Sunday, December 31, 2006

popping the cork

happy new year, people!

i'm back, relaxed, i even have a slight tan from LA and so frakking relieved that 2007 is here. (wasn't 2006 a little boring yet also stressful?)

i have to get ready for the sharon jones show at the park west tonight; after my freak out with B- last week, G- wanted to come out to chicago and help me ring in the new year but his father burned down his kitchen this morning so now i'm going with E-, an old nerve pal from milwaukee.

(i'm a firm believer in recycling. there's no need for past internet dates to die on the vine, you know?)

be safe, be happy and have a great new year! -ding

Sunday, December 24, 2006

merry merry

i'm off to visit the family on the west coast so i'll be posting sporadically, desperately behind my writing schedule.

have a wonderful holiday to all five of my readers!
love the ones you're with and be thankful you're with the ones you love.

see you soon, dad!


caving to the princess

What’s Wrong With Cinderella? - New York Times

when i was a kid, i owned the disney cinderella storybook, the record, the cassette tape and desperately wanted a glass slipper. my favorite parts of the story were the makeover, the hot carriage and her ballgown - loved the ballgown! the prince? feh. what's a prince compared to glass slippers and a hot dress? (and i didn't like his hair. he looked like a JCPenney dummy.)

of course, nancy drew soon replaced cinderella and then i even discovered the french version of cinderella that was totally crazy and bloody and that one became my favorite. by this time, i was sneaking my mom's books into the bathroom and who cares about cinderella when you're reading the pubis shaving scene from ken follet's Key to Rebecca?

thanks to my mother's trashy books (oh, kathleen woodiwiss! the rose in winter!) i was saved from the Princess and went straight to the Feisty Yet Passionate Virgin-Heroine. until college, my feminine tropes were set.

but now here i am, a public and loud feminist in her mid 30's, confronted with caving to the Princess crap when buying gifts for her niece. last weekend, i was in target and saw this huge, gorgeous book that was basically a guide to princess behavior. it had great illustrations, secret pockets, a princess code, some pop up action. it was pink. it was pretty. it looked like a princess bible. so i called my brother in law.

'is alex still into princess stuff?'
'is she! she loves it,' he said.
'so you guys are ok with it?'
'sure! it's ok.'

it's ok to them, but i have seriously fundamental issues with it. why can't she be into pirates? the Pirateology book looks so much cooler. or even the ones about sharks. anything but princesses. (princesses lead to beauty pageants and look at the hypocritial bullshit with donald trump and Miss USA - acting like a sorority girl is only good if you do it for the male-owned franchise, not for your own gratification.)

but did i get the pretty princess book? you bet i did. i even wrapped it in pink butcher paper. but then i took a trip to the chicago cultural center and bought her this lunch box and a mint case with a sultry mexican film star on it (i was going to get the frida kahlo pill box, but i thought the film star one was funnier), along with tough chicago tatoos that can wash off.

so here's my advice to all you feminist aunts and stuff: get the princess stuff but flatten the power of the iconography by hiding it among all your favorite feminist stuff. they may not get it now, but at some point they're going to have to pay attention.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

for the teen in your life: Cycle Savvy

over here at This Woman's Work, she talks about a new book for teen girls teaching them how to read their own body's fertility signals. the full title is Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body and if my niece was 12 instead of 7, i'd give her this for christmas and watch my sister totally freak out.

but for now, my niece will have to be happy with Manners are Good.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

my lacanian lack: ambition

my writing deadlines are totally piling up. there's the thing due at the end of the month for the anthology project and now i've agreed to read at a local venue in january - which i have to frakking write. (uh, the theme is The Erotic. if you know me and are interested, email me and i'll let you know where to catch me.) between writing projects, work, end of year deacon duties, the last of the holiday shopping and B- (the boy), i'm feeling a little bit thin on the ground.

but i really wanted to write about ambition.

tonight, before roomie and i went to our separate bedrooms, we had a quick chat in the hallway about my very west coast way of relating to my family (which is rather laissez faire):

roomie: you're so mean. your poor family is so far down your list.
me: not true! they know i love them. i'm just not good at the details. they're at least #2 or #3.
roomie: what's #1?
me: work. then friends. and family. friends and family usually jockey for the same position.
roomie: where's B-? poor B- is probably #5.
me: no, he's uh, maybe #3. shit. maybe he should be #2, with family and friends.
roomie: so there are sub-folders?
me: no, things just shift.
roomie: but work stays the same. that's sad. no one will care about your work or what you do. when you die, no one will say a word about your profession. you make crap money and it's not personally fulfilling.
me: it is crap money but i am personally fulfilled by it. it's very important to me.
roomie: but no one will care.
me: shut up. i can't help it that i'm a product of my childhood. it was pretty clear that work came before family. i got trained.
roomie: sad.
me: shut up.
(and so on.)

but it made me think. (not so much about my family's position on my priority list. they know i love them but we're just not one of those families that are always checking in with one another. we've never been like that.) it made me realize that work IS very important to me; i mean, i do have ambitions, here. most of my friends have jobs that they don't really care about. they work because they need to pay rent and that's it. as soon as the day ends, it's out of mind. but not me.

(i am firmly ensconced in the bourgeoisie, dude. middle class striving is important.)

the way i feel about my job is the way i feel about my writing. it is necessary to me and part of my identity. i am fed by it. most of the time, i love the feeling i have knowing that i'm contributing, that i'm an important part of something. is this wrong to feel?

work excites me. it challenges me. i'm stimulated by it. when i'm in the zone, i'm focused, i'm productive, i feel like the prickly point of a pencil slashing across a page.

but work feeds a particular need in me - something that can't be fed by friends, family or lovers. or it seems to.

i feel pleasure when i'm with my friends (who are sharp cookies and also challenge me). i am happy with my family and when i'm with them; what i feel is a happiness that makes me feel expansive and good again. it is a sweet amnesia of my world here when i'm there, in the sunlight, with them.

and when i'm with B-, as on/off as we've been over the past 5 years, there's really no sense trying to compare being with him with working. B- will never be satisfying. i mean that being with him will always feel like drinking from the sea - it's a frustrating, unslaked thirst.

and isn't that what ambition is - an unsatisfied appetite for something just beyond your grasp? it's desire. in an oversimplification of something from my undergrad theory courses, i remember jacques lacan defining desire as lack - its nature is defined by what is absent. i guess for me, ambition is desire and work feeds that ambition; it enables the desire, the absence. all the rest - family, friends - these are fulfillment, satisfaction. they are presence, not absence.

so what does it mean that i put desire/absence before fulfillment/presence?

hm. i don't know.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


1. boy is back. it's interesting.
2. am dealing with some faint work envy. i'm sure i'll get over it. but for now, i'd like to just acknowledge that i'm feeling some work envy. i must be the Golden Girl! i must! not you-me! (ok, that should do it.)
3. am thinking about putting my name forward to be co-moderator of the deacon board next year. i honestly think i'd be great at it - like, totally great. is it bad to be that ambitious - at church??
4. have i said already that the boy is back? it's sort of nice. if only i can get over my total relationship phobia...but it's still nice. even though i'm totally waiting for me to screw it up. but, really! it's nice.
5. bob marley's 'buffalo soldier' is the perfect way to get ready for bed.


what's going on with y'all?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

a common thread: being gay in a moslem country

Prisoners of Sex - New York Times

it's a long magazine article but it's a rather good one, outlining what it's like to be gay in egypt. (and michel foucault makes a brief appearance!)
and what it's like is bad: entrapment, torture, beatings, jail, public humiliation, death.

several things ocurred to me as i was reading it:
how is our treatment of homosexuality in this country different?
what common threads are there between our Family Values activism against gay marriage, gay adoption, domestic partnership (which also benefits straight people), gay participation in military life, civic life and egypt's anti-gay activities?
is thinking about gay rights a 'luxury' of western civilization?
does reading about how bad it is 'over there' make us feel better about how 'good' it is over here?

and what about the women?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

still sick. but still thinking about stuff - like, how john stossel secretly hates families

my bovine-like immune system ain't what it used to be. this is my second day home from work because of a little germ!

but all is not lost. my nasal congestion has made me think about things like why i'm lucky to be able to tell my boss "I'mb sick. I hab to go homb" and she nods and says, "Yeah, you sound like crap" and i can come home and check email from home and also know this is a paid sick day. and other folks aren't so lucky when the situation is certainly more important than a head cold.

fulminating in my brain since before thanksgiving is a little rant about an article john stossel posted on that conservative site,, about his co-worker's (elizabeth vargas) return to work and her subsequent report on the mommy wars and how hard it is to be a working mother. (why won't i link to his article? because i hate that website and if you wanna look for it, be my guest. i've given you all the pertinent information you need to google.)

