Saturday, March 13, 2010

Maude Maggart (posted by res ipsa)

Lesbian Air Force (by Suzie)

This is a serious story about police outing an Air Force sergeant and getting her discharged. But the headline, "Lesbian Air Force sergeant discharged after police tell military," has me contemplating a new branch of the armed forces.

True Virtuosity: Three Etudes, op 18, By Bela Bartok

The recordings of Bela Bartok playing the piano reveal that he was an unusually fine pianist*. His incredible delicacy of touch in quiet passages, his ability to move energize a bass line without overpowering the piece, his ability to enlighten a dense harmonic texture by precise balance are the essence of real virtuosity. His recordings, especially the well known Library of Congress recital with Joseph Szigeti show his interpretation of Beethoven and Debussy were more than of just of his time. His recordings of his own compositions are, if the word means anything, definitive.

You can hear in his Three Etudes, op 18, how his compositional genius and his pianist technique combine and become a single entity. While there have been some very fine pianist-composers, Prokofiev, Ravel, Bolcom, I don’t know of any who achieved Bartok’s level in the past century.

These etudes are amazingly difficult, I’ve studied the second one but never performed it. I’ve never heard a live performance of all three and am not certain how often they are performed together, hearing Zoltan Kocsis on this YouTube and being able to follow the score on screen is a humbling experience. Knowing I’m unlikely to ever come close to that level of virtuosity in this life is one of the few things that might make me wish for another incarnation.

posted by Anthony McCarthy

* Here is Bartok playing his Suite, a piece I’m currently studying.

You Will Buy The Lie And The Lie Will Entertain You by Anthony McCarthy

That's how I imagine the forthcomming conservative translation of the Bible will put that famous line from John.

The other day, it happened again. You might have had the experience yourself, if your mother is anything like mine, hearing her say “I don’t understand.....” can make your blood run cold. While my mother is, in fact, a saint, and has been a constant news junkie all her adult life and continues to be very well read and generally sharp as anyone, she has a bad habit of intentionally thinking well of people who have demonstrated that they don’t deserve it. The other day it was an issue of insurance companies and their larcenous ways.

After discussing it with her for about twenty seconds her problem was obvious, she didn’t take into account one of the facts vital to comprehending the modern insurance industry in the United States, they’re, generally, a bunch of crooks who are in the business of taking your money and finding every way to not give it back, including just wearing you down with run arounds.

But it’s not just her, we all do it, to some extent. There is an example up at right now where the question is posed, Is Glenn Beck Ignorant or Shameless. Betting on either ignorance or shamelessness would be a sure thing with Beck, who always seems like the bottle blond, bastard child of one of the sleazier characters in a Monty Python skit. The structure of the question leaves out an undeniable and important truth about him and conservatism today.

Today, in 2010, American conservatives they don’t care if what they are saying or hearing are lies. Little lies of convenience, big profitable lies, lies that hurt people, lies that get people killed, lies that will end up in the extinction of the human species. A lie that gets them what they want, money, power, audience share,.... is fine with them. American conservatives have no connection with the truth whatsoever, thirty years in to the Reagan era. For them, a lie isn’t just as good as the truth if it gets them what they want, it is superior, the truth being unprofitable for them. For the propaganda machine that has replaced any semblance of news, it is superior because it’s cheaper to produce while it attracts the right-wing hate talk audience that isn’t stuck in drive-hour traffic.

If you haven’t already over indulged your daily allowance of irony, you might want to read what Howell Raines, fromerly of the New York Times, has to say about FOX in the Washington Post. When you read it, ask yourself why the NYT and WaPo don’t practice what they’re advocating for the gutter media. That Raines is telling a few obvious truths on a rival doesn’t make up for past and continuing journalistic sins in those two corporations.

I’m not going to turn on NPR this morning and risk the chance that Scott Simon giving one of his sermons riffing on what he read in the paper right before deadline. Too much irony makes your blood pressure spike.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Question for the weekend (by Suzie)

Do you ever edit Wikipedia? It could use more feminist editors.

For example: Sam Tanenhaus' article, dissected in my post earlier today, mentions Aileen Wuornos. It still rankles me that so little is said about Richard Mallory, the first man she killed, who had been incarcerated as a sex offender. I just added an extra sentence to Wikipedia about his "strong sociopathic trends."

When his past came to light, I read details from the earlier case, if I remember correctly. It looks like he was tried in 1957 in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Perhaps someone who's better at research can find the records so that we can make this more widely available to the public.

If Wuornos was telling the truth, she would be the only serial killer with whom I'm familiar, who first killed in self-defense, whose first "victim" had brutalized her. I know a jury didn't believe her, but they didn't get to hear evidence of Mallory's past.

I know, too, that this is old history, but women's history matters.

Once again, the NYT finds feminism out of fashion (by Suzie)

I planned to write about the New York Times’ take on the 75th biennial exhibit of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Then I realized two of those stories were in the same Sunday edition as its crappy story on Amy Bishop. I read it in the bathroom, but I’m sure that was mere coincidence.

