Friday, July 31, 2009

"Beer summit": Why was Biden there?

I've had some issues with President Obama since his election - in fact, I was saying to my partner the other day that if Gallup called me, I'm not sure I'd say I approve of his performance at all. But I have liked the way that he's handled the Henry Louis Gates situation: he called it what it was, he didn't back down on his central points, and he took proactive action to move the situation forward.

Unlike some, I actually like his framing of it as "let's all have a beer". I'll admit that there are some class implications, and maybe the focus should be solely on this "teaching moment". But I think that it's it cools the situation slightly, makes it less intimidating and more accessible. White folks who react defensively to the situation because of the race issues involved will be able to identify with the slowed pace and calmer tone of the situation, and it's my hope that it will help them to identify with the situation and learn from it. Even the articles which (perhaps problematically) focus on beer to the exclusion of race help others to access it in a more familiar and comfortable way, and perhaps that will help them to understand the racial issues at hand.

[All of the above may be my white privilege at work, though. It's also colored by the perspective of an avid beer lover.]

Having said that, I really objected to the inclusion of Vice-President Biden in the ballyhooed conversation:
The addition of Mr. Biden was interesting, for a number of reasons. Mr. Biden was able to draw on his credibility with blue-collar, labor union America and his roots in Scranton, Pa., to add balance to the photo op that the WhiteHouse presented: two black guys, two white guys, sitting around a table.
Question: Why do we need to have a white guy to make white folks more comfortable?

The beer thing I have less of an objection to because it's both deliberate and organic. Having a beer together is natural cultural language for hanging out and being comfortable, and it kept the flames of the controversy from being stoked into a blaze. It's framing that does a lot to continue the conversation in a productive way without devaluing the race issues at hand.

And frankly, that's enough of a concession.

Making sure that there are equal white guys and black guys in a conversation about racism smacks of cries of "reverse racism". White people must insist that they are fairly represented and have just as much power as the black guys. It fails to acknowledge that the heart of the discussion is about a distinct LACK of power on the part of some people.

Furthermore, all of the men have a distinct stake in this. What real and prescient reason is there to include Biden? He hasn't been a part of the national conversation on this. Why have a notably garrulous man there to take attention from the principals active in the situation?

Another question I have: IF racial balance were so vital here, why not include one of the other principals in the situation: Lucia Whalen?

One definitively positive facet of Biden's participation is the inclusion of a non-drinker in a meeting so focused on beer and alcohol. I'm not an abstainer, but I have issues with how ingrained drinking is into the culture - it's almost made mandatory. Considering that alcholism is a disease, this is problematic.

I do see the working-class roots, but ... Obama has pretty working-class roots. Though his parents were well-educated, his mother frequently lacked money and he was largely raised by his grandparents, who were not rich. People talk about how elite Obama is, but that's a function of racism: he was not given the same advantages as a George W. Bush, a John Kerry, an Al Gore. Biden also came from middle-class roots; only his education (University of Maryland, Syracuse) was less elite than Obama's, and Biden's is nothing to sneeze at.

Also, Gates doesn't exactly have a privileged background. His father worked at the paper mill, and his mother cleaned houses. He's obviously on a grand stage now, but that doesn't mean that he's divorced from a economically unprivileged perspective. And if we're just talking about class privilege now...uh, I think Biden has everyone except Obama beat there.

What do you think?

Further reading from Shakesville.

UPDATE: Antonio Love's police assailant put on administrative leave

On Tuesday, I wrote (here and elsewhere) about Antonio Love, a deaf and disabled man who was tasered and pepper-sprayed by police when he wouldn't open the bathroom door for them. The case is a perfect example of how the needs of othered bodies are consistently dismissed and anecdotal evidence of the violence that persons with disabilities face.

I didn't know before today that Love was black, and that clearly added to the excessive force involved in the situation. Though his race didn't contribute to the police breaking down the door, I am certain that it had to do with the cruelty inflicted upon Love after the police got in and saw his skin color. Upon that, the deaf and disabled man was tasered three times and then laughed at when his disabilities became apparent. Love's story is clearly another entry in the storied history of police racism in the United States.

Love wrote an account of the gut-wrenching situation:

The full letter is six pages long, and posted at the source above. You can tell how scared he must have been - he talks about the poison, the humiliation of cops laughing at him, of the excessive and potentially lethal tasering. For their part, the police are apparently continuing their investigation, and taking some action:
A Mobile police officer who was involved in an incident where pepper spray and a Taser were used on a deaf and mentally disabled man has been put on administrative duty.

Mobile police gave out a statement Wednesday saying the officer's identity was not being released at this time and that the family of 37-year-old Antonio Love has filed a formal complaint with the department.
My reaction:
  • Love should get a big big settlement.
  • The officer at fault should at the VERY least have his administrative leave coupled with some intensive training on how to deal with disabled persons and people of color in general and hopefully a refresher course on appropriate force before returning to active duty. (I do not think that the officer losing his job would be inappropriate, but I don't know his history).
  • The entire force should undergo some kind of similar but less time-intensive training.
What do you think? Is this an appropriate reaction? What other steps should be taken?

Previous post on Antonio Love

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Concentrated cute

Every time I need content filler (today is a Sad Day, and I'm saving material for next week) I look through my pictures for new snaps of my cats to post. And every time I come to a cute one like that above, I think "oh, surely I've posted that."

But I haven't. Because I just take that many pictures of my cats.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Messiness and cleanliness: negotiation in feminism and relationships

The man I share my life with is not a feminist, but damn can he clean. J has many admirable qualities that allow us to functionally share our lives without sharing feminism that I will expound upon at greater length in later posts, but this is one quality that has been essential to the growth of our relationship since we moved in together a year ago.

But J has been out of town on business since Monday, and he left the house neat and clean, with just a few dishes in the sink. I hoped to have him return to the house in the same condition, but despite spending less than a dozen waking hours in our living space since he left, it's a damn mess. Dishes are everywhere. There's a random loaf of bread on his computer table. Clothes and wet towels blanket the couch. A brush has been on the floor and not in my hair since he left.

I? Am not so good at cleaning. In fact, I suck at cleaning. I always have. [ick warning] Something literally died in my dorm room junior year, and I didn't notice until I moved out. Mess (and yes, grossness) does not bother me.


