Saturday, November 22, 2008

But, Dear, The Boy Sucks Blood..... by Anthony McCarthy

I know he seems very charming and you feel sorry for him because he seems so sad but I just can’t feel good about this relationship. He sucks blood, he feels an enormous urge to bite people in the neck and drink their blood while it’s still warm. Yes, yes, I know you say he’s got it under control but it’s only a matter of time before they figure out where the cities pets are going. Then what? He’ll go to court and you’ll get dragged in as a character witness. The neighbors will put two and two together then what will happen? You used to be such an animal lover. And does he really have that much will power? I know you say he’s got more will power than normal but don’t you remember that time you had him over and your little brother teased him about his crypt palor? I mean when he bared his teeth and his eyes turned red, do you want to risk that happening when it’s not just family? Now, that’s no way to talk about your brother, and considering your boyfriend people who live in glass houses.

I know you think you’re in love with him but you don’t have that much experience. What if he’s not as serious as you are? No. No. It doesn’t reassure me that he calls you “sweetheart”, I’ve seen how he looks when he says it. And you’re the one who wanted to try going vegetarian. You remember how long that lasted?

And what if he is serious? I mean when you’re older than fourteen. What if you get married? What about the children? You think your brother’s a pain in the neck but, believe me, there are worse. Yes, your cousin Howie is a good example of one but as far as I know he doesn’t suck blood. Yes, yes, I know you think I’m OC about that one but it really isn’t his most attractive feature. Come to think of it, you used to like a boy with a tan. I knew letting you stay after for that project was a mistake. You’d never have been there while night school was in session....

And what about as you get older. What about mid-life crisis. You remember your father. I mean, the boy’s got problems now that a broken collar bone and tattoo removal won’t cure. What if he goes off the deep end? You have no guarantee that he won’t have some kind of hormonal imbalance and start chasing after ..... And, come to think, how long does a vampire’s mid-life crisis last? You’re setting yourself up for an eternity of heartbreak. No, I think the best thing to do is to just cut it off. Oh, you’re just being overly dramatic, it’s not like you’re putting a knife in his heart. Besides, he’ll get over that. No, I’m putting my foot down. I don’t want you seeing him again. Bars on your window? Well, if that’s what it takes, though your father thought wire mesh would be more effective.

OK, that’s it. You’re grounded. What do you mean in more ways than I can imagine?

Update: Biting Vampires As Ideal boyfriends? Good grief.

The idea of the vampire as being sexually alluring is something that is clearly demented, no, make that perverted. It was bad enough when the colorless old man of Stoker’s Dracula turned into the young, black and white greaser of Bela Lugosi, then the technicolor dry look Frank Langella. The idea of a man slipping into a woman’s bed room at night and vampirizing her as romance might be less sick than the romanticizing rape only due to the fact that vampires don’t exist. At least I hope there aren’t kids trying out biting people in the neck as a lifestyle choice, now that Hollywood is presenting the blood sucker as a white bread teen idol. I just don’t get it. But then, I never got The Leader of the Pack either. I haven't done a study of it, but I'll bet that female vampires preying on males are not generally portrayed as sympathetic, romantic characters. They might be seductive but they the ones I recall are only the more evil for that.

The vampire as a metaphor for beleaguered minority group boyfriend is worse than inappropriate, it’s offensive. If they existed vampires would be the embodiment of all of the lies told about the dangers of the dangerous “other”*. If they existed, they would actually be cunning, dangerous, predatory killers, stealing not only the lives of their victims but their very souls, condemning to eternal damnation. The vampire isn’t just the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, though, as in the first paragraph, I’ve got a feeling a vampire would be seen as more socially acceptable, as long as they dressed well, could feign middle-class manners and practiced enhanced oral hygiene.

You would think that this style of vampire was everything a you wouldn’t want in a man. He’s undead, bites people in the neck, drinks their very life essence and enslaves them to a half-life, isn’t handy with tools and can’t be relied to come home at a reasonable hour. They aren’t good life-companion material. I know I wouldn’t put up with one.

The advent of AIDS made the issue of blood even more dangerous, a more twisted literary device. I don’t get its increased popularity in pop-fiction as it becomes a clearer danger. But, then, I’ve watched my friends die of AIDS related diseases.

