Katha Pollitt’s recent column in The Nation, “Lipstick on a Wing Nut,” proposes that we skip all the Sarah Palin family saga & simply ask her a dozen questions instead:

  1. Suppose your 14-year-old daughter Willow is brutally raped in her bedroom by an intruder. She becomes pregnant and wants an abortion. Could you tell the parents of America why you think your child and their children should be forced by law to have their rapists’ babies?
  2. You say you don’t believe global warming is man-made. Could you tell us what scientists you’ve spoken with or read who have led you to that conclusion? What do you think the 2,500 scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are getting wrong?
  3. If you didn’t try to fire Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Baker over her refusal to consider censoring books, why did you try to fire her?
  4. What is the European Union, and how does it function?
  5. Forty-seven million Americans lack health insurance. John Goodman, who has advised McCain on healthcare, has proposed redefining them as covered because, he says, anyone can get care at an ER. Do you agree with him?
  6. What is the function of the Federal Reserve?
  7. Cindy and John McCain say you have experience in foreign affairs because Alaska is next to Russia. When did you last speak with Prime Minister Putin, and what did you talk about?
  8. Approximately how old is the earth? Five thousand years? 10,000? 5 billion?
  9. You are a big fan of President Bush, so why didn’t you mention him even once in your convention speech?
  10. McCain says cutting earmarks and waste will make up for revenues lost by making the tax cuts permanent. Experts say that won’t wash. Balancing the Bush tax cuts plus new ones proposed by McCain would most likely mean cutting Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Which would you cut?
  11. You’re suing the federal government to have polar bears removed from the endangered species list, even as Alaska’s northern coastal ice is melting and falling into the sea. Can you explain the science behind your decision?
  12. You’ve suggested that God approves of the Iraq War and the Alaska pipeline. How do you know?

I’d really like to hear her answer these.

The Requisite Sarah Palin Post

The real kicker of Sarah Palin’s talk tonight was the “scary ideas from Europe” idea. I mean, seriously? Scary Europeans? Where there’s national healthcare and maternity leave and no gun crime? That scary place?

I’m still flummoxed by just about everything she said tonight. Astounded, even. Aside from the Big Fat Liar issue – she was for the Bridge to Nowhere until she was nominated, and she raised taxes on Alaskans – I can’t believe her entire talk was about the elites, and scary European ideas, and tiny government. (You know, like the kind that brought you Katrina.) I mean, aren’t culture wars so 90s?

But it’s more than that. The cynicism and sarcasm and meanness she expressed blew my mind. I like people who are clever and clear-thinking, but that’s not what she is. It makes me so sad to think anyone might admire her, or find like-mindedness in her comments. She’s like Dr. Laura, and those platitudes don’t work as advice, and they definitely don’t work as policy.

Please, Dems, don’t rest easy. We need to kick this woman’s ass. She cut funding on a center for pregnant teenagers even though she has one. Talk about elitism. She tried to ban books and she got pork-barrel funding for aerial hunting (which is about the lamest, most shameful thing I’ve ever heard of).

The Disappearing Virgin

The New York Times just did a great article on the tradition of sworn virgins in Albanian culture – that’s the tradition that says a woman can foreswear marriage (& presumably, sex) in order to live as a man & so be head of household, inherit land, etc.

Betty & I had an Albanian cab driver in Boston not so long ago who had no idea what I was talking about when I asked him about it, & no Albanian I’ve ever met – I ask them all – has ever heard of it, either. But the article makes clear exactly why your average Albanian wouldn’t have.

What’s most interesting to me is that in every case they cite – and I don’t know if this is true for every case – it was the woman’s choice to “become the man.”

White Privilege

& More on the Fr. Pfleger post! Someone wrote to me & said:

I am Catholic as well, 1st generation Irish-American, I was poor, faced prejudice – and feel I owe nothing to Father Pfleger’s constituency. I feel I worked myself out of the bottom and I don’t feel anyone owes me anything either. But if this race-baiting (as I see it) continues then I might have to argue that I was discriminated against as well—if not here in the USA then maybe in Ireland/England.

But then when does it end? When does victimization end? It has gone on a long time in the USA and it hasn’t improved. I don’t think victimization helps improve people’s lives. It never helped me. I worked my way out of it (and people don’t understand the work that I did unless they did it themselves).

