Saturday, May 03, 2008

When A Persona Consumes A Life by Anthony McCarthy

Please watch this video of Dusty Springfield singing “The Look of Love” with a slide show of photos of female impersonators of the past, before reading further.

Maybe not the greatest song ever written, but great singing. The slide show raises a lot of questions, the obvious ones being about the manipulation, flexibility and imprecision of the creation and interpretation of appearance, the distance between the image and the life of the person behind the image. And that’s not getting into the more obvious ones of the politics of transgender and the civil rights of people who exercise their right to choose their identity out of those available without regard to taboo. Important as those are.

Now, please watch this one of Dusty Springfield singing “The Son of a Preacher Man” noting her vintage costume and makeup.

You wonder what it might have cost Dusty Springfield to play the part of a straight woman in her singing career, especially since she was one of the first, semi-officially, out lesbians in show business. With the way she could sing, the way she could put meaning even into banal lyrics and move an audience, you wonder if she might have liked to sing a song about loving a woman. I don’t know if the stories about her self-destructive behavior would have been different if she could have just been herself throughout her whole life but it must have taken some tole.

Later in her career Dusty Springfield went with a more natural look, there are You Tubes showing that period. She was a great singer, though some of her material and arrangements didn’t match her abilities. She was a lot like Patsy Cline in that.

Though I often didn’t care for her material, I always respected Dusty Springfield. She had no problem hearing the genius of and promoting black artists who were still dealing with the differentials of the bottom line, the most real and potent color line of them all, even today. And this as she dealt with the one there for even straight white women. That’s what she was doing in a period when other white singers were still ripping black artists off, left and right.

You read that some people said that she was “difficult”, especially the musicians that worked with her. But almost anyone who is a perfectionist in the arts uses what power is at their disposal to get the results they are trying for. She wouldn’t have been the singer she was without trying very hard to realize her ideas. Men generally wouldn’t have faced the same charge from the same behavior. What’s a vice for a woman in relation to men, would get turned into a virtue for a man. No one here has to be told that is generally true.

Remembering the way that Peggy Lee sang the Gershwin song “How Long Has This Been Going On”* and looking for a video to post here a couple of weeks ago was where this piece began to form. Please watch it. You might find the makeup, yellow hair and false eye-lashes a little disturbing. I did, which was the reason I didn’t post it then. But listen to how Peggy Lee could float and hang a phrase in time without it coming down and then rest the next phrase on it with no effort at all. I can hear her do it, I couldn’t begin to tell you how she does it, no matter how many times I listen. I couldn’t imitate it anymore than I could Billie Holiday’s phrasing.

Peggy Lee was a fine artist, by that time an accomplished and experienced professional, who also had problems in life despite her success. Looking at the video, the makeup and look, matched with the steely eye and the icy persona, you might consider that those were taken as an expression of power, back then. Even as the song talked about surrendering to emotion, Peggy Lee was portraying a woman who was putting any man interested on notice that she was her own person. But it’s a rare person who can match that image in life.

Watching all three videos, the two singers and the female impersonators, brings up a lot of ideas about image and the how we portray ourselves to the world, or try to. You could contrast the high level of control the female impersonators had over their elaborately presented images, that of a lesbian who had to portray a straight woman to have a successful music career and a straight woman who had to maneuver through what would have then been explicitly considered and stated to be “a man’s world”. **

You have to think about what it might tell you about how we see ourselves and the ability of an image as seen by other people can overtake our intentions. Once something is out in the public, even an experienced adult has only a limited control of how that image is seen and even used by other people. Making a mistake in presenting an image of yourself is easy to do and hard to put behind you. The audience is fickle and a show business career depends entirely on its audience. Choices aren’t always made wisely or even shrewdly.

I’d heard the name Hannah Montana before this week but had assumed she was an animated character. I hadn’t known there was a 15-year-old Miley Cyrus until now. You have the sick feeling the scandal of the week could be the beginning sign of a too familiar kind of trouble.

Entertainment corporations chew up and spit out young women, who take the brunt of this kind of stuff, at an incredible rate. The age of those spit out seems to get lower all the time. There are scores of lives and careers that get damaged by the insistence on girls living up to a false front, along with the follies of their promoters trying to keep them current in publicity as they grow up. Just growing up is hard enough without people three or more times your age trying to use you.

