Saturday, November 8, 2008

Change: It's alright

We've been hearing the word 'change' rather frequently the last few months. Too much, for those of us who dislike slogans. But whatever our feelings toward the word itself, most will agree that all of the talk about change has paid off. Perhaps now we'll get some of the change we've been asking for.

Ordinarily, though, few people really like change. It bothers us. Our situation must be extremely bad before we start to really crave changes. Change is frightening. Change is uncertain. Change is, well, change. Sure, things might get better - but they also might get worse. Who wants to take the chance?

But we have to. Look where women's rights, worker's rights, civil rights in general were at 50, 100 years ago. 150 years ago slavery was legal, even praised. Women were property in all but name (and often in name, too). The idea of equality was just barely being considered. You can argue that some things are worse now than they were then - but not in general, not on average.

Amazingly enough, most of the time, change is, well, alright:

I'm feeling philosophical tonight, so let's ignore the literal meaning completely, and focus on some interesting thoughts that this song conjures up!

Firstly, while change might be alright, is isn't completely wonderful. This is really the song of the US right now. Right now, some people are wildly joyful and full of hope. Some are torn between two emotions, alternating between extreme anger and extreme happiness. Some (myself included) are merely cautiously optimistic. Some are very depressed or angry. Some are just trying to feed themselves. But we voted for a change - we hope we'll get it. We certainly won't have a perfect government - but maybe, just maybe, it will be an alright one.

Secondly, we can't not change. Something didn't change recently. It was something that should have changed, but it didn't. (I'm referring to prop 8, of course). The status quo should have been altered; instead it was reinforced. And while we don't like change, we resist it, we fight it - when it needs to happen, it must happen. This time, it didn't.

And that is not alright.

Lastly, and perhaps this only is my inner hopeless romantic talking; despite everything, I feel like it really is alright. Change or no change, steps forward, steps backward, things are slowly getting better. And as long as we can talk about it, can sing about it, can write about it, there is hope for change.

Change that is - alright.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

So Sexy So Soon

The dangers of hyper-sexualizing children have been well documented. Dads (and moms) are distressed by, frightened by and sick of the onslaught of “sexualized” messages and images raining down on our daughters—and sons.

Two women for whom I have the greatest respect have written a guide for parents on how to deal with this problem: “So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect their Kids” by Dr. Jean Kilbourne and Dr. Diane Levin. Jean and Diane are veteran researchers and advocates on marketing to children and I’ve shared platforms with them many times through the years. This new book is very, very needed and very well done.

For children today, learning about sex too soon is only one problem. Another serious issues is what the authors call “the synthetic and cynical source of a child’s information.” Popular culture and technology shower mixed and developmentally inappropriate messages on young children who don’t yet have the emotional sophistication to understand what they are hearing and seeing.

The result: kids have distorted, unhealthy notions about sex, sexuality, their bodies, relationships, gender—the list goes on. On top of that, some kids are getting into increasing trouble emotionally and socially by engaging in precocious sexual behavior. We are left with little girls wanting to go on diets so they can be “sexy,” little boys getting suspended from school for sexual harassment, and parents in desperate need of guidance.

“So Sexy So Soon” provides it. If you’re the dad (or mom) of children today--or if you care about human relationships--read it.

(Joe Kelly runs,/ blogs @ and has written books about healthy father-daughter relationships.)

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Carnival of Feminists Submission Reminder

Hey folks,

Don't forget to submit your posts (anything from the past couple weeks) to the 68th Carnival of Feminists here at Fourth Wave.

For now, there's no theme, as long as your posts are somehow related to feminism. You can submit posts by filling out the online form or sending an email directly to me at fourthwave[dot]feminism[at]gmail[dot]com. Submit away! It's an excellent way to network and introduce your blog to a different audience of readers.

Also, feel free to encourage readers on your own blog to submit their posts! I've already gotten a few excellent submissions, but I'd love to have a nice long list of great links.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My words say nothing

I'm pretty torn up about Prop 8, but I keep trying to remind myself that it passed by a far narrower margin than similar initiatives in 2000. That's a sign of progress, however dim.

That said, everyone has been writing about Prop 8 today, which is heartening in its own way. Now that we've elected Barack Obama, we need to turn our focus to LGBTQ rights. That's the next civil rights battle of the 21st century.

And since I can't quite muster up the energy to say more than that, I'd like to share some words of anger, wisdom, and hope from some others around the blogosphere. My own words today just aren't enough:


From Brianna's post, here at Fourth Wave:
The effects from this will last far, far longer than almost anything else in this election. It's just incredibly depressing. I still can't believe it passed - in fact, my conservative parents were surprised it passed! The message is clear. If California can't defeat a marriage amendment, nobody can. I'm guessing Massachusetts and Connecticut will both pass amendments as soon as they can.

From Cara over at The Curvature:
California voters didn’t just cast their ballots to deny rights to their fellow citizens. That would have been bad enough. California voters cast ballots to take rights away.

