Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tasty links

Description: A black and white cartoon from toothpastefordinner.com. A smiling figure says: I'm in perfect shape and always have been, no matter what I eat or drink, and I think that fat people just need to diet and exercise.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Racial disparities in organ donation

Image description: A black and white drawing of an enlarged kidney.

There’s a lot of evidence that rather than heading towards a post-racial society, racial gaps in the US are actually widening - in wealth, in test scores, and in organ donation. And recent studies have shown that white supremacy extends to whose life is and is not extended by organ donation (80% of which are kidney donations). According to the Madison Capital Times:
"There is an increasing gap between African-Americans and white patients," says nephrologist Byran Becker "Our health care system is heading the wrong way, and we should think of how to change that."..

A Capital Times analysis of data compiled by state and federal health agencies, private researchers, and the United Network for Organ Sharing, the organization that oversees this country's organ donations, found disparities at every step of the transplant process, from the prevalence of diseases leading to renal failure to the numbers of donors and recipients to death rates. 
To begin with, African-Americans are several times more likely to develop diseases like hypertension and diabetes that lead to kidney failure, according to countless studies. New research suggests this group is hit hard in part because of a genetic predisposition to the disorders; many African-Americans also lack the regular access to decent health care that can keep such conditions under control. 
African-Americans also make up a disproportionate share of the 354,000 people in this country - including 5,000 in Wisconsin - who need to go on dialysis. While only 13 percent of the country's population, blacks make up 40 percent of those on dialysis and a third of patients waiting for a renal transplant. Some of them will need to wait a long time. According to UNOS data, 39 percent of African-American patients who registered for a transplant seven years ago are still waiting or have died, nearly twice the proportion of white patients who suffered those fates.
Our health care system is deeply fucked up; it’s kyriarchal on just about every axis imaginable. This is one more indication that the medical industry values some lives more than others, and that ours is not a post-racial society.

Teenage girls and internalized sexism

Image: The cover of Britney Spears' first album, ...Baby One More Time.

I’ve gained quite the reputation as a hand-wringer and a self-flaggellator about privilege, and that’s fine with me. I expect it’s well deserved. I don’t face a whole hell of a lot of oppression, comparatively speaking - society validates me pretty well, considering how much it invalidates others. Feminism's major flaw is that it privileges me for the reasons the rest of society privileges me: my race, my trans status, my evident able privilege, my size. So I try to mention these things frequently, though probably not often enough. As long as I’m writing about oppression, I figure I should make obnoxiously clear that I’m not really an expert on many of its most nefarious manifestations.

But in spite and because of these flaws, I’m still very emotionally tied to feminism; feminism alone got me through years when I did feel the weight of having a non-standard body. When I was a teenager, I hated myself. I was smart, but no one would listen because I was a teenage girl with non-evident disabilities. I hated my body, and so did everyone else, because I was big and because I actively rejected beauty standards. I felt judged, harassed, and hated - by my peers, by my teachers, by society at large. It was not some conspiracy theory: I was not well-liked by most.

But feminism loved me, feminism understood me. Feminism told me that I was still okay, that I was still worth loving, that I was still worth being. Perhaps this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had the many privileges I do, but I am still thankful for the deeply flawed movement at that stage. Feminism was there for me, even when I was in conflict with my main conduit to feminism - my mom. I didn’t like my name, I didn’t like my body, I didn’t like my face, but I liked my feminism. I didn’t know what I was ten years ago, but I knew I was a feminist.

Feminism couldn’t keep me from hating myself, but it was a safe space, my only safe space.

But since I shed my awkwardness and turned into the physically lovely and confident person I am today, I have not shown the same kindness to girls in that tenuous position. I have had little regard for teenagers. Teenagers are silly and loud and don’t know shit about shit. Teenagers project their insecurity on other people. Teenagers are stupid and inexperienced.

I found myself adding to the conventional wisdom about teenagers - teenage girls in particular. That they are silly and shallow and not worth listening to. That they try too hard, particularly for male attention. That they have nothing of worth to contribute.

I wrote women and girls, female people, off because of their age. I didn’t pay attention to them when they spoke on important topics. I mocked their interests and fads (Twilight) not just because of their problematic content, but because teenage girls liked them. I laughed at jokes in South Park that compared the object of mockery to teenage girls to prove their lack of worth. And I’m not the only one: even in feminist spaces, younger people are often decided to be a lesser concern.

This is internalized sexism.

Hatred and fear of women in my once and future positions is a function of (what else?) the kyriarchy. I heard so much bullshit about women and teenaged girls as a teenaged girl that I started to believe it, and hate myself, and think I deserved this abuse. And then when I grew up and got stronger and stopped hating myself, I still believed that I’d deserved what I’d felt because I was a teenaged girl, and believed that teenaged girls deserved ridicule.

The kyriarchy insists I hear, see, believe a lot of bullshit about my body. But it’s not just about my body now: it’s about the body I had, the body I will have.* I feared being a teenager before I was a teenager, and that made the wonderful and awful changes of my body - my weight, my hips, my breasts - distant and shameful. Looking back on that body, I see not the beauty of my struggle and the pride I should have in myself for surviving, but the pain that I felt and the feeling that I deserved it. And it makes me think that I was awful, and that being a teenager is awful, and that teenage girls are awful. I envy teenage girls who like themselves and think themselves worth the same consideration I get, and I pity or sneer at the teenagers who are struggling at I was, and I fear them all.

My distaste (which I’m working through) is indicative not of the innate qualities of teenage girls. Teens are not necessarily obnoxious, oversexed, or any other particular quality. Actual teenagers are just as likely to be insightful and witty as the next person - and that’s what they are, people. Not mutant people, or incomplete people. Just people, at a vulnerable stage of their life. People who are worthy of the same respect and consideration given to older folks, as teen blogger Chally wrote at Zero at the Bone:
If it’s a surprise to you that I’m a teenager, maybe this would be a good opportunity to examine what assumptions about the blogosphere, who writes and on what topics and so on went into that. If I lose some authority or respect in your eyes because of my age, that is your problem.
I took the bullets of the kyriarchy made specially for teenaged women and somehow survived it. That is something to be proud of, and something to work against. Teenage girls are not a fearful or less-important category of woman: they are full and wonderful and worthy of respect and attention and protection. When looking at teenage girls henceforth, I will strive to take them seriously as individuals, and not some reflection on my past and future self-worth.

*In the same way, I hate and fear my future body. The age privilege I hold that I will lose as I become more lined and less youthful. The creaks of age, the fragility that might come. I am taught to fear my transition, to avoid becoming my mother - my beautiful, brilliant mother.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Disability Carnival #68

Image: A person in a white shirt spinning cotton candy out of a steel bowl. In the foreground are crafted hearts. From Wikipedia.

Welcome to July’s edition of the Disability Carnival! The theme this month is “evidence”.

