Monday, October 31, 2005

if this is just monday, i don't want to know about the rest of the week.

i was going to post about victimhood during my lunchbreak, but things got insane and now i don't have time. perhaps tomorrow, post nonprofitland board meeting (which is why i wouldn't be able to post on it tonight either). for now, i'd just like to note that today sucks at an insanely high frequency. the day's suckiness challenges all previous levels of suckiness ever recorded - this could be one for the almanac.

really, i guess it's not that bad (as jayne pointed out, i could be a trashwoman...though BoyCat pointed out, then i'd be paid better). but learning that georgie nominated civil-rights-rampaging Alito to the supreme court, then blowing a fuse in my apartment while attempting to dry my hair, then arriving to an office that still smells like cat pee (don't ask, cuz i don't know) is still pretty high on the sucky meter.

i am obviously the most upset about the Alito nomination. anything that i can say about it has already been said in blogland a hundred times already by now, so i guess i'll save my breath. but i think it's interesting in terms of the anger stuff from my previous posts - this makes me really angry! outraged! incensed! i'm not surprised by any means - i pretty much knew it was game, set, match on reproductive rights on November 3rd - but it still makes my brain quiver a bit from the unfairness of it all. i don't know how to not be angry about these things, or how to not let the accumulation of all the little and big injustices continue to fuel that anger. how can i not be angry every day, with insults like this nomination?

i am angry. very angry. luckily i'm genetically pre-disposed to low blood pressure, so at least i've got that working for me.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

a disclaimer of sorts. or maybe an entreaty. or an explanation wrapped in a request.

ok, i'm going to re-post my comment from the below thread here (with typos corrected!), because it seems it's something that is not coming across clearly:

here's the thing: i do have strong opinions, but that doesn't mean they're ultimately not open to revision. i put this stuff out there because i am open to hearing other perspectives - otherwise, i'd just keep it to myself! my tone isn't meant to shut down discussion, it just represents where i'm at right now - i haven't come to these opinions lightly, but i have no illusions that they are an endpoint for me.

long story short - i hope people are not dissauded from responding to my genuine appeals for thoughts and disagreements just because i seem set in my ways. i might argue or disagree with you at the moment, but i'm listening, and that's the only way thus far i've been able to keep evolving my own perspective.

i'm writing in this kind of public forum because i genuinely want to hear thoughts, opinions, and disagreements from people. if that doesn't come across via my writing style and tone, i apologize, but i'm stating here and now that comments are welcome and much desired. i am thinking all of these things through, and i appreciate everyone's two cents along the way.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

the f-word wars.

i am so tired of the arguments around the word “feminist.” so tired that i almost don’t want to write about it, because i feel like i’m shouting into the abyss. in many ways, the debate seems like a moot point to me – i mean, what are we going to do, strike the word “feminist” from the record of language? toss it on the trash heap? it’s a word that’s not going away, so all of the talk around moving toward some new terminology seems like wishful thinking. for better or worse, that is the word that people will associate with the fight for women’s rights and equality, so i think we’ve got to focus on rehabilitating it rather than trying to bury it.

i’ll tell you, i had no trouble adopting the feminist mantle. i don’t even remember a moment’s doubt or hesitation. i have no problems with being labeled a feminist, and i listen in bemusement when people try to tack all of their ugly connotations to them term in order to discredit me. i find it amusing, on a personal level. but in a broader sense, i realize that if we are ever going to make true progress on a renewed women’s movement (for all this talk about the third wave, i’ve never seen anything approaching a coherent approach to advocating for women in my 25 years), we need a common language. so why can’t that be feminism?

i think the reason that we’re even having this discussion in feminist circles is that conservative america did a fantastic job of poisoning the well. a concerted effort to win “the war of ideas” was mounted in the 80s and 90s, and one major battle in that war was to convince women that feminism a) didn’t speak for them, and b) would only make them miserable in the long run. i won’t even get in to point b here (read Susan Faludi’s “Backlash” for a comprehensive look at that phenomenon), but point a is something we’re still arguing about amongst ourselves. some of the negative connotations of feminism, propagated so zealously by the media over the last twenty years, have gotten under our skin and made us doubt the wisdom of calling ourselves feminists. so what’s wrong with being a feminist these days?

1) feminists are angry.

Amy had an interesting comment around this under yesterday’s post, and i think it’s one of the most common “negative” connotations about feminism. funnily enough, though, i personally don’t see it as negative. i mean, since when is it so bad to be angry? you look around, you see injustice and discrimination, and you get angry. it’s a natural reaction. should you let anger control you? no. can you use anger as a fuel to drive you to advocate for change? absolutely. righteous anger is a powerful force, and can be harnessed into all kinds of productive action. but society doesn’t like angry women – anger isn’t a “feminine” quality – and therefore accusing feminists of being angry is an insult.

2) feminists hate men.

god, if i had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this antiquated slur against feminism, i’d be writing to you from a solid gold laptop. i mean, how ridiculous can you get? this stemmed from the 70s, where some strands of feminism were indeed more women-centric, and lesbian activism played a large role in the movement. i will not deny that part of feminism’s history, nor will i condemn it. mass movements are large and varied, and some of the ideas that come out of such movements aren’t apt to integrate into mainstream society very well. that’s why feminism today isn’t about getting your lesbian credentials and moving to a separatist lesbian commune – that idea didn’t appeal to most women. yet, the one point that the conservative movement (and thus the media) seized on was that since a small percentage of the early feminist movement seemed (or were) hostile to men, that must mean that all women who identify as feminists are man-haters. it’s shocking – seriously shocking – to see how this myth is perpetuated today. i have never in my life met a feminist that claimed to be a man-hater, or who wanted to do away with men, or any such nonsense. but the fact that we have to keep explaining that to wild-eyed detractors and confused young women alike is infinitely frustrating.

3) feminism forces you to be a victim.

hugo’s post that i linked to yesterday partially focused on this theme. my opinion on this particular accusation is a little more complicated than most, and one i’ll delve into further later. on one hand, i agree with hugo and others who assert that this is false, and that nothing about feminism requires you to take on the role of victim. the fact that second wave feminism often took on the victim perspective is, i think a) justified, as women were more literally victims of societal inequities and cultural oppression at that time, and b) immaterial to the way we define ourselves as feminists in the present. is that our history? yes. doesn’t that mean our reality today is the same as it was thirty years ago? no. as women have won legal victories and made headway in societal understanding and accommodation, the victim perspective has become less necessary and thus less emphasized. on the other hand, i hesitate to abandon the victim mentality entirely, because women are still more likely to be the victim in terms of a lot of things – sexual harassment and assault, domestic violence, pay inequity, etc. i realize that it’s difficult for the language of empowerment and the language of oppression to coexist within a movement, but it’s crucial that we don’t lose sight of the oppression side of the coin. otherwise, against what exactly do we need empowerment?

well, these are just some of my thoughts on the issue. in the end, i think that if you have a negative impression of feminism, it’s probably an over-complicated issue that’s been over-simplified into a pithy insult, and that it probably has little bearing on the day-to-day work feminists do for women’s rights. you’re welcome to disagree with me (many do), or to tell me that i’m on a hopeless merry-go-round of linguistics and ideology that will never come to rest (which i might be inclined to believe). more on the subjective position of the victim later…

Friday, October 28, 2005

friday cat blogging, half-baked edition.

we put catnip on CatCat's scratching post to keep her interested in scratching it and not the furniture. this is the result:

this went on for a good 15 minutes- high as a kite on a saturday night. unfortunately, the rolling and growling and gnawing don't come across well via photograph.

sneak previews.

i've been thinking about a number of ideas lately that i've been meaning to work through in this little forum. while i am at work right now, and thus cannot even begin to touch on them in any meaningful way, i wanted to throw them out there. i have absolutely no plans for the weekend, so i'm hoping to be able to take a stab at organizing my thoughts around at least one or two of these issues, and posting them for your viewing pleasure (or pain, or ambivalence, or outright disdain).

