Saturday, December 29, 2007

on communities, and belonging, and authenticity, and legitimacy, and being "enough," and......

I haven't posted much.

By which I mean: I haven't posted at all. In a long time.

But I needed to post this.
I needed to post on this. About this.

I'm not sure where I'm going to go with this, but it will be what it is.

Today, I read this post over at brownfemipower (now La Chola). About ambiguity, and passing, and fitting in, and having/finding/being shut out of a home or community.

She doesn't come to any conclusions, really, and I'm not sure there are any to come to. But it's one of the most honest pieces of writing I've read in a long time.

It's here. And it's pretty essential reading.

It's all so good. But this is the small chunk of truth that I'm going to repost here:
I’m sick and tired of being ambiguous. I’m sick and tired of never being able to have a solid identity that isn’t suspect wherever the fuck I go. I’m sick of being scared and worried that if I don’t live up to some preset standards, I’m going to lose another community that I love dearly.

I’m sick of having the threat against my existence constantly hanging over my head. But goddamn it, I want to go home! I want desperately to go home–but what do I have to give up to do it? What do I have to be to do it? What do I have to deny to do it? And why why why WHY is going home about molding and shaping rather than loosening and exploring?

Sudy's comment, too, holds so much truth. And love. Which, really, is what this is all about anyway:
find home in yourself, not with others. To be a non-conforming, radical womyn of color means isolation, it does. It means being bypassed by the lines, boxes, and rules that everyone else adores. It means being an “N/A” a lot of the time. It means telling yourself that you’re TOO much and it’s the chains around people’s minds that are not enough for preventing you from simply rejoicing in the magnificent human being you are.
...We live in the space that is motivated by LOVE, not by lines. You’re the one that taught me that the only feminism I want to be led by are the hearts that trust love above all other things.

(And here is the writing following this spark, this catalyst for thoughts -- true thoughts -- of passing and community and belonging and authenticity.)

The last paper I ever wrote at Smith was about queer victims/survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Or, more specifically, about the rhetoric around queer victims/survivors of CSA.
It wasn't exactly one of those feel-good topics. And it was, by far, the hardest paper I've ever had to write. Not necessarily because the theoretical concepts were challenging - they were pretty straightforward (without being straight, of course), but because the subjects of my paper, the people I was writing about - queer victims/survivors of sexual abuse - reflected the most painful parts of myself. Because I was one of those people I was writing about, theorizing about.

The paper is still not finished.
Sure, it got handed in (a couple days late, of course). And my prof, the incredible professor who helped me through the topic by drawing on her own similar experiences of deeply personal academia, gave me an A on the final paper.
But there's a big part of the paper I never wrote. I've tried to write it since graduation, 7 months ago now, but it hasn't come together as more than a few ideas.
The part of the paper on queer survivors of CSA that remains unwritten is the section on authenticity. On what the effect of having an abusive sexual past has on your sexual identity, and how that authenticates or invalidates your identity. What that means for what communities you can belong to. What that means for what you can talk about in the spaces you inhabit.

I haven't written it because I don't know what my conclusion will be.
I haven't written it because I can't come to any conclusion about my own authenticity or lack thereof. Because I don't know what the truth about my own authenticity as a possibly not-quite-legitimate survivor or my authenticity as a possibly abuse-caused queer woman might be. If I can claim those identities authentically. If I can join those communities with my whole self.

Or, more accurately: I'm afraid to find the truth about authenticity, because I'm terrified that I'll find myself inauthentic. Not "enough."

(to loop this back around to bfp's post, this excerpt:
And as a result, every single community I belong to, every space I occupy, I’m *constantly* in danger of being kicked out of the community. People who are not “enough” of a particular thing are “suspect” no matter where they turn. They are under constant surveillance, under constant demand to prove themselves loyal–and under constant threat of being punished if they don’t live up to the required standards.

I sorta belong to a lot of communities and identities. I'm sorta a woc, but not really, 'cause it's only my skin colour, not my ethnicities. I'm sorta mixed, but not really, 'cause you have to go back soooo far to get to the "legitimate" person of colour in my ancestry. I'm sorta poor, but not really, 'cause my parents always put food on the table and I went to a good college and I have my B.A. and probably don't really need to be living below the poverty line, if I would just try my luck in a better job market than western Mass. I'm sorta smart, but my grades in college were only Bs, not As. I'm sorta a Baha'i, but not really, 'cause I sleep with women and I occasionally drink alcohol.
And, most relevant to this post and this conversation: I'm sorta queer, but not really, 'cause there's a decent chance that I love and lust after and identify myself with/by women because I can't bring myself to ever really trust men. I'm sorta a survivor of child sexual abuse, but not really, because I did a, b, and c, and didn't do x, y, and z. I'm sorta a survivor of rape, but not really, because I kinda consented at first, and so it doesn't quite count.

I'd love to have a community where I could be all of these not-quite-enough things without worrying about being ostracized or invalidated. I'd love to have a community where I wouldn't be alone in being not-quite-enough or just sorta-but-not-really.
I don't.
And I have communities. I'm just not a whole person in any of them.
I can talk about experiences of visually-based discrimination in the woc community. But I can't talk about being "just" Sicilian and European with these women. I can talk about men trying to exoticize me while they try to flirt with me (so much more common in the food service industry than I thought possible). But I can't talk about my distancing response, which is usually: "Actually, I'm not [insert legitimate poc cultural/ethnic identity here], I'm just Sicilian."
I can talk about issues of racial and gender equality/justice in the Baha'i community. But I can't talk about sleeping with women or loving women or issues of queer social justice within community (not that I'm active in any Baha'i community...and this is why).
I can talk about high feminist theory and academia with other academic-type people. But I can't talk about my actual grades at Smith when I talk to other Ivy League people.
I can talk about being one of the "poor kids" at my (mostly rich-kid) high school and college, whose family can't afford to take fancy trips or get fancy cars as birthday presents or get the kind of therapy and mental health care we all so badly needed because the insurance wouldn't cover it enough. But I can't really talk about still getting new shoes every year, new clothes every year, growing up in a nice house.

I can talk about being a big homo, make jokes about softball and flannel shirts and u-hauls and cats with other queer women. I can talk about that hot girl over there and, damn, why is she not single? But I can't talk about being unsure that my attraction to women has nothing to do with being abused and raped by men within this community.
I can talk about doing this anti-rape and anti-abuse work "for personal reasons" and I can tell incomplete stories about my experiences with other victims/survivors. But I can't tell them the whole story, about why it really was my fault (more than the typical tendency blame yourself).

I'm terrified of being found to be illegitimate. I'm terrified of my suspicions being proven right, and being kicked out of these communities for being not enough. Only sorta, but not really.

