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New Yorkers: Support Marriage Equality

From a listserve I’m on:

If you support gay marriage…

Governor Patterson has said that NY will recognize legal same-sex marriages from other states and countries. He’s doing a poll on whether people support it. If you’re interested in taking 15 seconds to lodge your support, just call 1-518-474-8390 and say ‘I support the Governor’s directive on marriage,’ then give them your 5 digit (New York) zip code.

Send this to all your friends and progressive coworkers in New York ASAP!

New Yorkers only (sorry non-NY residents). But please do take a minute and call.

Governor Paterson Orders State Agencies to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

UPDATE: If you live in NY, please call the governor’s office TODAY and let them know that you support Paterson’s directive. Call 1-518-474-8390 and say “I support the Governor’s directive on marriage equality,” then give them your 5 digit zip code. I did it just this moment, and it really is that easy. The opposition is gearing up and we need to let them know that they’re on the losing side. Go! (Thanks to Angela for the email.)

New York Governor David Paterson has issued a directive that all state agencies must revise their policies to recognize same-sex marriages that were legally performed in other states and countries.

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A flaming barrel of video game stereotypes, part I

Flaming barrel hits hapless plumber!

Let’s see what the flaming barrel of stereotypes has for us to day, shall we kids?

1. Video games can ruin your relationship!

Ah, such a classic and volatile subject. Gal feels like she and her guy aren’t spending enough time together; obvious culprit is guy’s “males only” hobby that he spends a lot of time on! This story, which could take place in almost any decade of the last century, used to be about golf or football (or in some more eccentric cases, reading
) but now it’s told more about video games than anything else. And of course, video games are an even more juvenile waste of time, right? Combined with feminism, you have a heady mix of couch-potato disempowerment that’s sapping the manhood and responsibility from a whole generation of guys! Woe!

Well, it doesn’t necessarily have to go that way. Rachel Shukert’s story in Salon, which has been the most read piece on that site for the last couple days, ends with a suggestion that a lot of people have made to resolve this “dilemma.” Gaming really doesn’t have to be such an exclusively masculine pursuit, so why not play video games together? We’re currently enjoying a bumper crop of games that aren’t designed exclusively for the post-adolescent trigger-happy guy crowd, from almost every title on the Wii to Rock Band, which Shukert credits with “saving her marriage.”

The thing is, in order to reach this turnaround ending, Shukert first has to set her marriage up as a morass of communication problems and neglect that any thoughtful reader will quickly realize couldn’t actually be fixed by Rock Band. She establishes a more familiar domestic diorama where video games are A Big Problem. Shukert writes exaggerated, campy prose, and at one point mocks herself as a pile of “pathetic, whining neediness.” Her attempts at comic hyperbole give me a glimmer of hope that her actual relationship might not really resemble the hoary scene out of the Honeymooners that she paints. But it still grates like Wolverine playing Chopin on a chalkboard to watch the actors in her scene go through the tired old paces of misogynist relationship roles:

I click on another page, where a forum of concerned women instruct me to regain Ben’s attention by walking around the house dressed in skimpy outfits and waggling my hips provocatively. One enterprising poster, aptly named Cyberhottie69, even suggests draping one’s naked breasts somewhere impossible to miss — like the coffee table, or on his head, like a doughy, undulating hat.

The angle Ben is sitting at makes this impossible, but I sit beside him on the couch, unzip my hoodie to reveal the lacy top of my bra, and press my breasts firmly against his bicep.

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Supporting Marriage Equality Is Like Being a Nazi

At least that’s the line coming from an anti-gay group in California that’s encouraging county clerks to refuse to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples:

Ask your county clerk if they were a Nazi officer during WWII and had been ordered to gas the Jews, would they? At the Nuremberg trials, they would have been convicted of murder for following this immoral order.

I have this running theory that most conservative actually have no idea what the Nuremberg trials were — they usually invoke Nuremberg when talking about how they’re going to prosecute abortion providers for murder, leading me to believe that they think “Nuremberg” just means “really really serious trial that had something to do with Nazis.” This just bolsters my theory.

