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    Friday, June 23, 2006

    She's Leaving Home, Bye Bye

    Dear blog friends, blog lovers, blog family,

    Posting will be light and easy until July 7, when I return from a much-deserved, (if I do say so myself,) trip to visit family. Nothing but regular old, plug-it-into-the-phone-line dial-up out there, and I am just too spoiled by DSL at work and school and cable at home to have enough patience to crank out my average 20 posts per week.

    I expect to be thinking substantially less about blowjobs, making fun of monogamous heterosexuals, and maybe even Michael Pollan for awhile; more time for the consideration of life's meaning and the existence of a higher power, or for watching DVDs of Arrested Development and playing cards.

    I'll be here from time to time and checking your blogs from time to time, but lower your standards for me for two weeks. I will be dredging up some old posts from the archives from before anyone read this blog, out of equal senses of duty and vanity.

    In the meantime, I hope all of you get a chance to look out at the sky away from your monitor (assuming you want that chance). If you don't know what to do without me, a quick search for "Weekend Homework" in the My Amusement Park archives may help.

    Love, EL

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    Never Liked Her Music Anyway

    But this bit about Nelly Furtado is just weird:

    Singer NELLY FURTADO decided to dump her feminist, hippy image and transform herself into a sex bomb for the release of her new album LOOSE. The PROMISCUOUS singer wanted to create a sexier image and started wearing midriff-baring clothes and showing off sultry new dance moves.She explains, "I went through a feminist phase and read a lot of philosophical stuff. "Some of the male bashing brainwashed me for a bit so I stopped. I love men! "I'm just now catching up. My video choreographer taught me how to move in all these different ways. "I'm more at ease with my body than I've ever been."


    Carnival Heaven

    Two of my daily-visits are hosting Carnivals right now, so I am, as Hubert Humphrey would say, pleased as punch.

    1. Bitch|Lab is hosting The 17th Carnival of Feminists and it's a doozy. Featuring several of my most beloved bloggers (not to mention yours truly) and also some new and amazing voices, while also beautifully organized by the Bitch herself, this cannot be missed.

    2. Jay Sennett is hosting The 2nd Erase Racism Carnival and, while small, the posts are great and Jay makes a very thorough and lovely space for each post; it must also visited.

    Senate on Minimum Wage: Roll Call

    You want to see if your Senator is amongst the asshats who shut down the amendment to increase the minimum wage yesterday? (As per my usual, those who crossed party lines are italicized.)

    YEAs ---52
    Akaka (D-HI)
    Baucus (D-MT)
    Bayh (D-IN)
    Biden (D-DE)
    Bingaman (D-NM)
    Boxer (D-CA)
    Byrd (D-WV)
    Cantwell (D-WA)
    Carper (D-DE)
    Chafee (R-RI)
    Clinton (D-NY)
    Coleman (R-MN)
    Collins (R-ME)

    Conrad (D-ND)
    Dayton (D-MN)
    DeWine (R-OH)
    Dodd (D-CT)
    Dorgan (D-ND)
    Durbin (D-IL)
    Feingold (D-WI)
    Feinstein (D-CA)
    Harkin (D-IA)
    Inouye (D-HI)
    Jeffords (I-VT)
    Johnson (D-SD)
    Kennedy (D-MA)
    Kerry (D-MA)
    Kohl (D-WI)
    Landrieu (D-LA)
    Lautenberg (D-NJ)
    Leahy (D-VT)
    Levin (D-MI)
    Lieberman (D-CT)
    Lincoln (D-AR)
    Lugar (R-IN)
    Menendez (D-NJ)
    Mikulski (D-MD)
    Murray (D-WA)
    Nelson (D-FL)
    Nelson (D-NE)
    Obama (D-IL)
    Pryor (D-AR)
    Reed (D-RI)
    Reid (D-NV)
    Salazar (D-CO)
    Sarbanes (D-MD)
    Schumer (D-NY)
    Snowe (R-ME)
    Specter (R-PA)

    Stabenow (D-MI)
    Warner (R-VA)
    Wyden (D-OR)

    NAYs ---46
    Alexander (R-TN)
    Allard (R-CO)
    Allen (R-VA)
    Bennett (R-UT)
    Bond (R-MO)
    Brownback (R-KS)
    Bunning (R-KY)
    Burns (R-MT)
    Burr (R-NC)
    Chambliss (R-GA)
    Coburn (R-OK)
    Cochran (R-MS)
    Cornyn (R-TX)
    Craig (R-ID)
    Crapo (R-ID)
    DeMint (R-SC)
    Dole (R-NC)
    Domenici (R-NM)
    Ensign (R-NV)
    Enzi (R-WY)
    Frist (R-TN)
    Graham (R-SC)
    Grassley (R-IA)
    Gregg (R-NH)
    Hagel (R-NE)
    Hatch (R-UT)
    Hutchison (R-TX)
    Inhofe (R-OK)
    Isakson (R-GA)
    Kyl (R-AZ)
    Lott (R-MS)
    Martinez (R-FL)
    McCain (R-AZ)
    McConnell (R-KY)
    Murkowski (R-AK)
    Roberts (R-KS)
    Santorum (R-PA)
    Sessions (R-AL)
    Smith (R-OR)
    Stevens (R-AK)
    Sununu (R-NH)
    Talent (R-MO)
    Thomas (R-WY)
    Thune (R-SD)
    Vitter (R-LA)
    Voinovich (R-OH)

    Not Voting - 2
    Rockefeller (D-WV)
    Shelby (R-AL)

    I have a question, not that it would have made the difference, but where is Sen. Rockefeller? It seems like every time I do a roll call, he's out of the picture.

    Anyway, I want to give props to the Dems for seeming to, for once, have their act together on this one - no Dems voted against the Amendment.

    Big Love by Josh Max in Salon

    I've been searching searching searching the blogosphere with a fine-toothed comb, trying to find some response to this article. I need someone to tell me what to think. Preferably a fat woman.

    Honestly though, I'm almost 100% in favor of people discussing their against-the-norm attractions, but there were bits of prose (I began to happily, gently lose myself in her spheres, her bountiful soft flesh, her tiny lips and enormous hips) that make me wonder what this is really doing. For example: why does the article begin and end with some guy making anti-fat comments? I think I mostly liked the piece, but feel this sense of self-doubt about my reaction. Anyone care to weigh in?

    Edited to add: I just so happened to use "weigh in". Accidentally. I am really sorry. Ugh.

    Edited again to add: zuzu took care of it.

    More Pathological Monogamy

    I find it thoroughly fascinating when the monogamy requirement extends to relationships that aren't even sexual! Check this out, from the the latest Dear Prudence:

    Dear Prudence,
    I have been seeing the most delightful man for eight months. We are together every day, and have dinner either at his house or mine every night. A month ago, he went with me to my home state for my daughter's graduation. He's the sort of person everyone likes and wants to be around. When we first started seeing each other, he made it very clear that he was not interested in a sexual relationship. He is 55 and I am 62. He is gorgeous and I am a little less than that! I want the relationship to move forward, but I do not know how to do this without becoming extremely vulnerable. It would crush me if I made the advance and he turned it down. He says he is impotent, and I believe that he truly believes he will never have sex again. Should I just force myself to forget it? I know he could do things that would help with erectile dysfunction, and we've talked about it. I never initiate those talks—he does, but he always drifts off to another subject very quickly, as if he can't discuss it. I would go the rest of my life this way before I would humiliate him.

    —Wanting a Touch

    It seems clear to me that this man doesn't want sex. As is his prerogative. Or, it would be his prerogative not to have sex or even try to have sex with his partner if we lived in a world where this woman could simply have sex outside coupledom. Instead, Wanting a Touch feels she has two options: 1. miserable celibacy or 2. humiliating the person she loves.

    Sigh. This relationship may very well end over what probably has very little to do with what either of them see in each other or get from their intimacy.

    And let me continue this with regard to, yes, the whole blowjob controversy. Somewhere, I don't remember where as there were 51,000 blogs discussing this crap, but somewhere someone mentioned that Dan Savage, who can be a bit of an ass from time to time, but with whom I most often agree, said blowjobs are basically a sexual requirement in a relationship with a man now. Well, as we've recently heard loud and clear, some people don't like giving blowjobs, while others thoroughly enjoy the act. Wouldn't it be lovely if no one felt pressured to do anything they didn't want to do sexually? In a world without the expectation of monogamy, you could simply leave your partner's blowjob desires to someone else to satisfy. You could also get those things you desire that make your partner uncomfortable. If you went on meds and weren't feeling up to regular sex, you wouldn't have to worry about the end of your relationship over your partner's libido. And you wouldn't have to feel guilty and resentful when your partner didn't want to have sex with you. I don't pretend this one thing would solve all these problems totally - sometimes you don't just want sex, you want sex with a particular person - but I think it would do more good than harm to overall relationship health in many, but not all, cases. (I'm not dissing those who choose to be monogamous because it works for them.)

    For an awesome reconsideration of polyamory, read tekjani's post ... rapidly becoming one my new favorite blogs, by the way.

    To the King Family

    I'm pretty sure the King family (as in Dr. Martin Luther) regularly read my blog, come here for the sort of advice only EL can give, so I wanted to offer my two cents on this issue of the King papers.