Tokah writes about the social mode of disability’s flaws, and communication limitations in "What Is Your Cage Doing To You?":
I am generally a very "social model" of disability kind of person, but sometimes it fails us. It fails us when we can't do things a different way anymore, when we simply can't do them at all. What the poster was referring to ultimately is being "locked in”, the point that all connection to the outside world ends.
F S wrote in with a strong description of her post, "Symbols, archetypes and stereotypes: What experts have said about vaginismus":
I am presenting evidence that some so-called experts on women's sexual health problems are sexist jerks who just perpetuate myths and stereotypes about women with vaginismus, to say the least. There is some god awful assumptions out there about women with vaginismus... I take a disability perspective with regards to female sexual dysfunction, instead of an exclusively social construction or exclusively medical approach. I find that the disability model fits my own experiences best, and it's looking like this alternate model is resonating with some women with FSD besides me, too.
Spaz Girl sent in a post called “It’s Not That Simple”. The post is an interesting process-oriented exploration of what goes into her experience of driving with cerebral palsy.
But the thing is, if I don't drive, there's a very good chance that I won't be able to go anywhere independently when I'm living on my own... Not to mention with my directional issues, I'd be petrified to be in a big train station by myself (I'm thinking of a few in NYC...). And again, separate issues arise if I bring the scooter - will I be able to get it onto the train? Off the train? Will there be a spot for it on the train? And will my destination be accessible? And paratransit is so ridiculously unreliable that it's barely even an option. So unless I drive, I'm looking at a fairly bleak future limited to the few places I can walk/roll to.
In a post titled “Evidence”, Danielle writes about negotiating and providing proof of her son’s evident disability:
Because if he isn’t happy all the time or if he misbehaves, won’t people think he “hasn’t accepted his disability?” That he “hates being different?” Won’t they think he isn’t that inspirational disabled person we all prize so much but instead is a “miserable cripple” who “hasn’t accepted his fate?” Well guess what, a confession—he sometimes has his meltdowns, too. But the meltdowns are not over having to wear braces or walking with crutches. They are about regular kid things like when we make him stop playing video games or when we tell him it’s time to go to bed.
Dorian writes about responding to friendly questions with unexpected honesty in “I’m depressed, but otherwise fine.”:
But the whole time, I’m depressed. It doesn’t go away, which is what the people who are puzzled by my response don’t seem to get. I’m depressed. But I can also be fine. Certainly I don’t always pull off that balance, but often enough I do. I have my bad times, where being depressed really is all that’s going on–if asked how I’m doing during one of those times, I’ll most likely say so, too!
The 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was this month. Ruth wrote about the importance of accommodations in "An Ordinary Day 20 Years after the passage of ADA"

I know- from experience- that what looks like ordinary isn't. That it's quite extraordinary, not because I have a disability, not because it's extraordinary that I can do what I can, but because of what it has taken to get to having an ordinary day. The message is that many others could do it as well. And will.
Haddayr Copley-Woods wrote about the positive impact the ADA has had on her son’s life and what still needs to be accomplished in “A word of thanks for the ADA
While the impact of the ADA has been profound, there is still a lot to do. Employers are still reluctant to hire disabled people. Studies have found disabled adults are two to three times more likely to live in poverty than adults without disabilities. And we’re still fighting for the Community Choice Act, which would help keep disabled people from being institutionalized.
I loved this entry by last month’s carnival host Dave Hingsburger, titled “Down’s Syndrome Off The Clock”. It’s a narrative about overheard conversation between a parent and child, and about the fluidity of disability.
'Trouble is you think I have Down Syndrome all the time and I don't,' he said with real frustration.

She stopped again, 'What?'

'I only have Down Syndrome sometimes, when I'm learning something new or if the words are real hard. I don't have Down Syndrome the rest of the time when I'm doing what I know how to do.'
Zuska provides a valuable reminder in “Some Reasons Not To Honk Your Horn At People In Parking Lots”.

Maybe people are doing stupid things in parking lots for stupid reasons. Or maybe not. Maybe there’s a hidden disability involved. In any case, it’s not clear to me that the honking does anything more than vent the honker’s spleen. I don’t know if that lowers or raises the honker’s blood pressure.
At Moving Hands, there is a terrific narrative about when a cochlear implant isn’t necessary:
What am I supposed to say? How am I supposed to explain that sometimes, as nice as the universe of sound is, it can be even better to walk through Manhattan with one less distraction among this sensory bombardment?
annaham writes about a surprising experience in which her needs are not questioned in “Why am I surprised by this?

I was fully expecting that the surgeon would either minimize and perhaps outright dismiss my concerns during this appointment; worse, he might actively resist giving me anything other than over-the-counter pain medications for what is known as being a very painful procedure, as fibromyalgia patients seem to have a reputation as being “drug-seeking” among some people in the medical community and in the popular imagination at large (to say nothing of the ridiculousness of getting one’s wisdom teeth removed as a method of obtaining prescription drugs).
There’s been a lot of conversation about the autism spectrum and language like “high-functioning”. ballastexistenz wrote on pre-concieved notions in “What I just told someone who didn’t match current autism stereotypes.”

So knowing all that I’m never surprised when people don’t match the conclusions. The conclusions come from generations of faulty observations, faulty logic, and faulty science. And then no matter what the conclusions are, people who match them or who think they match them or can be said to match them by others, suddenly start getting diagnosed more. It’s a disturbingly tangled thing and I wish more people noticed.
And Leah Jane wrote about the evolution of her self-identification in “Fully Functioning

That was what made my brain spiral into regret and horror. I was reinforcing the idea that intelligence equalled a person's worth to the world, that people with autism who could not possibly build rockets or cure HIV were not as valuable as the oft-touted supergeniuses used to justify our existence and given as the reason autism should not be cured.
Astrid wrote about the boundaries of acceptable public bearing in “The Limits of Acceptability

[It] is a norm that, for job interviews, you do not engage in stimming behaviors – or at least not in certain stimming behaviors, since some are acceptable. This norm was created by mostly neurotypical people, and is hence ableist. Some people go so far as to say that stimming at all is wrong, while some people allow it in the privacy of a home.
I'll close with one of my most popular posts from the last month, about a very visible portrayal of disability on television: "Ableism, Appropriation, and United States of Tara".

But, after rewatching and researching the show’s origins and authorship in a critical context, I was perturbed to realize that the show’s portrayal of disability was not only sensationalistic, but inherently based on appropriation. In United States of Tara, DID is used as a metaphor, an analogy, a plot point—part of the human experience, yes, but also an opportunity to speculate, crack jokes, and make grand statements about Life (normal life: that is, with able privilege) and Being A Woman (an everyday woman: that is, one who is not crazy).
That about wraps it up. Thanks to the folks at Temple University's Disability Studies (particularly Penny Richards) for letting me host this round. The next carnival will be hosted at brilliantmindbrokenbody and the theme is "distance". Thanks for stopping by, folks!

Mad Hoc: Public Relations

Image description: The season four promotional photo for Mad Men, featuring the lead actors against a beige backdrop.

Today brings a new, collaborative weekly television feature: Mad Hoc. Femonomics blogger Coca Colo and I are huge Mad Men fans, and we needed a regular blogging outlet for our adoration and critique of the show. So after every new Mad Men episode, we’re gonna have a little chat about the episode and the show in general (with apologies to Sady Doyle and Amanda Hess’ “Sexist Beatdown”).  Each week, we’ll discuss a mixture of general issues and episode specifics, viewing it all through both our cranky feminist lenses, and our huge fan goggles!