Men Who Take Their Partners’ Names

One of my spouse’s college friends, a het woman, married a het guy who took her name. It has been years, but his mother is still bitter. I thought of it because it came up in Jessica Valenti’s new book, He’s A Stud, She’s A Slut, which I am in the middle of.

There are not many, but it happens. I could do research, but that would be hard. I’d rather let the hive-mind do it for me.

One comes readily to mind:

Jack White, who was born Gillis, and married Meg White, divorced, and pretended they were siblings until the Detroit Free Press found the paper trail. On the minus side, he’s nuts. On the plus side, he’s brilliant. (On could say the same about famous-in-Canada fiddle player Ashley MacIsaac, who is Jack White’s cousin. And who is married, but did not take his spouse’s name. And BTW, I’m not ignoring MacIsaac’s history of saying racist things and then saying he was being ironic — he’s done it and I don’t know if he’s tripped over a clue since then or not, but I won’t pretend it didn’t happen.)

I know of no list, but we can make one here.

Ashley MacIsaac had his say in comments, and I think I should be entirely fair to him. I tossed off an aside about Jack White’s connection to a Canadian fiddle master with a reputation for courting controversy. However, I didn’t feel that I could let it pass without comment that MacIsaac has said things which some folks in the past interpreted as racist. I said above that he has said these comments were irony, and he repeats that below. I had one reported incident in mind: MacIsaac’s May 1, 2003 concert. The Ottowa Citizen reported that he made remarks about an Asian woman in the audience spreading SARS. MacIsaac sued the Citizen; I don’t know the outcome. He maintains (and as far as I know, has always said) that he meant to be ironic. I wasn’t there and I have never seen a verbatim account of what he said.

I’m not assuming that MacIsaac intended anything other than he says. If my remarks above read that way, that was my error. However, the discussion of racism in the feminist blogosphere has underscored that intent is not the only question. People may say things meaning to be ironic or antiracist that are counterproductive. In a world full of racism, and in the middle of a publicity storm about SARS, it’s awfully tough for a white man to pull off a reference to an Asian woman having SARS and have the audience get the ironic intent, have it not feel for some folks like they’ve been punched in the gut. I don’t know what MacIsaac’s audience members thought, but if a friend of mine said he was going to try to pull that off, I’d say, “don’t do it, it’s bound to be a disaster.”

So, unless the comment was completely different from the reporting, I think it was a bad and mistaken shot at irony, one he should not have taken. When I said above that I don’t know if he had “tripped over a clue” since, I didn’t mean a conversion from hate to non-hate; I never had reason to believe he was a hateful person. I meant a realization that that kind of ironic approach generally doesn’t work well, that the remark generally has a negative immediate impact and that explaining the irony later does not undo all or some of the damage.

As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And sometimes with ironic remarks about racism that have the effect of unironic remarks about racism; the strong position of a lot of people I respect (and I confess I can’t find a link to what I’m looking for now, but it has been said over and over), is that saying something racist by screwing up is still saying something racist. And that’s something I hear from people who have to live with the impact, not the intent. So that’s my view.

What “Freedom” Brought to Afghanistan


It’s like a perfect storm of right-wing policies: The War on Drugs, women’s liberation by way of imperialism, and “freedom” at the barrel of a gun.

Khalida’s father says she’s 9—or maybe 10. As much as Sayed Shah loves his 10 children, the functionally illiterate Afghan farmer can’t keep track of all their birth dates. Khalida huddles at his side, trying to hide beneath her chador and headscarf. They both know the family can’t keep her much longer. Khalida’s father has spent much of his life raising opium, as men like him have been doing for decades in the stony hillsides of eastern Afghanistan and on the dusty southern plains. It’s the only reliable cash crop most of those farmers ever had. Even so, Shah and his family barely got by: traffickers may prosper, but poor farmers like him only subsist. Now he’s losing far more than money. “I never imagined I’d have to pay for growing opium by giving up my daughter,” says Shah.