First, let me note that this isn’t the weekly Wyoming Sheep Horn. This is the NYFT, which has international influence.

Echidne tore up the Bishop story, which appeared in the Feb. 28 print edition sold in my area. I can’t resist highlighting a few more statements by Sam Tanenhaus, the author. He recalls movies that depict abused women turning on men.
A decade or two ago this all made sense. The underworld of domestic abuse and sexual violence was coming freshly to light. … Much has changed since then, but the topic of women and violence — especially as represented by women — remains more or less in a time warp, bound by the themes of sexual and domestic trauma …
Later, he discusses two performance artists whose work comments on violence against women.
All this is stimulating in its way, but it feels curiously outmoded. … They persist in registering the dimmed signals of a bygone time.
There are a lot of guys who haven’t gotten the message that violence against women is outmoded. The violence continues, and men are still way more likely to commit violence than women are. What’s out of date, for Tanenhaus, is saying that male violence against women remains a serious problem. It’s yet another NYT piece that suggests feminism is passé. (It's still OK to talk about violence against women in poorer countries. cf. Nicholas Kristof.)

The trivialization continued that Sunday in T, The New York Times Style Magazine. “Women’s Work” was the headline of a story by Linda Yablonsky, followed by: “How many angry feminist artists does it take to make it into the Whitney Biennial? None.” That subhead – usually written by an editor – appeared in the print edition I got, but not in the online version. I hope someone recognized it was inaccurate.

Yablonsky has written about feminist activism in the art world. Surely she doesn't think it has zero effect on the inclusion of women now.

This is the first Whitney biennial – titled “2010” – in which more than half of the artists are women, and some people are calling it “the women’s biennial,” she notes. When women's representation mirrors our numbers in the population, some men wail that women are taking over. Yablonsky continues:
“2010" suggests that the art of the moment has achieved gender equality, even if the market for it has not.
What does this mean? That women now produce as much art as men? That we now produce art as good as men? That the representation at this biennial indicates what's going on elsewhere? That gender no longer matters?

In the same edition, in an article on the opening party, Guy Trebay quotes a curator saying that “they had gone looking ‘for work with active political and social content’ to shake up the museum.”

According to Yablonsky, however, “This biennial generally puts the personal before the political.” Does she understand the phrase: “The personal is political”? Her next sentence is: “Sharon Hayes, 39, is mainly concerned with speech and who gets to voice or hear it.” How is this not political? “Indeed, Hayes says everyone in her video occupies 'a queer position.' Or as she puts it, “There’s a fine line between a butch lesbian and a trans man.” Oh, no, that’s not political.

“Photographs by women in this biennial suggest anything but a weaker sex,” Yablonsky writes. Is this supposed to bolster her argument that the artists are less feminist than ones in the past? In a photo essay, Stephanie Sinclair depicts Afghan women who set themselves on fire. Yablonsky comments: “Sinclair’s photos may be gruesome, but they’re filled with more compassion than sisterhood.” Wait, compassion isn’t part of sisterhood?

Most of the female artists in the biennial, she says, “seem blasé about their place in the social order … In fact, many women selected for '2010' are simply making art and don’t believe their status as women has anything to do with how far they get with it — or not.”

She doesn’t quote any of the artists saying that, but she does note that those photographed for her article talked as easily about lipstick as about work in the studio. News flash: Women can have concerns about the role that gender plays in the art world while still caring about how they will look in a NYT photo shoot.

Because of her depictions of men and penises, the Daily Beast says, Aurel Schmidt got tagged as a man-hater. “I was coming across a little feminist-y.” To Yablonsky, Schmidt says, “I don’t want anyone to accuse me of being a man hater, which I’m not.” Schmidt must believe that her gender affects her success. After all, a man who made the same art wouldn't be perceived as a feminist man-hater.

Some biennial artists have produced important feminist work, including Babette Mangolte and Lorraine O’Grady. Although 75, O’Grady is in the NYT photo titled “Girl power.” For this post, I've reproduced Mangolte's composite for "How to Look ..."

Four days before Yablonsky's article ran was a NYT review by Holland Cotter. From him, we learn that this biennial has been greatly scaled down and underplayed, compared with the last two. He doesn't discuss gender -- that was relegated to the NYT style magazine, which has the traditional subjects of the women’s pages: fashion, food, design, travel and culture.

Nicole Smith says women’s pages can “be traced at least as far back as the 1890s.”
In women’s pages, the “four Fs” were core content: “family, food, fashion, and furnishings” (Armstrong, 2006, p. 449). Special sections of the newspaper were developed for women, including society pages, which covered engagements and weddings; food sections, which included recipes and tips on being a good homemaker; and beauty sections, recently refashioned as women’s health, in which women received advice—some clinical and most not—about how to look beautiful, if not stay healthy (Armstrong, 2006). Even when women were reporting the stories in the women’s pages, the assumption of editors was that these types of stories were particularly appropriate for women—as opposed to “hard” news—because “women were assumed to have special abilities at the emotive storytelling, character sketches, and telling anecdotes that human interest stories demanded” (Fahs, 2005 , p. 306). While many women journalists pushed their editors to assign them stories that were relevant to a general audience and which represented real news as opposed to filler, the majority of women were relegated to these special pages ...
Although renamed, the special pages continue. That's why major newspapers such as the NYT and the Washington Post still relegate some stories on women to their style pages.