Coca Colo: Ok, so, I think it would also be good and proper for me to tell you a tiny bit about myself and my Mad Men background:
I'm a grad student, phd in economics
And, I actually haven't watched every episode of Mad Men!
I am very into it, and read lots of blogs about it, but I haven't seen all of season three
RMJ: I am 24, living in Virginia (originally from Kansas!). I graduated from a women's college two years ago, live with my boyfriend and two cats, work as a composition tutor
Coca Colo: oh, since you do such a good job of unpacking privilege on your blog, that's something we should make explicit, and keep in mind with regard to these posts.
I'm half white, able-bodied, straight, cis, size-privileged
RMJ: Good idea! I am white, mental disabilities/physically abled, straight, cis, fat with some size privilege, class privileged
Coca Colo: One of my things with Mad Men, getting into content now, is that it's allll about sexy whiteness and wealth. and it's not just that, it's that there is a certain amount of goo-goo-ga-ness to its presentation of whiteness and wealth
RMJ:   Yeah no kidding. That was definitely present here, with the multiple fancy interviews in fancy restaurants and the whole “TimeLife building! Two floors! Wow!”
I often feel like they're giving a nod to civil rights, as with the reference to Andrew Goodman, without seriously addressing it the way they do feminism
Coca Colo: Yes, they show there are major problems beneath the facade, but we're supposed to ooh and ah at Betty's clothes.  Within that framework of showing an admittedly very appealing fantasy, how much can you be subversive?
RMJ: Well, but is it supposed to be a fantasy?
I mean, I think it's supposed to be "gritty" and "revealing" to a certain extent
Like "this is what your grandma's sex life was REALLY like! In the CAR! Have you EVER!" And “people were RACIST and women were DISCRIMINATED AGAINST! My stars!”
Which is a revelation...for rich white people
Coca Colo: Yes, I agree, but I meant just that part of what they draw viewers in with is how sexy and luxurious it is. It's not a fantasy life, but it plays on our fantasies
RMJ: Also, while I think they're doing a great job of portraying problems with women and work and the home, it's not like "the feminist mystique" is really radical in 2010
Coca Colo: It's 1964 now, and the Feminine Mystique has just been published, right? So I wonder if they will push that farther in this new season, if they will dig into the source of Betty's ennui. We've seen her move from her troubled marriage with Don into a relationship with Henry that doesn't seem to contain any more satisfying elements, except that at least he's still enthralled by her
RMJ: I think that's going to be Betty's major arc - she's trying to recapture the whole "thrill of the chase" once again
And I think that is a relevant critique, considering how much "rules"/Cosmopoliton nonsense women are still filled with today, where romance and being desired and protected are the most important components of a relationship, rather than respect or partnership
Coca Colo: Absolutely. Betty and Don never had a relationship on adult terms, it was about her being a child and seeing how far she could push him and what the limits of her power over him were.
And speaking of "rules", we saw a lot of that with "Betty junior", Don's date
who knew better than to let a man "walk you to your door" while rich husband shopping
RMJ: Yup. Don has moved on from that whole “get married have babies” ideal family mantra, it seems
I'm not exactly sure where they're taking his character, but I'm intrigued
Coca Colo: yes. many people have pointed out that Betty gets a lot of grief for her parenting, but Don has it easier--he just shows up, gives hugs, lets them watch tv, and then drops out again
RMJ: Yeah
Don basically gets parades for not abusing his children, which is great and all, particularly for the time period
But Betty was just dropped into this without a choice. it's a good demonstration of why motherhood should be a practical choice
Coca Colo: Yes, yes, yes. How should should she feel about her three kids, given the situation under which she had them, particularly the last?
RMJ: And of course, Carla's childcare is almost totally erased
I think it's interesting how Betty's relationship with her caretaker was kind of idealized, whereas we never see Bobby and Sally's relationship with Carla
Coca Colo: I agree with you about her presence being interestingly erased. I don't know what the "rules" are for inclusion as a character in Mad Men, versus someone who only gets to be onscreen when one of the designated characters is onscreen, you know?
For example, Betty has been given the "character" designation, so we get to see her without Don, even though she doens't work at the office,  but most other people's homelives, we only see when they're there -  no scenes of Jane alone, or Joan's fiance
RMJ: Or Trudy 
Coca Colo: So the issue is, they've decided Carla isn't a character, so we can't see her without Betty - and I wonder, why do they construct the rules that way, when you know it will exclude any person of color from being a character, since they won't be hired at the office
RMJ: And Betty is the only exception to the SC rule - the beautiful white lady,  and her father/daughter/etc
Coca Colo: So if there are exceptions, why not make them for others, so we can see non-white/hetero/etc characters?
Like why does Sal have to be gone just because he got fired?
RMJ: Joan wasn't!
Coca Colo: And why can't we see a little bit more of Carla's life, and what civil rights means for her, and her children, which she probably leaves to care for Betty's rich white children.
RMJ: And you know what, they COULD expand their point of view to characters of color working in SC/DP
Coca Colo: Right, because I'm sure there are office workers and others of color, but they've chosen not to show them, I think because it's not "sexy"
RMJ: Do you remember the scene where Peggy/Pete got it on, and there was the janitor watching and laughing?  Who is he? Or the elevator operator, Hollis, how does he see SC, how does he interact with the executives and secretaries?
I mean, I can't write MM fanfic, and I understand that there are limits to the number of characters they can show. And they do do a good job of showing that people in the 1960s were really openly racist - they just don’t show characters experiencing and processing racism directed at them. They do as a good a job of showing that people in the 1960s were really openly sexist, but what’s great about their portrayal of sexism is that they go beyond that to show women experiencing and processing sexism directed at them.
It seems to me the point of view of people of color is as valid a perspective as Joan or Peggy or Betty. If the secretaries are worth exploring....what about the other workers then considered "menial"?
Coca Colo: This goes back to my point about the show presenting this, almost fetishization of rich whiteness, and refusing to deviate from that to REALLY place it in the 60s, and the experience for so many
So that's what makes me wonder how progressive it really is, because they've chosen to only tell the stories of people of color as background players to white characters. They're only relevant if a white person speaks to them, or if they observe a white person, etc
RMJ: It's classic feminism: talk about the white ladies, nod to non-standard bodies without any kind of serious consideration
Coca Colo:  That's why I think women of color and feminists of color are NOT so excited about this show,  because it's being progressive, but in that same very white-centric mold
The Mad Men world doesn't exist outside the walls of sterling cooper (draper pryce), the draper household, and expensive restaurants
RMJ: It's consistently only about the white side of the domestic/social/professional sphere
Coca Colo: Yes. And I am NOT giving it a pass because "it's the period".
Yes, it's period-appropriate that people of color would not work side-by-side in the ad agency, but that certainly doesn't mean they didn't exist
Weiner has chosen to define the rules of his universe in a certain way that excludes them
RMJ: And also, women did not often work side by side - white women were likely not more important than black men in the advertising environment, but the Mad Men universe has chosen to include them. There WERE black advertising executives at the time, I’ve read (though I can’t find the source) but they’re just not showing them.
Have you read Latoya Peterson's piece on race and Mad Men from last year?
http://www.doublex.com/section/arts/why-mad-men-afraid-race?page=0,1
Coca Colo: Oh, she has a new one, too
http://www.racialicious.com/2010/07/26/mad-men-4th-season-same-m-o/ 
We definitely didn’t invent this wheel :)
Now, I promised we would talk about the kink we saw in Don’s Thanksgiving relationship.  I was excited to see it, actually, not just because of the complexity it adds to Don's character,  but because of how it shows unvarnished sexuality, not movie sexuality where it's all romance (from the woman's perspective) or hot babes from the man's. It wasn't exploitative, the way that normally is.
RMJ: It's also interesting in that with slap happy kink, it's usually men spanking/slapping women, but here is the manliest, sexiest character on the show asking for a slap
Coca Colo: What do you think it said about his character? (and potential control/self esteem/parental issues)
RMJ: I think it's supposed to be a reflection of his boredom with women and his emotional pain right now, and also his history of abuse
Also, now that he's single, he can't just have affairs, he couldn't tell a, uh, non-transactional lover about his kink.
Coca Colo: I don't think he would have let his guard down that much to any of his lovers, he was still always projecting an image
But I thought because it was hinted his relationship with the sex worker was ongoing, that it could also be a farther-back preference of his  and not a new thing--just our first time seeing it.
RMJ: Sure, but it could have been developed in the year we as viewers didn't see
You know, it is worth commending that Mad Men usually has a pretty decent and respectful representation of sex workers. they're workers, they're employees of sorts, they're professionals.
Not exactly in-depth, but better than many shows
Coca Colo: Yes, you're right. There's no moral judgment on her in the least, it's seen very much as her being a professional woman in his life, not all that unlike his new maid. He can replace his perfect wife in pieces by women for hire--one for cleaning, one for slapping, perhaps one for babysitting next?
Coca Colo: It's interesting about the affairs, how it seems to have changed things that he's not married,  that it's actually gotten HARDER for him to date women
Ironic!
RMJ: Yeah, that IS interesting.
Now that he's single, every woman looks like a potential Betty
Coca Colo: And they also look at him differently, perhaps?
It might not matter for women who are married, but for someone unmarried, hm, not sure how to say this without buying into sexist tropes. But, basically, he doesn't have an excuse anymore not to get serious with women. And at the time, that's still what was expected to come out of dating relationships.
RMJ: Whereas before, his affairs had an automatic expiration date, now there's an expectation of something more
And there's also the Sterling/Jane relationship, which he clearly hates and wants to avoid
Coca Colo: Ah yes, the famous Don Draper moral code: screwing everyone within a block radius is a-oK, but actually divorcing your wife for a younger woman is VULGUR
I love how he is so self-righteous, despite everything!
RMJ: I know right?  "I'm from the midwest, we ____"
What else was there to unpack in this episode?
Peggy!
Do you think she has a little something something going with that coworker she was flirting with?
Coca Colo: First off, I love the haircut
I love the new sense of command
RMJ: yes and yes
Coca Colo: I even love the scenes with Don, even though he's berating her, she has a new sense of self in responding -  she will not be reduced to a little girl
RMJ: We should quote Tom and Lorenzo here
They nailed this part:
Peggy's sporting a new bubble 'do and an attitude of confidence that makes you completely forget the nervous, sheltered secretary fresh from Miss Deaver's Secretarial School...We just loved the image of Peggy sitting on her desk, whiskey in hand, bitching about difficult clients. Later, she barrels into Pete's office unannounced, confidently shouting out "He's expecting us!" to his secretary on the way in. She orders Joey to work with a sharp "Chop chop, Joey." She's supremely confident and in her element and she probably never would have gotten the chance to be so free and open at the old SC. It's really wonderful to see.
Coca Colo: yes! I'm excited that you read them!
RMJ: Hell yes! Their Mad Style posts are what I read when I get cranky.
Coca Colo: So, about Pete being a rapist...  and yet being presented as so likable in this episode...
RMJ: I think this is an important conversation, but I also think it's something we might should revisit later in the season? Because you just wrote about it, and this episode isn't about Pete, and this post is going to be mighty long anyway :)
Coca Colo: Yes, I think you're definitely right, let's revisit it later.

