Tag Archives: bigotry

90 Gleeking Minutes

27 Apr

I’ve been meaning to post something here since I started doing my final papers. Nothing like reading immigration policy to get a person riled up and ready to post some angsty self righteous bloggage. I’m sure as I continue to pursue research about immigration and the U.S. Southwest, the blogs will just appear.

Today, however, I have been inspired. Again, it is Glee that inspires e with its inability to 1) create more than once consecutive episode worth the pure awesome and camp that was the first season and 2) more importantly recognize its embodiment of so many -isms it could make your head spin.

If you recall, last week I talked about Mercedes’ lack of solos (which didn’t change this week) and the institutional structures that these inter-Glee inequalities reify. I talked about the complete disavawal of any real discussion of race and fatphobia on the show, the two things that my friends and I argue are the real causes of Mercedes’ lack of solo time.

This week, Glee decided to hit it head on with all of its problematic language and subject matter. Usually, I am content to watch Glee through my feminist pop culture lens of critical analysis, aware of the stereotypes and tropes that the show maintains, because of the other great things it tries to do. Also, the music. Did I mention I have almost every song they’ve ever released? It’s an obsession that I own, kind of like my obsession with Ke$ha. Anyway, certain plotlines, like Kurt’s relationship with his family, Quinn’s struggle with teenage pregnancy from the first season, and Zizes’ character growth as a confident, sexual, fat female high schooler have also kept me hooked. (Not to mention Blurt. I think they may be my favorite couple ever. I loved Darren Criss when he was in A Very Potter Musical, and I fully own my objectification of him as a really really sexy object whenever he starts to croon on screen.) My weekly Glee watchings have also turned into somewhat of a ritual. Last year, they involved the friends that I had known since my freshman year of college, and watching Glee was a part of our senior year experience as friends. This year, my Glee watching group consists of many new friends that I’ve made in my WGS graduate program up here in New Jersey. Glee has become part of my life. Tuesday is a very important day in my week.

That is why it is so hard for me to write this post. In consideration of my love for the show, I’ve decided to write it a letter to tell it how it hurt my feelings, and why I’m mad. After all, communication is key to a lasting relationship.

Dear Glee,

I didn’t watch your pilot episode when it aired way back in May 2009. I was a latecomer, who saw the previews for the rest of the season starting that fall and quickly searched the illegal TV websites to find the pilot so I could understand what all the fuss was about. When the five misfits who made up the original New Directions came together and sang “Don’t Stop Believing,” I felt my heart leap with joy. I reserved a lounge on campus so my friends and I could watch the premiere in surround sound on the big screen in Student Life, and the rest is history.

I, along with millions of other viewers, became one of Rachel’s biggest fans. I knew that she was a well-meaning outcast whose eccentricities and neurosis were the result of having parents who encouraged her to be a star and classmates who ridiculed her on a daily basis. It’s hard to be your only cheerleader. I wanted Rachel and Finn to be together, even after the baby daddy drama started. The Madonna episode rocked my world as Tina found her feminist voice, and I truly started to appreciate Santana after she kicked ass singing Gaga. When Jesse St. James cracked that egg on Rachel’s head, he was also cracking my heart.

The first season was not without issues, but something about it just worked. The plots weren’t ever too deep, and many of the subplots changed and fell out of the story arc from one episode to the next, but something about the genuine exuberance and campy nature of the story warmed my heart.

This season, you haven’t been nearly as kind to me. The first few episodes were really just vehicles for iTunes tracks, and some of the most important stories from the first season (remember when Quinn had all that baby mama angst, and was pregnant, and stuff?) were completely scrapped or forgotten. Rachel had suddenly turned from the well-meaning but self-centered girl who’s only best friend is herself to an annoying, selfish, meddling child. (Sending Sunshine to a crackhouse? Really? Really?). A few bright spots in this season are the character growth of both Britney (thank God for those one liners) and Mike Chang (I am so glad you’re giving him more dance time!), and the exploration of Santana’s sexuality, along with the aforementioned amazing that is Blurt. It wasn’t until Blaine came into my life that I truly found my love for Glee again.

