Saturday, March 27, 2004

Deep Thoughts for the Day

On Sex:

1. It's good.

2. It's even better with a partner.

Athena Is Coming For A Visit

Yes she is. In a few days' time she will land at the Snakepit Inc., and I haven't finished the cleaning and the polishing of the snakes, I haven't decided which way my hair would look most divine, and I still don't remember all her great deeds in a chronological order. I have butterflies in my stomach.

Does this surprise you, me being a goddess and all? Well, you shouldn't be surprised. Athena is a Much Bigger Goddess than I ever was, and the only reason she deigns to hobnob with me at all is that lots of her good pals have expired over the centuries. That's what happens to gods and goddesses when their believer base drops below a certain level. I'm lucky as the snakes were never really Christianized. This makes me one of the stronger goddesses now, but Athena will think of me as just the bothersome half-breed who never had tea with Hera. (As if I had ever wanted to have anything to do with that origin of the Phyllis Schlafly myth!)

And I'm not sure if I really like her that much, Athena, I mean. Sure, she's great to have around when logical thinking is needed or when an intricate long-term war needs planning. But all those shields and helmets, all that clanging of the pot lids! And she's such a daddy's girl. She even got a myth started about her birth containing no female assistance whatsoever. Which is a lie as all gods and goddesses know. Her real mother was probably a goat, but whoever she was, Athena never burst out of Zeus' head. Nothing burst out of his head except for lust and stupid ideas. I can say this now safely as he has long since expired. But Athena likes to think of herself the Exceptional Goddess: the one with no touch of femininity, all pure reason and military strategy. Poor thing, Zeus never cared for her anyway, and femininity is a very useful aspect in the goddesses' tool kits.

On the other hand, goddesses get lonely, and only another goddess really knows what it was like once. If only I could keep her off the topic of Ann Coulter. Athena thinks that Coulter is one of her acolytes or something, and I get so fed up with having to stare into corners with glazed eyes while she goes on and on about Ann. As I'm the hostess with the mostest I can't just bite Athena's butt. So annoying. I must write a list of suitable neutral discussion topics soon.

So what do you think about the hair? How would a goddess have her hair arranged? Would a few small baby snakes look cute peeking out on the temples? Give me some help here!

Friday, March 26, 2004

The World Stupidity Awards

This is the second year for these awards. Last year's winners of the Golden Dunce Caps included George W. Bush for the Most Stupid Reckless Endangerment of the Planet and the former Iraq information minister Saeed al-Sahaf for being the Stupidest Person in the World. You can now nominate candidates for this year's award competition. The categories are as follows:

Stupidest Man of the Year
Stupidest Woman of the Year
Stupidest Country of the Year
Stupidest Trend of the Year
Media outlet which has made the greatest contribution to furthering ignorance worldwide
Stupidity Award for Reckless Endangerment of the Planet
Stupidest Movie of the Year
Stupidest TV Show of the Year
Stupidest Act of the Year
Stupidest Statement of the Year
Lifetime Achievement Award for Stupidity

Winners will be announced on July 23rd 2004 in Montreal. To find out how to send your nomination letter, go here.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Unborn Victims of Violence

The law to protect them was passed today, and George Bush has promised to sign it ASAP. I have several questions about this law:

1. As Xexyx on ms. boards pointed out, does this law mean that every woman who becomes the victim of a violent crime will have to undergo a pregnancy test? Even if she doesn't want one? I suspect so. Welcome to a society that Margaret Atwood wrote about in the Handmaid's Tale.

2. How discriminatory is this law? A man who is killed will never sire children now. What about all those unborn victims of violence that also lost their lives because their potential father is now dead? The same goes for all women victims who are not currently pregnant, but might have become so in the future if they had not been killed in some heinous crime. I think that this law discriminates on the basis of sex and on the basis of actual and potential pregnancy.

3. The only logical basis for this law is to assume that human life begins at conception, not before that nor after that. As there is no evidence for this view (or any other), does this mean that if it becomes common our ages must now be counted from insemination rather than from birth? Imagine its effect on sudden retirements! Birthday parties having to be cancelled!

