Tuesday, November 29, 2005

an article and then a ramble

American Prospect Online - Having It Both Ways

i talk about my dad a lot here. i can't help it. he's the one guy (if not the only guy) i totally respect. he was the major intellectual force for me when i was growing up. for as long as i can remember he said that he was a rampant individualist. his individualism can be seen in his ministry, one that advocates an eschewing of 'group think' and encourages a congregation to turn individually to the bible and give their fat cat preacher a big bitch slap for stepping out of line. (i paraphrase.)

it's difficult to maintain a congregation when you continually encourage them to mutiny, but such was the paradox of my dad's ministry.

while such rampant individualism is useful (innovation, imagination, sense of self in relation to others - basically, it makes you no one's fool) it's problematic when there is no community to surround the individual. for instance, i was talking to my father right after the katrina disaster and was encouraging him to tell his congregation to be more involved with the disaster efforts. he told me they were involved but he also said, my ministry is more of a spiritual one, not a social one. that was a little disturbing for me and i wondered if this was what was making me draw away from a particular kind of christian faith.

i'm not comfortable with the spiritual/social binary the church seems to be stuck on. while i love the Gray Lady, i do wish there was more...preaching. our social stances i am totally happy with. our focus on living as a community of faith is one that renews me. but there's that third thing i just wish there was more of. like, the other night my roomie and i were getting our tongues tied around the name gethsemane (it's the name of a local garden shop). i said, you know - it's the garden where they captured jesus.

she was totally blank and she called it 'catholic' to know details of the bible like that. she shrugged, we mainliners don't think about the details of the bible. we just like the ideas.

that kind of disturbed me. for me, the ideas and the details are all important. i'm not saying that bible trivia is necessary for a fully realized faith, but it sure as hell helps to know the effing basics!

and on the other side of the spectrum, where my dad's church is, i wish there was more of a sense of community. it's fine to be well-versed in complicated matters of doctrine, to know the bible like it's your best friend, but what does all of this mean when you don't recognize that those around you are your neighbors?

what's the point when all you can concentrate on is your muscular christian/individual spiritual walk with jesus when you can't think about other sojourners along the way?

wow. i'm totally rambling. but i'm serious. what's the point? and why don't presbyterians carry their own bible to church?? what's up with that?

new blog found!: Tensegrities


via reverend mother. thanks!

Monday, November 28, 2005

what i want for christmas

if my family reads this (and i know my father does) this is what i want for christmas: books.

i ask for this every year and every year, mixed results.

in fact, the times made a handy-dandy list of notable books of 2005 and i'd love ANY of them. but i'd especially love this biography of mary wollestonecraft.

people sometimes ask me what made me a feminist (since it sure as heck wasn't my family or church) and it all goes back to what i read when i was in school - especially while i was in junior high and realized that i had a lot in common with plain jane eyre. women like wollestonecraft, the bronte sisters, elliott - these are women whose lives i admired for their willfulness, stubbornness (two n's?) and frank anti-authoritarian stances. these were exceptional women and i wanted so much to be like them.

so that's what i want for christmas.

or, barring that, for someone to make a donation to their local YWCA. it helps.

(i just had the thought that if i took to christian novels and books the way i did to secular reading when i was a teenager i'd have a far different sensibility now. oh well.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

thanksgiving debrief

the delights of thanksgiving...moist turkey, wine, and driving out in the early morning to a suburb in face-freezing weather to meet a friend at the end of a turkey trot and do a little pub crawl before the sun has reached a mid-point in the sky.

the burbs have weird traditions. after spending the night before drinking to excess, the whole town runs a 5k race, drinking little bloody marys along the way, and then they wrap up the morning with more drinking at the knights of columbus hall - to be followed with more drinking and breakfast throughout the morning. at one point i called my sister from an irish pub at 11 am and had already guzzled half a bloody mary, a jack and coke, a lunchbox and a guinness. what am i thankful for? i'm thankful for strong kidneys and a constitution like a cow.

i'm also thankful i have a sane family. spending a holiday, a long one, with a family not your own enables you to see your tribe in the clear light of relief. we dingers may be a little home-bound and conventional, but we effing talk to one another. we might be a little baptist but we don't load each other with freaky baggage and don't hold each other to an insane standard formed in the traumas of the past.

my family, for our myriad faults, is a kind and loving one. and a happy one. (not to mention well-adjusted - we understand that dinners are hard enough without reenacting slights from 1976.)

happy thanksgiving, everyone.

hope your tribe was somewhat normal.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

squee again!! published!

so the mag just emailed me to let me know the issue with my teeny piece is running december 2!

yay! (you can't see me but i'm dancing.)

a link on Ms! squee!