Something to Do with Citrus (by res ipsa loquitur)

  1. Peel two or three pink grapefruit. Take off the pith, too. Slice the grapefruit crosswise and then separate the sections. Put them in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Clean a bunch of arugula.
  3. (Very) Thinly slice a small red onion.
  4. Get a handful of pitted, oil-cured black olives.
  5. Toss all of the above together with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Don't like grapefruit? Substitute oranges or blood oranges. That's what the traditional recipe calls for. My grandfather used to make it with lemons! I like it with pink grapefruit.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

The sun would feel good. I scheduled this to run earlier; it's been raining steadily for two days.

This is a tiger at Busch Gardens in Tampa, photographed this winter.
ETA: the change in weather.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday Fluff Post

I'm tired.

Is there any way of fixing doors where the plywood panels have cracked from old age? My books tell me that there isn't, but I'm hoping to hear otherwise because new doors are not in my budget. I was thinking of gluing 1/4 inch thick panels over the cracked ones and then painting the doors (they are currently stained).

Probably not worth doing?

Also, has anyone rehung doors which don't stay shut or open because of subsidence? My closet doors do that. The problem is that the bias is not just in one direction (those I can fix with padding of the hinge holes etc.) but in at least two. I'm getting sooo tired of being slammed on the butt by a door when I rummage around for clothes.

Alternatively, send me a lovely modern house with a large tai chi studio and a boxing corner and an inner courtyard with fountains and hedgehogs.

I Wonder If It Rains Frogs

In Paul Ryan's world. Whatever the case might be, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) is offering us a plan for balancing the federal government budget. It consists of taking government expenditure to the level it last was in 1951 and of providing lots of lovely, happy tax cuts.

For some, that is. According to two different (though not right-wing) think tanks, the Ryan plan would give those luscious tax cuts to the top ten percent of income-earners but raise taxes on everybody else. Here is one of the relevant tax tables. Click on it to make it larger:

The regressive impact appears to come mostly from the Value Added Tax he proposes. One can certainly understand George Bush's joke about his base being the haves rather than the have-nots.

What I don't get is why anyone else would vote for Republicans. They wish to privatize Social Security (in this climate where we all can see the downside of risk), kill Medicare, get rid of publicly funded education and in general turn this country into a Banana Republic where the rich live in guarded enclaves while everyone else struggles to survive.

In Nigeria

Women are demonstrating to demand better government protection against the recent religious/ethnic violence between Christians and Muslims:

Hundreds of women have taken to the streets of Nigeria's capital, Abuja, and the central city of Jos in rallies against Sunday's massacre near Jos.

The women, mostly dressed in black, demanded that the government protects women and children better.

At least 109 people were killed in the ethnic clashes near Jos. Many were said to be women and children.

Survivors have told the BBC how they saw relatives and friends hacked down with machetes and their bodies burnt.

Witnesses and officials say the perpetrators came from the mainly Muslim Fulani group. Most of the victims were Christians from the Berom group.

The attacks appear to be retaliation for violence in the villages around Jos in January, when most of the victims were said to be Muslim.

It is not just the government which should listen to them but the perpetrators of this violence. I'm almost thinking that the ones who want all this violence could go ahead and attack each other in some set-aside areas. There's nothing brave about killing small children and other innocent bystanders.

Yes, I know that is naive.

More Barbara Lynn

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Remembering the WASPs

They were Women Airforce Service Pilots who flew planes during WWII to release men for the war effort. From the AP article:

They flew planes during World War II but weren't considered "real" military pilots. No flags were draped over their coffins when they died on duty. And when their service ended, they had to pay their own bus fare home.

These aviators — all women — got long-overdue recognition on Wednesday. They received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress, in a ceremony on Capitol Hill.

The Congressional Gold Medal was earlier given to the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers. Because of the racial segregation in the military during WWII I suspect that none of the WASPs were women of color. I may be wrong about that, of course.

Still,* the stories of the WASPs are worth remembering. From Women Aloft (p. 153):

Women pilots compiled an enviable record. The WASPs delivered 12,650 planes of 77 different types. Fully 50 per cent of the ferrying of high-speed pursuit planes in the United States was done by WASPs. On these and other assignments, they flew a total of 60 million miles. Of the 1,830 women admitted to the WASP program, 1,074 graduated and 38 lost their lives. None was mourned more than Evelyn Sharp, one of the most experienced ferry pilots, who died when she was thrown through the canopy of her P-38 as she crash-landed near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Since she was a civilian and did not qualify for death benefits, her fellow pilots took up a collection to help pay for her funeral. Although they were not officially entitled to do so, the townspeople of her hometown of Ord, Nebraska, draped her coffin with an American flag.

