Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Generation's Heart Torn Out

I torment The Youth of Today with my old-ass music and observe that it's Not Good when our youngest and brightest are struggling like this. This is not what a country with a future looks like.

Which Americans? Which Feminists? Which Women?

I had to sit around thinking about this post for awhile because I knew I was not getting something.

I'm a slow learner, but I've learned this much: I've learned not to draw from that itchy, uncomfortable, this-feels-wrong feeling the automatic conclusion that the stimulus must be wrong. I've learned to consider that it might be me who is wrong.

So, this post at La Chola: I didn't know what to do with it besides share it in the Google Reader, because I hoped to come back to it. I think I will just take you through what I thought at first to what I think now, and if we're lucky, what I think now will evolve into what I think later, and it will improve with more time and more thought. Why not? Most things do. Okay? Okay:

Why the particular emphasis on “Muslim countries”? Does Ms. Pollitt think that “Muslim countries” are particularly hostile to women’s rights for some reason?

At first, I thought, well, hell, BFP: Don't you know how many right-wingers like to attack American feminism on that basis?--That "American feminists" don't care, don't do enough for, don't mobilize as quickly in response to, the problems of women in "Muslim countries?" Don't you know how often we hear that? Hell, I started receiving hits on an old post at Pandagon just this weekend over that. The post from which my work was linked was titled, "Iran Oppresses Women--American Feminists Silent." So American feminists get this all the time. What are we supposed to do, ignore it? Let that meme propagate unchallenged?

That was my first thought.

My second thought was, "Of course BFP knows this happens. She never said it didn't happen. Why are you responding to that? Why aren't you addressing what she said?"

My third thought was, "Wait, what'd she say again?" Because ADD.

I had to read that post several times and then let it bake in the rusty, unevenly heated oven of my mind. And finally it occurred to me: "If feminism is FOR WOMEN--not just American women, not just white women--then women in Muslim countries are right there in women's conversations; not being talked about, not being lectured at, but being talked with and listened to. They're THERE, if feminism is working right--and thus there is no need for American feminists to write letters showing how much we care about them. They can write their own letters if they want to. Or they can be smart like American white feminists ought to have been and realize that you don't ever win anything playing purely on your opponent's terms."

The opponent's terms here are:

1. Women in Muslim countries need American feminists to do things for them.
2. Women in Muslim countries are unable to do things for themselves.
3. Women in Muslim countries lack their own feminisms and need American feminists to show them how it's done.

And, of course, the real idea behind this particular wingnut criticism:

4. This would all work out just grand if we enlightened Americans went into Muslim countries and showed them how it's done. Forcibly.


If I could pick only one thing I ought to have recalled back when I was thinking "we'll just FORCE Western democracy on folks across the globe" was, God forgive me, a good idea--if I could pick only one thing to have remembered, here's what that one thing would have been: I would have recalled that most of the Western democratic benefits I personally enjoy did not come from Republicans or conservatives.

Wasn't Republicans who ensured my reproductive rights.

Wasn't Republicans who founded the ACLU.

Wasn't Republicans who came up with Miranda rights.

Wasn't Republicans fighting police brutality.

Wasn't Republicans securing my right to vote.

None of the things conservatives and/or Republicans (they are not necessarily identical) want to export to these poor picked-on (by whom again?) "Muslim countries" are things they themselves had shit to do with--and in fact, they're things conservatives have traditionally opposed. Women don't need reproductive rights because it's God's will if you have a baby. People don't need civil liberties because you should trust the state to look out for you. People don't need Miranda rights because only hardcore criminals benefit from them. Police don't need the hassle of investigation because their jobs are very hard, you don't understand. And women don't need to vote because look at all the stupid ways they vote OH HEY LOOK, IT'S ALL ABOUT ME AGAIN.

There's no need to go sending a damn letter with a billion women's signatures on it to prove American feminists care about all the bad things going on in those crazy mysterious "Muslim countries." Repeat! There's NO NEED. What we "American feminists" NEED to do is stop playing defense. We need to stop accepting the dishonest terms being bandied about by utter jackasses with selective recollections of basic ninth-grade history.