A 15-year-old girl is not a woman, she isn’t an adult, as pointed out here the other day, she is a child. No one has the right to pretend they believe that she is going to have the maturity, self-confidence and experience to protect herself against the attack of celebrity. Pretending she is able to robs her of the most basic civil right of all children, to protection by adults and by society in general. I include Annie Leibovitz and Vanity Fair in the charge of using her recklessly. Their alibi that her parents were in on the photo-shoot doesn’t suffice. Possible irresponsibility by parents doesn’t make a child fair game for the media. The photographer and magazine have more experience than just about anyone in what can happen when the image they publish is an attempt to gain publicity by breaking an image of innocence, real or artificial. A tediously superficial, and rather repetitious attempt at that most commercially superficial of all modern virtues, ‘transgression’ by flirting with the conventions of soft, antique kiddie porn is what I take from the published images.

For the life of me, I don’t understand what it is some people on the left don’t get about Leibovitz and those who pay her. If she was a sleazy, cigar chomping man four times older than Miley Cyrus, taking exactly the same images, no one would have much problem deciding exactly what to make of it. But she’s Annie Leibovitz, using a girl a quarter of her age to make a splash and sell some pictures. Do these pictures tell us about reality? Can they come close to the celebrity portraits of Lotte Jacobi? No. While part of that is the depth of the subjects, she is no Jacobi.

To lay the responsibility entirely on the parents and others in the entourage of a young girl, doesn’t erase a national magazine’s irresponsibility of joining in a publicity stunt that risked possible damage to a very real girl. “Journalism” isn’t an excuse for using a real, live child like that. Neither is art. What might be a matter of clear cut press freedom without infringement on other peoples’ rights if no real children are used becomes a compromised image when a real child is made use of like this.

* And just because it is great playing, here’s Ben Webster playing the same song.

**Extra Credit: Mae West singing “My Old Flame”, observe and draw your own conclusions.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Giving voice to fertility (by Suzie)

A new study says men and women find women's voices more attractive at the time of the month when the women are most fertile. You may be able to access the full article, by Nathan Pipitone and Gordon Gallup of the State University of New York at Albany, here.
Studies like this are great for the media because they can be illustrated with sexy women or just parts of sexy women, such as open, red lips. Plus, reporters get to write about the "battle of the sexes" as if we were on a level playing field. But wait, there's more science to report, courtesy of New Scientist:
The fact that men notice the differences in vocal attractiveness suggests that there is a subtle evolutionary battle of the sexes going on, says Gallup: as women evolve ever more efficient ways to conceal fertility - to avoid unwanted attention - men become increasingly sensitive to the tiny changes that do occur. Other women also pick up on the changes, perhaps to keep an eye on the competition, he suggests.
How do we know that this whole women's-voices-tied-to-fertility-and-men-sense-it thing has changed over time? Maybe it was always this way. Why would evolution help women conceal their fertility? Wouldn't it make sense that the women who shout from the rooftop, "Hey, I'm fertile! Let's have sex!" would be the ones most likely to pass along their genes, as compared with the women who are busily evolving ways to conceal their fertility? Why would women rate voices as "attractive" in women with whom they are trying to compete? Why would women be attracted to the voice of a competitor?

Friday Critter Blogging

By John JS (I don't know the name of this beautiful creature):

By swampcracker (a courting snowy egret):

And the next two are by Doug (Doug's doggie(s)):

Interrogating Headlines

Doesn't that sound very academic and studied? I'm chiming in to Suzie's earlier post.

Imagine that there was a gruesome murder story about cannibalism, about someone who kept the victims in a cave until ready to be eaten. Would the headline about it be something like:

Austria searches soul after gourmet meal dungeon

Yet this is an actual headline about the Austrian rape-incest case:

Austria searches soul in sex dungeon aftermath

And do check out this post by Shakespeare's sister, on the trivialization of issues having to do with violence against women.