I don’t understand how this could have happened. How can you vote to revoke the rights that people already have? How could you do it in such large numbers? How could it happen in California, of all places? And with hindsight being twenty-twenty, I’m kicking myself. What the hell was I doing phone-banking for Obama? The man won by a monumental landslide. Why didn’t I give my time to Prop 8 instead? Why was I so wrongly comfortable? How did we let them win?

From Bill Browning at The Bilerco Project:
The LGBT community supported the Democratic ticket. We supported change and hope and equality. We supported our fellow Americans as we reached for the stars. And we won. Today is the day.

But I'm not joyful; I feel robbed. Americans didn't support the LGBT community. Instead, we've been slapped back into place with marriage amendments in Florida and Arizona and an anti-gay adoption law in Arkansas. The ultimate insult, the California marriage amendment to strip LGBT couples of their right to marry, looks poised to pass even though opponents rattle lawsuit sabers and refuse to concede until all absentee and provisional ballots are counted.

I don't feel hope; I feel despair.

From Thomas at Feministe:
Today is a day of both triumphs and disasters. When we went to bed last night, We were not saved, if maybe a little more than We had been the day before. And this morning We are more broken than We were when We went to bed. But today as yesterday, We fail, and We fall short, and We do the wrong thing, and our country is broken. So I’m not celebrating. And that the ways We fail often benefit me personally isn’t a comfort — it’s a rebuke of my complicity. Every day I benefit from it I cheat people who’ve never wronged me; who I’ve never met.


From Lesbiatopia:
For the first time, in a victory speech, a President included ME, as a gay person, in his remarks. [...] He didn't trip over the word GAY. It didn't sound dirty. Or Shameful. It it belonged. [...]

However, thousands of people who are this morning patting themselves on the back because they helped elect the first African American president, also voted to write discrimination against gays and lesbians into the Constitution.

The irony is painful.

How can we travel so far forward AND backward in the same night?

From lindabeth at don't ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me:
Even more, just like there is so “natural” definition and understanding of marriage–that it is a human construction that can be defined differently, the way we have organized societal obligations along the lines of marriage is also a construction, and so can be constructed differently. That we take the married family to be the social unit upon which our social assumptions are made is something that needs it change; it does not reflect the interests and realities of many Americans’ lives and their desired choices today. We have to stop foreclosing ways to organize one’s economic, reproductive, and sexual needs, as well as the way we wish to form relationships commitment other than heterosexual marriage. Just like heterosexual marriage is not what is always has been defined as, social organization does not have to be what it always has been. We can be creative in the way we organize our lives to meet our needs, if we can only decenter marriage as the central, normative, ideal set of living arrangements.

From Bo Shuff, also at The Bilerco Project:
No community has had their rights recognized simply by asking for them. We must get to work. [...]

Our work starts today anew. We are the agents of the change we demand from the people we put into office. WE, as a community must being the lobbying process and grass-roots work needed to ensure that the laws and policies of our government move further toward Equality.

Write or call the campaign office of any new Member of Congress, Senator and President Obama and remind them of what we did. Every donation you made and any hour you volunteered should be fresh in their heads as they move toward Washington and take their oath of office.


From PortlyDyke at Shakesville:
When I was 17, the thought of being accepted as a queer in my family, or in society at large -- the idea of being "out" at a job -- any job (except maybe a gay-bar) -- simply did not exist.

At the time, I was pissed about this at some level -- but it was a vague, subconscious kind of anger -- and I would never have expected it to be addressed in the media or a topic of conversation outside of the secretive community that I inhabited as a queer.

Now, at 52, I'm pissed again -- but this time, my anger is out in the open.

That may be bitter cause for Hope -- but it is, for me, Hope, nonetheless.

And last, but not least, from Queers United:
We are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual, and straight allies. We must be united and not divided in our fight for true equality for all sexual and gender minorities. We have our differences, but our passions are the same. We want to live our lives as who are, with whom we want, and the way we want. We want protections for our families. That is our vision that is our hope, please don't give up. We never thought we would see the day when an African-American man becomes president. Now we know we will see the day for a brighter America, where the rainbow will shine and one day LGBT people too will rise above the bigotry and hatred that the majority has bestowed upon us.

Updated to add: Feminist Law Professors just posted this update about Proposition 8 litigation. It's a good sign, but doesn't change the fact that half of California is opposed to equal marriage rights for LGBTQ people.

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Well, the election is over...

And now, we'll find out that the government is still broken, Americans are still in debt, big corporations still run the world, people are still suffering and being exploited, and the president can't really do anything about most of it.

Don't get me wrong - I'm very glad Obama was elected - but an election always seems to be far more important than it really is. Congress is still the same weird inefficient mess, lobby interests are still far too important, the voice of the people still ignored. People are still stupid and ignorant and biased. Obama likely won't be able to pass most of the legislation that he really wants to, and four years from now, the US will still be in about the same place it is now. I hope it will be better, but that remains to be seen.

It's just another election.