Outside of the complications being messy brings to my cohabiting relationship, not being neat is also a weird space to negotiate as a woman, a feminist, a person with OCD, and a live-in girlfriend.

But as a feminist, I feel like I need to take care of myself. Organization and being able to quickly and easily find things allows me to get things done quicker. How can I be productive if my desk is covered with the debris of lunches and project past? How is upkeep entropy conducive to feminist activism?

As a woman, I am constantly expected to pick up after mine and others' shit. Being messy is sometimes empowering - it's subverting and cutting off the expectations of others, and releases me from another pressure of society. It's a way to excommunicate myself from the feminine mystique.

I think not being clean kept me from recognizing that I had OCD for a long time, particularly as a teen. OCD is portrayed as the hand-washing disease - it's the kind where you're terrified of germs. I am totally not terrified of germs, so how can I have OCD? The media portrayal of OCD as a one-dimensional, comical fear of germs shuts off the many, many facets of the disease, and led me to an alternative and fairly wrong diagnosis of ADD.


J's mom keeps a very neat house. While J is skilled in the art of "picking up the damn towels off the floor" and "not throwing shit everywhere" in a way I am not, when we first moved in together he was not used to having things taken care of for him. The laundry piled up, and up, and up. So did the dishes. He didn't think he'd have to do them, but I sure as shit wasn't going to just do them.

I figured that he would understand that he had to pick up a lot of the slack, having, you know, dated me for two years prior to this and having spent many nights in my various dorm rooms. But he didn't, and there were clashes, fights, arguments, passive-aggressiveness about cleaning. He understood that I wasn't going to be a happy housewife intellectually, but it was a bit of a shock actually living in it, after being accustomed to having women pick up after him.

But you know what? He shaped up, and dealt with it. We don't have an exact system, but there are things that I generally take care of (litterboxes, cooking, folding laundry) and things that he generally takes care of (the yard, the dishes, loading the laundry). When we are having people over, we clean together. My (very clean and neat) mom (and other immediate family) came to visit a couple weeks ago, and she even commented as to its cleanliness, which was kind of a triumph for me.

While neither of us are perfect, J and I pick up the slack for each other to create a functional, helpful, clean space that's about as free of mess as it is of drama (not entirely, but mostly!). Sharing household duties is essential to having a functional relationship - not just as a feminist, for me, but as a way of being. J's activity in household duties lifts up my own nascent instinct to not live in filth, and spurs me towards actually vacuuming once in a while.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Police Taser disabled man Antonio Love for not leaving bathroom


In Mobile, Alabama this week, policemen used lethal force on Antonio Love, a deaf and mentally disabled man, who would not come out of the bathroom.

Their excuse? He had a lethal weapon umbrella.

Love was in the bathroom, a place where everyone should expect privacy and respect. . In Love's words, given in sign-language, he had "a badly upset stomach last Friday and went into a Dollar General store to use the restroom."

When he had been in there an hour, store employees called the authorities, which is reasonable enough. The police appropriately identified themselves, but Love, who was scared and believed the Devil was trying to get in, did not respond.

They responded disproportionately to the absence of any apparent threat by spraying pepper spray through the door, using a tire iron to open the door Love was trying to keep closed.

After they realized he was deaf and disabled, what did they do? Did they...apologize profusely and let him go? Was ... disciplinary action taken against the authorities who overused force?


They laughed at him.

And proceeded to charge him on disorderly conduct.

The right of disabled persons to function fully and exist with respect in our society is consistently deprived of them. This is obviously a difficult situation to navigate, but it's the responsibility of the authorities to be calm and careful and to restrain themselves from using force in a situation where there is no apparent harm. When they are dealing with someone who is unable to recognize themselves, they need to move slowly and deliberately to make sure that they are not doing ... exactly what they did.

Contact information for the Mobile police department can be found here.


Sarah Palin, taken out of context: the farewell speech

Alright, folks, I think it's time for another edition of... Sarah Palin, taken out of context:

From her farewell speech on Sunday the 26th:
  • OK, today is a beautiful day and today as we swear in Sean Parnell, no one will be happier than I to witness by God's grace Alaskans with strength of character advancing our beloved state.
  • ...we are facing tough challenges in America with some seeming to just be Hell bent maybe on tearing down our nation, perpetuating some pessimism, and suggesting American apologetics, suggesting perhaps that our best days were yesterdays.
  • "How can that pessimism be, when proof of our greatness, our pride today is that we produce the great proud volunteers who sacrifice everything for country?
  • No, with this decision now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right, for truth. And I have never felt like you need a title to do that.
  • Let me tell you, Alaskans really need to stick together on this with new leadership in this area especially, encouraging new leadership... got to stiffen your spine to do what's right for Alaska when the pressure mounts, because you're going to see anti-hunting, anti-second amendment circuses from Hollywood and here's how they do it.
  • Together we do stand with gratitude for our troops who protect all of our cherished freedoms, including our freedom of speech which, par for the course, I'm going to exercise.
  • So, how 'bout in honor of the American soldier, ya quite makin' things up.
  • Don't forget Alaskans you are the resource owners per our constitution and that's why for instance last year when oil prices soared and state coffers swelled, but you were smacked with high energy prices, we sent you the energy rebate.
  • Stand strong, and remind them patriots will protect our guaranteed, individual right to bear arms, and by the way, Hollywood needs to know, we eat, therefore we hunt.
  • So much success, and Alaska there is much good in store further down the road, but to reach it we must value and live the optimistic pioneering spirit that made this state proud and free, and we can resist enslavement to big central government that crushes hope and opportunity
  • At statehood we knew this, that we are responsible for ourselves and our families and our future, and fifty years later, please let's not start believing that government is the answer.
  • Now, people who know me, and they know how much I love this state, some still are choosing not to hear why I made the decision to chart a new course to advance the state.
  • Remember then, our state so desired and so deserved ethics reform. We promised it, and now it is the law.
  • They use these delicate, tiny, very talented celebrity starlets, they use Alaska as a fundraising tool for their anti-second amendment causes.
  • And first, some straight talk for some, just some in the media because another right protected for all of us is freedom of the press, and you all have such important jobs reporting facts and informing the electorate, and exerting power to influence.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bonnaroo versus FloydFest, part two: myopic music

Even before I arrived at FloydFest this weekend, while I was preparing music-focused content filler, I noticed a significant difference between the acts I planned on seeing at FloydFest and the acts I saw at Bonnaroo: there were lady performers, and performers of color. Thinking back to my time at Bonnaroo, I didn't recall many performers who were either - Jenny Lewis, Neko Case, Galactic...Those Darlin's... hmm.