*Fixed this because it was a bad transition and didn't say what I intended.

No Orgasms For You, Old Ladies

Wanna come for a walk with me? We shall stroll down the virtual path I took this morning after seeing the headlines in my Google news about a new study which has tried to map out a person's "sexual life expectancy": the expected number of year ofsexually active life one can anticipate to have left at any given age.

The headlines told me that the study found a correlation between good health and a longer sex life for both sexes but more for men. They also told me that men had the longer "sexual life expectancy." From the abstract of the study:

Overall, men were more likely than women to be sexually active, report a good quality sex life, and be interested in sex. These gender differences increased with age and were greatest among the 75 to 85 year old group: 38.9% of men compared with 16.8% of women were sexually active, 70.8% versus 50.9% of those who were sexually active had a good quality sex life, and 41.2% versus 11.4% were interested in sex.

This made a few of the articles start with sentences to make you feel all vigorous and virile while sipping your coffee:

Men have shorter life spans than women on average, but when it comes to sexual life expectancy, the guys have the advantage.

WEDNESDAY, March 10, 2010 ( — Some might call it a fair trade: Women tend to live longer than men, but men have longer—and better—sex lives in their later years, new research shows.

Spring is coming, and a young man's thoughts turn to ... you know. Apparently, old men's thoughts turn to the same subject.

Women may live longer, but it appears men are more likely to go out with a smile.

Note the essentialism in these? Men have better sex lives just because they are men. And note the whiff of gender wars there? Men having the advantage? (It's odd how actual gender war thinking is almost always this kind,not the feminazi kind.)

Are you still with me? What I did next is read a NPR blog on the study. After all, that's Liberalism Central. Here's what it said:

It's a stereotype, the aging man still keenly interested in sex, the aging woman, not so much.

Some University of Chicago researchers have added statistical support for the cliche, with data indicating that, yes, more men of a certain age do seem more excited by sex than women of the same age.


The study doesn't get into why this should be. It does make you wonder why the difference, One possible theory is that as far as nature is concerned, sex is really about reproduction despite the moral, cultural overlay we humans place on it.

If that's so, then men's longer interest in sex relative to women would make sense since it would somewhat track the differences in male and female fertility.

This is where you take something for your upset stomach and get the pliers from the basement to open your jaw.

Then you go and read more about the study and find some astonishing things. Such as interviews with the lead researcher! Who tells us this:

One reason why older women are less sexually active than men may be because they don't have a partner, or because their partner is no longer healthy enough to have sex. "Women outlive their marriages and their relationships," Dr. Lindau says.

She and her colleagues found that as women aged, they were far less likely than men to be married or living with a partner. In one of the surveys the authors used, just 58% of the women ages 65 to 74 had a partner, compared to 79% of men in the same age bracket. Among 75- to 85-year-olds, 72% of men still had a partner, compared to just 39% of women.

When women did have a partner, they were almost as likely as their male counterparts to be sexually active, although they tended to give their sex lives lower marks than men did. In every age group included in the surveys, a smaller percentage of women than men described their sex life as "good" overall.

Bolds are mine.

Imagine that! I should also tell you that this study defined sex as heterosexual activity with someone else. People not engaged in heterosexual activity were not included (which the researcher would have liked to have changed) and neither was masturbation counted. Only heterosexual activity with someone else. That's worth repeating, because the quality of that sex does also depend on that "someone else."

Women tend to have older husbands and the ill health of their husbands could well be one of the reasons for not much sex even in intact relationships.

Let's check if Dr. Lindau said anything more about the study. Yup:

Part of the answer may be pharmacological. Men who responded to the sexual health questions in 2005 and 2006 reported a significantly increased interest in sex compared with men who took the survey 10 years earlier. Women didn't show a change. That might not be a coincidence, Lindau said.

"Over time, we've seen the introduction of really effective treatments for male erectile dysfunction, which is one of the most common problems for men as they get older," she said. "For women we haven't seen the same."

Bolds are mine.

So Viagra might have played a role here, too. Now go back with me to the NPR blog, just to see what is acceptable in a review of a study:

One possible theory is that as far as nature is concerned, sex is really about reproduction despite the moral, cultural overlay we humans place on it.

If that's so, then men's longer interest in sex relative to women would make sense since it would somewhat track the differences in male and female fertility.


Now we are back at home here in the Snakepit Inc., and I want to remind you all who took the tour that I'm not criticizing the study itself (yet, at least) but the way it is reported in a few sources. Neither am I making any kind of assumptions about the sexual lives of elderly women in a feminist utopia or with some female equivalent of Viagra. All I wanted to do was to show you the man behind the curtain in those popularizations.

He is fondling himself.