Tune in next week! In the meantime, please give us your thoughts on the show/episode in comments, or check out my past Mad Men posts.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More female instrumentalists: Kaki King, Alicia Keys, Mo Tucker, Joanna Newsom

My post on female instrumentalists in June was a big hit, and so was the follow-up earlier this month! Consequently, I will be pumping this well of content in this and future posts - and I may even have an idea for a regular series based on it!

Christy and Stephanie both mentioned guitar virtuoso Kaki King:



Renee reminded me of my middle school fave, Fallin’ by Alicia Keys:



Bravo had a couple of great suggestions. The first was Mo Tucker, drummer for the Velvet Underground (who seem to have a great good bit of problematic content, I should note for the sake of stuff). This is “I'm Waiting For The Man”:



Joanna Newsom, a harpist and singer/songwriter also suggested by Bravo, is an artist I’ve heard of but haven’t bothered to check out yet. I like her creepiness and odd, striking voice. This is "The Book of Right On".



Lyrics in comments!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reminder: Disability Carnival!

REMINDER: 

Submissions to this month's Disability Carnival are due...now, basically! 

The original due date was yesterday, but I'm going to extend my call for submissions to the day of the carnival, Thursday July 29, at 9 am EST!

The theme: evidence.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gone until next week...

Lovely readers, my power cord is broken (for the second time this year) and I am about to be without Internet access, so there will be no posts this week. I plan to be back early next week.

Remember, submissions to the Disability Carnival are due this Monday! Email deeplyproblematic (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thank you for your patience. See you next week!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Choice Links

Image description: A Victorian-era woman in formal dress and a hat with a big feather looks proudly at her pumped bicep.

Lucy Jane Stoner at Feminist Fatale: I Was a Teenage Anti-Feminist: Confessions of a Former Professional Celebrity Blogger
By engaging in and therefore perpetuating celebrity gossip, we never quite move entirely beyond the overbearing self-consciousness of adolescence to become realized, confident adult women. Instead we divide ourselves up in front of our computer screens to systematically dehumanize other women because their pores are too big, or their eyebrows are not plucked, or they enjoy having sexual partners, or simply because they have been constructed as the villain
s.e. smith at FWD/Forward: Bad Behaviour, continued: Eight Year Old Autistic Girl Arrested For Battery
Back in January, Evelyn Towry, an autistic third grader living in Idaho, just wanted to wear her cow hoodie1 and go to a birthday party and eat cake with her fellow students. Her teacher decided, for reasons that remain nebulous, that Evelyn wouldn’t be allowed to go until she took off her hoodie. Evelyn didn’t want to, so her teacher left her in a classroom with two staffers to guard her. She decided she wanted to leave, and a ‘scuffle’ ensued when the staffers tried to restrain her.
It ended with Evelyn’s arrest. For battery.
Charles Cooper at CBS News: Vaseline Issues "Skin-Whitening" App for Facebook
Vaseline has introduced a skin-lightening Facebook application designed to allow users to lighten their skin color in the profile pictures displayed on the social network site
Mercedes Allen at Dented Blue Mercedes:Trans People, “MSM” and HIV Study and Outreach
I get it that effective terminology must be given to identify target high-risk groups for the sake of study. I get it that the terminology needs to be both simple and encompassing. I get it that HIV is a serious issue and relevant to the trans community, though not all trans sub-groups are high-risk. I get it that penile-anal intercourse (PAI) risk groups can include trans women (indeed, we’re upset when we’re not). What I don’t and will not get is the gay community’s insistence that transsexual women are “really men” and how it’s such a bother having to state otherwise in order to be inclusive. To be fair, there are many folks in HIV study and advocacy who don’t feel or act that way, but the prevalence of MSM-exclusive study sure reinforces this impression.
kaninchenzero at Rabbit Lord of the Undead: Free Advice: A Bargain at Double the Price
You, as a white person, benefit from white privilege and the denial of opportunity to non-white people. Again, this is not anything about you personally — yet. This is an artefact of a racist society and is unavoidable. If you want to work against racism you need to be aware of how privilege works: It does not mean you personally do bad things to non-white people and get stacks of cash for it. It means that (to get into sport metaphors) you had an enormous head start and a relatively smooth path to run. Non-white people start from farther back and face more obstacles and are denied opportunities you don’t even notice because to you they’re just how things are. (And not all white people have all these benefits — but nearly all lack a lot of the disadvantages nearly all non-white people face.)
Zerlina L. Maxwell at Salon Broadsheet: Mel Gibson scandal: Ignoring domestic abuse
What has been overlooked in almost every single report of that incident is why Grigorieva was tape recording Gibson in the first place. She needed proof. Proof that Mel Gibson was abusive to her not only emotionally, but physically. She had already provided dental records in their custody fight to prove that he knocked her teeth out but Grigorieva still felt she needed more evidence to show the court that Gibson is much more than just politically incorrect, he's dangerous. Why is it that the detail about Gibson knocking Grigorieva's teeth out was literally a throwaway line at the very end of an article with a splashy headline detailing his latest racist diatribe? Why did it take so long for them to launch a formal investigation into his abuse?
Drop your links in comments!

