Saturday, February 21, 2004

Another Invalid Quiz

This is about medieval personalities and the current corporate world. It's about as predictive as tea leaves or the entrails of an ant, but if the only task you have awaiting you today is doing the laundry or vacuuming the floors, I strongly recommend this as a valid delay tactic.

To find out your medieval personality, click here.

I am the Minstrel/Dreamer. Last time I did this (also on a laundry day), I was a King. Some personal growth has taken place in the meantime!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

On The F-Word

It's a lot more pleasant to be a goddess than a feminist. Even on the Olympos. I recently attended a cocktail party there and in the course of the usual chitchat mentioned to some obscure monster that I was a feminist. He latched on to me the way his kind do:"And when did you become a hairy-legged manhater? Why do you want to kill babies?" I mumbled something about him having confused me with some other goddess and, clutching my nectar glass to my chest, made a beeline to the other side of the room. Weak, you think? Well, yes, but there is only one properly divine answer to such accusations, and I had already eaten that day.

The dictionary definitions of feminism mention nothing about feminazism or misandry or even a desire to abort every single fetus ever created. They talk about boring stuff such as the belief that women and men are of equal worth and should be offered the same opportunities for a meaningful life. I'm the boring type of a feminist, but these days it's largely only the dictionaries which take me at face value. In most other contexts, mentioning that you are a feminist elicits a response that was probably very familiar to medieval leprosy sufferers: avoidance, loathing, fear and anger. Maybe every feminist should carry a little bell to warn the honest, God-fearing people that something nastier than communism is just around the corner?

The story how the meaning of feminism metamorphosed into something so frightening would be very interesting to tell, though of course its exact plot would depend on the teller. I myself see the mainstream media in countries like the United States one of the culprits; they think that it's much more fun to write about bra-burning or reverse discrimination than about why there are hardly any women in public positions of power or why most of this world's poor and illiterate are female. The conservative media pundits are especially to blame: they have offered women, and especially feminists, as the answer to almost every problem this country has faced in the last three decades: divorce, latchkey children, juvenile crime, boys' problems at schools, rising male depression rates, even serious threats to our national security: all these have been laid at the feet of the feminist. Heady stuff, isn't it? Makes one wonder how feminists achieved this all with minimal resources, hardly any access to mainstream media and tremendous resistance from such powerful groups as the Christian right-wing.

After roughly thirty years of this kind of slamming, it would not be surprising if feminism as a movement was suffering from some breathing problems. This should be a cause for joy amongst the anti-feminists, but it seems that they are never satisfied. Take Rush Limbaugh: he may have done more than any other living person in labeling all women who believe in equality as feminazis, and he has spent priceless hours of bitter commentary on the futility of feminist goals. Yet now he suddenly wants the movement resuscitated and active! When Justin Timberlake ripped off Janet Jackson's breast shield at this year's Super Bowl's half-time show, Rush raged:

...the feminist movement has totally lost every inch of ground that they got and are back to square one. Women are portrayed as victims. They cannot be secure and powerful on their own any longer. ...In the old days, the feminists would have been howling at this, they would have said that is simulated assault, and you're going to have all these young people thinking that's okay. Girls are going to be okay to have it happen to them.

Makes your head spin, doesn't it? Rush is like a little child who took a toy apart in anger and now stomps his foot because it refuses to work.

Though of course feminists ' howled' at this. They are just invisible to the mainstream media (and certainly to the right-wing media), unless what they do can be translated into something negative and juicy. This invisibility is nowhere more evident than in Nicholas Kristof's writings in New York Times. Katha Pollitt points out his apparently near-total ignorance of the international work that feminists do:

Kristof profiled Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia and wondered why "most feminist organizations in the West have never shown interest in these women." Perhaps, he wrote, "the issue doesn't galvanize women's groups because fistulas relate to a traditional child-bearing role." Right, we all know that feminists only care about aborting babies, not delivering them safely. The Times got a lot of letters (and published some, including one from me) pointing out that feminists, in fact, were behind numerous efforts to combat fistula and other maternity-related health problems in Africa, including the work of the UNFPA, praised by Kristof, whose funding was eliminated by the White House to please its right-wing Christian base.