But this episode tonight, Glee, really crossed a line. You know that a large portion of your viewers identify in some way with the characters on your show. You draw us in by trying to portray the lives of marginalized teens with some intention of truth. Many of your viewers are progressives, who are ecstatic to see portrayals of certain characters, like Zizes, because in many ways they push acceptable boundaries. You must know that we’re out here, right? You know that I’m liberal, and you know that I love you, so why did you insist on raining tons of ableist, misogynist, racist, sizeist, fatphobic and sexist language on me tonight?

I was so thoroughly looking forward to your 90 minute episode, Glee! I thought it would be like the Madonna and Gaga episodes of the first season, or the Rocky Horror episode from the fall: high production value and awesome songs, and the chance of real plot development! You complete disappointed me. Within the first thirty minutes of the show, I was already fed up. Let me show you exactly where you went wrong, because I know you can’t read my mind, and if this is going to work, I have to tell you what I need from you as a TV show.

Firstly: the interaction between Zizes and Quinn. Though the concept of bringing depth to Quinn’s character by turning her into a self-hating was once less skinny person could be kind of interesting (if it hadn’t already been done better by Saved), it was completely unnecessary. Not only that, but its discovery involved a ridiculous amount of sizest language (“squeeze that tiara onto your head,” just for starters) and fatphobic actions on the part of Quinn. The resolution of the plot, where the three other fat girls wearing matching outfits celebrate Quinn as “one of the people” because she used to be fat but she “overcame” that obstacle, is even more troubling. If the answer to Quinn’s self-esteem issues as a chubby girl in middle school only came through a nose job and endless dieting, is that the kind of “overcoming” that these girls should be aspiring to? Plus, the sudden appearance of a backstory where Quinn transfered in eighth grade and her father (at that point, not estranged due to her teenage pregnancy) bought her a nose job didn’t fit her character at all. It felt completely forced, like there had to be something that Quinn was struggling with (but not, of course, the fact that she gave birth less than a year ago, that her parents got divorced, or that her treatment as a pregnant teen might have changed her perspective as a high schooler), so they created the “skinny girl used to be ugly! and fat! and with glasses!” plot. The amount of problematic sizeist and fatphobic dialogue surrounding this plotline made me incredibly uncomfortable. This was so disappointing following your inclusion of an awesome mash-up of “I Feel Pretty” and “Unpretty” at the beginning of the episode.

Further, I have had it up to HERE with your Mr. Schuster. I’ll admit, when he first danced onto the scene, sporting the best vest collection ever assembled, my heart would beat faster everytime you let him rap. His relationship with Emma’s OCD, however, has forever spoiled my love for his butt chined, jerry curled, nineties hip hop rocking character. I cannot, and will not sit through another scene where he, from his condescending perch of “normalcy,” derides her for not being able to overcome her obsessive compulsive disorder. Sometimes it is confusing, because he seems to accept that it is a serious mental illness that has a large impact on her life, and that kind of framing usually comes with a more holistic and progressive understanding of the person’s relationship with OCD. This is not the case for Schuster. Tonight was the icing on the cake. I could not believe my ears when he told her that everyone “puts up” with her mental illness because she is still able to function (SHOCK!) and because she is “so cute about it,” but that it was time for her to take control. Then, as the answer to her OCD that has plagued her throughout her life, he just pulls out some unwashed produce from the grocery store. Firstly, I do not have OCD and I certainly would not touch fruit that had not at least been rinsed (if not washed with fruit and veggie cleanser or spun in a lettuce spinner). Second, the arrogance implicit in his assumption that she should just be able to eat this unwashed food and be cured because he thought to bring it (when she obviously had never thought to try to do things any other way than through the rituals associated with her experience of OCD, because how could she ever think to do that without some man’s help?) was completely horrifying. The language he used (mentioned above) made me so seethingly angry, because he managed to be sexist, patronizing, and ableist all in the same breath. The statements of Emma’s counselor later, and the attempt to show her struggle to process OCD’s effects on her life, show promise for better treatment of her mental illness as the show progresses, but unless that change also includes someone telling Schuster that he has far more to be ashamed of than a butt chin, I may just have to give up on you altogether.