Friday, July 16, 2010

TelevIsm at Bitch Magazine: Police Women of Memphis depicts trans women with respect

There’s not a whole lot I have to say about PWOM as a show in general. I think that glorifying a very problematic justice system as this show seems to do is probably not fantastic. But, I like that it depicts ladies in positions of authority, being competent. It’s also cool that many of these women are of color. And one of the cops on the show is named “Virginia Awkward”, which is a pretty kickass name.

PWOM came to my atttention this weekend after I heard of its depiction of an almost radical act. It portrayed women as being worthy of respect, and protection. As not deserving of sexual harassment. This in itself would be worthy of praise. But this depiction is particularly worthy of singling out because the women being protected were trans women. And in a media environment that generally depicts trans women as deceptive, predatory, disgusting, and generally less than human, that’s exceptional.
 Finish reading here.

Comment Roundup - or, Encouragement?

It's my birthday! But that's not what I'm here to talk about.

When I first jumped on board here at Deeply Problematic, one of my roles was supposed to be a weekly roundup of awesome, interesting, and thought-provoking comments (on both sides of discussions). I've been slackery in that role, and I apologize.

To be a comment of the week, you definitely don't have to agree with my or RMJ's opinions on things - just contribute a different or alternative perspective, an interesting link; something that makes us consider why we think the way we do or what we're thinking about this week. I found that there wasn't a ton of commenting, so I definitely want to encourage people to voice their opinions, whatever they are.

Now, without further ado...the Comments of the Week:

Reviving the older but always-relevant post I Am Pro-Abortion, Not Pro-Choice, sweetchild92 said:

(...)comments saying "you don't know if you're for the procedure until you've had one" come across as terribly patronizing. I don't see that being told to women who want to become pregnant/mothers. (...)You may know women who had the procedure and act one way, but I can say that I know women who haven't acted that way post-abortion. (...) And the "my would be abortion is now 3 years old" comment? Really, really unnecessary.
(Comments are abridged for space, but are linked so you can read in context.)

From More Female Instrumentalists..., Miranda comments:
you might want to consider investigating the riot grrrl movement more deeply(...) riot grrrl was in response to the sexism at punk shows and in the music industry in general-- as a result, riot grrrl bands were demonized as being more political than musicially inclined, thereby dismissing the music they DID make and negating the messages entirely.

Plus, they're so heavily linked to zine-making, which was so democratic, so cheap, and pre-blog(...)

In the post All Along The RSS Reader, K (hi, first time poster!!) wrote:
(...)I put up my Weekly blog link roundup today. I try to include stuff about sexual dysfunction whenever possible. There's stuff about general news in feminism too.

And then earlier I put up Shorties which is a series of disconnected short posts. The last of the shorties may be NSFW/TMI due to a frank (but not explicit) discussion of a sex act I did once so click with discretion.
I'm also not sure if any of the comments over on RMJ's post about United States of Tara for Televism at Bitch Magazine are by DP'ers, but it's a great thread and I definitely recommend it as well.

Congrats, commenters! Let's see some more great commenting in the next week!
-Faye, your friendly neighborhood comment mod

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The burka ban, and Sarzosky’s sexist determination of what a woman should look like

 Image description: An Afghan woman sells handmade crafts during the opening of a women's shelter in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province Dec. 13, 2007. The Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team provided more than $86,000 in support of the shelter's construction, which was accomplished by local contractors. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Andriacco, USAF. From Wikipedia.

As I’m sure you’ve read elsewhere, the burka, hijab, niqab and other religious head-coverings have been banned in France. This is Islamophobic, racist, and sexist on a number of axes. It assumes a Western definition of what these articles of clothing means for Islam and for Muslim women. It makes the outsider view of Muslim women the official, legal position. And it denies the experiences of actual Muslim women.

This law is another entry in the long history of legal measures designed to satisfy the patriarchal and kyriarchal need for control over who women are, what they look like, and how they present themselves. Legal management of women’s bodies is an expression of sexism, whether it pertains to reproduction, weight, birth assignment, disability, sexuality, or clothing.

The French government is ordering women to express themselves in certain ways. They are determining the meaning of women’s clothing and bodies for women; they are mandating exactly how much is okay to cover up and exactly how much is too much. Sarzosky is forcing women to show their faces to the outside world, forcing them to place their bodies up for public consumption - whether they want to or not.

This is yet another example of the French government making decisions about women’s bodies for women, as they did in telling Delphine Ravisé-Giard that she is not a woman until her breasts are a certain size. Women are not free to negotiate their own bodies in France; the paternalistic government has decided that they know better.

Nothing that women do with their bodies - how they clothe, feed, exercise, enjoy them - is necessarily, objectively indicative of oppression. The stated reason for banning face and head coverings - that it makes women prisoners, that it is debasing - has nothing at all to do with what burkas and hijabs actually are and what niqab actually represent.

This law is not about intrinsic respect for women. It’s not about liberating women. It’s not about creating a country that sees women as full, independent human beings.

This law is about limiting women’s religious expression. It’s about disrespecting what women want to wear. It’s about disregarding how full, independent human beings wish to express themselves, their marginalized background, their identity.

This ban is not about ensuring that women have “a social life”, not about keeping women from being “deprived of an identity” . This ban is about depriving women of their identity: their religion, their culture, their social interactions, their deeply held beliefs.

It’s about men, once again, deciding exactly what women should and should not, can and cannot, will and will not, dress, wear, and be.

It’s about Western men, individually and systematically, controlling Muslim women - not about Muslim men individually and systematically controlling Muslim women.

Aaminah Al-Naksibendi wrote two excellent posts on the subject yesterday at her Tumblr thingsimreading. This is from also, whether the face veil is “a part of Islam or just culture” is COMPLETELY BESIDE THE POINT:
women that want to wear it - for whatever reason they choose (obedience to Allah in their opinion, emulation of our foremothers, a personal expression of modesty, for the privacy it provides, whatever reason) - should be able to wear it.telling women they can’t wear it is just as bad as forcing women to wear it.
there is no “middle ground”.
you either allow women to have autonomy in these choices
or
you are the one being oppressive.
Her post oh for cripes is also excellent.

The veil ban is about privileged people maintaining, perpetuating, and exercising their kyriarchal power over Muslim women. It’s about fear and hatred of Muslim modes of expression, of belief. Women are expressing their ideals and independence in ways that clash with Western perceptions of what constitutes freedom and choice, and so: they must be silenced, they must be uncovered, they must be displayed against their will.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Announcing: Disability Carnival #68

Deeply Problematic is hosting the next Disability Carnival! The theme this month is evidence.

