Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reproductive Rights Are Worse Than Slavery

According to Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona. And not just reproductive rights in general but those of African-American women in particular:

FRANK: In this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say "How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can't believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible." And we're right, we're right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America's soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery. And I think, What does it take to get us to wake up?

What does it take to get us to wake up? I bet he's not thinking about offering more support for women who have children, more support for schools and health care and so on for families who are struggling. I bet he's thinking about banning abortion altogether.

As Think Progress points out, Franks' comment may be linked to a new anti-abortion campaign. It aims to make abortion illegal, as all of them do, but this time it is aimed specifically at the African-American community. Today's New York Times has a piece on this new campaign. I'm not qualified to discuss the assertions it makes about Planned Parenthood, for example, and neither am I qualified to judge the history of racial oppression in this country and how it affects the present.

But my impression is that the writer too easily accepted the conservative framing which offers the removal of women's reproductive rights as the solution to cutting abortion rates within the African-American community, without looking at the economic support people need to have children in the first place or how much the conservatives have been willing to offer such support in the past (not much) or the availability of contraception to young people in general and so on.
A post-script: This statistical page gives information on birth rates and total fertility rates by race. The African-American community is not decimated because of reproductive choice. That, after all, seems to be the campaign's argument.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Representing the self (by Suzie)

I thought of Frida Kahlo as I lay in the hospital, drawing myself. I was hospitalized for a week, nowhere near as long as Kahlo. Nor is there any comparison in talent – I’m no artist.

I thought of "The Broken Column," how she depicted her body in pain. Drugs and discomfort splintered my sleep until I fell into a dream of love and comfort. I didn't want to forget those feelings. If I could draw the dream, I thought, maybe it could lead me back to the dream world.

Last week, I wrote about the musicians in the Arts in Medicine program at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. An artist also came to my room with paper, pencils, pens and paint. Showing perspective was too hard, almost 40 years after I had taken an art class. I thought of the flat symbolism of the folk art that inspired Frida and convinced myself that I could draw something meaningful to me, even if it had no other merit.

I became a child again, delighting in the colors, coloring, coloring, coloring in the midst of the medical world. I drew my dream. I drew myself better.

When I was a teenager, some boys taunted me, calling me a witch. Sometimes I still see with their eyes when I look in a mirror or see a photo of myself. Too often I judge myself by society's impossible beauty standards. I’m grateful for good photos, and the sketch above, as if I needed evidence of my worth.

In the early '90s, Israeli artist Yaacov Agam came to Tampa to inaugurate a fire-water fountain. He took my notepad and sketched me before continuing with a brief interview. I use that sketch as my Gravatar now.

I agree with poet Muriel Rukeyser: “No more masks!” to hide the experiences and feelings of women. But a mask (or avatar) I choose myself – my own art or photo, or someone else’s – can express something, or capture an aspect of myself, that I want to remember or the world to know. As a feminist, I believe in the strength of self-representation. Perhaps someday it will quiet the misrepresentations in my head.

The Beauty Way (by Suzie)

I was "forced" to spend two hours trying to find a video of Eliza Gilkyson with decent sound quality. In addition to the video, here's my favorite, "Beauty Way." When I hear it, I want to fall at her feet. I've found different definitions of this term on the Internet; it sounds like she's referring to a creative (vs. commercial) path. The song also seems apropos of my other post today:
By the time I hit L.A. I was hotter than a pistol.
But you’re never hot enough, little darling.
You're never really hot enough.

Friday bird blogging (by Suzie)

Don't use the F word when describing the bird on the right. It's a roseate spoonbill, not a flamingo, and it's surprising how many people make that mistake. The photo is from Apikoros, who gave the link last week in response to the heron I posted. In contrast, I shot flamingos (left) at Busch Gardens in Tampa.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Submarines And Women

The U.S. Navy will soon allow women to serve on submarines. What's interesting about this is that the initiative came from the Navy, not from forces outside it. I have no idea whether Obama has supported this initiative:

The move to co-ed submariner crews comes as the Pentagon is considering how to end the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military. (Click here for Monitor coverage on this issue.)

President Obama has said lifting the ban remains a priority, and the Pentagon is studying the issue for the next several months. Integrating submarine crews will bolster arguments to lift the ban on allowing homosexuals to serve openly, says Larry Korb, a former personnel official at the Pentagon under President Reagan.