Deconstructing news releases (by Suzie)

          News releases open a window onto our culture, and sometimes I’d like to toss the writers through it. A friend sent me a sample from her inbox:
          Subject: Top 10 Tips for a Successful Bake Sale
Share Our Strength’s Fifth Annual Great American Bake Sale® is in full swing this spring! The national campaign, working to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry, is helping to feed the 12.6 million American children currently suffering from hunger and food insecurity. Registrants can sign up to hold their own local Bake Sale at
          This makes me think of a slogan popularized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom: “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need, and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”
         Another interesting aspect of this news release: The writer knows that many journalists love lists of tips; they think readers - especially women - are too busy to read stories.
         Subject: Snacks in the City: Get the Dish on the 'Snack-Tasking' Scene
Whether running from one meeting to the next, joining gal pals at the movie theatre for that long-awaited Hollywood premiere, or reading a best-selling “chick lit” book, today’s savvy women are looking for ways to shine in each possible snacking scene.
Pack That Purse: Never be caught unprepared. Take along a smart snack so it’s within reach when cravings strike.
Count It Out: Managing portion control is the key to sticking to a calorie budget. Pick up a snack pack or divide your favorite snack into servings of 100 calories or less and place them in easy-to-grab containers for do-it-yourself portion control.
Turn up the Volume: A light snack with crunch factor can bring added enjoyment to munching.
Live It Up: Indulge those cravings—just don’t go overboard. Enjoying a few bites helps curb desires and prevents overdoing it in the future.
         Women just cannot discipline our desires and our bodies enough. (I'm not immune. I'm currently keeping a food diary and hey, thanks for these tips.)
          Subject: NEW – Gift for Baby
Cord Blood Registry, the nation's largest and most acclaimed private bank, has introduced a GIFT REGISTRY! CBR's registry provides a convenient way for friends and family to help with the cost of cord blood banking.
  Subject: Perfect Mother's Day Gift: Insect Shield Apparel
As you are planning Mother's Day stories, there is a best kept secret for Mom your readers may not yet know about - Insect Shield Repellent Apparel. Insect Shield clothing offers protection while you are enjoying outdoor pursuits, traveling to buggy locales, gardening or simply trying to relax with family in the backyard.
          I laughed at the headline, and was irritated by the implication that it’s always the mother’s job (not the father’s) to buy clothes and care for kids. But then I read that “Buzz Off Insect Shield works with agencies and international relief organizations that work to protect at-risk populations from insect-borne diseases.” I don’t know the efficacy of this brand, but this news release underscores the provincialism of U.S. journalism. Generally, a reporter would need to find a local angle, such as the clothes are manufactured in their city or a local person would be testing the clothes overseas. The assumption is that readers will not be interested unless there's a local angle. As a result, readers lose out on a lot of interesting stories around the world.
  Subject: Moms Not Taking Kids’ Medical Condition Seriously, Experts Find
PHILADELPHIA, PA, APRIL 24, 2008 - Often wracked with shame, embarrassment and self-loathing, an astonishing number of young girls suffering from hyperhidrosis – chronic excessive sweating – find themselves victimized not only by the disease itself, but also from the difficulty in eliciting their mother’s compassion and aid to effectively treat this misunderstood medical condition. This according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHHS) - a nonprofit offering the most objective, credible and timely information available on the subject along with expert and peer-based community support.
         “Hundreds of thousands of teenage girls around the world suffer from hyperhidrosis, but their emotional and physical suffering is not taken seriously by uninformed mothers who dismiss their daughter’s complaints due simply to being uninformed and unaware,” said Lisa J. Pieretti, executive director of the IHHS. “Desperate, alone, depressed and afraid, far too many young girls ultimately suffer in silence, learning how to live with a condition that could readily be managed if they - and their mothers - only knew how.”
         To help foster dialogue on the subject between mothers and daughters, this Mother’s Day the IHHS will launch “Take 10 for 10” – a disease awareness initiative encouraging moms to take just 10-minutes out of their holiday to conduct a 10-question assessment with their daughters to discern if the child may, in fact, have hyperhidrosis - and to generally discuss how excessive sweating has adversely impacted her daughter’s life. 
           I couldn't find anything on this Web site to indicate that girls sweat more than boys or that mothers are less sympathetic than fathers. But marketing often is done by gender, and someone decided to gear this to Mother’s Day. Because it would seem duplicative and derivative, it’s unlikely they’ll do the same appeal to fathers and sons for Father’s Day. It’s interesting that the nonprofit chose to use Mother’s Day to criticize mothers, telling them about one more way they are failing their children. 
         The Web site does discuss a Harris survey that found that girls and women are more likely to be embarrassed by sweating. Once again, women are under more pressure to control their bodies. Along those lines, I loved a recent comment on the satiric TV show “Ugly Betty.” A female executive runs into Betty in an office restroom and blurts out: "Betty, I'm so sorry. I try to keep up the appearance that I never use the bathroom. I hope you won't think any less of me."