Evidence can refer to having to prove one’s disability - to school, to friends, to writers, to society at large. It can refer to the expectation that people with disabilities must prove that ableism exists.

Evident and non-evident is a way to describe how disabilities appear to able-privileged folks. Anna introduced me to this term at Tumblr:

Yesterday I was talking to this awesome person named Stepha (and Jha!) who used the term “non-evident disability” and I’ve decided it is the best term ever and will be adopting it instead of “invisible”. As she said - as many people have said - so-called invisible disabilities really aren’t. They’re just not sign-posted with mobility aids or “obvious” differences.

This theme should be taken broadly. Please choose something posted since the last carnival, posted at Rolling Around In My Head on Sunday, June 27.

Since I know I’m a little late getting this up, I’m going to have a late submit-by date. The deadline is Monday, July 26, and the carnival will be posted Thursday, July 29.

Please send me your submissions at deeplyproblematic (at) gmail (dot) com. I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wendy Garland dies after abuse and neglect from family

Major content warning for discussion of abuse and neglect

Wendy Garland, a New Jersey woman with disabilities, died last week after her primary caregivers, her mother and sister, abused and neglected her. Helene Hutchinson and Florence Garland have been charged "with neglect of an elderly or disabled person." Garland, who had cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, had not received medical attention in over two years. She lived and died in a dilapidated, overheated room filled with roaches, trash and feces.

Her family waited more than two hours after discovery of her body to call 911. In an attempt to mask their abuse, her mother, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew moved furniture and carried her from the 100-degree room she died in to the front door of the air-conditioned first floor. The house was a grim scene:
Police say both the first and second floors were infested with roaches, flying insects and rotting food...The toilet on the second floor was broken and full of feces, there was a bucket of urine on the floor in the bathroom and the shower area was filled with garbage, police said. In the victim's bedroom, the ceiling had collapsed and beams were visible.
Wendy Garland’s death is evidence of the danger in assuming that related caretakers have their family member’s best interest in mind. Able-privileged caretakers, particularly those who are kin to the person they care for, are given latitude where it’s not deserved. Their “sacrifices” earn them the benefit of the doubt, and someone else’s disability becomes their “burden”. Caregivers and family of PWD are often centralized in conversations about disability, and some shift those discussions to themselves. This is ableist. While family members and caretakers can be both critiqued and praised in disability discourse, the focus should always be on the person with disabilities.

The death of Wendy Garland is horrific. Her abuse went unnoticed, unchecked because of ableism: societal devaluation of people with disabilities and misplaced trust in abled family members. Garland’s death is a direct result of abuse on the part of her caregivers, the people in her life that some want to canonize and position as her selfless saviors. Parents, partners, siblings and other folks taking care of persons with disabilities can be wonderful, but they are not necessarily helpful: they can hinder, they can neglect, they can abuse, they can hurt, they can kill.

Monday, July 12, 2010

More female instrumentalists: The Hush Sound, Eisley, Bikini Kill, Yoko Kanno

My post on female instrumentalists a couple of weeks ago got a ton of terrific responses - I’ve thoroughly enjoyed investigating your suggestions! Throughout the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share videos of some of the artists mentioned in that post, going in order. Lyrics can be found in the comments.

Casey of Pop-Punk Junkie (a friend from school) suggested several artists. One of my favorites was The Hush Sound, who have a lady vocalist/keyboardist, Greta Salpeter. Following is their song "Wine Red":



Casey also recommended Eisley, which consists of three sisters, (lead guitar) Chauntelle DuPree, (guitar and vocals) Sherri DuPree, and (keyboard and vocals) Stacy DuPree, and their two brothers. They performed the song "Marvelous Things" at SXSW last year:




Bikini Kill
is a classic riot-grrl band with Kathleen Hanna, Kathi Wilcox, and Tobi Vail. It is a failure on my part that I did not mention this obvious choice. This is “I Like Fucking”:



Cessen of Privileged White Male left a rhapsodic comment about Yoko Kanno. He wrote in part: “She plays the piano. But more over, she is a brilliant composer, crossing almost every genre. She has done blues, pop, orchestral of many kinds, rock, electronic, folk, jazz, new age, etc. etc. etc. and she does them all BRILLIANTLY.” He also suggested the following video, a Cowboy Bebop instrumental medley:



Look for another post with more music...at some point!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

All Along The RSS Reader

This is the inaugural edition of a weekly link-roundup. Let's get started!

Adam Serwer: Oscar Grant, A Victim Of American Fear.
Times change, but the radioactive fear of black people, black men in particular, has proved to have a longer half-life than any science could have discerned. This is not a fear white people possess of black people -- it is a fear all Americans possess. It makes white cops kill black cops, it makes black cops kill black men, and it whispers in the ears of white and nonwhite jurors alike that fear of an unarmed black man lying face down in the ground is not "unreasonable." All of which is to say, while it infects all of us, a few of us bear the brunt of the suffering it causes.

Static Nonsense - A Valuable Player
And because of this, it affects how comfortable I am playing with other people in these games. It affects what features of the games I use, where I go both within and outside of them, how I communicate with other players. It makes the very activity that I use to retreat and distract myself from the harshness of reality and society around me just as harmful as the social interaction I’m trying to withdraw from, should the situation arise while I’m around.
Amanda Hess - How DC Hospitals Fail Trans Patients
Which means going to the hospital—rarely a particularly pleasant experience—often produces an overlay of uncertainty and anxiety for transgender patients. Without a firm policy in place, the care transgender patients receive often comes down to chance; a caregiver who’s familiar with transgender issues may treat patients perfectly fine, but if they encounter the wrong employee, problems can ensue. Even, sometimes, within the same hospital.
Ms. Hess has just been absolutely on fire recently, by the way.

s.e. smith: Dear Imprudence: My Boss Sexually Harassed Me, Should I Cover It Up?
Prudie’s advice is bad on a lot of levels. First of all, telling someone to ‘forget about’ harassment is just a terrible thing to do. It’s not enough that he ‘feels he behaved terribly.’ If this intern is comfortable reporting and wants to go through with the process of filing a claim, she should consider doing so. Because she is obviously upset about what happened, she obviously feels violated, and she is obviously feeling uncertain about what to do, but knows what she wants to do something.
Rachel: Have you noticed
...that pretty much all of the news stories out there right now on the Oscar Grant verdict focus on the rioting and looting?
Cara Kulwicki: Using abortion as a form of birth control
The above phrase, a common one from anti-choicers, grates on me more than perhaps any other in the English language. It’s not for the ideological reasons you may initially assume — there are ideologies that annoy me far greater than the idea that “using abortion as a form of birth control” is a bad thing to do — but a linguistic one.
Greta Christina: How Sexism Hurts Men: Undateable
There are some fascinating exhortations about class in this book as well — exhortations that make the link between class and masculinity vividly clear. In order to be dateable, men have to not give off signifiers that they’re blue-collar or working class. No jacked-up cars; no clothing with skulls or tattoo art; no going to shooting ranges. But at the same time, they can’t be too intellectual or urbane. And no nerdiness at all: no Star Trek conventions; no Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft; no Renaissance Faires. (In other words — nix to practically my entire circle of friends. Most of whom, I might point out, are in relationships. With other Trekkies/ D&D freaks/ Renfaire nerds.) Apparently, ideal manhood — no, strike that, even just barely acceptable manhood — means being comfortably middle-class . . . and staying firmly within that class. No mobility for you, pal. Upward or downward.

