Saturday, October 4, 2008

Biden and gay marriage

Since the debate, I've had several discussions with people about Obama/Biden and gay marriage, and earlier today I posted a hideously-long comment on my favorite comedian's blog about the same issue. As this is something I both feel strongly about and that I'm trying to work through in my mind, I thought I'd re-post that comment here and explore my thoughts a bit more.

First of all, here's what I said in a comment on Bridget McManus' blog where she was expressing righteous indignation at the response to the gay marriage question:
I was furious with the way that Biden handled the gay marriage question, but I can't say that I was surprised. Obama has made it very clear that he's hedging his bets as far as LGBT issues are concerned, and I think it's part of the Obama/Biden platform that they're for gay rights and LGBT equality but anti-gay marriage as a way to appease their more conservative voters. Personally, I disagree with this strategy, but I understand the impetus; it's idiotic but quite possible that something as minor as open support for gay marriage could cost the Democrats the election and no one wants that to happen.

On the one hand, Biden is openly against "don't ask, don't tell" as a discriminatory policy and wants same-sex partners to have equal rights under the law. A quote from his government website: "Senator Biden believes legal recognition should not be denied same-sex couples. He advocates for re-examining federal laws, including the tax code, to ensure our national laws are not unfair to same-sex couples, and that committed adults who are adopting are not discriminated against because of sexual orientation. He supports letting states determine how to recognize civil unions and define marriage."

So basically he's pro-civil unions and equal domestic partnership benefits (if not "marriage" per se), anti-discrimination and pro-equal rights in regards to adoption. That sounds pretty heartening to me, and I'd like to believe that he'll follow through with that mandate, and encourage Obama to do the same, should they be elected.

On the other hand, the marriage question is an important semantic one, and I completely agree with you that someone needs to stand up for gay marriage rights (that's what I really liked about Hillary Clinton, but alas...). Intellectually, I can understand the need for hedging (i.e. civil unions instead of "marriage") even though it's a complete bullshit dodge and stupid that anyone cares what it's called. But personally and politically, I realize that refusing to call same-sex partnerships "marriage" is a symbolic way of refusing to acknowledge that same-sex relationships are equal and the same as heterosexual relationships.

I don't have much to add to that except an extended version of something that I said to vpass in the comments section of my live blog of the debate. Gay marriage is a huge issue. I am a lesbian, I support gay marriage (not just civil unions), and I do not think that it's okay to suggest that same-sex couples should be satisfied with civil unions so that we don't encroach on the "sanctity of marriage." Be that as it may, gay marriage is not my only concern right now. I want a strong economy, good (universal) health care, intelligent foreign policy decisions, equal rights and pay for women, and equal rights for LGBT people and families. I trust Obama/Biden to provide all that, and not just in contrast to the dire platform of the McCain/Palin ticket.

I'm extremely steamed up over the issue of gay marriage, but, in the grand scheme of things, I cannot pretend that's all that matters. The personal is political, but the political is not always personal. That is to say, I don't think Obama and Biden really are against gay marriage. It's a line that they feel they have to feed us to keep moderates happy (maybe they're right about the necessity of this semantic play or maybe they're wrong--we can't know, and I'm becoming more and more convinced that this election is too important to take that risk, although it's a risk someone needs to be willing to take very very soon).

Obama openly opposes Proposition 8 in California (which would ban same-sex marriage). As for Biden, I'll leave you with this excerpt from Joe Biden's Meet the Press interview with Tim Russert:
Q: In November 2003, you were asked, "Do you believe gay marriage is inevitable?" And you responded, "I'm not sure. I think probably it is."

A: Well, I think it probably is because social mores change. But I don't think the government can dictate the definition of marriage to religious institutions. But government does have an obligation to guarantee that every individual is free of discrimination. And there's a distinction. I think government should not be able to dictate to religions the definition of marriage, but on a civil side, government has the obligation to strip away every vestige of discrimination as to what individuals are able to do in terms of their personal conduct.

Q:So New Hampshire coming out in favor of civil unions is OK by you?

A: Yes. Yes, it is.

Does this really sound like someone who is against gay marraige? Or does it sound like someone who's a politician and can only say the "socially-acceptable" shadow of what it is they actually believe?

What do you think? Frustrating, but politically-wise hedge that we can live with...for now? Or unacceptable no matter what?