Through all of our ups and downs, the idea of you still brings a spring to my step and a burst of happiness to my heart. This has become tempered, recently, by a string of ever more pronounced experiences where you continue to at best ignore and at worst, as seen in today’s episode, reproduce a whole spectrum of -isms in the plot, dialogue, and character development of your show.

I’ve invested so much time in us. You have become a part of my life, a bright spot in my week, a reward for finishing final papers, a social ritual for me and my closest friends. You are so much a part of my daily life, that it would make me very sad to see you go. That said, everyone has deal breakers. My mom taught me that. I can’t stand, or sit, by and consume you as you continue to represent ways of seeing the world that do not jive with, and in some cases are in complete opposition to, mine.

I truly hope we can work this out. See you next week,

Me

Well, that turned out far longer than I meant it to. Its time for sleep, and study in the morning.

In Solidarity and Glee-induced frustration,

G

Well, Mercedes, in answer to your question…

20 Apr

Today I was watching one of my favorite shows, Glee, with some of my favorite feminist peeps (as per usual on a Tuesday). I am fully aware of the issues many feminists and activists have with the show, and bitch magazine has done a great job of complementing my fanatic consumption of all things Glee with their fierce feminist criticism, and I am ever so grateful for this.

This post is not going to be all too long, I don’t think, because I just want to comment really quickly on a clip from tonight. Too bad I can’t find it online yet. The basic gist of it is (and I don’t think this is too much of a spoiler if you didn’t see tonight’s episode, but in case you’re worried, wait until you watch it) that Mercedes and Rachel are in a car talking about solos, divas, and R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I’m going to have to ad-lib a bit, but the conversation basically the scene from Glee went like this:

Mercedes: Why don’t I get as many solos as you do?

Rachel: Blah blah blah its about how much you want it blah blah blah you have to demand respect blah.

I have to admit I’m not entirely sure what Rachel said here, because my commentary with my friends was happening over her little speech about how she wants to be in the spotlight more than anything else in the world as an explanation of why she gets more solos than Mercedes.

Here is what happened in my living room:

Mercedes: Why don’t I get as many solos as you do?

Me: Institutionalized racism

Aimee: Fatphobia

Alex: I love you guys

[Insert high five of feminist critical analysis here]

This is the thing. I realize that Glee is “just a show” and that the characters exist within a fictional universe where the realities of our culture don’t necessarily have to exist. However. The people who are writing the show are living in our society, writing about life in high school in our society, and pandering to entertainment executives and a consumer population deeply embedded and implicated in our society. The characters of Glee, like us, sit at the crossroads of many social institutions and structures, constructions of identity and subjectivities. This is why I had to cut Rachel off. (Well, as much as I could without muting Glee, because that would be blasphemous.)

Mercedes does not get as many solos as Rachel because she is a) a woman who is b) black and c) fat and not ashamed (and yes, I am including the episode where she experiments with dieting and experiences body insecurity because all of our experiences with our bodies are nuanced and full of shades of gray). Unlike Lauren Zizes (or just “Zizes,” as she is known on the show), who has been allowed to have a sexuality and a relationship with a popular, attractive football player, Mercedes has also not had any romantic entanglements beyond a crush on Kurt, her gay friend, and a fleeting conversation with a  random guy who only appears in one or two episodes after Kurt suggests she pursue him (she responds, at first, and for good reason, “Is it just because he’s black?”). I would suggest that part of this is because Zizes was already posited as a deviant female character in one of the first episodes (as the female wrestler who broke gender boundaries at McKinley High), and performs a deviant form of feminine sexuality (forward, confident, aggressive, body positive). Zizes is also white, and her identity as fat has been central to her character development.