I would love to find this unconditional acceptance within myself, and I would love for that to be sufficient.
I would love for Sudy's suggestion that we all must create our own home within ourselves because we'll all always be isolated in our not-quite-enough-ness to be attainable and enough.

But thing is, I need a community. I long for a real community. I think we all do. I long for a place, not just within myself, but with others, where I can be accepted, unconditionally, in all of my not-quite-enough and sorta-but-not-really identities.
Where do I find that?
(And would creating that community have to mean creating a whole 'nother set of required standards to live up to?)

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blue Blanket (Andrea Gibson)

I'm not sure why it's taken me this long to discover slam poet Andrea Gibson.

I found this Youtube video of her performing the piece, "Blue Blanket." (via)

I can't really say much about it. It kind of defies a wordy reaction, kind of defies speech in general.
But I will say this: I'm not a crier. I very rarely, if ever, cry. Especially about this kind of thing. Not anymore. But this piece? This performance? Brought the tears pretty close to falling. I still have chills.

And the words to "Blue Blanket," in print form.....


there are days

when there is no way

not even a chance

that i'd dare for even a second
glance at the reflection of my body in the mirror
and she knows why

like i know why
only cries
when she feels like she's about to lose control

she knows how much control is worth
knows what a woman can lose
when her power to move

is taken away

by a grip so thick with hate
it could clip the wings of god
leave the next eight generations of your blood shaking

and tonight something inside me is breaking

my heart beating so deep beneath the sheets of her pain
i could give every tear she's crying
a year---a name
and a face i'd forever erase from her mind if i could
just like she would
for me

or you

but how much closer to free would any of us be
if even a few of us forgot
what too many women in this world cannot
and i'm thinking

what the hell would you tell your daughter

your someday daughter
when you'd have to hold her beautiful face
to the beat up face of this place
that hasn't learned the meaning of


what would you tell your daughter
of the womb raped empty
the eyes swollen shut
the gut too frightened to hold food
the thousands upon thousands of bodies used and abused

it was seven minutes of the worst kind of hell

and she stopped believing in heaven
distrust became her law
fear her bible
the only chance of survival

don't trust any of them

bolt the doors to your home
iron gate your windows
walking to your car alone
get the keys in the lock
please please please please open
like already you can feel
that five fingered noose around your neck
two hundred pounds of hatred
digging graves into the sacred soil of your flesh

please please please please open
already you're choking for your breath

listening for the broken record of the defense
answer the question
answer the question
answer the question miss

why am i on trial for this

would you talk to your daughter
your sister your mother like this
i am generations of daughters sisters mothers
our bodies battlefields
war grounds
beneath the weapons of your brother's hands

do you know they've found land mines
in broken women's souls
black holes in the parts of their hearts
that once sang symphonies of creation
bright as the light on infinity's halo

she says
i remember the way love
used to glow like glitter on my skin
before he made his way in
now every touch feels like a sin
that could crucify medusa kali oshun mary
bury me in a blue blanket
so their god doesn't know i'm a girl
cut off my curls
i want peace when i'm dead

her friend knocks at the door
it's been three weeks
don't you think it's time you got out of bed


the ceiling fan still feels like his breath
i think i need just a couple more days of rest


bruises on her knees from praying to forget
she's heard stories of vietnam vets
who can still feel the tingling of their amputated limbs
she's wondering how many women are walking around this world
feeling the tingling of their amputated wings
remembering what it was to fly to sing

tonight she's not wondering
what she would tell her daughter

she knows what she would tell her daughter
she'd ask her
what gods do you believe in
i'll build you a temple of mirrors so you can see them!

pick the brightest star you've ever wished on
i'll show you the light in you
that made that wish come true!

tonight she's not asking
you what you would tell your daughter
she's life deep in the hell---the slaughter
has already died a thousand deaths with every unsteady breath
a thousand graves in every pore of her flesh
and she knows the war's not over
knows there's bleeding to come
knows she's far from the only woman or girl
trusting this world no more than the hands
trust rusted barbed wire

she was whole before that night
believed in heaven before that night
and she's not the only one

she knows she won't be the only one
she's not asking what you're gonna tell your daughter
she asking what you're gonna teach

your son

Friday, June 22, 2007

untying the hands of international health NGOs

(Click to enlarge)

On a happier (!!!) note.......

The global gag rule could, potentially, be a little less of a "gag" soon.

Rep. Nita Lowey, (D-NY's 18th), successfully attached an amendment to the appropriations bill that would allow international NGOs working in developing nations who don't comply with the global gag rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) to still receive contraceptives from US government aid agencies. The House voted 223-201 on the measure yesterday.

(One thing that's not clear in any of the articles I'm finding is whether or not this means that these NGOs would be able to receive monetary assistance from US aid agencies, which is also restricted now under the global gag rule. The articles I'm finding only mention them being able to receive donated contraceptives, not funding.)

Of course, any funding they get still can't go toward abortion services themselves. But that's not all that surprising, since federal funding can't even go toward abortions in our own country.

And, unsurprisingly, Bush is almost definitely going to veto the legislation when it comes to his desk. Because, obviously: Those cute little foreign babies! Abortion is murder! Decreasing the birth rates of brown people! Awful! ( now we're encouraging the population growth of people Not Like Us? I can't keep up with this shit. Oh, right -- giving them rights over their own bodies is encouraging their agency! We can't have that. All those people over there would get all uppity.) *coughcoughvomitvomit*

(The press release from Lowey's office about her amendment is here.)

Rape is in the eye of the beholder. Or something.

Maybe, at some point in my life, I'll actually write for this on a regular basis. But until then, it'll have to be saved for when I'm procrastinating or I have something really! important! to share or when, like now, I'm bored out of my mind. (Currently, the source of my boredom is this borrrrrrrrrrring temp job where they have nothing for me to do. Sup, ennui.)

So, we'll start with one of the most fucked up stories in the past week, out of Nebraska.

A judge there, Jeffre Cheuvront, presiding over a sexual assault case has (again) banned the words rape, sexual assault, victim, assailant, and sexual assault kit from the trial.
Doesn't make sense, right? You can't just bar a word that accurately describes a criminal act on the basis that it's allegedly "prejudicial."
More, this is actually the second trial for the same case; the first time around, the jury was hopelessly deadlocked at 7-5 after the judge had put in place the same language ban. Coincidence? I think not.

The best part: the word that both the defense and the prosecution are supposed to use? Sex. Because that, apparently, is an accurate term for rape. Same thing as consensual sex, you know.

As if there weren't enough hurdles to calling rape what it is to begin with. As if there wasn't enough victim-blaming as it is. As if victims don't blame themselves enough, don't minimize the attack enough themselves, don't feel quite enough shame about being raped. As if we needed something else like this.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

take your entitlement and shove it.

