Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to advocate for child rape

Beware - it's absolutely breathtaking.

Then there's this.

And this.

Woman of the Week: Brittany Novotny

Novotny is running against the hateful Sally Kern for her seat in the Oklahoma state house of reps. To learn more, watch this video, donate to her campaign here, and follow her on Twitter here.

This too is gendered

From a listing on eBay: "Totally cute for a boy (or a girl)"

In fact, all toddler and infant Ts and onesies on eBay featuring Bob Marley are listed under the "Boys" subcategory. Because only boys like Bob Marley, apparently.

What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over in Silence

Besides being a quote from my favorite philosopher, the title of this post sort of captures how I've been feeling lately. When it comes to all the big political issues that I'm usually more than ready to talk (or rant) about, I just can't bring myself to say anything meaningful right now. Hence the dearth of posts with any kind of real substance to them lately. And I was thinking about this with mixed feelings last night.

On the one hand, I think you have to be self-reflective, and figure out what you need, and take care of yourself. And sometimes this entails taking a break from politics and activism when it gets to be too much, or too depressing, or you have other things in your life bringing you down.

On the other hand, being able to take this break, and sort of withdraw for awhile is a function of privilege. I'm invested in the issues of health care reform, and achieving a truly inclusive ENDA, for example. And I recognize that this is a crucial time on these issues, and that if these opportunities are lost, it may be years before we cycle back to them again. And I have been posting on these topics until very recently. But right now I'm not even interested in watching Rachel Maddow (which is amazing in itself), and the thought of tracking developments on these issues just kind of makes me feel tired. I'd much rather play with my kid, bake a bunch of nutmeg biscotti, curl up with a cup of good coffee and some Annie Proulx short stories, or lose myself in a football game. And the point is, I have the luxury of doing that. My employer provides excellent health insurance at an affordable price. I don't have to worry about negotiating for reasonable accommodations in the workplace, or experiencing discrimination based on my gender presentation. In these ways I'm privileged. And one function of privilege is that you can periodically withdraw from the debate and the work of ensuring fair treatment for all.

So I guess I'm saying that I recognize that my silence on these topics and my withdrawal from the debate and the work of consciousness-raising is a function of my privilege. And that doesn't really sit well with me. At the same time, I think self-care is a feminist act. So I guess I'm kind of torn on the issue, and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The "Obesity Epidemic," or Class Warfare Part IV

So...I went to see Food, Inc last night, and as expected it's gotten me fired up. First of all, you reallyreallyreally have to see this movie. As soon as possible. It's funny because most of the stuff in the film will be news to most consumers in America, but it wasn't news to me. My mom's a nutritionist and I'm sort of a geek about this stuff, so I already knew how powerful agribusiness is, how thoroughly saturated our regulatory agencies are by those who represent the industry, how beleaguered family farms are by policies that benefit agribusinesses, how much oil goes into conventional agriculture, how totally skewed our food costs are because of subsidies, how terrible of an impact conventional ag has on the environment, how powerful food disparagement laws are, etc. But it's really nice to see all of this info put together in an accessible and attractive way for a broader audience like this. Reallyreally nice. But what struck me as I watched the movie was how this is another example of class warfare. Unintentionally, no doubt, but still lethal.

Here's what I mean. The way our food production system works now starts with corn. It all comes back to corn. The government subsidizes corn to the point that 1) farmers are incentivized to produce huge surpluses of corn, and their economic payoff for it is not tied to the market like it used to be - they get paid no matter what; 2) buyers (like cattle feed lots, for example) can purchase corn at a fraction of the production price. So the incentive is to make all kinds of animals (even fish!!!) eat corn, whether or not they're naturally suited to it. And a corn diet (often combined with growth hormones) forces animals to grow super fast and become fatter and larger than they normally would. This leads to the widespread routine use of antibiotics. Because when you grow that fast your immune system is shit so you're prone to disease.

The use of corn also leads to other problems like E coli (grass fed cattle don't produce the quantity and the deadliest strains of E coli), and the fact that corn feeding requires a feedlot setting in which animals are immersed in their own waste 24/7 aggravates the problem. Not to mention the fact that corn fed meat is much higher in saturated fat and doesn't have the Omega 3s that grass fed meat has. Because the corn is so heavily subsidized, the beef and chicken and pork that's produced on it is also cheap. And the highly processed foods that are made from corn derivatives (such as high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin and modified food starch and saccharin and sucrose and dextrose and hydrolyzed vegetable protein and cellulose and on and on) are also cheap. So the double cheeseburger and soda (which is basically diluted corn syrup of one type or another) you can get at the fast food place is far cheaper than the healthy foods you should be eating. And, as noted in the movie, this explains why obesity tracks with poverty. Your chances of being obese are directly tied to your income level.

