Friday, April 30, 2010

So Sexy Too Soon

I don’t think I knew, outside the realm of those beauty pageants for little girls, that 8-year-olds wore mascara. Not only does this phenomenon exist, according to a NYT article, but
From 2007 to 2009, the percentage of girls ages 8 to 12 who regularly use mascara and eyeliner nearly doubled — to 18 percent from 10 percent for mascara, and to 15 percent from 9 percent for eyeliner. The percentage of them using lipstick also rose, to 15 percent from 10 percent.

We’re* prepping them earlier and earlier, with the assistance of the beauty industry, for conforming to notions of “beauty” and “femininity,” for life as the objects of the heterosexual male gaze.

From the article:
"There’s relentless marketing pressure on young girls to look older,” Ms. [Stacy] Malkan said. “Not just from magazines and TV ads, but from shows like ‘90210.’ Those kids are supposed to be in 10th and 11th grade, but they look 25.”

Indeed, the aisles of Sephora and CVS are lined with cosmetics aimed at Miley Cyrus fans. Fashion runways teem with heavily made-up girls of 14. Neutrogena offers a line of acne-clearing makeup featured on the “Neutrogena Teen” section of its Web site. Even Dylan’s Candy Bar, the upscale candy store whose Upper East Side flagship has become a tourist attraction, has a “beauty” line that includes cupcake body lotion and strawberry licorice “lip saver.” (“Lips should always be candy-luscious and sweet to kiss!” reads the Web site.)

Others have documented this ongoing sexualization of young girls. In speaking of her book, Girl Culture, Lauren Greenfield notes the “the exhibitionist nature of modern femininity.” Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne explore the role of gendered and sexualized marketing on young girls in So Sexy, So Soon. They tell a story of 7- and 8-year-old girls who feel they must be sexy so boys will like them and are upset that their parents won’t buy them sexy clothes. Levin and Kilbourne describe the messages transmitted over and over to young girls
In today’s cultural environment, products that channel children into narrowly focused content and activities threaten to consume every aspect of their lives. For young girls, this usually means focusing on buying fashion items, looking pretty, and acting sexy. From newfangled Barbies and sexy Bratz dolls to “old-fashioned” princess fairy tales, young girls… learn to value a certain aesthetic and a certain behavior—be pretty, be coy, and… be saved in the end by the handsome prince. [T]hese gender stereotypes and sexualized messages are everywhere. **

They are everywhere and apparently they are effective.

The author of the NYT article says that some young girls might be “sophisticated enough to make… their own beauty decisions.” He points to an 11-year old who denied trying to emulate anyone by wearing makeup; “I try to make myself look like me,” she said.

That immediately reminded me of a scene from Good Hair when Chris Rock tries to go into a hair supply store and sell “black” hair to the store owner who stocks primarily Indian hair. Black women, the store owner tells him, don’t want “black” hair, because they want to look more “natural.” You can see that scene beginning around the 2:09 second mark in the trailer below.

All of that leads me to wonder why looking “natural” is never equivalent to being "natural" (i.e. without artifice) for women. Instead, “natural” is constructed as the outcome of subjecting our bodies, head to toe, to various processes.

As girls began these processes at younger and younger ages, what will be the effect on their physical and mental well-being?
*The article says that 2/3 of the girls surveyed reported getting makeup and makeup techniques from a “family member or adult family friend.”

**Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne, So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids (New York: Ballantine Books, 2009), 30; 32-33.

Fomenting the Mommy Wars

Or maybe the mommy/non-mommy wars, as for some people, motherhood seems to be the only reference for women's identity.

So, Luisita Lopez Torregrosa wrote an article entitled "Childless by Choice," in which she discusses her decision not to have children or get married, how she enjoys her life, and how she's felt distance grow between her married, "child-filled" friends and herself. In other words, she's describing her life.

I didn't like the blanket statement here:
Take women with children, especially with young children. They get together -- at the park, at the grocery, at play dates – and can talk about nothing else but their beautiful, brilliant, amazing children.
When I did manage to get with my girlfriends when my kid was small, the last thing we wanted to talk about was the kids. We wanted mixed drinks and a break. I didn't like the generalization, but I don't doubt for a minute that might be her experience and again, she's describing her life.

Which should be just fine, right?

Wrong! The AOL lede/link to the story is "Woman's Column May Anger Moms."* Because all moms decide other women's lives must be read through and judged by moms' experiences and because we get blazingly angry that all women don't make the same choices.