I will never understand men's sense of entitlement and privilege. I mean, sure, theoretically, I understand it. It's a product of the patriarchy, one that has always privileged white (or at least white-looking), heterosexual, financially stable men. And when you're given that kind of privilege automatically, I can imagine it would be hard, and less than appealing, to give that up.

But on a practical, real level, on the level of actual interactions between myself and men with these entitlement issues, I will never understand it.

Yesterday, I spent 2 1/2 hours downtown, collecting signatures on the petition for the Freedom of Choice Act with PPLM. It was incredible, for the most part.
Except for the men.
Overprivileged Fuckfaces, Part 1:
I know the fact that I was in Northampton probably had a lot to do with the liberal / ultra-liberal tendencies of the people I talked to. But every woman I talked to was very, very pro-choice. The only people I talked to who weren't? Two white men. Three, if you count Paraglider Pilot Peter. When I told them what I was gathering signatures for, the two men (both walking by themselves) both said something to the effect of, "Oh, I don't believe in abortion." and/or "I don't think women should be allowed to kill their children." (I didn't engage these men in conversation, totally not worth it.) Paraglider Peter might have been the worst, though, just because he was so fake-sweet about being sortakindamaybe pro-choice. He said he'd signed the other girls' petition across the street because "I wanted to support you girls, you just looked so great out here," but that he didn't really know exactly what he'd just signed.
(news flash, Peter: you can't be pro-choice because you think pro-choicers are pretty. fuck you.)
But he seemed ok, besides that, and so we talked for a while, and I tried to explain to him what the Freedom of Choice Act actually was, why it mattered. He was dense. But only because he's a white man, and the right to reproductive freedom and the right to have an abortion had never even occurred to him as something that was frought, under attack, or even something to give a second thought too. And then he asked, "Wait, so do you think that women are regarded highly in our society?" And when I said "No, absolutely not - women are still very much second class citizens," he looked like he wanted to laugh.
When he asked what I wanted to do with my life, I told him that I wanted to be an activist, and that I wanted to change the world. He said that was a laudible goal, and hoped that I did. I made the mistake of mentioning that I was getting a tattoo to that effect (of changing the world) later that afternoon. When he asked if I already had one, and I said yes and pointed to my hip, he leaned forward expectantly, completely assuming that I was going to show him - A perfect stranger. A white hetero man trying to hit on me - the tattoo that goes down below my belt line. Um. No.
So fuck you, Peter. Fuck you and your entitlement and your blinders that only let you see your own narrow world, that doesn't even put women on the radar screen except as things to be consumed by your fucking objectifying male gaze.

Overprivileged Fuckfaces, Part 2:
I was wearing my "my body, my choice" shirt yesterday. Apparently, this shirt is a welcome mat for entitled men to comment on my body.
Walking into the Campus Center, a group of three men: "my body, my choice? nice!" and then, "ooh, hey, what's your choice, baby?"
Outside the Haymarket (coffee shop), gathering signatures, under his breath: "Yeah, your body...nice choice..."
Fuck you.

Overprivileged Fuckfaces, Part 3 (The Worst):

--Something that all heterosexual men need to understand: When you learn that a woman is a lesbian, that is not a challenge. When you spend an evening in the company of women who identify as lesbians (or at least as "mostly gay"), get the fuck over the fact that you are not going to be their object of affection. When a lesbian pays attention to you and talks to you, it is not because she wants to fuck you. And, most importantly, when a lesbian is in your presence, it is not your job to try to "turn her straight." That is not part of what you are entitled to. You are not entitled to her vagina, simply because she has one. Get the fuck over yourself.--

So, my good friend (and facebook-wife) Lauren had a guy up as her date for Senior Ball. From what I could tell, he was a decent guy, so I was ok with hanging out with him. His main problem? He's a man.
He's a white man.
He's a white, heterosexual, upper middle-class 24-year-old man.
He's got a few issues with entitlement.
He was sketchy in general, but some of the things he did just....reminded me a little too much of one particular boy back in Fredonia who, apparently, likes to try to "turn" lesbians. This Fredo boy, though, likes to do the whole lesbian-target rape thing in order to do so. Omar, Lauren's date, at least stopped short of that.
He didn't get touchy until we were all sufficiently wasted (him more than anyone else) at the ball. He put his arm around me a few times, accidentally-on-purpose brushing (very briefly) my breast. He fixed my tie, very slowly, very much touching me, and as his hands were brushing against my collarbone area, he asked, in a fucked-up-flirtatious way, "Does it make you uncomfortable to have a man touching your upper chest area?" "No, actually it doesn't, because you know I'm very gay and would never fuck you." That stopped him, for a little while.
When we were sitting outside, though, after senior ball had ended, he propositioned me for sex. I can't even remember exactly what he said anymore, but it was something along the lines of "if you're weren't that sure that you were a lesbian, we could have some fun..." and "just so you know, even though you're gay, i'd still love to..."

I have no doubt in my mind that had I not been in the lesbian-friendly environment of Smith where I could feel empowered to tell him (politely, somehow) to fuck off, had his privilege been any less checked, the lesbian-target rape that I was a victim of last New Year's would have happened again.
Fuck you, Omar. My vagina does not exist for your penis. My vagina wants nothing to do with your penis. Don't assume that it does, or that it just doesn't know what it wants. It's a smart vagina. It's figured itself out. And it doesn't want you, let alone your overprivileged, entitled bio-phallus.
Fuck off.

The people who hate me, and who hate feminism, say I'm a man-hater. I defend myself, say, No! Of course I'm not! But, in reality...I am. A little bit. But it's not men that I hate. I hate that sense of entitlement that they can't get over. I hate that privilege that goes so, so unchecked and stays invisible. I hate the everyday oppressions that women go through as a result of men's unchecked entitlement and privilege. I hate that these same men will end up marrying a woman, and will try (and probably often succeed) to oppress her in that same way and make her yet another victim of his privilege.

So no, I don't hate men. I just hate everything they stand for.

Friday, April 27, 2007

why I'm thrilled to go to a women's college, part 542

At least at Smith, this kind of shit would never fly.

Reading this made me, quite literally, want to throw up.

How can anyone really think this is ok?
I know it's not the first time this shit has happened, so maybe I shouldn't even be surprised. Maybe it was the picture that did it. Four men, so proud to be part of the "intramural rape league." Or maybe the quotes, about dark alleys that are perfect for raping, where the team "practices."
It makes me vomit a little in my mouth.

(click the image to enlarge)


And, speaking of misogyny....
You wouldn't think that Mr. Toby "put a boot in your ass, it's the American way" Keith could sink much lower. And you wouldn't think that one would possibly need any more reasons to hate him. You'd be wrong.
Apparently, domestic violence is SO! FUNNY! when he puts it to music. But, I mean, he never actually hurts her! So it's totally ok! And it's got an ironic twist at the end! I mean, really, the only people who don't find that funny must be humorless feminists!