And Here It Is

The piece I have been waiting for ever since Amy Bishop killed three people in an apparent replay of the common pattern of men going into a public place and shooting people, more or less indiscriminately. I knew that it was coming, a piece which would link the Bishop murders to feminism or women's empowerement, and I must admit that on some level I was salivating while waiting because murders of this type, or any murders of any type, are so very rarely committed by women and so very often committed by men, and therefore if we take these articles seriously we should conclude that we must put men into the traditional position of women and then we will get a much safer world.

But that is never the conclusion of those pieces, and Sam Tanenhaus, the author of this one, knows that he cannot get away with just finger-pointing at feminism. Instead, he argues that we need art to give us more representations of the woman who is a psychopathic killer:

But the landscape of unprovoked but premeditated female violence remains strangely unexplored. Women who kill are "relegated to an 'exceptional case' status that rests upon some exceptional, or untoward killing circumstance: the battered wife who kills her abusive husband; the postpartum psychotic mother who kills her newborn infant," Candice Skrapec, a professor of criminology, noted in "The Female Serial Killer," an essay included in the anthology "Moving Targets: Women, Murder and Representation" (1994).

Because these don't satisfy Tanenhaus he turns to the writers of fiction and especially detective fiction, as experts on female violence. That's a clever thing to do because we all know that women in those books are much more likely to be the murderer than in real life (where in the U.S. women commit only 12% of all homicides). Otherwise figuring out the who-done-it part would be much less interesting. You could just use those statistical figures to rule out most women in most books when lining up your suspects.

Tanenhaus has a thesis in his piece which is not really about someone having to do a movie and a book about Amy Bishop. It's all about female empowerment turning women into mass murderers. Just like men!:

The uncomfortable fact is that for all her singularity, Dr. Bishop also provides an index to the evolved status of women in 21st-century America. The number of female neurobiologists may still be small, but girls often outdo boys in the classroom, including in the sciences. (Mattel recently announced a new addition, Computer Engineer Barbie, to its line of popular dolls.) A Harvard Ph.D. remains a rare credential for women (as well as for men), but women now make up the majority of undergraduates at many prestigious colleges. And the tenure struggle said to have lighted Dr. Bishop's short fuse reflects the anxieties of many other women who now outnumber men in the work force and have become, in thousands of cases, their family's principal or only breadwinner.

Just go through Tanenhaus's piece by searching the word "feminist" and you see what he is really saying. Heh.

What is oddest about this article may be something almost unstated. Tanenhaus offers us Amy Bishop not only as the fruit of feminism in some sense but also as a sign of the times. Yet the most recent statistics (ending with 2005) I was able to find tell us that homicides committed by both sexes have gone down over time.

Using the simple association technique of Tanenhaus one might argue that feminism seems to have been a good thing for homicide rates, eh? That is a joke, naturally.

Our Laurie

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Your Friendly Womb Police in Utah

Yup. A new law makes it possible that a woman who has had a miscarriage will then be exposed to police interrogation:

The Utah Senate has joined the House in allowing homicide charges against expectant mothers who arrange illegal abortions.

The bill responds to a case in which a Vernal woman allegedly paid a man $150 to beat her and cause miscarriage but could not be charged. The Senate on Thursday approved HB12 on a vote of 24-4, criminalizing a woman's "intentional, knowing, or reckless act" leading to a pregnancy's illegal termination. It specifies that a woman cannot be prosecuted for arranging a legal abortion.

The measure now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for final action.

What is "reckless?" Taking a hot bath? Hang-gliding? Slipping on an icy path while jogging? Almost anything can be defined as "reckless" if disgusting womb controllers so decide. I read that the measure is not aimed at prosecuting spontaneous miscarriages but how can you tell, hmh?

OK. Let's see what the punishments for reckless women in this Margaret Atwood's Gilead are:

The bill does not affect legally obtained abortions, but it does criminalize the actions taken by a woman to induce a miscarriage or an abortion outside a doctor's care. Penalties range up to life in prison.