You wonder how the Twilight series would do if instead of being a vampire the teenage heart throb merely picked peoples’ pockets or hacked their bank accounts instead of drank blood. I have every confidence that stealing peoples money is, actually, less socially acceptable than drinking their blood and stealing their soul. Would a teen thief be able to sustain a series of kiddies’ block busters or a movie? I mean as the main attraction instead of a cute side line.

It’s been my sad observation that there is no man so repulsive that they can’t find a woman, somewhere, who will waste her life for him. Our culture sets women up for that with the idea that they’ve got to have a man, or boy friend, that they’re nothing without one. Some women are lucky enough to have resisted that pervasive message but too many haven’t. Girls, I suspect, are more vulnerable to that pressure than adults. The anxiety of being a teenager makes every pressure explosive. I don’t think this is an innocuous trend in teen fiction, I think it’s symptomatic of the vampirism that women are subjected to in real life, and that’s no tall tale. There has to be something that explains how something so counter-intuitive is so pervasive in our far less than girl-friendly pop-culture.

* I’m not opposed to vampire stories on principle, I do actually have a favorite vampire story, “Blood Libel” by Leigh Ann Hussey about a Jewish vampire, helped by a wise Rabbi who finds a way for him to retain his humanity and his place in a community. It was a very delicate handling of a very charged libel of real anti-Semitism.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Another presidential race (by Suzie)