The observation returned to me a few times while at FloydFest - watching the Hot 8 Brass Band (right) after Grace Potter (left, below), seeing new acts like The Belleville Outfit. When I got home, I looked at the schedules to verify or reject this idea.

Looking at my personal schedule, I was definitely right. At Bonnaroo, an overwhelming 67% (12 out of 18) acts I saw were compromised entirely of white men. At FloydFest, only 45% (5 out of 11) of the acts I saw were similarly composed.

What led to this difference?

It might be a spurious connection; it very well could be my taste in music that's making the difference. But that wouldn't be a very interesting blog post, so let's continue on with the assumption that it's not just me.

FloydFest's strong social conscience is most likely a contributing factor. Throughout the festival, there was an emphasis on social action and movement, particularly with regard to the environment. This kind of context gives rise to different music - music with a greater consciousness by necessity. In a place where liberalism is strived for, perhaps the organizers were (explicitly or subconsciously) striving to have a less singularly kyriarchal set of performances.

On the flip side, Bonnaroo is much less emphatic about social consciousness. I didn't get the sense that any of the organizers cared anything about the larger implications of their production.

Or perhaps it's less about their social conscience and more about the music they put on. Bonnaroo has hip stuff, in both meaning of the word: indie, electronica, jam bands. FloydFest features roots, Americana, and bluegrass, and soul music. I'll refrain from commenting on this since I'm not an expert in this area, but I have a good amount of knowledge about jam bands and I know that they're fairly white and male (like Phish, right).

It could also be a reflection of the larger music culture in America. Floyd is local - it's a niche festival, meant to reflect country hippies. Bonnaroo is commercial - its bigness is meant to reflect all commercial music in America.

What do you see in this disparity? What do you know about the scenes I listed above? What could account for this? (Racism/sexism obviously accounts for this, but how, specifically?)

American Apparel: Abercrombie & Fitch for hipsters

I exist in tandem with a lot of hipsters. I cannot myself claim the term, because of the hipster paradox: all hipsters want everyone to think that they are hipsters, but no hipster can ever claim the identity openly. So, if I claim the label of hipster, I am no longer a hipster. It is an identity that I cannot claim, which is weird and irritating - I feel like I can't criticize hipsters because I'm not a part of the group, or I can't admit that I'm part of the group.

Another identity conundrum that irritates me is that "you're not feminist!" meme. Even when applied to Sarah Palin. People have a right to their identities, even if they manipulate them. Even if they contradict them.

But one thing that makes me sputter and almost fall back on said meme is American Apparel. Lots of feminists like them, and I don't understand. What feminist could ... appreciate the good fit, high quality and ethical manufacturing. Well, shit.

There are many reasons that American Appeal beckons, but any overture or attempt to justify or explain how "empowering" it is just make me madder. (Not that they care too much about me, as a fatty.)

American Apparel is, to me, not too many steps above Abercrombie & Fitch. They operate from the same toolbox: they work to create an exclusive standard of beauty, and exclude all of those who don't fit up to their high standards:
The tipster, an employee of AA, claims that Charney recently freaked out due to a dip in sales (and that big check he has to write to Woody Allen), and as such made every store send in a group photograph of the staff. The ones labeled unattractive by the head honcho were encouraged to be fired—allegedly something many managers were scared not to due lest they get fired themselves.
That's a lot of kinds of fucked up.

And from here on out, in hipster contexts, I will be the Dour Feminist and yell: Fuck American Apparel. They are proud misogynists, and if they weren't performing in a hipster context, they would get no more respect than Abercrombie.

[Source, via Feministing]

CALL FOR ENTRIES: 50 Books for Problematic Times

Gertrude Stein

Earlier this week, I covered Newsweek’s myopic list of the 50 books that define and explain these confusing modern times. To recap: the list was 84% white, 78% male, 96% straight, and 66% both white and male, and that is not relevant to these modern times.

In response to this list, I presented 50 Books for Post-Modern Times, and began soliciting submissions from readers of Deeply Problematic and feminist writers I admire. I've already gotten a lot of great responses from folks - thank you so much!

I have re-named the project, and it is now called:

50 Books for Problematic Times

What is 50BPT? It's a list of 50 writers who shed light on society as it is today (its virtues and its flaws) without the benefit of bodies that fit into the canon. When lists of great writers usually reinforce that the important words and ideas are created by those with the most privilege, this list seeks to prioritize the voices of writers who speak most knowledgeably of the issues our society faces.

What writers can I nominate? Women writers, writers of color, LBGQ writers, and trans writers are the writers I have in mind here. I'm particularly interested in writers featuring intersectional challenges. I understand that oppression does not fit into neat little categories and is definitely not limited to the isms implied above. If you have a writer who faces or faced a significant oppression unmentioned here who challenges societal ideas of what a successful and noteworthy writer is, please send it in and we'll discuss.

What if I have a writer who's really relevant to feminist conversation, but doesn't fit into the guidelines above? I may do an extra-50PBT entry outside of the confines of this project. Write me about him anyway.

What books are eligible? Any kind of work - novel, poetry, history, short stories, anthology. Nominations for a body of work are fine, but please mention a specific work.

When will 50BPT begin and end? I will post the first writer on July 20th August 1st, and will post one a day until September 20.

Who should contribute? Everyone!

To contribute:
  1. Leave a comment here with your submission, including contact information and why you love them, or
  2. Email me at with your submission.
In your communication, tell me:
  1. How they inspire you
  2. What they contribute to our cultural narrative
  3. Why they are relevant today.
Please keep descriptions of each work/writer to 250 words if you can.

Everyone who contributes to this list will be quoted and linked, and I will inform you of your entry before it runs.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. If you haven't...I look forward to hearing from you!

