Thursday, September 27, 2007


Let’s just cut through the chaff and the chatter and the bull. It’s scary to be a woman. It’s not any scarier than being anything else, but it’s still scary as hell. When you’re a woman, you’re told from the start that you are born with something that will make other people want to harm you or chase you or put you in their car or trap you in a room or put their bodies inside you when you don’t want them to. You’re told that this thing you are, whatever this is you have, means you have to be super careful. You can’t bring the wrong kind of attention to yourself so you can’t be too loud, too friendly, too smart, too dumb, too happy, too sad, too pretty, too ugly, too fat, too hot, too … anything. The desire to act against you begins outside of you but somehow you’re in charge of deflecting it.

Being a woman is scary because you begin as a girl who knows that she’s prey.

Today in the lunchroom, a coworker said that they’d found Nailah Franklin’s body in the forest preserve in Calumet. A lump formed in my throat and my coworker’s eyes teared up. The lunchroom was silent while we thought about that beautiful woman’s last moments being at the hands of some fucking violent nutbag. Someone hunted her down and then killed her.

It’s a puzzle why this case should affect me when other missing woman cases haven’t quite. Maybe because it’s a Chicago woman; maybe because she’s black like me. Or was it that, by the black community’s standard of middle class success, she did everything right and I identified with her? Or that her family and friends seemed tight and loving and worried; or that Nailah looked like I could have worked with her or been to school with her or she could have been a friend. Whatever the reason, I felt this sad discovery keener than most.

I felt it because the discovery of this nude female’s body became an emblem of all the other nude female bodies found dumped in dense forest preserves across this country. Right now I’m feeling resigned sort of anger. Resigned because violence against women is a stamp of our DNA; it’s a sad recognition that, across all cultures, ideologies or nationalities, even if men stop making war against one another, they’ll always find time to kill or rape a woman.

Anger because my lizard brain wants to make some guy pay.

How can I explain what it’s like to live with the threat of violence against you?

· It’s like thinking, when you’ve had a particularly bad, nasty, bitter fight with your lover, you should be careful for the next few days just in case he shows up at your office and tries to throw gasoline on you and set you on fire.
· It’s like going on a date and deliberately writing down the guy’s name, phone number, address (which you’ve Googled) and his email address for your friends, just in case you disappear for a few days.
· It’s like being in the middle of making out and randomly thinking, if he tries anything I’ll smash his larynx. And then wondering if you really could.
· It’s like a reflex: when you get home, you turn completely around before opening your building’s door just to make sure a guy isn’t going to bash your head in and rape you in your foyer because all you can do is remember the Chicago woman who was raped and beaten 9 years ago exactly the same way, coming home from work in the middle of the afternoon in Wrigleyville.
· It’s like looking at my 7 year old niece and imagining everything that everyone is going to try and put on her narrow, innocent shoulders; how boys who think she’s pretty might get mad if she rejects them, how older boys and men might just look at her in ways that a grown man shouldn’t be looking at a girl and want to 'break her in', how she’ll be 'fresh meat' on a college campus, and wondering what the hell you can do, short of turning her into a ninja, that can prevent any of that from happening.
· It’s like looking at almost every guy and, though unfairly, expecting someone whose first recourse upon rejection will be to fuck. you. up.
It’s like turning into a soldier stationed in a hostile desert town seeing insurgents everywhere and feeling fucking pissed off because all you want is to fucking go home and not feel so beseiged like this anymore.

our government just told us to shut up

this made me so mad i actually just gave money (i can't really spare) to MoveOn.
the senate just passed a lame resolution against the political action group for criticizing Gen. Petraius and the war effort.

how can this be justified? how is this the mark of a democracy? what does this mean for any kind of future criticism against the state?

whatever your political party, a move like this from our government should make us bristle.
at least. Democracy in Action

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An Unholy Alliance -- In These Times

the fight down in aurora is heating up but the reproductive justice side is catching up.

eric zorn had a very good piece on the tactics used by the various anti-women groups and it's done some good to turn the tide of public opinion somewhat. who likes a bully who follows you home from work and harrasses you on your front porch and then defames you to your neighbors and your workplace?

if a guy i dated did that, i could accuse him of stalking and get an order of protection from him. these people do it (to protest a LEGAL procedure) and somehow it's not crazy at all. what's up with that?

these are the events that sometimes make me wish our side was a little bit more willing to get our hands dirty. but i only have those thoughts only sometimes.