first - no shit, elizabeth. welcome to the world of almost 60% of the workforce - who also don't make your whopping salary.

second - john stossel, as much as he says he respects his coworker, basically says to working families 'sucks to be you!'

he can't see why it should be the responsibility of an employer or government to (this is a rough paraphrase) to make balancing work and home life easier when it was that woman's choice to have a family anyway. so all those things like paid family leave, day care, flex time, increased EITC? forget it. you never shoulda had that family.

it's the old manichean divide, so black and white and unyielding:
your family vs. your job

i read this article before i got on the plane to canada and it stuck like a bad meal in my gut. all i kept thinking was, does john stossel only know really well-off working like women like elizabeth vargas? in all his righteous muckraking, hasn't he come across women who make, say, in the low thirties? because personal choice or not, the consequence of making working people (not just women) choose between being their company's bitch and having some kind of personal life are dire.

i mean, don't we give our companies enough? the average american worker works more than anyone in the world. we work longer hours (1877 hrs vs. an avg. french 1562 hrs) with one american in three working a 50+ work week, take less paid vacation (the avg. american takes 4-10 days vs. the avg. swiss 30+), and we work for less and less benefits (ever wonder where your vision plan went? or do you have to make a choice between your eyes or your teeth?) and the benefits we do have don't seem to trickle down as far as they used to (1 in five american adults are in poverty and almost 45 million are without health insurance.)

the naysayers among you may have a point - our productivity seems to be slacking off but maybe that's because we're too scared we'll get fired to take some fracking time off to rest up!

meanwhile, our corporate entities seem to be doing rather well.

but for john stossel and all the other MarketNinjas, who cares that the average american worker needs more to just hold their head above water? that's the market! in order to survive, the corporation chooses to exploit you and you choose to be exploited by it by participating in it, family be damned.

(and it's funny that these are the townhall guys who are also always beating their manly stoical breasts about family values and tradition. if it was all up to them we'd still have child labor in place - 'they CHOOSE to be stuck in that chimney at six years old!'

rather smugly, norway's christian democratic minister for children & families says: "Americans like to talk about family values. We have decided to do more than talk; we use our tax revenues to pay for family values." yeah, i know. they're taxed at an exorbitant rate. but the point is no one is rushing to copy our way of working because it's nuts and bad for society!)

so, if we're given the manichean choice of work or family, who do we choose? we can't quit work or we won't be able to feed our families; we can't abandon our families because that's just shitty.

by not taking seriously the personal needs of the workforce, it seems that's what folks like john stossel and his corporate friends seem to want.

(of course there is a third option. it's a 5-letter word that begins with U and ends with N but that's for dusty blue collar people - not clean white collar people like us with masters degrees and shit, huh?

ooh, here's another word: 8 letters and begins with O and ends with IZE. but you're right; if we do that then our company might not like us anymore. because they, you know, aren't really that bad and we have to look at things from their point of view! and they truly have our best interests at heart. cuz that's what corporations do. take care of their workers.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

blearg: home sick

like a kid in elementary school, i'm home sick today. i never get sick. maybe a head cold or a tonsil thing but not the kind of sick where i have to leave the office early (ok, i left at five but i didn't feel good about it!) and then go straight to bed.

(where i promptly dreamed all night that the canadian prime minister was fake and no one knew but me and my roommate and no one would believe us and the canadian secret police were after us.)

so after asking my roomie what one does when they're sick (it entails bundling up and watching tv surrounded by vitamins and tea and romance novels) i think i'm all set for a wonderful, rainy, gray day on the couch under a comforter.

let's all call in sick, ok?

Monday, November 27, 2006

more than a test

this is a pull quote about the No Child Left Behind program from the times article below:

But the evidence is becoming difficult to ignore: when educators do succeed at educating poor minority students up to national standards of proficiency, they invariably use methods that are radically different and more intensive than those employed in most American public schools. So as the No Child Left Behind law comes up for reauthorization next year, Americans are facing an increasingly stark choice: is the nation really committed to guaranteeing that all of the country’s students will succeed to the same high level? And if so, how hard are we willing to work, and what resources are we willing to commit, to achieve that goal?

i was talking about this very thing with my roomie while drinking a whole bottle of wine wednesday night, which may explain my loose grip on reality. i said, 'no one is really serious about education reform. we know what works - we've seen all those programs about education innovations, the best performing charter schools, the curricula that works and leads to college enrollment. if people were serious, they'd scrap everything and take those best practices and make. it. work. if mayor daley is so broken up about chicago's schools, then why isn't he telling CPS to create a Montessori model in every classroom?'

roomie said, 'it costs too much. no one will do it. it's too expensive.'

so we've acknowledged that our public school system is not living up to its standards, and we've honestly tried all the dinky little stop-gaps to solve it (salaries, testing standards, private management, etc.) and nothing has changed.

are the folks in charge of our educational system really that lazy?

What It Takes to Make a Student - New York Times

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

how do you say 'turkey' in french?

all the goings on lately have been exhausting so roomie and i are going to montreal for the thanksgiving holiday.

pray for safe travels and have a great thanksgiving, everyone!

(feel free to post any ventings and rantings about going home for the holidays here. i won't mind and it'll give me something to read when i get back.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

to whoever doesn't 'get it.'

a list, in light of the Michael Richards/Kramer and UCLA student taser thing:

1. when talking about the use of the N-word, let's have a basic understanding that no one should be using it.

2. yes, some black folk use it. not all of us like that but that doesn't mean everyone gets to.

3. (similarly, yes, some gay folk also use the f-word when they speak with/about one another, but that's not going to make it ok for me to say it. it's bad manners.)

4. (just the way it's bad manners to whine about why certain people get to do certain things that seem naughty and you can't. you just can't. deal with it. if you're burning with a desire to say a naughty word and you're mad that people will think you're a racist if you do, then you have a problem.)

4.5. (and if you ask if that's fair - what are you, five?)

5. and besides, that's not the point. whether or not you are a racist is not the point. who cares if you're a racist? i don't - i'm not friends with racists and i personally prefer not to have anything to do with one.

6. the point is, Richards used it in a really really problematic way. you get a few racial demerits for saying the N-word but you flunk the whole test when you start referencing lynching.

7. and that's what's ugly. when we use the word racism *properly* we are to understand that there's a whole history and cultural tradition supporting it and giving it life; we understand that history isn't in the past - it's now, it's flowing forward, everything we do make us part of it and we inform it just as we're informed by it. history and cultural/social practice make racism real and Richards basically sickened himself and his audience when he vomited that history all over the stage that night.

8. this history claim - does this mean that we don't recognize other histories? i.e., the history of the english oppression of the irish, the spanish decimation of the native american and the indigenous? no way. but that's not the context of this particular conversation. it would be great if the folks that don't 'get it' also wanted to talk about other imperialisms and colonialisms and how they inform our contemporary culture and make our current race relations so frakking complicated.

9. but we all know that's not what you want to talk about, do you? it's funny how some you rhetorically grab onto the history thing and get all upset - 'what about this oppression or that oppression? are you saying that only black people have suffered, only black people have suffered oppression??' no, brother. let's talk about other people's suffering and oppression. i'd love to; if we did then we'd see that us black folk aren't just whining 'victim' every time someone uses the N-word. but be honest. history ain't on your side. you don't really want to go there.

10. but if you do, maybe we can talk about this guy from UCLA (my alma mater!) who totally got tasered for refusing to show school ID and told some campus police to frak off. let's talk about that.

Friday, November 17, 2006

awesome: another man who doesn't know his ovary from his scrotal sac

salon's Broadsheet has an awesome heads up about the guy who's about to be in charge of contraception access and family planning education/policy. sort of like the vet (i.e., dr. dolittle) who was slated to become the head of Women's Issues at the FDA, this new guy is a treat.

he's a pal of leslie unruh, the author of the South Dakota universal abortion ban legislation. (which was defeated.)
he's a schill for the notoriously 'light on scientific accuracy' abstinence-only crowd for the christian right. (which doesn't work.)
(want his bio? check out talk2action's research here.)
he runs a string of those so-called crisis pregnancy centers in massachusets.

and his biggest claim to fame?
he thinks:
sex causes people to go through oxytocin withdrawal which in turn prevents people from bonding in relationships. Seriously.

[Keroack] explained that oxytocin is released during positive social interaction, massage, hugs, “trust” encounters, and sexual intercourse. “It promotes bonding by reducing fear and anxiety in social settings, increasing trust and trustworthiness, reducing stress and pain, and decreasing social aggression,” he said.

But apparently if you’ve had sex with too many people you use up all that oxytocin: "People who have misused their sexual faculty and become bonded to multiple persons will diminish the power of oxytocin to maintain a permanent bond with an individual.” Hear that? Too many sexual partners and you’ll never love again!