           In a recent series, Echidne talked about women and religion. I want to use my church as an example of how sexism may remain, in even the most liberal settings.
          The Unitarians and Universalists merged in 1961. The UU Association (UUA) has had seven presidents, all male, even though women make up more than half of our members and ministers. We have no formal barriers to keep women out of the presidency. In fact, UUs are notoriously liberal, and we have long supported women’s rights. Susan B. Anthony was born a Quaker, but attended a Unitarian church for most of her adult life. In 1863, Olympia Brown became a Universalist minister, the first woman to be regularly ordained by any denomination.
         UUs don't always know our history. I once taught about Anthony in Sunday school (what we call “religious education”). The grade-school children knew and admired the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, but they had learned little or nothing about any feminist leaders, including Anthony. (I've touched on this issue before, and Anna Belle has written more extensively here.)
         Perhaps one reason women haven’t elected a woman is that many think it’s wrong to let gender influence them, as if living in this world didn't already influence who they consider competent and inspiring. (Can anyone think of an institution that has a majority of men but has never elected a male leader?)
         In a blog this January, DianaKay compared the Dem primary to the UUA election in 2001 in which members chose a black man, the Rev. Bill Sinkford, over a white woman, the Rev. Diane Miller. Similarly, DianaKay, who supported Sinkford, was confident that “smart women” would resist “gender loyalty” and vote for Obama.
         Many UUs were proud to elect their first African-American president. The United Church of Christ was the first major, predominatly white denomination to elect a black president in 1976. But some media, including this interview with Sinkford by Bill Maxwell, a well-known columnist who also is a UU, attributed that first to the UUA.
Sinkford: Certainly the press thought it was an important event. Papers from the New York Times right on down ran feature stories about that, and I think, pretty clearly, Unitarian Universalists thought it was important.
          I guarantee that electing a woman would not have gotten the same media attention. Like other institutions, UU churches seek good publicity, and we want growth. Some people think that having a black president helps attract people of color to our churches. In contrast, there is no “added value” in electing a female president because women are already in the majority. A female president might even deter some men who already think of church as female space.
Maxwell: Although the UUA had more ministers in the civil rights movement, including the march from Selma to Montgomery with Dr. Martin Luther King, why does the UUA have such a hard time attracting black members today?
Sinkford: That's probably the most commonly asked question I get as I travel extensively in the United States to our congregations. My standard response is that for a faith community that is still predominantly white, it is not spiritually grounded to go out and try to acquire a few more dark faces so that the white members of the congregation feel better about themselves.
          In 1968, the UUA committed a million dollars for reparations to African-Americans, but ended up paying only half of that, Sinkford said. He said he and others felt betrayed and left the church. Some churches also have a hard time recruiting black members because they moved into “lily-white suburbs,” he said. For a long time, intellect dominated UU churches, rather than the “heart,” he said, but that’s changing. I guess that presumes that whites are more likely to have higher education.
           There are other reasons why our churches are predominantly white. For many years, UU fellowships and churches offered a haven of integration. In the 1930s, for example, Unitarians and Universalists opposed white supremacists in the Tampa Bay area. In 1955, the Unitarian Fellowship of Tampa evolved out of an interracial Great Books Discussion Group started that year by Unitarians. As time passed, however, other denominations welcomed people of color, giving them more choices.
           Liberal whites sometimes forget that not all people of color are liberal in all of their views, as the recent votes on same-sex marriage illustrated. UU churches welcome gay people, as well as atheists, pagans and others who might trouble someone from a conservative Christian background.
           UU churches are committed to social justice, but not everyone includes gender. Look at this debate between the two candidates for UUA president, the Revs. Laurel Hallman and Peter Morales, in 2009.
Question 4: On the topic of anti-racism and anti-oppression:
What experiences have you had that help you deeply understand the mindset and values of another culture? Are there practical things you will do to help congregations take authentic steps of transformation?
          Mentioning “another culture” limits this discussion to ethnicity. Focusing on multiculturalism, with no talk of gender, tilts in favor of Morales, who said: “There is no substitute … for the experiential.” In other words, as a Latino, he has lived with oppression. Hallman, who’s a non-Hispanic white, can make no such claims as an “authentic insider.” But that doesn’t stop her from discussing efforts on her Web site on anti-racism, anti-oppression and multiculturalism, with no mention of sexism. On his Web site, Morales said:
We point with pride to our forebears who were in the vanguard in the struggle against slavery, rights for women and the civil rights movement. Today our compassion and love for justice lead us to confront the great moral issues of our time: racism, human rights, immigration, economic justice, rights for GLBTQ people, and preservation of life on our planet.”
         It looks like “rights for women” no longer makes the cut. Morales wants a “truth and reconciliation” process in which white congregants own up to their insensitivity. When will male congregants confess sins of sexism?
         Morales wrote: “Many minority ministers have had tragic experiences in our congregations.” Yes, some congregants (of different colors) are insensitive and ignorant about other cultures. But I’d be amazed if a UU committed a hate crime based on race or religion. Yet there are liberal men who have such twisted feelings about women that they brutalize them. I’ve written before about the UU member in a neighboring congregation who killed his two children, his ex-wife and her new partner. Shouldn’t we be taking “authentic steps of transformation” to stop domestic violence and other forms of abuse and discrimination among our members?
         At our General Assembly, UU Women & Religion decided to support Hallman for UUA president. The Rev. Shirley Ranck, co-convener of W&R, posted:
For me as a woman G.A. was somewhat disappointing. Although I was pleased to see that there were many presentations being made by women on all kinds of topics, I was sad to see that there was almost no mention of women's concerns or issues of particular interest to women in any presentations by women or men. One particularly grievous example was a panel on international UU theology. A man introduced the program and every one of the six presenters from countries around the world was male. Not one of them ever mentioned women at all.
I did enjoy talking with the few people who managed to find our W&R booth, but I couldn't help but wonder how the placement of particular booths is decided. I am also wondering if our work on behalf of women, like the work of the 19th century Unitarian and Universalist feminists will be forgotten until some new generation of women in the future is motivated to dig our stories out of some obscure archives. What is it that we need to do, my sisters, to keep women from once again being overlooked and undervalued?
          Considering what I've written, why do I go to a UU church? I have great friends there, I need a community, and where I live, I haven't found any better place.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

I don't know about you, but this may be the Funniest Cat Video I'll Ever See.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nasty Post III

This is a part of a series on things that piss me off but which don't fall under any other suitable title in my internal filing systems, the kind of things which make my blood pressure rise momentarily but which are usually not worth taking a whole discussion thread into a different direction.

Right now I'm annoyed by a certain kind of quantity-and-quality blindness of so many commenters on political blogs. To give you an example (biased towards my own concerns, natch), consider this exchange that I have had many times:

First I say that many in the media treated Hillary Clinton with sexist arguments when she ran in the presidential primaries and I give examples of those arguments and their frequency. Second, I'm told that this is nothing new as conservatives used to write about John Edwards as the Breck boy and as the guy with the pricey haircuts. The conclusion to be drawn: There is no special sexism that Hillary Clinton was exposed to. All political candidates are called monsters and castrating bitches and so on, I guess.