This was last spring. Then more recently, in a series about the international sex slave trade, Kristof concluded:

Senator Paul Wellstone helped direct the fight against trafficking, but since his death, leadership on the issue has passed overwhelmingly into Republican hands. Likewise, most mainstream women's groups, like the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation, have been shamefully lackadaisical about an issue that should be near the top of any feminist agenda.

I like 'shamefully lackadaisical': it conveys Kristof's moral outrage after spending days, weeks and months looking in vain for some sign of feminist activity in this field. Except he didn't spend any time on it at all. He didn't even bother to learn that NOW is a national women's organization, not one aimed at international problems, or that the FMF has spent most of the last decade and its funds fighting to get some publicity and relief to the horrendous treatment of women under the Taliban. He didn't learn what I did by a simple act of googling: that there are lots of feminist organizations fighting the international trafficking of sex slaves. It would have spoiled his argument, I guess.

Why these sudden demands for more feminist activity from pundits as different as Limbaugh and Kristof? I can think of several conspiracy theories here, but the most likely is that the sport of feminist-bashing has just taken a new form. When 'feminazi' can be used as a matter-of-fact description of Hillary Clinton in a New York Times book review, the old baiting game has clearly grown uninteresting. Something new is in the making, some novel epiteths to be used on feminists, some delicious distortions of feminist ideas. Cocktail parties won't get boring any time soon. Especially as I plan to diet before the next one.

You should read the Katha Pollitt article I link to in the text. It's excellent. So is the discussion of Kristof in ms. musings. And thanks for ms. Lauren for the link to Rush Limbaugh's views.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

If He Had Been Born a Girl...

This site tells what might have happened to George W. Bush if he had been born female. You can compare the two career paths and draw your conclusions... Ok, now that I've said all that, I must admit that it's also fun.

Click here.

I nearly forgot: Keep the sound down if you're not in a private space...

The New Cappuccino Bar

- This is my pro-environment lament.

Cafe latte. Hold the caffeine. Wait in line. Sit at a postmodern table, take out your high-tech substitute of a newspaper and bury your nose in it. Time flies. Time is money. Money flies. The cups clink, the machines hiss, money changes hands. Nothing here has a simple name. Tall means small, grande a little bigger. The fire in the fireplace is a simulation. The clientele is also a simulation, all young, all affluent, all postmodern, with sharp edges and fuzzy middles. The bathrooms are clean and contain no reminders about the need to wash afterwards.

This place used to be an abandoned lot. Not a beautiful meadow, but a rough patch of ground where weeds battled for survival. In late summer it looked like a dead field. Every day an old man would come with an even older dog and slowly, majestically, the pair would part the reedy stems of the brown grasses to enter the field. Then she, the dowager queen of all dogs, would lower herself, arthritically, majestically, to rain over the parched soil; a goddess of grass being worshipped in an ancient ritual in her honor. Every day.

Now the rituals are different. The lot is sealed with asphalt, the space decorated with yellow lines, arrows and mystical signs worshipping a different god, a god of computers, sunglasses, cash registers and ears pierced seven times. The awkward weeds are gone. In their place stand rows of boxwoods, all perfect spheres.

It is possible to come here without seeing a single weed, a single poor face, a single wrinkled face. The whole world is available here if the world is sanitized, straightened out, converted into electronic impulses. It is possible, here, to pretend that death never comes, that food is born pristine, that life is clear and good. The whole lot is paved with asphalt, anything and everything can be removed from the cappuccino grande and it still remains cappuccino grande. The god of this place is the god of logic and cool goodness, god of clean bathrooms and everlasting life.