Mercedes is supposed to exist outside of her size (now that she’s no longer trying to be a Cheerio) and outside of her race (except for passing comments like Kurt’s “I’m gay, she’s black, we make culture.”), so those cannot be reasons she doesn’t receive the same opportunities for solos as Rachel (thin, neurotic, Jewish). But, if we’re looking at Glee through a feminist lens that demands a position at the intersections, we have to call that out.

Rachel’s suggestion that Mercedes just doesn’t want it enough, or has too many other interests in her life other than the “spotlight,” puts the blame on Mercedes instead of a Glee club that reflects certain racist and sizeist aspects of patriarchal culture. I couldn’t help but hear the echoes of arguments about minorities’ ability to gain employment, succeed in school, and escape the “cycle of poverty” and the welfare system. If only these populations would try harder, and really want it, they, too could occupy the place in society they desire. These arguments not only deny but render invisible considerations of race, class, and other factors in access and opportunity in our society. There are structural mechanisms of oppression that allow certain people, more reflective of the hegemonic masculine ideal, access to opportunities (or solos) while keeping others, quite literally Othered, in their hierarchical place.

Phew.

By the way, I still love Glee. Have you seen this new Warblers CD?!

Love and Solidarity,

G

who doesn’t like adele? the point of tumblr, and other thoughts.

18 Apr

So basically, Alyssa is the goddess of all things social and networked, except not that movie because she’s too cool for that, and so now she has me on tumblr. It isn’t her fault, she’s just never set a trend I didn’t want to follow. If you are interested, which you don’t have to be, you can check it out. feminismisprettycool.tumblr.com 

As for the big, “but what IS tumblr” question, I still don’t really have an answer, except its kind of like posting links to things on facebook, maybe? Or like a blog without the necessity of putting words there. I feel like it’s especially useful for those who have many internet interests and like to share them. I tried to give mine  theme, so I’d spend more time focusing my internet browsing on feminist things, and I’d say that has worked about 50% of the time, all the time.

Adele. I feel like there should be some little twittering birds flying out of something vintage an iridescent whenever I say her name or think of her music. She is just so fabulous. Her voice is amazing, her songs cut right to the core of the experience of life and love, and I just want to listen to 21 on loop all day, every day. Yes, she has replaced Ke$ha. (In my earbuds, but not in my heart.) I’ll just throw the one AMAZING, FANTASTIC, MINDBLOWING live performance up here and if that doesn’t convinced you (as if you needed convincing) I am pretty sure we can’t be friends anymore.

Now on to a topic de rigueur. Microaggressions. Everyone is talking about them. The folks at the Rutgers Vagina Monologues were talking about them, bitch is blogging about them, so is feministing, and there’s even a (you guessed it!) tumblr devoted to them. Really, the tumblr started it all (as you’ll see if you check on the blogs on bitch and feministing). What is a microaggression, you might ask?

“Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” (From “Microaggressions in Everyday Life” by Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., and David Rivera, M.S.)

I also think the microaggressions tumblr puts it pretty succinctly:

“Power, privilege, and everyday life.”

Originally, microaggressions were used to describe a specifically racialized experience. Through the tumblr, the creators seek to expand this understanding to include all experiences of microaggressions, whether they deal with race, gender, class, ability, or any other identity or status. Our everyday lived experiences are rife with examples, and when we bring them up, we are all too often met with admonishments about taking things “too seriously.” What is great about the work of all of these people are doing to bring microaggressions to the forefront is that it frees us from our self-doubt: we are not taking something “too seriously,” it is serious. We get so entangled in the requisite laughter that is supposed to meet these incidents, it becomes impossible to call anyone out, much less to address the real feelings we may have in response to them and the serious societal consequences of letting them slide.

I am going to give an example of an interaction from my life. It happened before I learned about the term, and my indignance took a few days of simmering in the back of my brain to find a voice, but after hearing about microaggressions I realize this is tied up in all of it. The example may at first seem kind of roundabout, but bear with me. Okie doke?