    It's too bad he didn't live long enough to make you filthy rich, but it's even worse that he didn't live long enough to now be a very old man still speaking for equality, and offering his first-person accounts of the history he helped bring about.

    But, since he didn't, the best we've got are his papers. And by "we" I don't mean people with the last name King. These papers aren't in very good shape (thanks) but they're what we've got and wouldn't it be dumb if some gazillionaire bought these and hid them in his estate for the next 75 years and then passed him onto his grandkid for the next 100? Could happen. Wouldn't it be even worse if 60 different people bought them just so they could have a piece of King's handwriting and these things were so scattered that they were nearly unusable to scholars?

    Dr. King was educated at Morehouse College and Crozer and Boston University divinity schools. Morehouse currently houses a lot of important papers, like Howard Thurman's, and even some of King's. It seems to me that a nice donation to Morehouse could be the way to go.

    If, contrary to popular belief, the King family does not in fact diligently read My Amusement Park, or just misses this particular post, let me ask all the multi-millionaires out there: $30 million laying around? How about bidding on these papers and then donating them to Morehouse (or BU or some other institution of higher learning)? Oprah? Bill Gates? Brangelina? What do you think? I volunteer to facilitate the transaction.

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    People Who Think Brian Singer is a Sell-Out To Hetero-America

    Because he says Superman is not gay: he's directing a biopic on Harvey Milk. Hard to say he's selling out the queers now.

    Wishing My Birth State Would Get Its Act Together

    Colorado Supreme Court OKs Anti-Gay Amendment

    Stuff To Read Since I Am Clearly Incapable of Providing Anything of My Own

    1. Richard Florida in Cato Unbound: The Future of the American Workforce in the Global Creative Economy

    2. Gay Prof on Center of Gravitas: It's Really About the Queers

    3. Susan Saulny at NYT: A Legacy of the Storm: Depression and Suicide

    4. Salim Muwakkil at In These Times: Black Politics' Paradigm Paradox

    5. Katha Pollitt in The Nation: Prairie Grass Roots

    As If Hitchens Wasn't Bad Enough

    Now we have to hear the ever-icky John Updike talk about oral sex.

    Make it stop!

    Sorry About the One Line Posting

    But I'm in a bad mood. Grrrr.

    God save us from more articles about the straight-girls-kissing-each-other epidemic.

    Tuesday, June 20, 2006

    Feminist Sci-Fi Carnival

    That's right.

    Check it out:

    Equality is Out There.
    Even today, some fandoms seem to have a “No Girls Allowed” sign. Created by men and for men, and populated with men who don’t realize that women also dream of telepathic communication, traveling to the stars, dragon-slaying and x-ray vision, it can get stifling for a female fan. Often a search for positive female portrayals is answered by “This is not for you, so go read Harlequinn romance,” “CENSORSHIP!! She’s crying for CENSORSHIP!!” “I know at least two women who like [simpering, annoying female stereotype “character”]” or even “If you are actually a woman, online its hard to tell.”

    (At least, that’s how it seems in superhero fandom.)

    But there are female-friendly stories out there. There are female-friendly sites and communities. There are female-friendly fans out there. And yes, there are even feminists out there! Which brings us here.

    The Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans periodically collects posts from the hazy side-reality where feminist social consciousness meets the outer limits of the imagination. This is to draw attention to lesser known bloggers, to bring individuals of like-minded (or at least, understanding) interests together, and to foster the growth of feminist fan communities.

    The first edition will be on Written World (a comics weblog, so posts from other sci-fi/fantasy fandoms will be welcome and necessary) on July 2, 2006.

    Deadline for submissions is June 29th, 2006. Since this is the first edition, we’ll be considering posts during late May 2006 and all of June 2006. After that it will go back to the deadline of the previous carnival. Please email the hostess at ragnellthefoul AT hotmail DOT com or use the submission form.
    Some Basic Guidelines:

    All Weblog Postings on Science Fiction and Fantasy works in all media (books, comic books, television, film, roleplaying tabletop games and video games) written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
    Fan fiction written from a Feminist Perspective is eligible.
    Posts about fan fiction written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
    Posts about conventions and fan gatherings of a Feminist nature are eligible.
    Posts about conventions and fan gatherings written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
    Posts about any science fiction or fantasy fandom written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
    Posts linking to newsand announcements are eligible, so long as they pertain specifically to the Feminist Sci-Fi Fantasy community.
    Considerations about science fiction/fantasy news from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
    Analysis of non-Feminist works from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
    Rants about any of the above written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
    Posts which spell “Space” using 3 A’s and two exclamation points and are written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
    Posts about Green-Skinned Amazons (from Outer Spaaace!) with more than two breasts that are not written from a Feminist Perspective will not be eligible (and if they aren’t damned funny,* will be reproduced for mockery).
    Posts about Getting Your Girlfriend into [specific type of fandom] had also better be damned funny. If written from a Feminist Perspective (even tongue-in-cheek), they will be eligible.
    *Sexist and/or homophobic does not equal damned funny, nor does it constitute anything approaching a Feminist Perspective.

    Any questions may be directed to Ragnell the Foul — ragnellthefoul AT hotmail DOT com

    Can't wait! Lis found it.

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    Quote That Cracked Me Up

    From the series "The Problem with Kos" by Nick Bourbaki this subtitle:

    Crashing the Gate Through Gentle Knocking

    The Mac Ads

    I don't think I've ever agreed with Slate's Seth Stevenson who writes "Ad Report Card", so his analysis of the new Apple ads doesn't much surprise me. But he's wrong again.

    My problem with these ads begins with the casting. As the Mac character, Justin Long (who was in the forgettable movie Dodgeball and the forgettabler TV show Ed) is just the sort of unshaven, hoodie-wearing, hands-in-pockets hipster we've always imagined when picturing a Mac enthusiast. He's perfect. Too perfect. It's like Apple is parodying its own image while also cementing it. If the idea was to reach out to new types of consumers (the kind who aren't already evangelizing for Macs), they ought to have used a different type of actor.

    Meanwhile, the PC is played by John Hodgman—contributor to The Daily Show and This American Life, host of an amusing lecture series, and all-around dry-wit extraordinaire. Even as he plays the chump in these Apple spots, his humor and likability are evident. (Look at that hilariously perfect pratfall he pulls off in the spot titled "Viruses.") The ads pose a seemingly obvious question—would you rather be the laid-back young dude or the portly old dweeb?—but I found myself consistently giving the "wrong" answer: I'd much sooner associate myself with Hodgman than with Long.

    The writing may have something to do with this, too. Hodgman gets all the laugh lines! And Mr. Mac comes off as a smug little twit, who (in the spot titled "WSJ") just happens to carry around a newspaper that has a great review of himself inside. (Even Norman Mailer usually refrains from such crassness.)

    Justin Long is supposed to seem like the "typical" Mac user. John Hodgman is supposed to seem like the geeky PC. The viewer gets that they're working with stereotypes; every person watching with any sense of the difference would immediately know which one was which even if they didn't introduce myself. Which is precisely what the ad is working with - yes, Macs have this image, Apple acknowledges, but let's go beyond that; they then discuss the actual benefits of Apple products. Even people who see themselves as Hodgmans can benefit. Both guys have to be thoroughly likable, and I think the ad succeeds.

    Mr. Mac doesn't come off as a smug little twit; he comes off as a guy who really wants to be kind to Mr. PC, trying to spare his feelings and hide the praise the Macs get over the PCs. And, in the "Network" ad, they all hold hands and Mac tries to work with PC.

    But you know what? I bet a lot of hetero guys aren't going to like it because they hate pretty boys, like Stevenson. Tha's the only explanation - these ads are cute!

    Women and Fishing: Bring on the Pink Lures

    I had this great bratty post about this article on women and fishing but Blogger ate it, as is Blogger's way.

    I don't wanna rewrite it, but my regular readers probably know what I was going to say anyway, so ...

    [Insert snark here]

    Maybe later, I'll reconstruct it, but, in the meantime, get annoyed on CNN.

    Jerry Springer in Print Form?

    I found this really weird thing and had to share with y'all:

    MUM Debbie Graham was overjoyed when her long lost daughter Melissa turned up on her doorstep.

    Bisexual Debbie, 39, was about to get "married" to the WOMAN of her dreams and now Melissa, the child she'd been forced to give up for adoption, would be there on the big day.

    But in a bizarre twist, Debbie discovered her daughter was a little too eager to share in her happiness. Just eight months after the gay wedding, Melissa STOLE her mum's "wife" in a raunchy lesbian affair.

    Blonde Debbie, who gave up her daughter for adoption when she was a baby, fumed: "Melissa is evil.

    "She came to my wedding and wished me well. Then eight months later she slept with my wife and stole her from me. My long-lost daughter has ruined my life."

    In an shockingly frank interview with The People, the embittered mum says she refuses to recognise Melissa, 24, as her child and refers to her as "my dead daughter".

    Debbie told how Melissa...

    BROKE her heart by sleeping with her lover, bus driver Karen Kitchen, 41.

    TAUNTED her by passionately snogging Karen outside Debbie's bedroom window.

    SENT her a sympathy card with the message "I've won, ha ha".

    Debbie had given birth to Melissa when she was 15. Unable to cope, she handed over the baby for adoption and lost touch with her.