The old man is probably dead by now. The old dog certainly is. She has gone away to where old dogs go. The weeds are dead under the asphalt. The new rituals are winning: The lot is full of shining cars, their metal wings momentarily at rest. The tables under the plastic umbrellas are crowded with people who have good skin, expensive watches, silver-colored toenails. No-one uses the door marked "Exit" to enter. The new god is strong.

But at night doubts arise. The moon casts a different light. The parking lot is empty, the outside tables deserted. In the shadows the yellow lines seem to waver, the paving seems to crack, as if pushed from below. And, sometimes, fleetingly, one can see a furry paw, a phosphorescent eye, a glimpse of a slow, majestic movement of something sinking, lowering. Does the new god turn his head when he hears the night rain fall?

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The Single Girl's Guide to Sex Presidential Elections

Are you planning to vote in the 2004 presidential elections? Sometimes reading opinions about the likely outcomes throws me into the deep pit of liberal angst and despair: the world is indeed against us and what's more, it's populated by pod-people. Here's one commentator's pessimistic take on the future:

Unlike any other presidential election in our lifetime, a right-wing dominated Republican Party will go into the 2004 election with a majority in the House and Senate. Moreover, they will, most likely, keep those majorities, especially since they have assiduously been gerrymandering Congressional districts (in places like Pennsylvania and Texas) to guarantee their control in the House. In addition, it's also likely that Republicans may pick up some seats in the Senate, especially from Southern states where Democrats like Hollings, Edwards, and Graham have relinquished their incumbency. To neglect this historically significant moment of Republican congressional majorities is to blind oneself, either out of moral myopia, political obtuseness, or sectarian stupidity.

I'm not quite so pessimistic as I sense some grumblings deep below the ground, and these might rise up to the grassroots at any moment. But neither am I convinced that we will win at the end. Life is not The Lord of the Ring: Part III. But there are things that ordinary liberals and other non-conservatives, compassionate or not, can do, nay, even must do. And one of those is to vote in the oncoming elections. I plan to do so, and I'm not even a registered voter, so what's your excuse?

The idea here is to use shaming to make every right-thinking lefty rise up and press the buttons on election day. And yes, I know all about the Diebold controversy, but we can't even complain about that if we didn't participate in the farce first. So vote, boys and girls!

And if you are a single woman, it's your special responsibility to go out to vote this year. Why? Because you belong to a crucial group, a group that just might win us the presidential election. Here's why:

FORGET THE ANGRY white men of 1994, the soccer moms of 1998 or the NASCAR dads of 2002. This year, Democrats believe that single women -- one- fifth of the nation's population and 42 percent of all registered women voters -- are the demographic-swing group that could decide a close election, oust President Bush and alter the political landscape in Congress.
Who are these unmarried women? They are never-married working women, divorced working mothers raising kids alone and widows who are worried about their economic security.
Last December, Celinda Lake and Stan Greenberg, two well-known Democratic pollsters, released the results of a survey that Democrats are taking to heart. "Unmarried women represent millions more voters with very clear concerns about the economy, health care and education," said Lake.
To this, Greenberg added, "If unmarried women voted at the same rate as married women, they would have a decisive impact on this (2004) election and could be the most important agents of change in modern politics."

So how did they use this power in the 2000 elections? Here's the sad news:

The problem is that single women just don't exercise their electoral power. In the 2000 presidential election, 68 percent of married women went to the voting booth but only 52 percent of single women cast a vote.
That means that 6 million single women failed to vote in an election that hinged on a little more than half a million votes nationally and a few hundred votes in Florida.

Single women are more likely to vote Democrat than Republican, when they vote, so it's imperative to get them all interested in voting. The Democratic party is supposedly beginning an outreach program for this demographic group, but more needs to be done. Shaming by blogs is one small step in the process. I'd also like to see childcare at the voting day for all single mom voters to use, and maybe some transportation help for those impoverished widows the quote mentioned. But most importantly, I'd like to hear the Democratic primary candidates explain loudly and clearly what the Bush administration has done so far to make single women's lives harder, and how the Democrats are going to correct all these problems. Come to think of it, they haven't said that much about these important issues. Maybe I've been trying to shame the wrong people here?