A New Leif - Who Says Feminists Don't Have a Sense of Humor?

is it bad blogging practice to squee when you realize you've been blogrolled on a Ms. Magazine blog?

is it undignified and make you think that 'well, kos wouldn't do that'?

i don't care. squee!! i got linked!

snob: ok, i'll take it.

(this has nothing to do with religion or churchiness.)

about a month ago, i read an article in the paper about two korean sisters who wrote a book about how american families can learn something from korean high achievers. after the piece ran, most of the letters sent in response protested the sisters were playing to asian stereotype. most of the other letters sent in faintly protested that it was creepy and weird to ask american kids to actually be disciplined. (i paraphrase.) only a scant few letters said, hey, good idea!

personally, i thought it was a good idea.
in fact, i think achievement is a good idea.
i think making sure one achieves *something* is a good idea.

i think not to achieve makes one tacky. (ooh, value judgment.)

this brings me to a commenter down in the Amen post, who ripped me a new one for my not-so-well-hidden class bias. thank goodness she did; it was the slap i needed to face my own class issues and class anger (not to mention anger at people at my childhood church who were vastly irresponsible in their leadership.) but i'll say it: i think going to college is better than not going to college; i think having a job is better than not having a job. i don't care if it's an ivy, a HBC or a community college - just go and get some education so at least you have options. (which is also better than having no options.)

do i sound like a snob? i guess i'll have to own that.

and because i'm black i will own it until the day i die. the black men and women who believed the duty of the black person was to 'lift as we climb' do not deserve descendents who don't take that kind of pride seriously. did harriet tubman sacrifice so my community could suddenly be the poster population for underachievement? did ida b. wells risk her life to save black folk so that my black and brown sisters could get pregnant when they were in high school?

i am not saying that i don't understand how the real world works; i am not saying that i think i'm better than those girls who didn't make the same decisions i made. i'm just saying i made better decisions. i know about racist institutions and social forces that create ghettos; i know about the bad educational systems that fail to educate; i know what happens when more than half the male population ends up in prison; i know about the burden created when commerce moves out of a community and kills it in the process, dooming people to perpetual poverty. i know that and i still say that we owe somebody our achievement.

the sisters who wrote the book make the point that in the traditional asian family a child owes her family success and achievement; this is her debt. unlike bill cosby, who rails on poor black folk for being poor, i think we black people have a debt to pay. we owe it to our past, our history, to fulfill the promise we had. we don't owe this debt to white people. we don't owe this debt to our government. we owe it to our past - our wonderful, glorious, heartbreaking history.

so to that commenter: you misunderstand. i didn't make the choices i made when i was a girl because i didn't want to be like the other girls; i didn't want to end up like them. i made those decisions because that future wasn't good enough to pay my debt.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

a project: December First is "Blog Against Racism" Day

over at creek running north, chris has designated dec 1st to be "Blog Against Racism" Day.

a project!
let's hope i don't forget the date.

Monday, November 14, 2005

On Abortion, It's the Bible of Ambiguity - New York Times

this is the article greg mentioned in the thread below.

i think it's interesting.

Friday, November 11, 2005

i found the blog below by clicking that 'next blog' button in the corner. sometimes you find good things. (other times you find that weird anime teenage girl crap.)

bethany is more conservative than i and ain't having any of this liberal tolerance crap, but i like her voice. and she's teaching in teach for america. anyone who does that has to be alright, right?


Thursday, November 10, 2005


sometimes you come across a post that's so solid it makes you vibrate.

this is one of those posts: Redneck Mother: Not a baby-machine

i post a lot about choice and reproductive rights (and abortion). as a christian woman, i guess that's strange to do. it looks like i'm all for a bunch of baby-killing. but that's not it at all; i just have a deeply rooted issue with authority. i've been wanting to write about my pro-choice stance but, for now, that's the best i can do.

redneck mom puts it so much better:

I think about all this in the context of pharmacists presuming to tell women whether they can prevent a pregnancy or not, of legislators trying to ban "unauthorized reproduction," of Sam Alito and all the other conservatives who want women to answer to men about what's going on in their own bodies. And I say this: You have no idea what you're trying to control, no right to do it and no way to do it to your misguided satisfaction anyway because women are not machines and reproduction is not an industrial process. Pregnancy is unpredictable, carries infinitely variable risks, and is so private that it is in many ways a closed book even to the woman herself. If she and her obstetrical team can't shoehorn it into neat, predictable processes, why do you presume you can? No one has the right or authority to compel any woman to go through what I chose for myself, and no one has the right to judge any woman for choosing not to do so.

