Joe Six Pack

Palin goes on and on about Joe Six Pack, McCain is all about Joe the Plumber.  These mythical men are supposed to represent Real Americans and all that.  Yeah.

I haven’t bene paying much attention to the coverage, so maybe one of you can tell me: has no one commented on the fact that this mythical Real American is always some guy?  No one is talking about Jane Winebox, as far as I know.  (Thanks Jon Stewart!)

Seriously, how come the name that represents us all can’t be a woman’s name?

I already know the answer to this, obviously.  I just needed to say it out loud.

Louisiana State Senator Worries That There Will Soon Be Too Many Black People, Film At 11

I don’t even know if I have the stomach to do full commentary on this shit.  So here are the highlights.

Worried that welfare costs are rising as the number of taxpayers declines, state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, said Tuesday he is studying a plan to pay poor women $1,000 to have their Fallopian tubes tied.

“We’re on a train headed to the future and there’s a bridge out, ” LaBruzzo said of what he suspects are dangerous demographic trends. “And nobody wants to talk about it.”

LaBruzzo said he worries that people receiving government aid such as food stamps and publicly subsidized housing are reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated people who presumably pay more tax revenue to the government. He said he is gathering statistics now.

Right.  He’s totally worried about there being enough tax dollars.  That’s all.  Really.

“What I’m really studying is any and all possibilities that we can reduce the number of people that are going from generational welfare to generational welfare, ” he said.

He said his program would be voluntary. It could involve tubal ligation, encouraging other forms of birth control or, to avoid charges of gender discrimination, vasectomies for men.

Oh I am so glad that we’re being very feminist about this!

LaBruzzo described the tube-tying incentive as a brainstorming exercise that has yet to take form as a bill for the Legislature to consider. He said it already has drawn critics who argue the idea is racist, sexist, unethical and immoral. He said more white people are on welfare than black people, so his proposal is not targeting race.

And anti-racist!  He just hates poor people, that’s all.

LaBruzzo said other, mainstream strategies for attacking poverty, such as education reforms and programs informing people about family planning issues, have repeatedly failed to solve the problem. He said he is simply looking for new ways to address it.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, he’s a racist, ‘ ” LaBruzzo said. “The hard part is to sit down and think of some solutions.”

LaBruzzo said he opposes abortion and paying people to have abortions. He described a sterilization program as providing poor people with better opportunities to avoid welfare, because they would have fewer children to feed and clothe.

He acknowledged his idea might be a difficult sell politically.


Also: children are the cause of welfare, not poor economic situations, lack of opportunities, lack of funding for education (that never works, anyway!), or a culture that is constantly at war against those who don’t live like the assholes on Friends.  No, none of that is to blame!

The Audacity of Bodily Autonomy

Surgeon sued for giving anesthetized patient temporary tattoo. The tattoo was not at all medical in nature. She had surgery for a herniated disc and the next morning discovered a rose tattoo had been placed on her abdomen below her panty line. The doctor doesn’t deny doing it. In fact he claims he does this with all his patients to lift their spirits after surgery. Now, the really interesting (and disturbing) thing about this situation is how people have reacted to this woman’s decision to sue. The comments on this article are just the tip of the iceberg. Many people seem to be outraged by this woman being willing to sue this doctor for marking her (however temporarily) in her pelvic area without her permission.

We’ve all gone the rounds about the politics of choice as it applies to reproduction. But the idea that women’s bodies are public property doesn’t stop there. Catcalling, comments on weight, comments on hair or makeup from strangers are all just symptoms of a larger societal delusion that women’s bodies are a commodity first. Somehow we’ve gotten stuck in this idea that a woman’s valuing of her body as a part of her self comes second because her first role is to belong to the world at large. Women who refuse to accept that paradigm and insist on being recognized as people first whether it be by yelling back at catcallers, refusing to let strangers touch them, or filing suit when they feel they’ve been violated are then castigated for having the temerity to think that they can dictate what happens to their bodies. Apparently we’re just supposed accept these “lesser” intrusions and not take steps to reclaim that sense of safety because nice girls know their place and don’t delude themselves that they have a right to feel safe and comfortable.

Well, I’m with the women who yell back, who walk away, who press charges and file lawsuits. Because it is past time we got past this idea that being nice = being a willing victim that never complains. I don’t want to live in a reality where people think marking an unconscious woman without her permission is a-okay because it’s temporary, or he didn’t mean any harm, or there’s no proof that he “actually molested her” so she shouldn’t seek legal recourse. I know I’m talking crazy, but wouldn’t be nice to live in a world where women were viewed as people first? Where people didn’t blame the victim, but instead celebrated her willingness to fight back?

Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America. Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.