    But when she was grown up, Melissa unexpectedly turned up on her mother's doorstep after tracing her through a family member.

    "It was wonderful," said Debbie. "I'd never forgotten her and all of a sudden she was back in my life.

    "Everything was going just right for me."

    By this time, Debbie was living with Karen as a couple and the pair were so in love they decided to "marry" at Leeds Register Office in August 2004.

    The occasion was actually a formal commitment ceremony, as it was conducted before the new civil partnerships were introduced.

    But Debbie could not have been more ecstatic. To her, the official event meant more than her two previous marriages to men. "It was so perfect," recalled Debbie, of Raventhorpe, West Yorkshire.

    "Melissa was at the wedding with my other children. I had a beautiful cream gown and Karen wore a cravat, suit and the full works.

    "It was a fantastic day - I thought it would finally be happy ever after."

    As if to underline they were now one big happy family, Melissa even began dating Karen's son, Ian.

    But not long afterwards, Debbie started to see her daughter in a different light.

    " She started making up lies about people, accusing them of things they hadn't done," alleged Debbie. "I realised then that she wasn't a nice person."

    As Debbie's relationship with Melissa began to crumble, so cracks started to show in her new "marriage" to Karen.

    She said: "Karen and I kept rowing. Eventually I asked her to leave for a few days to give me some space. We hadn't split up - this had happened before and we always made up.

    "But two days later she sent me a text telling me to look out of my bedroom window.

    "She was outside - kissing my daughter, Melissa."

    The couple had been "wed" for just eight months. The betrayal hit Debbie hard... but there was worse to come. "The next thing I knew, they had been on holiday to Cyprus - where Karen and I had gone on honeymoon," said Debbie. "I got a text saying they were rubbing in each other's aftersun.

    "That was bad enough, but I then got a text from Karen's phone saying 'Fake boobs weren't that bad'. Melissa had fake breasts.

    "They were obviously sleeping together. I was devastated.

    "Melissa had finished with Karen's son and now she was dating his mother - my wife."

    If that wasn't enough, a card then landed on Debbie's doormat.

    She said: "It was a sympathy card from Melissa. It read 'Sorry. You've lost everything - but I've won. Ha ha'. It was pure spite."

    Despite the humiliation, Debbie hoped that Karen would see sense and return to her. But the saga of bitterness and betrayal took another unexpected turn.

    Debbie said: "By this time it was August 2005 and Karen had the cheek to call and ask if I wanted to celebrate our first anniversary.

    "She said she'd split with Melissa. We went on a date and I thought we were going to get back together - but she went back to Melissa again."

    Debbie confronted Karen but gained little comfort.

    "Karen said she fell for Melissa because she said all the right things. If it had been anybody else but my daughter I could have accepted it - but why her? I don't believe Melissa was interested in Karen - I think she did it purely out of spite to me. She's got a lot of evil inside her."

    Debbie is the first to admit she has had a complicated love life. After giving birth to Melissa as a teenager, she went on to have a string of disastrous liaisons with men - leading to two failed marriages and seven more children besides Melissa.

    But her life seemed to be on the up when she fell into a lesbian relationship with bus driver Karen.

    The pair first set eyes on each other in a pub. Debbie recalled: "She was stunning - everything I'm attracted to. It was love at first sight. I didn't believe in that before, but it was."

    Karen had the same feelings for Debbie and the pair embarked on a whirlwind romance.

    "We couldn't get enough of each other," said Debbie. "I have always been unlucky in love, but I was convinced I'd finally found The One." Then, at around the time she was finding happiness with Karen in 1999, Melissa came back into her life.

    Looking back Debbie explained: "When she was born, she was beautiful. But I never got to be with her. A few days after giving birth she was taken away.

    "It broke my heart but I just wasn't prepared to look after her. I was already a carer for my mum who couldn't read or write. There was no way I could look after a baby as well.

    "I used to think of her every day and I loved her so much even though I was never with her."

    As for Karen, she has since split up with Melissa and is seeing another woman. Yet that is small comfort for Debbie. She is now planning to overturn the formal commitment she made to Karen in a bid to get her life back on track.

    She said: "I'm just trying to slowly piece my life back together for my other children.

    "I had never felt so betrayed. I believe my daughter did this to hurt me.

    "I was so pleased when she first found me - but now she is dead to me."

    Melissa admitted sleeping with Karen but said: "Her partner came to me. I shouldn't have done it though.

    "When I was looking for my mum, I imagined I'd find a woman full of regrets and a woman who would welcome me with open arms. I didn't."

    Karen said last night: "I don't want anything to do with Debbie or Melissa. I'm not one to air my dirty laundry in public. I have a new partner."

    'I don't think she felt anything for Karen, it was just to spite me'

    'She texted me to look out the window where she was kissing Melissa'

    I bolded my favorite parts.

    True: there's no flashing, brawling, or cursing. No burly men coming out to "break it up". But otherwise ... I think I can hear, ever so faintly : "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!"

    Another thing that cracks me up is how this is called an "EXCLUSIVE". I mean, of course it's an exclusive - do other newspapers and magazines actually print this stuff?

    And finally, what's with the ALL-CAPS?

    Fathers and Feminists

    This comes a day late, I know, but I think it's worth trangressing seasonal expectations. Neil Lyndon asks feminists and fathers to join forces. Let me be crystal clear: I do not endorse Lyndon's methods of argument. 90% of this article is so ridiculous that the man shoots himself in the foot. Anti-feminist rhetoric doesn't tend to endear the feminists, and "isn't this just like Plessy v. Ferguson?" doesn't tend to endear much of anybody. But I agree with the overall sentiment.

    To celebrate Father's Day, the Government has issued an advice pack for new fathers that addresses men in the condescending tones that are customary in this age - as barely civilised savages who might not manage to wipe their own bottoms, let alone a baby's.

    In reply, perhaps we could ask the Government a question: "What is it, exactly, that you have got against equality between the sexes?"

    It is still true today that, of the one in 10 divorcing fathers who makes an application to the court for an order for shared parenting, only half will succeed.

    Therefore, only 5 per cent of fathers emerge from contested divorces with rights of parenthood that are equal to the mother's. ...

    Women can never be fully equal at work and in the wider society if - at the same time as being expected to work on equal terms with men - they are also expected to be the parents who are chiefly responsible for children.

    The equation simply cannot be made to balance unless fathers are equal in the family.

    I think he's right and I find myself often very frustrated with the dismissal of these issues by feminists. I heard this speaker awhile back on "Work/Life Balance" and she talked about workplaces offering flexible work arrangements for women and how necessary that was. But when a woman in the audience said this was not an issue that applied just to women, and that we might actually benefit more from having these practices widespread and used equally by people of all genders, a couple of other women basically shut her down, saying that we had to do this for women "first".

    I think, actually, we need to pressure men into making use of Paternity Leave and other such programs because it sets up a cultural expectation of family-life equality that doesn't currently exist.

    I mean, just look at what Bob Schieffer had to say yesterday on Face the Nation when he gave advice to fathers:

    You new dads won't need [advice] -- the kids adore you and think you know everything and the truth is new moms do most of the work so just stay out of the way, stand by for directed assignments and pay the bills. It's easier on everyone.

    Is it easier on "everyone" if you "stay out of the way" of child-raising? I think maybe it's easier on you? (If sometimes painful, I don't know.) This paragraph of his monologue really stopped me in my tracks, when I was listening to it on my iPod on my way to work this morning. I mean, this isn't some crazy conservative on FOX News, this is Bob Schieffer! And I strongly doubt we'll see even a smidgen of public outcry - this is what we expect our old TV guys to say about fatherhood.

    Anyway, the reconsideration and reconstruction of fatherhood - our expectations of fathers and the rights and privileges afforded those who meet those expectations - seems to me of immediate importance. If we paid attention to the rights and duties of fathers, as a feminist issue, I think we'd find it less necessary to engage in conversations about the "Mommy Wars" and the "Opt-Out Revolution" (whether either of these is a "real" phenomenon) because there could truly be a notion of individual choice. Families could make their own decisions about how best to negotiate the demands of children, career/work, family. Courts could see divorced fathers as more than bank accounts to be drained and divorced mothers as obligated to uninterrupted self-sacrifice.

    Ann Coulter: "Feminist Success Story"?

    I'm probably just nitpicking, but, when Caryl Rivers calls Ann Coulter a "feminist success story" it really gets my hackles up.

    She'd hate to hear it, but Coulter is a feminist success story, as well as being an emblem of the collapse of the American news media. She is filthy rich, from her book royalties and her lecture fees. She already has her own Barbie-type action figure, which blurts out her outrageous-isms. She is tailor-made for the modern media, which values high-decibel rant over thoughtfulness and for which no statement is too extreme, especially if it can be made with flair on television.

    Certainly, when we feminists were marching in the 1970s trying to knock down doors barred to women, we never imagined that one person who would follow us through was Ann Coulter. But, hey, everybody can't be Gloria Steinem.

    Why should middle-aged white guys get all the shekels from tossing red meat to gun nuts, school-prayer zealots, militias out in the woods, and haters of all things swarthy?

    The radical right outspends the lunatic left by a country mile. At least a woman is getting a piece of the action.

