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  • (13)

    For that matter, what is a feminist these days?

    After stumbling across a rather ridiculous blog written by someone convinced that "feminists have gone too far" (where? I ask myself) and the "delicate male ego" is something that has not existed since the '50s, I wondered (again) at the hate, mistrust and fear people have for the "feminist" label. That the blogger in question (and please forgive me, I was so disgusted I just closed the browser window so I don't have a link, but I think she was a "slithering lizard" in the TTLB Ecosphere [link bottom right on this site]) seemed to think that there's no reason for feminism today did not surprise me. People only know what they know, and for most that can be a pretty narrowly defined experience. The way the media played the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, you'd think it was because everyone just felt it wasn't needed. I'm not saying things aren't better today, but there's more to do, more to accomplish, and that will only come with self-awareness, empowerment and enlightenment. The boys aren't going to give up their privileges on their own.

    But what is a feminist today? To some people, we're all Birkenstock-wearing pissed off vegetarian bitches with hairy armpits and legs and entrenched hatred of all things male. But that does not define me. Neither does the stiletto-botted vixen in black leather sex trip that some men seem to desire from female power.

    Wikipedia [as of today] defines feminism as:

    Feminism is a social theory and political movement primarily informed and motivated by the experience of women. While generally providing a critique of social relations, many proponents of feminism also focus on analyzing gender inequality and the promotion of women's rights, interests, and issues.

    The wiki goes on with a laundry list of feminist issues, but I hate doing laundry (which, in and of itself, does not necessarily make me a feminist), so let's go on to something I did not expect to find there (my my, I love my Wikipedia!) -- a whole list of "subtypes of feminism":

    ...which seems rather exhaustive, if not exhausting to ponder. But it doesn't strike my dim wits as very illuminating as to where feminism stands as a whole. [Wikipedia's being a wiki, these passages could change at any moment.]

    So let's take another tack:

    Amanda of Mouse Words has written an interesting bit about make-up -- more specifically about how the use of make-up has changed over the years -- not the style of make-up, though that has changed, too, but rather the why of make-up:

    My mother, when we lived in Alpine, was not willing to leave the house without make-up. She saw it as a mask, a necessity, like wearing clothes really. And she would occasionally do my make-up as a lark when I'd go to school or to dances.

    But my mother's worries told me a lot about what it means to be a woman, mostly that you are onstage all the time and that you are obliged to keep in character all the time, even when you are trying to relax.

    It's a tough lesson to shake.

    In the context of make-up, I felt she's captured a bit of the essence of how what we now call "feminism" has changed over the years.

    To my grandmother, make-up is whorish. To my mother, it is womanhood. To me, it's a game with a definitive sexual subtext, like wearing garter belts. Not necessary, but hot.

    There it is, through the lens of make-up: Empowerment. Femininity. Feminism. As our context changes -- and as we change our context -- we change how we empower ourselves. For ages, empowerment consisted of ingratiating oneself to the men of property, so one could have a job or be taken in marriage. Disempowerment was life on the streets in a world where life was nasty, brutish and short.

    Today it all seems so different. Here, in this media-driven culture with Beatrix whooping heads and Gwen Stefani's melodic whispers of "this my shit," it's hard to imagine what life must have been like then. Stepping back (watch out for the cat), let's see what phases of gradual female liberation we've achieved:

