Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Naming of Things

NPR's series This I Believe allows people to share their ideas and their beliefs. Eve Ensler (yes, she of The Vagina Monologues) says it's the naming of things that leads us to a healthier life.
Language has the capacity to transform our cells, rearrange our learned patterns of behavior and redirect our thinking. I believe in naming what's right in front of us because that is often what is most invisible.
By naming vagina repeatedly in her show, a world movement to end violence against women began.
Naming things, breaking through taboos and denial is the most dangerous, terrifying and crucial work. This has to happen in spite of political climates or coercions, in spite of careers being won or lost, in spite of the fear of being criticized, outcast or disliked. I believe freedom begins with naming things. Humanity is preserved by it.
Here is my list of things that need to be named:
  • incest
  • sexual molestation of children
  • sexual abuse
  • rape
  • anti-choice
  • No Child Left Behind
  • low literacy and numeracy rates among the poor
  • racism
  • ageism
  • sexism
  • discrimination based on body size or shape
  • discrimination based on religion
  • homophobia
  • arguments based on guesswork not facts
  • The Emperor Has No Clothes
  • Anne Coulter et al. - Cite Your Sources! (This goes for Jason Leopold at truthout as well)
  • war for oil
  • Where is Osama bin Laden?
  • Global warming
  • the ozone layer
  • gas guzzling SUV's
  • Rick Santorum
  • Rwanda
  • Darfur
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Plan B
  • FDA
  • EPA
  • North Korea
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • The 1st Amendment
  • Really, The Emperor Has No Clothes! Neither does any of his staff
I know I have left out many things that need to be named ... what are your things to be named?

on torture and fashion and couture and fasting...

I may have been a bit hasty in my comment to Thursday's post, responding to my post, about fasting... even though I meant everything I wrote.

But, shortly after posting my comment, I followed a link from Broadsheet to this MSNBC story about the link between couture and torture. There's even a website called coutorture. Really.

Diane Mapes writes:

First, it was the corset. Now, the fashion industry has brought back skin-tight jeans, disco leotards and 7-inch platforms. And for accessories? Look for corns, bunions, sprained ankles, bruises, yeast infections and chafing.

Yes, for many of us, beauty and pain often walk hand in hand. But how far are we willing to go for fashion? For some, it’s all the way to the emergency room.

She continues with a litany of broken bones in feet and ankles and torn ligaments, and concludes with this:

What can be done? For some women, like Renee Sedliar, a 35-year-old San Francisco editor who blames a pair of 4-inch red leather sandals for her sprained ankle, it’s a matter of making the tough choice.

“After years of heels, I’ve become almost exclusively dedicated to flats,” she says. “Let’s face it, there’s nothing like walking around in really sexy, fabulous shoes, but if you can’t hide the grimace of pain or oozing blood or swelling toes…”

Although I rarely wear high heels and may not even own a reasonably fashionable pair as of this moment, and I abhor the idea of wearing a thong, or anything restrictive around my mid-section, including tank tops that are "too-tight," (forget about corsets!), I recognize there is a least a grain of truth in the article's comparison of our relationship with clothing to Stockholm Syndrome. Whether I like it or not.

Following that line of reasoning, one must then really question the value of a site like Lyssa Strada, where we exhort women to quit shaving their armpits and legs as a protest against the war, to withhold their uteruses from men--another war protest-- even if they cannot bear to give up sex themselves, and yet-- really stretching the envelope here-- to breastfeed in public as often as, and wherever, they can, if they should prove equally unsuccessful in withholding their uteruses-- just to keep mothers from becoming so invisible, and therefore, less powerful.

Perhaps Aristophanes' play had some effect on that war he was criticizing, but it really did not do much to advance the cause of women when he equated our fair sex with his society's lower creatures in order to make his point. So! Must that mean that a site like Lyssa Strada really cannot hope to be more effective in challenging the current status of women in the world than its ancient counterpart was?

Nooo waaaay!!!