There are two errors in that counterargument; one of quantity and one of quality. The former has to do with just the number of sexist references that female politicians (such as Hillary Clinton) are exposed to. They are many, many times more common than sexist references aimed at male politicians in the past, and to pretend that the quantitative difference doesn't exist leads to the wrong conclusion.

The latter error has to do with equating two very different types of sexist slurs. Men like John Edwards or Barack Obama (remember Obambi?) are accused of acting like girls by their opponents. Women like Hillary Clinton are also accused of acting like girls by their opponents (she cried! it worked!), but they are also accused of transcending all gender borders and of entering some sort of a world where they transform into monsters, Ice Queens and bitches from hell. The language in the latter case is much stronger, more primal and vicious and the basis for gender transgressions almost infinite. Men can be ridiculed by comparing them to women. Women can be ridiculed as women, too, but they can also be ridiculed by accusing them of being pseudo-men or of something subhuman altogether.

I recommend this little experiment: Google various combinations of 'ambition' and 'politician' and note the proportion of the hits you get which apply to female politicians. Then remember that there aren't that many female politicians to begin with. This was something I noticed said about both Hillary Clinton and to Sarah Palin: that they are driven by nothing but naked ambition. What are male politicians driven by, I wonder? Altruism and the desire to find enlightenment?

Even though my examples apply to one particular topic, the tendency to assume that an assertion about general tendencies can be defeated by one counterexample is more common than that. All such a counterexample proves (assuming it's a real one) is that the general tendency is not a total one.

The Center Right America?

You may have read this article a few weeks ago. It argues that despite the 2008 presidential election results America is at core a conservative country rather than a liberal country. Then others responded to the initial article and the game was on.

I never got to writing on the topic, what with all those other attractive topics out there, but I still have some opinions on it. These are opinions, mind you, not evidence or facts, though they don't conflict with the evidence that I have seen. In any case, to write about the evidence is kinda boring, because I'd have to start by discussing what people might mean with the words 'conservative' and 'liberal' and how we can measure something called 'center-right' and how fiscal conservatism and social conservatism are treated in those definitions and so on. Are you not glad you avoided that?

So onwards and upwards to my opinions. One of my most striking first impressions about this country (right after the size of the cars on the roads) was the very open distrust and dislike of the government. All sorts of people expressed it to me, not just fiscal conservatives.

This hatred of the government wasn't similar to the complaints and criticisms I had heard in Europe; it was a deeper reaction, perhaps something passed on by earlier generations, something which saw the government as a breathing and scheming creature, alive and desiring our hearts' blood. People gathered together in a market place were good, people gathered together to govern were bad.

I recall filing this hatred of the ruling classes under the consequences of the religious persecution many early immigrants from Europe had experienced and the way such memories are passed on through generations. But this may be only partially correct. The distrust of the government has now entered into the general American mythology, and that distrust is both stronger than in other countries I know about and slightly different in quality. Perhaps more primal.

At the same time, Americans are not especially conservative concerning government policies, rather the reverse. Or at least the majority of responses in polls about how much money to spend on public education and whether we should have a single-payer health care system can be quite leftish if the questions are framed a certain way. If the questions are framed in a different way, well, we get support for the idea that this country is at heart conservative.

Note that the discussion on this fascinating topic rarely distinguishes between social conservatism and fiscal conservatism, even though the two are not always twinned with each other. It would be quite possible for Americans to be, on average, social conservatives and fiscal liberals or vice versa. Given the religious right in this country, it's no wonder that Americans, on average, express less egalitarian gender views than people in other countries of the same economic type.

All that sounds like waffling, and it is. But the question about the inherent nature of Americans is an impossible one to answer in some quick-and-facile way. It also doesn't pay enough attention to the way public opinion is molded by the media and the propaganda people and it doesn't pay enough attention to the way the system of government in this country is an inherently foot-dragging one. It's hard to make change happen.

At the same time, the United States is really a collection of smaller countries and those countries tend to have very different levels of conservatism. Louisiana is not Massachusetts, for example.