Perhaps the most troubling part of the bill is a standard that could make women legally responsible for miscarriages caused by so-called "reckless" behavior. Under the "reckless behavior" standard, an attorney only needs to show that the woman behaved in a manner that is thought to cause miscarriage, even if she did not intend to lose the pregnancy. Under this law, if a woman drinks too much and has a miscarriage, she could face prosecution.

Many states have fetal homicide laws, most of which apply only in the third trimester. Utah's bill, hwoever, would apply through the entire duration of a woman's pregnancy. Even common first trimester miscarriages could trigger a murder trial.

Mind-boggling. You can go to a physician and have a legal abortion during the first trimester but if you have a suspicious miscarriage at home you might be taken to court for murder.

On That Public Option

Now that Obama has submitted his own health care reform proposal (HCR) it might be a good time to talk more about that vanishing Cheshire Cat of a public option and the reasons why that kitty (who isn't even leaving a grin behind) should not have been kicked out of the house but should have been brought in and offered a nice platter of health insurance mice to eat.

That is, after all, one of its important jobs and the fear that it would indeed perform that job is perhaps why it was kicked out of our house and turned into a feral. Of course the wingnuts also want it out of the house because to them it smells of communism, long, gray corridors with open buckets of vomit and drill-sergeanty medical providers who are really government bureaucrats in disguise. Somehow none of that applies to Medicare, Medicaid or the Veterans' Administration; all existing public options.

Note, first, that many (if not most) Americans do want a public option. That this doesn't get through to the Congress has much to do with who is paying for election campaigns and whose livelihood is threatened here.

Note, second, that the individual mandate without a public option means that all individuals not covered by employer-provided group plans will be at the mercy of those insurance exchanges. The intention is that they will be market-places where individuals shop for the best policies while all the different firms compete vigorously and fairly. But will this happen? Can this happen when the information required from the consumers is tremendously complicated and when the insurance industry still is exempt from antitrust legislation*?

Granted, all the HCR proposals would prohibit the denial of coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, for example, and the Obama proposal also advocates federal government powers to block excessive premium increases. But I'm skeptical of the ability of the health care markets to act in a truly competitive manner without strong regulatory oversight, and I doubt that we will get that oversight. As I have written elsewhere, the health care markets are often the best textbook examples of sick markets and we should not place our confidence on a purely market-ridden solution.

A public option could help to keep the markets honest, because it would not have the same profit motive to raise prices or to drop customers. In this way its mere presence in the exchange would benefit not only those who would choose the public option but even those who would never personally want to buy their insurance through the government.
*This footnote was added later: The exemption may be ending.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday's Fluff Post

Yes, I have posted this one before. But he's so good.

In other news, I have just bought 3.5lbs of fake pearls in strings. It's part of my new idea of trying something I have never tried before. I'm going to cover a kitchen stool with the pearls and then set it in front of a poster showing some swine. Get it?

More seriously, they will go into my crafts closet which is already overflowing. It contains old velvet dresses bought at Sally Army store for the fabric, old gloves and ties bought for some now-forgotten creative reason, buttons, sequins, silk thread, linen thread and so on.

One day I will clear it all out but not yet, because that closet is the Closet of Possibilities. For instance, I could take one of those long embroidered gloves, stuff it and have it hold an artificial rose. All this would be laid inside a miniature casket with the title The Death Of The Hand In The Glove. Mmm.

Where do you keep your dreams?

On the Punishment Of Women

You may have heard about the opinions of one Bob Marshall in the new campaign to kill Planned Parenthood. Marshall argues that all first-born children belong to God and that women who have abortions are later punished for that with more disabled children. Marshall later argues that he did not say that but something about Mother Nature punishing women instead.

Well, you can now judge for yourself what he said:

It's hard for me not to see this or the Nicaraguan case (where a woman with metastatic cancer is left without treatment because she is pregnant) as two different cases of the odd fundamentalist need to see women punished for having sex. Or perhaps just for being women who have all those goodies the church wants to rule over? It must be enraging to find that women can control fertility when it is such an important aspect of the religious fight for global domination.

Last night I happened to read John Donne's The Curse. It begins:

Whoever guesses, thinks, or dreams, he knows
Who is my mistress, wither by this curse;
Him, only for his purse
May some dull whore to love dispose,
And then yield unto all that are his foes;
May he be scorn'd by one, whom all else scorn,
Forswear to others, what to her he hath sworn,
With fear of missing, shame of getting, torn.