    I agree that women are just as capable of being, and just as likely to be, asshats as men, but wouldn't it be safer to say that Ann Coulter owes her success to the feminist movement (in more ways than one)? I don't think anyone who does as much as Ann Coulter to drag other women down (and I don't mean criticizing the actions of particular other women, but general sexism levied at most women) should really be called a "feminist success story". (Maybe I feel that way just because I don't want to be linked to her in any sense, even semantically.)

    All that said, I think that, beneath her invective, Coulter made a reasonable point about the 9/11 widows: grief isn't a qualification. It doesn't mean that these women shouldn't be speaking their minds, just that we shouldn't see their perspectives as somehow unassailable just because this stuff hit them harder where they live. I think it's worth hearing how people most impacted by certain events respond to those events on a public scale, but I don't think they're beyond criticism. What they should be beyond, as should everyone, is Ann Coulter's garbage. Ann Coulter, by the same token, should be beyond, as should everyone, being put to the Chris Matthews test. Ew. If that's not a sign that we're still in pre-equality mode, I don't know what is.

    And finally another patented My Amusement Park message to Lefties:


    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    Happy Birthday, Damion!

    The incomparable Damion turns 34 today and has asked for the humblest of gifts: a Top 10 list of favorite books. As much as I would like to lavish upon Damion everything his heart desires, I must make one small adjustment : I'm sticking to novels because it's only 10, which is unfair enough as it is.

    1. Jazz by Toni Morrison
    2. Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker
    3. The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein
    4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
    5. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
    6. Corregidora by Gayl Jones
    7. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
    8. Trumpet by Jackie Kay
    9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    10. Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

    This list, of course, is basically just the first 10 of my favorite novels that I happened to think of just now, and could be easily rethought. But this is my very best list for the moment.

    And on that note, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAMION! If you want to send him birthday wishes yourself, click

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    From the Understudy

    From the Understudy
    by Paige Ackerson-Kiely

    If you would look at me I would show you something.

    The size of it. The size of it, ask any man and it is this big.

    I don't really know what interests you, but by watching

    the tick of your wrist by your side I could drum up

    a thousand doves assured over Palestine, beaks tweaking

    it is yours, undoubtedly. What mine. Dovecote. White

    woolen snow a shameful cage on the ground. Grass

    bent in grief owned by this sharecropper. Knock knock

    who's there? The door is a trestle and the water's low.

    My love's a gothic push straight out of the University

    of Chicago. I should have asked your name. I should

    have said your name out loud and answered yes?

    From Jubilat.

    Colorado and English Common-Law?


    A 15-year-old girl can enter into a common-law marriage in Colorado, and younger girls and boys possibly can, too, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.

    While the three-judge panel stopped short of setting a specific minimum age for such marriages, it said they could be legal for girls at 12 and boys at 14 under English common law, which Colorado recognizes.

    I don't really think that states of the US should be using English common law, if that common law is making such distinctions between girls and boys. Extremely, extremely wrong. Not to mention completely bizarre.

    Diary of a Soldier's Wife

    I tend to hate the NYT's "Modern Love" column. It's usually infuriatingly stupid. I was not offended by last week's offering from a woman who suffered from "love addiction" because it was genuinely weird, not trying to be so, and because it differed from the usual "my husband and I are oh-so different, but love's funny, isn't it?" insipidness by which the column is usually categorized. But here we go again. Ew.

    Sometimes when I gather the cool bullets in my palm, I stare at them and wonder: How did I, a Berkeley resident, a former peace activist, someone with a "Bread, not bombs" button, end up married to The Man?

    I like to tell people we met because he pulled me over, and I avoided the ticket with my feminine wiles. It's not true, but our partnership is almost that unlikely. After all, I've been arrested several times in political protests and once for possession of marijuana. I've even trespassed onto a naval base to spray-paint protest messages over the sloganeering billboards.

    My husband, on the other hand, subscribes to a magazine about wound ballistics, calls people he doesn't like "communists" and distrusts anyone with a beard.

    Ah, how cute. Two total stereotypes in love. Ain't it sweet?

    I wore a short skirt that showed off my long legs. When he arrived, I was charmed by his old-fashioned formality, how he called me "Miss Sophia" and pulled out my chair.

    It was on our third date that I discovered he never left the house without a firearm. We went to see "Heat," a crime drama with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and when we were driving home, I asked, "So when you're off-duty, do you ever carry a gun?"

    He laughed. "Always. Got one on my hip right now."

    I was delighted.

    Why is it that every other "Modern Love" has to show how some "progressive, Berkeley-type" is charmed by some guy's "old-fashioned formality" or something? At least once a month, we who are stupid or masochistic enough to continue subjecting ourselves to this paper must endure yet another "cute" modern retelling of the Taming of the Shrew? Only this time without irony.

    I feel sorry for this woman's husband who has been rendered as a total caricature, a sort of whimsical foil, and, to make matters worse, used as fodder to spur her
    writing career, he's basically just an avenue to some sort of imagined originality:

    Sophia Raday, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., is writing a memoir about her relationship with her husband.

    I can't help but get the feeling she went on this blind date just so she could go on and on about how novel her relationship was for the rest of her damned life.

    Women Are Visual

    Look what I found:

    WOMEN are turned on by erotic images just as much as men, a study claimed yesterday.

    US researchers found more brainwave activity when women were shown pictures of writhing couples than when they saw any other photograph.

    Professor Audrey Anokhin, from Washington University, said: “That surprised us.

    “We believed both pleasant and disturbing images would evoke a rapid response, but erotic scenes always elicited the strongest response.”

    Experts hope the results will help them better understand some mental illnesses.

    This is almost as shocking as the news that some women actually enjoy having sex as much or more than eating chocolate. And this is obviously a change from the era in which women hated sex (until about 5 years ago). This must have something to do with air pollution or hormones in our food. This can't be normal.

    Seriously though: what "mental illnesses" are they talking about?


    My partner, A, was fortunate to see (and then briefly stalk) the one, the only, Ira Glass, yesterday in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

    Ira left City Bakery, crossed over to Mr. Softie where he ordered something A wasn't able to divine, and, finally, entered The Container Store.

    Susie Bright on Men Who Love Burgers and Loathe Sex

    Bright's piece on Alternet:

    Why is sex problematic for men now, when such a "problem" was only women's in the past?

    You all are aware of how sad I feel for men, as the stereotypes applied to them are so thoroughly insulting.

    Heterosexual men were, for years, distracted from the question of whether or not they were desired (and/or cared for?) because they were doing the selection and the seduction. Now that heterosexual women are involved in selection and seduction themselves, rather than simply being chased, men are put in a position of considering their own desirability.

    Women are constantly told that "the female body is beautiful" and that we're works of art, blah, blah, blah. Men are told how gross they are- they're hairy, they smell bad, they're not works of art but animals, etc.

    The other issue is that men's sexuality is considered dangerous and pathological. Men of these recent generations have been raised to question their desires, indeed to feel guilty about them. I think women are being more and more encouraged to explore their sexual selves, and men are being more and more encouraged to repress their desires, for fear of the guilt that comes with just about any desire seeming "deviant".

    I have been fascinated by this anti-blowjob thread on I Blame the Patriarchy. One of the most interesting elements is how, even the men defending blowjobs as not necessarily oppressive to those who give them, feel compelled to point out that, even if this act is not necessarily oppressive, they personally don't particularly like it. Not one guy on this thread of 181 responses could admit to liking a blowjob. Color me skeptical. It's possible that NONE of these guys enjoys getting head, but is it likely? Would we believe it if a bunch of women protested they didn't like cunnilingus? Would we, perhaps, think these women were simply uncomfortable with admitting to their own pleasure?

    Men are supposed to just be happy and satisfied and feel fortunate to have any sexual interaction with a woman, whereas most women would be generally supported in asking for whatever it took for her to have an orgasm (or two) on each encounter.

    I recognize that the men who happen to be visiting I Blame The Patriarchy are not even remotely close to being a representative sample. I'm not pretending they are. But I think that the fact that a site that promotes women's equality would draw men who express personal distaste for receiving oral sex is telling: do men feel that, in order to show respect for and/or kindness toward women they have to stifle their own desires? I think, to some extent, many men do.

    After all, would you want to be seen as "thinking with your dick" or some other moronic construction that basically dehumanizes both you and the object of your desire?

    I was thinking about this when I read an article about the evolution of Playboy magazine in, I think it was the New Yorker, maybe a month or two back. I can't find the article, but the point was that Playboy was envisioned as tasteful and intellectual - consider the interviews, the politics, the criticism, the fiction, even the cartoons. Interspersed amongst high-brow commentary were pin-ups. The assumption therein: men can be both smart, considerate, intellectuals and sexual beings. Now, we have magazines like Stuff with a scantily-clad woman and crude sophomoric jokes in between. The assumption therein: heterosexual men who admit to sexual desire are idiots and cads. Of course, neither Stuff nor Playboy corners the market, but the transition of Stuff to the mainstream in front of Playboy is, I think, a microcosm of certain cultural shifts around interpretation of heterosexual male desire.