If I had to express a decisive opinion on this overall question I'd probably start with pointing out that Obama really should have won by gigantic margins, given the actual history of George Bush's reign and the levels of damage the Republican ideology has caused this country and the world, from unnecessary wars to economic catastrophe. That the margins were not that gigantic is a little frightening. But it doesn't necessarily mean that the average American or even the average voter is conservative when it comes to the policies they'd like to see executed. I'd look for that conservative effect in the institutions of this country, in the way money plays a big role in who actually has the freedom to be heard in politics and in the way the media tends corporate in its coverage choices.

What's The Bush Administration Up To, These Final Days?

Making endangered animals more endangered:

For more than 30 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service have reviewed any federal plans that could potentially protect endangered animals or plants. Under the administration's proposed rule, these independent scientific reviews would no longer be required if the agency in question determined that its activities would not hurt the imperiled species.

It's a twofer, angering environmentalists and also showing a nice anti-science side.

Knitting Little Booties First

Amanda (of Pandagon) quipped that might become one of the requirements for getting an abortion in the state of Texas:

The ultrasound proposal, by Sen. Dan Patrick , R-Houston and state Rep. Frank Corte Jr., R-San Antonio, would require women who seek an abortion to first have an ultrasound — although they would not be required to view the image — and to listen to the fetal heartbeat.

"Once an ultrasound is performed, and a woman sees it, she may decide to change her mind and not have the procedure," Patrick said, "and that's a wonderful thing, if that woman decides to keep that baby or put it up for adoption."

A similar proposal passed the Senate last year but stalled in the House.

With Democrats gaining more seats in the House, the ultrasound bill's chances might be even worse this time, said Sherri Greenberg , a fellow at the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Amanda also pointed out that the ultrasound proposal assumes that most pregnant women are too stupid to realize that pregnancy means an embryo or a fetus inside that uterus thingy.

The proposal is unlikely to pass which is a good thing. Should we then ignore such proposals? I don't think so. They need to be dragged into daylight so that we are aware of all that's brewing in those wingnut political kitchens.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Well Is Dry

Tonight, the well being the source of my inspirations. I wanted to write about the frogs and toads and centipedes at the bottom of the well, how their silvery sharpness throws back the blind eye of the full moon, how very much I want to catch one of them and make it sing its song and how I cannot because no ladder reaches that bottom and in any case the well is dry.

The well is dry which means that my writing is parched and creaky and no topic pokes me in my tired froggy eyes and the moon isn't full or even gibbous (what an awful word, sounding like something in the slobbery mouth of a gibbon). Now write all that again without adjectives.

Can you tell that I have been reading books of advice for aspiring writers? Whatever their benefit to others, I think that I should stay the hell away from them. The ones that are most dangerous to me are those which tell us how to fish for the perfect word, the true sentence, the noblest paragraph. Those books make me despair.

File Under: Lifestyle, Women

That's where I found this little piece of news in the fairly lefty U.K. newspaper The Guardian:

A disturbing survey published by the White Ribbon Foundation in Australia shows that one third of boys believe "it's not a big deal to hit a girl", one in seven thinks "it's OK to make a girl have sex with you if she was flirting" - and one in seven girls has experienced sexual assault or rape.

This echoes a Sheffield University study of 35 teens, in which boys freely admitted trying to get girls drunk to have sex with them. The study's author concluded that sex education needs to start strengthening girls' self-esteem and encouraging male empathy. I suspect that tackling the rape culture is going to necessitate much more radical measures too, including addressing the rise of violent pornography, sexist advertising, lap dancing clubs, stag party sex tourism ...

Buckle up everyone - it's a long road ahead.

I have never quoted the whole piece from some other source before. It seems warranted in this particular case, both because of the brevity of the piece and the treatment of the topic and that last odd sentence about a long road ahead. Not to mention the fact that findings about how many boys think rape is OK are filed under lifestyle/women.

It's as if the author of the piece knew that she was fighting a losing battle over the sexual objectification of young girls and that the only safe place to insert anything about this topic was on what used to be called the women's page. After all, who else would be interested in what teenage boys think about rape? Surely not their fathers, for instance.