We need to go on the offense and ask, "What have American conservatives done for the women of their own country?" We can win that one and easy, because guess what the answer is?--"Jack shit" on a good day, and "the high hard one without so much as a reach-around" on a bad day--and lately, we've had more bad days than good.

Finally, we, American feminists, for lack of a better term, need to quit thinking of other women on the globe as Far Away and Over There, as women to be talked about but never to. Yeah yeah, I repeat that a lot, but I run out of clever ways to write it, and it's true.

If Muslim women had been properly acknowledged and listened to from the start, we wouldn't be hearing this criticism because our critics wouldn't know where "American feminists" left off and "Muslim women" began. There would be no "American feminist" label with all the assumptions wingnuts tack onto it. An American feminist in the conservative view is white, heterosexual, cisgendered, unattached, middle- to upper-class, college-educated, abortion-obsessed, insular, grasping, selfish, and shallow.

And if there were such a label, it would be so obviously crafted by wingnuts and it would so obviously fit no actual people that--just as we do with swamp creatures, dragons, and wicked witches--we could, as grown women with some sense, ignore the whole damn thing.

Instead, we're ignoring each other. Perhaps this should end.

UPDATE: Magniloquence kindly emailed to say I would really like this post at Tiny Cat Pants, and as usual, Magniloquence was right. Oh, now, don't fall over dead and make me send the paramedics! I like this particularly:

. . . isn’t this the way we do it? We refuse to pay attention to what folks are telling us about their experiences, convinced as we are that we treat everyone the same, completely willfully unaware of how assinine that is.

People don’t want the right to be like me (or you, rather, because, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s good fun to be like me). They want the right to be respected on their own terms for being themselves.

Yes! Is that so crazy? I don't think that's so crazy.

Magniloquence also tells me that there are many d00ds crying butthurt in the comments to that post, something about how the marginalized are obligated to make sure they phrase everything Just Right. Yes, yes, I know: That AGAIN.

Anyway, I throw that out there for those of you who have been wondering when I was going to get back to my usual shtick of picking on the d00ds, but I am busy today. Perhaps you could gently assist the be-penised over at Tiny Cat Pants yourself? Or if you're not feeling that generous, I hear you. Me neither, at least not today. If you prefer to just point and laugh and groan and eyeroll, please consider this safe space in which to do that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sacramento Doesn't Get Many Love Letters

So I'm linking this one. Sacramento is the city my family moved to from New Jersey when I was just out of kindergarten and I am childishly pleased to see someone appreciate it. Angelenos can call Sacramento "Cowtown" all they want to; what would they know? They live in the smog capital of the U.S. The lack of oxygen affects their brains.

(Still recuperating over here. More later in the week, I hope.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm Getting a Cold and You're Getting a Link Roundup

Damn it, I was just applying my frustrated maternal instincts to worrying about Nezua's health, and now I've got to worry about my own. Don't tell me you can't catch colds over the internet! I knew something didn't feel right when I was working out yesterday but I put that down to a combination of, ah, hormones, and my foolishly having let three days elapse since the last workout. Now here I am chugging green tea and, as cocaine once was to Lindsay Lohan's nose, so Zicam is to mine. I repeat: DAMN IT.

Let's get this done so I can get back to bed, huh?

The Unapologetic Mexican: Nez releases his introductory video for the MTV Street Team '08 project (Digg it here, kplsthx), chills with some brainy dude with fabulous hair, and proves that there are in fact ways to make pussy jokes that don't demean women. (Hint to the guys: Make yourself the true butt of the joke, and even feministy crabasses like myself will laugh at it. There! You're welcome.)

The Hathor Legacy: "Dear Target shoppers: We here at Target won't deal with any nontraditional media outlets who are not James Lileks, so take your outrage over this ad and shove it." Oh well, the Target near me sucks anyway. Nothing's ever in stock and all the employees have that "please kill me" look that brings the whole store down, not that I blame the employees so much as the management for that, but you know what I mean: It's frustrating and depressing to shop there. So now I just won't! Thanks, Target!