-- why do so many women, especially younger women, reject the label of "feminist?" hugo had a nice post on this subject a few weeks ago, and it's an issue on which feminists go around and around and around. one little word, so many complications.

-- what is it that makes the status of "victim" slightly seductive? what is the rationale of willingly occupying that mindset, choosing that perspective? (hint, i think that there actually is one).

-- why is the collective identity created by shared fandom so alluring? watching some of the webcast of the white sox rally downtown got me on that track...

-- is it just me, or is the world seeming like a more menacing and unkind place with every passing day? perhaps that's a bit of an overstatement, but i've had that somewhat unshakable sense for awhile now, and i'm interesting in taking apart the potential factors for that (the news media? the political climate? the cultural climate? the chemical balance in my brain? all of the above??)

on a lighter note, cat blogging to come later tonight. enjoy your halloween weekend! i heard a great costume idea yesterday - smear some egg on your face and go as george w. bush.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

as promised.

copyright 2005 Chicago Tribune

i promise i'll stop obsessing about baseball soon. soon-ish.

snarky baseball fun.

thank you, jacob luft of (found via matt at The Tattered Coat), for saying what we all feel about that depraved, deplorable animated baseball named Scooter. and for getting a lick in on joe buck and tim mccarver to boot.

and thank you, whoever took this photograph (found via roni).

check back for another fun photograph when i get home from work...

things that i love.

the world champion chicago white sox.

CatCat, a native of Chicago Ridge, has just one thing to say: "south side!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

things that i hate.

1. that stupid "Fox Trax" graphic they show during the world series games. you cannot replicate ESPN's K-Zone. don't even try. and don't intentionally mis-spell tracks and add insult to injury.

2. spreadsheets.

3. peep-toe shoes.

4. cherry flavored cough medicine.

5. Intelligent Design.

6. paper cuts.

7. the fact that guacamole is not good for me.

8. trying a new Lean Cuisine for lunch and having it suck, thus activating the desire for above guacamole.

9. Notre Dame.

10. the word "panache".

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

centerfolds and symbolic systems.

i am officially in bloglove with hugo schwyzer, everyone's favorite male christian pro-feminist college professor. with surgeon-like precision, hugo absolutely nails it today with this post concerning a new study concerning the language of Playboy. according to the study (found via jessica at Feministing), Playboy has begun using more (to steal a term from nonprofitland) “strength-based” language in their descriptions of their centerfolds over the last 15-20 years. jessica says, so what? they’re still using strong language to caption naked prone women.

hugo takes that ball and runs with it, pointing out the uncomfortable idea that these “strong” captions may only serve to make it more enjoyable for men to see said “strong” woman displayed for his pleasure. as he puts it:

When I talk to many guys about gender issues, I find a troubling undercurrent of deep anger at women and the feminist movement that is extraordinarily strong... Men who are angry at beautiful women for not allowing them access to their bodies, and men who are angry at powerful women for their successes, can gain a kind of revenge by seeing the beautiful and the powerful stripped, exposed, and prone for their enjoyment. For most men, that's the payoff of porn -- the opportunity to reclaim power over women by focusing on them as submissive, pleasing bodies rather than autonomous human beings.

right on, hugo. go read the whole post, seriously, it’s that good.

thinking about this issue made me think of this post from Shakespeare’s Sister, which deals with the question of whether altering politically incorrect and/or misogynistic language is really feminist progress. i absolutely subscribe to the theory that language is incredibly important and incredibly powerful – i mean, when you think about it, it’s the one of the only ways that we have to communicate (and, i’d wager to say, far and away the most effective way). so while the symbolism of language is a crucial piece of our human interactions, and can have a huge effect on us, in the end it’s only symbolic. language only represents things. therefore, i think that changing language can be helpful, but cannot be truly constructive change without a concurrent change in action.

for instance, changing the term “freshmen” to “first-years” could possibly do something to change sexist mindsets (though i remain doubtful, in that particular case). but that linguistic alteration certainly won’t change anything in the long term without concrete action to go along with it, such as community discussions about the language change, and community discussions about sexism and harassment in our schools and in society as a whole. the words don’t technically mean anything – it’s the associations with which we imbue them that are highly charged. if we don’t tackle those associations – that deep, dense foundation of misogyny that underlies much of our culture and our lives – it won’t matter at all if we call a fourteen-year-old girl a “first-year” or a twenty-year-old centerfold “strong-willed.”

we are how we see ourselves, not how we name ourselves.

everything you've ever wanted to know. and more.

a huge hat tip to the dino for finding a website that quite truly makes my whole week. it's only tuesday, but i can pretty much guarantee that right now.

the duggars have a website.

you remember the duggars. the sixteen kids? the violins? the impossibly long female mullets? don't act like their existence didn't invade your consciousness and make you question life, existence, and the basic laws of biology and physics.

oh, that was just me? fine then. regardless, the website is fantastic. a few snippets:

Our prayer is that all who view this site will realize that we are ordinary people with our individual weaknesses and imperfections but yet we serve an extraordinary GOD who delights in demonstrating His great power!

At 9:00a.m., the older children help their buddies with their studies in phonics, math, violin & piano (J-O-Y- Jesus first, Others second, & Yourself last!)

the section in which jim bob and michelle describe their decision to just keep popping them out assembly-line style is also quite interesting. the claim that after they had their first child, michelle duggar was on the pill, yet got pregnant and then has a miscarriage. they say, and i quote, "we did not know that sometimes the pill allows you to get pregnant but then causes a miscarriage." what?? huh?? like i said - basic laws of biology and physics.

the duggars rock my world.