Sigh. I have to stock on some nectar for tonight.

Who Wears the Pants?

One October night in 1792 a young North European woman was returning home after her day's work when the town guard stopped her, took one look at her clothing, and arrested her. She was wearing trousers. The next day she was taken to court where she was accused of having had criminal intentions. Why else would she dress as a man?

The woman defended her choice of clothing by pointing out that the male garb was more practical in her heavy manual labor and that it was also warm. The court decided that it was 'selfish and shameless' for a woman to dress like a man, declared her a person of no fixed abode, and ordered her to be driven out of town. Should she return, she'd be sentenced to a certain number of lashes at the hand of the official beaters*.

In 2004, leaflets began circulating in Kenya telling women to stop wearing trousers and mini skirts by March 1. In January, 54 women were stripped naked in Oyugis town for wearing trousers or 'dressing shamelessly'. The men who attacked these women were local youth. One resident of the town told a radio station that the action of these men was justified and also warned that :

"If they continue dressing in ways that make us (men) suffer, we shall rape them."

These cases are very similar, aren't they? The women who are the pathbreakers in wearing what's regarded as men's clothing are 'shameless', threatening, to be driven out of town or to be raped. Never mind if trousers actually are more comfortable and practical than the traditional female garb, women who wear them make men suffer.

Why is that? The answer is simple and summarized in the old saying about 'who wears the pants in the family': male dress is a sign of authority in traditional societies, and if this dress no longer reliably signals real authority, the whole society will be in chaos. Consider some of the fears expressed by callers to the same Kenyan radio station referred to in the above quote:

In recent weeks, local radio stations have been receiving calls from emotionally charged men - and some women as well - claiming that by wearing trousers, women are not only provoking men to rape them, but are also largely responsible for the spread of HIV/Aids in the country.
Most of the callers argue that only men should wear trousers, with some quoting verses from the Bible to the effect that women should not wear men's clothing and vice-versa. Others even claim that some women wear trousers to disguise their intention of usurping their husbands' role as the head of the family.

Honore Daumier's prints from the mid-nineteenth century France express similar fears. In one**

"...a wife angrily refuses to sew a button back on her husband's pants. He, standing woefully with hands held limply in front of his phallus, comments that not only does his wife "wear the pants" but now she throws them back at him."

The question isn't really then who gets to wear the pants, the question is what women wearing pants means. To some men it means a threat, a horrible fear of authority lost, of dominance hierarchies upended. It isn't a fear of equality between men and women, but a fear of a total reversal: If women wear trousers, will they act the same as we did? Will they misuse the power this would give them as some of us did? Will we then have to wear dresses? Will we have to serve the women who now wear the pants? These are the monsters of the night that are behind the leaflets in Kenya, that were behind the public eviction of a trouser-wearing woman in the eighteenth century Europe, and that tortured Daumier to draw pictures about them.

Well, we know now that the world doesn't tip over just because women wear pants. More's the pity in some ways. It would be great if women-in-pants would mean the end of bloody wars and greedy battles for power, hunger and pestilence and crooked politicians. But it doesn't work that way. All this development really tells us that women in some country are trying to gain a few more freedoms, to wear what they wish, perhaps to be safer at an assembly-line job or more practically dressed for farmwork.

But that women in trousers can still provoke the punishment of rape tells us that real equality of the sexes is still far in the future for many. Perhaps it won't really have arrived until everybody, male or female, can wear dresses, pants, shorts or burqas, and nobody else raises an eyebrow. Though right now I think that the day when the Devil will build an ice-skating rink may come a little sooner.
*I have lost the reference to this story which I had written down on an index card. It was in some book of European history. Sorry.
**Anne Higonnet: "Representations of Women" in A History of Women, Part Four, edited by Genevieve Fraisse and Michelle Perrot, 1993.


Do you know where Darfur is? Do you know what's happening there?

Darfur is in the western Sudan, and what's happening there is ethnic cleansing. I hate that term with its associations to doing the dishes or the laundry; I hate its coldness, its perverted tidiness, its lack of gore and blood. Yet gore and blood is what's being spilled in Darfur, by armed Arab militias with, most likely, the full support of the Sudanese government.