Or something.
*Sorry, y'all, wanted to provide a screen capture, but my en-virus laptop is not cooperating. As of right now you can go here, and click to page 5 of 9 in the little lead stories box to see the link.

Breaking News!!! OMG! WTF??? XYZ!

Brace yourselves...

Joe Arpaio arrests 'very few' non-Hispanics.

Shocking, right?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sweep Around

Every Saturday morning, Mama used to throw open the doors to our little house, turn on her stereo, and start cleaning. One of the songs we listened to over and over included the line, "Sweep around your own front door, before you try to sweep around mine." I thought the song was really about cleaning for the longest time.

I share that little anecdote to say, my horror with Arizona might need to extend to areas a little closer to home (Texas). From the AP:
[Republican Rep. Debbie Riddle of Tomball, TX] says she plans to push for a law similar to Arizona's get-tough immigration measure.


Riddle says if the federal government did its job "Arizona wouldn't have to take this action, and neither would Texas."

Apparently, she has at least one person of like mind in the state legislature:
[State Rep. Leo] Berman... plans a broad bill similar to the Arizona law, which makes being an undocumented worker a crime. He specifically wants to include the measure to allow law enforcement officials to ask people who they believe may be in the country illegally about their status.

Berman is also enamored of the Arizona bill that will require President Obama to prove that he was born in the U.S. or risk being left off the ballot in 2012:
Berman said he's planning several bills, including one that would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to prove their citizenship to the Texas Secretary of State before their names can be put on the ballot. The Arizona law requires presidential candidates to produce birth certificates.

"We'll do it," said Berman, R-Tyler, and a former Arlington mayor pro tem. "We'll do it from now on. If he can't prove citizenship ... he won't have a place on the Texas ballot."

As if he ever could "prove" citizenship to their satisfaction.

I hope this shit doesn't get off the ground here.

Support BFP’s Computer Fundraiser!

Via ProblemChylde:

Brownfemipower is one of my favorite bloggers and people on the internet. She is brilliant, open, and her sense of humor is out of this world. Plus we share a deep, unabashed love for Salma Hayek’s tetas.

In order for her to stay on the internet and spread her flip flopping joy far and wee, she needs to upgrade her computer. She wants to blog and write in style, and she has selected the Apple MacBook Pro as her goal computer. As a die-hard Apple fan I am proud of her choice; but we all know Apples do not run cheap.

From now until June 23, Miss BFP is fundraising for her new machine. She has a donation/gift scenario similar to that of a PBS telethon, and the goodies are just as rewarding:

Every person who donates will receive a gift!

For those who donate between:

$5-25: You will get a personalized thank you note from yours truly!

$26-50: You will get the personalized thank you note and a newly published zine!

$51-100: You will get the personalized thank you note, and two newly published zines!

Over $100: You will get the personalized thank you note, two newly published zines, and a surprise gift (I will tell you once you order–I only have certain quantities of each, so I don’t want to list them online!).

The bad news: Because this computer breaking down has taken me by surprise, I am only in the planning stages for the zines. So it will be up to two months before those of you who order zines will get them. So that you know what stage I am at making the zines, I will be documenting the process I go through to make them here on the blog. This has the added bonus of hopefully helping other people–so many people I know have expressed interest in making zines, but have also expressed not having any damn clue how to.

Not only can you get a treat, you also get a lesson wrapped around the treat. That’s what I call a great exchange. You can’t place a price on learning… but in this case, let’s give it a shot!

Please head over to her blog and give what you can. She has a Chip In donation badge on her sidebar. Keep my friend doing the great work she’s known for!

She's a little over half way there! Yay!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exposing the Racist Roots of Arizona's New Immigration Law

If you thought there was any chance that the new immigration law in Arizona was about anything other than race, watch how Rachel Maddow thoroughly rebukes that notion.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

That people like Russell Pearce and members of the Federation for American Immigration Reform have the platforms that they do and can shape legislation is chilling. I was going to add "especially to me, as a WoC" but I am trying to get better about statements like that which imply that racism is primarily the concern of people of color and that white people should not care/worry about it/address it.

Transcript below the fold:

MADDOW: The big deal news headline out of the world of politics today was the Republican Party‘s filibuster of Wall Street reform. But there was supposed to be another big deal thing in politics today. Today was supposed to be the day that Democratic Senator John Kerry and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announced bipartisan climate change legislation.