Monday, October 24, 2005


and i missed the west wing last night. i mean, the world series game was fantastic and all, but shit i missed the west wing. toby was the leak! was toby really the leak? c.j. hates toby! the president fires toby! craziness abounds!

and i don't have tivo. or any other dvr-like device. or even a freaking vcr.

damn damn damn.

when even the world series can't cheer you up.

i am feeling very bad and sad (and apparently somewhat Seussian) about things today. it is raining and gloomy here in chicago, and mondays are what they are. however, in a vain attempt to lift my spirits, i will share the following photo.

huh. no photo. why is that? because blogger is obviously part of some vast conspiracy to make today crappy, and won't let me add a picture. what you would have seen here is a photo of the chicago skyline and the "Sox Pride" message displayed on the BlueCross BlueShield building. oh well - the picture was from the trib, and they probably would have sued me for copyright infringment anyway.

i feel like Marvin from Hitchhiker's Guide today.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

madonna and subversion.

the other night, BoyCat and i saw roughly the last half of Madonna’s new documentary I’m Going to Tell You a Secret. having watched Truth or Dare few year ago for a final paper i was writing for a Visual Studies class, when i realized that this was her new documentary, part of me had to watch. i was intensely curious as to how it would be similar to, and different from Truth or Dare, which was such a sensation when it came out almost fifteen years ago.

other than the fact that both movies interspersed behind-the-scenes footage with concert footage, and the fact that they are both about Madonna, the two movies had little in common. i think it’s an interesting cultural study to see how much Madonna has changed (and hasn’t changed) in the roughly twenty years that she’s been a superstar. i’ve written on this blog before about how ambivalent i am concerning Madonna as a feminist icon. I think this new documentary did little to change my mind either way, but it reminded me how complicated of a figure Madonna is (in a cultural sense – who knows what she’s “really” like, and even if we did, i think it’s irrelevant). i remember being somewhat dismayed when she got married and started wearing jackets that said Mrs. Ritchie and jaunting around the English countryside with her baby in a Silver Cross pram. what is this, re-invention as a slave of the patriarchy? oooh, very subversive. so subversive that i almost can’t tell that it’s subversive at all.

and i realize that sort of judgment is unfair, because she’s her own person and can do whatever she damn well pleases (as she’s made known many times, by humping the floor at the VMAs or getting naked with Vanilla Ice or having a baby with a straggly-haired personal trainer or whatever). but on the other hand, she put herself out there as a public figure, and she fastidiously cultivated an image as a button-pusher, as an edgy artist, as a subverter of the dominant paradigm! so i have the right to at least comment on the irony of her little foray into high Western propriety.

of course it’s not that simple. i appreciated hearing about her wearing a shirt that said mother on the front and fucker on the back – i appreciated the one truly edgy moment she injected into the video of her duet with Britney (it involved a cane, Madonna’s crotch, and the line “well then come over here, i’ve got something to show you”) – i appreciated her artistic critiques of american consumerism and war mongering on “American Life.” in short, i appreciated that she didn’t erase all traces of subversion from her public life and her art. as problematic as I think some of her old subversion was (really, don’t get me started. i could totally post the whole 12 page paper about why Madonna failed feminism in a larger sense and paved the way for Britney’s rise to fame – it contains copious amounts of obnoxious theoretical jargon, though, so i won’t do that to you), in a way i feel starved for anything even remotely like it nowadays. i mean, really, do we have anything at all like “Express Yourself” on mtv now? well, we don’t even have music on mtv now, but you know what i’m talking about.

i feel like there is such a gaping deficit of any sort of incisive social commentary going on in mainstream culture that it’s scary. everything is such mass-produced, corporate-controlled, fully sanitized schlock – anything with even a hint of moral or cultural subversion is snuffed out. Green Day is the only exception that i can think of right now. and no harm meant to Green Day, but that is fucking sad.

there was a concert scene in I’m Going to Tell You a Secret of the title song from the American Life album. Madonna and her dancers were dressed up in military uniform type get-ups, and some other dancers were wearing clergy type outfits, and some pretty disturbing war footage pulsed across the screens in the background. the editing of the scene conveyed the frenetic energy of the whole number, which in turn evoked the sense of a culture spinning out of control, turning on itself, on the brink of collapse or destruction or both. it was the first time in years that i’ve watched mtv and felt anything other than total disgust. and then the documentary cut to a fan outside the arena after the show who said, “i though i was coming to a concert, not a democratic convention.”

and that’s where we’re at.

Friday, October 21, 2005

don't tell houston, but...

friday cat blogging, sit back and relax edition.

this cat has got to learn how to slow down and smell the roses.

chicken little strikes again.

i had deja vu reading this article on yahoo yesterday about the gender gap in colleges and universities and why it means the End of Days are soon upon us. i wouldn't bother reading it yourself - just go straight to shakespeare's sister and read her concise assessment of why these articles are utter bullshit. she astutely notes:

[the article makes] no reference to the fact that often men without a degree can make just as much or more money than women with a degree. Until women don’t need to rack of up four years of schooling and the associated debts just to find commensurate employment with men who only graduated high school, there’s no reason to get a case of the vapors over the fact that men aren’t earning as many degrees.


the baseball field in the cornfield, final installment.

terrance mann: people will come, ray...and they'll walk out to the bleachers, sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. they'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. and they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. the memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces.

people will come, ray. the one constant through all the years, ray, has been baseball. america has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. it has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. but baseball has marked the time. this field, this game: it's a part of our past, ray. it reminds of us of all that once was good, and it could be again. oh...people will come ray. people will most definitely come.

go sox.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

i think he might be part of a syndicate.

this is so unfair.

i want a black and white striped jumpsuit! i want a little plastic board with random numbers and letters on it! i want crazed nick nolte hair!

ah well.

turns out republican fears are right, she does have balls.

so apparently harriet miers can't be bothered by trivial little things like senators' routine questionnaire for potential SCOTUS appointees. filling out this questionnaire is necessary for things appointed to the supreme court, but apparently harriet missed that particular memo. instead of filling it out, she decided to half-ass her way through it. the senate judiciary committee, as you can imagine, was not very pleased.

Pam at Pandagon has some great excerpted non-answers from the questionnaire, but my personal favorite is from the Tribune this morning:

She just said "no" when asked to provide copies of all communications between administration officials and outside groups seeking assurances on her conservative bona fides.

"no"? i'm sorry, but are you fucking kidding me?? this is not second grade, harriet, and i'm not just asking if i can play with your My Little Pony (or your EZ Bake Oven, or whatever it was you prized in second grade). these are senators in the united states goverment, and even though they phrased it as a question, guess what - it's not really a question. it's a requirement. you don't get to tell them "no" any more than i get to tell Uncle Sam no when he "asks" for my taxes.

harriet and our Little Prince president are seeming more and more alike everyday.

the baseball field in the corn field, part four.

shoeless joe: getting thrown out of baseball was like having part of me amputated. i've heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that have been dust for over fifty years. that was me. i'd wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet...the thrill of the grass...

man, i did love this game. i'd have played for food money. it was a game. the sounds, the smells. did you ever hold a ball...or a glove to your face?

ray: [nodding] yeah.

shoeless joe: i used to love travelling on the trains from town to town. the hotels...brass spittoons in the lobbies, brass beds in the rooms. it was the crowd, rising to their feet when the ball was hit deep.

shoot. i'd have played for nothin'.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

it's wednesday. hence, the one-liner.

courtesy of Overheard in New York:

Conductor: Step in and stand clear of the doors, folks. If you can't fit, wait for the next train. This is not the last helicopter off the top of the embassy.