Can't Stop the Serenity (by Suzie)

      Since 2006, fans of Joss Whedon have raised more than $160,000 for his favorite charity, Equality Now, by showing his movie "Serenity." I'll be going to one of these screenings in June. Check out the schedule.
       I've long admired Equality Now, which "works to end violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world through the mobilization of public pressure." Its site includes answers to questions submitted to Clinton and Obama.
       If you haven't already seen the video of Joss getting an award from Equality Now in 2006, you must. I insist. You'll thank me later. If nothing else, you may enjoy how he skewers insipid journalists.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mission Accomplished

That was five years ago. My, how time flies when we are having fun. Not.

Notice the militarized and sexualized image in that picture. War as a computer game where nothing is real, where presidents can pretend that they are bomber pilots, where was is over just on someone's say-so.

The Congo Nightmares

For a few weeks I have been collecting material on the mass rapes in Congo, on the use of war as organized, cold and murderous misogyny, on the scant attention this has received (yes, including from me) and on the best way to address the awful horrors that are taking place there, especially to women.

And during the nights those horrors come back to me, dance their macabre dances in my dreams and make me sit up in bed unable to breathe, internally screaming. I cannot pass that on to you, I cannot. Eve Ensler has written one of the more optimistic articles on the hell that is Congo, one which she begins by stating that she just came back from hell.

So be forewarned, be very forewarned, before you read any of the gruesome descriptions of the lives of the raped women of Congo.

Having said that, I shall now give you a tour of some other pieces which let you learn more about the events there. A useful beginning point is Jeffrey Gettelman's article from last October. From that you can move to reading about Dr. Mukwege's efforts to help the women, about his clinic, and about his trip to the United States to talk about the suffering of Congolese women.

More on the difficulties the survivors have in finding justice can be found in Olivia Ward's recent article. Stephen Lewis gives the United Nations a well-deserved failing grade in how it has addressed this particular case of torture, and Anna Clark explains the difficulties that those face who try to make the rest of the world more informed about the hell that is Congo.

Lisa Jackson's documentary Greatest Silence gives a more visual way of learning about the events:

While my blog also gets a well-deserved failing grade on writing about these issues, many other blogs have addressed them. I find the Diary of An Anxious Black Woman a useful entry point to that discussion.

I hope to write more about the deeper questions that the atrocities in Congo ask all of us, questions that have to do about the causes of the rise in extreme misogyny. But that will be later.

For First of May

This day has all sorts of meanings, but one of them has to do with the celebration of spring. The traditional drink in Finland on this day is "sima", a kind of mead. Sadly, it needs several days to bubble, so you can't make it for today. But I'm going to give you the child-safe recipe for next year:


8 liters water
1/2 kg brown sugar
1/2 kg white sugar
4 lemons
1/4 tsp fresh yeast or equivalent dried yeast
optional but traditional:

What to do:

Boil part of the water and pour on the sugars. If you like a darker color drink, use all brown sugar (one kilo).

Add the rest of the water and the juice from the lemons. (Real recipes chop up the lemons, peels and all and add it all, but juice is fine, too). When the mixture is hand-warm, add the yeast. Let stand for one day in room temperature, covered.

Bottle the following morning. Add one teaspoon of sugar and a few raisins in each glass bottle. Cover (but not too tightly as the bottles will explode over time if you do.) Let stand for seven days in a cool place or three days in room temperature. Consume within a week.

You can make this quite alcoholic but I'm not giving that recipe.

The traditional accompaniment is a kind of a doughnut, made by letting the batter drip into the hot fat so that it creates something which looks like a big knot of threads. You dust the knots with icing sugar.

They are both quite nice. After eating them you can go out to watch the communists march in some countries. Or to watch the students celebrate spring in many countries. Of course, here in the United States this day has been declared A National Prayer Day. Probably to keep the communists away.

Note how very masculine and militaristic that National Prayer Day site is. For instance, this picture is from the site:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


OK, maybe I will post on Miley Cyrus (by Suzie)

     Thanks to the Rev. Bob for the link to this photo, which he left in the comments. This illustrates one of my points: Males and females often are posed differently in photographs, with the latter made to look vulnerable. That's one reason we laugh at this photo.
      What does it say about our culture that attractiveness and sexiness are often linked to vulnerability in females, more often than in men? 
      In the original photo, Miley is posed as if she has been caught unaware and holds a sheet to her body in modesty. Why is that sexy? Because we like girls to be modest, yet available? Because sneaking a peak of a naked girl is more exciting if she doesn't want to be seen? 
     Ms. Magazine's spring issue has a review of Gigi Durham's book "The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It." The book suggests ways adults can teach kids to deconstruct stuff like Miley's photo shoot.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Some Feminist Snapshots

I should write a whole script on them, to make them move and tell the stories, but, alas, time refuses to sit still long enough in this weird Internet world where the only things worth discussing is the one that others are discussing at this very moment. Except that moment just passed, so now we discuss something else. Except that moment passed, too.