Bonnaroo versus FloydFest, part one

This weekend I went to Floydfest, a music & arts festival in Floyd, VA. I had a lot of fun! It's the second major festival I've been to, the other being Bonnaroo. Here are things I liked better in one and the other.

4 Things that made Bonnaroo better

1. Number of acts. Bonnaroo had about twice the established (nationally touring) music acts that FloydFest. There's always, always something to your tastes playing at Bonnaroo - if you don't like the jam band that's playing, you can go see electronica, or hip-hop, or country, or indie rock. At FloydFest, there's a much narrower point of view. If you don't like the bluegrass on the main stage, you can go see... something that also has a fiddle/banjo/whatever.

2. Less family-friendly. FloydFest is a family event. Bonnaroo is not. This give Bonnaroo a distinct edge as a twentysomething, and that's as far as I'm going.

3. Less sanctimonious. It's great that Floydfest has a social focus, it really is. And this is partially me being a bad feminist. But damnit, I go to music festivals to relax. I don't go to get guilted about mountain coal.

4. Size. The 90,000 people at Bonnaroo give it a certain propulsion and energy that the 12,000 at Floydfest can't match.

4 things that made FloydFest better

1. Better organized. It was easy to get in and out of FloydFest, and the staff helped us there at every turn. At Bonnaroo, it took eight hours to get in in addition to the seven hours of driving. FloydFest took two hours tops. This contributed to the relaxing atmosphere of the weekend.

2. Physical context. There is no where more beautiful than Southwest Virginia. I live here, and I still kept looking around, going "wow".

Additionally, the sightlines and acoustics were better at FloydFest.

3. Social conscience. Yeah, I bitched about it above, but FloydFest is a lot more socially responsible than Bonnaroo. Bonnaroo, as I said, is a festival for 20somethings - which often means wasteful and frivolous. FloydFest puts a constant emphasis on respect for the earth and for all creatures.

4. Size. The 12,000 people at FloydFest put a lot less pressure on "get here, get there, get this spot." You can sit and see the stage and relax.

All in all, I have to say that while I enjoyed FloydFest a lot, I had a lot more fun at Bonnaroo. I was better prepared physically and mentally for Bonnaroo; we bought the tickets to that festival in January and had been hyping ourselves since, whereas I didn't even buy FloydFest tickets until the week of. I was also in better shape for Bonnaroo - I had a tough time walking up some of the hills in Floyd. Additionally, Floyd came at kind of a bad time for us - we didn't get to go with friends, and it's an externally stressful time for me and my partner for a few reasons.

One thing that I noticed while at FloydFest was the abundance of artists who were not white able-bodied men - it seemed that there were a lot more female artists and artists of color than at Bonnaroo. I'm going to do a break down of that later this afternoon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Floydfest: Railroad Earth

Last day of Floydfest! I miss my kitties and am excited to get on home. Tomorrow, expect to see a review/highlights/etc. type thing.

We're finishing up with Railroad Earth, another definite fave. I highly recommend downloading this show from Blacksburg in 2008 (taped, processed, and posted by my fella). It's probably one of the ten best shows I've ever seen, in a highly unlikely dive bar.

Some videos:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

FloydFest: Donna the Buffalo, Charles Walker and the Dynamites

I'm really excited about today's FloydFest lineup - one of my favorite bands, Donna the Buffalo, is playing this afternoon:

I've seen this Americana ensemble a few times, most recently in Asheville for the most recent New Year's. My fella's hobby is taping live shows, and he always tapes them. Here are the New Year's shows:

December 31, 2008: Asheville
December 30, 2008: Asheville

In new music I'm seeing today, Charles Walker and the Dynamites should be pretty dynamite:

Friday, July 24, 2009

FloydFest: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Hot 8 Brass Band

Tonight at FloydFest, I'll be seeing Grace Potter and the Nocturnals:

I first saw this nifty woman-led band on Valentine's Day of last year, when they came to Roanoke. They're a rocking, energetic group with a surprisingly soulful and spiritual edge:

In new bands, I'm excited for the Hot 8 Brass Band:

Obama uses tradition to justify dismissing abortion rights

Vanessa at Feministing directed me towards this shining gem from President Obama:
As you know, I'm pro choice. But I think we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care. Rather than wade into that issue at this point, I think that it's appropriate for us to figure out how to just deliver on the cost savings, and not get distracted by the abortion debate at this station. (Emphasis mine)
What. The fuck.

So, we're giving up the health and independence of millions of women in the name of tradition now? Is that how it's going to be? Where is our History and our Tradition going to get us if all we do is use that tradition to justify oppressive, sexist choices? If we use them to excuse giving into pressure from anti-abortion forces?

Tradition is nice, as a narrative force. As an ornamental facet of government, it helps us to remember our roots and take pride in our national accomplishments. It establishes a sense of continuity. It's a Christmas tree. It's an Inaugural parade. It's a reminder of the past. I'm not against it, but traditions are personal and should only be a significant factor in decision making for individuals.

When it comes to government action, its only use is in rituals and celebrations. Tradition is rooted in how things were, and we need to attend to the fierce urgency of now - the women who need abortions, or might need it, and don't have the privilege that I would have of relying on my family for financial help if needed.

But tradition wasn't acceptable justification for having an all-white all-male all the time government, or in any matter of policy. It's an empty word that is unacceptable as justification for legislation - especially when that legislation constitutes lives lost or saved. In matters or women's lives, in matters of health, it is a trite way to say "wait your turn."

I have a tradition myself. It's a tradition of not being pregnant. I expect his support on that. That's just how things work in the town of my uterus.

Obama has a tendency to justify oppression and unfair acts with tradition, with his religion, and then also make the claim that he's "pro-choice" or "a fierce advocate for equality". It's bullshit. It's bullshit, and we need to hold him responsible when he tries to empty his obligation to the people who voted for him. Obama's tradition seems to consist of using words that mean a lot to us - "pro-choice", "equality" - to garner votes and support, and then bailing when it's time to pay up.

I know it's early in his administration, but we've been losing ground for eight years. Now is not the time to quit pushing or wait or turn. Now is the time for those who support abortion rights to let Obama know that we're not going to put up with this. This is our right, and we need support on it. We're the ones who elected Obama. It's time to let him know, as Shark-Fu said, that the bill is past due, and make our collection calls.