Monday, March 26, 2007

warning: feminism is bad for your health

I thought about trying to make up a creative, catchy, witty title for this post.
But there's not much point.
The title of the original article is really better than any humorous one-liner I could come up with.

Yes, they're seriously arguing that gender-equity (which has been reached, don'tchaknow) is contributing to lower life expectancies.

Because it's not, oh I don't know, the weight of the patriarchy hanging around these women's necks and pressing down on them for actually being successful or anything. Nope, patriarchy's got nothing to do with it. Neither does capitalism or racism or heterosexism/homophobia. It's those damn feminists. Obviously.
(Who, by virtue of being "pro-abortion," are also to blame for human trafficking, child abuse, poverty in Africa, the commodification of sex, and sexual assault. At least, according to 'Dr.' John Diggs [yes, that's from WND, and normally I would give it no credence, but I saw this guy talk, and he really does believe this crap].)

(Jill has a better, more well-researched and well-cited commentary.)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

what it means to have no racial/ethnic identity

guess there's something wrong with me, guess i don't fit in
no one wants to touch it, no one knows where to begin
i just want more than one membership to more than one club

Ok, so the title is slightly misleading.
I know that I do have a racial/ethnic identity; I'm a European mutt, and the highest percentage of ancestry is probably Italian (Sicilian!), although the plethora of ancestral countries makes it hard to say for sure. Being European, I know that I have that privilege, and I don't try to pretend that I do not.
So, technically, I'm white, or Caucasian.
But that's not my identity. That's not how other people identify me. That's not how I identify myself.

I've never identified as white, or seen myself as very similar to white people. It wasn't until I learned that "European" (especially western and southern, which is my heritage) meant "Caucasian" that I started to try to see myself as such.
When I first filled out a form on my own that asked for my "Race/Ethnicity," I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade, and I had to ask my mom, because I didn't know. I don't remember which box I wanted to check, but I know that it was one of the "brown" categories, and I was surprised when my mom told me to check "Caucasian." I'd seen "Caucasians" and white people on TV, and I knew I didn't look like them.
I checked "Caucasian" from then on, without really thinking about it, but knowing that I didn't fit in with the other people who always checked that box.

I have very dark skin. My best explanation for this is my Sicilian background; my dad, who's half Sicilian, is also very dark (we'd have tanning contests in the summer, to see who could get darkest). Sicily is a large island in the Mediterranean, pretty close to Somalia and a couple other African countries on the northeastern coast, which means that at some point, one (or more) of my ancestors probably got jiggy with an East African who traveled to Sicily (or vice versa).

I've never had anyone assume I was Italian. The identity that people ascribe to me has ranged from Ethiopian/Somalian (understandable) to Spanish to Middle Eastern to South Asian to Mexican to South American (and more). All "brown" identities. All people of color.
When I got to Smith, a friend asked me if I was in Prism - the org for queer people of color. When I joined Prism, they put me on the mailing list of queer people of color (as opposed to just the "allies" list).
It's not just white people who assume I'm "Other." Almost all of my friends who identify as women of color have been surprised when I tell them I'm "just" Italian. They've all assumed I'm "Other" as well.

When applying to colleges, I almost always marked "Caucasian" or "white," because I know that I'm not "really" a p.o.c., and I didn't want to be fodder for these institutions' surface attempts at increasing diversity or take any benefits that may have been extended to "real" p.o.c.'s. Sometimes, I'd mark "other," but I would never specify when they asked.

But in high school, when I realized that I was almost always being treated as "other," as a woman of color, I stopped checking "white" when I didn't feel morally obligated to proclaim my privilege.
Because, truth is, nobody ever extends that privilege to me. I have white privilege, technically, but not because anyone's ever assumed I have it. Often, I would assume I had it, and often, I would be denied access to it because my skin colour does not fit as "white."

The identity other people ascribe to me is almost invariably "Other."
The identity I give myself? I have no answer to that. I'm brown-skinned. I'm Other, but I'm still other than Other, because I'm technically not that kind of Other.
I have white privilege by virtue of technicality, but I'm never afforded that privilege by anyone other than myself.

I'm filling out my registration form for the 21st Annual Reproductive Rights to Social Justice Conference at Hampshire College (shameless plug: go register! It's free!), and it asks for "Ethnic/Racial Background."
I don't feel comfortable checking "Caucasian."
I checked "Other," but it requires a specification.
I have no specification. Because I have no racial/ethnic identity. I have no clear background. I'm brown, but I'm white. I'm Other, but I'm the norm that Other is defined in opposition to. I'm a walking contradiction of identities.

Who do I become, then? Who do I identify with? What do I identify as?
I can't answer these questions. Because I have no "real" or "authentic" identity.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More on the new SD abortion ban

An update to the news that South Dakota is re-introducing their abortion ban. Yes, again.

The initial press release said that there "would be exceptions" for rape, incest, and the health of the woman - the absence of which was the reason that we were able to defeat the ban last November.

However, its inclusion of "exceptions" is a bit of an overstatement.

It makes it look good, sure. And it will be easy to confuse SD citizens into believing that the exceptions are legitimate, the way they did with the original ban last year, claiming that there was a health exception where there was, in fact....not.

But putting aside the fact that even with these exceptions, the ban would still be bullshit (see this rant for why)...the exceptions aren't even exceptions.
(See the text of the legislation here -- a .pdf file)

From this story on MSNBC, I found out more about how these "exceptions" would actually work. Or, as the case may be, would not work.
Let's outline them, shall we?

The Rape "Exception"
How You Prove You Deserve It: 1) Rapes must be reported to the police within 50 days of the rape.
2) A doctor must confirm that you have, in fact, been raped. And tell the police about this confirmation.
3) A doctor must take blood from the aborted fetus and provide it to the police for DNA testing so they can pursue your case.

Why It's Bullshit: 1) Why would anyone want to report their rape to the police? Unless you're the "ideal" rape victim (stranger-raped in a dark alley, wearing frumpy clothing, completely sober, and with no past history of substance abuse or sexual promiscuity), the judicial system is most likely not going to do anything for you. So-called "date rapes" (which is a shitty term, and does nothing but minimize the seriousness by putting a qualifier on "rape") are rarely ever reported, not least because they would be laughed out of the courtroom. The judicial system cannot handle most rape cases - most rape cases being NOT stranger-rapes of "pure" women.
2) I'm still not sure what "criteria" must be met in order for this doctor to confirm that a woman has been raped. Is it left to the doctor's discretion? Because that could be pretty ugly. Or are there strict, narrow definitions of what must be experienced in order for it to be considered a "legitimate" rape? That, too, would almost definitely be pretty ugly, and exclude a good number of women who have, in fact, been raped but don't quite fit into that little "ideal rape victim" box.
3) You don't want to press charges against your rapist? Too bad. The DNA from the aborted fetus is going to be used by the police anyway. Once they have the DNA, they don't need you anymore anyway, really. You have no choice of whether or not to prosecute. All while having the facade of choosing whether or not to have the rapist's child.