A friend of mine was commenting on my inability to take racist and sexist jokes, which was keeping me from socializing with a specific group of people who, I am sure, are completely fine in general, but I am no longer at the point in my life where I can laugh racism and sexism off and continue to have a good time. I’m sure some of you understand where I’m coming from. Our conversation continued, and eventually came to this point:

“You just have to laugh it off. Like, when I am walking down the street at night and a white lady clutches her purse and looks all scared, it just makes me laugh. You know?”

For purely contextual purposes, I think its important to mention that my friend is a young black man. Other than the fact that my feminism makes it difficult for me to not take any prejudice seriously, I couldn’t find the words to explain to my friend in that moment why his words were so unsettling. The next day, the thoughts popped into my head, like some little hidden social justice debater part of my brain had been mulling it over without my knowledge all night: It frustrated me, because it just wasn’t funny. Young black men have statistically higher chances of going to prison, and when trying to find employment, young black men with no criminal record are less likely to get a job than their white counterparts who do have criminal records. An expectation of violence breeds higher rates of conviction and incarceration, and lower levels of employment, and higher levels of poverty. That woman who walked by him at night and clutched her purse is endemic of a larger societal prejudice that has real impacts on the lived experiences of people. This  is why microaggressions matter.

I’m really happy they’re getting some attention, and I hope this becomes a word as well-worn as “intersectionality” in our feminist and general circles in life.

I really need to get off this damn computer and sleep, I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to start blogging at one in the morning and I completely and totally blame my friend Kendra, but I have one more little teeny tiny thing to add. Remember when I wrote that really, really angry (and rightfully so) post about cat calling and street harassment? You might recall it from last semester. Anywho, I almost jumped for joy when I found out that Mandy Van Deven, one of the authors of Hey Shorty! A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets (on sale from the awesome feminist press) and all around badass, is doing a short blog series on street harassment for bitch! I am so. freaking. excited.

Until next time…

-G

 

 

 

 

 

So you want to be “pro-life”

20 Feb

Do you?

I need to throw this disclaimer out there to anyone who is reading this: I am so, incredibly, totally pissed.

When I was in high school, my friends and I decided to do a history fair project on Roe v. Wade. Up until that day, I had very specific beliefs about abortion. I was a practicing Methodist who was very involved in the church, and that had a lot to do with it. Plus, I was a little self-righteous middle class white teenage girl who thought she knew absolutely everything. I believed that abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest, or medical necessity, because I honestly believed that you should only have sex if you were ready to deal with the consequences. Obviously, I didn’t get out much. Then we went and interviewed Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade, and my entire perspective on abortion changed.

The truth, that I did not honestly know, is that before abortion was legal, women got abortions anyways. And they didn’t always survive. The OB/GYNs and the emergency room physicians told Weddington that women showed up at hospitals every day infected, hurting, and dying from illegal abortions. Some illegal abortion providers sexually assaulted the women they came to help. Some women took pills full of toxic chemicals, or shoved knitting needles and hangars up their vaginas in order to end their pregnancies. Some women, like a girl named Sophie that Sarah told us about, were able to procure safe illegal abortions, but then, because those providing them were not always trained doctors, were given false and misleading aftercare information that led to infections and, in Sophie’s case, death. After learning the lengths that women would go to, even my relatively conservative Christian morals could not stand in the way of my concern for women’s lives.

Now, my opinions have changed. I do not believe that anyone should be denied the right to any family planning services, including abortion. I am a self-identifying sex positive pro-choice feminist, and I would not have it any other way. I don’t think sex is just for procreation. If it was, relationships, and life, would be much less fun. Also, I don’t believe that abortion has to be a life-altering decision, or one that is emotionally devastating. I validate and affirm all experiences of women who have abortions, and I have no expectations of how they will or should feel. It is their own personal decision, and that is how it should stay.

Since the conservative Republican majority has taken over, there have been multiple assaults at state and national levels against women’s rights to choose. Of course, these assaults, especially the recent vote in the house to defund Title X and, therefore, Planned Parenthood, are not only on abortion services. It is a valid point to bring up the plethora of other services that Planned Parenthood provides in cities across the country to the poorer citizens in those communities. These include HIV testing, breast cancer screenings, and annual pap smears, to name only a small few. You can check out the Planned Parenthood website for more information on the wide variety of reproductive health services they provide.