And here's where I get really pissed off. Instead of recognizing that we have incentivized unhealthy eating by making unhealthy foods really cheap and accessible, thus causing unhealthy eating in many Americans of all sizes, our government has chosen to turn a blind eye to the system which it has created that perpetuates unhealthy eating. So instead of changing the system to truly reflect the actual cost of producing healthy versus unhealthy foods (which would be roughly equivalent if we didn't subsidize so unevenly) we attach moral judgment and shame to unhealthy eating and obesity, which our very system has created! Get it? We feed poor kids the worst possible crap, and then shame them for having bad eating habits and being prone to illness and obesity. Meanwhile, they're still trapped in the system in which fresh veggies are out of reach but junk food is plentiful. And anyway, by now their eating habits and preferences are already established, and it takes hard work to retrain your tastes and desires. At the same time, those of us who are aware of the situation and have access to (and are willing to make the sacrifice to obtain) healthier foods for our kids, watch other kids eating this awful stuff with a mixture of guilt and impotent rage at the system.

So what can we do about this form of class warfare? Admittedly, not much. The system is huge and the corporate groups that profit by maintaining the status quo are incredibly rich and powerful. Far more rich and powerful than any of the advocacy groups that oppose them. Still, it seems like there must be something that consumers and citizens can do to bring about change. Beyond buying local and organic when you can, and communicating with your congressional reps about the ag bills that periodically come through Congress, you can also sign petitions and donate to the advocacy groups that do try to take on the behemoth:

More on class warfare: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and This.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


ENDA House Committee Hearing

Watch it live here.


Rep Clarke: It's "inhumane" not to extend protection against there some good argument in favor of continuing the status quo?

Rep Polis: We've had this protection in Colorado for some time now, and it hasn't caused any problems, so there's no reason to oppose it. It also enhances worker efficiency to provide protection for all.


The committee's blog.


Contact your reps in support of ENDA

Monday, September 21, 2009

New at Old Navy

But they only come in two genders. And they're probably made in sweatshops using unsustainable materials and manufacturing methods.

The view from my window

Yes, let's talk about sex

Catherine Morgan brings up an important issue in her post on BlogHer: Can We Talk About Sexual Dysfunction? It's true that in the face of all the cultural mythology about sex, and women and sex, open dialogue can be truly helpful. But the way we go about this dialogue, and the assumptions that guide it, merits special attention. Sometimes the myths are embedded in the dialogue itself, and this can hamper real progress. So I think the first step is to highlight the myths and be aware of them as the discussion proceeds.

Here's one that jumps out at me. Morgan quotes Laura Berman saying, "Good sex is all about intimacy, sharing, trust, and making yourself vulnerable to your partner." I assume she's talking about good sex for women, in the women-are-all-about-the-emotions-while-men-are-all-about-the-visual tradition. And I have a few thoughts about that. First, it may be the case that many women self-report as being turned on by and interested in the emotional aspect of relationships more than the physical/sexual stuff. And that's to be expected, given our conceptual framework which depicts women (real women) as emotional beings. After all, the way we describe our experiences is mediated by the worldview and conceptual framework we inherit from our culture.

Then there's the fact that women who are interested in sex that may not be in a loving relationship are sluts. Let's not forget that in our culture it's only OK for a woman to be interested in sex within a properly sanctioned hetero relationship. Obviously most women who have grown up in this environment will have internalized this message. And if you've internalized the message that enjoying sex in this way makes you a bad person, you're probably not really going to enjoy it all that much. Or you're not going to cop to enjoying it. So no doubt many/most women do find sex more enjoyable in the context of a loving relationship. Emotional intimacy probably is integral to their sexual pleasure. But let's not assume that they're just wired this way or something. My bet is that this has as much to do with the way women are constructed socially as with their biology.

