Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rick Warren petition

Sign the petition.

At this point I'm not sure how much good this will do -- I wonder if Obama is capable, unlike Bush, of admitting when he's made a mistake. This is setting such an awful tone for the inauguration and the start of what was shaping up to be an exciting new term. I worry what other surprises are in store.

Check out Rachel Maddow's take on the Warren situation:

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69th Carnival of Feminists

The 69th Carnival of Feminists is up over at This is What a Feminist Blogs Like. It's a great selection as always, so go check it out!

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Friday, December 19, 2008

So. Not. Good.

What. The. Fuck.:
It is difficult to comprehend how our president-elect, who has been so spot on in nearly every political move and gesture, could fail to grasp the symbolism of inviting an anti-gay theologian to deliver his inaugural invocation. And the Obama campaign's response to the anger about this decision? Hey, we're also bringing a gay marching band. You know how the gays love a parade.

Yes, the Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of the humongous, evangelical Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., has a sound message on poverty. And certainly, in the world of politics, there is a view that Barack Obama owes Warren for bringing him before fellow evangelicals, despite fierce opposition during the heat of the presidential campaign.

But here's the other thing about Warren, the author of the bestselling book "The Purpose Driven Life": He was a general in the campaign to pass California's Proposition 8, which dissolved the legal marriage rights of loving, committed same-sex couples.

For that reason, inviting Warren to set the tone at the dawn of this new presidency sends a chilling message to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. It makes us uncertain about this exciting, young president-elect who has said repeatedly that we are part of his America, too.

(I just got settled in at my parents' house for the holidays and this was a rude jolt out of my relaxed, happy holiday state. Argh. Thanks, Fred, for the links.)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Music - A Feminist non-issue?

On Saturday, I sat down and tried to write a post about popular christmas music from a feminist perspective.

I failed.

You would think it would be easy. Almost anything can be related to a feminist perspective - after all, feminism is basically a way of life! Surely these songs would contain gender stereotypes, exploitation of women and children within the 'traditional' family, an obsession with now-you-owe-me-for-the-rest-of-the-year gift giving, endless heteronormativity, etc. Failing that, there's always rampant consumerism - that's all the holidays are about anyway, right?

I couldn't find any of these things - certainly not enough to write about. It wasn't for lack of trying. I read all of the lyrics for all of the popular songs (there really aren't that many). I listened more christmas music than I've ever listened to in my life. (Okay, some idiot was blasting it out of their dorm window...) I even found a few random essays on pop music and christmas. Still nothing. I was mostly left with a feeling a vagueness. The songs are vaguely happy. They are vaguely about 'goodwill to all men.' Vaguely heteronormative. Vaguely patriarchal. Nothing strong enough to write about.

Part of the problem is, most christmas songs aren't about real people! Snow, candy canes, lights, presents, Santa Claus - those are the staples of holiday music, not relationships and people.

Songs which are about people, ('I'll Be Home For Christmas', '(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays'), never mention gender; notably, they have all been covered by a fairly equal number of male and female artists. The 'Little Drummer Boy' could become the 'Little Drummer Girl' with the change of one word in the title. Even songs that are mildly sexual ('Baby, It's Cold Outside' comes to mind) are only made gendered by some minor references to typical male-female conversation patterns (and I'm pretty sure I've heard the voices reversed in that song, too.)

Excluding commercial jingles, there aren't many songs about consumerism, either. There's 'My Favorite Things' which is mostly about 'things' of the raindrop variety, and other intangibles. I'm also pretty sure that wanting a hippopotamus isn't too harmful, either. Everything is just so fuzzy and fluffy!

Perhaps that's the point. The whole idea of a christmas song is to forget all of your problems, ignore the real world, and pretend that everything is happy and fun. But, if you are happy about something, and you go around telling everybody what exactly you're happy about, it's likely that someone else won't be happy about that thing. You can't please everybody, but christmas songs try so hard to please everybody that they end up saying nothing at all.

Take 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'. "From now on/ our troubles will be out of sight", it says. Notice that the only reason given, is that 1: it's christmas, and 2: lots of family members will be there. I'm not at all sure what the 'shining star' on the 'highest bough' business is about. Finally, notice that the song is 'Have your self...' not 'Have ourselvles...' The singer is apparently not having a Merry Little Christmas. Perhaps she (for some reason, the singer is always female in my mind) knows that the person she is singing to can't handle reality, can't know true happiness for lack knowledge about the world.

Most people hide from reality most of the time. They live in their little localized fantasy, not caring beyond their immediate experience. That's why so many people support senseless wars and discrimination against anybody but themselves. That's why so few people do much of anything beyond what makes them happy. And christmas, despite its supposed message of 'goodwill to all ', only reinforces this feeling. It's christmas - we're supposed to be happy, even if we don't know why, even if there is no reason to.