(basic science: while it's true that oxytocin plays a major role during labor, breastfeeding and is released into the bloodstream during orgasm - as vasopressin is released in males - and that it does seem to enable trust and ease social anxiety, his basic premise that sexual promiscuity will use up 'too much' and your ability to form bonds with another person will diminish is bullshit - at least not for biological reasons. the number of partners shouldn't matter. if oxytocin levels were subject to fluctuation because of orgasm/sexual intercourse then it would be instance that mattered, not the number of partners.

and what a wonderful, discerning little chemical it would be! if all this was true, then it would also follow that oxytocin is able to distinguish between sex with a marital partner and sex with an extra-marital partner, would it not? genius little chemical!

anyway, oxytocin doesn't 'run out'. if that was the case, every time a woman gave birth she'd be capable of less bonding with each successive child - not to mention that with each instance of sex with her partner, over time, she'd be less able to maintain that bond. see? illogical bullshit.

and doesn't he know that oxytocin now comes in pill or nasal spray? no one has to suffer low bonding!)

this total ignoramus is going to be in charge of a government program for women's sexual health. monday is his first day. nice.

does george w. bush know ANY qualified people??

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

gasp! a woman's in charge!

i'd like to start collecting all the punditry around pelosi and her gender. i'd really like to start looking at the public discourse surrounding our first female speaker of the house because i'm curious to see how the public constructs a woman who wields real political power now.

will she be 'shrill'?
will she 'intimidate men' and 'will men be unable to relate to her'?
will she be 'emotional'?
'ball busting'?
'a barn burner'?
'man hating'?
'almost masculine in her abilities'?
'a fishwife'?
a 'bitch'?

or will she be...good at her job?

to read:
Pelosi ready for House helm, battle over issues -
as well as this over at BlogHer
i'll post more feminist posts on pelosi when i find them. it's gonna a fascinating two years.

Monday, November 06, 2006

who is my neighbor? ted haggard.

although the haggard story broke late last week, i've avoided writing about it for a few reasons. one, it's way too easy to go for the easy ironic joke; two, i wasn't quite sure if i even believed the story (and, believe me, i'm not exactly a haggard fan); three, the whole situation sort of seemed cheap.

the downfall of a preacher is a sad thing. i've seen my own father go through two church splits (we were Baptists, after all) and it was difficult to watch a ministry dissolve right before my eyes, along with the trust that once existed between a man and his congregation. i don't think any kind of ministry really recovers from something like that. because of the intense and intimate nature of a pastor's call, the sudden divestment seems like betrayal and a waste of all those previous years. in my father's case, the ground shifted due to an overly ambitious assistant pastor (such a cliche, isn't it?) with a secret of his own to hide and my father stepped down rather than be embroiled in an long, undignified fight with a once close friend who seemed to think he deserved something he didn't earn. though my father looked ahead with something like optimism, the whole ordeal was hard on him, the family and the folks who left with us. for me and my sister, we saw an ugly picture of church politics and greed. we saw the ugly underbelly of our church laid wide open and we turned away from it as fast as we could.

for haggard, it wasn't his own congregation that betrayed him but what he called his own 'dark nature.' perhaps. i wonder which is the greater sin - haggard's still shadowy liaison with jones or his lying about what led to that liaison for all this time? or is it all of a piece? i was going to ask if it's possible to run from our 'natures' but that's what christianity teaches, doesn't it? we put off the old nature and, behold, we are all made new creatures. i guess there's happy, shiny NEW and then there's the rest of us - let's welcome Haggard among us - who are Newish. we're relatively shiny but with a few spots of tarnishing here and there.

what should a progressive christian do in this case? when a combatant in the culture wars has fallen, a great big arrow sticking out of his back, what should the progressive church person do? most of the commentary around has focused on the 'hypocrisy' of ted haggard. it's more than hypocrisy; if he's actually gay, lobbying for legislation that will outlaw the lives of other americans simply because of who they love, then that's internalized homophobia, that's self-loathing. and that's so much sadder than hypocrisy.

there are clever posts to be written about the limitations of christian celebrity, the futility of living with secrets, the double edged sword of judgment, the end of privacy, the muted pleas for forgiveness from the evangelicals when it's one of their own who fall but its absence when it's anyone else, but i won't write those. (though i could!) instead i just think about how sad it is. sad that a guy was brought low simply because the idea of being christian and gay was inconceivable.

to read:
The Revealer: Haggard's Downfall as well as the nerve article he mentions (the roll up of christian men's self-help books has a pretty good analysis of the imagery and language defining christian masculinity. personally, braveheart does nothing for me.)

haggard's restoration team lost dobson. guess all that tarnished christianity was just too much.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

calling all writers: anthology submissions

a grad student from Indiana University approached me about submitting a piece of creative nonfiction to her proposed anthology. i've decided to do it and thought i'd pass on the news to the other women out there who write about their religious upbringing. the call is below. (please pay attention to the guidelines - she's looking for women writers!)

call for submissions
I'm currently soliciting creative nonfiction for an anthology; its working title is Growing Up Churched: Young Women Writers on Life, Faith, and Being Raised Evangelical. I'm looking for personal essays in the 3000-5000 word range, narratives centered around this theme. Please pass this call for submissions on to any writers you may know who might be interested in contributing to this project.

I'm looking for essays about growing up evangelical that break the mold. Most of the memoirs out there about growing up evangelical either end up fitting the formulas "wasn't life awful and, boy, I'm glad I escaped the church" or "wasn't life awful and, boy, I'm glad Jesus saved me." I want essays that don't fit these formulas, that tell surprising, fresh, unique stories. My hope is these essays will be both narrative and reflective in some way, whether they're funny or disturbing or grateful or angry. Also, a lot of writing about evangelicals focuses on men, hence the gender bias for this project.

A note – I'm working with a loose definition of "evangelical" here. If a writer grew up Mennonite or Reformed or Methodist or encountered evangelicalism later than childhood, her work might still fit this anthology. The more diverse the stories, the better!

Writers: If you're interested in the anthology and have an essay that you think might work, send it to me ASAP by e-mail at I'd love to look at your piece and see whether it might fit into this project. If you're interested in contributing the project, but don't have anything on paper, drop me a line to let me know. Then send me a draft of your essay by December 31, 2006 (New Year's Eve). This date is going to be the preliminary deadline for submissions.

And please, please do pass this message on to any writers you think might be interested.

In sum, here are the basic guidelines:

Personal essays in the 3000-5000 word range about growing up female and evangelical.
Contributors should be in their 20's or 30's.
Deadline: December 31, 2006.
Send the essays to me by e-mail at

More information and updates will be online at

Saturday, November 04, 2006

an indecent proposal: if not sex, then how about this...?

have you heard?

as the human sexuality timeline shortens between When We Used to Have Sex and When Sex is Bad in All Forms, apparently the federal gov has decided to be papa to teens AND adults: they want to spend federal dollars on telling adults to not have sex.

the moral reach of our government has now reached a complete, infantilizing low.

is spending federal dollars to tell already sexually active adults to stop being sexually active really the BEST use of our government's budget? what else would they like to spend dollars on - telling us to brush our teeth, eat our veggies, and look both ways before we cross the street?

figleaf has an excellent idea. since uncle sam hates the idea of us gettin' busy, maybe he'll be cool with us touching our private places in pleasurable ways, instead. i'm pretty sure that masturbation counts as abstinence so perhaps the gals at tulip will be able to apply for some of that federal money to promote an 'abstinent' yet pleasurable lifestyle. you think?

(unless killing pleasure is the point. gasp!)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

it's a thought...a Green candidate for gov!

Green Party vs. the goliaths | Chicago Tribune

the blagojevich/topinka ads are turning my stomach. can't a girl watch 'dancing with the stars' in peace? apparently not. (

and while we're at it, why doesn't the GOP just come out and call poor tammy duckworth a 'legless satan worshipper'? it'd cut through all the crap and make their ads so much more interesting.)

so my gaze turns toward a candidate who's been running so far under the radar, when i mentioned him at a work meeting, my very politically astute coworkers went, 'Err?' ralph nader pissed me off but i think i could probably go for a Green governor. and if you check out his profile, rich whitney doesn't sound totally crazy. ok, his gun policy is weird, but i can overlook that. i'm from los angeles.

(my rubric for political candidates is quite simple - don't sound like a nutbag.)

change has to start somewhere, right?