But, you know what? There is a reason that none of the republicans are standing up in Congress saying, “We don’t want to fund breast cancer screenings!” You want to know why? Because this is not about all of those other services. This is specifically about abortion. So I’m taking them to the mat. I refuse to tip toe around this issue. I believe it is my right to have access to safe and legal abortions and to have health insurance that allows me to pay for them, whether that is private or state funded. I don’t care if you are Catholic or some other form of conservative and you think that this little sack of cells is more important than my life and my decisions. I simply don’t care. I will not force you to abort your fetus or to take birth control if those don’t fit into your life plans, so why do you feel that you have the right to make those decisions for my life? The thing is, you don’t. And for far too long we have been too afraid of the controversy to come out and say these kinds of things. We have hidden behind things like Obama’s statment, “No-one is pro-abortion,” and arguments that shy away from coming face to face with the anti-choice rhetoric that focuses on the rights of the fetus. So here I am, telling all of you anti-choicers out there, I am pro-abortion. I am pro women having access to every level of family planning that allows them to live their lives as they see fit. Further, I believe that women have the capacity to make that choice. Yes, all women. I am not going to take back that statement. For too long we have let things like 24 hour waiting policies and mandatory sonograms slide because we are afraid of the public reaction to our views. I am not afraid anymore. I can see that the writing is, in fact, on the wall and that they anti-life people have left behind any attempts they ever made to be objective. If they aren’t being objective, why do I have to be? Your policies don’t have anything to do with protecting women. As a matter of fact, they put women at risk. By limiting the funding available for places like Planned Parenthood and the ability of women with health insurance through the government to have their abortions covered, the women who are most directly impacted are already poor. Do you really think the best idea is to force, through your legislation that implies that you do not trust women’s abilities to make this decision, these women to have an even greater financial burden? Why is a fetus so much more important than a child? I don’t see you rushing out to implement national child care. As soon as that fetus hits air and becomes a living, breathing, being, your lobbying no longer protects her. The idea of a 24 hour waiting period is offensive and preposterous. Are you implying that the woman making this decision didn’t already spend 24 hours thinking about this decision? Further, you assume that all women have the ability to take 24 hours after getting to a clinic to wait to have an abortion. Again, this puts the burden on poor women and women in rural areas; two realities that all too often coincide.

I respect your right to make decisions regarding your own body, but my respect stops there.

When I called my father on Friday in a tizzy because the House had just passed the bill to defund Title X, he told me that it was “just politics” and that people had “voted for these representatives.” This was infuriating for multiple reasons. I did not vote for any of these people, which was the first. Second, this is not just politics. None of this is “just politics.” Politics are never “just politics.” I also had this feeling that I could not articulate at the time, that if he had a uterus, he would not have been telling me to calm down. “Entitlement programs,” he told me, “are always the first to go.” Maybe that is the recent historical reality, but that doesn’t mean I have to let it happen without a fight.

I am throwing down the gauntlet and pointing the blame at everyone who voted in this conservative House. Hopefully the Senate will stop this bill. I already called the offices of both of my senators and have their aids a piece of my mind. But, just because the bill stops doesn’t mean the fight is over. This passing in the House should be a wake-up call to everyone who has been blissfully unaware of the precarity of our rights to reproductive justice in this country. It isn’t time to sit back and watch politics play out, like my father suggested. It’s time to take notice and demand that the voices of a few self-righteous fundamentalist Christians aren’t the only ones being heard.

Be on the lookout for deeper policy analysis coming out of this blog in the next few weeks.

There is a rally in NYC at Foley Square on the 26th of February in support of Planned Parenthood and against all of this ridiculous anti-choice legislation. It is from 1-3. You should be there.

-me

What! It’s Blog For Choice Day! You don’t say!

21 Jan

i like blogging. i like choice. way to go, NARAL, putting them together!

