Friday, April 20

Abortion & Congress

Skimming a progressive group blog, I read a post titled: "Why Democrats Need to Stop Relying on the Judiciary: Abortion and the Supreme Court."

I didn't read it, but I presume it suggests taking the fight to the legislature.

I'm against that for the 110th & 111th congresses.

It's hard for me to say it, because abortion decisionmaking was one of the first "this is an area appropriate for a 'small government' policy" beliefs I settled into as a kid/teen.

It's also hard to say it because we're talking about lives here. People will end up wheelchair-bound in nursing homes instead of at home raising their other kids because they were forced to have a C-section late-term abortion (very dangerous) instead of a dialate & extract abortion (not nearly as dangerous).

What's more, it's "those people"--the ones I barely know--the ones outside my class--who won't be able to fly to Timbuktu, Canada and get the procedure done. It's rather unconscionable for me to say, "Let's not focus on those policies for now!" when my judgment might be clouded by ethnocentrism and blindness to other social groups.

Nevertheless, I see two scenarios, both addressing the issue of lives:

  1. We spend a whole lot of legislative floor & committee time talking about sex legislation & get just rules passed.

    However, the rest of the time goes to "business as usual," which is all sorts of deals for huge businesses and unenvironmental / unjust trade.

    10 years later, everything is the same as it was in the 80's and early 90's, and people, not having really seen drastic results from a new world, hold their same views and bring the sex legislation debates right back where they are now.

  2. We spend a whole lot of legislative floor & committee time talking about
    • getting rid of (or at least capping at low levels!) agribusiness subsidies,
    • passing laws that say Monsanto can't sue & destroy small organic farmers for accidentally growing genetically modified corn that they didn't want in the first place (it blew into their fields),
    • introducing major green taxes and social cost internalization incentives (maybe we'll finally get electric cars back from the big companies! Or, at the very least, we'll stop having year-round peaches everywhere in the country),
    • reducing the military budget, increasing police, nature maintenance staff & supplies, education, quality-instead-of-shitty psychiatric care, etc. budgets tenfold (or least double!),
    • rolling back super-wealthy-person tax cuts,
    • taking David Smith's advice on affordable housing policy at a federal level,
    • increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit program,
    • and even considering new tax schemes (I haven't made up my mind on "Fair Taxes" yet)
    and get many or all of these just reforms passed.

    However, the rest of the time goes to "business as usual," which is all sorts of deals for huge businesses and unenvironmental / unjust trade.

    This time, though, the legislation we passed directly limits and goes against "business as usual" and cripples its ability to happen in the future. Plus, we'll be doing something unprecedented, so there won't be nearly as much prejudice against it among the common person, and it the changes will actually have a chance to do something. Imagine Pres. Johnson's "Great Society" reforms without the riots over them not really doing much1 (because this time, the reforms make more sense). This national legislative focus has a much better chance to turn people into progressives and make them demand a different kind of "usual" for "business as usual" than a sex-based national legislative focus.

    Heck, once that happens, they might even demand progressive sex legislation.

    But I'm utterly convinced that progressive sex legislation isn't going to change people's worlds enough to make them demand progressive economic legislation.

1 I don't quite agree with that explanation of the riots, but I've heard it said a lot, so it seemed quoteable.

Wednesday, April 18

Carnival of Feminists

The 36th Carnival of Feminists is online at Fetch Me My Axe, the blog of a thoughtful, intelligent woman whose posts I always enjoy reading: Belledame222!

The 37th Carnival of Feminists will be here on May 2!

There is no theme yet, but check back for an announcement.

Please use the blog carnival submission form. However, if you're loathe to use it, I will also accept submissions at kitkatscritique _ at _ g m a i l _dot_ com

I look forward to meeting and reading you at blogs I know and blogs I don't.

Thursday, April 12

Tweaking The "Coolest" Of Cultural Influences To Be Less Hurtful

This morning I had the opportunity to talk to a man who--bless his heart--repeatedly pushed the idea that powerful executives behind the hiring of misogynist rappers (whom misogynist non-rappers use as an excuse for putting their misogyny into identical words) are the people we need to focus on, rather than on those misogynist rappers (because that hasn't done all that much good).1

My new hero, Eric Deggans (the man on the radio show I called into) named names at the top of corporations, which I'll list here as soon as a copy of the broadcast goes online. I haven't heard Bill Cosby or Jesse Jackson name corporate names like that.

