In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Sex shouldn’t matter in politics. Let’s all be gender-blind!

Here’s what happens when USA Today tries to write from a feminist point of view: you end up with a headache.

Women are more kind and nurturing than men. They are natural altruists, placing the common good — including education, health and the environment — ahead of their narrow personal interests. And that’s why we need a woman president. Right?

Wrong. We don’t need a female president, any more than we need a male one. Instead, we need to jettison the gender stereotypes that block half the population — the female half, that is — from participating equally in our politics.

Oh boy.

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“An excellent question”

That’s not how I’d qualify “How do we beat the bitch?,” but to each their own.

Most interesting to me is the roaring laughter in the room after the question is asked (for those who can’t see the video: McCain is fielding questions, and one woman asks, “How do we beat the bitch?” Everyone laughs, and some guy shouts out, “I thought you were talking about my ex-wife!”). Republicans insist that they aren’t a party reliant on sexism and racism. They lie.

Shorter Caleb Posner: Give me my porn, and please stop making me share my water fountain with the dark people

Sometimes I think that dipshit college freshmen PoliSci majors write newspaper columns simply to entertain the feminist blogosphere — and Caleb Posner is no exception. He is really, really angry that “radicals” have overtaken the feminist and the civil rights movements. Feminism, he said, went downhill after 1848, as soon as the little ladies started trying to take away his porn:

In 1848, when the first women’s rights conventions were taking place in America, there was real purpose to them. Women did not yet have the right to vote, nor was there true equality in the law. Early feminists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony fought for something noble and worthwhile. But the days of rational, purposeful feminism are long gone.

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This case minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.

UPDATE: Post fixed so that comments are now enabled. Also, surprise surprise, Judge Deni was retained. And I’m moving this to the top.
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So said Judge Denni in the recent “rape-as-theft-of-services” case. Today, Philadelphia residents voted on whether or not to retain her. We’ll see what happens.

This case demonstrates a lot of things, but chief among them are the dehumanization of sex workers and the construction of the “real” rape victim. Deni’s argument is that prostitutes can’t be raped because they sell sex — which is kind of like saying that merchants can’t be robbed because they sell goods. Bound, Not Gagged has a lot of great posts on this case, and Ren has a powerful call to action.

As Ren points out in a later post, the rape survivor is a black single mother — something I hadn’t heard before, and I’ve been following this case. Now, as Ren says, all sex workers are pretty much treated like shit — but even among marginalized communities, there’s a hierarchy that gets imposed when people within those communities have to deal with law enforcement, the medical establishment, educational institutions, and other groups. There’s also, to turn a phrase coined by our Dear Leader, the soft bigotry of low expectations — that is, poor people and people of color and transgender people and queer people and disabled people and immigrants and religious minorities and other marginalized people simply expect less (if anything at all). Any hope for basic humanitarian aid — welfare, health care — is branded “entitlement;” as if the ability to feed yourself and your family or the right to have your body cared for or to see justice in the legal system is something that only a few deserve. It’s incredibly brave that the woman who survived rape in this case went to the police in the first place — Lord knows countless more sex workers (and other “fallen” women) have avoided the police and the courts precisely because they know not to trust them. BfP writes, in a different context:

my family, my friends, my loved ones, my community members, my people–we deserve kindness. we deserve tenderness and healing and relief and compassion. our cells, our hearts, our bones, our brains, our guts–they all deserve the peace of health and healing. they all deserve the calmness of certianty–certianty that the kindness we are receiving isn’t a trick.

It is deserved. But, as her post so thoroughly illustrates, it’s not reality. As the above-mentioned case illustrates, some people are branded less deserving than others. Some people are branded so inhuman that they’re simply cast out of the system so many of us assume we’re entitled to.

I hope Judge Deni sees some consequences. I hope this case is a lesson to law enforcement, and that it leads to better treatment of sex workers.

But like Ren, I’m not surprised by it. And I won’t be surprised if nothing comes of it.

Theocracy Now!

Max Blumenthal has a truly hilarious/terrifying video up on HuffPo today. It features GOP presidential hopefuls speaking to leaders and followers of the Religious Right — and while it’s not surprising, it’s still disgusting. Max describes some of the scenes:

Though no candidate emerged from the Summit as a clear Christian right favorite, the badly underfunded former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee won over the audience with his insistence that banning abortion would put an end to America’s illegal immigration problem. Huckabee’s comparison of “liberalized abortion” to the Holocaust further endeared him to the “value voters.”

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Whiteness and Blogging: An Interview Request

A well-timed entrance, if I do say so myself.

Hey y’all, hope your week’s wrapping up nice like Saran. My name is Katie, and I’m an undergrad at Harvard surviving writing my senior thesis on whiteness in U.S. feminist and pro-feminist blogs. Evidently my interview with Jill the other day wasn’t too traumatizing: she’s generously offered blogspace to let me solicit reader participants — a.k.a. you! — for the research. Thanks again, Jill; it’s a trip to be posting on a blog I’ve read and loved for years.

A little bit about the research, then. In a nerdy sense, I’m fascinated by the process of “performing” racial identities and constructing selves (in this case, white racial identities and selves) in disembodied online spaces. How do people read each other racially in feminist blogs? What white racial cues, if any, do bloggers and blog readers (white or otherwise) offer each other? Do offline experiences of whiteness and white privilege translate into blogging practices? If so, how?

Academics are publishing some exciting stuff on whiteness these days: the current issue of Feminist Theory has a whole crop of articles on the subject, and a few works have popped up that deal with whiteness as “habit.” In another vein, there’s a wealth of cool scholarship on “cyberfeminism” that investigates questions of identity, power, and anti-sexist social action on the Internet. Unfortunately, at this point there’s not much overlap between the whiteness and cyberfeminism fields.