Are you pissed, too? Go here to tell someone about it.

Further reading on health care at Angry Black Bitch (quoted above). A Canadian perspective on health care can be found at Womanist Musings.

FloydFest and favorite links

I mentioned earlier this week that I would be MIA this weekend, but I didn't mention why. I'm going to another music festival, but a much more local one this time: FloydFest 2009!

FloydFest is only about an hour and a half away from our home in the Roanoke area, and it's home to a lot of great rootsy music - bluegrass, Americana, folk, etc. There are too many great bands to skip considering it's so close, so that is where I will be this weekend, without the Internet (or, um, a shower).

As a content filler this weekend, I'm going to be posting videos from some of the great bands we're seeing this weekend. Music posts tend to be some of my most popular posts, so hopefully you'll enjoy them. There will be no links post Sunday, but it will be returning next week.

To get your Deeply Problematic fix, let me direct you to a few of my favorite posts from the archives:

Not wearing pantyhose? Not natural.
Don't you realize X is unhealthy? (on asexuality)
Feminists at rock concerts
Eminem and rape/abuse
Efficacy and body politics
(White) GOP sexuality and the expectations of black sexuality
New York Times acknowledges, devalues fat fashion
Southern accents and attraction
Do you know what an older man can give you?
Marginalizing Thomas Jefferson's reliance on slavery
Feminist Puberty: Privilege, and Fucking Up
Freelancing Is Not Slavery, N.C. Winters.
Megan Fox sexually harrassed by Michael Bay
OCD, language, and my place on the disability spectrum: parts one and two

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Concentrated cute, bloggy style

Blogger kitty has writer's block.

Sorry there aren't more posts today, folks. I'm lost among the weeds of my other professional and personal pursuits.

You can expect more feminism and related stuff on Monday. I'll have a post tomorrow with some favorite posts from the archives, and music-related posts all weekend.

Enjoy one of the last few summer weekends! See you soon & thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Trichotillomania: cures, shame, localization, management

From lily-day's deviantArt
Trigger warning.

Via Shakesville comes a story about trichotillomania and a possible cure:

A new study published this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry may hold promise for those who compulsively pull their hair. Researchers say participants who took an antioxidant called N-acetylcysteine, sold over the counter at vitamin stores, had significant improvement over patients who took placebos.

I like this article because it also non-judgementally addresses the shame of trichotillomania, or compulsive hair-pulling:

Trichotillomania is such a stigmatizing disorder that people will go to great lengths to hide it -- to explain bald spots to acquaintances, some patients will lie and say they had cancer, Woods said.

"I have talked to patients who have pulled for 25 years, and their husbands don't even know it, they hide it so well," he said.

I've had trich for about seven years now. It's manageable, now; I don't touch the eyebrows I once tore out almost entirely. (Actually, I really like the thick Brooke Shields look of my eyebrows now).

One issue I had with the article was its localization of hair-pulling to the eyebrows, head, eyelashes, and pubic hair. Trich is far from limited to those areas - in fact, I usually avoid those areas when I do pluck these days. I tend to go for the hair on my feet (particularly my toes) and my fingers, the dark coarse hairs around my nipples, and stray coarse hair on my chin and neck.

I go for hairs that stick out, that don't bend, that poke. Maybe it's because they're easy to find, visually and texturally. Maybe it has something to do with the way they subconsciously clash with my view of feminine women as possessed of only soft, and downy body hair. At some point, it was ingrained in me that only men have coarse or dark hair on their chest and chin, and perhaps I'm punishing myself for that.

As Liss at Shakesville mentioned in the comments of the article above, trich can be a good stress reliever when controlled. Usually, I only pluck to get rid of the coarse hairs that my fingers find over and over again on my chin, and occasionally when stressed I'll go after others. As long as I'm not digging (and thus creating sores) I don't worry too much about it.

But when it does get to the point where I'm obsessively looking for more, more "weird hairs", I know it's moved from stress relief to self-abuse. So I hide the tweezers. I know where they are, but stopping the automatic response of getting them out to pluck helps me to consider the compulsiveness of my actions and dampens the need.

Those of you that have trich: how do you manage it? Is yours typically localized?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Housekeeping, and further review.

Posting this week is going to be sparse. I am about to be temporarily without a steady paycheck, so I am picking up hours at my job while I can and working about twice what I’d usually work. On top of that, I’m due to post at Ms. Modern and I’m preparing for vacation this weekend. I can’t write analytically carefully or sensitively enough right this second, so content will be heavy on “hey, look at this” and light on Important Analysis.

The lack of incoming cashstream is very short term and not a total stoppage– my day jobs are in education, so there’s a natural lull in the summer. I’m thinking of it as an opportunity to get some work done on some stuff, specifically my site re-launch and 50 Books for Problematic Times (which is still accepting submissions!), both of which begin on August 1. Once this week is over, I plan on discussing some issues that I have not really explored here yet, and which are clearly in need of analysis.

I want to address Sunday’s post on Ms. Magazine’s cover, which generated some conversations here, on Twitter, and in the Womanist Musings cross post. I want to thank everyone who stopped by and shared their ideas. I hope you’ll stick around!

In further consideration of that post, I’d like to say a couple of problematic things about the post and my blog as a whole:
  • It was problematic for a white woman to criticize a WOC’s handling of an issue of race.
I did not need to go after Ms. Arreola’s comments so directly. That post began (as many do) in the comments section of that post (I missed the first one and should have read the discussion there), which is why it focused on responding to Ms. Arreola’s words specifically. Questioning and focusing on the words of a mother of color rather than offering an independent analysis was a problematic and at times racist way to address the issue.While I stand by my assertion that the cover constitutes harmful appropriation and shouldn’t have been published, the way that I framed the issue and conducted myself in the comments was not good and evidence of my privilege. I apologize.
  • It was problematic for a childless woman to police the voices of mothers on an issue of motherhood.
I have a complicated relationship with my reproductive system and the idea of motherhood. I am young and currently enjoy a great deal of freedom from responsibility to anyone but myself and my partner, and I’m focused on my work and enjoying our youth with my partner. Pregnancy, infants, children, and motherhood are a threat to those privileges (and to a certain extent my mental health). It seems that my fear of pregnancy has grown into an anti-breeder (if there’s more appropriate terminology, let me know) attitude in my blog, and that was definitely evident in my posts yesterday and Sunday.