Monday, October 30, 2006

the past: bill can keep it

i don't know about you but when oprah had bill o'reilly on her show, i almost went blind. i mean, ok, she can have any sexual harrassing, falafel sniffing pervert whe wants on the show - but do we really have to look him seriously in the eye like *he's* the model of traditional values??

anyway, hearing everyone on that show bandy the term 'traditional values' vs. 'values that aren't traditional, never will be and will destroy life as we know it' (no, bill's not hysterical at all), as if these binary oppositions actually existed in a historical context, got me thinking.

while i like myth as a literary form, i've never much liked it as a structure for social behavior or law. so i went to borders yesterday and bought a stack of books i can barely afford and one of them was this:

The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap: Stephanie Coontz

traditional values, or what we assume is a common cultural 'sense' have never been so. they've never been natural things, things that just spring up like flowers. there is a Will, an Ideology, behind this world of ours. and bill doesn't want us to look at Ideology (or, rather, those hidden interests that guide these mythical 'traditional' values.) he wants us all to choose a side without even questioning the terms we're using.

no thanks.

and, besides, when was the past ever good for brown people? bill says he doesn't want to live in a world without traditional values; he'd rather live in a mythical bucolic past where everything was 'good.' but here's news - it wasn't good for everyone. what past is he talking about? is he talking about 1959? 1859? 1759? 1659? 'cause i can pretty much guarantee that life sucked hard, all the way back, if you weren't white, straight, male and rich.

anyway, i bring up this book because the amazon page has a neato feature that lets you look at its bibliography which is a great source list for women's history, historiography, some social studies and some really solid feminist academic texts. read books, people! you'll learn stuff!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


while you're reading this article, you have two distinctly different reactions.

first, you'll snort with disbelieving laughter when you read things like:
Last year, Sensenbrenner became apoplectic when Democrats who wanted to hold a hearing on the Patriot Act invoked a little-known rule that required him to let them have one.
"Naturally, he scheduled it for something like 9 a.m. on a Friday when Congress wasn't in session, hoping that no one would show," recalls a Democratic staffer who attended the hearing. "But we got a pretty good turnout anyway."

Sensenbrenner kept trying to gavel the hearing to a close, but Democrats again pointed to the rules, which said they had a certain amount of time to examine their witnesses. When they refused to stop the proceedings, the chairman did something unprecedented: He simply picked up his gavel and walked out.

funny, huh? funny that our only check against authortarianism and executive excess, our congress, doesn't even respect the rules of our democracy.

then, after you're done choking on your disbelieving laughter, you'll start to get angry. very very angry. who do these people think they are??
It is clear that the same Congress that put a drooling child-chaser like Mark Foley in charge of a House caucus on child exploitation also named Cunningham, a man who can barely write his own name in the ground with a stick, to a similarly appropriate position. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence:
"As truth will come out and you will find out how liablest [sic] you have & will be. Not once did you list the positives. Education Man of the funding, jobs, Hiway [sic] funding, border security, Megans law my bill, Tuna Dolfin [sic] my bill...and every time you wanted an expert on the wars who did you call. No Marcus you write About how I died."
How liablest you have & will be? What the fuck does that even mean? This guy sat on the Appropriations Committee for years -- no wonder Congress couldn't pass any spending bills!

then, you'll feel a great big heave of disgust.
disgust at our pork-laden public officials, disgust at the ruins of our congress, disgust at our president for enabling these turdy, ignorant psychopaths and, especially, disgust at our craven mainstream media who can't seem to muster any muckraking instinct if their over-bloated lives depended on it. what the hell ever happened to 'the public's right to know'?!

it's a long article but it's worth every single pukey detail.

Rolling Stone : COVER STORY: Time to Go! Inside the Worst Congress Ever

Friday, October 27, 2006

our reproductive battles from the eyes of the brits

from the guardian article:
This is America's abortion debate in its purest, most distilled form: yes or no. There is no province for doubt. Should a woman be compelled to carry a baby to term when doctors tell her it will be born with no brain? Should a pregnant woman forgo potentially life-saving medical treatment for the sake of the baby she is carrying? Should a woman be forced to give birth to a child conceived in rape? Yes, yes and yes, says Leslee Unruh, the guiding light of South Dakota's anti-abortion activists. She has devoted her life to ending abortion, driven by her own guilt at having a termination as a young woman.

when i started teaching, my pedagogy instructors always said, 'if you want discussion, avoid questions that can only elicit a yes/no answer.' so i'd like to rewrite those questions the guardian says our ongoing reproductive health battles prompt:

What are the ethics of forcing a mother to forgo potentially life-saving medical treatment for the sake of the baby she's carrying?
Why should a woman be forced to give birth to a child conceived in rape?
Why should a woman carry to term a baby who won't have a brain?

of course unruh will say yes to easy 'yes/no' questions (so would we on the pro-choice side). but wouldn't it be interesting to hear her answers to the above questions? wouldn't those questions also enrich the discussions on the pro-choice side?

i think so.

America's abortion battlefield | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

if we're so empowered, why don't we vote?

do you want to do something for these upcoming mid term elections?
are you looking for a way to contribute?
do you live in the suburbs of chicago?

then click here.

the ywca metropolitan chicago and citizen action illinois are working together to try and make sure as many single women as possible, in the north and northwest suburbs, make it to the voting booth on nov 7.

why single women? because we have one of the lowest voter rates around. 20 million registered single women in the 2004 elections could have made a significant difference - but they never made it into the voting booth. we need to change that.

if you live in the surrounding glen ellyn area, any time will do - 90 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours.

(and, yeah, i'm not exactly a disinterested party here.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

moving on

it's never good to stay in one place for too long.

you begin to go over the same ground, the same complaints, the same scenery. the environment loses its sharp color and your brain begins to fuzz down until all the sharp little questions start sounding the same.

and that's what has happened with me and my blogs. i've had them for 4-5 years now and it's time for a change. the sharp little questions i had when i started them are still there: how does a modern woman navigate being a feminist christian, how does a progressive woman of color interact with her world while not hiding from it? will i ever find a progressive guy who doesn't hate the idea of church and who won't annoy the crap out of me? where is my perfect black pair of pants? and if the christian conservative wants to mold the world in their image so much, why not just do what the amish folk do and live on a farm somewhere where they can create their world to their heart's content?

so i still have these questions but is this the right way? is ChurchGal the right way for me to explore and convey what it's like for a woman like me and even provide a space for other women like me?

i read an excerpt from barak obama's new book, The Audacity of Hope, while in the bathroom this morning. he briefly described the defensiveness he felt while battling the kooky alan keyes. (i call him kooky, not obama.) and i know what he's talking about. he defends a pro-choice position, he defends the civil rights of gays and keyes says he's not a Believer. is that what our intellectual exchange has come to? 'you don't believe the exact thing i believe so you don't have faith. you express your struggles so you don't have faith. you've admitted you've had sex, so you're a whore and don't have faith.'

it makes me want to give every self-righteous person who passes by a great big 'fuck you' finger. but that's not the right response either.

i don't want to indulge in these little playground smackdowns anymore. they're tiresome and beneath a good many of us. so what's the new ground i want to explore? where should i go next with ChurchGal?

i don't know.
but it has to be forward.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

blurred lines: church/state articles in nytimes

this is the first article in the series about the eroding lines between church and state - and how it benefits some faith-based organizations across all denominations.

As Exemptions Grow, Religion Outweighs Regulation - New York Times

and this is the second article, about employee's rights while working for religious organizations.

(i'm in the middle of monstrous fundraising at National Non Profit, so this is about as analytical as i'll get this week.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

crimes against girls

it's only recently that the shooting crimes in colorado and pennsylvania are beginning to be seen through the lens of gender.

while these crimes fall, indeed, into the genre of 'school shootings' these two particular events are also crimes of assault against girls and, in the colorado case, sexual assault against girls. (because of the tubes of lubricant he carried, the man who shot the girls in pennsylvania also intended some kind of sexual assault against his victims, but probably ran out of time before he could commit it.)

now, there will be people who will try to mitigate these criminals by saying that they were either mentally disturbed or already had a history of child predation - that it's too extreme to call this crimes against girls.

but that's what i call it. i call it misogyny taken to its extreme. some have even gone further than that to call it 'male terrorism.' i won't be distracted by arguments over rhetoric. but what that rhetoric describes is hateful, disgusting and should be called what it is: hatred against women.

here's a lengthy excerpt from a post i ran across today, The Ugliest Men in America:
These kinds of crimes are rare, of course, even if the rapid succession in which these events happens suggests a sort of epidemic. Most people will never have to face people like these. However, I believe that the attitudes and pathologies that underlie such incredible viciousness are widely dispersed throughout our culture. These assaults are, in many ways, the acute manifestation of two chronic, interlinked social problems: misogyny and male inadequacy.