Tasha Fierce: CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – Occupied Bodies: Women of Color Speak on Self-Image – Deadline October 15, 2010
I am soliciting essays for an anthology on women of color’s self-image/body image as shaped by family, friends, media, society, history, lived experiences, etc. I’m looking for smart, accessible, and snappy personal narratives that also offer nuanced analysis of the underlying constructs that affect how we perceive ourselves. Exploring intersectionality of identities is extremely important. I particularly want the voices of women of color that are not often heard to be represented, such as trans* WOC, disabled WOC, queer WOC, WOC outside the U.S., WOC with eating disorders, working class/poor WOC and fat WOC. Of course, all the varied perspectives any woman of color can offer are welcome.
Claudia Kalb: Is sitting while autistic a crime?
Three days later, and several hundred miles to the north, the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia had its own disturbing clash with autism. After receiving a call about a “suspicious male, possibly in possession of a gun,” sitting on the grass outside an elementary-school library, officers confronted Reginald Latson, 18, who is African-American and has Asperger’s disorder. Latson wound up being charged with assault and battery after he “proceeded to attack and assault the deputy,” according to a police report. No gun was ever found. Details of the incident are complex and still evolving, but the preliminary reports were enough to gain attention from members of the autistic community who worry their children could be next. In the words of one mother, this story is “my nightmare.”
 This reminds me about a similar crime I wrote about last year concerning another black man with disablities, Antonio Love.

Feel free to share links in comment!

Friday, July 9, 2010

TelevIsm at Bitch Magazine: Ableism, Appropriation, and United States of Tara


United States of Tara, a show about a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), recently wrapped up its second season. I haven’t yet seen it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first season—I love Toni Collette and Diablo Cody, and there are not a ton of shows about women by women. There are even less shows set in my home state of Kansas. It’s a funny, well-written, and on some levels well-executed show.
But, after rewatching and researching the show’s origins and authorship in a critical context, I was perturbed to realize that the show’s portrayal of disability was not only sensationalistic, but inherently based on appropriatiion. In United States of Tara, DID is used as a metaphor, an analogy, a plot point—part of the human experience, yes, but also an opportunity to speculate, crack jokes, and make grand statements about Life (normal life: that is, with able privilege) and Being A Woman (an everyday woman: that is, one who is not crazy).
 Finish reading here.

I was going to get mad about Ke$ha, and then I didn't: an okay occurance in blogging.

Image description: Ke$ha, a young blond woman wearing aviators, looks to the left of the camera with her mouth hanging open.

Content warning: solipsism.

Things have been serious round these parts, and slower than I’d like. Working full time tends to eat up prime blogging time. When I’ve been posting, it’s often about very serious topics - even if the news is positive. And then there are all the deadly fucking topics I don’t get to: Oscar Grant. The murder of a trans woman in Chicago. Abuse of disabled children.

But for whatever reason, I wanted to write about Ke$ha and the recent naked pictures of her or someone who looks like her. I ran across... well, okay, that’s not true, I sought it out, I like Ke$ha despite the appropriation, and my curiosity led me to a place I swore I’d never return to: Perez Hilton. I looked up the photos, and was immediately pissed in a weird way. It wasn’t actually a nude picture - it’s just a picture you’d see in any Rolling Stone, hands covering boobs. Second, there was the matter of the substance on the stomach - there was supposed to be semen on her stomach (though I couldn’t see it). Folks seemed to want to hear about it, too.

The issues here should be fairly apparent if you’re not new around here. Hilton and whomever released the photos are slut-shaming Ke$ha. They’re ridiculing her for being sexual, for having a female body, for being famous and having a past that’s not highly discreet. Hilton is trying to make her a public spectacle because he makes a living off humiliating women. Patriarchy 101, folks - men trying to restrict and punish sexual ladies.

But then I started doing a little research and I realized, I don’t have to cover this.

Because no one really cares.

There were a lot of hits on my Google news search for Ke$ha. Ke$ha is quite popular right now. But most of them were not about the photo I sought out, or some other photos (apparently neither of them are actually her). Most of them were about her professional accomplishments - videos, songs, awards, etc. Except for the most dedicated gossip hounds, few people cared.

The scandal appears to have failed. She hasn’t commented publicly because she doesn’t need to. It’s not a big deal. Perez Hilton is stamping his feet about how Ke$ha is not meeting his sexist standards for womanly behavior, and most people are pretty much ignoring him. She is a young, openly sexual pop star, and it’s just not that big of a deal.

It’s a nice feeling, to realize that shit has evolved to the point where feminist defense of a sexual woman is not that necessary. It doesn’t come along very often, and it’s not coincidental that it’s a young cis woman with white privilege who’s not being widely decried. I haven’t seen any feminists jumping to Ke$ha’s defense, because we’ve succeeded to the point that defense of this naked young white cis women is not that necessary, and we have bigger things to worry about. Like Oscar Grant. Or, like wringing our hands over the sexuality and professional accomplishments of a young cis woman of color (apparently).

I often focus on pop culture (and particularly privileged people in pop culture) to the exclusion of marginalized issues, like race, disability, and cissexism. I’ve been trying, hard, to focus on covering issues and news that others don’t. My aborted post on Ke$ha is another demonstration that my efforts, at least, are better spent elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Awesome alert: Vandy Beth Glenn wins Georgia trans discrimination suit


A federal court handed down a potentially powerful ruling on trans rights today, when judge Richard Story ruled that the Georgia State Assembly’s firing of trans woman Vandy Beth Glenn was illegal discrimination. The decision may help to give trans women the protection that cis women have legally had for decades: the right to not be fired for being a woman.

Ms. Glenn worked as an editor in the Office of Legislative Counsel successfully for two years before deciding to transition on the advice of her health care providers. Ms. Glenn approached her boss, Sewell Brumby, about her plans, providing pictures of herself as she planned to present. Brumby ‘s reaction, naturally, was to fire Ms. Glenn because her womanhood "...was inappropriate, that it would be disruptive, that some people would view it as a moral issue, and that it would make Glenn's coworkers uncomfortable."

Brumby’s prioritizing of the comfort of cis people and arbitrary notions of morality above details such as competence and the right to work is a clear reflection of systematic cissupremacy. The workplace is a frequent battleground for trans women particularly; upon coming out as trans, they are commonly subjected to sexual harassment and degendering. And as with Ms. Glenn, they are very often fired simply for presenting as themselves. This blatant form of discrimination contributes directly to high levels of homelessness among trans people.

Beth Littrell, an attorney with LAMBDA Legal who argued the case, praised the judge’s decision. However, she was cautious in her optimism, and quick to note that the ruling “is no substitution for a statewide law [protecting trans rights to work], but it does send a message.”

Congratulations to Ms. Glenn! Here's hoping that the July 13th ruling determining a remedy to this discrimination will be handled satisfactorily.

Disability is relevant to feminism, part infinity: Study shows that long-lived women have higher rate of disability

When discussing disability and ableism (and other forms of oppression) in feminist contexts, feminists sometimes question why it should be discussed at all. Isn’t feminism about women?, some ask. What does disability have to do with women’s oppression?