--1 train

a thoroughly frivolous post.

i was walking to work today, and i passed a woman wearing a brown sweater with black pants.

why do people wear brown and black together? why why why? it literally offends my eyes. while i am admittedly not the most fashion-savvy person in the world, SisterCat took pity on me in college and inculcated me with some basic fashion commandments that should never be broken. a few examples:

- don't wear brown with black. ever. i don't care what you might see on the runways, it is a no-no for everyday mortals. no brown shirts with black pants, no black shoes with brown pants, no black belts with brown shoes, no brown bag with black shoes, nothing.

- don't wear navy blue with black. ever. all the above (non)qualifications apply.

- don't wear socks with sandals. ever.

- don't wear stockings with open-toed shoes. ever.

these are pretty much the invioables. there are a number of other offenses that should always avoided during your cursory mirror check (don't wear big chunky black shoes with a floral print dress...don't wear a denim jacket the same shade as your jeans...don't wear a necklace on the outside of your turtleneck...etc, etc), but they are never quite as bad as breaking any of the above four directives. in my humble opinion.

any other fashion violations that you all find offensive to your very existence?

p.s. - this is meant to be fun. i don't actually think people who wear brown with black are bad people. just horribly misguided and in need of a stern talking to.

the baseball field in the corn field, part three.

shoeless joe: what's with the lights?

ray: oh, all the stadiums have them now. even wrigley field.

shoeless joe: makes it harder to see the ball.

ray: yeah, well, the owners found that more people could attend night games.

shoeless joe: [shaking his head] owners.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

partisan war syndrome.

if you have 15 minutes to spare, check out this article, Partisan War Syndrome (found via Shakespeare's Sister). A snippet:

To be sure, there used to be a powerful ideological force on the left that constituted the Democratic Party base. And there are still remnants of that ideological movement left in various progressive labor, environmental and civil rights organizations, and disparate Internet blogs. But look no further than the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries to see that the ideological movement as a whole is in tatters. In that race, primary voters - supposedly a representation of this “ideological” base -supported John Kerry on the basis of his personal profile as a Vietnam War veteran and his supposed “electability.” It was the most non-ideological of choices in what we were supposed to believe was the most ideological of races.

it's this lack of clear ideology in the democratic party that makes me literally fear 2008. honestly, before the debacle that was the 2004 election, i used to find the idea of hillary clinton running for president freaking delicious. i couldn't wait for it to happen. but then, in 2004, i fell under the sway of "anyone but bush," and i threw my weight behind a candidate that deep down i knew was not the right man for the job. i remember the night of kerry's speech at the democratic convention. BoyCat and i were actually on a cruise with BoyCat's family, and he and i skipped dinner to sit in our closet-sized cabin and watch the speech on one of the three actual channels they had on their TVs. i remember the flickerings of excitement i felt as he was being introduced. i remember feeling like this could be the beginning of something real, if he could just make it all come together for us in those 30-odd minutes. but he didn't. he threw a sad bone to womens rights via some roundabout praise of his mother, and then spent the rest of his time spinning platitudes and bromides, like so many plates on his fingers and toes.

i think i knew then that it wasn't going to work. but too much was at stake, so i was a good little foot soldier anyway, sending small checks and cold-calling people in Ohio the week before the election. then when it was all over, when i had a few weeks to process the awfulness of it all, i realized that i was sort of ashamed of myself. i was ashamed that i had been a foot soldier at all in that sell-out exercise, and ashamed that my party hadn't done more to fight for the things that mattered to me. now, i look at hillary and her DLC endorsements and her support of the iraq war and her little thick-as-thieves routine with Newt Gingrich, and i can only shake my head.

fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, right?

oh, and shamrocks aren't lucky, either. you're thinking of a four-leaf clover.

i have some bad news. you may want to sit down for this, as it will probably come as a surprise.

ireland is a fucked up place.

i have been thinking about this since i posted on pseudo-ethnic identity and whatnot earlier this week. i realized that post addresses two different issues, and i have more to say on each of them. but it also brought up a third issue that i have, and that is the undue romanticizing of ireland by americans. this is a rampant phenomenon, and i know that i risk offending people who still see the “emerald isle” through emerald colored glasses, as it were. i don’t blame you if you feel this way, and I understand that many years of societal conditioning may have lead you to believe that across the ocean there is a land of “comely maidens dancing at the crossroads” and good-natured peasant folk and free-flowing Guinness in the streets. ok, well maybe you didn’t quite believe that last part, but you understand what i’m getting at: most of what you believe to be true about ireland is, well, not quite true.

at this point you’re thinking, well who died and made you an expert on ireland? first of all, no one had to die to make me an expert on ireland. that’s just illogical. second of all, i’m actually not an expert, but my parents spent an inordinate amount of money on my undergraduate education and i spent a lot on my graduate education too, so by telling you about what i do know, it’s almost like that money wasn’t wasted!

here’s the thing about ireland, in a nutshell: they can’t get past their past. i will admit, it is quite a past. america has got nothing on ireland in terms of fucked up pasts (even with the slavery, and the sixties, and the Ronald Reagan). i mean, we’ve done some crazy shit in 230 years, but ireland has had 2,000+ years to beat up on each other, and the end result of that is a really battered collective psyche. they spent centuries fighting with the british, and then amongst themselves as anglo-irish, “black” irish, catholic irish, etc about what it really was to be “authentically irish.” so what we understand to be “authentically irish” – the shamrocks, the red hair and freckles, the predisposition to drinking and roundabout arguments – is actually hotly contested ground in ireland. a lot of these traits were actually used against the irish by the british, to try to illustrate that they were incapable of governing themselves.

of course, the irish tourism industry has done a great job in the last ten or so years of selling this stuff to americans, capitalizing on the misplaced nostalgia of people with irish heritage and what those folks believe ireland is about. they run commercials of ruddy faced men wearing knit sweaters in pubs, busty redheads with “come-hither” looks on their faces, step-dancing little girls and horses galloping through fields. and sure, you can find all of that in ireland (especially if you’re on the guided tour). but that’s not reality. reality is much more complicated, and it includes a catholic church desperate to maintain its power over the populace, illegal abortion and greatly restricted reproductive rights, a rampant xenophobia coming to light with the recent waves of immigrants to the country, and an abiding sense of victimhood that permeates many of the things the irish do and create. reality is a messy history of persecution, displacement, bloodshed, guilt, fear, and hatred, just like any other place where you get your passport stamped.

hey, i like ireland. i don’t say these things because i think it’s a bad place. i say these things because it’s a real place, with real people and real history and real problems. and i hate to see it reduced to a caricature, a reduction of the complexities and confusions that made it what it is. the story of ireland is a fascinating one, and if you identify as irish, it is a story worth trying to understand. it doesn’t deserve to be pared down to a celtic cross, a pint of beer, and a green “everyone loves an irish girl” t-shirt.

you know, parnell hated green.

the baseball field in the corn field, part two.

shoeless joe: can i come back again?

ray: yeah. i built this for you.

shoeless joe: there are others, you know. there were eight of us. it would really mean a lot to them.

ray: yeah, anytime. they're all welcome here.

