of women, but who gives a fuck about that? Stupid sluts should know better than to think that they are allowed to have a sex life or that they own their own body. What are they? Delusional Feminazis? In the really real world, if a man sticks his cock in you, that means you're his property. Suck it up sweetcakes, you've got some brood-mare duties to attend to. Oh, you had plans? A life you wanted? Should have thought of that before getting yourself knocked up, slut. (On a side note, it is amazing the radically contradictory notions we can hold in our minds without our brains imploding. Shitstains like the Rep. Adams managed to simultaneously blame women for their own pregnancies as if they did it all by themselves, yet want to give the guy, who played no active part in this framing, the control of what happens to the pregnancy. I think I have gone cross-eyed.)

Besides, how would they prove that the actual sperm donor gave permission in order to assess if a woman is committing "abortion fraud" (which again, only has consequences for her and not the dude who helped her?) Does he have to watch the procedure? Submit to a test to prove paternity before or after the procedure? Who eats those costs? Will it be like the unnecessary and invasive ultrasounds that women have to pay for to obtain abortions even though it is a state requirement?

Look, I am completely in favor of couples making decisions to abort or continue a pregnancy together, but, much like parental notification laws, you can't legislate good or healthy relationships. That is not the state's responsibility.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thanks for proving my point

...Okay, y'all...

I have to say that I REALLY dislike coincidence.

I especially dislike the coindicence of posting about the terroristic tactics of homophobes in this country, only to read about a series of events that only proves my point.

Amanda Hess of The Sexist has been keeping a running tab on this story:

Gay T-Shirts In Windows A Problem For American Apparel - "A local vandal may have found an antidote for the “Legalize Gay” T-shirts that have popped up in American Apparel window displays around the D.C. area—eliminate the window.

When Kassandra Powell arrived for work at the Silver Spring American Apparel store yesterday morning, she was met with a crowd, a police car, and a broken window. “I was told that the [security alarm] went off at 5:15 a.m.,” she says...

...This morning, the Georgetown American Apparel location experienced its own attack from an upset window shopper—this time, over the telephone. Around 10:30 a.m., visual merchandiser Walter Reed fielded a call from a male who was “enraged for no reason.”

“He was like, is this the Silver Spring location? And I said, ‘No, this is the Georgetown location, ‘” says Reed. “He said, ‘You have some Legalize Gay shirts in the window there.’ He said that he and his friends found it offensive, and that if we didn’t take them down, they were going to break it—the window,” said Reed. “I said, ‘Is that a threat, Sir?’ And then he hung up.”

When Reed called the Silver Spring store to inform them of the threat, he was told that the location had already received the more forceful warning about its window display over 24 hours earlier. Then, Reed informed the police of the telephonic follow-up."

The stores have decided that they won't bow to intimidation tactics despite escalation to death threats against the store employees. Luckily, there has also been a response of support and added security from the community and the company.

Who the hell thinks that they have the right to do things like this? What kind of hubris do you have to have to think that you are justified in threatening the lives of people who have an opinion you disagree with? How weak is your reasoning and your point that you are moved to threaten retail employees for a shirt that offends you?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Today in things that make me want to hide...

This is terrifying.

Anti-Gay Extremists Predict “Flash Point” for Charlotte Pride.

An Excerpt:

In a movement that places such value in the Word, there is little difference between word and deed. And that’s particularly true when the word is presented as prophecy. Engle says his prophecy is that the “homosexual agenda” will reach its high-water mark in Charlotte, and that because of their efforts, “it stops here.” Those hoped-for thousand will have fasted and prayed, and they will have heard the exhortations to value death more than life. Brown and Engle are playing with a very dangerous mix of emotion and religious fervor. Under those conditions, just about anything might happen.

I highly recommend the entire article. It is a very detailed look into the actions and rhetoric of these men and their followers.

THis comes back around to several points that I have made in the past, namely that there is a consistent movement of terrorist(and I use that word deliberately) activity against marginalized groups in this country, and that the government needs to start calling it what it is. The other is that things like this highlight the massive difference between the "traditional" values groups and the "progressive" values groups. In our perfect world, we get to live just like everyone else, in theirs, we are dead and they are rejoicing over our graves. As someone with a family history of experiencing genocide, you can probably guess which one I prefer.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cirila Baltazar Cruz and The Plight Of The Unworthy

An Update on a story that we had here a while ago, with more detail and insightful analysis:

Cirila Baltazar Cruz and The Plight Of The Unworthy
via Zuky by Kai on 7/10/09
Cross-posted at Feministe

In recent weeks, the startling story of Cirila Baltazar Cruz has been stirring outrage and splitting spleens in certain corners of blogland, though it has yet to receive mainstream attention. Some details remain fuzzy, and we have yet to hear directly from the person at the center of the story, Ms. Cruz herself; and indeed we aren't likely to hear from her anytime soon because her case is currently under a court gag order.