Gah. Anyway, did you know that the way to test a Linux program is by using your girlfriend? If she can be trained then everybody can, right?

Actually, what people are talking about is the sexied-up pictures of Miley Cyrus. For an example of a headline:

'Hannah Montana', What Were You Thinking?

She is fifteen years old, you know. She cannot legally enter into contracts. I find the treatment of this an interesting comparison to the way the media writes about the pregnancies of the teenaged girls in the Texas polygamy case.

Speaking about the latter, notice how the men have been disappeared from the discussion? The sect gives men almost all the power. Yet the stories I read are almost as if there were no men at all.

Of course, there is a more concrete sense in which the boys have been disappeared:

Of the 463 children, 250 are girls and 213 are boys. Children 13 and younger are about evenly split — 197 girls and 196 boys — but there are only 17 boys aged 14 to 17 compared with the 53 girls in that age range.


Today's Fluff Post

I looked at the notes I have scribbled on my inspiration sheet to see what I might want to write about. The list starts: quantities (damn quantities), buy essential gluten, information vs. French Fries. It took me quite a while to figure that the gluten wasn't part of the inspiration list but something I need to buy to make wholewheat bread.

Wholewheat bread turns into bricks without it (unless one adds white flour which has more gluten), and I have made some very interesting bricks in the past. If you have a fantastic recipe for bread, by the way, post it in the comments. I yearn for the smell of freshly-baked bread right now, bread to be torn apart with hands and eaten just as it is.

The final note in my list of topics is "cock holster". This was a term I read somewhere. Guess what a cock holster might be. Supposedly it is a woman's mouth. And they say misogyny only lives in the minds of hairy feminazis. Not sure why that was included in the inspiration list, unless I thought there might be a way to turn its inventor into essential gluten.

On Quantities

This is a post trying to spell out some baby ideas I have about a problem I have noticed in political debates. They are very hesitant ideas and don't speak yet, but I'm going to let them babble to you.

The problem is this: We use quantities, numbers, percentages, fractions and probabilities very poorly on the whole. For instance:

Is the country severely divided on some issue if 20% think strongly one way and 80% think strongly the other way? I would have thought that the country is fairly agreed on whatever that 80% think. But many disagree with me and address the beliefs of those 20% as if they have the same weight.

Now, perhaps it is the right thing to do, to treat each idea as an equally important issue. But to argue that the same number of people fall into each camp really is incorrect, and this is what I see happening in many ways.

It's just another example of the way we run many public debates: Find representatives for each extreme position and let them fight it out. The idea is that somehow one of the extremes might be right, and that the audience should be able to judge from the debate which it is. Of course this leaves out all the other standpoints but the two extremes. It also gives extreme attention to two positions that actually only a small fraction of the general population believe in. More importantly, the opinions of people in the middle are totally ignored in this setup.

A slightly different example of the quantity problem cropped up on the Eschaton comments threads one night, where people argued that killing just one person is as bad as being a mass-murderer of millions. Something that would be a fair philosophical argument turned into a very different argument, one implying that it doesn't matter how many people one murders. That the amount of suffering, pain and grieving is increased by each new victim was somehow ignored. I think that quantities do matter, and something odd is happening here, something quite frightening.

Here's a feminist example of the same trend: You discuss something that happens to women a lot (say, sexual harassment at work), and someone points out that it happens to men, too. That it happens to men, yes, but that it happens to men much, much less often is ignored. Quantities do matter.

Another example of this, but now with a very different twist: A study on gender differences shows that men do something (say, read news on the net) 60% of the time while women do that same thing 40% of the time. A difference, yes, but not a difference of 100% to 0%. But that's how it becomes, over a couple of rounds of interpretations ("Men read news on the net! Women socialize!"). It even turns into that dualistic position of the initial percentages are 63% vs. 56%.