So, well, if they won't, and if the mass media won't (because, thanks to consolidation, they get their paychecks from the same bosses), let's get a grassroots effort to boot out the hurtful-mouthed musicians in favor of more airplay & album production for non-hurtful-mouthed musicians.

Readers of blogs and traditional media succeeded at it when it came to giving the Imus show the boot (though they may have failed when it came to giving Bernard McGuirk's career the boot)--do feminists and feminist allies have the will to get such an effort going against the advertisers for corporations that hire hurtful-mouthed musicians of popular genres?

(By the way, one advantage to media consolidation is that we can focus on many musical genres and many insulted non-dominant social groups at once--note that I've shifted from "misogynist rappers"2 to "hurtful-mouthed [popular] musicians"3

Oh, and if this does get momentum in the feminist community, and thus the "hurtful" thing most frequently being targeted in the letter-writing & boycotting campaign is misogyny, we do need to make sure that when we target it in non-white music, we let non-white people decide what is hurtful & what isn't.

For example, It wouldn't be fair to get black rappers who say hurtful things about white women kicked off the air because we don't want that kind of hurtful stuff said about women (a non-dominant group) in our culture's most popular/influential music. After all, they might've been saying it because white women are white (a dominant group), and who are white people to decide whether or not the insult was justified?

In the case of fighting misogyny by black rappers, it'd be important to make sure that black women feel hurt by that rapper before taking any action against his bosses and his bosses' advertisers.

I'll wait patiently to see if I can get this into a carnival--hopefully then discussion of the idea will find some momentum. Feel free to comment whenever you find this.5

1 After all, advertisers don't pay the musicians directly--they pay the corporations, and then the corporations decide who get contracts & who don't. So Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson...nice try, but not doing as much as you could.

2 Because that's what Don Imus started with, and therefore the musical genre and the insulted non-dominant social group everyone's talking about

3 That is, insulting their own races & other races, etc. as well as women

4 After all, some rappers who get a lot of airplay & albums have been criticized for hurting a lot more groups than women.

And I don't want to imply to music executives that there's something innate about rap & hip hop that cause it to include hurtful stuff. Heaven forbid they use that as an excuse to ditch all non-white music--particularly the harshly critical stuff that nevertheless isn't hurtful to non-dominant social groups!

I do, however, think that "popular" is an important criterion for genres to target because high perceived "coolness" allows such music to influence the slang of and provide "excused" vocabulary for non-[genre]-performing parts of the population.

5 Whoops! Looks like Pam Spaulding beat me to the call, and I'm guilty of some "Somebody oughtta-ing" when, as Hugo Schwyzer puts it, "plenty of things are already being done."

Still, there's a lot of momentum among people of many classes & races right now--people ready to write more letters after feeling a "win" with MSNBC's advertisers--can we somehow tie what people are already doing to widespread letter-writing & boycotting strategies?

Monday, April 9

Liberal Dood

Psssst--U.S. femisphere--the founder of Daily Kos is taking paternity leave for his newborn & toddler.

I know he gets a lot of flack for running a site that underrepresents issues that, if not ignored anymore, could improve life a lot for women in this country, but I thought it's worth complimenting him for setting an example to other men with this act.

Thursday, April 5

Abstinence-Only Education Funding For People Who're Already Abstinent Till Marriage?!

This is terrible!

The biggest chunk of our third-world AIDS prevention money (about 1/3, it seems) goes to abstinence education programs.

Okay, kinda sorta debatably a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to domestic AIDS prevention money.

But in the third world, at least as far as one gender is concerned, 80% of the new AIDS cases already are practicing abstinence till marriage and remaining monogamous within that marriage!

For many women, marriage is a risk factor for AIDS because of their husbands' dangerous behavior. Worldwide, 80 percent of women newly infected with HIV are practicing monogamy within a marriage or a long-term relationship. This shatters the myth that marriage is a natural refuge from AIDS. And it shows that, more than two decades into the epidemic, our fight against AIDS has failed to address the unique circumstances of women—especially women in the developing world.

So here's how the biggest chunk of our AIDS prevention funding is being spent:
"Lady, would you like to not get AIDS?"

"Yes, please!"