[via i blame the patriarchy]

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

GOP eggs: stinky

Evolution Slate Outpolls Rivals - New York Times

looking at some of the polls from last night's election results all over the country, i'm starting to think that some chickens are beginning to come home to roost. while texas bans same-sex marriage, maine votes to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians. while the dems lose in new york, californians give the big bitch slap to arnold. and while kansas still thinks religion is science, pennsylvania decides to keep the two totally separate.

it's a small glimmer of hope for the return of rationalism. i'll take it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

should vs. must: spousal notification in brief

scalito's nomination is throwing all sorts of moral quandaries into the air, not the least of which is whether the law should force a woman to tell her husband she's getting an abortion.

my favorite angry professor has a discussion going on here.

her basic argument is:
And, as with abortion, there seems to be a sloppy elision of what people think is morally obligatory with what they think is, or should be, legally obligatory.

So. Should married women tell their husbands if they're going to have an abortion?
Yes, of course they should.

Should they be required by law to do so?
No, of course they shouldn't.

i'm trying to get to a larger question, but i think i'm too tired at the end of the day to be articulate. so i'll just let that stand there.

Monday, November 07, 2005

so what's our mission, again?

When Cleaner Air Is a Biblical Obligation - New York Times

i love this part:

Mr. Inhofe said the vast majority of the nation's evangelical groups would oppose global warming legislation as inconsistent with a conservative agenda that also includes opposition to abortion rights and gay rights. He said the National Evangelical Association had been "led down a liberal path" by environmentalists and others who have convinced the group that issues like poverty and the environment are worth their efforts.

yeah, shame on the church people who have the nerve to think that poverty and creation care are important! fie on them!

and, hey, how about that rhetorical connections between global warming=abortion=gay rights! masterful.

i guess we know what inhofe thinks is the christian mission.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

feminist epistemology: from a guy!!

Hugo Schwyzer is someone i read every so often. you'll find him on my blogroll but i have to admit that the number of Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) on his site sometimes makes me puke.

anyway, when we talk about patriarchy, i like to read what hugo has to say about it. for one, he's a guy and when a guy takes the time to acknowledge patriarchy and actually unpack it regularly, well i take notice.

you should take notice, too. his recent posts on the parker and dowd articles are good, especially when he talks about our culture's inability to cultivate men who have the language and depth to explore their emotional terrain. classic. (and quite academic.)

Friday, November 04, 2005

speaking of patriarchy: Alito

an excellent op-ed piece by scott lemieux at American Prospect Online - Chipping Away.

much of the attention has been on scalito's dissent re: spousal notification in planned parenthood v. casey - and rightly so:

The core of Alito’s argument is his claim that the provision “cannot affect more than about 5 percent of married women seeking abortions or an even smaller percentage of all women desiring abortions.”

This is a highly problematic argument on its face. The reason that notification requirements (whether spousal or parental) are objectionable is precisely because, for all intents and purposes, they are applicable only to women in the worst family situations. Women in loving families will generally discuss their decision with their spouse or parents; it is women who feel they cannot who are affected by state coercion.

and further:

In addition, as the Supreme Court also argued forcefully, Alito’s acceptance of the legitimacy of the state’s interest seems to rest on quite reactionary assumptions about marriage. The spousal-notification provision, the plurality opinion correctly argued, “embodies a view of marriage consonant with the common-law status of married women, but repugnant to our present understanding of marriage and of the nature of the rights secured by the Constitution.” (As the opinion also pointed out, under Alito’s logic a law requiring a woman to notify her husband if she took emergency contraception, or if she drank alcohol during her pregnancy, would also presumably be upheld.) Alito’s reasoning sends bad signals not only about abortion but also about gender-equality jurisprudence more generally.

opposition to alito's nomination goes deeper than what he thinks about abortion; check also his record on sexual harrassment and worker's rights. consistently alito sides with power rather than those who need protection from that power.

i'm scared of a court like that.

aren't you?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

feminist epistemology and you (and nature and MoDo and kathleen parker and...)


This is the thing that feminism failed to account for, according to Kathleen Parker in the Chicago Tribune today as a response to Maureen Dowd’s Sunday NY Times piece. But while this seems like a reasonable oversight on feminism’s part, I have to disagree – again.
Nature is something feminism has always been aware of.

How could feminism not be aware of nature when Nature has been the stick used to beat women over the head? We could not work outside the home because our ‘natural’ state was in the home; we could not participate in politics because our ‘natural’ place was caregiving; we are ‘naturally’ retiring, our brains were ‘naturally’ less powerful than those of men so why should we be allowed to attend school, hold a job or even walk the streets alone – since we were so ‘naturally’ inspiring of sexual violence?

We know that none of this is ‘natural’. The rules governing female behavior back then and now are cultural constructs, meaning they aren’t intrinsic rules but are socially mandated (unconsciously and consciously) in order to support a larger social structure.

Like Dowd, Park is ignorant that behind Nature there is Patriarchy, and while Patriarchy might not always wear a male face, it is usually (one might say ‘naturally’) supported by men, who ‘naturally’ benefit from it. Quite simply, patriarchy is a way of looking at the world and understanding it; it is the dominant paradigm – it is what we assume to be ‘natural’, or common sense – conventional wisdom, almost. Patriarchy manifests itself through a system of ideas and practices that systematically disadvantage women and other subordinated groups; it is a system of ideas and practices that serve the interests of the dominant group. Who’s in the dominant group? Those who benefit from it.