Already 10,000 people have been killed, and another 110, 000 has fled to the neighboring Chad. But even there they're not safe, as the Sudanese attack across the border and bomb the villages on the other side of the border. The situation is dire. The United Nations coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, fears for another Rwanda and desperately wants more help with the humanitarian tasks of helping the survivors.

Why is this happening? The immediately preceding reason is the rebellion against Khartoum that two local armed groups started last year. Add to that a long-standing competition for good land between the African tribes and the Arabs. Many of the survivors believe that the Arab militia are attacking for purely racial reasons. The government of Sudan fears a situation where it would have enemies on several sides, and this is why it may be helping in the killing of the local villagers:

There are reports of Sudanese military planes bombing villages, after which Arab militias go in and rape and kill survivors.

These are the weapons of genocide: murder and rape. A few weeks ago the village of Tawila woke up at sunrise to an attack by the militiamen. Seventy-five people were killed and over a hundred women were raped. The militiamen also abducted several hundred women and children. I'm not sure which of these destinies I would choose if I were forced to choose, not to mention the fact that being raped, abducted and killed are not mutually exclusive fates for any one individual. But of course none of the victims were given a choice of any kind.

The Christian Science Monitor calls this 'a silent war', not because slaughtering people could somehow be done more quietly in Darfur or elsewhere, but because the rest of the world (which means us) hardly hears about it. Darfur is isolated, difficult to get to, and the area is full of bandits as well as the militiamen. The UN humanitarian efforts are also hampered by the remoteness and dangers of the area. All this plays into the hands of the thugs and murderers and must not be allowed to go on.

Maybe Mukesh Kapila is exaggerating as some argue. Maybe Darfur won't be another Rwanda. But those who thought the rumors of the Rwandan genocide were exaggerated now bitterly regret their scepticism. It's much better to stop an imaginary genocide than to fail to stop a real one. Make noise about Darfur!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

My New Career Goal

I'm going to be Rushette Limbaugh, the slightly deranged, extremist voice for the liberal, high IQ dittoheads, especially the girls. I'm going to start with a radio show called "Kicking the Asses Out" or perhaps "Dr. Russette Will Spank Your Bottoms". Then I'm going to publish a litter of books with names such as "I'm All That's Left Because the Right Was Wrong" and "Fundamentalism isn't Funky". Then I'll get my own tv show on the now-repentant Faux network where I will use soap to wash the mouths of those who use naughty words like politically correct.

What do you think? The snake tail needn't be a deterrent in any of this, what with multiculturality and so on. And I can use it to wipe unpleasant guests off the stage.

Trees Are the Lungs of This Earth

Something to think about.

The Bush administration doesn't seem to care for trees, unless they can be felled and made into large desks for Republican managers. To encourage this,

The Bush administration on Tuesday eased restrictions on logging old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, completing a rules change that will allow forest managers to begin logging without first looking for rare plants and animals.

Why this change? Ostensibly it's because of a timber industry law suit. The industry doesn't like the hassle of having to look for rare plants and animals: it takes time and money. Much easier just to rev up the chain saws after relying on information provided by Washington, Oregon and California. And where does this information come from? Can you imagine hordes of civil servants toothcombing the wilderness so that all the available information on rare species will be ready for the eager loggers to scan? I smell a rat here, and it isn't one of the rare types either.

This 'easing of restrictions' on logging is part of the Bush administration's 'Healthy Forests' initiative. I wonder what their definition of 'healthy' might be? Not contaminated with all sorts of critters and weeds? With lots of open spots, conveniently provided by the timber industry?

Some logging of federal forests is needed for forest fire prevention. But the rules of the game shouldn't be decided by one party alone (the timber industry), especially as that party has an obvious incentive to cut as many good trees as possible. Still, all this is totally on par for this administration: it sees pre-emptive wars everywhere, and it probably is true that the forests won't attack us if we kill them first. Or who knows, maybe the Ents are real and not just something Tolkien made up. Maybe they'll wake up and start their slow, slow march to Washington, D.C.. If so, I'll go and cheer them all the way.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The Neutral Alan Greenspan?