Here's what we have so far: Cirila Baltazar Cruz gave birth to a baby girl, Rubi Juana, on November 16, 2008, at the Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It is, as you might imagine, a predominantly white area. The hospital provided Cruz with a Spanish interpreter. However, Cruz doesn't speak Spanish; she speaks Chatino, an indigenous language from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Two days after the birth, the hospital reported the baby as a neglected child to the Department of Human Services, after which Rubi Juana Cruz was promptly taken from her mother and placed in the custody of an affluent couple in Ocean Springs.

According to court records obtained by The Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, the child was deemed neglected in part because Cruz "has failed to learn the English language" which "placed her unborn child in danger and will place the baby in danger in the future". In addition, the hospital report noted that Cruz "was an illegal immigrant" who was "exchanging living arrangements for sex".

Of course, it's a bit of a mystery how they were able to establish these facts when there were apparently no Chatino-speakers on hand. More to the point: it's irrelevant. I'm no legal expert, but in my understanding, immigration status, language skills, and highly-questionable allegations of sex work are not grounds for snatching a baby from her mother and initiating adoption proceedings. But that's exactly what's happening. The case is currently in the Jackson County Youth Court, where Cruz is being represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. As mentioned, the case is under gag order so it's been difficult to get updates on the situation and the fate of Rubi Juana remains unknown.

Unfortunately, the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform's Child Welfare Blog notes:

The case is not unique. In 2005, the Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat, revealed that, at least twice, a local judge ordered Mexican mothers to learn English -- or lose their children forever. [...] In one case the child still lived with the mother, in the other the child was in foster care. In both cases, the mothers spoke an indigenous language rather than Spanish.

Over at Vivir Latino, Maegan La Mamita Mala places the story in the larger context of the "good immigrant vs. bad immigrant" narrative which has come to dominate mainstream liberal discourse in the immigration debate:

Quick. Choose. The house is burning and you have to choose. Your mother or your child? Who do you save?

Your mother, Maegan writes, "didn't make it like Sonia Sotomayor. Didn't graduate from college and in fact can't even speak English". On the other hand, your child has assimilated, can speak English, has received a formal education, and "won't be a burden on the system".

Is it the correct choice to abandon your unassimilated mother?

This is the morally untenable dead-end into which liberals propel themselves when they adopt tactical discourse which appeases the xenophobic forces of the right-wing for the sake of electoral expediency, rather than a discourse fundamentally grounded in universal human rights.

Now I'm not suggesting any less respect for the remarkable achievements of someone like Sonia Sotomayor. But when liberals hold her up as the shining example of The American Story -- a model minority, a false compliment with which Asian Americans are all too familiar -- they are actually Othering the majority of immigrants, ordinary hard-working people who have never had the opportunities or life situations or sheer good fortune to rise to such societal heights. The implication is that those less-accomplished immigrant stories are somehow less American, and therefore those other immigrants are unworthy of the magnanimous acceptance extended by the mainstream to a select few.

What is the plight of the unworthy? Ask Cirila Baltazar Cruz.

Please consider writing, faxing, or calling the presiding judge in this case and asking that (1) Rubi Juana be re-united with her mother, and (2) all adoption proceedings against the will of the mother be stopped. Here's the contact info:

Honorable Judge Sharon Sigalas
Youth Justice Court of Jackson County
4903 Telephone Rd.
Pascagoula, MS 39567
Call (228) 762-7370
Fax (228) 762-7385

ETA: Thanks to Maegan for sending me this radio interview, recorded on June 1, in which we hear from Cirila Baltazar Cruz herself (in Spanish and Chatino).

Cruz says she doesn't know why they took her daughter, though she calls herself "ignorant" for not being able to speak Spanish or English (though she does speak some Spanish, as you can hear in the interview). She's a homeowner in Oaxaca with two other children being cared for by her family there. She works at a Chinese restaurant in Biloxi and lives in an apartment owned by her employer — an arrangement which the hospital interpreter either misunderstood or misrepresented. Cirila says that the interpreter told her that she must leave her Chinese employer or lose her baby; furthermore, the interpreter offered her a job with a wealthy family who would take care of the child. When she refused the offer, the interpreter became irritated with her, and we know the rest.