The idea that I could have these attitudes was a jolt for me, because my mother is a major part of my feminism and I plan on having children in the not-super-distant future. I think a great deal about my future methods of parenting, my fertility, and the future of my life with my partner. Not wanting to acknowledge my privilege or missteps to myself, I became defensive when I was called on that in the comments, and I apologize.

Pregnancy and fertility and reproductive rights are a major part of my feminism, but I haven’t done any reciprocal thinking about other side of choice: motherhood. I don’t really have a lot more to say on this issue right this second. But I wanted to let you know that I’m owning my privilege and thinking about stuff carefully and critically.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Babies are cars: adventures in gendered mass mailings

Last week, I opened up my mailbox and was slightly scared to find this:

Creepy, right? I ain't a mama and I don't want no babies. Thusly, I don't know what possible reason a postcard would have to post a baby inquiring as to whether I'd abuse it by forcing it to sit in its own waste.

Oh. It's for car upkeep. Duh.

A few things about this:

1) I'm not a huge fan of babies, but they are not cars. They're not equal to cars. They have nothing to do with cars. There is no reason to dehumanize babies.

2) Why is it necessary to humanize cars? The care of a human being is not analogous to the care of a vehicle - it's far, far more important. What kins of materialism creates that equivocation?

3) What the hell kind of guilt might this create for an anxious new mother? What about a mother who has lost her child?

4) Notice that this is addressed to me, and not my partner. Monro is rather blatantly making many problematic assumptions based on my first name. For them, the best way to get me to come back for an oil change is not to appeal to me based on the quality, convenience, or low cost of their services. They instead choose to guilt me into changing my oil based on the maternal experience or inclination that they assume I have.

Pregnancy, my greatest fear

When I became sexual a few years ago, the monthly prayers began. Every 28 days, I became a nervous wreck, checking for my period several times a day, looking at the calendar, policing my hunger for the odd cravings that I thought would be a tip-off. I was perpetually convinced that I was with fetus. Since my cycle's average is 35-40 days and is lengthened by exactly these kinds of worry, this meant two weeks of nerves and trich unless I pissed on a six-dollar stick.

The fear crept out of frenzied conversations full or reassurances from friends and into my my academic work. In my senior year of college, literally everything I wrote was about pregnancy - and it was all in the horror genre.

And it was never founded. I am very, very, very careful about avoiding pregnancy. In my three plus year relationship with my partner, we've never gone without some form of birth control (be it prophylactic, hormonal, or otherwise) and we usually use two forms. I am not casual about these things.

At one point, I was primarily scared of getting an abortion. That seemed, to me, the ultimate sacrifice. It's still scary, but more for the "invasive surgery" aspect and less the moral handwringing. I've made my peace with doing away with a being whose creation I took steps to prevent, who would leech off of me for nine months. It wouldn't make me feel awesome morally, but many things I do do not make me feel awesome morally.

But now, after experiencing the terror of OCD triggered directly and repeatedly by the hormones of birth control, I'm more scared of losing my sanity through impregnation. Even if I procure a hasty abortion, I will still be pregnant for a few weeks, I will still be subject to the hormones that that brings along.

Pregnancy is often framed as independent of the woman whose body is being incubated. In law, in the gynecologist's office, in birth and after birth, in politics, in popular culture, the contribution and serious sacrifice demanded by creating a person within our body is minimized and dismissed. In reproductive health legislation, in discussions of famous pregnancies, in religious functions, the burden of pregnancy upon women pales in comparison to the angelicized babies they create.

When I began looking at non-hormonal methods of birth control (crazy things like diaphragms) the male gynecologist I saw said that no young woman had ever asked for one, and dismissed the idea out of hand because I wasn't in a serious enough relationship (though I'd been in a monogamous relationship for almost two years at some point). He patted my head and sent me away with a form of birth control that made me lose control of my emotions, heightened my anxiety, and killed my sex drive.

Being in control of my body, in and out of the realm of fertility, is a major part of my feminism. I've been a feminist for over a decade, but becoming sexual, becoming physically vulnerable to the whims of a state that does not inherently respect women and their agency in their bodies, gave my views a personal stake and an urgency. It's one of the reasons that I've actually become more of a feminist since I began dating my partner, who is decidedly not a feminist.

Perhaps one day, I will be ready to make the sacrifice of my body and possibly a good chunk of my sanity to have a child. But until then, I'll be dependent on condoms, diaphragms, pregnancy tests, and the safety of abortion (and the privilege that nearly assures me of a safe termination).

But until then, I will be scared of and obsessed by the possibility of pregnancy.

Illustrations are from my senior honors thesis, a feminist dystopian graphic novel. College was awesome.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ms. Magazine's Cover Appropriates Hindu Imagery

Above is the most recent cover of Ms. Mandy van Deven on the Bitch blog tore this apart for incorrectly appropriating Hindu imagery - rightfully in my opinion - and Veronica I. Arreola of the same blog disagreed:

I've always viewed the multi-armed image of motherhood as relating to an octopus. Again, growing up ignorant of Hindu deities, the octopus or spiders, especially in cartoons, were seen as having an ability us humans didn't have - extreme multi-tasking. And today's moms are pushing the boundaries of multi-tasking.
An octopus? No. This is not supposed to be like an octopus. Octopus' arms are fluid and unwieldy. The top two hands are in a specific position that is meant to recall the way people in meditative stances hold their arms. Additionally, each hand is definitively grasping an item, much as the Hindu goddess Durga does here:

The Ms. cover is definitely mimicking this. Both women are facing forward, with their arms and bodies fully turned towards the viewer, and each arm is in activity. There's no way the Ms. cover is supposed to be a fucking octopus.

Arreola further writes:

So is the image on the Ms. cover a slap in the face to those of Hindu faith? Perhaps. But it's also the best way to depict the life of a today's mom. I'm not a student of Hindu deities, but were any of them also multi-tasking mamas? And I'm being totally serious with that question. I don't mess around with goddesses.