    1. A woman is not a man's property. Not only that, she can own property, too. This radical idea actually existed at various times in history, such as back in Medieval England, but went out of fashion with the Renaissance.
    2. A woman has the right to vote. I'm still pretty stunned that this did not happen until fairly recently.
    3. A woman has the right to prevent impregnation. Oh, the rage that this spurred! The Catholic Church still has not gotten over it. Neither has the pseudo-Christian evangelical right.
    4. A woman has the right to be independent of men. This is where things started to get dicey. It seems like men just got confused here. They didn't "get" the concept of male privilege. (They still don't.) Robert Bly came along and got them to beat on drums, which just made everybody chuckle. But really, guys have not "gotten it" any better since then, and I wonder if Bly wasn't onto something in his thesis about the "sibling society," where boys teach each other what it is to be a man.
    5. A woman has the right to control her body. This ruling of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court has proven tenuous at best. Unless something changes for the better, my hunch is that Roe will be dismantled by the radical right before the decade is out.
    6. A woman has the right to embrace her sexuality without peril. This is the Madonna brand of feminism, and the kind that spoke to me (though I never really got the lingerie-as-outerwear thing). She's her own woman, does her own thing, owns her own company (which publishes many other artists, including Alanis Morissette [see next item]). Erin Brokovich as played by Julia Roberts is the epitome of this kind of feminist. Sandra Bullock has made a career out of playing women who are strong and sexy, and stronger for the combination.
    7. A woman has the right to all of her feelings and opinions, without shame. Alanis has been at the forefront (IMHO) of an entire wave of female artists who are strong and unafraid of saying what's what. (My first 45 single was Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," with "I Am Woman" on the flipside, if I remember correctly. Those songs by her and Joni and Judy were revolutionary, but those voices were flickers in the night, lost in hard rock and new wave camp that followed until Lilith Fair.

    So why this "f-word" treatment we see today? Why the reluctance of young women to embrace the feminist moniker? It seems that the gains of the past 200 years are now taken for granted. The struggles of the past seem so dramatic compared with the subtleties of male privilege today that perhaps many, if not most, young women don't even believe it exists. Perhaps.

    Except for our corner of the blogsphere, the feminist movement seems practically dead. The Democrats are even talking about selling out a woman's right to choose so they can pander to the "red states."

    Where does that leave us? We have a handful of women in Congress. There is a smattering of women running big corporations. Yes, there are women all over in the public eye, many of whom are feminists. (No, Ann Coulter is not one of them, no matter how loudly she shouts.) But when it comes to running things, it seems not all that many women are in charge. Why aren't there more? On the local level, we see much more female influence and participation. Most PTAs are almost all-women. Also, a majority of small businesses are started up, owned and operated by women. So why don't we see more women in the higher ranks of government and business?

    My (radical, perhaps) intuition tells me that it's because men (and many women) don't want to be led by a woman. In fact, I would go so far as to say men (and many, if not most, women) believe that women are inferior to men.

    (Hey, it's just an observation. I'm just a woman. What do I know?)

    And so when I look at what we have not (yet) accomplished in women's rights, I do not see any great chance that any of these things will be achieved soon:

    • A woman's body is not the government's property. Right now, a woman's right to control her own body, her own reproductive organs, is permitted by special dispensation by the federal government. There has been no all-encompassing recognition of a woman's sovereignty over her own body. Roe v. Wade has been eroding year by year.
    • Women's rights worldwide are human rights. As it is, the rights of women to basic human dignity and respect are not major priorities in our culture, let alone our policy. In fact, the pseudo-Christian right has actively and successfully opposed any foreign aid that includes birth control, a policy whose impact is upon women primarily. Female "circumcision" (a euphemism that itself dismisses the seriousness of the violence), cultural laws of oppression like Sharia, child prostitution are footnotes among the concerns in this country's foreign policy (under Republican and Democrat alike).

    So what are we to do? Blast "What You Waiting For" from our iPods ("take a chance you stupid ho") and read our shÅ?jo and thank the stars Kobe isn't in the house?

    I ask the women, the girls, who are most definitely not feminists to consider what our society would be like -- what the world would be like -- if women had a greater voice in running things.

    Really, would that be so bad?

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    Should I call this "First Annual"? I've been pondering this for a while, but got sidetracked by the unexpected crash of my 2-week-old iMac and the sudden need to create an online community for a group of really interesting and insightful progressive bloggers.

    So...I didn't do the graphic. I didn't plan ahead. I let it slide and slide.