Or think about the examples from studies about health care. If rates of breast cancer are higher among the women who have used estrogen therapies by some fairly small number the message that most people seem to take home is that estrogen therapies KILL YOU, and that somehow not getting them will save you from breast cancer.

Health care studies almost always have results which mean that there are small differences between two treatment patterns or small differences between disease prevalences in two populations and so on. But the interpretations are never like that. They are practically always dualistic: Live or Die!

This is how far my baby thoughts have gotten. I suspect that what I'm talking about is the tendency to ignore nuances altogether, combined with the tendency to go for either-or solutions which may well be part of the way humans think (Is it safe to eat? Will it kill you?). But there's also a tendency to shift the discussion from a sphere where numbers don't matter to spheres where they do matter, without us noticing that this is what just took place.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fatal Attraction

That's another way to describe Hillary Clinton: She is like the character Glenn Close played in Fatal Attraction:

NPR's Rudin: "Hillary Clinton is Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. She's going to keep coming back and they're not going to stop her"

Summary: During a discussion on CNN about the Democratic presidential primary race, NPR's Ken Rudin stated: "[L]et's be honest here, Hillary Clinton is Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. She's going to keep coming back, and they're not going to stop her."

On the April 27 edition of CNN's Sunday Morning, National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin, during a discussion about the Democratic presidential primary race, stated: "[L]et's be honest here, [Sen.] Hillary Clinton is Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. She's going to keep coming back, and they're not going to stop her." In response, co-host T.J. Holmes said: "What, Ken?" Rudin replied: "Well, we'll figure that out, there's a lot of ways to imagine that." Rudin returned to the analogy later, stating of Clinton, "[T]here may be a lot of pressure on her from the party bigwigs, whoever they are, to say, look, it's time to go, but she'll say, look, I'm in it until the end. I expect her to be in until the end, as Glenn Close was."

At the conclusion of the interview, Holmes stated to Rudin, "We know you were at the correspondents' dinner last night in D.C., where the president was, and hear you all had a pretty good time. But you look good this morning for partying all night." Rudin replied: "I'm faking it." Co-host Betty Nguyen added: "Maybe that explains the Glenn Close analogy, who knows?" Holmes then stated: "Fatal Attraction, we don't get that reference on this show a lot."

In the 1987 film, Close plays a woman who begins stalking her co-worker, played by Michael Douglas, and his family following a one-night stand with him. In the film's climax, Douglas' character seemingly drowns Close's character in the tub, until she suddenly springs from the water wielding a knife. She is finally shot dead by the wife of Douglas' character.

There are at least two ways of interpreting Rudin's message here. The kinder one (yes, this is the kinder one) is that Hillary Clinton can't be stopped by anything less than being killed by Michelle Obama, that she is an almost unkillable monster.

The less kind interpretation has to do with what that particular movie was all about. It was a parable about bad women: working women, uppity, independent, demanding; and about good women: mothers who stay at home and support their husbands through thin and thick. It was a movie about the loathing, fear and hatred of women who don't follow the "good woman" code of behavior, and what happens to those women at the end.

It could always be the case that Rudin is unaware of that interpretation. And pigs also fly almost every day.

Family.....(Might Trigger)

I have been reading about the Austrian case of a woman being held a prisoner for over twenty years underground, of being repeatedly raped by her own father, of being forced to give birth to seven children by him. And I'm struck by the euphemisms the newspaper stories use:

The news that a man may have imprisoned his daughter in a cellar for 24 years and fathered her seven children has been described as one of the worst cases in Austria's criminal history.


But allegedly he had a second, secret family with his daughter Elisabeth, whom police say he lured into a cellar, aged 18, in 1984 and repeatedly abused. She is believed to have born him seven children, three of whom he and Rosemarie adopted or fostered.

A second, secret family? I guess so, in the purely biological sense, though of course he was both the father and the grandfather of those children, some of whom have never seen daylight! And his daughter was both that and the mother of his children as well as the object of an unending round of torture. But sure, a family.

Here's another use of the same euphemism:

"He led a double life," Mr. Polzer continued, "with one family of seven children, with his wife, and a second family of seven children, with his daughter."

Imagine that. A second family, all buried alive.

The Supreme Court To Poor And Minority Voters : Go To Hell by Anthony McCarthy

We have to save the right of a citizen to cast a vote from the Supreme Court. It’s clear now, the Republicans intend to overturn the Voting Rights Act and all other protections for the right of The People to cast a vote. The photo ID law will drive down the vote in states that adopt it, it will be the easiest thing for them to do to make it an insurmountable burden to obtain an ID in a timely manner to vote, legal remedies will take longer than the presidential campaign.