    I don't know if this is "the fault of feminism" or what. There is no doubt that many women felt legitimately victimized by the manner and manifestations of heterosexual men's sexuality. There is no doubt that a great deal of men did and do
    still feel entitled to women's bodies - I have myself experienced it quite a bit, even feeling victimized on occasion, and I think I'm the norm in that respect. But how does any straight guy with even a passing acquaintance with feminism square his own desires with some of the fundamental expressions of feminist thought in the last twenty years? A heterosexual man is somehow expected to desire all women, regardless of race, body type and size, or age, equally and, by equally, we mean not very much, or else it's scary, and he shouldn't initiate sex and should primarily prefer going down on his partners, rather than asking for any kind of sex act, and he should really just stand there while women evaluate whether or not he's attractive and come to him and how dare he reject a woman who puts herself out there.

    [And when you look at the consequences for things like being accused of sexual harassment, it's no wonder men fear their own sexuality and its potential for excess (excess being the spectre of most desire).]

    I don't mean to say that all feminists actually believe this; I am most definitely a passionate feminist, and I don't and I bet very few, in this day and age, actually do. But the residue is there. The equation of heterosexual men's desire with either a. violence or b. utter stupidity is still rampant in the media and in everyday conversation. How many times do you see men literally struck dumb by an attractive woman on television or on film, like actually standing there, mouth open and drooling, unable to think or speak? How many times do you hear that "men think about sex every seven seconds", which, even if true, definitely connotes a certain dangerous preoccupation that circumvents any substantive intellectual life.

    In other words, though there's much discussion about whether or not hormones or the environment or whatever are endangering the sex drives and sperm counts of twenty-something straight-identified men, I think, as usual, the first place to look is culture. When people look at culture, there's been a major tendency to point to the proliferation of pornography, especially on the Internet; its increased use as a cause, rather than an effect of, men's decreased desire for "real life" partnered sexual activity. But what if straight men use pornography so much because they are afraid of the way sex with "real women" diminishes them or their partners, as subject and object, as drooling moron or rapist and victim?

    Changes to the Mass

    I'm sure that y'all have read about the Vatican calling for use of a different English translation of the Mass which was confirmed by vote by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at their biannual meeting. It is the first change to the language of the Mass since Vatican II allowed it to be spoken in translation.

    To be honest, this whole thing really bothers me. Which is weird, as anti-nostalgic as I am, at least intellectually. I want to say, "Why not?" After all, I roll my eyes at the folks who think the Church was ruined by translation from Latin.

    But, as one who grew up Catholic, (and I would imagine this is true in other faiths as well), the language is in my body and has a visceral meaning I can't begin to articulate. The language is both a trigger and itself a site of what profundity I was capable of as a child, beneath it and within it lay the mysteries of my own faith, my relationship with God, and with the Church.

    I recognize fully that this is how the old guard felt when the Mass was translated; I understand that the language has its particular meaning because it was the language I heard repeatedly, at least weekly, through most of my childhood, rather than the meaning resting in the words themselves. If it had been the new translation when I was growing up, I'd probably bristle at a change in the opposite direction.

    All that said, the aesthetic and poetic changes are real. For example:

    The repeated exchanges "The Lord be with you" / "And also with you" between a priest and his congregation, for example, become "The Lord be with you" / "And with your spirit" in the updated version.

    This change isn't of particular concern to me, but the language "update" is clearly a move away from "simple" language into a more literary diction.

    Then there's this:

    The prayer said before Communion would become "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof" instead of "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you."

    I agree with Rebecca Hartong, this is, to me, the most beautiful moment of the Mass. I don't know how many times in my life I have spoken it, thousands, but it still can bring tears to my, now secular, eyes.

    Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. But only say the word and I shall be healed.

    This seems to be perfect in its simplicity. It acknowledges the body in such a different way; it refuses metaphor.

    In a way, I think the changes to the Mass exemplify one of the most serious disconnects between the Catholic Church and modern Western life. I think that those looking for spirituality and/or religion are looking to return to a sort of simplicity they can't find elsewhere. I don't think people are looking for an overly aestheticized church. I don't think the first worlders want high-flown, poetic diction or rich decor. And the Protestants speak to that desire in a way we don't.

    [Although, the two most common conversions in the US are to Catholicism and Judaism. (I wonder if that's not because those are the two religions most likely to ask spouses to convert - after all, if they don't, the marriage won't be recognized by either Church.)]

    It also seems to me that the stability of the Church is one of the major things it has going for it these days. While Protestant churches seem more freeform (correct me if I'm wrong) and their services seem to change, congregation to congregation, the Mass is the same everywhere you go. I personally find that deeply comforting. (Though maybe, since there's so much to know, it could be alienating to potential converts?) Anyway, big changes like this divest the Mass of some of its sort of ingrained power to folks who grew up Catholic (which is a major crop to harvest when looking for money and congregants).

    I don't necessarily think that any of these things are good reasons to keep the Mass as is. And, let's face it, the change is nigh. But I do wonder how this will affect the relationship of many raised-but-not-fully-practicing-Catholics to the Church.

    Weekend Homework

    1. Find Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic in your local bookstore. And, if you can remotely afford to buy it, do so. Bechdel deserves to make a hearty profit, if these glowing reviews are to be trusted. (And, as a longtime Bechdel fan, I suspect they are.) If you can't afford to buy it, simply pore over it longingly at Barnes and Noble, where they allow you to sit doing just that for hours on end.

    2. If you're lucky enough to have a wonderful dad in your life, tell him.

    3. Charles King reviews the new Kitty Mackinnon book. (Is it wrong that I love calling her Kitty?) It's worth reading.

    4. Tiffany Jenkins reviews the new John Torpey book on reparations.

    5. Rebecca Mackinnon on The Self-Expression Sector.

    Have a lovely weekend.

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    Christopher Hitchens and Blowjobs in the Same Unfortunate Sentence

    Pandagon alerts us all to Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair arguing for the Americanness of the blow-job.

    Amanda gets it right; Hitchens can't read Nabokov, or doesn't want to.

    But what most skeeved me was his insistence on invading his own text with reminders that he is himself a sexual being. Example:

    (In France and Greece, to my certain knowledge, the slang term used to involve "pipe smoking" or "cigar action." I don't mind the association with incandescence, but for Christ's sake, sweetie, don't be smoking it. I would even rather that you just blew.)

    Sweetie? Um, excuse me while I vomit.

    Plus, he tries so hard to be witty that when he gets there, it feels, well, masturbatory.

    This is all too bad, because the article is not without its interest.

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    It's Not A Man's Prerogative To Change His Mind

    Ludacris narrated that movie, The Heart of the Game, I mentioned the other day. Without his involvement, this great documentary about high school women's basketball (with feminist drama thrown in), may very well not have been released at a theater near you. And, make no mistake, this film is not sorta weakly feminist, it really goes for it and tackles some serious stuff: teen pregnancy, gender discrimination, gender roles, sexual assault.

    But that's no good because Ludacris has done bad things too.

    Once a person says something sexist, he better stick to it? I like it when sexist guys rethink and join our side - am I crazy?

    How the hell are we ever supposed to make allies when we refuse to give props where props are deserved? I, as a feminist, want to commend Ludacris for lending his celebrity to this project, and for working toward his goal:

    I want to empower the young ladies out there. It's about women's battles on and off the court.

    Thanks, Luda.

    Another Old White Guy Is Poet Laureate

    I guess it was kind of evil of me to say that. Anyway, the winner is
    Donald Hall.

    Read more about him here. And a poem:

    A Poet at Twenty

    Images leap with him from branch to branch. His eyes
    brighten, his head cocks, he pauses under a green bough,
    And when I see him I want to hide him somewhere.
    The other wood is past the hill. But he will enter it, and find the particular maple. He will walk through the door of the maple, and his arms will pull out of their sockets, and the blood will bubble from his mouth, his ears, his penis, and his nostrils. His body will rot. His body will dry in ropey tatters. Maybe he will grow his body again, three years later. Maybe he won't.
    There is nothing to do, to keep this from happening.
    It occurs to me that the greatest gentleness would put a bullet into his bright eye. And when I look in his eye, it is not his eye that I see.

    Wednesday Links

    Read up!

    1. Barbara Ehrenreich: Can Marriage Fix Poverty?:

    If the point is simply to increase the number of wage earners per rent bill, then marriage is hardly the only solution. There’s grandma, for example. According to the NY Times, one of the fastest growing types of households in American is the multigenerational household—grandparents, parents, and children. Grandma may have thought she was going to spend her golden years dancing in her living room to old Doors albums, but her kids and their kids need a place to stay, plus free babysitting thrown in. Even some of the more affluent are taking the multigen route, opting for houses with “bedroom suites” with private entrances – for the college grad child who has embarked on his or her life as a waitperson.

    And let’s face it, what gives immigrant workers a leg up is their ability to tolerate residential crowding. Anyone who thinks that there are jobs that native-born people won’t put up with has probably never seen a native-born American sweat outside of a gym. We native-borns will do anything – clean houses, dig ditches, pluck poultry. We just hesitate to share a bedroom with three or four unrelated folks.

    2. Tom Regan: What if civics class were an online game?:

    But for Joe Twyman, the special projects director for YouGov, a British polling firm, the interaction between the Internet, online game-playing, and online communities like MySpace.com is redefining the idea of what it means to be a citizen. Last week, Mr. Twyman (who has helped coordinate studies of the habits of British voters) talked about his idea at a media conference in Quito, Ecuador, where we were both speakers.