Angels Singing

Or 'castratos in the eunuch choir', as Chris Matthews once described the men who supported Hillary Clinton. Today's New York Post has a piece on his fear of Hillary Clinton. It's a silly piece, including some long-distance diagnosing, but almost everything Chris Matthews says about women is even sillier. So here's how one clinical psychologist diagnoses Chris Matthews:

"Matthews is extremely threatened by Hillary Clinton and powerful women in general. He is not gay, but the guy is not interested in women, they don't excite him or send tingles up his leg.

Do you know what? I'm utterly uninterested in the possible motivations of Tweety's misogyny. I just want him to stop expressing it on my television screen, all the time pretending that it's serious political analysis.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Wonder

What the Bush administration is doing during these last days of its life? Might be worth a glance or two, especially with regard to all those political appointees that were installed in the last eight years:

Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department's top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies -- including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions -- into senior civil service posts.

The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, called "burrowing" by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs.

Similar efforts are taking place at other agencies. Two political hires at the Labor Department have already secured career posts there, and one at the Department of Housing and Urban Development is trying to make the switch.

Burrowing, it's called...

This Is Most Hilarious

More on poking Joe Lieberman with a loving Q-tip as a symbol of bringing the country together:

Anger toward Lieberman seems to have softened since Election Day, and Democrats didn't want to drive him from the Democratic caucus by taking away his chairmanship and send the wrong signals as Obama takes office on a pledge to unite the country. Lieberman had indicated it would be unacceptable for him to lose his chairmanship.

Uniting the country does not mean rewarding those who have acted like vindictive children, who have stuck their tongue out while giving speeches on behalf of the Other Party. You treat childish behaviors with a time-out.

I guess that last sentence about Lieberman finding the loss of his chairmanship 'unacceptable' means that he's going to go all Republican if he is denied his throne. Sigh. So why not say that?

Elections Have Consequences

Remember how George Bush told that to us after one of his past election victories? Elections Have Consequences.

Well, elections don't have consequences for Joe Lieberman, the Senator with the letter I after his name:

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) easily won a vote to remain chairman of a key committee today and will stay in the Democratic caucus despite his high-profile criticism of President-elect Barack Obama and his support of Sen. John McCain during the presidential campaign.

I myself think that Joe acted like a traitor to his old party, but Harry Reid disagrees:

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said that "Joe Lieberman is a Democrat. He's part of this caucus."

If the past Republican era was one where the Democrats came to face the Republicans' guns with old and rusty swords, the new Democratic era appears to be one where the main Democratic weapons are Q-tips.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gay And Secular Fascism!

This is quite hilarious:

So the hordes of darkness want to impose their values on all right-thinking religous people? Like the value of letting those hordes of darkness get married? How is that imposing on some totally separate people?

In Newt Gingrich's world nothing distinguishes "you telling me how I should live" from "me telling you that you shouldn't determine how I live". They are symmetrical values. And anyone telling him that he shouldn't butt into other people's private lives is a fascist.

Of course Newt Gingrich preaching people on morals is always good for laughs.

A Short Post On The Role of Government in Recessions

Short, sweet and Keynesian: Recessions are times of economic shrinkage, of drawing back, of waiting to spend money, of deciding not to spend it. The more consumers do exactly that, the more firms are going to find their sales dropping, their profits evaporating and their employees excess baggage that should be unloaded. Add to that the current financial situation of local and state governments: Their tax revenues are down and so they are cutting back on spending, laying off workers and so on.

That exacerbates the spiral of shrinkages. As John Maynard Keynes pointed out, the government could work to counteract the business cycles, not to exacerbate them. This means that recessions are not the time for government belt-tightening, but the time for governments to actually spend more by taking out loans (if possible). The time to repay the loans is during the upswings of the business cycle. That would mean taxing people more then.

Why this doesn't work in practice is because voters will vote the high-taxing politicians out of office during booms. In a sense it's our own immaturity that is the biggest problem.