The In’s and Out’s of Catcalling

Catcalling– creepy or a compliment? You know I have yet to experience catcalling that felt the least bit complimentary. In fact I generally find myself wondering what possessed the guy to think the comments would net good results, or I get annoyed enough to tell the guy off for being disgusting. On occasion (like when they say this nasty shit while I’m walking with my kids) I contemplate violence as a response. I’m having a hard time buying the idea that these guys don’t know catcalling is a bad thing. They know it, they just don’t want to stop acting this way because they enjoy making women uncomfortable. I’m also a little perplexed by the women that feel the catcalls let them know they’re attractive. Is that low self-esteem, lack of functional men in their lives, or something I’m missing completely? Talk to me about catcalls and how they make you feel. How do you respond? If you’re a guy, do you catcall? Why?

Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America. Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.

The Strong Woman* & Emasculated Man

Posted by: Naamen Gobert Tilahun

The nicknames are endless, bitch, ballbuster, battleaxe, ballcutter, … all of these are used in reference to a strong woman. When confronted with a woman who exudes strength the automatic reaction of some men is to fall into the whole “woe is me, she emasculated me” line of thought. The introduction of a strong woman into most men’s lives leads to the use of this defense when confronted with ugly truths. It should be no surprise that the idea has gotten so popular that the strong woman/emasculated male trope is now trotted out constantly as an excuse for bad behavior on the part of men. Males and male-apologists alike blame everything from rape, to cheating, to sexual harassment, to cat-calling, to eaves-teasing, to depression, to murder on a woman being “emasculating” thus forcing the man to react in this way.

Yeah…I call bullshit.

A little background history on me, my parents divorced when I was very young and my father got custody of me. Despite this I was in constant contact with my mother, phone calls every week, packages every month, visits every summer, all told I spent a lot of time in my mother’s mental space if not in her physical presence. You would be hard pressed to find a woman as strong as my mother, she taught me a lot of the morals and beliefs that I now apply to my everyday life.

I never once felt emasculated or was made to feel small by my mother’s competence and strength. I never feel that way today when I meet a woman in my personal or professional life who has what is called “ballbuster qualities” because I recognize that these are the same characteristics that are admired and lauded in men all over this country.

Now the main point of me stating all this is that the way we react to anyone’s strength is a personal and controllable reaction. If men are feeling this way around a strong woman it is not a “natural” or “normal” reaction in any way, it is the reaction that our white heteronormative patriarchal society wants us to have. It is the reaction of the media, and family, and so much that we read and study giving us the impression that women are less important, less smart, less driven, less everything and suddenly getting confronted by proof that this isn’t true at all.

Instead of doing the mature thing and realizing that they’ve been fed false information they fall back on how they’ve been trained to react to such an “unnatural” woman, with contempt, with insults and undermining her authority. This is because, at least subconsciously the male has realized his place of power within the dynamic and the world which those like him have created. As a newly cut cog in the patriarchal war machine he does the small motions that keep the machine flowing, contributing to larger actions that oppress women worldwide.

Now as this is I want to bring up the intersection this has with race. There is a certain extra layer that permeates the idea of the strong woman when it’s applied to black** women. The strong black woman is such a pervasive stereotype that it’s been the basis of movies (Deliver Us From Eva, Two Can Play That Game) and is the impetus behind the role of “sassy black friend” (Scary Movie franchise). The strong black woman is blamed for much in the African-American community both by those on the inside and the outside of the community itself. Theorists have linked the “strong black woman” with the prevalence of gangs in urban life, again falling back on the emasculation excuse offered above in two ways. Number one, the woman obviously drove off her husband by being too strong which has effected the child adversely and number two she’s doing the same with her son.

This particular use of the trope to denigrate and blame women has a large racial component because by blaming the black woman for being too strong they can ignore the intersecting race, gender, heterosexist and socio-economic reasons that oppressed groups (all oppressed groups including women, LGBTQ, those of lower socio-economic standing, etc.) have formed street gangs in the past and continue to do so. For many it is seen as their only way out of the ghetto, as their only chance for a community of people who will love them no matter what, as something they have little to no choice in.

All men are inundated with these ideas about women by the societal mores of our patriarchal society but it is their choice to buy in to the nonsense. It is their choice to become emasculated by a strong woman rather than viewing her as a valid competitor and business person. It is their choice to leave their privilege and therefore their privileged reactions unexamined. It is hard to examine your privilege and is a never ending process but it is by no means impossible. I’ve done this, other men have done this, all men can do this but chose not too because at least subconsciously and often consciously they know that the machine they are a part of benefits them and those like them. So male and male-apologists will continue to call strong women, and indeed any woman who questions them, a bitch. And I’ll continue to call them and their theory of strong women emasculating men, bullshit.