First, allow me to explain what I mean by misogyny. I’m not talking about sexism, which is the belief that the essential characteristics of one particular sex render it superior or inferior to the other in some regard, but instead about a related, but altogether more malevolent phenomenon. A misogynist doesn’t just believe that women are inferior to men, he believes that they are dangerous, hateful, sinister, wicked, inhuman and frightening. Women, to the misogynist, are necessary and desired objects that have to be controlled, whether by manipulation, by threat, or by outright violence. People disagree on what provokes this awful mindset in certain men, but I tend to believe that it’s the result of upbringing and psychology, not something that’s dispersed by the media. In other words, I think men learn to be woman-haters by watching their fathers and uncles and friends hate women, I don’t think they learn it from the movies or from rap lyrics. The latter can play a supportive role in the misogynist’s development, though.

Where the main fault of our society lies, I feel, is in its failure to separate misogyny from masculinity. Machismo, as it is presently formulated, is a shameful thing, more of a peacock performance than a real ethos. Macho is pretending to be strong and independent when you’re really fearful and weak. Macho is dominating through force and winning respect through intimidation. It’s a sick parody of masculinity. Only the feeblest psyches need to hide behind violence and ruthlessness, but our culture allows for and often valorizes these vicious weaklings. A healthier society would be better able to distinguish a true man from a tantruming child, a man of honor from a worthless, domineering thug.

i'm reminded of what i wrote about the girls gone wild guy, the american soldiers who raped a 14-yr old iraqi girl and then killed her and almost all of her family, and the comment i left about the MRM movement that led to Patriarch saying he wanted to hold me down, hit me in my face and shave my head.

misogyny leading to violence against women.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


after a hard week at work (yes, it's only wednesday) there is nothing i like more than to zone out. i especially like zoning out when the political news of the day gives me gas. so in recognition of the CMOS going online with a subscription, here's their Q&A section, where you can zone out while pondering the correct usage of its.

Chicago Manual of Style - Q&A

(i saw its used three times incorrectly today and it drove me nuts.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

hide that diaphragm, ladies.

i think i just got heartburn.

no longer just a hidden paranoia amongst the pro-choice, the new evangelical 'war' on contraception has finally broken the surface. i knew it would happen.

i love all the space given to the anti-family planning side while the pro-family planning side is given just a few inches toward the end, legitimizing the idea that people (mostly women) shouldn't have the right to use contraception.

Abortion foes' new rallying point | Chicago Tribune

all those married ladies on the pill or using the sponge, diaphragm or IUD? forget it.
all those married guys who don't want to get a vasectomy and so use condoms? too bad.
everyone else who doesn't want to get pregnant (for various reasons) and who don't believe the same as others about the place of sex in a relationship (or out of one)? yeah, too bad.

sex is only for married folks, people. the fundies have said so.
and now they're going to FORCE you to be celibate.

whether you like it or not.

update: want some stats on men, the 'male pill' and their usage of contraception? here's something from planned parenthood -

Ask Dr. Cullins: Birth Control

Q: How soon will it be before there's a pill for men?
A: There are still years to go, although there seem to be breakthroughs in the research every once in a while. Finding a safe and effective way to keep a man from producing millions of sperm a day has proven to be more difficult than it is to keep a woman from producing one egg a month.
However long it takes, it will be worthwhile. Men are very willing to take responsibility for birth control, even though there are comparatively few options for them. In fact, men now take responsibility for more than a third of all contraception. More than 20 percent of all couples who use contraception rely on the condom. Nearly 11 percent rely on vasectomy. Three percent rely on withdrawal. And more than two percent rely on periodic abstinence.

Friday, September 22, 2006

for those who know who i am, look for a letter in the Trib this weekend re: the Federal Election Integrity Act.


(oh, and if the probability of having to BUY a freaking passport to prove your citizenship pisses you off, even though you're already registered and can prove your identity otherwise, and you don't buy the whole straw man argument about this being about voter fraud when this is just really another example of bashing immigrants while there's nothing but anecdotal BS about illegal immigrants committing large scale fraud, and you suspect this is really about suppressing the vote among the poor and the brown, then you really need to call your senator right now to vote NO. really.)

Monday, September 11, 2006


the Gen X-er in me balks at the maudlin regularity of the tributes, memorials and such but here's a devotion i found in my inbox this morning from my pastor:

Devotions: Monday, September 11, 2006
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 3:8-12

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For

“Those who desire life
and desire to see good days,
let them keep their tongues from evil
and their lips from speaking deceit;
let them turn away from evil and do good;
let them seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (nrsv)

Each one of us, I know, will find ourselves reflecting, pondering, wondering, praying today on this anniversary of 9/11. Our faith, our church, our precious traditions have sustained us these past five years. They have continued to deepen our understanding and show us how God is present in every circumstance, even dreadful events, with creative and life-giving love.

Our mothers and fathers in the faith, in the early Christian church, lived with the constant threat of persecution, imprisonment, death. Letters circulated among those separate tiny communities, extending love, encouragement, and hope. The words might have been written to us on September 11: “Have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing.”

As we continue to struggle with how best to respond to what happened to us, may those of us who have staked our lives on One who was and is “light shining in darkness” remember our vocation: to show the world something of God’s purposes--“unity, sympathy, love, tenderness, humility, blessing.”

Dear God, I bring to you all that is in my heart today: all the anguish and anger, all the fear, all the love for my country and my hope for the future. I commend to your eternal love all the victims and to your care their families and friends. I pray for our leaders, for the women and men of our armed forces, and for all the people of the world. I pray for peace: the peace of the world, peace in my nation, and peace in my heart. O God, help me this day to know and to demonstrate something of your presence, your love and your intent for a world characterized by sympathy, tenderness, humility, and blessing. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Written by John Buchanan, Pastor

Friday, September 08, 2006

what's a girl to wear?

so as the weather cools out, a girl's thoughts naturally turn to Fall fashion. i love this time of year - back to 'school', tights, pumps, sweaters and jackets, smooth hair, plum lipstick. last year i went with Sexy Librarian.

this year it has been recommended that i go with The Tailored Tomboy.

or, as i like to put it: The Sexy Librarian's Sexy Butch Cousin.

it's a recommendation that comes just in time for the new boy - uh, man - who's suddenly appeared on the Ding scene. heh.

(i need a name for him...something that conveys HunkyTallStrappingBroadArtyCrunchyGranolaFurnitureMaker Man. something like Paul Bunyan but less...rustic.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Mothers Movement Online: mommies of the world unite!

so i won't have to bury this piece down there in comments, here's something on the limitations of the mommy wars and how we really need to start talking about more important things - like, how our culture needs to change so that *all* mommies can do what they need to do.

from the article: "Maybe we can quit beating the dead mommy wars horse, and start talking about how family and work can fit together in the twenty-first century." [emphasis mine]

it's a fascinating site that's pro-mommy and pro-social change. it all goes to show: not all mommies are cut from the same mold.

The Mothers Movement Online

Friday, September 01, 2006

politics of the boob: nursing at work

this is fascinating. who knew that breastfeeding at work could hold such political implications?

from the article:

For those with autonomy in their jobs — generally, well-paid professionals — breast-feeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice. It is usually an inconvenience, and it may be an embarrassing comedy of manners, involving leaky bottles tucked into briefcases and brown paper bags in the office refrigerator. But for lower-income mothers — including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers and the military — pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breast-feed at all, and others to quit after a short time.

It is a particularly literal case of how well-being tends to beget further well-being, and disadvantage tends to create disadvantage — passed down in a mother’s milk, or lack thereof.
[emphasis mine]

why is this interesting to me, since these boobs of mine will never fill with milk? because it's a great example of how class privilege gets expressed (heh) in our culture. it's more than an academic exercise; it's two different realities for women who are in similar nursing situations. these women all have breasts, milk, children and need but only one set has access to the equipment, the time, the privacy. and because of this difference, based on class, there are health care implications for both of these sets of children (and their mothers.)

it's all linked, when you look at it closely.

i wonder what would happen in that law firm mentioned in the article if one of the assistants used the lactation room provided for the lawyers. would she be forbidden? and are the women with privilege even aware that there's this dichotomy? or do they even care? i'd care. a lot.

read the article here: On the Job, Nursing Mothers Find a 2-Class System - New York Times

Thursday, August 31, 2006

oh, GACK!

this just in from US Rep. Katherine Harris:

"If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," Harris said.

well. guess i just found my topic for this week's blog post over at christian alliance... - Rep. Harris: Church-state separation 'a lie' - Aug 28, 2006

[thanks, feministing.]

Thursday, August 24, 2006

women, don't marry a jackass

so, apparently, while i was gone, Forbes magazine published a craptacular article from one of their editors called "Don't Marry a Career Woman."

a furor ensued (as well it should in the face of such bad writing and even poorer thinking, ironic or not) and Forbes took down the piece, then repackaged it as a craptacular debate when its own female employees expressed some, uh, anger.