The vast majority of the world’s opiates originate in Afghanistan. To fight drug production, the solution has been to target individual farmers and destroy their crops — without offering them any other option for survival. And the U.S. keeps mucking it up. We offered farmers other crops (wheat, etc), but once it was grown there weren’t enough buyers (I guess we didn’t think that far ahead).

And it’s not just farmers who are suffering because of these policies — it’s girls.

Angiza Afridi, 28, has spent much of the past year interviewing more than 100 families about opium weddings in two of Nangarhar’s 22 districts. The schoolteacher and local TV reporter already had firsthand knowledge of the tragedy. Five years ago one of her younger aunts, then 16, was forced to marry a 55-year-old man to pay off an older uncle’s opium debt, and three years ago an 8-year-old cousin was also given in marriage to make good on a drug loan. “This practice of marrying daughters to cover debts is becoming a bad habit,” says Afridi.

Even so, the results of her survey shocked her. In the two districts she studied, approximately half the new brides had been given in marriage to repay opium debts. The new brides included children as young as 5 years old; until they’re old enough to consummate their marriages, they mostly work as household servants for their in-laws. “These poor girls have no future,” she says. The worst of it may be the suicides. Afridi learned of one 15-year-old opium bride who poisoned herself on her wedding day late last year and an 11-year-old who took a fatal dose of opium around the same time. Her new in-laws were refusing to let her visit her parents.

Gul Ghoti is on her first visit home since her wedding six months ago. She says it’s a relief to be back with her father and mother in their two-room mud-and-brick house, if only temporarily. “My heart is still with my parents, brothers and sisters,” she says. “Only my body is with my husband’s family.” She says she personally knows of two opium brides who killed themselves. “One of the girls had been badly beaten by her husband’s brother, the other by her husband,” she says. Ghoti says she’s considered suicide, too, but Islam stopped her. “I pray that God doesn’t give me a daughter if she ends up like me.”

The life expectancy for adults in Afghanistan is 43. Almost half of all children are not enrolled in primary school. Only eight percent of girls attend secondary school. More than half of all children under 5 are suffering from moderate to severe stunting. Only 34 percent of people in Afghanistan have access to adequate sanitation facilities. For every 100 people in Afghanistan, 5 have a phone. One has internet access. Women in Afghanistan have a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of maternal death. (By contrast: The rate in neighboring Pakistan is 1 in 74; the rate in Sweden is in in 17,400).

Thanks to Miss Sarajevo for the link.

A little bit more…

Sorry for one more Spitzer/Paterson article, but this gets at the heart of the comment I just left regarding Jill’s previous post on Spitzer. Where do we draw the line on what is considered private versus public information? And if it goes beyond the illegal (prostitution, soliciting sex, etc) who gets to judge?

Does Alfred?

Alfred Harris, a deacon at the Samuel’s Temple of God in Christ Baptist Church at Park Avenue and 125th Street, who said that the new governor, like the old governor, should step down. “There are enough righteous men for these positions, but we just haven’t found them yet.”

(note the use of the word MEN here.)

Does Shelley?

“You wonder, if you dug into a lot of governors’ or senators’ lives, what you’d really find,” said Shelley Sue Reig, “I don’t think it’s really fair to dig, but they have always been held to a higher standard, just like C.E.O.s of companies. They’re held to a higher standard, too.”

(Just curious, but exactly what kind of ‘higher standard’ do we hold CEO’s to? I have never heard of a CEO being asked to step down because s/he had an affair…)

I personally think if it isn’t illegal, and it does not impact your job, then the moral judgments should be left to those who are actually impacted.

The sister-punishers are out in force

More on the Spitzer mess. This time, we’re hearing from the sister-punishing Serena Joys who’ll happily tear down their own gender if it means they get to spend more time in the warm, warm glow of the television lights:

“Are you saying the women should feel guilty, like they somehow drove the man to cheat?” a visibly aghast Meredith Vieira of “Today” asked Dr. Laura Schlessinger,* a radio host.

Dr. Schlessinger replied, “Yes, I hold women accountable for tossing out perfectly good men by not treating them with the love and kindness and respect and attention they need.”