We shall continue to suggest that women really can have fun and be subversive, that we would merely be following the lead of such impressive women as Dorothy Parker, Molly Ivins, Roseanne Barr, Katharine Hepburn, Tina Fey, Gilda Radnor, Joy Behar, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Arianna Huffington, Jane D. Schaberg, Pippi Longstocking, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Penny Marshall, Marge Simpson, Ellen Degeneres, Phyllis Diller, Paula Poundstone, Kate Clinton, Wendy Wasserstein, Helen Thomas...

[tick-tock, tick-tock-- still adding more names-- check back later]

[stiletto heel boot: wikipedia]

Continuing the Conversation: On Fasting

From Wikipedia, here's an interesting overview of fasting, both religious and political.

Codepink has a really good article called Hunger Strike History.

To answer Karen's question about women suffragists and fasting:

British women were the first to fast in prisons for the vote. Alice Paul was one of the first American women to fast for the vote. (She was also author of the Equal Rights Amendment.) It seems to have speeded up the process because now politicans understood that women were willing to die for their beliefs, but that was only after they realized that force feeding wasn't going to win them any brownie points. I plan on viewing Iron Jawed Angels as soon as possible.

The tone of this article at Hermenaut is weird and hard to take serious at first. But if you hold on and keep reading, some very good points are made about fasting and women. The last paragraph really brings it home:
There was a time, you see, when a woman starving herself represented a dangerous and courageous political tactic. Today all self-denial represents for women is an effete, cowardly pity-party. Imagine a woman starving herself today to draw attention to real contemporary examples of injustice against American women—like the lack of adequate protection for victims of domestic abuse, the pervasive sexual abuse of female prisoners by male guards, or the ever-present earnings gap. Pacing in front of the White House, her pelvic bones jutting stylishly through her slacks, old high school chums stop her, exclaiming, "Omigod! You look fantastic! What's your secret?" Anxious parents and body image counselors circle around: "You don't need to do this. You have our attention." Jenny Jones stops by: "Don't you know you're hurting the people who love you very much?" No matter what your political aim, anorexia means that women's bodies can never be anything but sites of ghettoized women's issues.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Revolution They Can Dance To

Feminism doesn't mean being anti-sex with a sense of humour by-pass; some of us are demanding the right to be sexual and safe. Saintly womanhood leaves a lot to be desired. It can be boring and lonely on a pedestal. And growing old doesn't mean growing more conventional - women of every age want a revolution they can dance to.
From: Chumbawamba - Tubthumper

I clicked on a link at Broadsheet, and sent the following...

To Rep. Curt Weldon:

We live certainly live in crazy times when the government expects a woman my age (50+) to consider herself pre-pregnant-- since most pregnancies are considered suprises-- just because she hasn't yet reached menopause.

And you can imagine that it seems especially ironic to me, because of when I came of age, that groups who say their main goal is to prevent abortion are now attacking women's rights to proper reproductive health care, including access to contraception, and that hugely controversial boon to women, Plan B, (which is NOT an abortifacient, but really, according to the SCIENCE, just emergency contraception).

And, finally, imagine the plight of a poor woman who has already fallen through the cracks, either because of the lack of access to contraception, or because she was in the small percentage for whom her method failed, or had an uncooperative partner.

She sees a billboard offering help to women in circumstances such as hers (poor? too many children already? a high-risk for pregnancy? alone? under-age? over-age? etc? etc?) and decides to call for help in getting her pregnancy terminated, only to find herself in a Kafka-esque episode:

[NOW]: Fake pregnancy crisis centers attract women to their clinic through deceptive advertising.

Once the women arrive at the so-called "Crisis Pregnancy Center" they are provided with biased and inaccurate information designed to persuade them not to obtain an abortion. Women deserve unbiased complete medical information about their pregnancy and their reproductive rights. In order to achieve this I am asking you to support Rep. Carolyn Maloney's bill referred to as "Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act" (H.R. 5052).

The Maloney bill would direct the Federal Trade Commission to create rules that prohibit any organization from advertising with the intent to deceive the public into believing an organization is a provider of abortion services if they don't in fact provide abortion services. Please help ensure through your support that this piece of legislation makes it to the floor. Women deserve to hear the truth.