(and the editor might have some anger issues of his own; a previous videogame reviewer for Wired, read: dork, and his credits include an article positing men shouldn't marry when they can buy a whore! niiice. maybe he and joe francis can move in together.)

Feministing has a very nice timeline of events, links to commentary and, through it all, you should get a real nice view of how neanderthalic some people (cough - men) still are about women in the workplace.

get. over. it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

about 5 years ago i lost my mother. it was devastating.

and now, my best friend/roomie has lost hers. it's also devastating.
i'll be taking the next few days off to be with her and some of our friends who are flying out to join A- and her family for the services.

each parental loss i and my friends experience tells us how finite family is; our friends become our family.

(love you, dad.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Guys Gone Wild: War, Nation-making and Boobies

My mind is a soup, so bear with me.

Lately, two articles have become linked in my head: one, the recent LA Times Magazine article about the sleazy Girls Gone Wild mogul, Joe Francis, who has issues with coercing/forcing young women into sex and exhibitionism and two, the continuing narrative about the American soldiers who gang raped a girl, killed her, set her body on fire and killed three other members of her family to cover their rape/murder (which I describe in stark terms because they are stark actions. Let’s not be squeamish when we’re talking about these things.)

(And if you Google ‘Steven D. Green’ you can read the news stories on this case.)

On the surface, these stories bear no relation to one another: one is a slightly distasteful domestic story of an entrepreneur who seizes his capitalist moment and cashes in on our culture’s desire for celebrity and sex. The other is at the center of a larger global narrative of nation-making, democracy, terror, and military might. But if we scrape the surface, we’ll see these stories are not so different, after all. Both highlight masculine aggression, the ideological equation of libidinal release with cultural/capital supremacy, and both see such supremacy happening at the expense of women and their bodies. In these narratives, women are not merely objects, they are channels through which our men establish their identities. Female bodies are what predatory men need to fix their hypermasculine identities.

What does it take to create a Joe Francis or Private Steven D. Green? The acceptance of aggression as within suitable boundaries of human behavior. The LA Times piece opens with Francis assaulting the reporter over the hood of a car, her hands crushed behind her, her body pinned underneath Francis while surrounded by an acquiescent crowd of his bodyguards, male onlookers and armed law enforcement who realize too late that what they’re looking at isn’t a joke. Later, in addition to Francis’ own verbal and physical abuse of the reporter, Hoffman relates incidents of Francis verbally, physically and legally forcing women to his will. (That’s what his videos are all about: the moment a young girl must have her will bent to that of Francis, his camera man and to the implicit threat of the inevitable circle of drunk, aggressive men demanding to see her breasts.) And in Iraq, you have a group of men in a high combat area, all of them heavily armed, who’ve been fighting and see no end to the fighting; you have Private Green who’s on record saying “I want to kill and hurt a lot of Iraqis.”

You also need a cultural mindset that justifies whatever feeds a sense of supremacy, of over-weening masculine Privilege. Francis actually says it:
“I hate to get too deep and philosophical here, but only the guys with the
greatest sexual appetites are the ones who are the most driven and most

This ‘drive to succeed’ will inevitably permit him to create a world that’s saturated with his view of sex and commercial exchange. The soldier’s success is a little more complicated; while there is individual motivation to avenge fellow soldiers’ deaths (the reports concentrate on testimony of the unit taking on heavy casualties and members of the unit being under combat stress, leading to Green’s confessed desire to kill Iraqis), there is a national motivation to ‘stay the course’, to be resolved in the face of any brutality, either inflicted or endured. At stake is national pride. Our vision of the world is so monumental, we cannot flinch; we cannot relent. In our national discourse, our soldiers are like gladiators, the ones carrying democracy at the point of a gun. ‘My country, right or wrong.’ Isn’t that the phrase?

But we also see what happens in such an atmosphere of masculine privilege: the brutality at Guantanamo Bay and the cruelty at Abu Ghraib (whose events were also highly sexualized.) And what is war but a nation giving itself permission to be its most brutal, its most desensitized? We saw what happened in Cambodia during covert operations during the Vietnam war, what happened in the central part of Africa during the tribal purges, what happened in Bosnia and Serbia – nationalist fervor manifesting itself in the systematic rape of women.

And so, to finish creating a Joe Francis and a Private Green, you need the body of a woman. It’s helpful if the woman is rendered helpless, by alcohol, by her age, by the fact our country has invaded hers. It’s also useful if she’s seen as Other (gendered Other, racially Other, nationally Other, politically Other). For Francis, what’s important is that the young woman is merely a tool for his own gratification. (Women who approach him to appear in his videos ‘sadden’ him.) She has no agency, no right to her own body; she’s just a pair of breasts. She’s worth nothing more than a t-shirt or baseball cap, though her image makes him a mogul. For Private Green and his fellow soldiers, the 14-yr old Abeer Qasim Hamza was just an Iraqi. Worthless. An object. This girl was a receptacle for their rage, fear and hatred that, through their act of violating her, allows them to become a picture of American manhood.

Before the NYTimes changed the headline to ‘GI Tells Why He Testified in Rape-Murder Inquiry’ it read ‘Iraq Incident was Fueled by Whiskey, GI Says.’ What a cop out. Whiskey may have given the soldiers dutch courage, but that narrative is not about boys getting a little bit out of control, like their frat went on a pantie raid. Let's readjust our lens a little bit. I see the guys who surround Joe Francis – the cameramen, the club owners, the bodyguards, the cops, the bystanders, the producers, the guys who buy the fracking tapes – then I see the soldiers who went on that raid on that Iraqi house and I cannot help but see them in the same way: predators.

Monday, August 07, 2006

boys will be boys? or war is hell?

i don't know how many people are following this but it's a story that turns my stomach: a disturbed GI takes it into his head to 'kill Iraqis' and so gets guys from his platoon to gang rape and kill a young girl, setting her body on fire to conceal their crime - and kill her entire family besides.

Iraq Incident Was Fueled by Whiskey, G.I. Says - New York Times

what are we doing there?

our hubris has turned us into (there's no other word for it) savages.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

it's sunday afternoon, a rare day that i've been able to enjoy without 'running errands' or otherwise being outside in a heatwave.

i've stumbled across two articles today in the 'paper' that are sort of like bookends to one another; one looks at the declining number of men without college educations marrying and the other looks at women, with educations, entering financial services and what they encounter - as well as the adjustments some firms are having to make because of them:

Facing Middle Age With No Degree, and No Wife - New York Times

Wall Street's Women Face A Fork in the Road - New York Times

what's interesting to me about both these articles is how they avoid the tone of a fake 'crisis' (unlike the Times' previous shoddy Opt Out articles, for which one of these is a tonic) and they show how the idea of what's 'traditional' is changing because people (men and women alike) are saying up front 'this isn't working for me.' and their rejection is saying something about the way our worlds, social and corporate worlds, are organized.

when looking at the low trends of young women entering financial services it's offered that 'Generation Y cares less about money if it comes at too high a price, ...throwing a wrench into Wall Street’s past assurance that it could demand cultlike devotion from employees in return for fatter paychecks than any other profession.' instead, younger men and women (even those who'd like to return) are demanding something less insane than working around the clock to the detriment of their personal/family lives.

and the guys featured in the marriage piece - they seem ok with their status, whatever their reasons for remaining single (financial stbility, fear of divorce, can't commit.) to the pressure of marriage, the effort and expense of it - they're saying no. while the article makes a lot of the stats showing how the pool of available women has shrunk for these men, their own personal stories tell a different story - they just don't want to marry. it's working for them.

of course it makes me think what life will look like down the line when most folk in my generation will be living as roommates, unmarried and pretty well happy about it. it'll be unlike life as we've known it (or heard about from our parents and grandparents). my friends and i joke about it: we're through with lovers and husbands (or maybe not), we're living in some hip elderly commune somewhere, getting all nostalgic about U2 or Wilco.

that'll be sort of interesting.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

i'll believe it when i see it: the 'oops' plan

dead horse, beaten.

if unintended pregnancies and abortions are to be avoided, then a full range of contraception is necessary for a woman's sexual and reproductive health.

Soon no prescription for morning-after pill?

a doozy:

"You might have an 18-year-old girl who decides that rather than practice safe sex and plan responsibly, 'I no longer have to worry about it. I can just go to the pharmacy,' " said state Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Troy), a Downstate pharmacist for 31 years.
Stephens, who is morally opposed to the morning-after pill and refuses to fill such prescriptions, said selling Plan B over-the-counter compromises patient safety by "taking the doctor and the pharmacist out of the equation."

love how the majority of adult women are held hostage to this hypothetical dumbass 18-yr old AND love how now Rep Stephens is blathering about 'taking the doctor out' of the process when he and his pals think it's just fine for doctors and pharmacists to refuse to dispense plain old birth control.

which is it, doc? you WANT women to have access to prescribed birth control or you DON'T?