That announcement, as you probably noticed, did not happen today. Why didn‘t it happen? Because Lindsey Graham got very mad. He scuttled his own climate legislation because he says he‘s angry that the Obama administration might bring up the issue of immigration reform first.

Quote, “This comes out of left field. We haven‘t done anything to prepare
the body or the country for immigration.” Senator Graham‘s anger has been seconded now by the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who said yesterday, this isn‘t, quote, “the
right time to do immigration reform.”

Republicans are bending over backwards right now, doing everything they possibly can, scuttling their own legislation if they need to in order to make sure that immigration reform does not come up. Remember when George W. Bush wanted to do immigration reform in 2007? Again, it was
his own party, the Republicans, who bent over backwards and delivered their own president a huge political defeat on this issue because they were so desperate to not do immigration reform at the federal level.And the fact that it continues to not happen at the federal level is
all the justification that some states need right now to deal with immigration on their own, which is how we got this—

GOV. JAN BREWER ®, ARIZONA: The bill I‘m about to sign into law, Senate Bill 1070, represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis that we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix.

MADDOW: And so, the state of Arizona now has a new law requiring police officers to demand the paperwork of anyone who looks like they might be an illegal immigrant.

REPORTER: What does an illegal immigrant look like? Does it look like me?

BREWER: I do not know. I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think that there are people in Arizona that assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like.

MADDOW: In the meantime, papers, please. Before this bill was actually signed into law, we told you about the guy who introduced it in the first place. It‘s this guy, Republican State
Senator Russell Pearce. Mr. Pearce is famous in Arizona for having sent an email to his supporters that included a white nationalist screed, accusing the media of pushing the view, quote, “a world in which every voice proclaims the equality of the races, the inerrant nature of the Jewish, quote, ‘Holocaust‘ tale, the wickedness of attempting to halt the flood of nonwhite aliens pouring across the borders.” Mr. Pearce sent that around to all of his supporters, which he later apologized for.

Russell Pearce is also famous for having been caught on tape hugging a neo-Nazi. No, like a real neo-Nazi. Not some sort of metaphorical Godwin‘s law-invoking neo-Nazi guy, but an actual neo-Nazi guy. See, with the swastikas?

Russell Pearce is the guy who introduced this radical immigration bill in Arizona that just became law. But if you want to meet the guy who’s taking credit for writing the new law, that would be the gentleman named Kris Kobach. Kris Kobach is a birther. He‘s running for a secretary of state in Kansas right now. His campaign Web site today brags, quote, “Kobach wins
one in Arizona.”

The guy that helped Arizona‘s new immigration bill is also an attorney for the Immigration Reform Law Institute. That‘s the legal arm of an immigration group that‘s called FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR was founded in 1979 by a man named John Tanton. Mr. Tanton is still listed as a member of FAIR‘s board of directors. Just for some insight into where John Tanton and FAIR were coming from seven years after he started FAIR, Mr. Tanton wrote this, quote, “To govern is to populate. Will the present majority peaceably hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile? As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night or will there be an explosion?” That‘s FAIR, who helped write Arizona‘s anti-immigrant law.

After John Tanton got FAIR off the ground, for nine of the first years of the group‘s existence, the group reportedly received more than $1 million in funding from something called the Pioneer Fund. The Pioneer Fund describes itself as a group formed, quote, “in the Darwinian-Galtonian
evolutionary tradition and eugenics movement.” For the last 70 years, the Pioneer Fund has funded controversial research about race and intelligence, essentially aimed at proving the
racial superiority of white people. The group‘s original mandate was to promote the genes of those, quote, “deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original 13 states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.”

John Tanton‘s organization, FAIR, which, again, claims credit for writing Arizona‘s new immigrant law, John Tanton‘s FAIR was long bankrolled by the Pioneer Fund—which actually makes sense after you read some more of Mr. Tanton‘s writings. Quote, “I‘ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-
American majority and a clear one at that.” In 1997, John Tanton told the “Detroit Free Press” that America will soon be overrun by illegal immigrants, quote, “defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.” Defecating is the problem, I guess.

Again, this genius is the guy whose group is behind Arizona‘s new radical immigration law. They take credit for writing it. FAIR is bragging about having, quote, “assisted Senator Russell Pearce in drafting the language” of his Senate bill.