It's the right thing to do, Congressman Weldon.


Karen M

[original post at Broadsheet]

[I decided to embellish NOW's message, figuring that the target audience must get tired of reading the same things over and over.]

California Politics

[Stephanie at Blither, Blather, Bloviate asked me to cross-post this here. She felt it might have some relevance to our community as well.]

I firmly believe that it is the duty of every American citizen to become a registered voter and to exercise their voice at every poll. But, I would be less than honest if I didn't tell you that I almost skipped voting earlier this month.

Harold Meyerson's article at The American Prospect Online titled, "A Not-So-Super Tuesday - Voter fatigue sets in, in California," says this about the process:
If the states are laboratories of democracy, as Louis Brandeis called them, then Californians have become guinea pigs in a vast failed experiment. Hold a major election every year -- complete with a torrent of attack ads and mailings and recorded phone messages from a startling array of personages attesting to the virtues of your state assembly candidate -- and eventually nobody will vote. The relation between permanent campaigns and voter participation, it turns out, is inverse.
I didn't like the mainstream democratic choices running for the privilege of running against the incumbent Ahnold. The mud-slinging during the campaign was taken to such heights that I felt like I needed to shower every time I turned the tv on. There were days I swore there was mud on the tv before I even touched it.

The answering machine at home was inundated by recorded calls pleading for my vote. Feh.

It was bad, folks, really bad. I spent the entire day at work complaining and moaning and muttering that I just couldn't get myself worked up to go vote. An older co-worker kept telling me, "you don't get to complain about the outcome, if you don't vote." Something I have been fond of telling others who don't vote. And I am telling you, I was almost willing to give up the right to complain because I so didn't want to vote.

And then there were the State Propositions. Oy.

There were 2 on the ballot, one a proposal to tax the rich in order to pay for pre-school education for 4 year olds. Fine in theory, unfair in practice. Find another way to do this please.

Another was a bond for libraries, a fundamental necessity in my eyes. But, in this state, as in others across the country, it seems that everything can be twisted into supporting illegal immigrants.
We are going to be told how important libraries are, and how we have to borrow the money again. These politicians want our children and our grandchildren to keep paying more and more, so they can keep giving more and more of their money to illegal aliens and self-indulgent bureaucrats.

There is not way you can argue with an ideologue, especially one who is going to turn everything around like that. Whatever.

Finally, I held my nose and voted. Me and 30% of the state's eligible voters. They really should have handed out nose plugs at the polling places. Then, I did a really scientific thing ... I voted for the first woman listed on every candidate list. Yup, that was how I made my decision. No way in hell was I gonna vote for either of those male idiots running for governor. I knew one of 'em was gonna win, but I wasn't gonna help.

This state really needs a "none of the above" option.

It is the Summer Solstice!

[Image: Source]

Do you have a headache from too much Ann Coulter?

Then, just watch this video of (Republican) Chuck Hagel twice... and call me in the morning.

Stalking: A True Story

Bitch Ph.D.'s well-written commentary on fear of stalking and the differences in attitudes between men and women struck an uncomfortable note in my heart. My own adrenaline started pumping as I read.
I wager that, with the exception of rape, men are more likely to be the victims of random street crime. But all the precautions about avoiding it are aimed at women, and they are all implicitly about avoiding rape. Even though we know that most rapes are not random street crime, but are committed by friends, dates, acquaintances, and so on. So not only is this advice bad advice to women, the unspoken corrolary--that men don't need to worry as much as women--is really bad advice to men. And the problem is, by giving women but not men this advice, we perpetuate the idea that violence is sexualized (and therefore men, who are not sexualized, do not have to worry about it), and we turn reasonable things like walking home with a friend into things women do out of fear and men don't do at all.
This brought home something I already inherently knew, even random violence is sexualized.

A little earlier in another post she writes:
But most "advice" to women focuses on avoiding *situations*, rather than trusting yourself and avoiding *people* who make you feel uneasy. I think that's exactly backwards.
Yeah, it took me far too many years to begin to understand this ... far too many.