It goes on in the same cursing vein. Here is the ending:

The venom of all stepdames, gamesters' gall,
What tyrants and their subjects interwish,
What plants, mine, beasts, fowl, fish,
Can contribute, all ill, which all
Prophets or poets spake, and all which shall
Be annex'd in schedules unto this by me,
Fall on that man; For if it be a she
Nature beforehand hath out-cursèd me.

I think this poem belongs to the post but I'm not quite certain why. Perhaps it's because the fundamentalists do want women passive receptacles of everything nature and men impose on them?

Today's Action Alert

It concerns the case of Amalia in Nicaragua. Here is what you can do:

Request for action:

Women's groups are asking for urgent action. They are currently asking that individuals and organizations send letters today making the following points, to the contacts listed below:

* The state should not inhibit doctors from having honest, medically accurate discussions with their patients about their health, life, and treatment options;
* Amelia must have immediate access to timely, quality information and be able to determine her own course of treatment;
* All decisions taken (by the IACHR/Nicaraguan government) must consider Amalia’s well-being and health first;
* Amelia’s cancer treatment must be authorized without further delay. Amelia has indicated she wants cancer treatment.

Contacts for two key members of the IACHR:

* Luz Patricia Mejía, Chair: Rapporteur for Argentina, Ecuador y Bolivia, and Rapporteur on the Rights of Women.

* Felipe González, IACHR Vice-Chair: Rapporteur for Brasil, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, and Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families.

Both can also be reached by fax at: 202-458-3992

Contacts for Nicaraguan authorities:

Daniel Ortega Saavedra Rosario Murillo, President of the Republic of Nicaragua;

Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, Minister of Health, Nicaragua.

Marcia Ramirez Minister for the Family, mmuñ

Cro. Samuel Santos Chancellor of the Republic of Nicaragua,

José Pallais President, Commission on Justice of the National Assembly,

Edwin Castro Head of the PSLN Party, National Assembly (505)883-5046

Ing. Ana Julia Balladares President, Commission on Women

Monica Baltodano Independent Deputy

Dra. Alba Luz Ramos Judge

Dr. Francisco Rosales, President of the Constitutional branch of the Supreme Court of Justice,

Dr. Manuel Martinez President, Supreme Court of Justice

Haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne (by res ipsa loquitur)

No, that's not by me. That's by Keats.  

Speaking of whom -- and his beloved, the intelligent, creative, independent Fanny Brawne, whose movie this really is -- did you see Jane Campion's Bright Star?  Lovely still from the film here.  More info on Fanny and Keats here.  So nice to see a new Jane Campion film. It had been a long while. 

Speaking of movies, I saw Synecdoche, New York this weekend and am curious to know what people thought of it.  I generally appreciate Kaufman's ambition and his willingness to confront big ideas, but I find the getting-there excruciating.  "Synecdoche" was no exception.  

Monday, February 22, 2010

Meanwhile, in Nicaragua

Remember that paradise of all forced birthers? Nicaragua has made all abortions illegal. No excuses. None.

And this is the nightmarish consequence:

Amalia (an alias), a 27-year old Nicaraguan woman with a 10-year-old daughter, has been diagnosed with metastatic cancer.

She is in the hospital and could be treated, but for one thing.

She is also pregnant.

And so Amalia cannot have aggressive radiation or chemotherapy, the treatments which would give her some chance of survival. And live she wants, for the sake of her ten-year-old child.

This just might be the most nightmarish aspect of the case: Without that aggressive treatment Amalia may not live long enough to bring the pregnancy to term.

I wonder if she will be given pain medications? Perhaps not as they might harm the fetus.


Has its own kind of beauty.

Pictures by 1WattHermit.

Meanwhile, in Egypt. But Better News From Saudi Arabia.

The traditional interpretation of Islamic law gives women and men unequal roles in the judicial system. The testimony of a woman carries less weight than the testimony of a man and women cannot be appointed as judges. This is what probably lies behind these events in Egypt:

Dozens of Egyptian women and human rights activists have staged a protest in Cairo against a recent decision that bars women from holding judicial positions.

Thursday's protest came after the Council of State's association voted on Monday by an overwhelming majority against the appointment of women as judges in the council, an influential court which advises Egypt's government.