But when Father Pfleger says we owe some of or 401k’s to black people because we had ‘white privilege’, I have difficulty understanding it because I don’t feel I had equal opportunity and yet I don’t resent it. I accept it–It is life and I don’t think it will ever change.

Which is all perfectly logical & makes sense to me; I think it’s the nut of why poor and working-class white people sometimes object to Affirmative Action programs.

Except that the reality, in the US, is that we have inherited a system where some people are oppressed because of their race and only because of their race. It is not the only way people are oppressed, and plenty of us (white folks) did not have family here when slavery was operable. But the system that came out of race-based slavery was, in turn, racist.

So while poor white people didn’t benefit from equal treatment – because we didn’t – we didn’t have to deal with being poor AND black. We were privileged in one aspect – being white – and oppressed in another – by class. Catholics and Jews and other “white” immigrant groups were often also oppressed due to their religion or recent immigration status. Often these groups are referred to as “white ethnic” – meaning ‘white but not WASP.’ It’s what I consider myself. For an excellent book on the subject, specifically the way whiteness was sold as privilege to unionized white workers – check out The Wages of Whiteness, or on White Ethnic groups, check out White Ethnics.

Being able to look at the ways we are each privileged and the ways we are oppressed is what we call Intersectionality in Gender Studies.

But more importantly, let me say this: the idea here isn’t about victimization. It’s about understanding one’s individual story in context. It’s not about sitting around & saying “woe is me” or anything like it. It’s just about knowing which aspects of your own experience and others works against you, & them; it’s a way of explaining why some women are more privileged than others, and why, say, a white, rich, professional gay man might have a hard time understanding why a black poor lesbian can’t get a decent start in life despite them both being LGBT.

So: no whining. Just acknowledgment in the ways we exist, as individuals, within the larger culture and its institutions, and the ways those institutions, in turn, shape us. (Of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who would prefer to blame everyone & anyone for why they suck, but that’s an entirely different issue entirely.)

Guest Author : Mercedes Allen

(crossposted in several places, and people are welcome to forward this on freely to others in the transgender and GLBT communities, as I see this as being very serious — Mercedes)

A short time ago, I’d discussed the movement to have “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID, a.k.a. “Gender Dysphoria”) removed from the DSM-IV or reclassified, and how we needed to work to ensure that any such change was an improvement on the existing model, rather than a scrapping or savaging of it.

Lynn Conway reports that on May 1st, 2008, the American Psychiatric Association named its work group members appointed to revise the Manual for Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in preparation for the DSM-V. Such a revision would include the entry for GID.

On the Task Force, named as Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Chair, we find Dr. Kenneth Zucker, from Toronto’s infamous Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH, formerly the Clarke Institute). Dr. Zucker is infamous for utilizing reparative (i.e. “ex-gay”) therapy to “cure” gender-variant children. Named to his work group, we find Zucker’s mentor, Dr. Ray Blanchard, Head of Clinical Sexology Services at CAMH and creator of the theory of autogynephilia, categorized as a paraphilia and defined as “a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.”

Continue reading “Guest Author : Mercedes Allen”

When Worlds Collide

I’m at an Au Bon Pain in Boston’s South Station the other day trying to buy a cup of soup while I waited for my next train. They have clam chowder on the list of soups, so I ask,

“What kind of clam chowder is it?”
Blank stare.
“Is it white or red?”
“Do you want clam chowder?”
“What color is it?”
Blank stare, eyeroll.
The clerk next to her overhears it & asks me,
“You’re from New York?”
I nod.
He says to my clerk,
“You need to get out of Boston once in a while. In New York they have red clam chowder too.”

I had no idea that when you’re in New England, all the clam chowder is New England clam chowder. I mean, if they serve both New England clam chowder and Manhattan clam chowder in Manhattan…

Blinding Paperwork

A Polish woman with a worsening eye condition needed to get an abortion after being warned by her doctor that she might go blind if she didn’t abort. Unfortunately for her, Poland requires written authorization for an abortion – which it only allows in cases such as hers, where the women’s health is at risk as a result of pregnancy – and she couldn’t get the doctor’s note. She instead carried to term and delivered the baby and her vision, as predicted, got worse – so much so she was declared legally disabled.

She did win $50k from the Polish government after the European Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, but I read this as a cautionary tale: making it too difficult for a woman to get an abortion results in unnecessary tragedy.