The thing about Patriarchy is that it’s so damn invisible. It’s the foundation of our Western civilization so it’s completely absorbed into our culture – our icons, our literature, our government, our institutions. It’s almost second nature to us. (heh.) Because of the ‘invisible’ work of patriarchy, we take as natural that our relationship to the opposite sex is to be deferential and appreciative. I suppose that when such natural deference is absent it appears “hostile and demeaning to men”. I’d call it impatience, myself. Hostility is so…patriarchal. Impatience at the slowness of someone else’s progress is much more accurate. (Like walking behind two tourists on Michigan Avenue. Maddening.)

But not only is Patriarchy invisible, the effects of Patriarchy are invisible, too – until feminism came along, that is. Till feminism came along, unseen were the ways that Patriarchy disadvantaged women by:
(1) excluding us from inquiry,
(2) denying us epistemic authority,
(3) denigrating our “feminine” cognitive styles and modes of knowledge,
(4) producing theories of women that represent us as inferior, deviant, or significant only in the ways they serve male interests,
(5) producing theories of social phenomena that render women's activities and interests, or gendered power relations, invisible, and
(6) producing knowledge (science and technology) that is not useful for people in subordinate positions, or that reinforces gender and other social hierarchies.*
[*emphasis mine and a shout out to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for this and the above definition of patriarchy.]

Which brings us back to Nature. Feminists are very much aware of Nature; we just object to the use of Nature as an excuse to reinforce a bullshit, oppressive paradigm that fails to see women as people and only serves male interests. Let’s consider the conservative boycott of American Girl. Why do they protest a bunch of ahistorical dolls? Abortion and lesbianism, we all thought. That’s not the real reason at all.

In today’s Trib Dawn Turner Trice quotes Ann Scheidler, the Executive Director of Pro-Life Action League: "The reason we're protesting is that American Girl appeals to the wholesome image of girls, and the Girls Inc. web site is almost a recruitment for a feminist agenda. All they talk about is science and sports, nothing about homemaking and motherhood."

Homophobia and a lack of respect for a woman’s reproductive autonomy is certainly a part of Scheidler’s boycott but the fundamental thing that makes her twitch her apron is the way Girls, Inc. advocates for a girl to transcend ‘nature.’ For Scheidler, feminism is freakish because it isn’t wholesome, homemaking or motherhood. It’s sports and science – two fields that aren’t feminine because they aren’t ‘natural’ to a woman, while childbirth and caregiving is.

What’s Nature again? Patriarchy.

So to Park I say that feminism didn’t tell half a story; feminism knows the whole freaking story. It knows the Author, the Publisher, the Reader and the little bitty ISBN number inside the front page. It knows who the Distributor is and where the Bookstores are (tired of this metaphor, yet?). We know the story and we keep telling it. You just don’t like that story. That’s fair.

You don’t like the ending, either; that's ok, too. It’s hard being a feminist. It’s hard being 'unnatural' and knowing. It’s much easier to be naturally ignorant. I get that. It’s hard to look around and see you're the village idiot, or the crazy lady crying in the wilderness about something no one else wants to see. I get that. You don’t want to be the outlier.

But you are lying. Feminism didn't cheat women; it just didn’t account for the general chicken-heartedness of our sex in the face of patriarchal disapproval.

It thought we were braver than that.

[cross-posted at Screed - and edited to correct Parker's name...]

it's all about the language: why tolerance matters

Pandagon: Caught being intolerant of oppression again

i've bitched about this several times here: our inability to really say what we mean. for instance, when we complain about tolerance (or use that old chestnut about loving the sinner but not the sin) we aren't really saying what we mean.

by pooh-poohing tolerance (racial, gender, sexual orientation) what we're really saying is "i don't mind the dominant social order being the way it is and don't really believe in social justice for people who are different from me." this is also the closet meaning of disdainfully dismissing something as 'pc.'

for the sake of discourse, let's all try to be clearer in what we mean. if you really don't like gays or single mothers or women who have sex, just say it. "I think you're icky and shouldn't have access to the full fruits of legal protection the way i (a straight/monogamous/married/whatever person) do."

it'll make everything clearer for everyone, i think, and help clear up alot of confusion.

amanda, at pandagon, does a terrific job of unpacking apathy toward 'tolerance'.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


pete townshend has a blog.

United Methodist Church Calls For Withdrawal

why should we care what united methodist church thinks about the iraq war?

'cause george w. bush is a member there. read it here, via katrina vanden heuvel.

see also tom tomorrow's panel on The Very Bad Idea. (via wasp jerky)