An Unholy Alliance -- In These Times

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

dear white supremacists: thanks!

Supremacist groups seize on Jena 6 dispute --

well, i guess it's a good thing that the white supremacists have provided a neat little frame for the Jena, LA situation. you're either with them or with the notion of equal application of justice.

Thelma & Louise: irrelevant or prescient?

there was a good conversation in response to judith warner's piece about Thelma & Louise and whether that movie fits with our time now. while the thread begins with the inevitable calling up of the Duke case (as if that one case negates the experiences of rape victims everywhere), the conversation thankfully moves on to thoughtfully explore the role of feminism now, the legacy of the conservative policies in the early 90s, the instability of Dept of Justice (D0J) stats on rape (right, that rape has decreased by 75%), and how our culture has moved the signposts when it comes to defining the empowerment of women.

would Thelma & Louise have been made today? i remember watching it in college and feeling thrilled, angered and frustrated by it. as a sheltered baptist girl, i recognized feeling trapped by others, by unformed ideas of what my role was supposed to be, trapped by a closed culture that laid out motherhood and marriage as the sole sign of fulfillment.

movies about women's experiences now don't evoke the same kind of thrill or anger or even recognition. there is a blank puzzlement when i see women reflected in our popular culture.

i wanted thelma and louise live, but i'd rather have them fly off that cliff than have them turned into the vacuous sexbot females our current culture seems to favor.

Thelma and Louise in the Rear-View Mirror - Judith Warner - Domestic Disturbances - Opinion - New York Times Blog

Sunday, September 23, 2007

between boxes...

i'm covered in paint splotches and taking a short break from unpacking and moving furniture in the new loft so here's an article about young women who earn more than the guy they're dating. it's a cute article but here are a couple of beefs: one, it would have been interesting to see what the guy who was intimidated by his girlfriend's higher salary had to say and, two, this isn't to say that the pay gap is a thing of the past. i betcha these women still aren't being paid the same as their male counterpart.

Putting Money on the Table - New York Times

i just noticed a 4-inch bruise on my arm.
thanks to L-, this article in the NYTimes on the woman who was assaulted by her pastor husband: A Minister’s Public Lesson on Domestic Violence - New York Times

i'm reluctant to say that this story reveals a lot about the black community's attitude toward women, women in authority, gender roles or domestic violence but some of the attitudes described in this story (and in other stories about weeks and bynum) are familiar to me, since they were stories i'd heard from my own childhood church: the pressure for women to marry at any cost so they could enjoy sexual intimacy, the poor marital choice that follows, the accusations of homosexuality following a popular pastor, the vacillating congregation that empathizes with an alleged victim but also thinks she somehow 'deserves' her victimization.

i chatted very briefly with my dad about this story. it was brief because our conversations about gender tend to run a very short loop. sure enough, dad's attitude was a mish mash of hedging: 'well, of course the brother was wrong and the book should be thrown at him. no man should hit a woman. but you know, girl, she shoulda left that man alone. why was she running after him? she provoked him.'

roll of eyes. 'right, dad.'

when i watched the couples in my father's church this is what always got my goat: no matter what happened between a man and a woman - marital tension, infidelity, emotional distance, whatever - it was always the woman's fault. the man didn't have to take responsibility for anything, even if it was pretty clear that his contribution to the marital mess was huge.