Which brings me to the next issue. Even if many women do experience sexual intimacy this way, it is still not the case that all of us do. And for those of us who don't, being constantly told that women aren't interested in casual sex and aren't primarily visually stimulated, could lead to sexual dysfunction. At the very least, it's super irritating. No matter who you are, being told that you're abnormal and, by extension, unfeminine, is problematic. Some of us have had really good sex outside of hetero constructs and committed relationships. Others only feel comfortable enough to be sexual in a secure and loving relationship. And that's OK. But continuing the discourse with these limited conceptions of what female sexuality can look like is limiting and othering to those who don't conform. And that is a perfect recipe for dysfunction.


It's here. Yesterday we were wearing shorts and playing in the park. Life at 7220...

Sunday, September 20, 2009


We're back. After many long years in exile.

No. 3 USC stunned by Washington

I know, one win doesn't a winning season make, and it's still a rebuilding year. But there's light at the end of the tunnel. Finally.

And I promise this isn't turning into a football blog either.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Two women kissing? That's "weird and creepy."

From this (otherwise sensible) post on Blogher:
And on Skenazy's original post, BlogHer's own Stirrup Queen, Mel, comments so thoughtfully I would totally kiss her on the lips if that wasn't, you know, weird and creepy.
It's absolutely fine for a het woman to not be attracted to, or interested in kissing, another woman. But calling it weird and creepy? Really?

I promise I'm not turning into a mommy blogger, but

...have you seen the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are, which will be in theaters in October? Do you think it's possible that they won't fuck up one of the bestest kids books ever? Here are my two predictions:
  1. The little crisis that prompts Max's escape into his fantasy land is going to have something (or a lot) to do with his mom being single and dating again. Of course, this is all based on a 3-second glimpse in one of the trailers of his mom canoodling with a guy on the couch (while Max watches them broodingly from around the corner, wearing his wolf suit, of course). And this tired old meme isn't one of my favorites, to say the very least.
  2. At least some of the characters in the land of the wild things are stand-ins for people in Max's real life which whom he has some tension or some issue or some conflict that he's trying to work out a la The Wizard of Oz.

But even if the movie's interpretation of the book is disappointing in some ways, which sort of seems inevitable, I predict that the wild rumpus scene will make it worthwhile. And I love how the wild things look so exactly like the drawings in the book.

Indexed of the Week

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Video of the Day

I know, I know. It's from Noggin. But my daughter loves this video. And so do I.

2009 or 1889?

From Dear Prudence:

Dear Prudence,
I am a 16-year-old girl who works at a supermarket collecting shopping carts in the parking lot and lining them up near the entrance. Customers frequently express to me their disapproval of a girl pushing shopping carts. They've said: "Girls shouldn't be doing this," "Tell your boss he should be sending boys outside to do this," and "You're too cute to be doing this job." Some customers have tried to pry the shopping carts from my hands, and one man even threatened to talk to my boss. Surprisingly, the biggest perpetrators of sexist comments are women. By the end of the day, I feel awful. I want to tell the customers to stop when they say sexist things to me, but it's been my experience that adults get indignant when someone younger tries to set boundaries. Is there any way I can let people know to leave me alone and let me do my job?
—Leave the Girl Alone

Dear Leave,
You're right—you don't want to give lectures; you want to use your youthful charm to defuse the sexist commentary. You need to have several ready replies that you deliver with a disarming smile, such as, "With this job I get exercise and fresh air. Please don't complain to the manager, because then I might have to work the cash register!" "When I'm an adult, I'll have to do my own grocery shopping, so this is giving me plenty of training in pushing carts." "Someday we'll have a woman president. But for now, I'm blazing the trail for female shopping-cart

Because, ya know exerting too much energy can damage your womb and will sap your reproductive energies, virtually unsexing you. Oh wait, this isn't the Victorian era anymore. Silly me.


h/t Meg'n

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Giving Validity to Racism

This article, on Joe Wilson's outburst, and Jimmy Carter's claim that the outburst was "based on racism," and Wilson's son's defense of his father ("There is not a racist bone in my dad's body"), brings up an interesting point. And it's one that bears repeating. It may well be true that Carter is right, and that the words were racially motivated. It may also be true that Wilson's son is right. But the fact remains that, regardless of motive, behaving like this feeds racism. And if you're truly not a racist person, then you have an obligation to consider the impact your words will have regardless of what your motives are in the moment. That's just the way it works. As Dick Harpootlian (South Carolina's former Democratic Party chairman) notes:

"I think Joe's conduct was asinine, but I think it would be asinine no matter what the color of the president," said Dick Harpootlian, who has known Wilson for decades. "I don't think Joe's outburst was caused by President Obama being African-American. I think it was caused by no filter being between his brain and his mouth."
Harpootlian said he received scores of racial e-mails from outside South Carolina after he talked about the vote on Fox News.
"You have a bunch of folks out there looking for some comfort in their racial issues. They have a problem with an African-American president," he said. "But was he motivated by that? I don't think so. I respectfully disagree with President Carter, though it gives validity to racism." (Emphasis added)

And lending validity to racist views is something for which you do have to take responsibility. You just do.