(if people just want other people to stop having sex outside of christian monogamous marriage, you've had millions of years to nail it and it still hasn't worked. congrats.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

modern life

now i know why maureen dowd writes those crazy, dreadful, 'men don't want to date me because i'm a feminist' columns every so often.

trying to be all profound week after week can blow, especially when you have a real-life job that's important to you, your sister and brother in law are coming into town this weekend, you still haven't cleaned your room, you have to pay the housecleaner (with something), buy some beer, and you have NO idea how you're going to entertain houseguests for three days.

it's hard to muster the intellectual energy to think of something sharp or funny or snarky to say about the modern state of religion in our culture when you also have to figure out when you're going to return the phone calls of a friend with whom you may stay in new york next month during a trip with your father, the calls of an irate pseudo-ex who doesn't want to be an ex anymore, the calls from friends wondering where you are and when you all can hang out. (we can hang out when i can find some time on my calendar!)

it's also hard to get up any gumption when things in the middle east resemble a crusty pie imploding from the inside, when things over here sort of look like one of those pleasure cruises slowly taking in water, when things all over kind of make you feel like you want to say, 'dear jesus, just send that flaming meteorite anytime at all. really. stick a fork in us, we're done.'

i can't help writing what i'm about to write next, as churchy and 'devotional' as it sounds: i keep going back in my head to that moment in church on sunday, listening to that small group of ordinary men up in the choir loft sing the holst/mcdonald piece, watching their quiet pleasure in it, listening to their worship and feeling full of something. and whatever it was, it stayed with me all week - while i crossed the bridge at wacker and michigan, rumbling on the crowded rush hour bus, it was with me, giving me pause.

even now, while i watch the clock and know that i have to get up in 6 hours to run an early morning meeting and i'm so busy my head hurts to think about it, even now i'm taking just a little rest from all that to think about the hymn again:

'with my heart i'll ever worhip you; my voice will sing your praise for your everlasting mercy and grace for every day.'

i guess when international peace is elusive, we take what we can get.

Monday, July 24, 2006

deacon on duty

a glorious chicago morning.
the sky above michigan avenue is the blue of a robin's egg. the breeze from the lake brushes my face. i'm rushing across the avenue, the yellow cabs at the red light impatient to speed southward, through the front door, fussing with my magnetic deacon's badge, the click of my heels snapping across the flagstones. the usher at the narthex door smiles, handing me my program. her eyes flick to my nametag and she says my name.

through the door, a brisk walk down the center aisle. no hiding off to the side and back for me. other deacons at their stations give little waves. i stop to say to the deacon board co-moderators, two nice guys (who seem to live at the church), and then i slip into my row, hoping i don't get boxed in when i have to leave early to get to my church tour position at the narthex when service ends.

the organ begins to tune. then, bach.
we're in the middle of our responsive psalm reading. (i'm still amazed that they have to print the page numbers of bible books in the program. who doesn't know where to find psalms?)
one of the pastors from the presbytery is reading swiftly. we read just as swiftly.

he reads, "For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand."
then he stops.
a long silence ensues: congregation waiting patiently for visiting pastor to realize he has half a verse more. pastor just as patiently wondering why the congregation has fallen silent. congregation now stubbornly determined to wait out the pastor. pastor still befuddled. the silence grows uncomfortably long. i'm fascinated at the standoff.

then the men's choir up above softly prompt, "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, Than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" and we, the congregation, gratefully read our part. the service rolls serenely on.
the lights are dim as the guest pastor gives the installation sermon for our new associate pastor A-. we've all finally deciphered his twangy tennessee accent. (like how it takes a few minutes to unravel a northern england accent in a film.) he's in the middle of an anecdote about successful pastors who engage the heart and mind.

a man writes a letter to john wesley saying, 'dear dr. wesley, God don't need your book-learnin'.' to which john wesley writes: 'my dear sir, God may have no need of my book-learning, but neither does he need your ignorance.'

i am the only one to laugh out loud.
the offetory hymn, a slow, swelling, majestic song, is one of my favorites ('sovereign lord, creator, righteous one', gustave holst, arr. mary mcdonald). the men's choir sways gently, stretching their mouths to sing the words; some of them have their eyes closed and there is pleasure on their faces. just as it ends, the asian man on the bottom row looks up at the grizzled tenor standing above him and they exchange a nod and smile proudly.

i want them to sing it again. then instantly think i want this sung either at my wedding or my funeral, whichever comes first. then think, what wedding??
all the ordained officers huddle at the chancel laying our hands on our new associate pastor A-. the man's suited shoulder in front of me is padded. whoever is touching mine is weaving just slightly on their feet and every so often they firm up their grip on my shoulder to steady themselves.

i drift in and out of the prayer aware that i need to pull up my pants.
leading the church tour, trying frantically to remember the names of the figures on the stained glass, what the frog represents on the chancel, and who makes the tapestries for the sanctuary.

but i get the japanese story right. one day i'll remember what the frog means.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

who says the rapture can't be funny?

Today, while the Flaming Bag of Poo called 'work' flamed on, I enjoyed a brief email exchange with friends:

Friend -
I have an interview on Monday and am looking for volunteers to practice with's been ten years. Any takers?

Okay, while I know neither of you are conservative Christian right wing republicans I was hoping you may know how long I (who am I kidding - "we") will have to wait for the second coming?

This is the order, right? WWIII, then a Jesus party, then suffering on earth, then the second Jesus party? So how long is that suffering part? I just think I need to plan...

Ding -
Though I'm no longer a fundamentalist, I know exactly this timeline - I even took a class in it.

Rapture Agenda:
1. Trumpet
2. Jesus in the clouds
3. Rapture
4. Worldwide confusion
5. Anti-christ (also heralded by rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem and the resumption of sacrifices)
6. Tribulation of remaining folks, most likely Lutherans, UCC, Episcopalians and Presbyterians (approx 40 years or so, during which we get that dreaded 'mark' or die)
7. Jesus again
8. Judgment
9. Fiery ball of destruction

I think steps 8/9 are interchangeable. So I think you've got some time, there.
Work is kicking my ass all over the place but I'm willing to ask questions like 'where do you see yourself in ten years'? That won't be depressing at all.

Friend -
Thanks for the detailed I can actually answer the ten year question with 'rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.'

Thursday, July 13, 2006

You Better Work it!*

*[am I the only one who remembers RuPaul’s dance floor classic?]

Let’s talk about work. (Since this week at the office has exploded all over me like a flaming bag of poo, I thought Work would be an appropriate subject for this go-round.) And let’s think about the work that doesn’t get done when we try to say that ‘values’ and ‘faith’ is the same thing. The two aren’t interchangeable, though they are related; this is the problem I have with the way these two terms are used in our public political discourse because I think that while Faith and Values are good in themselves they may not be the best way to create social change or solve a problem. Rather, I think the solution rests in Work.

When I say Work, I mean the difficult labor of making change. It is the process (be it small or large, on a local or national level) through which a discernible difference can be made in someone’s material circumstance. Does this mean that a person’s spiritual change can't also manifest in social change? Brian McLaren doesn't think so; he posits that Christ’s gospel is really so revolutionary, it has immediate and radical implications for both private and public life – a truth that has been tamed in our church tradition so that the Gospel resembles nothing more than nicey-nice verses telling us all to love one another.

(Full disclosure: I’m only on page 40 of McLaren’s book. Sigh. I keep putting it aside to read my new serial killer thriller.)

Let’s back up. Last week I posted about Obama’s speech on the Democrats' need to engage more people of faith in an authentic way and not to shy away from issues of faith. While I agreed faintly, I disagreed, strongly, that we should be concentrating on Faith as Electoral Strategy. Instead, I wanted us to start looking at their Work, not as an Electoral Strategy (which puts a box around progressive work), but because it’s what has to happen.

Lately, the ‘religious left’ story has popped up in all sorts of places. Here , here , and here . And, even here . Adele Stan, in the American Prospect piece, writes:
At the root of all of the great faiths are fundamental beliefs in compassion, justice, love, and charity. We have the right -- dare I say the duty? -- to express ourselves as moral agents without the imprimatur of ecclesiastical authority.

Spoken the right way, arguments for the embodiment of these values in our civic life can ring with the divine provenance granted to them by believers. And indeed, religious activists -- especially our ministers, priests, rabbis, and imams -- are vital to our movement. But to expect them alone to create a moral counterforce to the destructive fear mongering of the right is not only unrealistic, it’s an expectation rooted in abdication of our own role as moral agents.