the dr. sharon ellis davis mentioned in the article works with the Faith Trust Institute, an interfaith organization that educates about sexual and domestic violence in religious communities that was formed when it was clear that rape and domestic violence weren't being addressed adequately in various congregations. i find that stunning; a woman is raped or assaulted and can't go to her pastor, priest or rabbi because she's afraid of what her church will say. where is the failing here? with the victim of assault or with the religious leader whose beliefs about gender make him blame the victim for her own assault?

anyway. it's after 1 am and it's been a long day of unpacking, cleaning and running errands. i'm going to bed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

father, may i? pt 2

so while i was writing yesterday's post on virtuous daughters being something akin to the ideal executive assistant, i kept thinking about various moments in my sunday school training.

what kept flashing through my memory were the stories and precepts about sacrifice for the glory of God: stephen, all the apostles, ruth, abraham, etc.

this is what christian tradition teaches - you give your heart, soul and mind to God. how did that become, for these alarmingly conservative groups, 'abnegate yourself before your Patriarch'? how does devotion to God become 'don't go to college, don't leave home, don't work outside the home and whatever you do, don't think you have dreams and aspirations that go beyond your biology'?

do you get what i'm saying?
while i believe the spiritual precepts in the bible are so, i have a hard time aligning the bible's historical context with these spiritual precepts. it isn't so hard to understand a father being 'in charge' of the women in his family back in the ancient day. women were chattel and functioned in a specific way in an agrarian society - they were how weath was consolidated, how labor forces were created, how tribed moved forward. without the biological function that women served, tribes and families died.

if someone wants to overlay a message from God to women based on the status of women as historical chattel, then that message would be 'women shall be thus forever.' but that's clearly not what the message is. the eternal message is about salvation, not about women's social position, which is something that is mutable and outside of the gospel, i think.

in other words, separate from 'love God yada yada yada,' is the way a virtuous woman was before the dawn of science and literacy, the way a woman is to be forever??

i don't think so.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

father, may i?

it's no secret that i have an 'issue' with authority: dads, pastors, cops, bosses, presidents, boyfriends, bus drivers. it's all one thing: Authority. seeing the world divided into sheep and masters, i guess i'd rather not be a willing sheep.
some people think differently. some people think being a sheep is really great.

amanda marcotte has a link to a post by some waay fundamentalist sisters about the dangers of sending your christian daughters to college. her fisking is sharp and funny.

then i read from those two sisters about maturity and the role of an adult daughter still living with her parents and i had to fight down bile:

The sign of maturity isn’t that we simply “obey” our parents’ commands, but that we understand deeply what our parents’ hearts and goals are, and can anticipate and even exceed what they expect of us. A mature, adult daughter who deserves her parents’ trust most certainly isn’t the one who says, “I’m not a child anymore, Dad! I’m an adult! I’m old enough to decide for myself when to get up, and it’s not something you have authority over anymore!” (Literally, “I’m mature enough to demand my own way, and throw a tantrum and threaten to run away if I don’t get it!”) But she also isn’t the one who says, “Ok, ok, Dad, I’ll get up when you tell me to.” The mature daughter is the one that takes the initiative and says, “Dad, what time would you like me to get up? I know that spending time with your family before you leave for work is important to you, and I love that about you… so how can I help make it happen?” This is one thing that makes us different from mindless automatons with no wills of our own (which some girls seem mortally afraid of becoming.)

why does this make me spew?

because this is exactly what makes a great executive assistant (which i was for a while before i came to my senses and got the hell out.) to be the ideal assistant you have to completely evacuate your own identity; your ways, needs, sensibilities and wants are completely replaced by the routines, habits, desires and enmities of your Executive. the line separating the two of you, if the relationship works out to the Executive's advantage, begins to disappear.

your day begins by asking yourself, 'what will upset Executive this morning and what can i do to make sure that it doesn't? what will make Executive happy and what can i do to facilitate more of that happiness? who is Executive going to fire today and how can i make sure that person isn't me?'