    Twyman pointed out that MySpace.com currently has 83 million members - almost one-third more members than there are people in the United Kingdom (60 million). And many of the members of MySpace feel a greater loyalty to that community (or to the small subsection of it to which they belong) than they do to the physical community in which they live.

    "It's a two-stage process," Twyman told me later. "Social-networking sites like MySpace and MMORPGs take the notion of citizenship outside what the state has defined - a common language, region, etc. Instead, in these online groupings, the members find themselves in communities that are multiracial, multinational, and multilingual. And they can break this into smaller subsections of people they like or [those] with similar interests.

    3. Gideon Mendel: The long march to freedom:

    On the morning of June 16 1976, a crowd of 10,000 black students gathered in the South African township of Soweto. They were demonstrating against a decree from the apartheid government that all pupils must learn Afrikaans in school. The protest was peaceful, but police opened fire, and at least 566 people were killed in the events that followed. The massacre brought the brutality of the racist regime to the attention of the world - and, some say, marked the beginning of the end for apartheid. Thirty years on, award-winning photographer Gideon Mendel travelled to Soweto to find out how life is now.

    4. Meghan O'Rourke: Casual Perfection
    Why did the publication of Elizabeth Bishop's drafts cause an uproar?:

    Elizabeth Bishop was a famously meticulous writer. In a poem Robert Lowell once wrote for her, he asked, "Do/ you still hang your words in air, ten years/ unfinished, glued to your notice board, with gaps/ or empties for the unimaginable phrase—/ unerring muse who makes the casual perfect?" It's no wonder, then, that the recent publication of Bishop's hitherto uncollected poems, drafts, and fragments in Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box, edited by Alice Quinn, encountered fierce resistance, and some debate about the value of making this work available to the public. In an outraged piece for The New Republic, Helen Vendler labeled the drafts "maimed and stunted" and rebuked Farrar, Straus and Giroux for choosing to publish the volume. But the posthumous publication of drafts is hardly an uncommon practice. What exactly is it about publishing her drafts that seems so troubling to so many?

    The answer, I think, has to do with the mystery at the core of Bishop's work: the way her poetry evokes powerful, intimate feelings without devolving into mere self-revelation.

    5. Samuel Loewenberg: Starving season:

    Nearly 3 million of Niger's 12 million people currently face acute malnutrition. Most of them are children. In some areas, emergency feeding centers are already admitting 1,000 children a week. Childhood hunger is a perennial problem in this landlocked country on the southwestern edge of the Sahara; however, it is very unusual to be seeing so many acute cases so close to the harvest season. The hunger season has come early.

    This will be news to most Americans, who, if they've heard of Niger at all, know it only for its unwitting role in last year's "Plamegate" scandal. The West African nation, one of the poorest in the world, made a rare media appearance after the Bush administration claimed -- falsely -- in the run-up to the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein had attempted to buy uranium there.

    Today, despite the looming food shortages, Niger has passed again into obscurity.

    In fact, the current crisis is a holdover from last summer, when images of starving babies from Niger were seen briefly on television screens across the U.S. and Britain. The ongoing hunger crisis in Niger is not due to war, a crazed dictator or a natural catastrophe. The problem is more straightforward: prolonged and severe poverty.

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    When Asshats Attack: David Brooks Tries To Link Poetics, Pedagogy, and Gender

    I don't have Times Select, but I tracked down the recent David Brooks column thanks to Alexander Russo at This Week in Education. So, that explains the lagtime. But let's have a look.

    Researchers in Britain asked 400 accomplished women and 500 accomplished men to name their favorite novels. The men preferred novels written by men, often revolving around loneliness and alienation. Camus's ''The Stranger,'' Salinger's ''Catcher in the Rye'' and Vonnegut's ''Slaughterhouse-Five'' topped the male list.

    The women leaned toward books written by women. The women's books described relationships and are a lot better than the books the men chose. The top six women's books were ''Jane Eyre,'' ''Wuthering Heights,'' ''The Handmaid's Tale,'' ''Middlemarch,'' ''Pride and Prejudice'' and ''Beloved.''

    Here's one thing I don't get: are we really willing to concede that "The Handmaid's Tale" is "a lot better" than "Catcher in the Rye"? Um, I'm not. (I'm also not willing to agree that "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights" aren't about "loneliness and alienation", as much as they "describe relationships". The two categories seem impossibly exclusive.)

    It's fascinating how Brooks feels that, in order to set up a biological argument (it's coming) for why boys need to be educated with kid gloves, he must concede that books by women are just better. As if men can't read or write with sensitivity, thereby proving that men/boys are just not cut out for this sort of literary study at all. I'm not one for, "sexism is cool as long as we make men look like morons in the process" thing (see my obsession with the "bumbling dad" of contemporary television).

    There are a couple of reasons why the two lists might diverge so starkly. It could be men are insensitive dolts who don't appreciate subtle human connections and good literature. Or, it could be that the part of the brain where men experience negative emotion, the amygdala, is not well connected to the part of the brain where verbal processing happens, whereas the part of the brain where women experience negative emotion, the cerebral cortex, is well connected.

    Boys are not "insensitive dolts who don't appreciate subtle human connections and good literature", nor are they biologically predisposed against literature. They are socialized into a particular relationship with study and with literature and art. Some of them are probably never going to care for literary study; they are human beings after all. I've known anomalous girls and women who were perfectly content never to read another book upon leaving school.

    This wouldn't be a problem if we all understood these biological factors and if teachers devised different curriculums to instill an equal love of reading in both boys and girls.

    The problem is that even after the recent flurry of attention about why boys are falling behind, there is still intense social pressure not to talk about biological differences between boys and girls (ask Larry Summers). There is still resistance, especially in the educational world, to the findings of brain researchers. Despite some innovations here and there, in most classrooms boys and girls are taught the same books in the same ways.

    Does the failure to "acknowledge" so-called "biological differences" between the brains housed in male or female or other bodies actually in any way preclude us from implementing programs which would allow different books to be taught in different ways? Ezra Klein innovates:

    On the great David Brooks debate, can I suggest a compromise? Let kids read what they want. Give them a list of books to choose from and allow them into the classes, or into the groups, that are studying books they'd actually like to read.

    Better yet, have a mix. Everyone can be forced to read a few particular texts (would it kill everyone to read some Shakespeare?), but interspersed among them would be books of choice, from a list so as not to unduly burden the teacher. I had a classes like that sometimes and it worked rather well.

    What I Read In High School:

    Freshman Year-
    Genesis and Exodus
    weird compilation of Greek Myths
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    Edith Wharton's "Roman Fever"
    William Faulkner's "Barn Burning"
    (my choice from a list, others were by men I think) Their Eyes Were Watching God
    The Crucible
    Romeo and Juliet, plus the sonnets into infinity
    The Odyssey
    The Great Gatsby and what's that Fitzgerald story about the gold mountain?

    Sophomore Year-
    unit of seemingly random poems, all by men (Gunter Grass, Frank Marshall, Yeats, Eliot, some poem about chess I never saw again in my life)
    (poetry collection choice of my own) Maya Angelou's Collected
    Bless Me Ultima
    short story called "The Tree" but not the H.P. Lovecraft story ... I think it was by a Latin American woman
    Macbeth, plus more of the sonnets
    Things Fall Apart

    Junior Year-
    Six Characters in Search of an Author
    The Woman Warrior
    The Things They Carried
    poems by Yusef Komanyaaka
    Pedro Paramo
    Chronicle of a Death Foretold
    House of the Spirits
    Hard Times

    Senior Year- only did part of a year and my English credit was a creative writing course.

    Breakdown, not including the Bible stuff or the Greek Myths: 6 of the long works were by women, 2 of which were my choice. 12 of the long works were by men, none my choice. Short stuff- 2 by women, 8 by men. My favorites, at the time, were the Hurston, Hong Kingston, Shakespeare's sonnets, and Marquez. (Strangely, I quite liked the Dickens and Achebe as well, on the former I was completely alone among my classmates.)

    I didn't have a shred of the Austen-Bronte-Bronte-Eliot club. Nor did I have Hemingway (Tim O'Brien might argue himself to the contrary), though Fitzgerald stopped by, as did Faulkner. I may be missing some things, it wasn't yesterday. I feel like we got a decent gender mix, though naturally it would have been nice to have a more equal ratio. I think they could have done better at selecting, but really, I sort of think that, if people don't feel they can get into anything on this list, they don't like reading or all their teachers suck, or they're in a class or family environment that simply distracts them too much from the texts to get anything out of them.

    These are the most commonly-taught works in American high schools:

    Romeo and Juliet
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    The Odyssey
    Great Expectations

    These don't seem particularly "gendered", relative to most fiction, though only one is by a woman. I, personally, felt like Great Expectations was sexist, but that was a long time ago and I have no idea what I'd think now.

    Anyway, back to the argument. Does it make sense to assign books on gender lines, even if there is biological difference? No. Here's why: everyone would benefit from more agency in their education, especially when it comes to things that, like or not, are often taste-driven like literature. The logical extension of the "boys should be taught Hemingway and girls should be taught the Brontes" is that girls who want to read about bullfighting end up stuck reading about life and love on the moors, and boys vice versa. If the biology of sex were either/or that might work, but, even if you believe in the whole "brain-sex" thing, you realize that most folks are somewhere in between Mars and Venus. Also, if kids want to challenge themselves, why not? Because the language is more contemporary, Hemingway probably seems to kids like an easier choice than George Eliot.