In drafting that language, FAIR may have slipped a little something special in there for themselves. FAIR makes a living off of suing local and state governments over immigration laws. Tucked inside Article VIII of Arizona‘s new law is a provision that if groups like them win their cases, quote, a judge—sorry—a judge may order that the entity, quote, “who
brought the action recover court costs and attorney fees”—which could create a nice financial boon for the formerly eugenics movement-funded, advanced the white majority, promote the genetics of white America anti-immigrant group whose attorneys helped write the new law.
Congratulations, Arizona. This thing is going to make you really, really, really famous for a really, really, really long time.

Another Item for the "What the Hell, Arizona?" File

What in the world are they up to out there?

From that link:
The Arizona House of Representatives recently approved a provision requiring President Barack Obama to prove that he is a natural-born citizen before the state agrees to place him on the ballot in 2012. He must have his birth certificate approved by the state's attorney general in order to run in the next election.
Oh, Arizona...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Is Your Boyfriend Making You Fat?

Hey, girls, the people at Women's Health are concerned that having a boyfriend might be leading you toward the dreaded fattyhood. Here is the newest update on the "Women just let themselves go once they have a man" idea:
Falling in love can make you feel all soft and gooey inside. Unfortunately, it can have the same effect on your outside. Skip a workout here, order some greasy takeout there, and before you know it... you've got a full-on jelly roll hanging over your waistband. Or as Lauren Conrad, former star of "The Hills," put it: You've acquired the dreaded "boyfriend layer."

"When we get comfortable in a relationship, we establish new habits together that aren't always the best for our weight," says Amy Gorin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut.

But worry not! The Women's Health crew has identified five of the behaviors that contribute to the "boyfriend layer" and included helpful fixes.

Because I care about you all, I shall share a few:
Behavior: You eat out ... all the time
When you're single, you tend to prepare healthy foods at home. But once you're in a relationship, it's decadent dinner dates followed by caloric brunches.


The fix: Eat in

That is so rocket-sciency! I'm so amazed by that fix, that I will refrain from commenting on the classism evident in the description of the "behavior." And I won't even bring up how you'd think people at "Women's Health" would recognize this might create more work for women, who still do the disproportionate share of domestic tasks like cooking.*

Then, there's this one:
Behavior: His snacks are your snacks
You might not buy chips for yourself, but when he leaves the bag out on the coffee table, you need supreme willpower to ignore it.


The fix: You have two diet-friendly choices: Serve yourself a small amount of his snack and put it on a plate (dipping your hand into the bag over and over again leads to diet disaster), or... have a portion-controlled, lower-calorie alternative on hand to munch while he takes down that bag of chips or pint of ice cream.

Oh, look. Virtual product placement for the diet-industry foods that already target women and symbolize the pressures to be thin! He can enjoy his snacks; you can agonize over yours. Maybe this is what Gwen meant by the gendering of dieting? She writes
we gender who we think cares about the caloric or nutritional content of food in the first place, and we gender why we think they care about it if they do.

I'm going to go ahead and skip to the fifth behavior they identify, and on this point, I'm feeling decidely less snarky. Why?

Because the fifth behavior is being happy:
Behavior: You're Happy
Research shows that what's good for your heart may be bad for your hips. A study published last year in the journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine found that happy people were less likely to succeed at losing weight than those with a "slightly negative and cautious outlook."

The fix: Weigh in often

These people are really worried that part of being happy might be learning to love and be comfortable with yourself as you are. I know it's unfathomable that fat women can be happy, but damn. The fix is so chilling--weigh in often so you can see if those numbers go up, thus creating anxiety and unhappiness, jarring you out of your happy "complacency."

The whole tone of this article is like that. These people are positing that falling in love and being happy are things of which you should be wary in case they lead you to the horror of being fat. Just think about that for a minute. Your negative and cautious outlook might be... well, negative, but you have a better chance of being thin. Hooray!

As for women partnered with women, I can't decide if the writers are saying you're not "at risk" or you don't exist.

*I'm not saying that you should eat out all the time, but I'll bet it's commonplace that couples' determinations to eat at home more creates more work for women.

Link to a description of a study I'm thinking about using in a fall class on the Construction of Femininity that posits "women observed eating with a male companion chose foods of significantly lower caloric value than those observed eating with another woman." Description of it here. For me, there's something about the juxtaposition of this study and the Women's Health article

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shifting the Burden

**Trigger Warning**

So apparently, Oprah Winfrey had Mo'Nique's brother, Gerald Imes, who molested Mo'Nique beginning when she was seven, on her show Monday.