You don't want to report the rape? You can see that the system is (maybe irreparably) broken and don't want to put yourself into it just to be retraumatized? That's too bad. Guess you weren't "really" raped anyway. Because any "real" rape victim would, of course, be more than willing to prosecute her assailant. If you're not willing to report it to the police, you're probably just lying anyway.

The Incest "Exception":
How You Prove You Deserve It: 1) You must agree to report this to the police.
2) You must reveal the identity of your abuser to the doctor, and then to the police.
3) A doctor must take blood from the aborted fetus and provide it to the police for DNA testing so they can pursue your case.

Why It's Bullshit: 1) Again with the problems of reporting it to the police. Why would you want to?
2) Revealing the identity of your abuser can be exceedingly dangerous, especially if the case is unsuccessful. If you're a minor, you either return to the home where your abuser probably still resides (due to lack of evidence that a crime occurred), or you're sent off to a foster home to get stuck in the system. Yet another broken system. Not to mention the shame associated with incest is often unbearable; telling a doctor who it is would be hard enough, and having to repeat it for the case that will be pursued? I know I'd just drop it. I'd try to find a way to get over to Minnesota, or Iowa, or North Dakota. I'd take some anti-ulcer medication or find a nice hanger or find someone to perform a DIY abortion in the style of the old Jane collective. I'd do whatever it took, so long as I didn't have to face the shame or the likelihood that my abuser would not be "brought to justice."

The Health "Exception":
How You Prove You Deserve It: Not one, but two doctors must concur that your health would be "seriously jeopardized" by continuing the pregnancy. These doctors may not be at the same practice.

Why It's Bullshit: This one isn't quite as vomit-inducing as the others. But it's hardly benign. Requiring two doctors to agree is logistically problematic. If you're in a very rural town (as is true throughout much of SD) where there's only one doctor nearby, this could pose a serious problem. If you're in a place where the number of doctors is insufficient for the number of people (also true throughout much of SD), it could take days, maybe more, to get an appointment with a first doctor, let alone a second one. They would, presumably, then need to confer. Adding more days. Then, maybe, after what might by that point be close to two weeks, you'll be given permission to have an abortion. That is, if you can get to the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood clinic, the only place in the state that provides abortions.
Oh, and then there's the bullshit language in the bill that states that the condition, if a woman were to go through with the pregnancy, would have to be "irreversible." Which could easily rule out, oh, just about everything short of death. So really, the health exception is just a death exception, dressed up all fancy-like.

As Coat Hangers At Dawn put it:
Rape or incest victims get no help unless they are willing to turn themselves, their lives and their bodies over to the state.

So don't be fooled by the double talk, this one is no better than the other one.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Again? Seriously?

remote corners of the world where women are oppressed
If you can ignore the clearly anti-Muslim connotations,
it actually makes a decent point. i.e. That we're not actually better than those Evil Terrorists who we're At War With, ostensibly in order to "free" the women under their rule. (click image to enlarge)

Oh, for christ's sake. Was that really necessary, South Dakota?

I swear, that state keeps breaking my heart. I fell in love, for a short stint, with the voters of South Dakota on election night this past November, because they'd come through for me, for women all over the country, and voted down the abortion ban. And then I fell out of love, when I realized that the strategy we had to employ, the one that alienated a good number of the women who may need abortions, was the only strategy that would have worked in that state.

But now, they've gone too far. Yet again.

Later today (at about 11am), South Dakota legislators are scheduled to announce the introduction of a new abortion ban. This time, with the exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the woman that the last one left out. The exceptions whose absence allowed us to win in South Dakota in November.
Mike Rounds, the governor who signed the ban last year and got re-elected in November, has already said that he likes the proposed legislation. As have a number of the co-sponsors and supporters of last year's ban. Including Bill Napoli, who, in one of the more depressing outcomes of the election, was unfortunately re-elected.

It's almost, sorta, vaguely uplifting that there is a little bit of resistance, even from past supporters of the ban. They think that South Dakota is suffering from "abortion fatigue," an interesting little term that I do hope holds out. That because of the immense pressure of the last election and ballot initiative, the people of South Dakota would want a break from abortion politics for a while. So these legislators are proposing that the new, more "viable" ban be tabled for a year or two. Which would be nice, since putting it off gives us more time to push it off the table entirely. So, here's hoping. (Even when there's seemingly little reason to hope.)

Le sigh.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

PETA makes my heart cry a little.

I agree with a lot of the work that PETA does. Animal cruelty, clearly, is an issue that deserves a great deal of attention and requires a lot of reform to prevent, and PETA does that.

However. I will never support PETA in what they do. As much as I might agree with it.

They have a nasty little habit of objectifying and degrading women, destroying what dignity we may have, in order to make a point about the dignity of animals. Yes, animals have dignity. Yes, the meat industry (etc) is disgusting and destroys that dignity. But you don't call attention to that fact by becoming the meat industry, by treating women like the meat in that industry.

Their most recent example of this is a video, released around the time of the State of the Union this year. It's PETA's very own state of the union. With naked chicks.
Including the vomit-inducing quote about doing animal rights work: "Often this means taking our clothes off." Oh, and the lovely, "hot chicks are an American tradition!" Disgusting.

The offensive video:

(A few) earlier examples of PETA's misogyny:
naked chick at a chalkboard
naked chick marked up like meat
naked chick with some actual chicks
And, of course, their "Milk Gone Wild" campaign, which makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

[ETA: Jill at Feministe found more of the offensive ads. Ew.]

(h/t Feministe

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

personal space? i don't understand. what's that? -g.w.

I admit. I did not watch the State of the Union last night. I was doing something far more productive: some Smith and Hampshire students (via Vox and CLPP members) had a pretty great dessert/film/discussion to celebrate the 34th anniversary of Roe.

However, I did catch the tail end of his speech when I went upstairs to grab my coat before heading home. I sat down with my friend, and we listened to W. say that the state of our union is strong, and god bless. His standard.

And then, we watched as he turned around and shook Dick Cheney's hand.
And turned to shake Nancy Pelosi's hand.
And then turned back to get her attention again, presumably to tell her something. And...
"Um. Did he just touch Nancy Pelosi's boob?"
"Oh my god I thought I was seeing things! You saw that too??"

And I wasn't the only blogger who noticed the boob grab.