*Strong Woman – There are many different types of strength for men and women but when we discuss the strong woman of ball-busting and battleaxe fame we are discussing most often a woman who knows what she wants, goes out to get it, doesn’t allow anyone or anyone’s incompetence to stand in her way and doesn’t suffer fools. There are many different types of strength and strong women, none of them is more valid than the others. This post is not a valuing or rating of women this is simply talking about a particular trope.

**I’m focusing on black women because those tropes are the ones I know the best and it would be irresponsible of me to spout off about the racial implications when applied to Native, Asian, Latina, Middle-Eastern, etc. That is not to say I know everything when it comes to this trope being applied to black women but that is where the core of my knowledge lies. I encourage anyone who knows about the way this can interact with other racial groups and the stereotypes that dog them to expand in the comments or make a post of their own and link it in the comments.

Naamen Gobert Tilahun is a creative writer, freelancer and blogger based in San Francisco. You can visit him at Words From The Center, Words From The Edge, where he discusses writing, science-fiction, movies, and more.

Which came first, my uterus or my skin?

Lots of bloggers have been commenting on Gloria Steinem’s opinion article in the NYTimes a few days back. I can’t comment on it; I’m too angry. But the rest o’ ya’ll? Feel free. =)

1/16 edit: Looks like the politicians, amazingly, are trying to be smarter than Steinem. Dunno how I feel about “neither race nor gender should be a part of the campaign”; that strikes me as naive. It is an issue. It’s always an issue, even when the candidates are only white men. But I can see why they’d declare a truce.


Irrational Men

Recently a friend of mine, writer Jay Lake, pointed to this article:

Saudi Rape Victim Gets 200 Lashes

A Saudi court sentenced a woman who had been gang raped to six months in jail and 200 lashes – more than doubling her initial penalty for being in the car of a man who was not a relative…

In its decision Wednesday, the court also roughly doubled prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping the 19-year-old woman, the Arab News reported on its English-language Web site.

According to Arab News, the court said the woman’s punishment was increased because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.”
The victim had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicting her of violating Saudi’s rigid laws on segregation of the sexes.

Under Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, women are not allowed in public in the company of men other than their male relatives.
The initial sentences for the men convicted of the gang rape ranged from 10 months to five years in prison. Their new sentences range from two to nine years, the paper said.

The attack took place in 2006. The woman has said that it occurred as she tried to retrieve her picture from a male high school student she used to know. While in the car with the student, two men got into the vehicle and drove them to a secluded area. She said she was raped there by seven men, three of whom also attacked her friend.

Reading stuff like this is Why I’m Angry, as I’ve pointed out before. But something in the commentary Jay gave along with this link also made me angry:

How about this: Under Shariate law, a woman who simply reports a rape is considered to have admitted her guilt as an adultress, and is subject to penalties up to execution. If this horrifies you, consider the secular viewpoint on this. There is no difference between that sort of religious insanity and moves to teach Intelligent Design in school, except in the matter of degree. In both cases, people of faith are deliberately discarding rationalism in the name of their religious principles.

Here’s the problem I have — if what he says about Sharia law is true (I say if only because I haven’t verified this independently), the problem here is less religion-based irrationality but patriarchy/misogyny-based irrationality. So he’s comparing apples to oranges in an attempt to prove that irrationality = religion/faith = bad as compared to supposedly completely rational secular/atheist folks.

Obviously the patriarchal attitude permeates the religion as well, but it isn’t the sole cause of what can go wrong in religion just as religion isn’t the sole cause of patriarchy and misogyny. Plenty of secular folks have wrongheaded attitudes about women. Plenty of secular folks harass, marginalize, or otherwise act/think in ways that harm women. Religion does not have a corner on this market.

Just as anyone can use the Bible or the Qur’an or the Torah to justify any bad thing they want to do, so can they use those books to justify any good thing they want to do — like feeding the poor, taking care of widows and orphans, and being a good host, to name a few.

But the bad justifications are just that: justifications. I don’t think misogyny and patriarchy is inherent in religion. Nor do I think we can solely attribute religious irrationality to the horrendous rule that women who admit to being raped are admitting they did something wrong themselves. That’s all about Men and their Dominance Issues, and one can find analogs of varying degrees across all patriarchal cultures, including ours, and including the secularists among us.

It’s not the same thing as believing in Intelligent Design because that is purely (or majorly) about religion. Apples and Oranges. (Not that I agree with /approve of either ID or Sharia law as regards rape.) I think it would help us all if secular folks would stop using examples of misogyny to denigrate all aspects of religion. It’s reminiscent of the way some people say “Race isn’t the problem, Class is,” when really it’s Race and Class and a whole bunch of other things individually and in tandem. But the relationship is extremely complex. Don’t toss it all together as if it’s a simple 1 to 1 equation.