My Private Casbah: Two excellent posts examining class privilege, and one righteous rant:

You know, people with disabilities really take a lot of shit off of people. We put up with the casual use of words like "retard", "nut job", "lunatic", "vegetable", every damned day. We generally don't go around blowing up any nursing homes prisons just because we know how inhumane they are even though some folks have no problem with this sort of "direct action". We put up with shitty housing, illegally inaccessible government buildings, and condescending store clerks every effing day. We are raped and told that it was our own fault. Yet, we still put up with that shit.

Many of us just don't have the energy to fight every instance of injustice that we personally experience. Taking on the entire ableist system is more than most of us are willing to do. But here's the thing: Why should we have to do it? Why aren't YOU people fixing yourselves? Why should we have to stop you from trying to eliminate us completely?

The thing that's amazed and often horrified me in online discussions of Katie Jones' "Do Not Resuscitate" sign is how often people will quite glibly determine what is "best" for Katie based on what they would want done if they were in her shoes.

Stop and think about that for a minute.

I like to think (let's pretend I'm younger and a lot more fertile here for a moment) that I would never have an abortion outside of a very, very few extenuating circumstances. Yet I support safe, legal, accessible abortion for all women. What if I said instead, "Well, I'd never want one--the very contemplation of having one fills me with horror--so you don't need one either?" That's right! I'd be a fervent anti-choicer!

I do two things with respect to abortion: (1) I keep in mind that there are some things one can only know through direct experience, so for all I say "I would never," the fact is, I don't actually know what I'd do if I had an unplanned, dubiously-desired or not-desired-at-all pregnancy. I couldn't know until I got there. And (2), I keep in mind that not everyone is me, not everyone wants what I want, not everyone thinks what I think.

This is my polite way of saying that "I would rather be DEAD than live like that" is a shit argument, okay? You don't actually know what you'd rather, it's a grossly offensive sentiment to harbor about people with disabilities, and not everyone is You, Wonderful You. It's a shit argument. People need to stop making it.

La Chola: For Allies: How "Gender Trumps Race" Plays out in the Real World:

I just wanted to point this out so that those who are committed allies to women of color can see plainly and clearly what women of color are talking about when they say that they have serious issues with how they are written out of ‘feminism’ and ‘justice’.

Speaking purely from my own experience and no one else's (I can't emphasize that enough), what I have found is that women written out of feminism and justice are usually perfectly willing to tell me why this is so--if I listen. If I ask the question honestly, or better yet, if I take the time to go looking for the answers myself, I WILL find the reasons. It's when I enter into my query with the (unstated, often suppressed or camouflaged) aim of arguing women of color out of how they feel or what they believe that my problems arise.

I saw a white person online recently complaining that all s/he ever got told was to listen to people of color, and that was terribly unfair, because this person had So Many Good Ideas! about how to fight racism! Well, the analogy is not perfect (no analogy ever is), but I would suggest that white feminists flip that complaint around to see how it fits: How do we feel when men complain that they have such good ideas about how to fight sexism, but instead we keep telling them to start by listening to women--and our insistence that they listen more and talk less is so unfair to men? "Cry me a river, dude," is normally my response to that one.

And via La Chola again, more on life on the border:

The trip to Mexico was a privilege, not only because I literally learned the privilege that my passport afforded me, but also because I returned fundamentally changed. I thought I knew much more than your average American about the special relationship between the Southwestern US and Mexico. I grew up in the Bay Area of California, where Cesar Chavez was loved almost as much as Martin Luther King Jr. I grew up knowing about migrant labor and how the growing seasons all along the West Coast, from Oregon to Baja, complemented an itinerant, agricultural workforce. I thought I knew, since half the cities I could call to mind were Spanish – San Francisco, San Jose, Modesto, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles. I somehow knew as a child that Anglo-Californians were interlopers on an already-occupied land.

I thought I knew, but since the passage of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) things have drastically changed in the US and Mexico, especially for the working poor. The Mexican economy has tanked, and for working-class Americans, by 2000 NAFTA accounted for a job loss of more than 400,000 American manufacturing jobs (probably many, many more by now). But more significantly, when Americans found new employment, they made only 77% of their former wages. Wages in the US are now at their lowest in terms of buying power since 1955. In Mexico, the situation is much worse.