The evidence, thanks to youtube:

You may remember Bush's issues with the concept of personal space from his groping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the 2006 G-8 Summit.
Evidence of that sketchiness, via youtube, a la Daily Show:

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blogging for Choice (a roundup)

Some of my favourite posts from Blog for Choice Day from around the blogosphere (etc)...

First, Jill's post is incredible. And emotional. And to the point. And disgustingly well-researched. And just generally awesome.

And then Amanda's introspective + insightful post about her coming into the repro rights/repro justice movement, inspired by her time at the NAPW conference this past weekend. Where she was introduced to Loretta Ross' brand of pro-choice activism - that is, reproductive justice. Which probably has something to do with why her post is so on. Loretta Ross will do that to you.

Dana at Campus Progress: Why I'm Pro-Choice.

Ann's piece at TAP, dissecting the new proposed abortion ban in Georgia. It's similar to the ban in South Dakota, but far more frightening. (Yes, that's possible.)

Scott Lemieux's piece, brilliant as usual, also at TAP, on why Roe was a classed decision, and how "abortion rights" currently mean very little to poor women.

And this one: from QuakerDave.

And lastly, this one from Kyso at punkassblog. "I think, I feel, therefore I am pro-choice." Word.

Blogging for Choice: Why I am Pro-Choice

I went in a little bit of a different direction from a lot of the a-listers (like Jill, Jessica, Shakes' Sis, and Amanda). Instead of a list of why it matters to be pro-choice in general, I went more personal. Why I, as a 21-year-old queer woman, a senior at Smith College in oh-so-liberal western Massachusetts, am pro-choice. So, this is me, blogging for choice.

This year’s topic is simple, yet crucial:
Why are you pro-choice?

Funny thing is, I didn’t even really think about the “why” until last November, when I was out in South Dakota with the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families and PPFA, fighting against the abortion ban.

Gretchen, a good friend I made out in South Dakota who works for PPCT, just asked me straight out: “So why are you here? Why are you so invested in reproductive rights?”
It caught me off guard.
I’d never actually thought about it before. Having reproductive autonomy was just something I’d grown up believing was a right, was something everyone should be entitled to. I had to think back, to the development of my feminist ideologies and the history of my political consciousness.

I didn’t really understand the controversy around abortion when I was growing up. It wasn’t talked about, and I don’t even remember hearing about the monumental 1992 March for Women’s Lives.

In eighth grade, an English teacher (who changed my life, as English teachers tend to do), assigned a research/oral presentation project: we had to research a social controversy and then create an oral presentation, presenting both sides and the conclusion we’d come to. I didn’t really have any strong feelings about much back then, so I took one of the suggestions she’d given, and did my project on the controversy of abortion.

Not knowing anything about the abortion debate, I gave equal credence to rabidly “pro-life” materials as vehemently pro-choice materials. Both sides sounded good to me, and I didn’t find much of either side’s critique of the other side. (This was before I was very computer-savvy, and before the internet was the user-friendly monster it is today.) I didn’t come down on either side. I had no idea how I was going to close my presentation, because I couldn’t come to a conclusion. I found some more scholarly, less biased resources on how most Americans are in the “mushy middle” when it comes to abortion, and so I settled there.
It was an easy place to be, and one that wouldn’t place me in the middle of a huge controversy in my class. When I gave “my conclusion” on the abortion debate, I discussed how I didn’t think it should be “used as birth control,” but that in cases like rape or incest, it was only humane to allow it. Basically, I parroted what the “mushy middle” articles said without really understanding the core concepts. Because it was the easy position to take.
Abortion was still not much of an issue through high school. I was all about sex ed, though, and was livid when I was told by the adviser of SADD (which turned into Students Against Destructive Decisions shortly before I became president of it my senior year) that we couldn’t talk much about, let alone distribute, condoms or any real information about safer sex.

So it wasn't until my first Women’s Studies class in my first semester of college that I finally got fully introduced to the feminist perspective on reproductive rights, reproductive autonomy, and, to some extent, reproductive justice. I helped a friend procure an abortion – in the 22nd week of her pregnancy. She was living about 2 hours away at the time, but I found phone numbers and addresses for clinics near her, and when those clinics wouldn’t provide the abortion (it was later than their policies allowed, even though NY state law allows them up to 24 weeks), I found a clinic in another city that would. I put her in touch with one of my friends who lived in that city, someone for her to stay with. It scared me to do this, especially since her parents were very strict and very Muslim, and would have disowned her if they found out, but it felt like the right thing to do.

It also felt like the right thing to do when I and our goalie hitched a ride with my assistant coach’s parents into downtown DC, both of us still sweaty and unshowered, after our final lacrosse championships game (a consolation game, which we lost). It felt right when we were counted in the 1 million+ people that made that march the biggest march that Washington, DC has ever seen.

It felt like the right thing to do when I transferred to Smith and the first org. meeting I attended was for Vox, the student affiliate of Planned Parenthood. It felt right when I went to every Vox meeting and almost every event.
It felt right when I went pharmacy-to-pharmacy last spring, asking pharmacists to sign up to be able to dispense EC over-the-counter (this was before the FDA stopped dragging its feet, and after Massachusetts had passed an EC OTC bill). It felt right when I argued with PPLM’s Grassroots Organizer for western Mass and their legal counsel over the tactic to use to raise money for the SD Campaign for Healthy Families, when I argued against the focus on the lack of exceptions and against the (re-)creation of a bullshit hierarchy of circumstances.
It felt right when I ran in (and won) the election to be Vice President of Vox. It feels right working with my incredible fellow e-board (executive board) members and the rest of PPLM and PPFA, even if I do have disagreements from time to time with some administrative choices (which I won't comment on here).

It felt right when I signed up for the trip to South Dakota, when I got on the plane headed for Big Cock Country™ with another Smithie and a Hampshire student. When I got off the plane and saw the first pieces of luggage -- hunting rifles -- come out, I was slightly frightened, but it felt right. It felt incredible, and indescribable, and so, so right when I was at the victory party in the ballroom in Sioux Falls on election night.

It’s just always felt right to be pro-choice. And so I’ve never thought about why I feel so strongly about it.

When Gretchen asked me, I was at first at a loss for words.
So, naturally, I just started talking. This is what came out (paraphrased):
After all, the right to abortion* doesn’t really directly affect me. Sure, it directly affects my vagina-possessing friends who choose to engage in heterosexual sex, but I don’t willingly involve myself with organs that contain sperm, so it’s not a right on which I would rely on a regular basis.
Yet, my belief in abortion rights is firm, and is one I’m deeply passionate about.
(“I can see that, that you’re passionate about it. But why so much passion for something that you don’t deal with personally?”)
Because I do. And I have. I have dealt with it personally. I have never had an abortion. I have never even had consensual heterosexual sex.