Cruz says she wants her daughter back. All the information she receives from the court is in English. It was her cousin Esteban who implored the Mississippi Immigrants' Rights Alliance (MIRA) to get involved, which is how we now know about this case. Vicky Cintra of MIRA (also interviewed) says red flags went up at the organization when they learned that Esteban had been barred from serving as an interpreter for Cirila at the hospital, even though he repeatedly offered; he was told he would be arrested if he didn't leave. MIRA claims that the family that took custody of Rubi Juana are lawyers with connections to the judge; they threw a baby shower to greet Rubi's arrival.

November 18 is the next court date. We'll be keeping a close eye on this story.

In Which I Poo In The Punchbowl

So, I don't know how many of my dear readers have heard about the Swedish parents who have gained some media attention for refusing to disclose what genitalia their child has. They (correctly) think that the world as a whole will try to box their child in based on the contents of hir pants and they want to give hir a chance to just be hirself.

This has been met with mostly shock and accusations of abuse(?) which boggle the mind. Well, that isn't strictly true. It only boggles the mind if you aren't aware of how steeped in a gendered hierarchy we are. My fellow feminists, on the other hand, are aware, and have mostly reacted positively. I wish I felt as positive.

As much as I respect and agree with these parents for what they are trying to do, I think it is premature to suggest that this is going to make Pop's life any better. Part of the insidious nature of a system as powerful as the kyriarchy is its ubiquitousness. There is no such thing as "outside the kyriarchy." Unless Pop's parents plan on keeping hir at home and not exposing hir to any media what so ever, zie will still see these messages that we all are soaking in at the very least. If they plan to send hir to school, well...I just have an image in my head of some kid asking hir if zie is a boy or a girl, hir saying that she doesn't know, and having someone ask about, ask to see or force a peek at hir genitals.

I really wish it could work, and I wish Pop all the best, but I can't shake the cynicism that tells me that this will end poorly.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Random Thought

I once had someone ask me why "dickhead" was not a sexist insult if "cunt" was.

I think I have figured it out.

Almost every other insult that can be directed at a man doesn't actually insult him. It insults the women that are "his" in order to insult him and it does so by applying some of the same reasoning that makes calling someone feminine or a female body part insulting.

Case in point, the insults "son of a bitch" and "mother fucker."

The first is pretty obvious. You aren't insult the man on the basis of his gender, or using his body as a negative, insulting thing, you are insulting his mother.

The second is a bit more complex, but it implies that a mother is not desirable, or sexual and therefore there is something bad about having sex with them. Maybe it is intended to imply that the man is less than because he can't get anyone "better" and is a reflection of our culture's obsession with virginity and how that is a measure of a woman's worth. It could also be calling up echoes of the Oedipus mythos, implying that the man in question fucked his own mother, who cannot possibly be desirable because she is "old" and a mother and was supposed to have turned in her libido when his birth certificate was signed.

This is why I stick with "asshole" as my catch all insult.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Quote of the day

In the process of describing an event of being hit on at work to my spouse, and how I didn't really like it:

Spouse: "I'm sorry, baby. Was it positive or negative?"

Me: "Positive, I'm just a bitch who doesn't really like straight guys."

Spouse: "You know, sadly I'm not sure whether you're being sarcastic, ironic or serious."

Me: "A little of both really."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mrs. Slocombe, Are You Free?

Mollie Sugden, the British actress most well known for her role as "Mrs. Slocombe" in the britcom "Are You Being Served?" has died. She was 86.

Her character was the reason I wanted to dye my hair bright colors as a child, and is part of the reason why I can openly joke about my "pussy."

Molly, you were indeed a treasure, and I know I will miss you.

Brief Thinky Thoughts: Religion and Responsibility

Blaming religion for the actions of its adherents is like blaming the knife you used to stab someone for your choice to engage in an act of aggression.

Religion is not an independent actor with a will of its own, it is an object, a collection of thoughts, beliefs, and history with a heavy dose of myth/morality tales. Blaming the object one uses for the use you made of it is ludicrous, and is refusing responsibility for your own actions. The same applies for blaming someone's actions on their religious beliefs. You have essentially absolved them of responsibility, removed their agency and placed it in an object with no consciousness of its own.

Sense, this makes none.

Structures may encourage and support certain behaviors, but a structure cannot exist without people choosing to perpetuate it. The structure was created by the choices of individuals to begin with, and it maintains its shape through the choices of its participants. The structure itself is not sentient, does not have a personal purpose or aim. Society is nothing more than a collection of individuals.

In the end, religion is just word on a page that can be used to justify almost anything. If you dig below the religious justification, there is almost always something more there. People will use an object to further their own aims, and given the absence of a particular object, they will simply find something else to use.