Monday, October 17, 2005

the tag and the slap.

all you non baseball fans (and non white sox fans!) out there, i apologize in advance for boring you to tears over the next week or so with random thoughts on, well, the white sox. here is today's:

did anyone else notice how much "the tag" play in the 8th inning last night (where Escobar tried to tag Pierzynski running to first, but tagged him with an empty glove with the ball sitting right in his other hand) resembled "the slap" play from last year's Red Sox-Yankees ALCS? you know the one - when A-Rod was running to first and Arroyo was reaching out to tag him with the ball in his bare hand, and A-Rod slapped at his arm like a scared six year old and knocked the ball loose.

both were in ALCS games. both plays involved a ground ball to the pitcher and a runner on the way to first. both plays involved the ball in the open hand. both times, the umps made the obviously wrong call and then corrected it. both times, i leapt off the couch screaming and banging my hands on the coffee table. both times that ended up hurting my hands, but i was almost too mad to care.

i also think it's kind of amazing that on both calls, the umps actually got it right and reversed the calls. those plays were so egregious (perhaps i'm showing my bias, but especially the slap), if they hadn't been overturned i may have committed hari-kari. but thankfully they were, and all was right with the world.

and no, i don't think baseball should use instant replay. love it in football, would hate it in baseball. why? because i'm finicky.

dialogue in a cornfield about to become a baseball field.

karen: could he hit?

ray: could he hit? lifetime average .356, third highest in history.

karen: why'd the call him shoeless joe?

ray: well, when he was still in the minors, he bought a new pair of spikes, and they hurt his feet. so 'bout the sixth inning he took them off and played the rest of the game in just his socks. the other players kidded him, called him shoeless joe. the name stuck... then, in 1919, his team the Chicago White Sox - they threw the world series.

karen: what's "threw"?

ray: means they lost it on purpose. gamblers paid them to. except shoeless joe. now he did take their money, but nobody could ever prove he did a single thing to lose those games. i mean, if he's supposed to be throwing, how do you explain the fact that he hit .375 for the series and didn't commit one error, huh?

karen: i can't.

ray: 12 hits, including the series only home run. and they said he's trying to lose?

karen: it's ridiculous.

ray: the commissioner of baseball suspended 8 of the players, including the great shoeless joe jackson, for life.

karen: what's "suspend"?

ray: it means they never let him play the game again.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

well i'll be.

damned, that is what i'll be.

west wing. toby is apparently the leak. if you're reading this and haven't seen it yet because you have tivo, well tough nuts, that's the price you pay for relying on all your new fangled technological gadgetry. us salt of the earth folks who have to watch things in real time are going to ruin it for you.

i have to say that if this is in fact true (that CJ is not the leak, not that you have tivo), i am happy. not because i don't like toby, i do, but as i noted a few weeks ago, i was going to be pissed if they brought CJ down. i was pretty shocked by the end of the episode. but mark my words, he is probably just covering for Leo, or even for CJ.

ooooooh intrigue.

where are my roots?

shorter post: who cares?

longer post: this morning, i read an article in the travel section of the Tribune called "Lost in Ireland." the subtitle was "where are my roots?" i read the article, written by a trib staff reporter about a trip he and his mother took to ireland to attempt to fill in holes in the family genealogy. if i had a nickel for every person i know who has gone, or would want to go, to ireland to "find their roots," well...insert your favorite "if i had a nickel" punchline here.

i am fascinated by our collective fascination with ancestry and genealogy. the author of the article and his mother were sincerely passionate about filling out the picture of their grandfathers, grandmothers, great-grandparents, etc. i have no doubt that they feel their lives will be somehow enriched by seeing a long-dead relative's name on a census in a musty library in some small irish town. but i'll be damned if i can actually figure out how it matters.

what is our obsession with "where we are from" really about? what do we gain from the knowledge that yes, great-grandfather patrick o'riley did reside in tullamore during 1836, or whatever particulars it is we're looking for? when you're four or five generations removed from "the old sod," you're not really from ireland, or italy, or russia, or whatever place it is to which you so romantically cling. sure, i have irish ancestors. my mom knows some things about them, there's a rough history somewhere - but how exactly does that impact my own life? it doesn't. i'm not irish, and i think it's kinda insulting to actual irish people for me to claim as such. people who adopt these pseudo-ethnic identities ("i'm italian! i love pasta!" "i'm irish! i love arguing!") based on a relative who immigrated over 100 years ago drive me crazy.

i knew a guy in college that was the worst kid of pseudo-ethnic identity offender. we christened him (behind his back, of course, as we were vicious and mean) "House of Pain," as he was the most stridently obnoxious brand of fake irish. he had the stereotypical irish "look," with red hair, pale skin, and freckles, and there was obviously some irish heritage to his name. however, he took this to mean that he was the embodiment of all things irish (nevermind that he could tell you nothing about cromwell, 1798, 1916, etc) and it was his sole duty to remind everyone that ireland is the greatest nation on the face of the earth (regardless of the fact that he had never set foot there). he had a tattoo of a tiger on a bed of shamrocks. he was prone to getting drunk and wrapping himself in the irish flag. need i go on?

i don't mean to equate House of Pain with anyone who has ever been interested in the lineage. that is unfair to the 279,999,999 americans who are not House of Pain. however, my point is this: i think a fixation on where one is from, on "roots," distracts you from the really important thing, which is where you are right now. who you are right now. i know that the past informs the present, but really, what happened when you were six is far more important than what ship your great-great-aunt was on when she arrived at Ellis Island. if you're looking that far back in order to get a sense of what your life is about, well, you're not going to find it.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

friday cat blogging, attention whore edition.

i was away from my computer yesterday evening, so here's some belated friday cat blogging to make up for it.

this cat is one of the biggest attention whores i've ever seen. and that's why we love her. i'm not even sure who took this picture, but she's like c'mon, don't bother with that, let's get to the petting.

Friday, October 14, 2005

too many "mash note" jokes have already been made.

someone, bring me a trashcan quick - i am about to be ill.

i have been trying to avoid coverage of the Miers nomination. i know that seems like a dereliction of duty for a feminist, but after John Roberts, it's just exhausting and i kinda can't handle it. so i'm sitting back, basically monitoring the waterfront instead of turning over rocks and stones.

however - this is just too unbelievable to pass up. the smoking gun compiles a bunch of business/personal correspondence between chimpy and the next SCOTUS appointee, all for your viewing pleasure. the fact that i had to label it "business/personal correspondence" should set off some warning bells, right? and seriously, "the greatest governor ever?"

seems they are both delusional.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

the nature of rivalry, or why i would never ever ever root for the yankees.

over the last few weeks in chicago, much has been made of the fact that the white sox are in the playoffs and the cubs are not. among a number of debates, a central debate is whether one can be "just a chicago fan" - in other words, root for whichever team is in the playoffs that year. i may be oversimplifying that a bit, but that's the general issue: in a city with two teams, can you root for both?

no. no, no, no. you can't. at least not in chicago.