Well, hello y’all! All righty. Let’s just dive in, shall we? Today is Blog for Choice Day, as feministing.com alerted me in the fleeting last minutes of my afternoon at work. “But, why today?” you might ask, and that is a relatively understandable question. Tomorrow is the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, lovely readers, and that is why today is BFCD.

I know, I know, the a-word isn’t something people generally bring up in polite company, but let’s be frank. I stopped paying attention to socially-enforced norms of politeness about three years ago, and so far so good. I do acknowledge the complexity of this issue, but only culturally. Let me explain. In other developed countries, and in the time before Roe v. Wade, abortion was not the a-word. It’s just something women sometimes have to do, and that is how it was treated. (For first-hand accounts of this, you should definitely check out Jennifer Baumgardner’s work in I Had An Abortion, also available in book form and as a t-shirt). For a fictional, but still incredibly honest, look at abortion across generations, you can check out Cher’s incredible film If These Walls Could Talk. (Just be sure you have a hanky, because the three main characters are making incredibly difficult life decisions.) My point is that in the contemporary American political landscape, the movement many refer to as “pro-life” (but I prefer to call “anti-choice”) wasn’t organized and visible in the way we see it now until after Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973. So, I accept that our political landscape has created a controversial topic out of what was, once, just something women sometimes had to do, and in observance of that I acknowledge that some readers will still see this topic as something incredibly polarizing and about everything but the everyday realities of women’s lives and their ability to make decisions about their bodies.

See, this is the part of the conversation that gets lost in the rapid-fire political arena, where talking heads try to address philosophical, political, and economic issues about abortion while completely silencing the voices of the women who are actually experiencing the reality of abortion in their lives. Why is that, I wonder? I hate to fall back on the “damn the patriarchy!” trope, but when something that is, at its base, a question of the ability of women to make their own choices about their bodies, doesn’t the “damn the patriarchy!” argument seem to hold a little more water?

I know many people who are personally “pro-life” because of their own experiences and history or because of religious beliefs, and I encourage them to have their own opinions and to make their own decisions about their lives. Just because I have the right to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that I will do it if it is in opposition to my own beliefs. However, in a country as multifaceted and varied as ours, attempting to change women’s access to abortion based on the conservative religious views of only one group of people seems completely irresponsible, wrong, and morally imperialist.

Are any of you familiar with this symbol?

no more coat hangers!

If yes, then you already know the answer to my “what do you think it means?” question. Some people are familiar enough with it to know it has something to do with the women’s movement. Others are so far removed from the realities that caused this to become a symbol they have made such assumptions as, “what do they have against wire hangers?” Here’s the skinny, folks. When abortion was not legal, women had them anyway. To assume that just by reducing access through legislation one will stop women from having abortions completely disregards the reality of women before Roe v. Wade was passed. Women were having unhygienic operations, sometimes on their kitchen tables, meeting men who did, on occasion, assault them as part of the procedure in order to procure abortions. One self-remedy, along with dangerous and life-threatening herbal remedies, was to use a wire hanger. I’ll leave it to you to determine how that worked. Just think about it for a second, it will come to you. Women were coming into emergency wings at hospitals daily, suffering from infections and other complications due to the unsanitary and unregulated nature of abortion pre-Roe. Women were, quite literally, dying to have abortions. This is in America, a “developed” nation, and only forty years ago.

After W made nominations to the Supreme Court, the concept of overturning Roe v. Wade received a lot of airtime, both from pro- and anti- choice camps. Jennifer Baumgardner makes an incredibly astute observation, as she points out that a country without legal access to abortion would not be all that different from the reality of many women today. There has been so much legislation passed to reduce access to abortion services, and the political climate in many states has reduced clinics providing the procedure to, in some cases, only one in the entire state. This, combined with such policies as the 24-hour waiting period, creates what adds up to be, realistically, a country where women do not have access to abortions.