Scratching the Itch

Scott reacts to E.J. Dionne's piece about how to make pro-choice policies more palatable to anti-choice people:

I certainly respect E.J. Dionne far more than I do Will Saletan. But it must be said that his new column has a pretty strong whiff of the "originating policies pro-choicers have been advocating for many decades" routine that Saletan has patented. Apparently, the solution to ending the conflict over abortion includes "contraception programs, even if these are a sticking point for some social conservatives, along with 'programs that are going to encourage women to bring their children to term.' Among them: expanded health coverage for women and children, more child care, adoption help, and income support for the working poor." Since pro-choice liberals have pretty much always supported these policies and they don't seem to stop the anti-choice minority from supporting criminalization (as well as opposing most or all of these programs, almost as if reducing abortion rates isn't a terribly important goal for American "pro-lifers"), it's not clear what's actually supposed to change about the abortion politics here.

Scott later makes an important observation:

But the real problem with Dionne's argument is his apparent belief that enacting this (as stated) worthwhile program would somehow "make cultural warfare a quaint relic of the past." This won't happen, simply because anti-abortion politics tends to be bundled up with an array of other reactionary attitudes about women and sexuality that undercut support for other policies that will reduce abortion rates

Now to the gross title of this post: "Scratching the itch" is how some people describe having sex. It also explains how I feel right now: I have an itch, caused by reading guys discuss abortion policies with great confidence (including what to offer pregnant women so that they'd give birth rather than have abortions), an itch that I need to scratch right now.

But of course guys can write about these questions, of course. And Scott, in particular, is good people. Yet I still itch. This particular topic often has that effect on me, because while abstinence policies, say, are always presented as gender-neutral, they never are so in practice. It's the Purity Balls we get, all aimed at girls, but the boys still seem to come across with the idea that a Real Man at least tries to get into her panties, just now not with condoms at hand.

Perhaps that would be something that the guys could write about a little more: How to get young men to practice conscientious contraception.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gender & hate crimes (by Suzie)

         An Associated Press story says Obama’s election has led to an increase in race-based hate crimes. From a feminist perspective, I’d like to suggest two things:
         1. When we talk about violence, we need to stop disappearing gender. Society needs to continue to question why men are more likely to use violence, whatever the issue.
         2. We need to remember that violence against women because of their gender often does not get reported as a hate crime. For example, the AP story quotes an expert at the Southern Poverty Law Center, but as far as I can tell, the law center still does not track crimes based on gender. Its programs, including the Teaching Tolerance curriculum, center on race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.
        People at the Reclusive Leftist site can wonder if anger at Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin has morphed into more violence against women, but I don't know of anyone tracking that, not the way the Southern Poverty Law Center counts other hate crimes.
        Fifteen years ago, I asked Richard Cohen, then the legal director for the law center, why it didn’t track crimes committed because of gender. He told me:
        “In some ways, the problem of violence against women is so pervasive that it’s in kind of a different category altogether.” He said men’s anger toward women might be a “much more deep-seated psychological thing than racism.”
        You would think that pervasiveness and deep roots would be an argument for inclusion, not exclusion.
        If feminism must fight all oppressions, as third-wave feminists believe, then we need to continue to ask groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center to include gender. If it doesn't have the resources, perhaps it could partner with a feminist nonprofit. That way, we could divide up the work, instead of saying feminists must do everything or nothing.

Writing As Carpentry

I've recently read the blogs of several writers, mainly out of curiosity, to see what writers that I like might be saying when they are not writing books. On the whole the experience has been disappointing. Most of those blogs talk about the carpentry of writing: how to condense 250 000 pages into some acceptable number, how to introduce a second voice, how to figure out the best opening chapter. I call this carpentry, because a reader is as interested in that as a fan of beautiful furniture might be about the precise details of its creation.

It could be that I'm the only reader who is not into all that. Neither am I especially excited about the other topics that often appear on those blogs: marketing of the books and the sniffles and coughs and aches of everyday living and where to go to get your book signed by the author.

All this is part of the new marketing trend in books: the writers must now do almost all the PR for their books, traveling the country on book-signing tours, appearing on television and radio nonstop and so on. It could be that this has always been the case, but somehow I think not. What I do think is that this is not the way we should be going, because being a good writer is in no way correlated with being a good marketer or a good speaker or a good media person.

That may be what is behind the author blogs and author websites and the whole idea that somehow the readers are not only interested in but have the right to know about how a particular writer saws the planks and creates the joins in the book: The Author As The Publishing Firm.