"Okay. Don't have sex till you're married, and when you're married, have sex only with your husband."

"But I already do that. And 16 out of my 20 friends who got AIDS last year were doing that, too."

"Impossible. Anyway, do you want to avoid getting AIDS or not?"


"Then don't have sex till you're married, and when you're married, have sex only with your husband."

"But what about my high chances of that not working? What else can I do?"

"Nothing. Or, well, I'm not allowed to tell you about anything else."

"Are you kidding?"


I think it's very important to write all our Congressmen, perhaps including this little dialogue I just made up just to make sure they can't miss our point and think we're advocating a change because of ideology rather than logic, and ask them to change the allocation of international AIDS funds back to something more condom-oriented and drastically less abstinence-and-monogamy-oriented.

Wednesday, April 4

I'm pretty guilty of some harm where the game is closer to zero-sum


Amanda Marcotte's post about the "laziness gets overlooked and you get praised for the few non-lazy things you do" short-term benefits of being a sexist (as a reminder that Mr. Shakes of Shakesville should have said that applying feminist ideas benefits men in the long-term after making some pretty "bleh!" short-term sacrifices) reminds me of myself.

When minor grumbling over the male incontributions [to wedding set-up] threatened, we women were reminded that we "didn’t want" men to help decorate, the implied fucking-it-up-to-get-out-of-work barely implied at all.

That quote about messing things up to gain a reputation that gets you out of doing them reminds me of all the work I've put the poor hard workers in my family through.

I have got to get better about this. I have got to stop being so lazy around people who will ignore my laziness and just praise me for other things.

Surely there's something better on the other side if I do, right? Something like this?

I tried to imagine what it must feel like to be a man in these circumstances and to have women fawning over you for the simple task of not being a giant asshole, and I imagine it’s extremely gratifying. I find it’s hard to really imagine what it’s like to have that much ego-pumping, and on a regular basis, too. Which isn’t to say that all men have it—the feminist men in my life don’t and a lot of men I know besides get embarrassed at being fawned over. But they give up the fawning in order to behave with more justice in their lives. Also, in a very pragmatic way, they work more. Grooms I know here at home that have big weddings don’t have the pleasure of doing absolutely nothing but showing up and expecting to be congratulated for it. They have to work on it, and that takes time and effort, and is another price they pay.


[there're] enormous benefits ... My boyfriend knows, for instance, that he’s never going to show up one day and find that I’ve left suddenly, unable to take being treated like a servant anymore. ... a real opportunity for genuine intimacy with a [person] that’s only available to [pairs] where both people are equal.

The last post shares my small reform successes with the rest of the world, hoping they'll be motivational. This post shares my small reform failures with the rest of the world. :-(

Click here for the geeky afterthought.

I think there is an outside privilege system that supports my lazy will, even though it doesn't cause it:

I think there's a certain upper-middle and upper-class and suburban-affluent tendency to ignore kids' laziness as long as they're doing other praiseworthy things like making good grades or keeping a great behavior record in school.

Tuesday, April 3

Zero-Sum Games

I took the title from Zuzu at Feministe because I liked it.

Mr. Shakes of Shakesville wrote:

Instead of feeling threatened by or put upon by [various civil rights] movements, instead of feeling they somehow denigrate straight, white men’s lives or their ability to be who they are, men would apply these ideas in an effort to improve their own lives, along with everyone else’s. What we need to do is confer all the rights and privileges that these men have traditionally enjoyed upon everyone else, and then, once we’ve done that, we can start thinking about what new rights, obligations, responsibilities we can confer on everyone, in order to make our society a more egalitarian and fair place to live.

I'm not a man, but I am white and upper-middle-class, and I really like this quote because it makes me feel like I'm on the right path. I got an inkling of what I needed to do when I read Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting In The Cafeteria? and came up with particular implementation ideas through Ishmael, The End Of Poverty, the March 2004 issue of National Geographic, Code Of the Street, and many more sources.

Essentially, I understood particular combatable manifestations of privilege I have that have insulated me from feeling many of the negative effects of being a woman in my culture.
  • I'm very white and of at least average conventional attractiveness, so I can pull off an "I'm a nice person!" face at college interviews, disciplinary sessions with teachers, job interviews, etc. very easily.