The story that started this commentary is this from Letters From A Broad, in which Chanson describes being stalked by her boyfriend and the danger her life was in because she had been conditioned to not to trust her instincts and to believe that she must help those in trouble before she helps herself.
So when he started behaving in a pathological manner, I felt frightened and angry, but I also felt sorry for him because he was someone I knew and had some feelings for, and I could see that he was having serious problems. Additionally, I felt somewhat responsible because I knew basically from the beginning that the relationship was more serious for him than it was for me. So I felt guilty when he accused me of having led him on.
It's compelling reading and does sound, as Chanson admits, like it was something that would happen in a movie or a book. But it happened.

My own experiences with a sociopath (now called antisocial personality disorder by the psychiatric community) match the experiences Chanson had an ocean away in France. Although my life was never in physical danger; the phone calls, the anger, the manipulation were all very real and very demoralizing. My situation was compounded by the fact I could not move out and when I demanded he move out, he would go to my roommate who owned the place and hated confrontation so much he would say anything to get out of it.

After 18 months, it took 2 very large men who loved me and were far more ruthless to get this punk out of the house and out of our lives. The phone calls didn't stop completely for almost a year but they were less of the "how could you, you owe me" sort and more of the "I need this from you so I can repay the money I owe you," which was never repaid, of course.

The lesson I took away from this, is the same the Bitch Ph.D. and Chanson reiterate, listen to your instincts and don't feel that you owe someone just because they have had a crappy life. Their crappy life is not your responsibility and if they aren't willing to treat you with the respect and dignity you deserve, run away.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Roomful of Clerks: A New Life

The clerks buzzed around, wondering where their leader was. It's not like him to be late. As they settled down and began to work, they nervously watched the clock and wondered out loud if today had been The Day. Finally, the phone in the room rang and one of the clerks answered it. Today had indeed been The Day. A new little girl entered the world this morning at 0740 Pacific Time. 6 lbs, 7 ozs and 17 inches long. The room erupted into applause as this momentous news was relayed. Welcome to the world little one! May life be easier for you than it has been for those who have gone before you but may it be difficult enough for you to understand what the fight is all about.

Tiana's daddy returns to work a few days hence to continue his watch over the roomful of clerks.

Monday, June 19, 2006

a carbon-based fast... would you participate in one?

Earlier today, when I was discussing CodePink founder Diane Wilson's planned fast via email with Lyssa Strada contributor laughingcat, I began to think that perhaps I did not give enough weight to Bush's fascistic tendencies... Following are a few paragraphs from his email [emphasis mine].

Having studied Gandhi and his techniques for years, I doubt a fast will work to achieve its stated ends, because of the callous indifference of Bush and those in his circle. Remember, Gandhi said nonviolent non-cooperation only worked against the British because they were a civilized opponent; he openly admitted they would NOT work against Nazis and Fascists. And unfortunately, Bush IS a Fascist, in that he is totally committed to state-sponsored corporatism. Bush, a narcissist if ever there was one, probably won't care if someone who doesn't agree with him dies. And being so freakin' mean spirited, would even gloat, unless I misjudge the extent of his pathology.

I also hope these women use Gandhi's techniques for fasting, i.e., oranges and orange juice. He never did a total fast. He always took a little orange juice, to stretch out the time and therefore effectiveness.

And they need to find a voice in the national media so that one of the networks follows the fast, day by day, keeping the nation's attention on it. That's how Gandhi did it. Kept the world's attention on it. Only then will they get any notice that might make it effective. They also need to have talking points ready through spokespeople to counter the RWNM that will inevitably attack the fasters for all the wrong reasons, state lies and inferences, and resort to character assassination through mockery and derision. (I believe one of the only reasons the Iranian hostage crisis became a crisis was because "Nightline" kept it in the news all week every week).

[Editor's note: what about Helen Thomas? Wouldn't she be the perfect journalist to cover this story?]

They need to send daily, or weekly press releases to every major news outlet and wire service, nationally and internationally, so even if they're ignored by our own media, they can get the story in the news overseas. If Reuters picks it up, we'd have a chance that other US media would cover it as well.