that is the nature of rivalry. and what chicago has is not simply two baseball teams, but an ongoing rivalry between two baseball teams. sure, one is in the american league and one is in the national, and they only meet head-to-head six times a year (and potentially in the world series). but in reality, they meet and compete every day, angling for the support and encouragment of their city (or, at least, their portion of it). much has been made about how even though there are two teams, this is a cubs town, and arguments have raged over what has made that so (hint: starts with Tribune, ends with Company). so there's a topdog/underdog dynamic, and there's a regional dynamic of northside/southside.

ok, we know all that. my point is this: when all of these battle lines have already been drawn for so long, when all of these epic struggles have been waged over the decades, someone rooting for both teams is an impossibility. you are a fan of one, or the other. if that's not the case, you're not a fan at all. i wouldn't want cubs fans to root for the white sox this post season, just as i did not root for the cubs in 2003 (as a transplant to chicago, my allegiance to the white sox was cemented by BoyCat's south suburban upbringing). i want cubs fans to stay cubs fans, and be proud of it. insult me about the alleged cavernousness of The Cell, make fun of our spasm-waiting-to-happen of a manager, taunt us for being second class and not worth the time. that way, i can with a clear conscience taunt you about the fact that "the world's biggest beer garden" isn't meant as a compliment, and how i've never encountered such an unknowledgeable fan base, and well, Jeromy Burnitz is just ugly.

see? isn't this fun? it's what rivalry is about. it's life or death, self versus other - it is about how we define our very selves. it's about what we are not - that hated "other," that thing-that-is-not-me. that means that i can respect that something is "other," and yet at the same time stand in opposition to it at all times. it makes the whole engine go.

an example: a more elemental allegiance in my life than the one to the white sox is the one to the boston red sox. i was born and bred in massachusetts, and therefore i am a red sox fan (don't get me started on people who try to be hardcore fans of teams located in places from where they did not come. that's a whole 'nother post). i also, therefore, hate the yankees with a white hot hatred that makes my eyes glaze. it's part and parcel. however - i have friends who are yankees fans. i have watched yankees-red sox games with these friends, and managed not to have the evening end with blood spilled all over the floor. this is because i respect their existence as yankees fans (again, as long as the requistite residency requirement was filled at some point). i also do not hesitate to mock them mercilessly for having been born a yankees fan, all the while understanding that without yankees fans, you couldn't have true red soxs fans.

don't understand? you must not be from the I-95 corridor. or from chicago.

go sox.

i'm late for my wednesday one-liner.

courtesy of Overheard in New York:

Tourist lady: Are you sure this is the Empire State Building? I don't remember it having a cup of noodles on it.

--Times Square

ooh, ooh.

Pam found an even better shot of the Duggar familia. they are unfortunately dressed in varying types of clothing here, but the crushing density of the children present makes up for it.

i am obviously car-wreck fascinated here. humor me.

my worst nightmare.

about a month or so ago, i was sitting at home on a sunday afternoon, flipping through the comcast guide and generally minding my own pinko feminist liberal business. then, something scheduled for the next half hour on TLC caught my eye: "14 Children and Pregnant Again."

i cocked my head to the side quizically, not quite understanding. "14 Children and Pregnant Again?" is this some sort of horror movie? sci-fi flick? i click the info button. oh no, this is for real - it's an hour long documentary about a family with 14 children. i, of course, must watch.

this documentary was like nothing else i have seen in my life. in all seriousness, i sat cross-legged on the couch, leaning slightly forward toward the tv, as if i looked close enough, i could expose the whole thing as a sham. it was not. jim bob duggar (yes, jim bob.) and his wife what's-her-name lived in rural arkansas and had 14 children. and their names all began with "j." and they had two bathrooms. and they had no tv, radio, or internet. and the girls and boys all dressed alike when they went out in public (in their giant, church-van like looking vehicle).

honestly, every moment was more shocking than the last to my child-wary, pregnancy-fearing, god-skeptic blue-state self. every revelation about the way these people lived (take six kids to the grocery store in order to carry the 5 pallets of canned tomatoes you'll buy! home-school ALL of them! have them all stand in the living room in matching outfits and play matching violins!) sent my jaw further towards the floor. this was, literally, my worst nightmare, being played out on basic cable.

and now, this morning, in my bleary-eyed, pre-coffee confusion, i learn that she's had another one.

yes, that's right, this woman from arkansas married to a man named jim bob now has 16 children. and wants more.

and please, click on this link, and then click "next image" under the photo of the new baby. i was not lying about the identical dressing thing.

apparently her name is michelle. at least it doesn't being with "j."

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

certainly give me a chill.

Media Girl digs up this AP article about the rising number of reservist deaths in Iraq. she calls it "the chill of the back-door draft," and i feel it. one of BoyCat's best friends has done a tour in Okinawa and a tour in western Iraq since the beginning of the war. he just arrived back home two weeks ago, but he could be sent back to Iraq in as little as ten months for a third tour of duty. he joined the reserves to earn money for college and to serve his country. he doesn't utter a word of complaint about having to serve, even though he doesn't agree with the war he is being forced to wage. he sees it as his sworn duty, and he does it.

i, however, have complained about it and will continue to complain about it. i will complain about it loudly enough for the both of us. he has come back alive twice, after seing two-thirds of his platoon wounded or killed in action on the syrian border. can he come back alive three times as a reservist, as an un-fortunate son? i don't know. and i don't want to find out.

another thought on real dolls.

i think what's really bothering me about the article on Real Dolls was the level of delusion that some of these men displayed. she's your girlfriend? you're in a relationship?


i mean, it's one thing to make a reasoned argument around "yeah, it's a doll. what of it?" or "just because i have sex with a doll doesn't make me a bad person." as bizarre of a discussion as that would be, there's some space there to make certain points and challenge certain assumptions. it's even kind of interesting (in a theoretical sense. the reality of it still squigs me out). but to stand there and claim that you're having a relationship with a piece of plastic?? that's a level of self-deception so deep i'm not sure you're entirely sane.

it's been like 24 hours since i read that article, and i'm still twitching with disbelief.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

even better than the real thing.

i almost lost my lunch, and also almost cried, reading this article from Salon about men and the Real Dolls that love them. Amanda is on the story, and the comment thread here is pretty interesting.

the fact that a man would spend over $6,000 on a fake woman is mind-blowing in and of itself. and i recognize, via both the comprehensive nature of the article and the comment thread on Pandagon, that in some instances - like for severely disfigured or handicapped men - this is not something sick or pathological. however - what about the rest of these guys? what kind of man orders a piece of plastic with a detachable face and three orifices, and then proudly boasts about how he's got a pretty good thing going here?

plenty of men, apparently. and i just don't see how you can not characterize as misogynists those men who buy these dolls to avoid the hard work and reciprocity of a real relationship with a real woman. when you prefer your women deaf, mute, and immobile, never mind lacking a beating heart, that says something about your character.

holy cow, i seriously feel sick.