  • I grew up in such a safe environment that pulling an "I'm a nice person!" face was always more likely to benefit me than to make me a target of violence. I got more practice at incorporating it into my subconscious, unaware facial expressions than did people my age in the ghetto.

  • My parents made enough money at one job apiece to come home and spend time teaching me to read, do math, solve puzzles, and study for tests from a young age and throughout my childhood and teenage years.

  • My conventionally successful parents (and grandparents on one side) passed on their interests in academics over makeup and geeky conversation over making out
Now, after hearing about the rights movements of people who aren't my color or social class or economic class, I better understand what I need to give up to, as Mr. Shakes put it, "confer all the rights and privileges that these [people] have traditionally enjoyed upon everyone else, and then, once we’ve done that, we can start thinking about what new rights, obligations, responsibilities we can confer on everyone."
    It's important for me to:

  • understand that food is going to take up 3-5x more of my budget (and perhaps my family budget someday) than it did in the family I grew up in. Internalizing previously external costs is the right thing to do.
    That way, someone else's costs to eat can come down to where mine are and we'll live fairly.

  • give up huge amounts of free time and conveniences I used to have. After all, I'll have to save money to pay for that fairer food, and one of the more effecient ways to do that (because it also reduces another cost I currently shove onto other people--pollution) is to bike. But biking chips into free time.

  • make a tough decision about whether to grab back my privileges--like free time bought by externalizing costs--if/when I have kids and want to be able to educate them as well as I was educated

  • buy clothes used so they don't get dumped from Goodwill into Tanzanian markets and ruin 10,000 people's jobs at textile factories

  • buy anything with metal in it used--especially if it probably comes from China--because new metal mining imposes huge costs on other people's quality of life

  • use a good bit of free time that I would've used to learn to dance or used to earn a few more bucks writing reform-supporting letters to policymakers instead

  • make sure, every time I get promoted or complimented at work, that there isn't someone lower-class or a minority or fiftysomething who deserved it more. Speak up if there was.
    (OUCH! Could lose me money that seems pretty darned essential at the time!)

  • do much, much more--I could go on and on.
This isn't easy. I guess I want to say to men reading Mr. Shakes & Zuzu that I know how hard it is to adjust to new patterns--this winter I fell back into driving as soon as the weather got cold, even though the roads were clear. And I'm trying to make new habits as a childless youngster with a sturdy economic support system!

So I get it if one day you criticize a buddy for talking about his girlfriend as if he considers her inherently inferior to him and the next day you accept a promotion you suspect your female teammate deserved more.

No, it wasn't right to do that. It's never right to do wrong.

But it is human.

And I can tell you from experience that failures don't have to throw you back into old habits forever.

I can tell you from experience that continuing to hear & read why other people (in the case Shakes & Zuzu are advocating, women) need you to keep doing what you tried your best to do will keep you going if you let it.

(I suppose you could decide to make it get you mad at those other people for being so "needy" instead, but why? What moral good does it do? And, as Mr. Shakes points out, what practical good does it do?)

The internecine warfare that occurs between women and men, people of color and white people, straights and gays, as they all squabble like schoolchildren in an attempt to gain or deny rights, is exactly what those in power want. They promote it, they foment it, they do everything they can to aggravate it, because they know that if we were all ever to get our fucking shit together, and demand that the society we all live in and contribute to should be fair and decent to everyone, then the egregious wealth and power that they enjoy would finally meet its end.

I read theory about what I'm doing wrong in my treatment of other classes and what I could to do counteract the tide of wrongs against them to keep me going. Shakes & Zuzu suggest you read feminist theory, and I suggest that the reason you should is to keep you going.

Click to read one more fabulous quote that just didn't fit in anywhere else

Zuzu wrote:

Another example of [the attitude Mr. Shakes is encouraging men to abandon towards feminism and its tenets] is class anxiety, and the idea that if you get an education, you should be making more money than people who don’t have a degree.


A lot of people on New York One, a local cable news channel, demonstrated in man-on-the-street interviews that their resentment about how much the members of the TWU got in comparison with themselves was directed at the blue-collar transit workers, and not at, say, their own white-collar employers [who were the ones in charge of their salaries]. This is the kind of thing that keeps people from collective action, and keeps the people in power pulling the strings.

(all boldface & brackets mine)

Recent headlines from the blog "Black and Missing but Not Forgotten:"