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Feminist Rap?

Note: some of this music is rather offensive - be careful if you're at work, etc.

I don't pretend to really understand hip-hop culture. The subtle nuances of rap are quite lost on me. (The only rap that I really listen to is nerd-cord (rap for computer geeks) and parody/humorous rap). So, I started research for this post not knowing quite what to expect.

Still, it's fairly obvious that most hip-hop is incredibly misogynistic. When rappers aren't rapping about how they did/are right now/will kill someone, they are bragging about their sexual conquests, calling women 'hoes' and 'bitches', insulting people's mothers, and calling people gay.

But rap is also one of the primary musical vehicles for social protest - given the existence of such politically focused groups as Public Enemy, it seemed almost a given that feminists would be making rap, too.

Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.

Women in hip-hop are rare, except as sex-object in music videos. Among women artist, feminism is pretty much non-existent. A search for 'feminist rap' only turns up an Australian group that isn't so much rap as comedy. NOW NYC has a list of 'feminist-certified rap'. Feminist-certified apparently means 'only marginally offensive', for the most part. An NY Times article published in 1990 gives the same impression of the state of the industry - 'feminist' hip-hop is mostly either anti-racist, or merely co-opts male sexuality. Things haven't changed much since then.

The most popular female hip-hop artist, Missy Elliot, is pretty much a textbook example of the problem. No, she not presenting herself as a sex object all of the time, but listen to 'Shake Your Pom-Pom'. Just lovely, isn't it?

Let's listen to 'Gigahoe' by Shazzy - one of the better songs I found:

Notice the gender reversal of the 'hoe' concept. This song comes across less as offensive than as an expression of power. But still, nothing really impressive.

Now, 'Gotta Get A Grip' by MC Trouble:

The rap itself is about racism, and it's very powerful in that regard. I also like the dynamic between Trouble and her manager - it's pretty obvious who's in charge.

Then, of course, there's Choice. Don't listen to any of her music unless you have a very thick skin. She takes the absolute worst aspects of male sexuality (endless bragging about conquests and number of partners, complete hatred of the opposite sex, insane competition with others of their own sex, obsession with genital size, etc.), and using them almost unchanged. And she incredibly homophobic as well. I suppose it's good that she exists - it's interesting to see how things look with the sex reversed, but two wrongs definitely don't make a right in this case.

So, unless I've missed something big, rap is probably the most non-feminist music in existence. I'd love to see some MCs consistently rapping about sexism and feminism, for a change, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon.

Let's end with one of only a few truly feminist rap songs: 'U.N.I.T.Y' by Queen Latifah
(Embedding was disabled on this video, click to listen.)

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Register to Vote

H/T Appetite For Equal Rights

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Live Blogging the VP Debate

I'm getting set to live-blog the VP debate. I think I need a gin and tonic. Preemptively. More behind the cut... Oh, and feel free to comment as we go along if you have anything to add.

9:02pm: Wow. How did I not know Gwen Ifill was moderating?

9:04pm: Okay, so far so good (in the first 30 seconds): Biden sounds reasonable and calm. That's my biggest fear; that he'll get self-righteous the way McCain was last week.

9:05pm: Do you think perhaps Palin may be a pod person? How come one minute she can sound totally composed and then the next she sounds like she doesn't even know what "politics" means?

9:08pm: I'm glad they're looking at each other and not interrupting Gwen Ifill (so far), but Palin is just reciting talking points like nobody's business...

9:10pm: It seems to me that the questions Gwen is asking are a lot easier/more straightforward than the presidential debate questions. A lot more opinion questions and questions that set-up for Biden and Palin to support their running mates. Is this normal? Or is this part of the new more-scripted debate format?

9:13pm: Didn't McCain make that comment about Obama taxing people who make as low as $42,000 and the fact-checkers showed that wasn't true. Oh wait, that's what Biden just said. Never mind.

9:15pm: Okay, what Palin just said about McCain and government regulation vis-a-vis tax cuts didn't make any sense to me.

9:16pm: A little part of me (very tiny) wants to be happy that there's a woman up there during the VP debate. And then I remember who she is and I have to smack myself. That's kind of scary.