    But it's still a pretty darn good idea, isnt it?

    The Feminist Valentine Blog Awards

    Over the next six days, if you post a particularly feminist perspective on St. Valentine's Day, trackback here or comment here with a link. If you see a good snarky blog on romance from a feminist perspective, post a link here. If you or someone you know posted some great stuff in the past... yes, that's right, post a link here in a comment.

    I don't know what categories there will be. Probably things like Snarkiest, Most Militant, Most Heartwrenching, Best Argument for the Subjugation of Men... you know, cheerful stuff. In actual fact, there will be just enough awards to have one for each submission. Every woman has valid insights on Valentine's Day! (Maybe some men do, too.) And I will be sure to have some nifty graphic that winners can put on their websites.

    Send in your submissions! Please!...Because really, this is just a way for me to discover some really great and empowering writing to give me strength and hope during this very depressing valentine's season, where I feel like I will never ever find love again.

    Nominees can (hopefully) be found in comments and trackbacks to this post. Awards will be given out as soon as I recover from my night-of-the-14th chocolate-and-pinot-noir binge towards oblivion.

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    In a twist that makes unmarried women victims of Ohio's new anti-gay marriage amendment, a judge there has ruled that domestic violence charges can be made only in cases of marriage:

    Domestic violence charges cannot be filed against unmarried people because of Ohio's new constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a judge ruled Wednesday.

    Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman changed a felony domestic violence charge against Frederick Burk to a misdemeanor assault charge.

    Prosecutors immediately appealed.

    Judges and others across the country have been waiting for a ruling on how the gay marriage ban, among the nation's broadest, would affect Ohio's 25-year-old domestic violence law, which previously wasn't limited to married people.

    Burk, 42, is accused of slapping and pushing his live-in girlfriend during a January argument over a pack of cigarettes.

    His public defender, David Magee, had asked the judge to throw out the charge because of the new wording in Ohio's constitution that prohibits any state or local law that would "create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals."

    Before the amendment, courts applied the domestic violence law by defining a family as including an unmarried couple living together as would a husband and wife, the judge said. The gay marriage amendment no longer allows that.

    Blinded by hate and bigotry, now the residents of Ohio get to reap the rewards of their righteous indignation. They thought the law was directed against gays, but now they're facing the fact that the law can hurt them in very direct ways.

    Because Burk had a prior domestic violence conviction, the latest charge was a felony that could have resulted in an 18-month jail term; a misdemeanor assault carries a maximum sentence of six months.

    Now isn't that just lovely? At least the battered unmarried women of Ohio can find solace in the fact that their suffering is for the noble cause of preventing gays from marrying. Here's to black eyes against gays. Here's to broken ribs to support heterosexuality. Here's to rape in the name of straight pride.

    Of course, the evangelical conservatives, never ones to pass up a political opportunity, will probably crow about how these women are being punished for living in sin. Isn't that the message coming from their ranks? If you're not a married Christian, then you're not worthy of consideration? These women should be thankful that their homes weren't swept away in a tsunami.

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    Women are on the front lines with the men. Women are dying in combat with the men. Women are placing their duty to their country over their duty to their families, as are the men.

    And yet the Air Force continues to ignore the sexual assault happening within their own ranks.

    In a letter released Thursday by Acting Secretary of the Air Force Peter Teets to Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the Air Force revealed that it will not take administrative action against anyone as regards confirmed and repeated sexual assault at the Air Force Academy, RAW STORY has learned.

    "The Acting Secretary of the Air Force has reviewed the Department of Defense Inspector General's (DoD/IG's) report and the Fowler report on sexual assault problems at the AF Academy," Teets wrote. "After considering all the facts and weighing all the interests at stake, the Acting Secretary found that no administrative action is warranted against those officers identified in those reports as bearing some responsibility for Academy's sexual assault problems."

