Monday, March 22, 2010

Video of the Day

My kid's favorite video right now...

Dear Mainstream Media,

Please stop referring to politicians who take an anti-abortion stance as "pro-life." In reality, the only thing most of these politicians have in common is that they oppose abortion. However, the vast majority of them are also pro-war, pro-death penalty, and anti-social justice. If we're going to be technically accurate here, that makes them more pro-death than pro-life. The only lives that they all agree are worth saving are those of human fetuses. The lives of women that are threatened by medical complications involved in taking a pregnancy to full term? No sanctity there. The lives of citizens of countries that oppose us politically? Collateral damage. So really, it's not just inaccurate to refer to Stupak and his ilk as "pro-life;" it's straight-up dishonest.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Whaddya mean, "being a man"?

I keep thinking I'm going to just stop paying attention to Double X altogether, because really, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. But this bit of nonsense simply demands a response. Jessica Grose's latest purports to take on the issue of "Omega Males and the Women Who Hate Them." First of all, the article doesn't appear to deal with any women whatsoever, so I'm guessing the "and the women who hate them" bit was just added as an afterthought to make it seem like an appropriate piece for a site that claims to represent "What women really think about news, politics, and culture."

Second, it thoughtlessly regurgitates and rides on the now-thoroughly-debunked myth of an alpha male-type hierarchy. According to Grose, omega males are those who have trouble "being a man." They're unemployed and "romantically challenged." In other words, they've failed. And characterizing it this way assumes, of course, that all male persons aspire to this narrow definition of masculinity, and that "omega" males endorse the values inherent in it but are simply unable to achieve them. It also implies that the problem lies with the individual men themselves, and not with the way our culture has responded to changing gender roles and economic conditions. And my understanding of Susan Faludi's point in Stiffed, which Grose references, is that the main forces underlying the alleged increase in the number of "omega males" are these social and economic conditions rather than some failure or personal choice on the part of the men themselves.

So Grose's take on "omega males" is unhelpful at best, and counterproductive at worst. What would be more helpful is a thoughtful look at how both men and women are feeling pressured by the gap between the changes in our social and economic conditions and the outdated expectations and socialization attached to our gender constructions. For instance, it seems to me that socializing boys to expect an easy entrance into the career field of their choice, which may have been appropriate 50 years ago, creates a false sense of entitlement in the current context and sets them up for disillusionment and resistance to changing roles and career options. And continuing to construct masculinity as primarily about competitive earning and career performance and material gain devalues other roles (like stay-at-home dad) that would be a valuable contribution to their families in tough economic times and that many men might find fulfilling if the negative connotations were dropped. And this is the counterpart to the way that socializing women to be primarily focused on childrearing and homemaking leaves them underprepared for the realities most women will face, and puts immense pressure on them to take on a disproportionate amount of domestic labor and feel that they have failed whenever problems occur in their families. Discussing how both men and women are often pressured by the disconnect between our outdated socialization and cultural expectations and the social/economic realities they actually face is an important aspect of feminist discourse, and writing snarky pieces that catalogue the types of failed men doesn't contribute in any perceivable way.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Life in the corporatocracy

This story about how Bank of America has accidentally foreclosed on several homes was in my news feed this morning. First of all, I have to admit that as an undergrad I worked for a CPA who specialized in landlord-tenant lease audits, and one of our main clients, as well as one of the big retail landlords we often did landlord lease audits on (on behalf of the tenant), was Bank of America. Based on that experience I can tell you that Bank of America is really an awful company. Any time they can fuck over their small business tenants and get away with it, they do. And any time an even small and unintentional error is made on the part of the tenant, BofA hits them with the biggest fees and penalties possible. They frequently even hit them with fees and penalties that aren't allowed under the terms of the lease agreement or under local municipal codes, but unless that business can afford an attorney and/or a savvy CPA to decipher leases and codes, they're pretty much fucked. So in general I have no respect or sympathy for BofA.