Monday, October 10, 2005

success and society.

i work for a non-profit that provides services to homeless teenagers and young adults. most of the youth that we serve are very poor, african-american, and from the south and west sides of the city. we have two different kinds of housing programs, a group residence and an independent living program where teenagers live in their own apartments, subsidized by our agency. let me say from the outset that i think our programs are fantastic, and we have some really phenomenal staff that give these kids practical skills that will be incredibly useful as they try to navigate the world. the work is noble work, and someone needs to be doing it.

but sometime, i sit back and i think, is this really doing anything? are we really changing anything?

at our agency, we have graduations for the youth who move from the group residence to their own apartments, and also youth who graduate from the apartment program and out of our programs completely. these graduations are great things to see, as the youth and staff have really worked hard. the youth are proud of themselves and excited for the future, and the staff are so proud of the youth for overcoming the obstacles in their lives. i honestly enjoy going to them, since sometimes i can feel removed from the day-to-day work that goes on to serve these kids. however, they also make me sort of sad.

because everything is relative. it's easy to get caught up in the enthusiam of the evening - all the encouraging words, the evident pride of the youth who is graduating. but part of me always knows that it could have, and should have, been easier for this kid. i can pretty much guarantee that every youth whose graduation that i have attended has had a much harder life than i have, and has seen and gone through things that i can't even imagine. and on the evening of a graduation, there is as much pride and admiration in the fact that a youth is getting his own apartment and works a minimum wage job as there was when i got my bachelor's degree - even more, i'd wager, as oftentimes the youth never believe that he/she could do it in the first place.

as upper middle class kids, we never doubted that we'd go to college. never doubted that we'd get a good job. never doubted that we'd make a comfortable salary and live in a comfortable house and have a dog, a cat, granite countertops, an inground pool, whatever little slice of consumer heaven it was that we really wanted. and then i sit there, and i watch kids who have struggled their whole lives just to have their own little 400 square foot studio, and i just feel foolish. foolish for my own assumptions about success and what it entails, but also foolish that the system that enabled those assumptions sits largely unchanged. we can work our asses off, day in and day out, to give these kids a leg up in the world, and we'll be lucky if a few of them can get a college education and a secure salaried job. very lucky. something that seems so basic to me is so elusive to most of them.

that makes me angry. i'm sure it sounds disingenous, like shaking your fist at a rainstorm from inside the house. but really, i get a pit in my stomach when i think about the fact that they may not ever make more than minimum wage, that they may never get out of the dilapitated buildings and low expectations of certain neighborhoods on the south side. because as much as we'd like to think so, the efforts that we make at my agency don't change the fact that most people born in the ghetto don't really escape the ghetto. broader social systems see to that. and there’s nothing you can do but keep showing up to work every day, hoping that the few youth in your program get a few concrete benefits from the work you do, and that maybe someday things will be different.

but i don’t see how.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Friday, October 07, 2005

friday cat blogging.

CatCat sleeps.

CatCat is rudely awakened.

i love bothering her.

and the band played on.

i just read the first spate of letters to Salon about their article on Female Chauvinist Pigs. wheeeeeeee. i'm sure that in two days there will be letters in response to these letters - i was almost tempted to write one myself. i almost clicked the little "letters to the editor" button because of one sentence in one letter: "feminism is supposed to be about choice."

this is something that i have been turning over in my head for months, probably at least since the election and possibly before that. the language of "choice" has come to dominate feminist activism, and reproductive justice activism in particular. this troubles me. when i hear someone say that feminism is about choice, i want to say "with all due respect - not really." i know it's problematic for anyone to claim to know what feminism is about, but if you put a gun to my head and told me to take my best guess, i'd say that feminism is about rights. it's about the right to bodily integrity, it's about the right to equal pay for equal work, it's about the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness just like everyone else.

there was a deliberate move towards the language of "choice" and away from "rights" in the 70s and 80s - feminism was under siege in the popular media, and they needed a way to appeal to a broader spectrum of the population. so instead of demanding rights, we began talking about women being able to make choices for themselves.

this was a slippery slope. as i noted in my earlier post on Female Chauvinist Pigs, such loosey-goosey language allows for all sorts of ridiculous proclamations being made in the name of "choice" these days. slowly but surely, we've allowed women to empty out their decisions of political and cultural analysis. in the 70s, we had "consciousness raising" groups where women made connections between their personal, day-to-day lives and the patriachal society in which those lives functioned. that knowledge, that awareness of their position within a larger system, allowed them to make choices in a more informed way (in my humble opinion). now, for the most part, that whole political and cultural analysis part is left out. women can get away with just making choices, and backing them up not with reasoned arguments, but with the rationale that "it was my choice." talk about circular.

so. i think in terms of feminist activism, we need to start avoiding "choice" language like the plague. it's not really getting us anywhere. Media Girl had some great thoughts around this back in August, when the NARAL John Roberts ad hit the fan, and Daily Kos told feminists to simmer down already. she talks about pro-choice language, privacy language, and how in the end none of that is sufficient:

This is a liberty issue, an equality issue. Women are autonomous beings, or they aren't. The embryo/fetus is not a "person" -- the legal status of being entitled to rights -- until it is born, and no longer a part of the woman's body.

this is particular to the abortion debate, obviously, but i think the point is relevant to all feminist activism. we're people. we're autonomous. we have rights. we deserve to be treated like everyone else. all this other crap - whether or not to do cardio strip tease, etc - cannot be settled until we establish this. and to those who think it's already been settled, i say:

76 cents on the dollar.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

but they're so...handy.

ok, kittens, i am worn out from a long day of raising money in nonprofitland, so i will not be my usual engaging self tonight. however, i've been meaning to share a post from patriarchy-blamer extraordinaire, Twisty, on the inherent evils of the handbag.

as the proud owner of many a handbag, SisterCat is not going to be pleased by the above rant. however, there is some "funny because it's true" stuff here, you have got to admit. i, like many third-wave feminists, can hardly throw stones on these issues - i have 3 inch heels on my shoe rack and have cut the pockets out of pants because of those obnoxious lines they make. i have even borrowed some of the aforementioned SisterCat accessories. however - i think that it's important for women to take a moment, every now and again, and recognize the inherent ridiculousness of some of the things we do in the name of fashion. and to think about the politics of fashion - how everything we wear signifies something, how the way we dress isn't really about being individual but about allying ourselves with certain groups/types of people. and to admit that a carrying a bag that only fits three dollar bills, a cell phone, and a tube of lip gloss is a bit...well...pointless.

using the master's tools.

so maybe you’ve heard of this book, Female Chauvinist Pigs. i can’t get away from it - the feminist blogosphere is all atwitter with debates about sex-positive feminists, anti-porn feminists, raunch culture, sex, power, and agency. of course, i must chime in.

some reviews of the book are sympathetic, others are more critical. the author, Ariel Levy, makes the argument that after the feminist split in the 70s into “sex-positive” and “anti-porn” camps (a binary that i’m not entirely comfortable with, but whatever), the sex-positive idea got lost (or subsumed) in a sea of raunch-filled, male-dominant media culture. the result is a generation of girls who embrace Playboy, cardio strip-tease classes, Girls Gone Wild, etc. in other words: female chauvinist pigs.