9:19pm: Okay, Palin, that health care rhetoric you spouted is just crazy-talk. Oh yes, universal health care sucks. Why would we want that? And how many times does it have to be explained that Obama's plan is not government-run in the way McCain/Palin are making it out to be.

9:24pm: I can't decide if it's good or bad that Sarah Palin sounds relatively smart and together tonight in comparison to earlier this week (even if I don't agree with her and she's making stuff up). Good: It doesn't make her look completely stupid so people can't say, "oh, women can't handle politics." Bad: It doesn't make her look completely stupid so she may regain her footing after the ridiculous Katie Couric debacle. Or maybe not.

9:31pm: Okay, now I've lost you Palin. That climate change response is the most roundabout thing I've heard recently. The "effects of impacts"?

9:33pm: It's freaky how much Sarah Palin and Tina Fey look alike, especially when she smiles. I find this particularly frustrating because I like Tina Fey. A lot.

9:35pm: "Drill, baby, drill," is the scariest slogan ever. And drilling can be compared to raping the continental shelf, Gov. Palin. Sorry, it just is.

9:36pm: Gwen Ifill is awesome! I can't believe she just asked about LGBT rights. Also, she's way better than Jim Lehrer at interrupting the candidates.

9:38pm: AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH. Sarah Palin is "tolerant" of gays (she only used the word about ten times in 90 seconds). Great.

9:39pm: I hate that Obama-Biden have to be officially anti-gay marriage (even though Biden used to be for gay marriage). I understand the political strategy, and I know that they are waaaay more gay-friendly than McCain-Palin and that they won't suddenly try to add something to the constitution about marriage being between a man and a woman, but it still frustrates me.

9:47pm: She really likes saying Ahmadinejad. Maybe proving she's not like Bush and can actually pronounce words.

9:50pm: Diplomacy is "hard work by serious people." Wow. I didn't know that.

9:56pm: Yes, Biden. We don't want anymore Bush. Okay, Palin? So you better learn how to pronounce "nuclear."

10:02pm: Well, Biden, I'm glad to hear you don't "have a stomach for genocide when it comes to Darfur." Do you have a stomach for genocide in general? What a funny turn of phrase.

10:03pm: Almost everyone voted for the war, didn't they? And, as for this argument Palin keeps making regarding Biden disagreeing with Obama during the primaries, all Biden needs to say is that they're different people and that's it a good thing that they have individual opinions about issues and work out those issues and through those issues as a team. Urgh.

10:06pm: Again with the "winning" of wars. Oh yes, because we won Vietnam, didn't we?

10:08pm: Palin just winked at the camera. Seriously. Oy.

10:10pm: Again the annoying tax argument. Obama is not going to raise taxes for the middle class. Argh.

10:11pm: "Now doggone-it!"

10:14pm: Yes, let's get back to education. For example, how can you claim to support education if you want to teach creationism (thereby undoing the separation of church and state) and don't want comprehensive sex-ed.

10:18pm: Good question about what they feel their weaknesses are, Gwen. Too bad Palin didn't feel like answering you.

10:21pm: Biden almost started crying. I'm sure people will see that as heartening and moving instead of thinking that it's over-emotional. Can you imagine what people would say if Palin got all choked up? Not that she would. Doesn't seem her style.

10:25pm: Not vetoing budgets? That's what you're using to compare with Biden's discussion of judiciary procedures in the Senate? Okaaay.

10:30pm: "Back in the day when men and women were free?" Wahuh?

10:31pm: Nice closing, Biden.

I appreciate that Bob Schieffer just pointed out that Palin often didn't answer questions and just stuck to the talking points.

And Katie Couric just called Palin and Biden "happy warriors," referring to their civil, composed debate. Why I think that's so hilarious, I don't know.

I probably should have been watching CNN and its live voter meter. That would have been fun. Now I'm going to go retroactively read the The Huffington Post's live blog of the debate. Check it out:
Right off the bat, Palin makes her move: I will OUT-MIDDLE CLASS YOU, JOE BIDEN (Can I call you, Joe? Yes? Great!) Parents at their kids soccer games, expressing fear over the economy. My parents weren't nearly so distractable at my soccer games, but then, my play was probably poor enough that they feared for my life.