your day is filled with wondering what Executive will want for lunch, if Executive knows how to get to the airport, if Executive can find his/her way to baggage claim without step by step directions and whether Executive will have to stand in line longer than necessary once Executive gets to the hotel. you even ponder the possibility of traveling with Executive just to make sure everything gets done the way Executive wants it.

you will be consumed with wondering if Executive noticed how long your lunch break was, if Executive will buy you a birthday gift and if Executive will notice that you supported the whole team and made that presentation happen at 10 pm while the rest of the team went home and Executive went home to Executive's spouse. the idea of taking a day off scares you; what will happen to Executive if you're home or on vacation? how will Executive accomplish anything?

you will know details of the Executive's life only a partner or family member would know and you would order the world of the Executive to cater to those details: favorite foods, allergies, likes/dislikes, anniversary dates, birthdays, number of children, second home location, social security number, credit cards, taxes, personal finances. as ideal Assistant it's your job to care for these things just like they're your own.

while the Executive is proud of the fact that 'his Susan' or 'his Ali' or 'her Cathy' runs the Executive's life for them, they are also unaware of the seething resentment and anger that will slowly build in their assistant until it's bribed away. at least, if Susan, Ali or Cathy had any sense of self-preservation, they'd be filled with resentment and anger. if they know no better they will acquiesce and sink into a gray little nothing who doesn't exist unless they have an Executive to serve.

those of us who quit being an assistant did so because we hated every single frakking minute of it; being subservient was foreign to our sense of identity and purpose. whenever we interviewed with other firms we were forced to say, honestly, 'i don't do deference very well.'

the sisters have an odd way of defining 'independence.' though they say that the virtuous daughter asks her Executive - uh, Father - what his wishes would be for her, the end result is that she obeys. the virtuous daughter's will is entirely subject to that of her patriarch. in history, we'd call that kind of social organization a fiefdom.

and that's what these two sisters are advocating: deference. service. servility. servant.

who would groom another human being to glory in that kind of personal abnegation?
and why would you say that it's what God wants?

democratic party: big tent or big ol' plantation?

i love this part of the article, about democratic reaction to the sharp anti-war ad placed by

They said MoveOn had handed Republicans a fresh talking point to criticize Democrats and turn the focus from Iraq in a critical week in the war debate.
Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said on MSNBC that the advertisement was “simply over the top, and I think it’s inappropriate, period.”
Ms. Pelosi said on “Good Morning America” on ABC that she “would have preferred that they not do such an ad.”
Republicans have called on Democratic Congressional leaders and presidential candidates to disavow the advertisement, but they have largely declined.

and this is what i say to the weak-ass democrats who can't seem to grasp that folks out here are angry about what's happening to this country: you're either representing us or you're just covering your own ass.

Behind an Antiwar Ad, a Powerful Liberal Group - New York Times

this is offensive, tom ford

in a move that demonstrates that being an A-gay does not automatically translate into being a feminist, tom ford's latest ad for his men's cologne hammers that point home:

you know. just in case you didn't get it the first time:

[thanks, Feministing!]

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jena 6: conviction vacated!

Louisiana Appeals Court Throws Out Conviction in Racially Charged 'Jena 6' Case -

the first high school student to be found guilty in the Jena 6 trial had his conviction vacated over the weekend by the louisiana 3rd circuit court of appeal; they ruled mychal bell never should have been tried as an adult and the charges of second-degree battery were inappropriate.

this is more than excellent news. it's news that says that advocacy works. grassroots organizing works. public attention on injustice can bring change.

i feel that if those few overseas papers and then the massive email campaign launched by the folks at DemocracyNow and Color of Change hadn't mobilized such grassroots, public outrage, these young boys would have been sent quietly to prison.

but there are 5 other boys waiting trial and their ordeal is by no means over.
if people concerned with racial justice, and equal application of the law, keep up the pressure perhaps these boys can be freed.
what can you do about Jena 6?

1. spread the word. the more attention this case gets, the better
these boys chances have for getting their lives back. go here to read about one of
the online campaigns, send a letter to the district attorney and the governor
and find out about further actions.