Well, that's inconsiderate.*

"I'm sorry, there's just no other way to perfectly express this!" is a tool of the oppressor to preserve their privilege. People frequently cite this kind of logic to justify their use of blatantly ableist language like "lame". I believe I remember saying exactly this to a friend to justify my use of the word "gay" when I was about 12. It's just, you know, a cultural touchpoint. It's just, you know, how you describe this idea.

Just because something is commonly seen in popular culture does not make it an okay reference to reify. No, not even if you're doing it to support moms. Come on. Privilege blinds, and appropriation in imagery and language is not okay if you're on our side.

When you know something is racist, as Arreola does, when you know something is wrong, you need to fulfill your creative duties and find another, less tired point to echo. You don't defend it and say that it's totally okay because that's just how we say things!

Women can be shown to multitask with hydra heads, or with blurred hands doing many things, or... I don't know, something. There's no need to mock and appropriate the imagery of a religion that millions of people currently practice.

This is not a comparison I thought would be likely, but Ms.'s cover above reminds me of this widely criticized cover from the National Review:

I like Ms. I have a subscription (thanks, Mom!) and it's definitely worthwhile. But this is retrograde and insulting and obtuse. I'm sure there's good material inside, but this is a poor way to package it, and it does not need defending.

Cross-posted at Womanist Musings

*I used the word lazy originally here. Since Ms. Arreola is Mexican (something I did not know until she posted in the comments), this constitutes racist word choice, and I have accordingly changed it. My apologies.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kim Kardashian assures America that diamonds in Botswana are just dandy

Kim Kardashian went to Africa this week. I know, exciting, right? You see, having seen Blood Diamond, she was really concerned about the use of slavery in making diamonds. But DeBeers gave her a tour that cleared that right up:
"The Diamond Empowerment Fund has brought us to Botswana to show us how the diamond industry has changed the life of the Botswana people. I used to assume after watching the movie Blood Diamonds that diamonds were not acceptable to buy from Africa. However, it is the complete opposite! When diamonds are purchased, the whole country can survive! In Botswana there used to be 10 schools but the diamond industry has now funded 300 schools!

We went into the largest diamond mine! It was huge! The trucks they use to carry the diamonds are 6 million dollars, and each tire is $70,000! How crazy is that?! Look at how small we look in comparison to the tire! We saw all the raw diamonds and the process they have to go through in order to get them ready to be delivered to stores! Thank you DeBeers for that amazing experience!"
I mean, damn.

So apparently, not only are diamonds (made by impoverished South African forced to live without water, reliable shelter, or fair pay) okay to buy for seven karat diamond engagement rings - they're the opposite! Everyone should buy them! After all, if you don't like diamonds, you're not a real woman.

Kardashian has a point though. Diamond mines are fueling the Botswanian economy. The government, from what I can understand, is not as blatantly corrupt as some, and the country's roads, facilities, and education systems are among the best in Africa.

However, there is an enormous divide that leaves out a huge section of the population. Who, exactly, does that great economy work for?

Yet there is another, more pessimistic side to the story of Botswana’s development. To put the matter simply, diamonds have produced distorted development. Most obvious has been the limited economic spin-off in terms of employment. Debswana, the diamond mining corporation owned jointly by the government and DeBeers, employs about 6,500 people, or just 2 percent of the workforce. To be sure, there is significant secondary employment generated by the company’s contractors and consumption by Debswana employees. The bottom line, however, is that after decades of rapid GDP growth, about 40 percent of the working age population is unemployed. Apart from the diamond industry, no other economic sector has experienced much growth. In the meantime, the educational system, well funded by diamond income, annually churns out large numbers of students who cannot find jobs, even when they have a university education. Top planners in the education have concluded that government must restructure the system to prepare youth for export to the global economy, since few jobs will be available inside the country in the foreseeable future!
This doesn't even address the US-level erasure of the tribal peoples who had the land before DeBeers:
In the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the reserve. Soon after, government ministers went into the reserve to tell the Bushmen living there that they would have to leave because of the diamond finds.
In three big clearances, in 1997, 2002 and 2005, virtually all the Bushmen were forced out. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post were closed, their water supply was destroyed and the people were threatened and trucked away.
So it's not so much that "Botswana has sooooo many more schools" as "the tribal system of schooling and government was disrupted and colonized, and is beginning to collapse under itself." Rad.

I don't think Kim Kardashian is the worst of the Hollywood worst. I like that she advocates for herself and her figure. But in this case, Kim Kardashian is about as reliable a source as Wikipedia, and the most recent edit was by DeBeers.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Williams sisters are gorgeous, Jason Whitlock an ass

Those of you playing along at home will remember how Jason Whitlock feels about Wimbledon champion Serena Williams. Namely, that she is wasting her talent (and much more importantly for Whitlock's boner, her looks) because she's too fat.

This is quite clearly asinine and refuted by the fact that Williams and her sister have won basically all of the championships multiple times. But let's also talk about how Serena and Venus Williams are gorgeous:

Duh and duh. The Williams sisters are beautiful and fantastic role models for all of us. I think I'm going to go take a run!

H/T to Jezebel and Go Fug Yourself

Concentrated Cute week, day five: vintage kitties

My kitties thank you for hanging out with them this week, and assure you that they will be back.

August in particular is going to miss you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sorority Life on Facebook and the construction of female friendships

If you're a twentysomething lady on Facebook, you've probably seen your friends playing "Sorority Life". I ignored the Paris-Hilton looking application for weeks and months until, in a weak moment, I signed up and made an avatar. I was suspicious at first, but at first glance it was innocuous enough. You make friends, socialize, etc - all of the superficial purposes of a sorority.

But then I went to the main page. Right up top, guess what's emphasized:

Yup. Consume, consume, consume. College campuses are about buying and style. Learning is not mentioned.

You show affection for your friends through Farrah Feathered Hairstyles, perfume, and ugly trendy bags.

All of the social events and ideas of social standing are based on how much "glam" you have. Guess what glam is?