    "The Acting Secretary gave significant weight to their uniformly excellent and lengthy service and to the fact they were not intentionally or willfully derelict in their duties," Teets added. "He also found that any mistakes or misjudgments some of them may have made are mitigated by the complexity of the issues faced, the necessity of policy tradeoffs and compromises, and the difficulty of measuring program effectiveness."

    Note: "confirmed and repeated sexual assault" -- the matters of fact are not in question. Some men committed repeated sexual assults, and now are going to receive no administrative action. So....go ahead and rape and harass women as long as you fulfill your duties. Physical assault (sexual or otherwise) is not important enough in the face of "policy tradeoffs."

    "What the Pentagon clearly doesn't want to discuss, and what all Americans should know, is that women are being sexually assaulted on an ongoing basis in the military and at our nation's military academies by their colleagues," Slaughter continued. "Is this the best we can do for young Americans who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom?"

    Leniency towards sexual assault in the military has long been viewed as standard practice.

    A November 2003 article in The Denver Post noted that twice as many accused Army sex offenders were doled out administrative punishment as were court-martialed.

    "In the civilian world, four of every five people arrested for rape are prosecuted," the Post noted. "Nearly 5,000 accused sex offenders in the military, including rapists, have avoided prosecution, and the possibility of prison time, since 1992, according to Army records."

    Women can't win. If we don't step up to fight, then we don't deserve equality. So we step up to fight, without complaint, and we don't deserve equal protection under the law -- nor, apparently, any sort of concept of human dignity or honor.

    Imagine what the military's response would be if it were men being sexually assaulted by other men. "Oh, that would be totally different! That's why we cannot have gays in the military!" they say.

    So is this non-response to sexual misconduct and physical assault within their own institutions a passive-aggressive way to drive women out of the military?

    Of course, when you have ludicrous sites like this one, that says:

    Jessica Lynch was the victim of feminist zealots who have been pushing for deployment of women in dangerous combat areas

    and has a long list of articles that warn of the dangers of "colocation," complain that women in the ranks are hurting promotion chances for men, women are making "boot camp into summer camp," women in the military are against Christian teachings, women who choose motherhood over military have greater worth....you get the idea -- with sites like that, and people believing that tripe, it's clearly a lonely uphill battle for any woman who chooses to serve her country without employing her womb.

    You get a different perspective, however, from The Minerva Center, whose "Nonprofit Educational Foundation Supporting Study of Women in War & Women and the Military" actually deigns to treat the subject of women in the military without Christian and male chauvinist dogma. In their FAQ, they tell of Molly Pitcher:

    Molly Pitcher is the name of a legendary figure of the American Revolution. She is associated with the Battle of Monmouth and since 1876 has been identified with a woman veteran of the war, Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, who lived in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As part of the centenary events of that year, an unmarked grave believed to be hers was opened and the remains were reburied with honors under a plaque declaring her to have been the real embodiment of the famous Molly Pitcher.

    The central theme of the Molly Pitcher story is of a woman whose husband was wounded or killed while serving at an artillery piece at the Battle of Monmouth. She took his place to the admiration of the other soldiers who admired her courage and devotion to her husband....

    The real woman, Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley was awarded a pension by the State of Pennsylvania in1822 "for services rendered" during the war -- this was more than the usual widow's pension which was awarded to soldiers' wives who marched with the army. So one assumes she did something special. But when she died there was no mention of a cannon or the Battle of Monmouth in her obituary. Historical sources do confirm that at least two women fought in the Battle of Monmouth -- one was at an artillery position and the other was in the infantry line. There is no evidence linking either of them to McCauley.

    There is another woman veteran of the Revolution who received a pension from the Continental Congress for serving at an artillery piece during the Battle of Fort Washington. Her name was Margaret Corbin, and she is now buried at West Point. Some people believe she should be considered the "real" Molly Pitcher, but few people knew about her until long after the Molly Pitcher story was known to every school child, so she cannot have been its inspiration.