Biden hewing to the Bill Clinton manual on "How To Attack John McCain." He's a great guy, but he doesn't get it. Palin, though, is completing sentences, with subject-verb agreement and anything. Four buzzwords, though: TEAM OF MAVERICKS, NEW ENERGY, JOE SIX-PAC, HOCKEY MOMS. Start marking off your bingo cards.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Link round-up

While we're all gearing up for the Thursday debate (I will be live-blogging again, so stay-tuned) and we're distracted by our plummeting life savings, I thought I'd post a link round-up with a few recent stories of interest that you may or may not have come across yet.

Viva October!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There's a great post about breast cancer awareness over at BlogHer.

October is also LGBTQ history month. Check out the Human Rights Campaign website and my favorite LGBT entertainment site After Ellen or its brother site After Elton. And, don't forget, National Coming Out Day is October 11.

Reproductive Rights

The second two links are courtesy of Feministing. One good...
Planned Parenthood came out with a recent ad about Governor Palin forcing women to pay for their own rape kits when she was major of Wasilla:

One scary...
Colorado amendment would value zygotes over women.
I just moved to Colorado, and now I'm sad that I decided to stay registered in Virginia instead of registering here (although there a number of reasons why that would have been really difficult). The few months I've lived here, I was actually surprised how liberal Colorado seemed to me, even though I live in a pretty small city. But maybe it's true what Jon Stewart said about Colorado during the DNC: "There is absolutely no middle ground in this state: You're either a rapture-awaiting Promise Keeper or you drive a car that runs on gorp." Nevertheless, this possible amendment totally freaks me out. And that's an understatement.

Politically speaking...

Bill O'Reilly (::coughcrazyscaryfuckingassholecough::) compares Nancy Pelosi to Hitler:

An interesting article from the New York Times about the new President, the Supreme Court and international relations: When Judges Make Foreign Policy.

On a lighter note...

From Womanist Musings, Renee has a short, compelling post up about her period, which I really appreciated since it bugs me to no end that menstruation is still something I don't quite feel I should be talking about--especially not in detail--to any but my closest friends.

From Racialicious: Entertainment Weekly claims that there are fewer successful female rappers because record labels don't want to pay for their ostensibly higher hair and make-up costs.

And sign the petition over at The Hathor Legacy to convince MGM executives to put more of the 1980s female cop drama Cagney and Lacey on DVD (so far only the first season is out).

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Monday, September 29, 2008

How desperate are they?

Is it just me or does anyone else find the most recent TV Guide cover (a fold-out double cover, no less, like a centerfold) problematic? I could probably spend an hour trying to qualify why it bugs me so much but I'm not sure it's worth the effort, and I probably would just be stating the obvious. Or, isn't it obvious?

(click to enlarge)

What do you all think?

This posting brought to you by a very different sort of desperate housewife, courtesy of Simone de Beauvoir:
In this insanity the house becomes so neat and clean that one hardly dares live in it; the woman is so busy she forgets her own existence. A household, in fact, with its meticulous and limitless tasks, permits to woman a sadomasochistic flight from herself as she contents madly with the things around her and with herself in a state of distraction and mental vacancy. And this flight may often have a sexual tinge.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Feminist Flashback #4

This clip is from Chantal Ackerman's 1976 feminist film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. It's an amazing, three hour domestic odyssey that follows two days in the life of a Belgian single mother. Her activities are recorded in real time--we may watch her peel potatoes for ten minutes or sit with her while she has her daily coffee. I'll admit that when I went to see a beautiful restored print of the film at the Dryden Theatre I anticipated being bored out of my mind, but went out of a sense of feminist duty. In fact, I wasn't bored at all. I was enthralled. In this restrained, intense and brilliant portrait, we watch as the clockwork precision of Dielman's quotidian life--her obsessive, almost robotic, adherence to order and her set schedule of daily events--scatters and devolves slowly and subtly towards an inevitable climax.

Jeanne Dielman is not available on DVD in the US, but it's often screened at colleges and universities and may be available in some university libraries. I recommend seeing it on the big screen, if possible. If you ever notice that it's showing somewhere nearby, go. It's amazing:

Has anyone else seen this film? What did you think?

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A Quick Cheer for Google

While I certainly do not always agree with everything Google does, I am very pleased with their recent decision to come out against California's Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriage.

Check out co-founder Sergey Brin's open letter on the official Google Blog:
However, while there are many objections to this proposition -- further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text -- it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 -- we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.

Word, Google. Word.

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