Saturday, November 1, 2008

Music for the Election

Here's some music for the election:

First, something from before women were even allowed to vote. I couldn't find any online recordings of music from the Women's Suffrage movement, but here's a song that anyone can sing (Sing it to the tune of 'Auld Lang Syne'):

I have a neighbor, one of those
Not very hard to find
Who know it all without debate
And never change their mind

I asked him "What of woman's rights?"
He said in tones severe--
"My mind on that is all made up,
Keep woman in her sphere."

I saw a man in tattered garb
Forth from the grog-shop come
He squandered all his cash for drink
and starved his wife at home

I asked him "Should not woman vote"
He answered with a sneer--
"I've taught my wife to know her place,
Keep woman in her sphere."

I met an earnest, thoughtful man
Not many days ago
Who pondered deep all human law
The honest truth to know

I asked him "What of woman's cause?"
The answer came sincere --
"Her rights are just the same as mine,
Let woman choose her sphere."

(For the curious, a few other period songs can be found here.)

Much has changed since that time. Women can vote now, and we are at least equal according to law (for the most part). Than again, look at how much has stayed the same! Society is still full of drunken jerks who despise women and abuse their wives. Everyone still has a know-it-all neighbor like that. People might not use the phrase 'women's sphere' anymore - but when was the last time you heard someone talk about "women's role's", or heard a "why isn't she back in the kitchen" joke? It's all rather depressing.

So, here's something a little more positive!

I know, I know, everyone's heard that a million times - but I still think that "We Shall Overcome" is fascinating. Notice that it doesn't say what we are overcoming, just that we are. And yet, it's completely obvious to anyone that listens, that we are overcoming injustice, hatred, violence, intolerance, fear - and this universal understanding gives me hope that we really can overcome.

In any case, just remember - whatever happens in the election, this guy is out of there!

Everybody vote!

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A message to Sarah Palin...

...from some American girls:

(Janet, thanks for the link)

On a related note, even though I'm not thrilled about the prospect of talking to strangers (an understatement, really), I finally bit the bullet and signed up for some last minute volunteer shifts for Obama's campaign. Please don't assume that the race is already won. It could still be a close call on Tuesday, and I for one don't want to be heartbroken again like I was in 2000.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

If Not Now, When?



• As the economy became the single most critical issue in the election, the role that women play in our economic structure has never been clearer. Women are the backbone of the nation’s workforce and control 70 percent of its buying power.

• The candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, while inspiring women and girls around the country to imagine what can be, exposed extreme gender bias in the media and throughout our culture.

• Women, who make up 56 percent of the voting population, were targeted as never before as the critical bloc that would determine the outcome of the election.

In 1961, as the nation grappled with the issue of women in the workplace, President John Kennedy convened the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as its chair. Kennedy recognized the moment was right.

That was 47 years ago, and it’s time to do it again. As in 1961, women are at the forefront of our political discourse – and we are committed to keeping them there.

A record number of women are seeking ways to participate more fully in all aspects of American life, politics and policymaking. A Presidential Commission on Women is the right vehicle to initiate a national conversation on the future of women. If Not Now, When?



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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You don't have to be a fan of marriage to support marriage equality... just have to believe that all people should be equal in the eyes of the law.

It's Write to Marry Day, and I've decided to join hundreds of other bloggers (Yes, hundreds. The list of contributors over a Mombian's blog is already over 200 blogs long!) to write about the importance of marriage equality for same-sex couples.

I'm actually not a huge proponent of marriage in general. Partner benefits, family health benefits and legal recognition of my relationship with my partner -- Yes. Marriage as a normative cultural institution with the white dress and bells -- No. I feel strongly that marriage has become more of a religious and/or commercial institution than a civil one, which makes me extremely uncomfortable (separation of church and state, anyone?). Also, I personally do not feel that I need a ceremony to prove (and prove to whom?) that I love my partner. That said, I'm not wholesale against marriage (although I'm in full support of Renee's ode to unmarriage and agree with Cara that the whole institution is pretty messed up) nor should my personal feelings reflect on what other people choose to do with their lives and in their relationships. I may not be keen on marriage myself, but I would never presume to impose my views on other people.