Disability is relevant to feminism because women experience disability, and because disability-related oppression often manifests in gender-specific ways. Disabled women are raped at a disproportionate rate. The bodies of women with disabilities are seen as public property, subjected to rude and invasive questioning. And a new study shows that women experience much higher rates of disability as we age, though we have longer life expectancies. The study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health and conducted by the Public Health Agency of Barcelona, found that 53% of women over 64 experience disability (an increase since 1992), compared to only 30% of men of the same age.

Albert Espelt, the lead researcher on the project, explained, “The double burden of work that women experience throughout their lives — domestic work and work outside the home — is a key factor in explaining this difference in different studies.” He went on to clarify that domestic work also has an impact on non-evident disabilities.

Women are forced to do disproportionate amounts of housework because we are expected to, because we are constructed as the default performer of domestic work. But most of us also have to work for a wage - even if we didn’t want to work for pay, it’s not like care of our homes and children are monetarily compensated. And what do you know, that gendered expectation that we will carry the bulk of the burdens of the home has an impact on our bodies and our minds as we age.

Disability is naturally ocurring, and not something to be eliminated. But when women experience disability at disproportionate rates, it is indicative not of a wide variety of different human experiences and bodies. It’s indicative of sexist demands placed on women’s bodies throughout our lifetime.

Source

I’m a feminist because.

I’m a feminist.

This is a wonderful and a terrible thing to be. I’m a part of a movement that has helped and hurt humanity. I am doing things about the problems I am seeing in the world, and also contributing to them. I am trying to challenge the kyriarchy, while reinforcing it.

It is often thankless work. People write me horrible things, attack and debase me, for saying what I think. It takes a huge amount of time, so that I am always wrung out, desiccated. I have a lot of skill and put in a ton of time, but I’m scraping by.

It is work that is rewarding me for the things it claims to fight. My fuckups will likely be forgiven, my voice centralized, not just because I am a talented and hardworking writer, but because I have the privilege that makes people give me a second and third and fourth chance where I don’t’ deserve it, because I have the class privilege to keep writing and keep dedicating valuable time after I fail.

I am a feminist because I would not be here without them, literally and figuratively. A feminist birthed me, and other feminists made sure that I had the right to school. A feminist raised me to care about and respect my body, and other feminists defended my right to operate and protect it. A feminist raised me to think for myself, and other feminists helped me find and refine my voice.

I am a feminist because feminism was designed for women of my privilege. Feminists made sure that I benefited from this movement where others did not. That my assignment at birth made my identity real while other women were banned and shunned and killed. That my voice would be central, be seen as always relevant, because of my race. That my work would be praised and encouraged, because I don’t look like I have disabilities.

And I am both these things, the wonderful and the awful, the oppressed and the privileged. I am what makes feminism awful and wonderful: a voice that is empowered when I’m told to shut it, a voice that is powerful, at the cost of other folks’ power.

Feminism is wonderful. Feminism is destructive. These things both exist. The brave battle does not erase the lazy privilege, and the hatred in its name does not change the beauty in its past.

I haven’t quit feminism despite how hypocritical and oppressive it can be. Because it’s me and women like me who’ve made it a toxic, kyriarichal environment. Because it’s my mess, too, and I’ve got to grab a scoop and pitch in.

I haven’t quit feminism even though it’s tiring and challenging and often thankless to critique the world. Because it’s something that fuels and feeds me when I face the bullets of the kyriarchy that greet me each morning. Because it’s a movement that is bettering the world by fighting oppression, and I’ve got to grab a hammer and help tear it down.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Library books constitute an excuse for a post.

Image: A picture from an old book of a person holding up their end of a cat's leash. The cat has one paw in the air and a displeased expression. The caption reads, "We don't try to force the cat to jump; it won't work."

The picture above describes my efforts to find something of substance to post about today. I Haven't seen any new stories ignored elsewhere, and all of my long analytical posts need another couple of drafts. I could work on my follow-up to my post on female musicians, but I don't have the energy.

Trying to post when I have no content and have had a shitty week is like trying to get a cat to do anything they don't want to do. It's also a little like:

Image: The cover of "Sex Lives of Animals Without Backbones" by Haig J. Najarian. Below the title are the words "Illustrated with drawings". The illustration shows two snails apparently about to get it on.

Snails, perhaps, could find something relevant to post about, and illustrate them with drawings. But today, I cannot.

Edited to add: I promised posts this weekend, but I am going out of town as it turns out, so I am going to avoid the Internet. See you Tuesday!

All images from the awesome blog Awful Library Books

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Civil rights activist Victoria DeLee, 1925-2010


"I found out one thing: writin' letters and phone calls don't get action. Best way to get action: go there. They can't stand to see you comin' there. They'll act like they're glad to see you, but it's not. And when you come there, they will do things for you to get rid of you." - Victoria DeLee, 1971

Civil rights activist Victoria DeLee was born in South Carolina in 1925. She was a fierce activist in her home state, working throughout her life for the human rights often denied her as a black woman. In her lifetime, registering to vote, enrolling her children in school, pursuing political office, and demanding accountability from her congressional representatives were radical acts of protest that effected real change. She died in the state she dedicated her life to bettering on June 14th, of complications from brain surgery. Her eighty-five-year lifespan, as she described it, was "unbought, unbossed and unsold," and a model for all of us looking to make a difference.

Victoria DeLee first came to attention when she registered to vote in 1947. Exercising the electoral racism of pre-Civil Rights Act voting laws, the registrar required her to read an entire book. When she finished, she said, " 'Give me my registration certificate... If you don't -- I says -- 'Mister, it's goin' to be trouble.' " Throughout the next two decades, she registered thousands of voters.

As with many women leaders, Ms. DeLee’s motherhood was central to her activism. She raised ten children (seven her own), and organized day-care and literacy centers for black and Native American citizens. She began the fight to integrate South Carolina public schools in 1964 when she attempted to secure enroll her children in all-white schools.

The DeLee family faced not only death threats but physical violence for their attempts to acquire fair, quality education. She and her children slept on the floor to avoid bullets. “"We couldn't go out in the daytime or sleep at night," she said. "My house, before they burned it down [in 1966], looked like a polka-dotted dress. Every kind of bullet hole was in that house." Soon after that, she sought government protection when she received bomb threats from the KKK.

In 1969, Ms. DeLee helped to found the United Citizens Party in response to the South Carolina Democratic Party’s ban against black candidates. In 1971, the year before Shirley Chisholm ran for president, she campaigned for a seat in the House of Representatives with the UCP.

Ms. DeLee was also notable for her confrontation of Washington players. She was part of sit-ins at the offices of John Mitchell and Strom Thurmond, whom she later worked with. "When I go there to see somebody, I just don't take no for an answer," Mrs. DeLee said. "If I go to see the Attorney General and they say, 'Well, I'm sorry, he's up on the Hill,' I say, 'Well, that's all right. I'll stay right here till he come down off the Hill.' They say, 'Well, you haven't made an appointment.' I say, 'Appointment the devil!' "

Victoria DeLee is proof of the power of local activism and community organizing; her life and work show that fighting for one’s personal human rights is a powerful political statement. Ms. DeLee is not a woman I’ve heard of before, and not one that was commemorated in any social justice blogs I read. But her life and work are deserving of recognition and the utmost respect. Our generation of activists is far from the first; we need to remember and honor the accomplishments of Ms. DeLee and other women who fought for freedom and equality.

This post is based on Mike Schudel's excellent obituary. The picture of Ms. DeLee is from the same source.
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