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.)