If you guessed "traditional/stereotypical markers of femininity that inevitably costs money", you get a cookie! Spend, spend, spend, ladies. Having an iPod is the only way you can socialize:

You are overseen by a House Mom, who gives you Brownie Points that are somehow different from other forms of cash. Though they're apparently equal to actual cash:

The application's construction of female friendships and interactions is just as disturbing. How do you climb socially?

Attack other women. Duh.

And how are the winners of these fights chosen?

Whose friends have the most material goods. Duh.

There are a couple of good points. You have to have a job, and there's a bank you can put money into (though it's difficult to use and there doesn't seem to be any purpose for that facet). There’s an emphasis on confidence, but it’s mainly used to attack other women. But everything, even social events, are not based around female friendship. They're about fighting sisters and using other women as status markers - it's not the quality of your relationships, but the quantity. You don't interact with your friends in a meaningful way, but use them to get material goods.

I was in a sort of sorority in college, and I loved having a woman-focused atmosphere. I'm not willing to write sororities off completely. But this isn't the direction they need to go. "Sorority Life" is a sick way to socialize women into believing they need more, more, more to have friends and have fun.

What's something on Facebook you object to? How do you feel about sororities?

Concentrated Cute week, day four: outdoor kitties

Guys, it's a beautiful day. Why don't you go outside?

T: Hello!

T: Come outside! You'll love it! It's great!August: No thanks. I'll chill here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Site Recommendation: Womanist Musings

I am tired of spending my energy trying to get privileged white feminists to understand the ways in which their behaviour mimics patriarchy. The same action that these women would not tolerate from a man, they are more than willing to subject women of color to. Gotta love how vagina solidarity works until the woman is question is understood as “other”. I could dedicate a lifetime to yelling and cajoling white women all to no avail. For many white feminists all that matters are the ways in which a WOC can be useful. When it is about promoting something that is in their best interests we are all women. [from The Name of this Blog Is]

Renee Martin's year-old blog Womanist Musings is important reading for persons of privilege, allies, and those interested in social justice. But it's not fun, or easy. Womanist Musings has been extremely and personally challenging to me as a white feminist. Martin holds women who are used to feeling righteous and ethical responsible for their lapses in a courageous and honest way. I know there have been a couple occasions on which I've read Martin's posts and reacted poorly, blinded by my own privilege. She does not coddle, or soften the blow, but attacks your privilege with the full force of her deft logic and experience fighting oppression. Though WM's focus is on womanism (not feminism), Martin writes passionately and knowledgeably on a number of issues, including ableism, trans and LBGQ rights, mothering, and foreign affairs. Martin's ideas are far from narrow. She often focuses on masculinity and the contributions and concerns of men in an incisive way that's rarely seen on other sites.

I have known that I have privilege for a long time, but it was only after I started reading WM a year ago that I stopped patting myself on the back for that basic recognition quite so much and started criticizing my own prejudices and privileges, and the ways in which I entrench them. As this blog is evidence of, I often focus too narrowly on the oppression of folks like me - white, rich, straight women - and much less on the myriad ways in which I participate in the oppression of others.

My first few drafts of this post criticized Womanist Musings for her lack of examples, but after more research I don't think that criticism is valid. Martin always includes at least one supporting example in each piece of analysis; considering that she posts in such depth several times a day, this is more than adequate. When she is writing off a specific news story such as Jena 6, supporting examples are not always necessary. At other times the lack of constant examples contributes to the wide application of her ideas.

I have also come to realize recently that though Martin does not always specifically cite examples of the privilege that she describes, she does a very powerful job of developing long-term examples:

Normally Jessica Valenti appearing on CNN would not cause me to watch the video, however when it was suggested that feminism may be obsolete I was curious to see which women this little segment involved. Can anyone guess what I was to discover? That’s right, white women were busy debating whether or not feminism has a role. The women held up as feminist icons were none other than Hillary Clinton and Angelina Jolie. Certainly no woman of color could accurately represent feminism, we seem to be fit only to babysit while famous feminists rush off to seminars to discuss their marginalization. [from Feminism: The White Women Are Chatting]

Martin's frequent critique of Feministing at first struck me as mean-spirited and bullying. I like Feministing's content and respect all of their editors, and I think that they do a good job at many things, and they have a very strong presence from a superb WOC writer - Samhita Mukhopadhyay. But as I continued to read both Feministing and Womanist Musings, I came to realize that my assessment and defense of Feministing was rooted in my own privilege. Of course I like Feministing - the editorial staff's concerns are very similar to mine.
Part of the reason I started this blog and called it "Deeply Problematic" was to engage my own bigotry and privilege. I don't think I've done that yet, but I'm learning, and I'm doing the best I can:

Decolonizing your mind is dirty work, so don't expect to be all pretty when you are done, but at least at the end of the road you can declare yourself a thinking woman of courage and agency. [from Pearl Clutchers]

The rift between WOC and white women needs to be healed. Each new slight just adds to the bitterness and contempt and is the equivalent of pouring salt into an open wound thereby further dividing us from each other. When there is such a large history of betrayal we cannot afford to continue to fuel the negativity as it only detracts us from our common enemy: patriarchy. [from Womanism/Feminism....Feminism/Womanism]

Miranda's ill-advised post on Feministe got me thinking about this again: why don't we do our own dirty work? What's so hard with sitting down, and listening? I know I've used friends of color and trans friends in the past as teachers, and I shudder to think what kind of ignorance I've subjected them to. When we know which sites are resources, (I'm thinking of Questioning Transphobia in addition to Womanist Musings), white cis feminists need to add the feed to our reader, learn, and comment on issues of substance rather than expecting experiential knowledge on demand.

Womanist Musings is a valuable resource for any reader interested in social justice. Though it is not a feminist site, it’s been crucial to my recent development as a feminist. WM is a difficult but worthwhile body of work that has brought me to a new, fuller (though still incomplete) understanding of social justice. I highly recommend it.

Recommended posts (in addition to the links above):

PETA Dresses Up As KKK
I Am Not a Feminist
Can A White Woman Be A Womanist?
Starting The Feminist Dog Uprising [Martin is often funny; this is a good example.]
Big Girl Panties and the Cycle of Victimology
What Is A Feminist Issue?
I'm An Ally But
The Convenience of Super Crip
Activism: The Best You Can
It's All Because You Are Fat
Disability And What You Should Know

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