    And yet today, more than 200 years after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, women are still harrassed, raped, assaulted by their own comrades -- with tacit sanction by the military. Apparently Duty, Honor, Country has no room for decency, responsibility or a code of conduct that doesn't wink and say, "Boys will be boys."

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    This is a long and somewhat rambling post covering a lot of ground. The story starts and ends with Kos himself, while the tale wanders through DailyKos a bit. If you stick with me, hopefully you'll see what I'm getting at. For those who hate to see someone bury the lead, sorry about that. You can go ahead and scroll to the bottom.

    NARAL in the kitchen

    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a conference call NARAL organized to talk to a dozen or so "feminist" bloggers. How they decided to include me, I don't know. I felt flattered. Because of a work thing, I missed the first 25 minutes or so, but caught the end, and the presumably unscripted and informal after-conference discussion.

    On Tuesday, Liza Sabater, who live-blogged the call, posted a long essay on DailyKos, front-paged by Armando, about her thoughts on NARAL and what must be done. She takes the ad apart -- which I don't need to get into here -- but then she makes some interesting rhetorical ploys.

    She calls the women leading NARAL a "matriarchy," and then says:

    How can I say this without sounding too harsh? Well .... hmmmmmm ... The leaders sounded maternalistic. The call came down to them defending the ad because not only do they know what they are doing; but because they've been doing it for so long, they should lead and we should follow: This is the deal : It is us and it is them.

    I bristle at this kind of attitude from leaders, too, but really, Liza, how is this at all maternalistic? How is it different from what male leaders do every day? This seems like a gratuitous slap, trying to apply a gender stigma to what is a common dynamic in political organizations.

    So it was with that tone set from the start of the conference that I asked Keenan if she was aware of the criticism coming from the progressive blogosphere. That the "reality-based" community believes accuracy is important in dealing with the extremists that have taken hold of the government. That we cannot give them any openings for rebuttal.

    I read from the comments from both my site and DailyKos. And I stressed over and over again that they were not being attacked by our side for their mission.

    I missed that part of the call, but I think she's wrong about what NARAL's critics like Markos have been saying. When people attack NARAL for endorsing pro-choice candidates, they are attacking NARAL's mission. NARAL is not a wing of the Democratic Party, it is an advocacy organization. If NARAL endorsed a "pro-life" Democrat over a "pro-choice" Republican, it would be going against its mission. And anyone who demands that NARAL do just that, is advocating against NARAL's mission. As I said before, NARAL is not the Democratic Party's bitch.

    Anyway, in her dKos diary, Liza then goes into a criticism of the NARAL ad on Roberts. I, too, was critical of that ad, mainly for being yet another piece of Beltway-produced crap that looked and sounded like every other political ad. If sneakers were sold like politicians, we'd all be wearing Buster Browns. The incompetence of these poli-ad agencies is on the brink of criminal.

    The fact that NARAL has bought hook, line and sinker into that whole media approach reveals just how much they are a part of the politocracy in general. I applaud them for reaching out to some bloggers, but sadly I get the sense that perhaps it was an experiment advocated by some but not wholly trusted by the leaders. I wonder how comfortable they are to have their own supporters criticizing them so openly. That's the nature of blogging, but it's not in keeping with the kiss-ass society of Washington.

    The post-modern flight from values

    Then Liza gets into an interesting "intermezzo" where she basically advocates the post-modern/deconstructionist/post-structuralist dogma, and labels feminism as such -- and this is intended as a positive.

    I should say here that I never bought into that stuff. Deconstructionism was gaining popularity when I was in college. I never quite got how a world view espousing the belief that "there is no Truth" could be put forward as Truth.

    (Debating with a post-modernist can often feel much like debating with a religious fundamentalist. Thou shalt not take Foucault's name in vain! I'd love to dive back into rhetorical criticism and explore why I feel Wayne C. Booth was right, Stanley Fish was wrong and Truth exists, despite our imperfect understanding and perceptions.... but really, I don't have the time to spare. Bills must be paid, and this blog takes quite enough time away from the bill-paying endeavors as it is. And that's the Truth!)