A couple of important things happened, though. One is very bad, and the other very good. Hopefully, the good outweighs the bad:

The bad: California's Proposition 8. It failed. The effects from this will last far, far longer than almost anything else in this election. It's just incredibly depressing. I still can't believe it passed - in fact, my conservative parents were surprised it passed! The message is clear. If California can't defeat a marriage amendment, nobody can. I'm guessing Massachusetts and Connecticut will both pass amendments as soon as they can. (Side note: I have this theory on ballot measures. It seems like it is much easier to pass them than to defeat them, almost as if a certain number of people just vote 'yes' without actually reading it first! I think that some LGBT rights organization should get an amendment started somewhere that allows gay marriage - it just might work! I have no real evidence to support this, though!)

The good: We just elected the first Black president! Irrespective of any policies, legislation, judiciary appointments, or other actions that Obama and the new Congress might make, this fact alone will have a wonderful effect. I can't count the number of times that I heard someone say how "terrified" they were of Obama being President. When pressed, they would always say that they thought that Obama was a socialist. That wasn't it, of course. Most people don't have an irrational fear of socialists - and Obama isn't any more socialist than other Democrats (or Republicans, for that matter!) anyway. Heck, Teddy Roosevelt was a socialist! No, people are scared of Obama because he's Black, pure and simple. And I'm excited about the effect that having a Black president will have on the country, on rights for people of color, for women, for any marginalized group.

Bigoted people will see that they were fools. People with latent and subconscious racism or sexism will be pushed toward a better viewpoint. Everyone will realize that the country is better when it's not just being run by White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestants. And most importantly, when people say, "In America, anyone can try to accomplish whatever they want. Anyone can be elected President.", it will not just be an expression, a legal technicality.

It is now the truth.

(Crossposted at Constant Thoughts)

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Apologies if this post speaks “too much” about men and fathers---I wrote it for my daughters.

And, with apologies to Oprah, there are three things I know for sure: I am a white man about to turn 54. I was born in 1954, the year that the Supreme Court ruled school segregation illegal in Brown v. Board of Education—probably the most important civil rights decision ever. Until this year, it never occurred to me that a Black or biracial person would ever be elected President of the United States in my lifetime…or in the lifetime of my twin 28-year-old daughters. Like the majority of voters, I happen to have cast my ballot for President-elect Obama. But no matter who we voted for, we fathers and daughters are living through a stunningly historical moment in our national history.

During the course of this campaign, my heart warmed to hear how often Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama (and Ms. Palin, Mr. Biden, Ms. Clinton and other candidates) expressed love and concern for their daughters during the campaign. As an advocate for Dads & Daughters (to borrow a phrase), my faith in people’s respect for father-daughter relationships was vindicated.

Last night, I shed tears listening to Sen. McCain’s honest, healing and patriotic speech; listening to the President-Elect’s call for mutual effort and sacrifice…and listening to my own daughters describe their amazement at the election’s outcome.

All I could think to tell them, through a choked voice, was this: “I am so grateful that you lived to see and experience something like this. And that Mom and I lived to see and experience it, too.”

This morning, I can articulate more clearly why I am so grateful. No matter what one’s political persuasion, November 4, 2008 was a thrilling and humbling reminder of the unfolding miracle of the idea of the United States. Despite our troubles and problems (and, too often, our cynicism), we are all stewards of a remarkable, ongoing experiment of a Republic.

And as a member of the fraternity of fathers, I feel this morning like my life is some reflection of that. At (almost) 54, I’m not an old man. But in the course of that relatively short lifetime, the United States has gone from a place where the children of middle-aged fathers (Black and White) were murdered because Blacks wanted to ride a bus, attend a college—or cast a vote. In my lifetime.

And in the lifetime of us fathers and our daughters, the son of Black and White parents became our President-Elect last night. Whatever happens next, please make time today to ponder with your daughter how we all made history this week.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I've never listened to John McCain so closely in this entire campaign as right now.

I'm am stunned. I still can't quite believe it. That was so fast...

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Live election results

And we wait, with baited breath...

Vote. Vote. Vote.

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Monday, November 3, 2008


I was out canvassing today (or, more properly, reminding people to vote and leaving information about their polling places), and I'm nervous and excited and terrified and buzzing with energy. I'm also exhausted and getting a cold, but I still wanted to post a quick reminder before I collapse for the night with all my fingers and toes crossed.

Please vote, if you haven't already. Make sure all your friends have voted. Remind people on the street to vote. If you can, volunteer to help out tomorrow at a polling center near you to make sure voters aren't disenfranchised and to encourage people to hold out even if the lines are long.

The time for change is now.

Also, my sincerest condolences to Obama and his family for the loss his 86-year-old grandmother Madelyn Dunham. Barack and his sister issued a statement. Such a tragedy that she didn't live to see the election, but how wonderful that she lived to see her grandson achieve so much already.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Feminist Flashback #9

(click to enlarge)

In retrospective honor of Halloween, today's Feminist Flashback is a clip from Charles M. Schultz's beloved 1966 classic Peanuts cartoon, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown:

And, as a timely bonus (though not really feminist), I've included a clip below the cut from "You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown":

Don't forget to vote!

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