Women & AIDS (by Suzie)

From the National Women's Health Information Center:
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) is a nationwide initiative celebrated on March 10 every year to raise awareness of the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls.

Every 35 minutes, a woman tests positive for HIV in the United States. More and more women have become infected with HIV since it was first reported in the early 1980s. Today, about 1 in 4 Americans living with HIV are women. It’s time for women to get tested.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

1/3rd (by res ipsa loquitur)

I don't know enough about Indian politics to know whether this proposal is genuinely pro-woman or back-door anti-Muslim (or anti-upper caste or some other classification), but can you imagine the s#$tstorm if a similar constitutional amendment was proposed in the U.S.? NYT: Uproar in India Over Quota for Female Lawmakers:
The upper house of India's Parliament passed a bill Tuesday that would amend the Constitution to reserve one-third of the seats in India’s national and state legislatures for women, after the measure stirred two days of political chaos that could whittle the governing coalition’s majority to a dangerously thin margin.
Uproar, indeed. Update: I was thinking more about this and wondering where an outfit like, say, Concerned Women for America would come down on such a proposal.

You Might Be Interested In This

It's a piece on how the recession is affecting single mothers and many of America's children.

Concierge Politics

Should a gay politician spend his political career denying gays various rights? Roy Ashburn has done so:

Sen. Roy Ashburn, whose personal life became the subject of rumors in the wake of a DUI arrest last week, said today he is gay, but he defended his numerous votes against gay rights bills.


Gay-rights advocates seized on the news to point out Ashburn's votes against gay rights legislation and his appearance several years ago at a rally in support of a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage.

Ashburn defended his positions, telling Barks he was representing his district, a mostly conservative area running from Bakersfield to Visalia.

His view of politics reminds me of a concierge business, something along the lines of those services which come to your house to pick up your dry-cleaning or deliver your groceries. It doesn't really matter whether your customers share your values or beliefs.

Ashburn seems to argue that he is just running a concierge business for his constituency, voting the way they would want him to. But will those conservative voters of Ashburn's district re-elect him now that they know of his gayness? I wonder.

Sarah Palin's recent comments about how her family in the 1960s used to sneak across the border to use the Canadian health care system reveals something similar:

"My first five years of life we spent in Skagway, Alaska, right there by Whitehorse," Palin said during a speech in Calgary on Saturday. "Believe it or not — this was in the '60s — we used to hustle on over the border for health care that we would receive in Whitehorse. I remember my brother, he burned his ankle in some little kid accident thing and my parents had to put him on a train and rush him over to Whitehorse and I think, isn't that kind of ironic now. Zooming over the border, getting health care from Canada."


On the Daily Kos website, one post — entitled Sarah "The Death Panel Queen" Palin Went to Canada for Health Care — called the former Alaskan governor "opportunistic" and "hypocritical."

"It's good enough for her, but not for the rest of the American people who don't have easy access to Canada and a system that isn't based on wage discrimination?" the post made on the left-leaning political blog stated.

And also pointed out Palin's comment, writing that her family put her brother on a train "and sent him to Canada for the socialism."

Palin has previously claimed Canada should dismantle its public health care system and called the push by U.S. President Barack Obama to nationalize the American system "irresponsible," suggesting the move would allow "death panels" to choose whether Americans would live or die.

A fascinating topic, is it not? Should politicians be like concierges or should they actually believe in what they spout? It might ultimately be the customers voters who decide on that.

To tie this all to feminism, note that we don't (outside feminist blogs) ask misogynistic female politicians or pundits to justify their stance. We don't get all upset that they vote or advocate for policies which hurt other women. That is interesting, too.


That's supposed to be something you say when having a toast. Like "bottoms up!" A new study finds that moderate drinking in women is correlated with gaining less weight in middle years:

In the study, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston examined data from 19,220 women enrolled in the long-running Women's Health Study. The women, all ages 39 and older at the start of the study and all originally of normal weight, provided information on questionnaires about their alcohol intake as well as other health and lifestyle information over an average of 13 years.

To assess the impact of alcohol only, researchers adjusted for other factors that are known to influence weight, such as smoking, body mass index, age, non-alcohol dietary intake and physical activity. They found that compared with women who abstained from alcohol entirely, women who drank between 15 and 30 grams a day _ the equivalent of a drink or two _ were 30 percent less likely to be overweight or obese at the end of the study period.

Note that word "correlated" in my first paragraph. It's not the same as saying that drinking moderately caused less weight gain, all other things being constant. That is, indeed, one intriguing possibility. But as the authors of the study note, there are other possibilities.

One I immediately thought about is that "moderate drinking", especially the consumption of red wine (which was the type of drinking most correlated with less weight gain), might have shown a social class or income difference over the last few decades. If that is the case, this variable could pick up not only the person's drinking habits but perhaps also aspects of lifestyle which vary by income.

For instance, it could be that the same dietary intake of two women with different incomes might not in fact be the same in the quality of food consumed and in its ability to cause weight gain. The wealthier might eat fresher food, with fewer additives, say.