An interesting question: Is Alan Greenspan as neutral and objective as he's supposed to be as the Fed chairman? Why is he holding the trend-setting federal funds rate at one percent? Is it because this is the right thing to do, given that hiring is still 'lagging' as the polite way puts it? Consider this:

Many economists don't expect the Fed to move up until the fall of 2004, and possibly not before the U.S. presidential election in early November.
But a few analysts, and even some of the 12 members of the Fed's interest rate-setting committee are growing uneasy about the easy money policy. They worry that keeping rates this low for much longer may cause a speculative bubble, in stocks and real estate, that could be hard to burst without inflicting collateral damage.
"Some members of the [committee] are already expressing concern that policy is remaining too loose for too long," said BMO Nesbitt Burns chief economist Sherry Cooper.
"There is increasing evidence that U.S. inflation has finally touched bottom and is beginning to stir.

There is indeed a bubble in the housing markets, and such bubbles have the unfortunate tendency to burst. When this happens, the consequences can be dire. Think of adjustable mortgage rates being adjusted upwards; think of suddenly owning a house with a lower sale price than your remaining mortgage payments, think of the chain-effects from this to other consumer markets, think of all those people who took out loans on the inflated value of their houses. As much as $3 trillion might vanish like a puff of hot air into the cold skies of a new recession.

The low value of the dollar is also creating inflationary pressures, and traditionally the Fed has viewed inflation as the worst possible outcome, and it has" even triggered recessions in order to fight real or imagined threats of even small increases in the rate of inflation." But not this time.

This time Alan Greenspan is reluctant to move, perhaps because he has truly decided that weak labor markets are more important than fighting housing market bubbles or inflation. Or perhaps because:

...Mr. Greenspan clearly doesn't want to be seen to be interfering in the coming election. As a result, there will likely be a rate hike blackout period between July and the November election...

But this is illogical: A rate hike blackout period is what the current administration most desires. I bet that it's the number one topic in many of the Bush prayer circles. How is doing the bidding of the Republicans 'not interfering' in the coming election? How is trying to guarantee that the housing bubble won't burst until AFTER the election good for objectivity?

I'm not convinced of Greenspan's nonneutrality yet, but I'm going to keep an eagle's eye on him from now on.

Monday, March 22, 2004

My Marketing Survey Results

Dear Readers!

Here are the results from my marketing survey. I decided that this is a good time to do the summary as the questionnaire is sliding into the archives.

Fourteen readers answered the questionnaire. Most were content with feminist (93%) and political (80%) stories, and half or more (50% and 57% respectively) were ok with funny stuff and expandind the field. The archaic format of the blog (just text) had 80% support. No snakes answered the survey. Of those who responded to this question 58% were human, 25% supernaturals and 17% both human and supernaturals, depending on the day.

Whether this can be generalized to my readership on the whole is tricky to say, as the sample was not random but based on self-selection. As a percentage of my readers n=14 is quite low ( unless the same fourteen people spend all their time on my blog, which of course would be understandable), but I will assume that the results are generalizable. Which means that I am planning to go on pretty much along the same lines. If you don't like something, speak up in the comments. Obviously if you do like something, you can send me a smooch in the same comments.


As an aside, I found out by googling my divine self that a person called Glenn Sacks has listed my opinion about him on his website. This is what I say about him, according to him:

"Glenn Sacks is...misogynistic."

I couldn't remember having said anything about him on this blog, so I did quite a lot of searching to find the quote. It was in the comments threads to a story on ms. lauren's blog. The story concerned the anti-boy t-shirts which encouraged people to throw rocks at boys. Such t-shirts are absolutely vile, and Sacks had been saying so. What I said in the comments was as follows:

Actually, Glenn Sacks is one of those men's rights activists who are also misogynistic. Someone used to post his articles on the ms. boards and they are very painful reading if you're a woman. This doesn't mean that he wouldn't be right in this case; even a blind hen finds a worm once and a while.