I want to concentrate on the word ‘movement.’ It’s a political word. It’s a word that brings to mind force, power (both of the people behind it and that which it is battling), and largeness – the largeness of the idea behind the movement and the largeness of the goal of the movement. For me, it’s a much more relevant and piercing call than one to Faith and Values. Yes, I have faith in Christ and through Him all things are possible; yes, I want to evangelize an ideology (which is what ‘values’ are) of equality, tolerance and grace. But to what end and do I really believe all that?

I am reminded of a church song that says “They will know us by our love.” For me, being progressive has always been about the fundamentals of love writ large. There is grace for everyone. We care for our fellow man, our fellow worker, our fellow struggler because they matter. They are not insignificant and they are not here simply as chaff for the fiery destruction of the world – nor are they meant to be soulless fodder for a corporate war machine.

But I’m suspicious of Faith and Values language because I don’t tend to believe the person who’s using it. The conservatives use it to hide their power and the left is using it to hide our rage. So let’s use a different language. Let’s use a language that was just fading from use when I was born – the language of a revolutionary love. Let’s start getting real about identifying who has power in this society, and who doesn’t. Let’s start being real honest about whose interests are behind which policies and who’s getting screwed by those policies – and how all of that must change. Let’s start thinking about a movement that’s less ‘Can’t we all get along?’ and more James Cone (as quoted in Sharlet’s piece in The Revealer):
‘authentic love is not ‘help’ — not giving Christmas baskets — but working for political, social, and economic justice, which always means a redistribution of power. It is a kind of power which enables [the oppressed] to fight their own battles and thus keep their dignity.’ [emphasis mine]

But since redistributing power means that those with privilege – class, race, and gender privilege - must confront it and then willfully step away from it, (thus personifying the whole ‘first shall be last’ thing in the Beatitudes), I have little hope such justice will occur any time soon.

We of the left seem to have forgotten that the personal is political – and that all politics are local. Instead let's forget electoral strategies. We already know that nothing trickles down, least of all change. Let’s get mucky on the bottom, on the street, in those grassroots we theoretically love. Understanding and evangelizing the ideological behind the ordinary is how we must affect change; it is how we must create a cultural shift. It’s not trendy, clean, or easy. It’s fracking hard. It means actually penetrating the communities we want to change; it means actually educating people about and implementing real, tangible, meaningful social change while transcending shallow election tactics that are only relevant every four years. It means ORGANIZING.

I do not accept the answer ‘it’s too much work’. It’s not Work when you mean it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

what making an effort will give you

my new year's resolution was to Make an Effort. i thought it would be a good way to end complacency, laziness and get my life in order. who knew that Making an Effort would be quite so effective?

i look at my calendar now and whimper. my free and open spaces are beginning to disappear with the alacrity of conservatives reacting to michael moore.

my current boy situation aside (which actually isn't that big a deal since expectations were so low - in short, he didn't want to meet my friends and act like a normal grown up), this week is going to give me a stroke.

work has, to put a fine point on it, exploded all over me like a flaming bag of poo. i stepped into my new position officially last week and, man, is the learning curve fast and steep. our government affairs contact said to me, as she handed me her copy of the IL general assembly directory, 'don't worry. in a year, you'll be great. flashcards are useful.'

holy crap. flashcards. and - a year?!

i have to learn names, committees, titles, interest areas - for city, county, state, and federal level officials (elected and appointed).

what the hell. those past 7 years of frolicking were nice. who needs friends, family and boys? not me.

i have the illinois general assemby and the cook county board to keep me warm.

(of course, i'm secretly thrilled. it's like i'm in my own personal episode of 'west wing.' love it.)

Monday, July 10, 2006

i'm over here!: christian alliance for progressives


every thursday (or thereabouts) i'll be posting over at the christian alliance for progressives blog. check it out here.

my first post is up (which i cross-posted below somewhere); the discussion soon veers off into abortion land. notice how i actually manage to keep my temper! do go and visit. (especially if you're a progressive woman. i think it's a bunch of guys - not that there's anything wrong with that, but come on! where are the women?!)

Mainstream Baptist posts there every week, as well as Faithful Progressive, Jesus Politics and De Sententia.

they're a great bunch of folks over there - faithful, learned and progressive.

(i know. and then there's me. already i got called vulgar and blasphemous!)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

here is a little bit of the history of contraception in this country. it's a short history. contraception has only been legal for less than a century.

less than a century. we have had full control over our reproductive organs for less than a century. the originating article she refers to can be found here.

key quote:

A woman's bodily integrity, her moral autonomy, her health, her very life depend on whether she has access not just to the right to reproductive freedom but also to the health care and education services that make rights meaningful. Circumstances do not change that principle. Nor is the human right to reproductive self-determination divisible. You either have it or you don't.

i find that apalling and amazing. and it's even more amazing that there are those who think that we shouldn't have this right, that we shouldn't use contraception (no matter our circumstances) at all. from the pill to Essure, women are to reject it all because biology is destiny.

looked at as part of women's history, medical history or any kind of cultural history, it's clear to me that this war on contraception isn't just about religion (it almost never is.)

it's about gender and about finding ways to penalize women who step outside of conscripted roles of wife or mother. we need to start asking ourselves, when a woman can't control what her body does (or does not do) who will control it? who makes the rules about what we can do with our internal organs?

this retrogressive return to a time before fracking modernity makes me angry.

(and for those who really don't get why i'm angry or who feel that i'm just some freak-ass feminist, it's about history. do some archival research into women's health, medical opinions on women's health and bodies, marriage laws, property laws and even legal rights from the 19th century backward and you'll be amazed at how little we've progressed, in terms of attaining the level of legal personhood that men have always been privileged to enjoy.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

mclaren's new book: already i'm skeeved out

today, i received my review copy of mclaren's new book, Jesus' Great Big Secret (or something like that.)

i want to like mclaren, i do. he's a man who asks questions and i've always thought that by asking questions, at least you're not some guy's patsy. i also admire the effort it takes to rear up against a heavy orthodoxy like christianity; i admire the guts it takes to bear the brunt of criticism (since i do it so badly.)

but i tried to get through his book A Generous Orthodoxy and i confess i only made it halfway. i tried twice and each time, i failed. it was too muzzy. the book made me feel like i was drinking a glass of old wine. (and, let's face it - i thought it was boring. i mean, i've muddled through french feminist theory and this was worse than that.)

i fear his new one is even muzzier (though shorter.) already, in just the few pages of his introduction, i'm feeling the old fundamentalist in me squirm uncomfortably when he says:

They - I should say 'we' - feel that there's a missing puzzle piece without which the big picture won't snap into place. There's a hidden door somewhere behind a curtain or bookcase, and through that door there are rooms we've never imagined.

They - we - have this hunch that there's a secret we don't yet get. (xiii)

um, no. while i will cop to the fact that there are mighty things i question, there are aspects of doctrine (regarding sexuality and gender) that make the 21st century subject in me go, Hmmm - while there's all that, i do not doubt that my faith (and the basis of my faith) is complete.

he writes that his dissatisfaction is prompted by an 'intuition' that there is something more to jesus' message; i am curious to know what exactly is insufficient about christ's message now? why the need for an extrasensory perception when we're supposed to have the gift of the Holy Spirit?

and then this leads me to wonder what's missing so that mclaren needs all this extra stuff to fill it.

is it naive to just hold onto the sufficiency of His grace?
in the middle of all the things that throw me into doubt, this is the only thing that relieves me.

in the back of my mind i am hearing my dad's voice: 'apostate! heretic!'
i won't go so far as that (i'm only on page 25, after all) but i'll admit that there are red flags popping up and bells ringing all over the place as i read this.

i'll share more, of course, as i go through. and it's interesting i'm having this reaction - me, the woman who'd rather chew glass than go back to being an evangelical baptist.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

sex: for responsible adults only

wanna know where i stand on birth control, abstinence-only education, and sex ed?

go here and here.

and read this post on responsibility and the following discussion for extra clarification of my stance on reproductive rights.

(as in: i have a legal, state-given right to control my reproduction - no one else.)
i just got back from 5 days in michigan, on holiday.
i'm relaxed, tanned and glad to be back.

judging from comments, however, maybe it's too soon to say that.

(and PV, you're still banned.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

What Happens When There Is No Plan B?

i have no idea why i missed this article but the story this woman tells is compelling - and a damning finger in the face of those who are now trying to curtail a woman's access to ALL forms of birth control.

"Although I've always been in favor of abortion rights, this was a choice I had hoped never to have to make myself. When I realized the seriousness of my predicament, I became angry. I knew that Plan B, which could have prevented it, was supposed to have been available over the counter by now. But I also remembered hearing that conservative politics have held up its approval."

read more below.

Dana L. What Happens When There Is No Plan B?