Or perhaps not. It could be that moderate drinking does increase the metabolic rate in women. But it's always useful to remember that different variables in empirical studies (such as drinking in this one) may carry lots of unintended baggage and in fact measure more than one underlying theoretical variable.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Hippy, Happy, Hoppy International Women's Day

E.B. sent me information about Barbara Lynn, a singer and guitarist who did not get the attention she deserved. This is my favorite from her:

The Ms. Blog

Has started today. It is a group blog on feminism. I'm going to write there once in a while. Check it out.

Go Read Digby

She makes a point which is important:

Will pro-choice women finally be forced to accept the Stupak Amendment in order to get health care reform passed? I've been saying for a while that they probably would, not because I had any insight on how it would happen, but because I've known that the permanent political establishment would require that a large liberal interest group -- preferably women,racial minorities or gays --- sacrifice a matter of deep, fundamental principle to prove to them that they are not in charge of anything. Pro-choice women will get no sympathy and if they attempt to fight back, they will be vilified by the "serious" people for being foolish purists who only care about themselves. (Stupak and his gang, on the other hand, are widely seen as acting out of principle, which is admirable and unassailable.)

"Stupak and his gang" includes the Catholic bishops. Women cannot be Catholic bishops, but the celibate bishops can wear dresses and have power over women's wombs. Imagine explaining the reasons for that to an alien from outer space!

It's all mind-boggling.

Especially the bit about the values of forced-birthers being real and worthy of respect, whereas the values of pro-choice people are something to do with identity politics and up for compromises. I have come across this in several debates which end up being about how selfish pro-choice women want people to suffer with bad health care rather than give up something nobody really supports anyway, whereas the forced birth folks are seen as principled, however mistakenly.

Hippy, Happy International Women's Day

Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman evah! who has won a best-director Oscar. It's always nice when a "First" happens because then we might be on the road towards that distant day when nobody notices the gender of the nominees for that Oscar. (Or any of the others, though of course actors are already sex-segregated into their own separate races. Is that actually necessary?)

I'm very pleased for Bigelow. Very. I'm also pleased because I read only a few months ago that the lack of a female director among those holding the little statuettes in their paws is a sign that women can't direct.

But I'm pretty sure that Bigelow doesn't want to be a "First." She most likely wants just to be herself and not some measure of womanhood. Once you are viewed as the latter there will be nasties who mutter that you don't really deserve the Oscar and only got it because of what's between your legs. Except, of course, if you happen to have testicles and such dangling there.

How I digress. I haven't watched "The Hurt Locker" yet but will. It's a movie about guys doing guy war stuff. The stage at the Oscars was full of guys with Bigelow when the movie also won the Oscar for Best Picture. It reminded me of Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet of all men. At the same time Bigelow really stuck out in that group of men's formal evening wear. It made her look like the Woman Who Has Arrived, and that was extremely nice in some ways, yet in other ways made me wonder if one woman in a sea of maleness can ever mean that for women in general.

Jeez but I'm curmudgeonly today. So be it. Perhaps the First Woman To Win The Best Director Oscar MUST do a movie about men with mostly men? And why can't a woman do movies on any topic she wants to, eh? I'm having an internal fight here, and none of this really matters if Hollywood treated women directors fairly and well. There's some doubt about that, just as there's some doubt about television and its treatment of women.

Happy International Women's Day!

Gonna write on that topic all day long today. mmm.

Let's start with a piece in USAToday a few days ago about the number of countries which still have laws explicitly discriminating against women. A snippet:

The report found it alarming that many countries, including Algeria, Israel, Japan, Mali, Sudan, Tanzania, and Yemen, have been unwilling to repeal laws that grant women secondary status within marriage. These laws include providing for unequal rights in marriage and divorce, prescribing male guardianship over women, permitting polygamy, and requiring wives to be obedient.

In Singapore, for example, the law allows a man to rape his wife if she is aged 13 or over, and in Iraq, the law requires a woman to get the approval of her male guardian or husband to obtain a passport, Bien-Aime said. In Israel, religious law prevents a woman from getting a divorce unless her husband gives his approval, and in Saudi Arabia women are still banned from driving, among other restrictions.

The report expressed concern that in many countries amendments to discriminatory laws have been partial, incomplete or merely cosmetic, resulting in little change to legally advance women.

For example, it said, Syria amended its "honor killing" law in 2009, but failed to put such killings on a par with other murders by allowing a mere two-year minimum sentence for offenders. Although India's domestic violence law of 2006 gives women the option to bring a civil case for marital rape, India continues to exempt marital rape from its criminal law, it said.

What is great about the International Women's Day (IWD) is that stories like this actually get published during that one day every year. Don't you agree? The day serves as the news hook, fishing, fishing for something to say about that forgotten enormous mass of people.