And that right there is the kicker: the word “consensual.” Sure, the “pro-lifers” are mostly in favor of abortion rights for rape victims, but that’s problematic on more levels than I can even pretend to address. But for one: I, as a victim/survivor, should have no greater claim to abortion rights than the girl next to me who had consensual sex. If I have the right to abort, she should have the right to abort too. My experience of violation does not make me any more “worthy” of reproductive autonomy than the next girl. Because autonomy is not, and should never be, dependent on one’s level of sexual violation.
For another, our legal system is already broken when it comes to sexual assault. If these kinds of abortion bans were passed that allowed abortions for rape victims, it would only exacerbate the already hideous system. Right now, victims/survivors enter the legal system and, most often, get their leg broken. If a ban with rape/incest exceptions were passed, these victims/survivors would enter the system with a broken leg and it would be repeatedly beaten and re-broken with a bat, Tonya Harding-style. On a practical level, it would simply be unnecessary cruelty.

Without autonomy over our wombs, we can’t expect to have autonomy over any other aspect of our lives. If you don’t grant us autonomy over our internal organs, we can’t expect that these organs won’t be violated.

And that’s where it gets personal. That’s where I think my deep, deep passion comes from. The attempt to take control of women’s reproductive capabilities is too reminiscent of the attempt to take control of women’s bodies through sexual assault. Reproductive rights and reproductive autonomy is a microcosm of the larger struggle over the control of women’s bodies, a struggle that takes many forms and seeps into so almost every aspect of life.

(*While reproductive autonomy and reproductive justice certainly encompasses far, far more than the right to abortion, we were talking specifically about the SD abortion ban, so that’s what I focus on here.)

Roe turns 34...

(click the image to sign up)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

oh, thank god.

I'm not the only one weirded out and distressed by Pelosi's and Hillary's mommy-pandering of late.

First, there was Pelosi. As she was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House ever, she surrounded herself with children, to reinforce her role as a mother and grandmother. And talked about how it "takes a woman to clean up the House" and touted the virtues she has as a politician, due to the fact that she possesses a vagina and has more estrogen flowing through her body than 84% of her fellow Members in the House.

Then there was Hillary. As she was getting ready to enter the '08 race, she told The View that it would make a difference to have her, a woman, as a president, not because she's an accomplished politician. No, because she's a mother.

There's a great piece by Dana Goldstein up over at The American Prospect that details exactly why this "mommy schtick," as Goldstein puts it, doesn't actually help female politicians. That playing the gender card, instead of making them more viable players in the political field, actually hurts them and other women in regards to politics. It says exactly what I've been trying to articulate since Pelosi's "I've got feminine wiles and therefore make a good politician and Speaker" mantra started coming out. Definitely worth the read.

Some excerpts:
When Clinton and Pelosi claim political capital due to their experience as mothers and homemakers, they are selling their ambitious selves -- and, indeed, all women -- far short. Women don't deserve to be in politics because we're more compassionate or nurturing than men. We deserve to be there because we are human beings, and especially because we are human beings who, regardless of our choices about if and how to become mothers, continue to live under a social and political system that denies us many of the same options men have enjoyed for generations.

And this closing, which I love:
Perhaps it's unfair to ask our female politicians to transcend gender when we still live in a world so unfairly structured by it. But the fact is, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi will be the victims of misogynistic attacks questioning their seriousness, qualifications, fashion choices, and family lives -- not to mention their politics -- no matter what they do. The question is, will they rise above the fray, or let it limit them?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

on victim-blaming (a round-up)

During my failure to live up to the standards of being a regular blogger, there have been quite a few incredible posts floating around the feminist blogosphere on victim-blaming.
Knowing me and my penchant for chiding victim-blamers, you would have to know I'd link to them.
If I'd been a better blogger, I would've been all over these posts when they were posted, and written things up about them. But alas, I have not been a very good blogger lately. So I leave you with a quick roundup of some of my favourites:

Before I get to the article that set the feminist blogosphere on fire...

Shakes' Sis ripped apart this article from BBC, entitled "Should Women Be More Responsible?" Because, clearly, if women aren't "responsible" enough to keep themselves stone-cold sober in "mixed company," they're asking to get raped. (Julie Bindel's quote in the article, though, is fantastic: "Alcohol has undoubtedly become the new short skirt in the way that people are looking to put the blame and the onus and the responsibility on women.") Shakes' Sis is fabulous, as per usual, even when the victim-blaming shit crops up in the comments...

And then
the article that made the shit hit the fan throughout the feminist blogosphere...
Made all the worse because it appeared on Women's eNews, which is usually a great source for feminist journalism.
Not so with this article, "Underage Women Sidle Up To Barroom Risks. By Liz Funk. Who's already been proven to be part of the feminist police when she ripped on my beloved Feministing back in October.

Her latest article, though, sounds frighteningly reminiscent of self-congratulatory, anti-feminist Gary Miller's article, "Girls Exchange Dignity for Attention".
In fact, she quotes the asshole.
And the article, as re-posted at AlterNet, was originally entitled Sacrificing Dignity for Attention. (Sounds a little familiar, no? Which is probably why it has since been given a new, less offensive title.)

And so the feminist blogosphere rightly erupted with criticisms of Funk's victim-blaming article and its passing the buck of responsibility for sexual assault back to the woman who dared to take advantage of "Ladies' Night" at the bar and get herself *gasp* slightly inebriated.
On the case:
Ann at Feministing; Amanda at Pandagon; Violet at Reclusive Leftist; Shakes' Sis at her place; Jill at Feministe; Lauren, formerly of Feministe, but now of Faux Real Tho; Sheelzebub at Pinko Feminist Hellcat;
Echidne at Echidne of the Snakes; lost clown at Angry for A Reason; Ginmar; Hugo at his pad; and Rox at Rox Populi.

(Shorter roundup: Jessica from feministing and Evan Derkacz put up a piece at AlterNet summarizing the feminist blogosphere's reaction to Funk's piece.)

A ton of non-victim-blaming feminists emailed the editors of Women's eNews, but they claimed they stood by the article, and haven't budged.


Friday, January 12, 2007

a presidency of cliff notes

The new love of my life?
Keith Olberman.
Such an impassioned, articulate, ass-kicking speech I've never heard coming from the mouth of a TV newscaster/commentator.

Keith's Special Comment on Bush's new "strategy" for Iraq:

"We must look like a country run by the equivalent of the drunken pest who gets battered to the floor of the saloon by one punch, then staggers to his feet and shouts at the other guy's friends, "Ok, which one of you is next?"

(Oh, and by the way, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

how the president plans to kill my brother

Apparently, President Bush is planning to kill my brother.
That may seem overdramatic. It may seem extreme.
I wish it were. It's not.

The "surge" Bush is planning has been on the lips of every newscaster for a few days. The White House, earlier today, released some of the excerpts from the speech he will give tonight.