Both of the Democratic candidates for president, all of our leadership should issue a joint statement condemning this atrocity and begin a plan to legislatively overturn the usurpation of the Court on behalf of Republican state legislatures to rig the vote through making it harder for poor and minority citizens to vote. They want to send us back to the 1950s and eventually back to the 1800s.

This is a war to save democracy from an aristocratic anti-democratic court acting on behalf of the party of the oligarches.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Turning It Upside Down

I have been reading and listening about sex-selection among the Asian immigrant populations in the United States: More boys are being born to that group than statistics would predict. It looks like the desire for sons isn't eradicated by just the simple act of moving away from a society where sons are necessary for old-age security. Something similar is happening in Britain among the immigrant population.

The reactions to these news among the anti-abortion groups are of the expected kind: Ban abortions! They hurt girls!

Of course what really hurts girls is that women are regarded as icky, full of cooties, too emotional, too weak, burdens on their families, something that will be traded to some other family for breeding purposes, something that will cost dowries, something with a trade value based on virginity which must be guarded. Or in other societies, what really hurts girls is that women are regarded as icky, full of cooties, too emotional, too weak, too stupid to do mathematics, too talkative, not pretty enough, not masculine enough.

What really hurts girls is that much of this world doesn't like girls very much because they will one day grow to be women. We spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure out why women stink so badly (is it god who made them that way or evolutionary psychology?) and how we could make them do what we want them to do, and then we wonder why people think that women stink so badly and why girls are not welcomed by open arms. And the solution is to control women even more! Don't let them abort a fetus for any reason whatsoever. Control them!

Ok, that was a rant. But some topics deserve rants, and this is one of those. Because ultimately what all the anti-feminism on this earth is about is this: The desperate desire to control women's behavior. Here is an extreme example of such control, at least partly approved by the society in which it is practiced.

Julie London : Cry Me A River

posted by Anthony McCarthy
Ella Fitzgerald gives “just the facts, ma’am” to Joe Friday. 1955

Unexpected complications, sorry, no more time for writing today. Anthony McCarthy

Gender Bending c. 1953

posted by Anthony McCarthy

Fun, fun, fun.

Read the notes in the side bar and the words.


Don’t get it? Maybe this will help.

Even more fun with Wally Cox. Short guys got to get each other’s back.

My Life As A Blog by Anthony McCarthy

For Suzie

Well, having begun to rebel against the coercive bullying coursing out of the ScienceBlogs, maybe it would be a good time to follow up on that comment posted on Suzie’s piece Friday about near-Monty football.

We can disapprove of anything we happen to. Pornography, commercial exploitation of workers - including those who work at Hooters or it’s junk sports equivalent - whatever the trashy, commercial culture and corporate oppressors present us with. We can condemn the activities, we can condemn those who exploit the people who work for them, we can even condemn the workers if that seems fair to do in any individual case. We can point out that they are dragging down the gender, race, ethnic group, gender preference minority, etc. and costing us in the process. We can pressure them to stop bringing us down.

We, my friends, are not the federal, state or local governments, we are not bound by the restrictions of legal impartiality (yeah, right), we do not have to be even handed, we don’t even have to be fair. Who the hell feels they have to be fair to us? Scott Simon? Who ever gets called on lying about us or giving us the shaft?

The left is pressured into disarming itself at every turn, we are coerced into silence or acquiescence. Well, when it is an issue of justice, and so of morality, we don’t have any right to be silent, certainly not if we would rather not be silent. We have a duty to speak out and a right to exercise our full blown disapproval of a practice that degrades or injures or hurts humans, animals, plants eco-systems or just the quality of life.

I posted my first blog piece one Saturday morning in full blood rage over a Weekend Edition piece in which one of the most aggravating and disabling parts of the Code of Liberal Ethics was paraded with no one happening to notice it was not applied to the right. That is the assumption that we are never, ever allowed to get it less than 150% right. You can read that piece here, if you would like to. It was followed up by one of my best posts posted elsewhere as I Won’t Be Fair To Fascists, I won’t Be Nice To Nazis, words I still live by. Call this one

Hey, I’m Not The Jamping Government, I Don’t Have To Be Impartial.

By the way, that movie. I couldn’t stand those brats. That mother should have given their hides a tanning.