Monday, February 16, 2004

A Quiz About the Weird and Wonderful World of Politics and the Media:

1. The most exciting adventure of the last twelve months was

a) The Lord of the Ring: Part III
b) The Iraq war
c) President Bush's surprise Thanksgiving visit to Iraq
d) Howard Dean's Meteoric Rise and Fall

2. The most dramatic recent television event was

a) The baring of Janet's Jackson mammary gland
b) The nonbaring of the MoveOn's "Child's Pay" ad
c) The president's State of the Union address
d) The Iraq war

3. The worst thing about the Janet Jackson's breast scandal was

a) That she bared her breast while children might be watching
b) That Justin Timberlane bared her breast while children might be watching
c) That it was no longer possible to tell the ads from the halftime programs
d) That people who paid for soft porn in the Lingerie Bowl got less of it than those who
didnt' pay anything

4. John Kerry is more beholden to special interests than George W. Bush, because

a) the Bush-Cheney campaing video mailed to six million people declares Kerry "an unprincipled politician brought to you by special interests"
b) Kerry has collected 640,000 dollars from special interest donations since 1989, more than any other senator, while Bush collected 960,000 dollars from lobbyists last year alone
c)left-wing lobbyists represent special interests but right-wing lobbyists represent the American People
d) All of the above

5. "Ordinary people are competing against one another in impossible situations in order that a very few can win monetary rewards." This is a description of

a) A Reality TV show called "The Survivor"
b) The American labor market
c) The Iraq war
d) All of the above.
Correct Answers: You decide. I worked hard enough to make up the questions.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Your Brain Usage Profile

This is a ruthless steal from Ms. Lauren's blog. You can find out how you use your brain here.
Should you be interested, here's my summary of results:

John, you exhibit an even balance between left- and right- hemisphere dominance and a slight preference for visual over auditory processing. With a score this balanced, it is likely that you would have slightly different results each time you complete this self-assessment quiz.

As well as a different name, probably...

More Greek Lyrics

To celebrate love, or perhaps to commiserate with those unhappy in love. And a few unrelated ones, to get us ready for Monday.

On Love:

Here I lie mournful with desire,
feeble in the bitterness of the pain gods inflicted upon me,
stuck through the bones with love.
If it only were my fortune just to touch Neoboule's hand.
Such is the passion for love that has twisted its way beneath
my heartstrings.
and closed deep mist across my eyes
stealing the soft heart from inside my body...
Archilochus of Paros

The love god with his golden curls
puts a bright ball into my hand,
shows a girl in her fancy shoes,
and suggests that I take her.

Not that girl - she's the other kind,
one from Lesbos. Disdainfully,
nose turned up at my silver hair,
she makes eyes at the ladies.
Anacreon of Theos

Like the very god in my sights is he who
sits where he can look in your eyes, who listens
close to you, to hear the soft voice, its sweetness
murmur in love and
laughter, all for him. But it breaks my spirit;
underneath my breast all the heart is shaken.
Let me only glance where you are, the voice dies,
I can say nothing,

but my lips are stricken to silence, underneath
my skin the tenuous flame suffuses;
nothing shows in front of my eyes, my ears are muted in thunder.

And the sweat breaks running upon me, fever
shakes my body, paler I turn than grass is;
I can feel that I have been changed, I feel that
death has come near me.
Sappho of Mytilene

Had enough of love, for the time being?

The God of Wealth, who's altogether blind, never
came walking in my door and told me:"Hipponax,
I'm giving you three hundred silver mna pieces,
and much beside." Not he. He's far too mean-hearted.
Hipponax of Ephesos

The fox knows many tricks, the hedgehog only one.
One good one.
Archilochus of Paros

Source: Greek Lyrics, translated by Richmond Lattimore.