Why? I am asking seriously because I really can't think of a good reason.

And he apologized.


I know it's not my place to be dismissive, but I don't understand what the apology is supposed to do.

I am angry that Oprah gave Gerald Imes such a public, highly visible venue to make his apology. Though Mo'Nique has refused, understandably, to respond, he has created the impression that "the ball is in her court." It as if he has shifted a burden onto her because of the unspoken expectation that she do or say something. He hopes, he says, that they can "come back together as sister and brother," putting further pressure on her to negotiate some kind of relationship.

He gets to re-image himself as penitent and remorseful and as a victim in his own right. And in remaking himself, he tries to disrupt what Mo'nique said, ensuring that he has the final word if she keeps to her silence. According to his story, it's not that she's a liar... exactly. She's just wrong about the details.

From Liss, I learned that their parents were there. That they would join him in this very public forum made me angrier. Yes, I can understand that they don't want to abandon their son, or whatever.

But what does their appearance, as he was giving his apology, mean/say to their daughter? To me it says, "We have forgiven him." What it doesn't say, but seems to imply, is--"You should, too." That's how that sort of pressure works. I don't think I'm far off in my assertion; Mo'Nique's own parents seem to have a "Let's put this behind us" attitude:
The Imeses told Oprah they thought the matter had been addressed when they temporarily asked Gerald to leave the family home after Mo’Nique told them her older brother had “tried to lay on top of me” when she was 15.


Imes now regrets not revisiting the sexual assault with her daughter after banished Gerald returned to the family home - but she was hurt when Mo’Nique decided to go public with the family’s secret on national TV.

She added, ..." ‘As a family such as we were, this is something I felt that should have been discussed first privately within the family. Now, if you wanna tell the world, but give us a chance (sic).'


“I only hope, with doing this, this can cleanse her hurt.”
I don't think Mo'Nique's hurt is the primary concern here, especially since she is the one being portrayed as betraying the family bonds.

I am viewing this through the lens of someone who has been disheartened by the way many communities rally around men who abuse--that in itself is not a racially specific thing.

But the pressure on women of color not to tell, because men of color already have a difficult time having to deal with a racist/kyriarchal system is well-documented.

As if we don't exist, and as women (!), under that same system.

There may be survivors to whom the apology means something. Mo'Nique is in a situation in which, while the abusers wasn't prosecuted, her story was believed/verified. If an abuser was denying the abuse or walking around as if zie had done nothing and people were doubting or disparaging the survivor, maybe the apology would mean something. Or maybe there are people, in circumstances like hers, to whom the apology means something. I don't know.

I really want to understand why Oprah had him on.

What is that apology supposed to mean or do? Especially, if it is true that Gerald Imes is seeking to make money off the "story."

What the Hell, Arizona?

Both houses of the Arizona state legislature have passed SB1070, a truly frightening piece of "immigration legislation":
Arizona's bill orders immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally. It also targets those who hire illegal immigrant day laborers or knowingly transport them.

As a historian, I don't like to hear people say "If we don't learn history, we're doomed to repeat it." We learn history all the time, and still do much of the same, hateful stuff that's always been done.

In reading the provisons of the bill, I wondered, how different was it from the Geary Act of 1892:
The law required all Chinese residents of the United States to carry a resident permit, a sort of internal passport. Failure to carry the permit at all times was punishable by deportation or a year at hard labor.

or the 1954 INS-sponsored operation that
coordinated 1075 Border Patrol agents, along with state and local police agencies, to mount an aggressive crackdown, going as far as police sweeps of Mexican-American neighborhoods and random stops and ID checks of "Mexican-looking" people in a region with many Native Americans and native Hispanics

or, in Arizona's own more recent history, the actions of Joe Arpaio?

Historical comparisons are not the only things circulating in my mind, though. The point is this law codifies racial-profiling and harrassment and criminalization of Latino/as (because, really? what is likely to be the basis for "suspect[ing] they're in the United States illegally"?). Isabel Garcia, an Arizona legal defender, offered this description:
[T]his bill represents the most dangerous precedent in this country, violating all of our due process rights... We have not seen this kind of legislation since the Jim Crow laws. And targeting our communities, it is the single ... largest attack on our communities.

Latino/a* lawmakers are entreating Republican Governor Jan Brewer not to sign the bill into law for fear that it will "authorize discrimination."

Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce shrugged off those kinds of worries:
You know, this is amazing to me. We trust officers, we put guns on them, they make life and death decisions every day

The casual assertion that everyone lives in communities in which police and their decisions are respected and trusted?

*I sincerely hope Latino/a lawmakers are not standing alone in protest of this travesty.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

RIP, Soror

"I think of my life as a unity of circles. Some are concentric, some overlap, but they all connect in some way. Sometimes the connections don't happen for years. But when they do, I marvel." -Dr. Dorothy I. Height

More here

Monday, April 19, 2010

Deuce in Boots

Cutest just-turned-two-years-old in the world. Happy belated birthday, sugar!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chip, Chip, Chip

That's how I'd describe what the state legislature is doing to abortion access in Nebraska:
Nebraska lawmakers on Monday gave final approval to a first-of-its-kind measure requiring women to be screened for possible mental and physical problems before having abortions.
The bill requires a doctor or other health professional to screen women to determine whether they were pressured into having abortions. The screenings also would assess whether women have risk factors that could lead to mental or physical problems after an abortion.

I read that article just before reading this one about Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's decision to again declare April "Abortion Recovery Month":
The proclamation... “encourages and promotes healing opportunities and raises awareness of the aftermath of abortion experienced by individuals and families,” according to the document signed by the Republican governor and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

Despite claims to the contrary, the bill and the proclamation are not about caring for women and their mental and physical health. They are about politics.

I am convinced of that, especially in the aftermath of recent studies which found
There is no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women
Recent studies that have been used to assert a causal connection between abortion and subsequent mental disorders are marked by methodological problems [example here] that include, but not limited to: poor sample and comparison group selection; inadequate conceptualization and control of relevant variables; poor quality and lack of clinical significance of outcome measures; inappropriateness of statistical analyses; and errors of interpretation, including misattribution of causal effects. By way of contrast, we review some recent major studies that avoid these methodological errors. The most consistent predictor of mental disorders after abortion remains preexisting disorders

My point is not that no woman ever experiences depression or guilt after having an abortion, but that evidence points to co-occuring factors, not abortion, as causal. For example, in my case, any guilt I felt was about not feeling guilty as everyone had told me women who have abortions should. About the abortion itself, I felt relief, and I thought, "Wow, does that mean something is wrong with me?"

My case exemplifies what potential laws and proclamations like this do--they foster the notion that abortion has to be traumatic and guilt-inducing, even when studies and women themselves counter that idea.

I say these actions are about politics, too, for at least two other reasons. First, the goal is to scare women into not having abortions. Having one's doctor say, "You can have this procedure, but you are at risk for serious difficulties if you do," is frightening and, as I'm sure anti-choice folk are hoping, quite the deterrent.

Second, I don't see as much concern for screening women who decide not to terminate their pregnancies. We know that women can have physical and mental health issues after spontaneous miscarriage and childbirth--why no push for intensive screening and "warning" or recovery proclamations for those cases?

The other major question circulating in my mind is, what do laws like the potential Nebraska one mean, with regards to the way we frame choice, for women who are determined by their doctors to have mental or physical health "risks?"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

At This Rate...

...we're never going to finish. I finally finished typing up the labels for all the people mama wanted to invite to the anniversary party.

165 labels, y'all. I was planning for 150-200. Most of these labels have couples or "and family" on them. This is going to be fun and possibly my biggest challenge to date. I know everyone won't show and a few of them are to cousins and classmates waaaaay out of town. Can't wait until the RSVPs start rolling in (hint, hint).

Anyway, we have almost 6 pages of labels. I did three pages of addresses and mama is supposed to be doing three. But every time she calls one of her classmates for hir address, an hour long conversation ensues. She's probably gotten three addresses today and she's been at it for hours.

We're never going to finish by my tomorrow deadline (so I can get the invitations out exactly two months before).

But she's having fun catching up. :-))

Friday, April 09, 2010

I Write Letters

Dear Animal Rights Group That Shall Not Be Named,

I must say, you have outdone yourself. Because this shit right here:

takes my breath away. You have a bit of everything going on here. I mean, obviously this ad can appeal to a variety of people, most notably people:

Who liken poor mothers to animals.

Who are proponents of negative eugenics and forced sterilization.

Who believe poor mothers and their children are burdens on "taxpayers."

Who believe only certain women should have children, and who see the birth of children to some mothers as an "epidemic," or a "problem" or any of those other negative terms.