HOWEVER: If I were to organize a nationwide "fast," I would recruit everyone I could to begin a conscious boycott of the oil companies that give money to Repubs, and engineer a massive letter writing campaign to let them know we are consciously going to choose to drive less and walk or bike more for the set period of the fast so they'll get the message the only way they care about. I would keep a record of everyone who volunteered to "fast from oil," and tally the numbers and extrapolate for those who said they would participate. Coordinate it with MoveOn and any other progressive org who has the connects.

That way, America would use millions of gallons of gas less than average, and with constant barrages of emails to the boards of directors, they would wake up to the reality that millions do not support the war or Republicans, and therefore we won't support their company.

Laughingcat's email made me wonder about the possible impact of two parallel carbon-based fasts-- a more traditional fast of food, and one that boycotts oil-- and whether either one would be successful, given that our own culture is not as civilized as the British empire that Gandhi so successfully humbled.

By laughingcat's measure, an oil fast would likely be more successful, since corporatists are motivated to change only by potential financial loss. Still, I'm not totally prepared to give up on GWB's potential for both psychic and physical revulsion when confronted by fasting, grieving women. After all, with so much repressed grief of his own, he must be ready to burst.

At a minimum, I predict he is going to need some therapy... but will he get it?

[Ribs & Corn by Epicurious]

Follow Up on Joe Galloway

Lyssa's post about Joe Galloway, What Joe Galloway Learned From War, touches on some of the things he has seen and written about in 41 years of war reporting.

NPR interviewed him this morning and asked about some of the things he has been witness to. With genuine tears in his voice, Galloway described what it was like to watch men pull their comrades out of a mud pit where a helicopter had crashed in Iraq. He spoke of the love and gentleness on these soldiers' faces as they found the bodies of their fallen comrades and then, with tearful anger, he excoriated those in power who do not take responsibility for their failures in leadership (Donald Rumsfeld to the white courtesy phone for an important message please).

Galloway's retirement from Knight-Ritter as military correspondent will be missed. But this is a man who is not going to go quietly, we'll be hearing more from him.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Most Right Reverend (Elect)

There have been many great schisms in Christian religious history:

The Great Schism between Western (Roman) & Eastern (Orthodox) churches in the 1054 CE.

The Western (or Papal) Schism in 1378 CE. At one point there were 3 popes claiming ultimate control of the Catholic church.

Martin Luther and his 95 theses nailed to a church door in Wittenburg, Germany in 1517 CE, which marked the beginning of the Protestant movement.

Now, the US Episcopal Church seems to be headed down the path to its own schism from the world Anglican community. 3 years ago, openly gay priest Gene Robinson was elected as bishop to New Hampshire.

This weekend, Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected to be Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church. Churches in the international Anglican community are very alarmed as the US church continues to embrace and promote those other organized religions want to exclude.

Politics being what they are, there could be a Great Anglican Schism for future history books to refer to.

Where the grandmothers are in charge...

Read this post at Political Physics on the "Spiritual Unity of Tribes-Gathering of Eagles."

Two excerpts:
For thousands of years Elders, Grandmothers, Medicine men and women on many islands of our planet have known that someday all races would be reunited and would bring healing to our Mother Earth. Indigenous peoples who have retained a spiritual way of life would teach their brothers and sisters all over the planet how to renew these ways and live in humility, having respect for all and a sense of oneness with each other and their Creator.

Women of Political Physics-note that the grandmothers are running things. They are from several races and nations. We even have some grandmothers here from Australia. Down under they are known as "aunties." Wish you all could be there with us. We will make prayers for each and every one of you around the sacred fire. This solstice do your own ceremony, even if you live in the city. Go outside and look up at the stars and the moon. Know that your ancestors are looking back at you. Also know that everyone's ancestors lived tribally, including the caucasians. So Spiritual Unity of Tribes really does include the entire human race. We are all related. Joann Shenandoah, a wonderful traditional native singer from the six nations tribes in upstate New York has said for years that if you want to stop the wars and killings,
put the grandmothers in charge. See you all in two weeks.