Am I just a humorless, angry feminist? Probably... but I'm certainly not opposed to being happy! What I am opposed to, is mindless happiness for no reason. And yet, that is just the feeling I get from all of these songs.

What do you think? Have I missed some feminist issue that christmas music raised? Has my personal dislike for these songs blinded me to their value?

Next week, religious christmas music.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Feminist Flashback #15

I'm not feeling particularly well (evil, pre-holiday cold coupled with below zero temperatures = not fun), so I apologize for my lack of posting. Nevertheless, here's today's Feminist Flashback, from Valerie Solanas' fascinating (originally self-published) book, The SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto (full text available). For those who don't know, Solanas is infamous for shooting Andy Warhol in 1968. After she was released from the mental hospital where she was imprisoned, she fell off the map and died in the late 1980s in relative obscurity. While her manifesto is sometimes brushed off because she was "just that crazy radical lesbian feminist who shot Warhol," it's actually a pretty amazing piece (with the caveat that she falls way off the deep end at points throughout: for example, when she talks about killing all men). Below the cut, you'll find some excerpts from the manifesto and some clips from Mary Harron's 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol, starring Lili Taylor. If you haven't seen it, you really should.

Valerie Solanas, on "pussy envy":
Completely egocentric, unable to relate, empathize or identify, and filled with a vast, pervasive, diffuse sexuality, the male is pyschically passive. He hates his passivity, so he projects it onto women, defines the make as active, then sets out to prove that he is (`prove that he is a Man'). His main means of attempting to prove it is screwing (Big Man with a Big Dick tearing off a Big Piece). Since he's attempting to prove an error, he must `prove' it again and again. Screwing, then, is a desperate compulsive, attempt to prove he's not passive, not a woman; but he is passive and does want to be a woman.

Being an incomplete female, the male spends his life attempting to complete himself, to become female. He attempts to do this by constantly seeking out, fraternizing with and trying to live through an fuse with the female, and by claiming as his own all female characteristics -- emotional strength and independence, forcefulness, dynamism, decisiveness, coolness, objectivity, assertiveness, courage, integrity, vitality, intensity, depth of character, grooviness, etc -- and projecting onto women all male traits -- vanity, frivolity, triviality, weakness, etc. It should be said, though, that the male has one glaring area of superiority over the female -- public relations. (He has done a brilliant job of convincing millions of women that men are women and women are men). The male claim that females find fulfillment through motherhood and sexuality reflects what males think they'd find fulfilling if they were female.
On War:
The male's normal compensation for not being female, namely, getting his Big Gun off, is grossly inadequate, as he can get it off only a very limited number of times; so he gets it off on a really massive scale, and proves to the entire world that he's a `Man'. Since he has no compassion or ability to empathize or identify, proving his manhood is worth an endless amount of mutilation and suffering and an endless number of lives, including his own -- his own life being worthless, he would rather go out in a blaze of glory than to plod grimly on for fifty more years.
On the government:
Having no sense of right and wrong, no conscience, which can only stem from having an ability to empathize with others... having no faith in his non-existent self, being unnecessarily competitive, and by nature, unable to co-operate, the male feels a need for external guidance and control. So he created authorities -- priests, experts, bosses, leaders, etc -- and government. Wanting the female (Mama) to guide him, but unable to accept this fact (he is, after all, a MAN), wanting to play Woman, to usurp her function as Guider and Protector, he sees to it that all authorities are male.

There's no reason why a society consisting of rational beings capable of empathizing with each other, complete and having no natural reason to compete, should have a government, laws or leaders.
On Art:
The male “artistic” aim being not to communicate (having nothing inside him, he has nothing to say), but to disguise his animalism, he resorts to symbolism and obscurity [...] “Great Art” is great because male authorities have told us so, and we can’t claim otherwise, as only those with exquisite sensitivities far superior to ours can perceive and appreciate the greatness, the proof of their superior sensitivity being that they appreciate the slop that they appreciate.
Oh, and one of the parts about killing people:
But SCUM is too impatient to wait for the de-brainwashing of millions of assholes. Why should the swinging females continue to plod dismally along with the dull male ones? Why should the fates of the groovy and the creepy be intertwined? Why should the active and imaginative consult the passive and dull on social policy? Why should the independent be confined to the sewer along with the dependent who need Daddy to cling to? A small handful of SCUM can take over the country within a year by systematically fucking up the system, selectively destroying property, and murder.

And, last but not least, some clips from I Shot Andy Warhol:

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