However, I am somewhat sympathetic to Bank of America on this one. Given the number of foreclosures that are happening right now, and the possibility of human error, and the fact that BofA has to use whatever contractors it can hire locally to take possession of repossessed homes, it seems inevitable that errors will be made. Nobody's perfect, right? But what does piss me off about this kind of story is the way BofA handles it when an error of this kind does occur. When it's just a wronged homeowner versus Bank of America, BofA's attitude is basically fuck-you-shut-up-already. This has been documented in at least three individual cases. BofA does not see itself as responsible for repairing the damages and restoring the wronged homeowner to their original condition after their contractors accidentally foreclose on the wrong home. Homeowners are told that they can drive 80 miles to pick up their pets that were taken from the home, and any cut power and water lines are repaired at the homeowners expense. Food that spoils due to the shut-off power, and furniture and carpeting that's damaged or taken by contractors? All the problem of the homeowner. Homeowners are told to stop calling BofA, and to call the police if they're really that pissed off. That is, until national media attention is brought to the situation, and lawsuits are filed. Then it's a complete reversal on the part of BofA. Then they're doing everything they can to right the wrongs. Then they suddenly have "zero tolerance" for this kind of stuff. Because now it's a PR issue.

And the attorney of one client who was wrongfully evicted sums it up best

If you or I had done to Bank of America what Bank of America did to my client we’d be in prison for 10 years.
This is the truest thing I've heard all week. I remember being amazed when I read in the paper that a man who had broken into a local restaurant and did $10,000 of damage faced a possible sentence of 10 years while my molesting, child-raping, predatory uncle had just gotten sentenced to 4 years that same week. Four. Four years in prison after sexually assaulting several of his nieces, members of the church youth group he was allowed to lead in spite of his known predatory history, and his own daughter, for YEARS and YEARS. Ten years for smashing some light fixtures, overturning some tables, and leaving several beer taps running until they were empty. Four years for sexually assaulting multiple victims.

Beyond the infuriating fact that crimes against property are often disproportionately punished in our country as compared to crimes against persons, crimes against corporate property are taken especially seriously. I remember listening to news coverage during the battle in Seattle, and marveling at the way the media just could not get over the fact that the big window of "the Starbucks" (as if there is only one Starbucks in downtown Seattle, haha) had been smashed by protesters (of course they didn't mention that this was a small anarchist group acting independently of the rest of the protest), while the hundreds of peaceful protesters who were physically assaulted by police in a confrontation that was started by the police weren't even mentioned. Broken noses and ribs, bruises from rubber bullets, and pepper-sprayed eyes? No biggie. A broken business window? ZOMG!!! I get that to people who don't live in Seattle, Starbucks is kind of iconic and symbolizes the city in the popular imagination. I understand that the media focused on it because of this sort of symbolic significance. But it's still the case that a pane of glass on a business is not more valuable than a person's body. Any person. Any window. Any business. Not equal in value or worth. Ever.

So this case is particularly interesting. As our legal system moves deeper and deeper into the stance that corporations are legal persons with legal rights, these kinds of glaring inconsistencies become more and more relevant. If you broke into a bank and did thousands of dollars of damage, confiscated belongings, and padlocked the door, you would be in prison for years. But there is no prison sentence applicable to the legal person that is Bank of America. You can bring a civil case against them and perhaps recover some of your damages. But BofA will not spend a single day in prison or experience all the negative consequences of having a criminal record for the rest of their life, in spite of the fact that they trampled your dignity, damaged or discarded your belongings, shattered your peace of mind within your own home, and destroyed your reputation in your community. Many ethical theories hold that rights always carry reciprocal responsibilities. But in our legal system, corporate persons have many rights bestowed on them for which there are no reciprocal responsibilities, or penalties for a failure to uphold those responsibilities. And this is a prime example of corporate entitlement and essentially risk-free fucked-up behavior. Yay for corporatocracy! Unbridled capitalism FTW!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Promise

I actually am going to post something substantial here soon. I'm just kinda busy/distracted/not in the mood at the moment. But regular posting will return any minute.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's funny shit, y'all

A friend sent me a link to this article in which Miley Cyrus says of herself and her new boyfriend:
I think we're both deeper than normal people -- what they think and how they feel.
And that's really the funniest thing I've heard all month. Refreshingly hilarious, really. It also makes me think that maybe this is why I just. don't. get. most celebrities. I never cease to wonder what makes them tick, and what leads them to make such astonishingly poor choices. So here's a possible explanation. They're just such deep people that someone like me could never really hope to understand what's going on with them.