Zuky: Repost--Eight Images
You don't have to be a brilliant photographer yourself to enjoy this collection of images. I will sneak you in one here just to tempt you to view them all:


Green is the New Red: Movement Watch: Grand Juries Against Puerto Rican Activists:

According to BreakAllChains, in one recent case the FBI claimed to be investigating “the extremist group: The Welfare Poets.” The Welfare Poets is a collective of artists and activists.

The danger of grand juries is that they’re a legal black hole. The government can haul in activists, question them about their political beliefs and political associations, and throw them in jail if they refuse to cooperate. Even if activists walk in the grand jury room, but don’t answer questions, it still creates mistrust among other activists because grand jury deliberations are secret

Your tax dollars are hard at work subpoenaing social workers, graphic designers, and "artists and activists." Do you feel safer?

Writeous Sister Speaks: Gloria Steinem: Mis Dos Centavos. Out of all the excellent coverage of Steinem's atrocious op-ed, I am most partial to this post by Aaminah Hernandez:

The most obvious, to me glaring, proof that Steinem is making a sweeping statement about the feminism of women who don’t vote for Clinton is in this statement:

“…some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age. “

To me, this reads as

a) young women aren’t radical enough (i.e. not “feminist” enough)

b) young women live in a fairytale land where they “hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system” so they are simply not as smart as the rest of us (i.e. not “feminist” enough)

c) young women aren’t showing proper appreciation for the efforts of the older feminist waves by not supporting a woman for president (i.e. not “feminist” enough)

d) thank God for the older, radical, feminists who can save the young women from their misguidance by voting Clinton into office

e) women of color do not exist and have no reason to feel a squeeze between supporting a candidate of color versus a female candidate

f) heaven forbid a woman is voting based on actual politics and chooses to support a white man instead of the colored or female candidates - because then she is just a flat-out traitor (Considering how many people, including Steinem, who have said this race shouldn’t be about race or gender, it is amusing how race and gender is all they want to talk about and how clear it is to women that voting in another white man is a glaringly bad decision because for the first time we really have choices!)

Aaminah is persuasive and compelling here. Don't miss out!

Donna Darko: Third-wave Feminism. Donna looks at the formation of the third wave and contrasts it with mainstream feminism now. I winced to read it, but that was not Donna's fault. No excerpt because you really do need to read the whole thing with this one.

Finally, Jill of Feministe has an exciting new gig at Alternet. And not to diminish the significance of that achievement, but I have to take a moment now, before I run out of steam here, to defend Jill's taste in music.

Feminists, lay off bashing the pop divas. REPEAT: LAY OFF THE POP DIVAS, especially if they sing better than the Indigo Girls, WHICH THEY DO, OKAY, IT'S NOT EVEN UP FOR DEBATE.

First of all, there is nothing wrong with Mariah Carey that really good material can't fix. Mariah with 90% of her catalogue is a technically gifted singer with, as a commenter piggybacking off Dorothy Parker put it, a range of emotions that runs the gamut from A to B. But Mariah + the right song = chills up spine. And hell, YOU try packing convincing emotion into most of the pablum masquerading as pop music today. You aren't going to do any better at breathing new life and sincerity into cliché than Mariah does.

Second of all, everyone is allowed at least one Beyonce in her life. My Beyonce is named Britney Spears and she's not at her best right now, okay, but BACK OFF. Don't make me start crying.

Third of all, Shakira is amazing and that's final.

You know what all three of those women have in common? I mean, besides that they're all beautiful women of color?--Their presentation and style are full-on feminine. Why the fuck does a woman have to act like a man to get any respect from the indie music snob crowd? Or commit terrible crimes against innocent consonants like Natalie Merchant? Your rules SUCK, music snobs, and they aren't even particularly feminist. There can be ways for women to express themselves in music beyond PJ Harvey and Chrissie Hynde and Beth Ditto. Fucking accept it.

UPDATE: In fact, some diva nostalgia might be just what the doctor ordered.

Yes, AGAIN with the short-shorts.