There is a new law that the GOP plans to bring into the House in the new session, HR-3, or the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” Not only do I find this preposterous and offensive, but I’m also a little confused about the idea that we can choose where our tax dollars go according to our own religious and moral beliefs. For example, can I, a crazy feminazi, earmark all of my taxes to only support abortion services and comprehensive sex education? I also wonder how the GOP would feel about a “No Taxpayer Funding for War Act,” which I think would receive just as much moral support, though perhaps, since it isn’t just effecting a “special interest group,” people would find it less realistic.

I realize this post may have been a little all over the place, but it was my attempt at blogging for choice. I am a firm believer that women are fully capable of making decisions, even ones as heavy as accepting, and using, our control as the ones with the uteri over life. I don’t think that this decision is necessarily an easy one, but I also do not find fault with the women for whom it was not difficult. Abortion is a personal, not public, decision, as ruled by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, and I regard it as such. I do not believe in limiting access to or funding for abortion, because history has shown us how dire the consequences can be. I would never, ever force someone to abort their fetus, but I demand that same respect should I or anyone else decide not to carry that little sack of cells to term. I am pro-choice, and I’m proud to be.

In Sisterhood and Solidarity,

me

What does it mean to be a gender scholar?

5 Oct

So, today we’re having this conversation in class. If you aren’t living under a rock somewhere, you’ve heard about the young man who killed himself who was a student at Rutgers. And we are all gender scholars and feminists, and so we decide to have this conversation because it’s what we do. I understand the need for catharsis, and I understand the desire to make a difference. That’s why we’re gender scholars and not something else, because we really, really give a shit. But sometimes I can’t help but feel like the conversations are fruitless, because change happens slowly, and we’re already doing everything we can and should be doing in our daily lives to advance that change. But you know what? I figured it couldn’t hurt to send this out into the internet space: my thoughts on the student’s passing, and how you can change your life to make a bigger change in society.

I don’t understand when people say they are totally shocked by what happened. That they don’t understand how an 18 year old kid could do something like that. I do. We live in a society that gay bashes all the time. Homophobia is not only condoned, it is embraced through language, laws, media, and all aspects of culture. People are so quick to point the finger at technology, at bad parenting, when this is a result of our discriminatory and bigoted society. I absolutely think that the roomate, his friend, and everyone who followed him on facebook or twitter is responsible for the suicide of the student in some part, because they made a choice to act in a hateful way that was purposeful and malevolent. I think they should be punished, and that state, federal, and university laws should be changed to incorporate all hate crimes as criminal offenses. I hope that this encourages universities to create more supportive environments for all students, and reinforces our understanding of the classroom as not only an academic tool but also a social one, that can be used to expand the narrow and ignorant mindsets of so many of our students and citizens. I also hope that this creates an even more visible international community of LGBTQI people and their allies, so that no one ever feels so alone that they would kill themselves. I see movements, like it gets better, and I am reminded that all people have the capacity to be community organizers if they find an issue important enough to them. I also think that we have a responsibility to address this in our everyday lives. If we consider ourselves allies to this movement, or members of it (and are comfortably and safely ‘out’), we should take at least a moment in the coming weeks to publicly denounce homophobia everywhere, and to use our influence, whatever that influence is, to push for change. Every person has the capacity to organize and to create the kind of society they want to live in. First, we have to make ourselves into the conscious embodiment of what we seek, in this case, a society without bigotry and homophobia. Then we should live that out in a public way, so that the people we interact with will also hear the message. That’s how change happens, and that is necessary.

I like to think about all of the things I can do today that women couldn’t do ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred years ago. It helps to solidify my belief in the possibility of positive social change. I think that if we can see ourselves as part of a global movement to create similar change along LGBTQI issues, it can get easier to believe that our actions today will make the world better tomorrow. Until then, if you feel so inclined, make a video and send it in to the it gets better project on youtube, put a GLSEN, GLAAD, or Human Rights Campaign sticker or logo on your locker, car, or office door so people know that you are an ally and an open ear. Or do something else that feels genuine to you as a part of the struggle. If we all start working in these seemingly small ways, change is inevitable.

-me