Up to 80 women showed up at the protest with most of the activists holding up posters that read in Arabic: "This is a black day for Egypt's history."

"Three-hundred and eighty judges took part in the general assembly and voted, with 334 rejecting the appointment of females to judicial posts and 42 agreeing, with four abstentions," the Egyptian MENA news agency reported on Tuesday.

These news are discouraging, so let's quickly turn to the better news from Saudi Arabia and women's legal roles there:

Saudi Arabia is planning to bring in a new law to allow women lawyers to argue cases in court for the first time.

Justice Minister Mohammed al-Eissa said the law was part of King Abdullah's plan to develop the legal system.

The law - to be issued "in the coming days" - would allow women to appear in court on family-related cases, including divorce and child custody.

It looks like female lawyers would only be allowed for female clients. So the total improvement might be very slight indeed, limited as it is to certain types of cases and clients only. Still, it's a step forward.

Matching Drapes to Carpet

I bet you've heard that quip: But does the carpet match the drapes? It asks the question whether a woman's pubic hair is the same color as her head hair. And then you can go on joking about a preference for hardwood floors and so on.

In any case, I have never seen or heard anyone say this about a man which is odd. There's nothing in the statement that would make it only applicable to women's bodies, even if it is about artificially coloring one's hair, because men can dye their hair, too.

Of course I might just spend time in the wrong places. Maybe somewhere everyone tries to guess the color of famous guys' carpets based on their drapes?

Tell Me Why

The right-wing is allowed to talk very violent without much public disapproval while the blogs are touted as the place where people say fuck too much. Very recent examples of the former (for the latter, read my previous sentence):

Politicians courting the Tea Party movement are also alluding to Patriot dogma. At a Tea Party protest in Las Vegas, Joe Heck, a Republican running for Congress, blamed both the Democratic and Republican Parties for moving the country toward "socialistic tyranny." In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican seeking re-election, threw his support behind the state sovereignty movement. And in Indiana, Richard Behney, a Republican Senate candidate, told Tea Party supporters what he would do if the 2010 elections did not produce results to his liking: "I'm cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show. And I'm serious about that, and I bet you are, too."


Conservative darling and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told a conservative crowd in Washington Friday that activists should "smash the window" of big government with a golf club, referring in a joke to Elin Woods, the wife of golf megastar Tiger Woods.

"She said, I've had enough," Pawlenty said. "We should take a page out of her playbook and take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government."

Woods' wife reportedly used a nine-iron to take out the window of an SUV Tiger was driving prior to a crash.

Bolds are mine. These make Glenn Beck's lovely argument that "progressivism" is a cancer on America pale in comparison, though of course we do tend to attack cancer rather than listen to its side of the argument.

Using violent metaphors is not a good idea in a country where guns are easy to get hold of and where small planes owned by the impoverished can flow into IRS buildings.

But you know that, of course. Still, it's curious how the presumed rage of the lefty blogs crops up more often in mainstream discussions than the actually demonstrated rage of certain strands of the right.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Short And Stupid Sunday Sermon

Jeffrey Rosen in the WaPo* on president Barack Obama:

He's too detached and cerebral . Too deferential to Congress. Too willing to compromise . And he's too much of a law professor and not enough of a commander in chief, as Sarah Palin recently admonished.

These are some of the qualities for which the president, rightly or wrongly, is criticized. They are also the qualities that make him well suited for another steady job on the federal payroll: Barack Obama, Supreme Court justice.

Pardon me while I gouge my eyes out and rinse them in bleach.

Mr. Rosen would like an over-emotional president with just a little brain? One who stomps his little foot and yells until he gets what he wants? Didn't we try one of those in the recent past, hmmm. How did that work out?

Never mind. And never mind the arrogance of someone who is planning to demote the POTUS like that, for a demotion the SCOTUS would be for Obama. And though I do agree that Obama is too palsy-walsy with the wingnuts so are the five sinister Justices on the Supreme Court, the activist ones who lurve corporations and dream of the supernatural wisdom of the Founding Fathers who were all rich white guys wearing wigs and practically nobody had the right to vote but nevertheless those boys Knew Stuff!

This is what people have opinions about...
*Yes, the same newspaper which in 2008 published an open hate-piece about women.