    Another thing: is the difference between the Eliot-Austen-Brontes clique and the Hemingway-Faulkner-Fitzgerald gang really as much about gender as it is about when they were writing? What about Stein or H.D. or Cather? And does Dickens really differ so entirely from the women Brooks bemoans? Is it possible that boys aren't really asked to step out of their own situations and daily imaginations as much as girls are? Or that "boys' games" (war, catch, etc) and "girls' games" (Barbies, dress-up, etc) actually prepare these kids for different experiences of art and literature? (And I'd be hard-pressed to believe boys and girls just "naturally" biologically play such different games - I think the very parameters of play are socialized by gender just about from birth.)

    And one more thing. In high school I asked a teacher why our study of poetry was basically just haphazardly mixed in between our considerations of Great Novels and she told me it was because boys hated poetry. So, maybe our curriculum is already skewed toward alleged sex differences more than we usually consider.

    I'm curious though: what was your favorite assigned literary work in high school?

    Proposed Abortion Legislation - It Keeps Getting Worse

    Look what's on the table in Ohio:

    House Bill 228, as proposed by State Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, would criminalize all abortion -- whether to save the life of the woman or to end pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

    Furthermore, it would make it a felony for anyone to take a woman across the state line to obtain an abortion elsewhere.

    No beating around the bush now: fetuses are more important than women. Women are, literally, just wombs.

    I don't think this will pass, but it really says something that electeds would feel comfortable considering such bigoted legislation.

    From Mad Melancholic Feminista.

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    I'm Almost This Much Of A Fan of Ira Glass

    But not quite. However, I must give props to this person, if this tattoo is real. Well, even if it isn't.

    More L Word Casting News

    From AfterEllen's 'Best Lesbian Week Ever' by Sarah Warn, with whom I couldn't agree more:

    Moonlighting fans rejoice: in a brilliant casting move, Showtime announced this week that Cybill Shepherd is joining The L Word next season for 11 episodes. She'll play a married mother and president of the college Bette's now attending, who begins to question her sexuality.

    In more L Word casting news: Janina Gavankar (pictured) has been cast to play a new character named Papi, who according to Showtime's press release, is "a smokin' hot Latino who challenges Shane. Unlike Shane, Papi is competitive, gregarious, loud, bossy and boastful. She canoodles with everyone and competes with Shane."

    I love how the Latinas on this show are always "smokin' hot" sex-kitten types. Since Carmen's storyline consisted of a parade of Latino stereotypes, the FTM trans character turned into the worst stereotype of a testosterone-driven man, and the only Asian woman on the show so far has been Marcus-the-sperm-donor's hysterical/crazy Asian girlfriend in season one, I supposed I shouldn't really be surprised. But is the cringe-worthy "Papi" (Spanish slang for "daddy") really the best name we could come up with? Why not just name her "Sexy Latina #2" and forego any attempt at subtly altogether?

    I'm sure Gavankar (Barbershop, Barbershop 2) will be a fine addition to the show, but as you may have guessed by her last name, she is not, in fact, Latina--she's Indian American (and one-quarter Dutch). Which begs the question: why not cast an actual Latina actress, or make the character Indian? A South Asian lesbian character would be great, considering how few Asian lesbian characters there are on film or TV. You could even name her "Kama Sutra" to keep the ethnic-stereotypes theme going. Just a thought.

    Sarah Shahi, who played Carmen, was part Latina, part South Asian too, but it was imperative that she be kept to one stereotyped ethnicity at a time.

    Miss EL Regrets

    I wish I were into sports. It seems so joyful to sink one's teeth into the World Cup, like so many I know. Co-workers are taking days off of work and forfeiting pay just to watch their teams. I think that my need for sports has been quenched by my political scrutiny, but I am so over the "horse-race", what's-the-new-poll-say garbage. It makes me so sad lately that I don't want to bother. I wish I were into sports to fill the void. But it's too late to get into soccer when the World Cup is on.

    Watching The Heart of the Game on Saturday was exhilirating, as all decent sports movies are. It didn't open my eyes to anything, but it was nice to have that visceral reaction, where you can't help but make noise with suspense, disappointment, and relief. I'm jealous of you sports fans.

    Stop Worrying and Love Judith Butler

    Though my readership is dangerously bright, everyone needs a Judith Butler tutorial now and again. I would be remiss if I didn't remind you to take advantage of Bitch's lesson on Gender Trouble. Bitch is a great teacher: tough, but fair.

    Dana Ward: Harry's Sonnet

    poem from 'Harry's Sonnet'
    by Dana Ward

    harry's sonnet

    Since you were never dear to me

    & tried to starve me like a gown

    there's a sound in this dredge of Elysium

    where I drink to your fabulous dumbness

    & giant anvils I mined in the clouds

    elate at the thought of your heads

    before I took my shape & bent it

    or christened amends in my making

    I moored one entire Tuesday fomenting beauty in a phone booth

    & it's harps now follow me everywhere

    that music, fond casusarie, mottled over time

    into something like bomb disturbed water

    after some while I was wildly unsure

    thus made up several lifetiems for leeway.

    From Can We Have Our Ball Back.

    To Kill A Mockingbird

    Like most people, I haven't read To Kill A Mockingbird since I was about 10. It's probably not surprising that I loved it. I was among the millions of non-"girly girls" who identified with Scout, and I also thought my dad was a hero. I had gone to a mostly black school for a few years, where our history lessons were Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X, Selma and Brown v. Board of Ed, so I was well-trained and passionate about racial injustice. It was a perfect novel for a kid like me (despite my violent streak).

    Now, Stephen Metcalf looks at it with adult eyes, given the new Harper Lee bio and the attention paid her due to the Capote film. He makes an interesting comparison of Harper Lee to Spike Lee:

    To defend To Kill a Mockingbird, which I will here admit I immensely enjoyed, I would begin by pairing it, not with Uncle Tom's Cabin, the book most frequently mistaken for its first cousin, but with Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. Each is afflicted with its own version, one white, one black, of the maudlin insanity that grips American artists when they confront the issue of race. The two Lees: Each told their audience exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. Harper counseled whites to be forbearing when they might better have exploded; Spike encouraged blacks to explode, at just the moment the gains they had made into the middle class were consolidating. Nonetheless, both produced, almost in spite of themselves, works of transcendent American genius, garish murals streaked through with subtleties that, upon inspection, appear wholly unbidden.

    My relationship with Do the Right Thing is similar in that my viewing of it was when I was young and impressionable (though in a different way). I was a college student, having lived in NYC (a very different racial and ethnic climate from any I had known) for a couple of years. I still think of it as one of my favorite films of all time, because it sticks with me. But I wonder what I'd think if I saw it now.

    For me, the comparison of the two Lees makes a certain sense and also asks an interesting question: does the age at which a work most ideally acts on your psyche (or your aesthetic sensibility) indicate its quality?


    The suicide thing is telling.

    Guantánamo is a concentration camp. Twenty years from now, we're going to look back with fear at what we are capable of. Again. And, when we see injustice, someone will say, "This is like another Guantánamo," and then everyone will be up in arms about it, "How could you compare this to Guantánamo?" and they'll parade out a bunch of survivors, innocent just-so-happen-to-be-Arabs, to look aghast at any sort of comparison. And it will begin again.

    The Road to Guantánamo, Michael Winterbottom's new film, is going to be playing at New York's Angelika Film Center, and seems to have an interesting format- 1/2 doc-style interviews with the Tipton Three, 1/2 "re-enactment" with actors:

    The film, which was commissioned by Channel 4, tells the story of three British Muslims who travelled to a wedding in Pakistan and ended up as terrorist suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

    The Tipton Three were released from the camp in 2004.


    The film tells the story of the three British Muslims, from Tipton in the Midlands, who went to Pakistan to arrange a wedding, travelled to Afghanistan and were transported to Guantanamo Bay.

    They were held there without trial for more than two years before charges were dropped and they were released in March 2004.

    Dramatised scenes, charting their journey, are interspersed with interviews with the men themselves, who explain what happened to them and how they felt.

    The film depicts the Tipton Three's treatment at the detention camp

    "I don't think the film is anti-American because there are plenty of Americans who are against Guantanamo Bay too," says Michael Winterbottom.

    "But the very fact that this camp exists is shocking.

    "We are telling the story of these three people so you can imagine yourself what it is like to be in a situation where your rights are taken away from you, you have no contact with your family and no idea when you will be released," he adds.

    Winterbottom first came up with the idea of making the film when he met Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Ruhal Ahmed two months after they had been released.

    He interviewed the men, and turned the resulting 600 pages of transcript into a 95-minute feature.

    "If someone had said five years ago that the US would set up a camp, in Cuba of all places, to hold people for four years without trial or charges, then you would have thought he was crazy.

    'Hard to sleep'

    "But the problem is, people have got used to it."

    There's also an interesting article in New Left Review.

    And This American Life's Habeas Schmaebeas (3/10/06 Episode 310), though it won't tell you anything you probably don't know, does have some interviews that will make you sick.