i have to say, i’m more sympathetic to the sympathetic reviews. those critical of Levy’s argument feel that she dismisses the way that the third wave has taken media culture and done their best to work from within it, to subvert the culture using its own recognizable signs and symbols. i’m torn about this. on one hand, i don’t know how anyone can claim to stand above culture in order to critique it – we’re all immersed in pop culture all the time, and it’s dishonest to try to look at it from the outside. you can’t. however, it’s also intensely problematic to try to use the master’s tools to dismantle his house. i think that the predominance of “choice” language to describe feminism has been insidiously hurtful in that regard – when you have a woman saying she “chose” to get breast implants “for myself,” because it “made me feel good,” you know something has gone horribly wrong.

the root of the whole problem, i think, is the conflating of sex with power. as far as a patriarchal culture goes, sex is never truly power. sex can be influence, sex can be manipulation, sex can be personal gain, but it’s never cultural power. and for god's sake, don’t trot out Madonna. i'm so tired of hearing about Madonna as feminist icon. Madonna used sex for personal gain, and did it incredibly well – good for her. she controlled her own image and her own little media empire, and made a killing. however, for all of the feminist rhapsodizing about her gender-bending and her role-playing, it didn’t translate into shit. because what did we end up with, 20 years later? Britney.

seriously, don’t even get me started on it. Madonna? owned companies like BoyToy Films and Slutco. Britney? didn’t understand that she didn’t own her BMW, but leased it. Madonna? sang about expressing yourself. Britney? sang about being a slave for you.

this is why sex does not equal cultural power. sex (even the “subversive” kind) can sooooo easily be co-opted by power structures like record labels or movie companies or whomever, and repackaged so as to re-inscribe the underlying patriarchal culture. and you end up with Madonna admitting that she was sleeping in Britney t-shirts because she thought they would bring her luck.

i've said it before, and i'll say it again: a system doesn't reform itself.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

ocean equals cool.

we all know that i'm a big fan of the ocean. i don't need to enumerate as to why that is (maybe some other time in a drunken, rambling, new england nostalgic post). but this, you've got to admit, is another good reason:

Mystery Ocean Glow Confirmed in Satellite Photos

check out the satellite photo too.

science was never my strong suit in school. however, i find stuff like this fascinating. they can't explain it? they think it might be bioluminescent bacteria, but they aren't sure? wowza. i'll be damned if it doesn't make my head hurt in a good way.

if women ran the world, nothing would be different.

not only does lisa jervis co-edit the fun and fantastic Bitch magazine, she apparently also likes to put the smackdown on the ridiculous notion of gender essentialism in her spare time. her article in LiP magazine (found via Roni), entitled "If women ran the world, nothing would be different,” well…it rocks my socks.

here’s the thing that bothers me most about gender essentialist arguments (and/or arguments with an underlying foundation of gender essentialism, regardless of how “go girl” empowering they may appear): it’s just the other side of the same coin. what is the goddamn point of arguing that “no, all women are not like this – all women are like this. and that’s better because of x, y and z.” what a waste of time! as jervis puts it,

But the problem with 'femmenism'[as opposed to feminism]...[is that] it’s founded on gender difference, it retains a strong investment in gender divisions. Not only will we never dismantle gender discrimination as long as gender divisions are philosophically important to feminism, but we’ll end up reproducing the gendered oppression we’re supposedly fighting against.

now we can get into arguments about the realistic nature of trying to overthrow the global corporate capitalist system another day (and don’t think i don’t have my doubts about whether this little feat is possible. che guevara, i am not). i do think, though, that critiques of sexism/racism/classism/etc. that focus only on a single –ism and miss the ways in which all of these “systems of oppression” (god, please forgive me, i have yet to purge all graduate school lingo from my mind) are connected are ultimately doomed and pointless. it’s not enough to have a handful more women as CEOs, or CFOs, or champion golfers, or even U.S. presidents, if we’re not working to change the foundations of the systems that created the inequality in the first place. unrealistic? perhaps. any other real alternatives to create real
change? i’ve yet to hear one.

Monday, October 03, 2005

diamond rings and house hunting.

now don't go getting all excited. BoyCat was not overcome with sentimentality at the lovely wedding of our friends on the cape this weekend, and most certainly did not ask me to join him in holy matrimony and get a little kitty condo together. a pair of single patriarchy-blamers we are still.

however, i do have something to bitch about on both of the above counts. first - diamond rings. now i am not getting into diamonds themselves and the bloodshed and misery that they have caused the world over...and i am not getting into the archaic symbolism of the engagement ring itself as a signifier of patriarchal oppression...and i am certainly NOT getting into how i can't tell the difference between a flawless diamond and a cubic zirconia from wal-mart on my best day. no, no, none of that blather. my particular beef is with those shadowy people behind the "a diamond is forever" campaign. who ARE these people, anyway? i used to think it was de it just says something like "the diamond trading company," or something equally nebulous. a syndicate, i tell you.

anyway. of all the asinine brainfarts that pass as advertising which have come out of this campaign (and i'm counting "design your engagement ring. you have a lifetime to design the perfect husband." here), there is one set of ads that surpass all levels of vomit-inducing stupidity. those ads are the ones for anniversary rings - the ones with the "I Forever Do" tagline.

holy load of motherfrigging nonsense, where do i begin??

the idea, according to the campaign's enlightening website, is that "this anniversary, show her your love is everlasting by saying 'I Forever Do.'" wait....a...minute...isn't that what the first diamond ring was supposed to mean? or perhaps if that one didn't quite take, maybe the wedding rings should have done the trick?? i feel like this ad campaign only appeals to the slowest minds of the male species among us. three, seven, fifteen years into a marriage, the idea finally dawns on them - oh! *smacks forehead* this marriage thing is about commitment! togetherness! foreverness! shit, i better go purchase a compressed piece of coal to give my long-suffering wife so she doesn't divorce me!

i honestly just don't understand. have we, as a society, become that shamelessly shallow about the institution of marriage that we acknowledge publicly that people who get married probably don't totally mean it at the time, and that just staying together for some indiscriminate amount of time afterward makes one worthy of another piece of expensive jewelry (or the honor of spending a month's salary on another piece of expensive jewelry)?

ugh. moving on. i also wanted to talk about the episode of House Hunters that i watched tonight. it was this guy named steve who was 24, a music major about to graduate from college, and had been saving since high school to buy his own place. he had long hair that he slicked back with gel, he wore socks with sandals, and he had a coffee table with the family bible in it. he lived in the dorms his whole time in college, and then bought a condo. when we return three months later to see the results, we learn that steve offsets the high price of the condo (they always buy the one that's "a little above price range," don't they?) by having a "roommate." the roommate's name is terry, he wears fitted gray t-shirts, and he and steve do the dishes very close to each other. BoyCat and I swiftly determined that "roommate" really meant "boy that i have sex with but don't tell anyone because it would make jesus cry."

though never in my life have i met a gay man who wears socks with sandals. so who knows.