Last week, the BBC had a short article, an early take on the whole thing. What really struck me from that article was this:
"Its central theme will be sacrifice."


I'm still slightly confused as to when sacrifice became an acceptable military strategy. Or when it became a humane thing to do.
I can't find the transcript now, but I saw a guy on MSNBC last week, talking about sacrifice:
If you knew someone was planning to sacrifice an American soldier, would you stand by and let him?
What if you knew someone was planning to sacrifice 200 American soldiers? Would you let him?
What if you knew someone was planning to sacrifice more than 100 times that?

They're saying that the boost will mostly come from earlier-than-planned deployments.
My brother (a medic in the Navy) was supposed to be deployed by the end of the summer.
(He promised me he'd be at my graduation in May.)

Bush, of course, describes his plan "as a blueprint to 'change America's course in Iraq and help us succeed in the fight against terror.'"
It seems he is unable to understand that there's a difference between a civil war that we got caught (and should not be) in the middle of and terrorism.

We are not fighting the war on terror here. We are fighting his daddy's war, and managed to fuck things up enough that we're still there, a few years after "mission accomplished."

So, because things are so fucked up, the answer is clearly to send more troops in.
More troops like my brother.
(Who would, because the Army is overextended and being killed off, be performing a job that he is not trained for -- he's a medic in the navy, like I said before, but in Iraq, he would be pointing a gun at people in the desert.)

The Dems are planning to hold votes to urge the president not to go through with the surge. But thanks to the AUMF, these votes won't actually carry any legal weight. Bush can do whatever the hell he wants with our men and women in uniform.

But you know what?
Fuck you, Bush.
You are not going to make my brother miss my graduation.
And you are not going to kill my brother.

(Action Notice: Emergency actions tomorrow, January 11th, around the country. Find out what's happening near you.
And a mobilization in Washington, DC, January 27th-29th. Learn more here.)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Oh, Nancy...

I should've known it would be like this. That our first female Speaker of the House would face the same kind of sexist/stereotypical bullshit that every other female politician has had to face. That she'd have to succumb to it and play into it.

I held out hope, though, that with a fireball like Pelosi, an unabashed feminist, it wouldn't happen. But that marble ceiling she keeps saying that she broke is still mostly in tact.

What I'm talking about may seem subtle. And it may seem like I'm being one of those oversensitive feminists, overreacting to a simple "figure of speech." But figures of speech still have a great deal of influence on public opinion.

What I'm talking about, of course, is Pelosi's continuous references to "cleaning house" as the new Speaker.
(I'm not the only one writing about this gender-stereotypical crap; Jen at feministing has a piece about the constant focus on her family life - by both the media and Pelosi herself - that's mostly unheard of with male politicians.)

The first I heard was when I came out of my self-induced finals week hermitage to watch the Barbara Walters "10 Most Fascinating People of 2006" special. Nancy Pelosi was the Top Most Fascinating Person. Which was! so! exciting! I was stoked, and Pelosi talked about how the first 100 hours were going to be rockin', and how her first priority was to fix the mess that is the Iraq War.
And then her 2nd priority?
"Draining the swamp in Washington." (referring to the corruption in DC and how she plans to bring integrity back to the Capitol. Ok, good goal.)
BW: "The Democrats can clean up that swamp?"
Pelosi: "Maybe it'll take a woman to clean up the swamp."

I was angry at first. And a little heartbroken. And I was confused as to why she was still pulling that "women are holier-than-thou" in politics thing, after she's made it, after she became 2 steps from the presidency.
And then I realized that even though she was Speaker (at that point, unelected, but clearly speaker nonetheless), she still has to play the game. She still has to defend her place in politics as a woman and play that gender game, fitting herself neatly into the very gendered box of a female politician.

But I didn't think she'd keep using that line. I had hope still that maybe, once things settled down a bit, she'd just start being a politician, not just a female politician. Which is not to say that her gender shouldn't matter in the least - clearly, it does - but I just hoped that the stereotypes that go along with her being a breasted American in possession of a vagina would play less of a role.

But my hopes seem to have been dashed. She keeps going back to that same logic that we used 100 years ago to gain the right to vote; that is, that women need to be in politics to make the menfolk play nice and to clean up after their messes. I thought we were past this. I thought we could accept women as politicians without touting their "innate" superior consciences and morals.
Apparently, I was wrong.

Because then I saw the article on BBC, Women Power Comes to Capitol Hill. It was a happy little article, about how there was a huge number of women running for political office this year, and an unprecedented number of women who won. It talked about how the percentage of women in Congress rose 1.5%, which may not seem like a lot, but when it's been stagnant and hovering around 15 since the "Year of the Woman" more than a decade ago, that's a lovely accomplishment.

And then, Nancy Pelosi.
There was one good part that I loved, about how her achieving the status of Speaker of the House was "breaking the marble ceiling" (which may or may not be true; one woman's, albeit incredible, achievement does not a marble ceiling break...crack, maybe, but not quite shattered..). How it was "similar to the "glass ceiling" in the business world, only harder," and how Pelosi "has the bruises to show for it."
I liked it.
I was impressed by the article. And by the marble ceiling/bruises quote from Pelosi. Very nice. Plus, it had a really incredible picture, which I love:

Men still outnumber women in both houses of Congress

And then, there it was again, the subtle (or not-so-subtle) gender norms/stereotypes and gendered division of labor seeping into political rhetoric:
"Ms Pelosi has vowed to restore civility and ethics in government, saying: 'It takes a woman to clean house.'"

Seriously, Pelosi?

I'm not angry, like I was when I saw the Barbara Walters special. Because I know she has reason to do this, and I know she does still have to play that gender game. But it makes me sad.
It makes me sad to see a woman as wonderful as Nancy Pelosi stooping to these levels of gender stereotypes in order to make herself a viable politician. It makes me sad that politics is still so, so gendered, and that in 2006, women still have to prove their right to be in the political arena. Still have to rely on the "greater purity" of women, on our better ethics, our morality, in order to be legitimized in the public opinion. Still, after all these years, have to base our right to exist in the public sphere on our ascribed role in the private sphere.

It makes my heart sad.
But I don't know how we can move beyond this shit, short of an unprecedentedly successful nationwide consciousness-raising campaign.
And so it'll keep on.
But for how long?

How long is Nancy Pelosi going to have to rely on the "house cleaning" phrase in order to be accepted as Speaker?
How long is Hillary going to have to tout her superior morality, her womanly forgiving heart, in order to be accepted as a candidate for the presidency?
How long is it going to be that women have to rely on a huge push on the part of numerous donors and sponsors and organizations in order to increase our number in the federal legislature by just 1.5%?

In the words of the suffragists, almost a century ago:
How long must we wait for liberty? How long must we wait for justice?