Lies We Tell Our Kids, Part III

Click on the image to see it full-sized

Could this picture and story be endorsed by anyone that's ever actually been on a real farm? And children's books are full of these kinds of depictions of farms.



Clean Up is Fun! or Lies We Tell Our Kids and Lies We Tell Our Kids, Part II


Monday, September 14, 2009

And while we're talking football...

This evening while I was simultaneously making dinner and entertaining a toddler and texting back and forth with my BFF about a Foucauldian critique of Mary Poppins, a segment came on NPR about the increased involvement of women in fantasy football. I obviously didn't catch the whole thing in detail, but from what I heard, there appeared to be two major claims. The first one was that women are more likely to be involved in fantasy football than previously because there are more tech options available. Like shiny pink electronic devices that allow them to track and control their fantasy teams on the go. Because everyone in the tech world knows that women will only be interested in techy objects that add convenience to their lives if they come in pepto-bismol pink. Right? OK, I actually added the part about the pink shiny objects. But still.

The second major theme I caught was that women don't approach fantasy football the way men do. Because men are all about winning when they play fantasy football, while women aren't. Women are just all about the pretty man-flesh. To illustrate this point they featured a couple of Sample Females™ faux-whisper-gushing about how hawt some player was, and then admitting in a confessorial tone that they generally don't choose their players based on the quality of their performance on the field. Or something like that. So here we have The Truth About Women and Men and Fantasy Football. All women. And all men. 'Cause all men are hetero and competitive and base all their choices on strategic reasoning alone. And women never behave this way and always behave in a frivolous, flighty manner. And they whisper and giggle while doing it. On their pretty pink mobile devices.

...deep breath...

Look, I'll agree that Brady Quinn is one of the finest examples of Man Candy out there. Mm-hmm. That boy is delicious. But there's no way he'd be my quarterback of choice if I actually had time to play fantasy football this year. And I'd bet the price of two Superbowl tickets that there are many other women out there playing fantasy football who aren't choosing their players based on how pretty they are either. But who wants to hear about women making smart, well-thought-out choices? Especially when it comes to such a manlyman sport? No, it's only newsworthy when they giggle and drool and type daintily on their pink mobile devices.
Gah! Damn the Patriots and their freakish good luck.

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What Make a "Birth Defect" a Defect?

Of the thousands of articles written on Caster Semenya, this one by Seth Borenstein takes a much more sensible approach - talk to medical experts who specialize in intersex conditions and former athletes who have been through the gender-testing circus. So far so good. But the title of the article: "The birth defect people don’t talk about" sort of brings me up short. In his defense, Borenstein uses the words of the experts he quotes when calling intersexuality a birth defect. And in their defense, the medical experts he consulted come from a discipline in which functionality is the measure of health and well-being. So in some regards it makes sense to refer to being intersexed as a defective condition. But I have a different sort of problem with this characterization.

It seems to me that intersexuality is a "defect" primarily because of our culture. If we weren't so insistent on forcing people to fit into one of two boxes, and if we didn't assume that childlessness is always a tragedy of epic proportions, then being born intersexed wouldn't be a defect. It seems like we could imagine a culture in which being intersexed was just another way of being - neither better nor worse. But using the phrase "birth defect" seems to reinforce the normativity that saturates our culture regarding gender. And this seems like something the medical experts in this field should be avoiding, given the fact that apparently they want to distance themselves from the historic secrecy and enforced surgical procedures and bullying of parents of intersexed children. This kind of treatment was based on the same normative framework that casts intersex conditions as birth defects. And moving away from that framework would benefit all of us, whether we realize it or not.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Land of giant mountains, and my loving, infuriating, compassionate, deeply religious, conservative, well-intentioned but often frustratingly narrow-minded extended family.

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