Do you smell the sourness in my writing? I bet. It has all to do with having read the comments attached to the above piece. Let's go down into the sewers:

What's wrong with discrimination?
Hey, the U.S. is not exempt from this criticism. Not one state law that requires a women to view the contents of her womb before an abortion requires the co-creator to be exposed to it or, with her, listen to an oral narrative of what a technician sees there. .... But what is really galling, and I only discovered this recently and quite by accident, women have no wall hanging urinals in their public restrooms. Not even for those that go both ways.
The world was much better off when women had no rights.
Maybe around the world but not in the US. Life is a cakewalk for women here.
ascari (5 friends, send message) wrote: 17m ago
If the right wingers, religious radicals and the fanatic fringe had its way the women would still be under their thumb.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^

Sir, you are incorrect. Just the big mouthed femi-nazi's like pelosi, clinton and the other witches. hahahaha
And we talk in the US? Equal rights for women, but not for men seems to be the goal here. My neighbor was taken to a hospital, then jail because he tried to protect himself as his wife beat him with a bat. (REMEMBER, there is never any excuse for beating a woman {or a man}). My father suffered mental abuse for years from his new woman- he finally moved outside into a tent (in New Hampshire) for two entire years to get away from her. A woman pretty much automatically gets the house and kids here if she's the least competent at lieing. Boys who are raped by older women are laughed at; the other way around and its major jail time. Gender relations will never improve when one side is overlooked and the other side gets all the pity.

Not all comments are like these, but I would argue that the tone of the thread is. The hostile responses are of three types: First, simply argue that women should not be equal. Second, make a big joke about the oppression of women. Third, argue that it is the men in the U.S. who are truly oppressed and that they should have 365 days a year instead of 364.

Sorry for falling on the level of that thread in my arguments. That made me also forget the fourth response in that thread which is that if women in other countries live under oppression, well, they must like it. Otherwise they'd get up and do something to stop it, and who are we to tell them how to live.

Grrr. Now go and read this very funny rant from Down Under in honor of the IWD (found in this list). It uses naughty words but since my blog is supposedly pron you can take it.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Things That Never Happened (by res ipsa loquitur)

  1. Bob Casey Sr. denied a speaking role at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because of his opposition to abortion
  2. Hippies spitting on Vietnam veterans
  3. Bra burning
About that last one ...

When I was a kid -- can't have been more than ten or so -- an older neighborhood boy said to me, "Oh, go burn your bra". Never mind that I didn't have much of anything to fill a bra; I'd said something and this was how he chose to put me in my place. I got the association alright (bra burning! feminists! ERA! hairy legs!), but I remember laughing, because it wouldn't have occurred to me in a million years to burn a bra, because I knew I wasn't like "those women".

These days, when asked, "Are you a feminist?", I just shrug my shoulders and say, "Sure". What I'm trying to telegraph with the shrug, I think, is, "Well, duh, how can I not be?" But there are still plenty of people of my generation and social class who use that, "I'm not a feminist, but ... " construction on a semi-regular basis. They still don't want to be like "those women".

I was going through some papers this week and I came across this New Yorker article about Gail Collins' book, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. I'd clipped it because of the subheadline, "Why is feminism still so divisive?" so that I could read it a few more times and hopefully figure out, well, why is feminism still so divisive?

Back to bra burning. When Levy writes, "There are political consequences to remembering things that never happened and forgetting things that did" all you have to do is think of the "Al Gore invented the internet" lie to know that she's onto something. Levy talks about feminism being "plagued by a kind of false-memory syndrome", with people making up stuff that never happened (bra burning) and projecting their fears ("If women take 'all the jobs' what will be left for the men?") or hopes ("There's no more gender discrimination because Hillary Clinton almost won the primaries and is now Secretary of State") onto stuff that has happened. A guy recently told me that the entire economic collapse could be blamed on women going into the workforce en masse. The gist of his argument was that millions more (female) workers made trillions more dollars flow into the economy, causing inflation which pushed house prices so high that people had to borrow more than they could afford to buy a house. (Echidne's eyes are probably popping out of her head right now.) My sister tells me that this argument has been pushed by conservatives for years.

Anyway, the whole Levy article is worth a read (and I just put the Collins book on my library "hold" list). At one point Levy posits that after a string of successes in the '70s, feminism became a "politics of liberation [that] was largely supplanted by a politics of identity":
But, if feminism becomes a politics of identity, it can safely be drained of ideology. Identity politics isn’t much concerned with abstract ideals, like justice. It’s a version of the old spoils system: align yourself with other members of a group—Irish, Italian, women, or whatever—and try to get a bigger slice of the resources that are being allocated. If a demand for revolution is tamed into a simple insistence on representation, then one woman is as good as another. You could have, in a sense, feminism without feminists. You could have, for example, Leslie Sanchez or Sarah Palin.
I'm not sure what I think about the identity politics argument, but I keep wondering if identity politics (the fallout of which bedevils the Democrats to this day) is where some of the ambivalence is coming from. Levy talks about how identity politics' "preoccupation with representation suggests that feminism has lost its larger ambitions." I still think representation is a worthwhile goal (I'd be happy if this woman ran for president some day and as a smart lady wrote me, "[E]ven Thatcher had the ultimate benefit in the U.K. of making a woman Prime Minister seem possible"), but those larger ambitions (Levy's example is child care) will touch a lot more people's day to day lives. (Lily Ledbetter is a really big deal.) My own larger ambitions have been, chiefly and in order of importance (a) equal pay for equal work; (b) equal pay for equal work; and (c) equal pay for equal work. After all, it's lovely that Meg Whitman was the CEO of eBay, but I'd feel better if I knew that all the women that worked for her had received a comparable wage to the guys that did.