You know, the old sympathetic me might have been tempted to believe maybe, since you keep producing such horrible ads, you don't know the background of some of this stuff you invoke. Then I remembered some wise words from Sarah M.:
[They know] they are operating within potent historical narratives—without a history of the objectification/subjugation of women, or slavery and racism, their imagery wouldn’t be nearly as powerful.
I suspect you're reaching people whom you might not envision as your target audience, but really, we can't tell.



Wednesday, April 07, 2010

On Collective (and Selective) Memory

You know, I am not at all surprised by the fact that Virginia's Governor Robert McDonnell proclaimed April Confederate History Month. My (Louisiana) parish has done it before and I'm sure it's not an anomaly in the South.

But what gets me, what always gets me, when I see people loving on the Confederacy and declaring that their flags and memorials are all about heritage, is the selective, largely one-sided memory they have. The "Old South" may have been all moonlight and magnolias in their recollections, but there were four million or so people who, I'll bet, remembered it quite differently.

Encouraging people to remember the Confederacy includes encouraging them to remember that those states left the Union largely because of their fear that Abraham Lincoln would not just stop the expansion of slavery, but abolish it all together. Remember that these people were willing to go to war to protect their right to own and exploit other people. That dims the moonlight a little bit.

The irony is, it is "heritage" to remember the Confederacy, but we are never supposed to talk about slavery. McDonnell urges people to "to recognize how our history has led to our present," but when we talk about how slavery has very real effects on our present, that is dismissed. It ended a century and a half ago, after all, and to talk about it is to search for grievances and dwell on the past or however that argument goes. The proclamation itself makes no mention of slavery, just vague allusions to "a time very different than ours today." McDonnell himself suggested that slavery was not important enough to merit mention in a proclamation about remembering the Confederacy.

That is not the only contradiction in that proclamation:
all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace
No, they didn't. They fought like hell to reinstate and then maintain their previous control over every aspect of southern life, at the cost of thousands of lives and the continued denial of the most basic civic rights.

And then, the admonition that "this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten," as if that has ever been a possibility. (Some) white southerners and their sympathizers have been busy since the end of the Civil War making sure we never forget their noble "Lost Cause" or how near-perfect the South was before the intrusion and unwarranted intervention of the North. Confederate flags haven't just been on people's bumper stickers or their back windows. They've flown over state capitol buildings and been woven into new flags. We are not in danger of forgetting "this defining chapter."

I think what we are in danger of forgetting--and I say this as a history teacher in Texas absolutely appalled at what the Texas Board of Education is doing to the social studies curriculum--is that not everyone has had the same experiences of every event in U.S. history and that those "defining chapters" have tended to be interpreted very differently by people forced into the margins of society. That doesn't make those interpretations any less valid or real or "American."

It is enraging and hurtful to me that people expect us to learn, to teach, to glorify history in a way that disappears us, our experiences and our contributions. The history of this nation is not composed solely of the experiences and opinions of the dominant group(s).

Neither should its collective memory be.

I Don't Think You Understand...

Dear Jami Bernard,

When writing an article about the ableism on display in Burger King's "Crazy King" ads, it is not clever or hilariously pun-ny to state "Mental health advocates are not too crazy about" the advertising campaign. Neither is it somehow better to use "crazy" in the following context:
But perhaps what they should be complaining about is how crazy it is to tout such cholesterol-laden food to a public that is collectively headed for a heart attack.

It is not cool to equate peoples' outrage over the campaign with "political correctness"... twice.

And I know you might not have chosen your headline, but really? "Mental health advocates not so nuts about cheesy Burger King ad?"

Jami, maybe you should've passed this one on to someone else.



Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Hey, This Seems Familiar

trigger warning

I have a new piece up at the Guardian's "Comment Is Free America" about that cartoon that depicts a scene after President Obama has raped the Statue of Liberty. I try to put that cartoon and so much of the related sentiment in historical perspective:
The juxtaposition of this cartoon and the violence/assassination threats [against Obama and his supporters] are significant, as well, in historical context. One of the primary reasons given for mob action that resulted in the death of black men in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the accusation that a black man had raped a white woman. The cartoonist has accused President Obama, figuratively, of that crime – say what you want about Liberty's greenish hue; women who historically represented the US, from Columbia to other depictions of Liberty, were white. Obama, according to the cartoonist, has violated this symbol of both white womanhood and America. This serves as more justification for retaliating violently against him.

Please check out the whole thing!
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...