Also, I would warn you not to read this kind of potentially hilarious celebrity gossip fluff while drinking coffee. That shit burns your sinuses when it squirts through your nose.

Miley Cyrus and her boyfriend.  Both of whom are such very deep people, that us normal folk shouldn't even try to understand them.
Deep. Very, very deep.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

One is not born, but becomes, a woman...

And ohmyfuckinggod it is so incredibly important that every girl-child be forcefully made into a dainty bit of eye-candy for the patriarchal masses! Otherwise, hysteria ensues!!!! Will she grow up to be lesbian? Transsexual?!? Genderqueer?!?!? Chaz Bono?!?!?!? Oh. My. God.



Note that it is Angelina who is forcefully "turning her child into a boy." It couldn't be the capricious fashion sense that toddlers themselves have been known to express. It couldn't be Brad. Or the nanny. No, it's the mother. Because mothers are the ones who bear the sole responsibility of embedding us all in our proper places in the patriarchy, and if something goes wrong in this process, she is the only one to blame.

Then there's the "parenting expert":
Some parenting experts think that indulging Shiloh's masculine behavior is a mistake. "Little girls have never been women before," Glenn Stanton, director of Family Formation Studies at the conservative organization Focus on the Family, tells Life & Style. "They need help, they need guidance of what that looks like. It's important to teach our children that gender distinction is very healthy."
Note that this "expert" isn't some child psychologist or specialist on early childhood development. No, it's a spokesperson for Focus on the Family. And here's the real kicker. If you ask Focus on the Family and their ilk about men and women, they'll yammer on and on and on about how men and women are "naturally" different, how these alleged differences in temperament and ability and propensity and disposition are all biologically based - planted in us by a loving God who intended for us to have different and complementary roles, in which women are inferior and subservient to men, of course. But here's where they never connect the dots. If this is all so natural, and biological, and part of the Great Design for the Universe, why does it take so much coercive socialization to get girls to be girls and boys to be boys? Couldn't an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent God do better than that?

Oh for the Fuck of Shit

We really are going to do this again.

... here we go. This week Jessica Grose of DoubleX (that ghetto of Slate that's designated for the wimminz only) felt the need to rehash the same old sad pathetic false dilemma regarding female sexuality One. More. Time. 'Cause it was just so darn good the first time, that the 300 billionth iteration has gotta be great too, right?

For those of you who never paid attention or stopped paying attention so long ago that you've forgotten what the false dilemma is, here we go. The Wimminz must choose between Option A and Option B. They are as follows:
Option A: Take a purity pledge, wear a ring that implies some sort of creepy, incestuous pact with your dad, etc. Option A for the older crowd: settle down into blissful monogamous domesticity with Mr GoodEnough just in the nick of time before Spinsterhood (saints preserve us!) sets in, and never even venture to think of sex with any partner other than your One True Love™ ever again. And regret it.

Option B: Hook up with every man you meet - no matter how big of a loser he is. Have wild, animalistic sex with complete strangers at concerts and in airplane bathrooms. Wear ass-baring chaps. Go on Girls Gone Wild, and then fuck one of the producers after filming is done. And regret it.
That's it - those are your choices. Sex in the City or the Duggards? Take your pick. Because there is no other plausible version of female sexuality. In the universe. One simply can't have casual sex without being on a drunken or drug-fueled or male-gaze induced rampage. Real women never have casual sex that they don't regret, and monogamous women never fantasize about casual sex. There are no lesbians or bisexual women. Having fuck buddies who are good friends but not boyfriends or husbands isn't an option. No women exist who do have casual sex, but not with every male stranger they run into. There is no middle road between chastity/monogamous domesticity and balls-to-the-wall sexual abandon. Not for women in our cultural mythology anyway.

Can we move the fuck on already?