2. if you have the time and inclination, join the rallies on sept
20. (or, better yet, if you have a blog write about the Jena 6 on Sept 20
as a way of participating in the action.)

several midwest ywcas are organizing buses down to louisiana.
information is here:
In the Midwest region, both Toledo, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan have busses
going down. Toledo is being hosted by a group of concerned citizens and
Detroit is going through the NAACP. For more details regarding either,
please feel free to call Delma Jackson @ 419. 508. 8968.

the naacp has information about their coordinating efforts here.

3. be aware of the increasing criminalization of minority youth in
this country. some research can be found here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

burqa, anyone?

Feministing has an angry-fying post about Southwest Airlines now taking it upon themselves to tell women how to dress and threatening to kick them off the plane because of it.

what. the. hell?
i have points with this stupid airline. but i may not any longer.

if you'd like to share a piece of your mind (politely, people!), share it with the following folks:
Jim Ruppel, Vice president, customer relationsP.O. Box 36647Dallas, TX 75235-1647(214) 792-4223 (general branch number, will have to attempt asking to be transferred to Jim by name)

Donna Conover, Executive vice president, customer operations(214) 792-4000 (corporate location #, ask the operator to transfer you)

Chief executive, Gary Kelly, Chief executive officer(214) 792-4000 (corporate location #, ask the operator to transfer you)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Black and Missing but not Forgotten

Black and Missing but not Forgotten

i saw this site on feministing and it bears more viewing.
our media, though it protests that it is 'objective', is hardly that.

women of color go missing every year yet hardly garner the same amount of media attention.
so one young woman has taken it upon herself to focus her attention on missing black women, hoping to get some little publicity for them.

visit every once in a while and see if you've seen these women. their families would appreciate it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Rip-off in Iraq: makes me wanna holler

The Rip-off in Iraq: You Will Not Believe How Low the War Profiteers Have Gone - The Smirking Chimp

while i was taking a break from packing boxes as slowly as i could over the holiday weekend, i read this article from my Roomie's Rolling Stone. it gave me gas.

here's a large nugget of how our government has screwed the pooch through neglect, ineptitude and plain old greed:

'[The private contractor's] job is over when their money ends. When I call
Snider to clarify this amazing statement, he declines to discuss the matter further. But if you look over the history of the Iraqi reconstruction effort, you will find versions of this excuse everywhere. When Custer Battles was caught delivering broken trucks to the Army, a military official says the company told him, "We were only told we had to deliver the trucks. The contract doesn't say they had to work."
Such excuses speak to a monstrous vacuum of patriotism; it would be hard to imagine contractors being so blithely disinterested in results during World War II, where every wasted dollar might mean another American boy dead from gangrene in the Ardennes. But the rampant waste of money and resources also suggests a widespread contempt for the ostensible "purpose" of our presence in Iraq. Asked to cast a vote for the war effort, contractors responded by swiping everything they could get their hands on -- and the administration's acquiescence in their thievery suggests that it, too, saw making a buck as the true mission of the war. Two witnesses scheduled to testify before Congress against Custer Battles ultimately declined not only because they had received death threats but because they, too, were contractors and feared that they would be shut out of future government deals. To repeat: Witnesses were afraid to testify in an effort to recover government funds because they feared reprisal from the government.
The Bush administration's lack of interest in recovering stolen funds is one of the great scandals of the war. The White House has failed to litigate a single case against a contractor under the False Claims Act and has not sued anybody for breach of contract. It even declined to join in a lawsuit filed by whistle-blowers who are accusing KBR of improper invoicing in Fallujah. "For all the Bush administration claims to do in the war against terrorism," Grayson said in congressional testimony, "it is a no-show in the war against war profiteers." In nearly five years of some of the worst graft and looting in American history, the administration has recovered less than $6 million.'

in 2004, twenty million women could have changed the course of the election but they never made it to the voting booth.

i desperately want those twenty million women to show up next year.