If someone really wants to kill you, will taking away their knife prevent them from trying?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Letter to the queer/feminist/progressive cis blogosphere

The recent dust up over the term cisgender and/or cis and the question of whether it is insulting or hostile terminology?

It isn't. And if you feel insulted by it, it is a function of your fucking privilege. And your privilege does not make you a bad person. Its what you fucking do with it that shows what kind of person you are (and as a note for that particular link, it is an example of someone using their privilege to be a fucking asshole. THAT is what makes someone a "bad person" not the presence of privilege in and of itself.)

The term cisgender is nothing more than an indicator that someone is not transgender. Having a way to distinguish between multiple states of being without setting the one with privilege as the standard is an important step in acceptance and activism.

I am so fucking tired of the oppression olympics. Just because you are oppressed by nature of your gender, your color, your sexuality, your able-bodiness, your non/neurotypicality and any intersection of the above, you are still not excused from being able to be a fucking asshole to other people that you do have privilege over. Privileges v. oppressions are not a fucking tally sheet. You can't "cancel out" the privilege of being cisgender by virtue of being queer/disabled/of color/whathaveyou. I don't get what is so hard to understand. Your privilege shifts with context. A queer, able-bodied, neurotypical white guy who was assigned a male gender at birth and who experiences no dysphoria re: his gender identity will experience oppression in the realm of sexual orientation, but still receives male, white, able-bodied, neurotypical, cisgender privilege.

And as C.L. (who rocks so absolutely) helpfully points out, having privilege in certain areas does not diminish the oppressions one faces. It also does not give you a free card to be an asshole. If you have questions on where to start with the whole "not being an asshole" thing, go read this

For my part, I regularly use the term cis for myself because despite my gender-queerness, my public presentation and my gender assignment at birth match for the most part. I consider myself cis because while I face the same shit that so many other queer women do, one thing I won't have to fear is the shit that transgender people face just for existing.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Teaspoons! Action needed: Trans-inclusive ENDA introduced

From Monica at Transgriot:

“Today marks a critical milestone for our community and our country. Introduction of this important legislation signals the beginning of the end of a long-fought battle. For decades, a majority of people in this country have supported protecting their friends, family and neighbors from discrimination. Congress must act, at long last, this year." Rea Carey Executive Director, The Task Force

The day the transgender community has anxiously been awaiting this session has finally arrived. A trans inclusive ENDA was introduced in the House today by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) with bipartisan support.

The lead sponsors of the measure are Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Michael Castle (R-DE), George Miller (D-CA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), Todd Platts (R-PA), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), and Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

I'm waiting for the text of the bill to appear on THOMAS, but what ENDA will do if passed and signed into law is would prohibit and protect TBLG peeps against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity

The introduction of the bill is the easy part. We will now have to fight the lies of the Religious Reich, the GOP, Faux News, the conservative movement, and their negro sellouts in the Lo Impact Misleadership Coalition (the negro sellout version of the Traditional Values Coalition), their sheeple, and apathetic people in our own ranks.

You can do your part to pass this important legislation. Call, write or visit with your legislators in Washington DC if possible or back home during the August recess.

We need as Dr. Jillian T. Weiss calls it, a T-storm on this.

While there are rumors of shaky CBC support, I visited various offices of Congressional Black Caucus members and I was told by chiefs of staff and two congressmembers themselves they don't want a repeat of the 2007 ENDA fiasco.

I find those rumors specious and questionable, given that only one member voted against ENDA in '07, Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) and also voted against this year's hate crimes bill. Hope the Black GLBT peeps in Alabama remember that when his azz is running in the Dem primary for governor next year.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) voted against it in '07 because it wasn't trans inclusive.

The CBC is also chaired by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who has been a consistent supporter of trans inclusion and the GLBT community.

Just in case the rumors are true that CBC is squishy, those of you who live in the districts of CBC congressmembers definitely need to call them ASAP, especially if that member has a large homophobic predominately Black megachurch in it. The Hi Impact ministers like Bishop Hater (oops Harry) Jackson have already received their marching orders from Massa Lou Sheldon to kill it.

So people, open those e-mail programs, and get those telephone dialing fingers ready to roll. We have work to do and a bill to pass.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I hate my conscience

Reading this article by Renee of Womanist Musings made me really uncomfortable. That isn't unusual. Renee speaks her truth and does so bluntly. Her truth includes intense criticism of things that I get to take for granted, and if you can stay comfortable in a situation where your privilege is challenged, then you are doin' it wrong.

This is different.

In her article, she makes the point that prison rape is still rape and is still a crime and is still a violation of basic bodily integrity.

As far as my morals and my social/political positions, I agree completely.