What I fail to understand is how anyone can make an argument against same-sex marriage on any grounds, religious or otherwise. I think the moralizing "traditional marriage" argument is ridiculous and wrong wrong wrong, but at least I've grown accustomed to the fact that when it comes to some religious institutions people don't seem to have any qualms about saying they're better or more worthy than other people. If you don't have the false judgmental security of "God on your side" (whatever that means), what's your excuse? Everyone should be outraged by this blatant discrimination, because that's what it is. And it scares me that so many people don't see it that way. It may seem like not that big a deal. It's just marriage, who cares? But if you claim you're against same-sex marriage for any reason, no matter how you rationalize it, you're really just saying that you think LGBTQ people are less than, that we don't deserve the same rights as everyone else. And we all know where that line of thinking leads.
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

~Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945
Unless you think, as some people do, that equality is un-American, I find it hard to even wrap my mind around the outright discrimination implicit in denying same-sex couples the right to marry. Even more mind-boggling? The lying and coercion perpetrated by those opposed to gay marriage. You can bet your hat that if the "liberal elite" were trying to deny, I don't know, say, right-wing conservatives the right to marry each other, there would be an outcry of discrimination to beat the band. And rightfully so. But apparently, in the eyes of some, only certain (straight) people are equal in the eyes of the law.

California's Proposition 8 (which would make same-sex marriage illegal) and Florida's Amendment 2 (which would not only legally define marriage as between a man and woman, but also disenfranchise unmarried couples whether homosexual or heterosexual -- thanks to Britni for the info) are discriminatory and hateful. Please, if you live in either of these states, vote NO. If you don't live in either of these states, consider donating time or money in these final, crucial days before the election. I just made a $25 donation to Equality California because that's all I can afford right now. My partner made a donation as well. Why are these votes in California and Florida so important when we don't even live there? Because every state-wide opposition to same-sex marriage is another blow to LGBTQ freedoms and rights across the country (it all has a ripple effect).

It doesn't matter if you're straight, gay, bisexual, or asexual. It doesn't matter if you never plan to get married, if you're hoping to get married one day in a big church with all the frills or if you married years ago at City Hall. We should all cry out in outrage against laws that seek to discriminate against a group of people, regardless of if they effect us personally or not.

"Your silence will not protect you." ~ Audre Lorde

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Porn Wars and Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality

Yes, I know that's a scary post title.

Today I'm writing about an exercise in stretching my brain and my opinions on porn. That's important to do, and books like Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality by Gail Dines, Robert Jensen, and Ann Russo are the background for dialogues about porn and sex work today.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I read this book for a research project I'm doing for my Women's Studies honors thesis. I'll be examining "feminist" porn and the tactics it uses to address critiques like the ones brought up in Pornography. I'm starting by reading a whole slew of books written by anti-porn feminists so that I can be fluent in their criticisms of porn.

One of the things that was striking to me in reading this book was the way the authors framed their arguments in relation to sex-positive feminists who they called "sexual liberals." The first couple of chapters were devoted to naming and disputing "sexually liberal" criticisms of anti-pornography feminism. As the book went on it got a little more nuanced, but the first two chapters set the tone for the narratives about porn.

I'm probably not going to make myself popular with people on either side by saying this, but I have a huge problem with the divisiveness we see surrounding the issue of porn in feminism. It's a problem on both sides, and I think it's really unproductive.

I agree with the anti-porn feminists that a lot of porn does represent and reinforce the patriarchal gender roles of our society. Including a tendency towards violence against women.

I agree with the sex positive feminists that porn can be a very powerful tool for exploring and expressing female sexuality. I think that any consciously navigated choice to be sexual as a woman is an act of rebellion against the stupid virgin/whore complex.

Which, by the way, is hugely at play in the conflict between these groups. The anti-porners basically call the sex pos-ers whores for advocating for what they see as the always patriarchal representations of sex in porn. The sex pos-ers call the anti-porners prudes for criticizing sex and porn and fucked up power dynamics between men and women.

It's a bad show.

I'm having a real "Ack! I've been identifying solely with one side of this argument, but I think the other has solid points too!" kind of moment.

I still think that the sex positive movement has a more productive approach to porn: actually making porn and REconstructing gender roles in it by altering the circumstances of its production and consumption. However, I don't think they'd be much of anywhere without the efforts of the anti-porn movement to highlight the sexual inequalities that are prevalent everywhere.

I think that where the anti-porn movement reacts to a negative sexual situation in our country, the pro-sex movement acts to change it. That's why I'm writing about feminist porn; I want to see how they're doing.

After that long word vomit, back to the book. I did really like the last few chapters where the authors talked more about their personal interactions with porn and how it affected them emotionally. These three closing essays showed, finally, a much more complex view of how to deal with porn.

I think that in the end the three authors are somewhat open to dealing with sex positive types (or "sexual liberals" as they're called in the book). I hope that we can all find a common ground. We're all working towards the same thing anyway: equality between men and women.

Cross posted at Paper Cuts and Plastic.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Women in Rwanda

Just a quick post today to encourage you check out an article in today's Washington Post about how women in Rwanda are taking charge. Apparently Rwanda's parliament is the first in the world to have a female majority.

An excerpt:
Women hold a third of all cabinet positions, including foreign minister, education minister, Supreme Court chief and police commissioner general. And Rwanda's parliament last month became the first in the world where women claim the majority -- 56 percent, including the speaker's chair.