    Now, I don't know what to do about this. Collecting a bunch of people with megaphones and signs on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial isn't going to do the trick. Congress doesn't much seem to care, though we should be pressuring them to care with letters and phone calls. And this utter helplessness makes me understand how non-Jews tolerated the Holocaust and white folks continued slavery, generation after generation, and settlers watched Native Americans slaughtered. It's possible that 80% of people were appalled and pained by it, but felt so powerless.

    When Hurricane Katrina happened, I really thought that we'd reached a breaking point, maybe because it was "our people", but that we'd finally hit a point where a critical mass of discontent, make that anguish and rage, would pressure politicians into humanity. And I think we did for about two weeks. Two weeks, of course, not being long enough to do anything. Sometimes I wish there'd be a greater discomfort, that we middle-class Americans would have our feet to the fire, but then I remember that all that would do is make us complain until we got back to today's comfort zone, and it wouldn't change the injusitce seething beneath the surface of the middle-class mainstream.

    I'm not a radical; I don't want "the Revolution" to come. I've known enough radicals and self-imagined revolutionaries to know that we'd end up in an equally
    horrendous place if we went in that direction. I just want basics. Habeas Corpus, free speech, food, housing, healthcare, the opportunity for everyone to contribute to their communities, jobs, protection from poverty, exploitation, discrimination, indignity, and violence, equality, strong and just leadership, hope. And I know it's too much to ask, because it's never existed.

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    A New Low For The New York Post

    Look at the cover of today's NY Post.

    My partner, A, alerted me to this abhorrent thing, in an email:

    I can't believe this. People should be mad about stuff like this. It
    totally undermines the whole hearts and minds effort. It really makes
    me mad. It's a lot like the Danish cartoon thing, really.

    For real. If you live in NY, you probably pass the Post on the newsstand every day, but, if you don't, you'd be shocked at how flagrantly ... I don't know ... just horrible their headlines are. Anyone accused of a crime is a "monster," a "fiend".

    Weekend Homework: Blog Edition

    Welcome to a very blog-o-licious edition of Weekend Homework. You don't even have to get up from where you're sitting now to complete your assignments - see what a sweetheart I am? So check out:

    1. Jane Dark on the Dixie Chicks and "the leaving tradition".

    2. Liza on Brangelina baby photo, Fair Use and the DMCA or What TimeWarnerAOL is willing to do for total control of the internet.

    3. Rachel on The Richest and Poorest Counties and Cities in the US.

    4.Pas au-delà's Chris responds to Michael Bérubé in Are You Listening Al Gore?

    5. Terrance asks Where Are The Gay Netroots? after his experience at Yearly Kos.

    6. Exquisitely Bored in Nacogdoches pays tribute to the just-passed and amazing ">Billy Preston.

    7. Keith Boykin says Blacks and Gays Are Not The Same ... So What?. I am so sick of Rev. Eugene Rivers, one of this world's biggest assholes, so I love Boykin for taking his idiocy on.

    In non-blog: it's the last weekend of Newfest, New Yorkers. If you're not in NY, but want to see a movie, avoid Thank You For Smoking like the plague - I got my money back. It was dreadful.

    And send some good vibes this-a-way, because I'm pretty sure I'm getting fired and, if so, it's going to be ugly.

    Marriage Amendment Roll Call

    Now, I haven't been particularly interested in the Marriage Amendment issue overall because I knew it wouldn't pass and it's basically pathetic. But that doesn't mean it's not fascinating to see how people voted. Big Mouth on Big Queer Blog was kind enough to give us the roll call, and I've italicized those who broke party ranks (pleased to see that more Rs joined the good fight than Ds joined the evil side) even though they're pretty predictable. Find your senators so you can slam or thank them:

    YEAs ---49

    Alexander (R-TN)
    Allard (R-CO)
    Allen (R-VA)
    Bennett (R-UT)
    Bond (R-MO)
    Brownback (R-KS)
    Bunning (R-KY)
    Burns (R-MT)
    Burr (R-NC)
    Byrd (D-WV)
    Chambliss (R-GA)
    Coburn (R-OK)
    Cochran (R-MS)
    Coleman (R-MN)
    Cornyn (R-TX)
    Craig (R-ID)
    Crapo (R-ID)
    DeMint (R-SC)
    DeWine (R-OH)
    Dole (R-NC)
    Domenici (R-NM)
    Ensign (R-NV)
    Enzi (R-WY)
    Frist (R-TN)
    Graham (R-SC)
    Grassley (R-IA)
    Hatch (R-UT)
    Hutchison (R-TX)
    Inhofe (R-OK)
    Isakson (R-GA)
    Kyl (R-AZ)
    Lott (R-MS)
    Lugar (R-IN)
    Martinez (R-FL)
    McConnell (R-KY)
    Murkowski (R-AK)
    Nelson (D-NE)
    Roberts (R-KS)
    Santorum (R-PA)
    Sessions (R-AL)
    Shelby (R-AL)
    Smith (R-OR)
    Stevens (R-AK)
    Talent (R-MO)
    Thomas (R-WY)
    Thune (R-SD)
    Vitter (R-LA)
    Voinovich (R-OH)
    Warner (R-VA)

    NAYs ---48

    Akaka (D-HI)
    Baucus (D-MT)
    Bayh (D-IN)
    Biden (D-DE)
    Bingaman (D-NM)
    Boxer (D-CA)
    Cantwell (D-WA)
    Carper (D-DE)
    Chafee (R-RI)
    Clinton (D-NY)
    Collins (R-ME)
    Conrad (D-ND)
    Dayton (D-MN)
    Dorgan (D-ND)
    Durbin (D-IL)
    Feingold (D-WI)
    Feinstein (D-CA)
    Gregg (R-NH)
    Harkin (D-IA)
    Inouye (D-HI)
    Jeffords (I-VT)
    Johnson (D-SD)
    Kennedy (D-MA)
    Kerry (D-MA)
    Kohl (D-WI)
    Landrieu (D-LA)
    Lautenberg (D-NJ)
    Leahy (D-VT)
    Levin (D-MI)
    Lieberman (D-CT)
    Lincoln (D-AR)
    McCain (R-AZ)
    Menendez (D-NJ)
    Mikulski (D-MD)
    Murray (D-WA)
    Nelson (D-FL)
    Obama (D-IL)
    Pryor (D-AR)
    Reed (D-RI)
    Reid (D-NV)
    Salazar (D-CO)
    Sarbanes (D-MD)
    Schumer (D-NY)
    Snowe (R-ME)
    Specter (R-PA)
    Stabenow (D-MI)
    Sununu (R-NH)
    Wyden (D-OR)

    Not Voting - 3

    Dodd (D-CT) Hagel (R-NE) Rockefeller (D-WV)

    I think I find those last three the most interesting, really. Where the fuck was Dodd? Rockefeller? And Hagel's so typical - aspiring '08 candidate can't commit to much of anything controversial. Ugh. McCain: 1, Hagel: 0.

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Budding Jazzheads ...

    I'll take you to your leader, The Village Voice 2006 Jazz Supplement. Now, I'm too snotty to fully endorse this: I mean, Sun Ra as jazz - why do they insist on doing things like that? And wouldn't it be nice if some of the very hot, but person-who's-never-listened-to-jazz might not have heard of their whole life? I mean, isn't that why people need an intro to jazz? I think maybe they could find Coltrane on their own, call me crazy.

    Ahem. Anyway, it's cool of them. We need a new generation of jazz freaks.

    Am I Paranoid?

    Because I don't know that I believe Al-Zarqawi was actually killed.

    I'm just a crazy liberal, I guess.

    Helping the Chronically Homeless

    Call me naive, (it wouldn't be the first time,) but I am really excited about this new method to help the homeless, starting in Denver.

    I mentioned this back in February after the New York published Malcolm Gladwell's piece on it* and my optimism continues.

    I don't, by any means, think we should dismantle programs that assist the transitionally homeless. Shelters, soup kitchens, should survive.

    But I think what's so hopeful about this approach is that it is serving a population that we've basically given up on, as a society. There's something so inspiring about seeing the chronically homeless as people that can be helped.

    The other thing is that, honestly, I believe that the transitionally homeless will feel more empowered to use services like shelters, if they are not surrounded by the chronically homeless: drug addicts are, let's face it, scary to be around. I wouldn't want to sleep in a homeless shelter, or allow my children to, knowing how close I was to someone who was on or coming down from or jonesing for drugs. I think it's possible to treat everyone, using less money on the chronically homeless but using it wisely; it's not an either-or proposition.

    *For critique of the article look here and here and here.

    CIA and Somali Warlords Not Sitting in a Tree After All

    Surprise! Somali warlords are not our friends!

    A covert effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to finance Somali warlords has drawn sharp criticism from American government officials who say the campaign has thwarted counterterrorism efforts inside Somalia and empowered the same Islamic groups it was intended to marginalize.

    And that pesky little Somali civilian problem.

    If there was ever any doubt in your mind that American foreign policy reflects deeply-ingrained social and cultural prejudices, ask yourself whether we would do something like this in any country in the global North: throw the country's people to the wolves so that we can make sure no one blows up an American building.

    The way we handle situations on the entire continent of Africa is almost always appalling. We might as well come out and say that we don't consider the civilians of these countries human.