But there is a twisted little worm in my gut that doesn't. An angry, scarred and vengeful part of me. I think of the people who are in prison for violating the bodily integrity of others, rapists...murderers...I think about the people they have hurt, and a part of me wants them to fucking suffer the pain they have inflicted on others. Yes, I realize they are still people, despite their actions...but why do they get the rights that they violated in others? Why do they get to live a life without that pain, fear and scars?

The logical part of me usually pipes up around here to remind me that revenge fantasies are not constructive, and to point out that I can't hope to help bring an end to rape culture and still tolerate it happening. How can I hope to help deconstruct this concept of shame in being penetrated, the power dynamics that create the current societal attitude toward rape, if I still, personally consider it a just punishment for a rapist? How will that accomplish anything besides continuing to reinforce the messages that excuse rape to begin with? It also points out to me that most justice systems are flawed enough that there is not always a certainty that the person in prison for the crime actually committed it.

These are not easy standards to live up to, and I can see just how far this seeps into our minds. Its what happens when you are soaked in rape culture for the whole of your existence, and if we want that to end, we have to be able to admit that we are a part of it as well.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

its all so clear!

The reason why all these conservative douche-canoes keep flailing about in an effort to keep queers from being treated like full citizens:

They are afraid of us.

We show them up for what they are, frauds, liars and weak human beings. They can keep lying to themselves about how they are doing everything right because there is no other basis for comparison, but since we show that love can look many ways and still be a positive thing, we put lie to their ideas and their very lives. They don't like options for all because they hate their own decisions and resent their own lack of options.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This is your world...

And we have another one for the "You have got to be FUCKING KIDDING ME" file.

Who thought this was a good idea? Which scumbag came up with it? WHO SUES A 14 YEAR OLD BECAUSE THEY WERE FORCED TO WORK IN THE SEX INDUSTRY!?

For the same of full disclosure, I have not a damn thing wrong with sex work of any kind, provided that all involved are consenting adults. And in the case of a strip club, as the group doing the hiring, it is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY to make sure their employees all fit the LEGAL FUCKING REQUIREMENTS TO WORK!

You do NOT get to sue a sexually abused CHILD because you were too fucking dumb or lazy to do your fucking job!

I hope a judge verbally beats the crap out of you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

But...We ALWAYS Know better! Don't We?

I saw a news bulletin on Twitter (oh Twitter, source of evil and loss of daily productivity ::shakes fist at sky::) that stated:

@BreakingNews: AP: Nicolas Sarkozy says France "cannot accept" that women are forced to wear full-body burqas.

And my hackles went up. My hackles always go up when I hear someone from a Western country who is not Muslim and/or is not obviously familiar with Muslim culture make comments about veiling, but when it is the head of state of a state that is not exactly the most tolerant of the practice, regardless of why it is occurring, my hackles go beyond up. They scurry off to get coffee and a shower before running to their part-time job as props in a were-wolf movie.

After poking around in my feeling of "Oh NO he didn't!" I finally got to the root of what was bothering me about the statement, I mean, besides my over-inflated sense of indignation.

When was the last time Mr. Sarkozy made a decisive public statement about the sexism that allowed him better access to the presidency of France? Oh wait...he has been too busy reinforcing the othering of Muslims and immigrants when they said they wanted to be treated equally.

It never seems to me that Western men who talk about the human rights abuses that women in some Muslim countries face are really all that sincere. There seems to be a tone of "oh those backwards brown people" that permeates the discussion on a very base level, but mostly what bothers me is the focus on what women are wearing. Why is it that whenever I hear about Western men decrying how women are treated in "those" places, it almost always ties back to the attitude of women being seen but not heard. Who cares if she chose to cover or not? We can't see her tits or ass! Isn't that what women are for? What about the rights of men to sexually objectify every woman they come across?

I did have a friend suggest to me that this may reflect a difference in collective v. individualist values, but again, considering France in general and Mr. Sarkozy in particular only seem interested in the choices of Muslim women if they are the choices that allow for the women to be fully on display, I find that perspective not only a hard sell, it makes me think of this bridge some guy once tried to get me to buy. It did seem kinda too good to be true...

It seems, like so many other men out there, that Mr. Sarkozy, and France itself apparently, cannot accept the idea of women who choose not to be sexually available and in the public eye. Congrats to Mr. Sarkozy on being the same shit, just a different day.

(For more on related issues please see my ongoing Veiled Contempt series: Veiled Contempt - Introduction (aka The "Why I Opened This Can o' Worms" Edition), Part One: "Hijab" (aka "The Mythnomers and Impervections" edition), and Part Two: "Hijab"(aka "The Fashion Statement That Isn't, Or Is It?" edition))