I hereby respectfully petition that Mr. Sacks changes the quote attributed to me to:

"Glenn Sacks is...a blind hen."

Thank you.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

On First Ladies

This story was to be about the First Lady, Laura Bush, but I have a congenital loathing of the job of First Ladies, so I'm going to write about the job instead. First Ladies have a job which nobody acknowledges to be a job. They are judged on the performance of this job which isn't supposed to be one, and the criteria for judging them are not objectively determined, but whatever the observer happens to see as criteria. Moreover, they are not really judged as First Ladies, but as Archetypal Wives.

And being an Archetypal Wife is pure hell, as nobody agrees with her exact qualifications. She should be demure, sure, but she should also have the right opinions to support her husband. She shouldn't compete, no, but she shouldn't be a ninny either. She should walk exactly three steps behind her husband, yet make it seem as if she's walking by his side.
And under no circumstances can she have interests other than those that are deemed proper for the Mother and Wife. For example, physicians who don't quit their jobs to join their husbands election campaigns are never to be entered into the caste of Archetypal Wives. A good Archetypal Wife drops everything when her husband calls for her, whether it's laundry or patients that gets dropped.

Hillary Clinton, in a perverse fashion, served as an excellent Archetypal Wife. For many in the United States she was the Evil Wife: the woman who is quite possibly smarter and more energetic than her husband, the woman who will not shut up. She was used as a target for all those murky, half-perceived fears and rages that independent women still provoke in many men and women; as a societal scapegoat for the wrongs of feminism, or what its opponents see as wrongs.

Only her humiliation in the face of her husband's philandering saved her from being the Archetypal Witch. This humiliation struck a cord in many Americans, something that they recognized. Now Hillary could be reclassified: she was clearly the Long-Suffering Victim Wife, the woman who silently endures all for the sake of family cohesion. This was something familiar, something that many churches had supported for centuries. Not all observers switched their views on Hillary, of course, so that media comments about her later in Bill Clinton's presidency came across as if they were describing two quite different women. Of course they were really describing two different archetypes, neither of which is the real Hillary.

Even Barbara Bush, the comfy-looking silver-haired grandmother, suffered from not fitting an Archetype precisely enough for the audience. The one that was fitted for her first was the Gentle Granny archetype: the benevolent matriarch of a vast family. When it turned out that she was quite strong-willed and politically astute, her archetype had to change for some; now she was the Old Bitch.

Nancy Reagan was fitted into the Adoring Wife mold, though Reagan's political opponents also saw her as an example of the Wasteful Wife, the woman who will drive her poor husband to bankruptcy. I think that Nancy was one of those First Ladies who actually understood all about the Archetypes, and she played hers to the hilt, having been an actress. Thus she also earned the Treacherous Wife archetype.

And what about Laura Bush, then? What archetype would we like to have now? Hers is an easy one: she is the Good Wife to counterbalance Hillary Clinton's Evil Wife. She will never embarrass George in public debates, never disagree with him openly, never show him up as a loser. She lives for George.

Or that's how the archetypists would have her. Or perhaps as a Stepford Wife, if the archetypists don't like George's politics, a cold unfeeling woman all surface and no soul. What she's really like doesn't much matter in this game. Still, a recent article in the Chicago Tribune shows that Laura thinks her stereotyping should be changed. She's not really a homebody. In fact, she doesn't even bake cookies. And she even has political opinions different from those George holds so dear. However, she won't tell us what these differences might be.

Laura's attempts to change her public image will not be successful, simply because the Archetypal Wife is not allowed to define herself. That's against the rules.

It would be a lot easier if every male candidate for the presidency was equipped with a human-sized mechanized Barbie doll for a wife, and the real wife could stay at home and go on with her life. The doll could be given any archetypal qualities that are in fashion, and she could be programmed to say only approved things. Her body would always be perfect, and if body-fashions changed she could be recast. So much easier for everybody. Besides, Mattel could then launch a new series of First Lady Barbies for little girls: The Archetypal Wives.