Scholastic geekdom aside, I want to learn more about white feminist bloggers’ and blog readers’ experiences with race and racism online. It’s a topic that’s dear to my heart: for the past two years (what’s that — a decade in blog years?) I’ve been writing on a group blog for progressive Harvard students, a process that’s been tremendously exciting and, as you might imagine, incredibly frustrating. (Flame wars + Ivy League entitlement + Harvard Republican Club trolls = “Why am I at this school, again?” Q.E.D.) My blogging teammates and I have sparred with campus conservatives, but also had some tough conversations among allies, especially regarding “identity politics.” So my interest in U.S.-based feminist blogs, and how they relate to anti-racist whiteness, also comes from a practical, personal connection to this fine little corner of the blogosphere.

Okay, now for the requesting bit. If you’re white, if you’re feminist or pro-feminist, and if anything about my project appeals to you, I would love to interview you over the phone. It only takes an hour and, as Jill and I learned after conquering an international calling obstacle last weekend, it can happen even from a location far, far away from Boston. Comments you make in the interview will not be connected with you whatsoever in the final publication: for blog readers, I’ll be using pseudonyms in order to maintain confidentiality, so nothing in the thesis will reveal your name or individual identity.

If you’re interested in participating in the research, email me at kloncke at fas dot harvard dot edu, and we can set up a time to talk. If not, I hope this note finds you in good health and high spirits — and, perhaps, that it might spark some reflection and strategy sharing. Jill shared some insights in her post update yesterday, so maybe they can serve as a starting point. How can we be ever more responsible, accountable, conscientious, and creative in our anti-racist feminist online communities? Among white folks, what’s working well, and what needs improving?

Thanks, y’all, and take care,

–katie

Prejudice & University

My university (VK, *waves back!*) has dug up a lot of controversy this year. First, Bristol had to contend with a posh aristocratic girl on a reality TV show who argued that black people are “really bad”, condemned multicultural Britain and called lesbians “sinister”. Definitely a cocktail for intense press coverage and disaster.

Buchanan also said:

“Britain is a complete mess. I just don’t appreciate people coming into our country and taking over our culture.”

“I’m for the British Empire and things. I’m for slavery, but that’s never going to come back.”

Don’t even get me started on what she said about people coming into Britain and taking over the culture. There was a facebook campaign to get her barred from entering! I think she has been allowed entry because obviously you cannot stop someone from having poisonous views like that. I am one of the only ethnic minority students in Bristol University; I don’t think there are more than 50 black people at this university. How does she think it feels for us to for her to think like that and air her views like that?

How is it okay to call black people “really bad” or call lesbians “sinister”? I know many people have dismissed this girl as being thick, naive etc. But I don’t. I truly don’t see it as an off-hand comment or an off-colour one. She is a girl who was succumbed to racism. Racism doesn’t need to have KKK hoods or derogatory terms to be hurt people. Sometimes it is the seemingly “naive” comments such as the ones she made that cause even more damage. I find her offensive and people like her offensive because they seem to continue this belief that people living in Britain should just “shut-up” and “get on with it” and stop complaining because “they are not really racists”. Well, that is not good enough for me. I have lived here for almost 11 years. There is no way that comments like hers are irrelevant. They hint to the problematic nature of some people who do not want to discuss race relations because forgetting about it seems like a better option.

I am not talking about this to give Bristol University bad press. Some of the funniest and joke people are at the university. What I don’t like is this invisible rule like it is taboo to discuss race.

More Nooses

Ugh.

A hangman’s noose was found hanging on the door of a black professor’s office at Columbia University Teacher’s College on Tuesday morning, prompting the police to start a hate-crime investigation.

Detectives with the New York Police Department’s hate-crime task force were investigating whether the noose, which was discovered on the fourth floor of the college at about 9:45 a.m., was put there by a rival professor or by a student who was angry over a dispute. Colleagues of the professor identified her as Madonna Constantine, 44, a prominent author, educator and psychologist.

Ms. Constantine is a professor of psychology and education at Columbia and has published several books on race relations, including “Addressing Racism” in 2006 and “Strategies for Building Multicultural Competence in Mental Health and Educational Settings” in 2007.

I don’t think it was hung on her door by accident.

Torture in the USA

People kept in secret foreign prisons without access to lawyers or rule of law aren’t the only ones being tortured — our domestic prison system condones torture and abuse as well. Lenin’s Tomb links to this video of prison torture. Here’s the description if you can’t stomach watching it (I couldn’t):

The prison guards stand over their captives with electric cattle prods, stun guns, and dogs. Many of the prisoners have been ordered to strip naked. The guards are yelling abuse at them, ordering them to lie on the ground and crawl. ‘Crawl, motherf*****s, crawl.’

If a prisoner doesn’t drop to the ground fast enough, a guard kicks him or stamps on his back. There’s a high-pitched scream from one man as a dog clamps its teeth onto his lower leg.

Another prisoner has a broken ankle. He can’t crawl fast enough so a guard jabs a stun gun onto his buttocks. The jolt of electricity zaps through his naked flesh and genitals. For hours afterwards his whole body shakes.

Lines of men are now slithering across the floor of the cellblock while the guards stand over them shouting, prodding and kicking.

Second by second, their humiliation is captured on a video camera by one of the guards.

The images of abuse and brutality he records are horrifyingly familiar. These were exactly the kind of pictures from inside Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad that shocked the world this time last year.

And they are similar, too, to the images of brutality against Iraqi prisoners that this week led to the conviction of three British soldiers.

But there is a difference. These prisoners are not caught up in a war zone. They are Americans, and the video comes from inside a prison in Texas.

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