That’s right, Silda! It’s your fault your husband strayed! Why, if you’d just let him control you, you’d have satisfied his need to direct and dominate another human being, and he wouldn’t have had to move all that money around, attracting the attention of the banks and the IRS and the US Attorney’s Office! Dammit, woman, what is wrong with you?

Look, here’s another shameful political wife who couldn’t keep her husband in her bed! Bring her out for the ritual humiliation and penance.

Dina Matos McGreevey, the estranged wife of James E. McGreevey, who resigned as the governor of New Jersey in 2004 after admitting to an extramarital homosexual affair, has been much in demand these last two days.

On a different “Today” panel on Tuesday, called “Secret Lives: Does Power Equal Promiscuity?,” Ms. Matos McGreevey argued that blaming wives for their husbands’ infidelities was “like blaming a rape victim for being victimized.”

Heyyyyyy… she’s not following the script. What’s with this not being properly shamed? Get her out of there! Get a new panel to remind wives of their duty!

Daytime television does have a way of encouraging women to blame themselves or change themselves to hold on to their men. On yet another “Today” panel, this one labeled “Refresh Your Romance,” an expert advised viewers eager to rekindle their marriages to take erotic dance classes to “unleash the inner vixen.”

That’s better. Remember, ladies, it’s your fault, and yours alone, if your husband strays and gets caught and has to resign from office.

* Yes, *that* Laura Schelessinger. Of the affairs and the divorce and the nude photos and the criminal son and the mother who was found in her apartment, having been dead for two months.

The same-sex marriage train rolls on

Yay! A New York state appellate court in Rochester has ruled that same-sex marriages solemnized in foreign countries (such as Canada) must be recognized in New York State:

The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court on Friday reversed a judge’s ruling in 2006 that Monroe Community College did not have to extend health benefits to an employee’s lesbian partner.

Patricia Martinez, a word processing supervisor, sued the school in 2005, arguing that it granted benefits to heterosexual married couples but denied them to Martinez and her partner, Lisa Ann Golden.

The couple formalized their relationship in a civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2001 and were married in Canada in 2004.

The college refused to add Golden to the health care benefits because its contract with the Civil Service Employees Association did not address benefits for same-sex partners. Since then, the contract has been enhanced to extend benefits to an employee’s domestic partner.

State Supreme Court Justice Harold Galloway dismissed Martinez’s lawsuit in August 2006, saying that the state does not recognize same-sex marriages. The state Legislature “currently defines marriage as limited to the union of one man and one woman,” he wrote.

The appellate judges disagreed, determining that there is no legal impediment in New York to the recognition of a same-sex marriage.

The state Legislature “may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad,” the ruling said. “Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York.”

Now, this is a very interesting ruling, because there *are* some same-sex marriages that have been recognized in New York; Massachusetts law does not give legal effect to marriages performed there where the state of residence of the couple prohibits the marriage, but couples who were married in Massachusetts between the date it was legalized there and the date when the New York Court of Appeals ruled that New York’s laws do not permit same-sex marriage have valid marriages because the law in New York was unsettled at the time. So, given that some marriages performed out of state are valid, it would be inequitable for others to be invalid. And really, the only reason that most same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts aren’t valid in New York is because of Massachusetts law — if they’re not valid in the couple’s home state at the time they’re performed, they’re simply not valid at all. But AFAIK, Canada has no such restrictions.

Great news!

What should we do about child marriage?

A Feministe reader sends this on, and it’s definitely interesting fodder for discussion:

Recent events in the news (UNICEF photo of the year) and my experiences in the field have gotten me thinking hard about what human rights advocates should do about the problem of child marriage. As a feminist, I am appalled and horrified by the idea of a girl being withdrawn from school (if she ever went at all) married, and impregnated –all as soon as she gets her first period, sometimes, depending on what country and culture she is from, to a much older man.* Her life is thus defined for her while she is still a child. She enters the same sad cycle her mother and grandmother and every female ancestor lived; early marriage, early motherhood, a life of hard labor, and early death. Her daughters soon follow.

So, child marriage, especially child marriage that enforces a cycle of gendered poverty. It is a very bad thing. It goes against just about every principle of human rights. But what should be done about it?

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