Facing Unfortunate Reality And Calling For Progressive Regionalism by Anthony McCarthy

The scandalous spectacle of the Senate this past year is the fruit of its inherent defects, fulfilling the anti-democratic intent of those who founded it. The Senate was the product of just one corrupt bargain in the founding of the Constitution, this one the demand that states having smaller populations be able to thwart the will of the majority of citizens to serve their own interests. The Senate, as first established gave disproportional power to the residents of small states, it was appointed, not elected and it exacerbated the distancing from popular judgment by giving six year terms to Senators. The idea was to make it a non-hereditary house of Lords, the line about a body of wise men to cool off the heat rising up out of the rabble masking a clearly aristocratic power move. Those wise men have adopted rules of the Senate which have made the anti-democratic provisions many times worse, though on very rare occasions those have been turned to better uses.

And, what’s worse, the amendment process makes it virtually a certainty that the heavy anti-democratic hand on, this, our alleged democracy, is a permanent feature. It would take a truly revolutionary movement to get the thing abolished or, at least, democratized. By “revolutionary” I do mean it would take blood shed and the off chance that what results would be any better. The history of revolutions doesn’t make that a safe bet, I hope we can avoid it.

Anyway, the spectacle of the Republican-blue dog minority in the Senate holding up approximately 300 bills which the House has already passed, cowing the Democratic president with one of the strongest electoral mandates in recent history, and screwing We The People royally, makes revising some previous stands essential.

We, my fellow progressives, liberals, leftists, must practice hard ball, regional politics in those states where we have a say. There may be some who have read me condemn regionalist politics in the past. That was the observation of both a scruple and a protest against the prejudice fanned by the national media that a New Englander was unacceptable as President of the United States because the South and much of the Mid-West wouldn’t go for them. Of course, what that meant wasn’t that Southerners and Mid-Westerners were uniformly bigoted against New Englanders, it meant that the majority of voters in those states could be manipulated through their regionalist resentments to get them to vote against John Kerry. It is that other abomination against democracy, The Electoral College, that exacerbates the effects of regional identity. If we had the popular election of presidents, that regionalism exacerbating and disenfranchising blight on our country would vanish.

Well, we are not going to change either the Senate or the E.C. because the Constitution gives the Senate and states with a minuscule population the ability to prevent it. And why would those states allow their legislators to diminish their ability to blackmail and hold up the rest of the country? Can you imagine Senators giving up two years of their terms to be more accountable or to dilute their present share of power?

That’s the situation we live under. So, the only alternative is for progressives in progressive states to bind together and demand representation that practices regional politics for our protection and our benefit. If progressive states practiced regionalism and strategically blocked legislation that the South and the Corn-Wheat Belt states wanted, we could get a lot more of what we need. We could enhance the numbers in Congress for progressives through that mechanism. We must convince the majority of residents in our states that their interest is best served by politicians that don’t sell us out to the most regressive and backwards voters who happen to be concentrated in those states. There is no reason that the myriad of popular programs, healthcare, environmental protection, civil rights protections etc. should be allowed to be blocked in perpetuity by the minority which practice regional politics.

Of course, the scruple against practicing regional politics is that it is unjust to those who live in even the most benighted states but who don’t favor those policies*. And that is absolutely true. As pointed out, things like the Electoral College automatically disenfranchise those people. But the idea that Progressive State regionalism would be to their determent is absurd. I am better served by Al Franken and Barbara Boxer than I am by Snowe and Collins. I have, at times, been better served by the likes of Dale Bumpers and others from states which used to send moderate Democrats to the Senate. I am certain there are many millions of progressive in states with horrible representation who often feel better represented by Congressional members from other states.

There are no easy answers, no perfect solutions to the horrible facts of government under our constitution. There isn’t anything that isn’t going to force a hierarchy of principles. But there is often no room for doubt that higher level moral issues are frequently sacrificed for things amounting to conventionalized manners. Democracy is in the emergency ward because The People’s lives are being destroyed. This is an emergency. We need to do something drastic now.

* As I’ve pointed out it doesn’t come naturally to me as a New Englander. I’ve pointed out that while Southerners were freely expressing their regionalist hatred against New Englanders my governor was from Virginia and the Speaker in my state legislature was from South Carolina. There are a number of successful Democratic politicians in the North East who speak with distinct Southern accents.