One result is that Rwanda has banished archaic patriarchal laws that are still enforced in many African societies, such as those that prevent women from inheriting land. The legislature has passed bills aimed at ending domestic violence and child abuse, while a committee is now combing through the legal code to purge it of discriminatory laws.


"This was a broken society after the genocide," said Aloisea Inyumba, Kagame's former gender and social affairs minister, who was also a prominent official in his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front when it was still a rebel group fighting the country's genocidal government. "We made a decision that if Rwanda is going to survive, we have to have a change of heart as a society. Equality and reconciliation are the only options."

The article is part of a special report on women in the world. So go. Read more.

(H/T My Parents)

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Monday, October 27, 2008 and Slut-Bashing

One of my friends just sent me a link to a new "social networking" site called Juicy Campus. According to the home page, "this is the place to spill the juice about all the crazy stuff going on at your campus. It's totally anonymous - no registration, login, or email verification required."

What this means is that students have free reign to post whatever, anything at all, about anyone or anything. So of course it's a huge racist, sexist, classist, sizeist, ableist, just-prejudiced-in-general party.

If I had any extra time this semester, I'd want to write a research paper about this site. It takes all the bigoted tensions under the surface of our culture and brings them right out into the light. I mean, it's pretty awful stuff on there and it kind of sucks to read it, but it's fascinating nonetheless.

I've never seen more obvious examples of slut-bashing than on the site. I'd say a majority of the posts on the site (or at least on the pages for my college) are about specific girls and their sluttiness. (They cut off search results at 150 posts so I couldn't compare the number of "slut" posts to anything.) It's just a reminder of how hurtful that stuff can be.

There were a couple of girls from my school who were specifically targeted over and over again. One of them bravely stood up for herself on the site and said that she knew the posts were mostly made by a guy she rejected. Shocking, right, a girl labeled "slut" because she wouldn't have sex?

If you read Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation by Leora Tanenbaum, which I highly recommend, you'll find out that the slut label is often completely disconnected from sex. Not always, of course, but a lot of the time it's just a way to punish girls who aren't "normal," who dare to be "deviant" in some way. It's a punishing word, a weapon.

It is also, of course, a word that reinforces sexual stereotypes and the female gender role. By forcing girls and women to toe a line between being called a slut and being called a prude, patriarchal culture keeps our sexuality strictly controlled. We have to fight hard in order to have a respectful, healthy relationship with our own sexual desires. It's yet another way the patriarchy strips our personal power, leaving us so caught up in living up to its standards that we don't notice how ridiculous they are and throw them over.

In the last year or so, I've been on a personal crusade to stop slut-bashing when I find it. It doesn't always work, of course, because some people are stubbornly mean. There are lots of people, though, who don't think about what they're saying when they call a girl a slut. "Do you mean she has a lot of sex? Sex is fun. Why is that bad?" actually gets a pretty thoughtful response, especially if someone's using the word in a way unconnected to sex. "Do you mean you think she's mean and you don't like her?"

So I encourage all of you to combat "slut" when you hear it. It's such a "small" thing, but it makes a big difference in individual people's lives, and it's the combination of a million small things that leads to big patriarchy.

Cross posted at Paper Cuts and Plastic.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Feminist Flashback #8

For some reason, all the previous Feminist Flasbacks have been video clips of one sort or another; that situation needs to be rectified. I am, after all, an art historian (sort of...but that's another story). So, Fourth Wave Feminism's Feminist Flashback for this week is Judy Chicago's (in)famous 1979 installation piece The Dinner Party:

The Dinner Party has inspired some controversy both within feminist art and in the more male-dominated art world. It was and continues to be an extremely popular piece (housed permanently now in the Brooklyn Museum of Art. However, it's been criticized by third wave feminists for its essentialism and lack of criticality (among other things).

Each plate, placed around the large triangular table central to the installation, is designed and crafted for a different woman from history. The installation includes not only the table, but also wall panels with historical descriptions of the women represented, floor tiles covered in the scripted names of hundreds of other women who were not given individual plates, and hanging tapestries with texts about the eternal unity of women. Each place-setting is elaborate, the ceramic plates carefully designed and crafted, and the tablecloths intricately embroidered to emphasize certain aspects of each woman’s life or accomplishments. The motifs for almost all of the designs are vaginal, emphasizing an identification of female sexuality with biological destiny (one of the factors that allowed deconstructivist feminists to denounce the work as essentialist).

For more information, and a contemporary feminist prospective, check out the April 2007 Washington Post article "Her Table Is Ready: Judy Chicago's 'Dinner Party' Is Still a Conversation Piece."

For more images and a virtual tour, you can check out the Brooklyn Museum's Dinner Party website.

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