    But there's something Liza says about feminism that stuck in my craw:

    The Lawyers focus on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but The Truth. The Journalists' concern is with constructing a story around The Truth. All hell breaks loose with The Feminists.

    The Feminists' job is to assume there is no Truth but suppressed truths. Our job is to pick apart the layers of meaning heaved down society's throat as The Truth. Through this process, we are not only to reveal The Truth as the constructed fallacy it is but, once shattered, recompose it into the many truths and the many stories its 'oneness' suppresses.

    Then again, I became a post-structuralist, feminist scholar fascinated by Latin American neo-baroque aesthetics with no influence whatsoever from Andrea Dworkin ; and only knowing about her after developing a distaste for her partner in puritanical feminism, Catherine MacKinnon's . I still just seethe at the thought of this brilliant woman codling up to extremist Christian groups during the 1980's to legally define and ban pornography, and at the height of the Meese Commission. I still believe her involvement in giving the extreme right fodder for the attacks on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    I respectfully disagree. I don't see feminism as defined by post-structuralism. The status quo is not Truth, and opposing the status quo does not require denial of the existence of Truth. Now we can get into all sorts of metaphysical notions of reality, and talk about our own Whiggish view of history and the world, and say "everything's relative" and there's no reason to believe that our morals hold any weight in the Universe. But it seems patently obvious to me that the very foundation of feminism is the moral value that women are entitled to equal rights, equal protection and an equal say. You either believe it or you don't. And believing it does not require denying the reality of Truth. We keep trying to puzzle it out. People also believed that gravity was the work of demons holding us down on the earth. Does that mean gravity does not exist as Truth? Our understanding of it probably will change in coming years, but that does not change gravity, only our perception of it.

    Some people may see injustice towards women as being okay, but that doesn't mean the injustice does not exist. No, it is a Truth. How we as a society apply our laws and customs to Truth is a flawed process, based upon personal bigotries, chauvinisms, economic conveniences, cultural blindness, a comfort with traditions, and so on. But to me, that doesn't mean that the Truth does not exist, or that our ideals are automatically suspect.

    Perhaps that is why I find myself agreeing with most of Liza's conclusions, but disagreeing with how she argues them. Her authorial voice is arguing from a different worldview, with different intentions than I, as a reader, have. It's hard enough to engage with a text whose conclusions I mostly would endorse.

    The fact that arguments against feminism hold to different "truths" doesn't mean that Truth is dead and that post-modern approaches to debate can win the day. I think a lot of what we see as Republican success comes from their espousing their version of Truth. The Democrats, influenced perhaps by intellectual trends heavily favoring post-modern thought -- just read this "collectively edited" Wikipedia blurb on Wayne C. Booth to see how "the victors" rewrite the history -- run away from engaging in such discussion, to their great great detriment.

    As Lakoff says, the left just isn't good at talking about moral values. Perhaps this is why.

    The privacy gambit

    How could [NARAL] be so focused on "putting choice back on the table" when the biggest concern should be The Right to Privacy : The right to make our own decisions on how to live, love, lust, and die in our pursuit of happiness.

    I've argued here before why it's not just about privacy, and I question that privacy is at all a convincing argument against anti-choice rhetoric. But I do believe it would trigger a very interesting national political debate, and perhaps flush some libertarian partridges out of the Bush-ist bush.

    But I strongly believe the heart of the issue is not privacy but liberty. It was the language used in the Planned Parenthood decision of 1992. And it is the value that can carry the argument against the breeder slavery status to which the "pro-lifers" would relegate women of childbearing years.

    To boot, in this post-9/11 America, privacy is not that popular. When the Patriot Acts pass with such little outcry, it's clear that people now are complacent or defeatist when it comes to governmental meddling in private lives. It would be great to rattle that cage with a Constitutional Amendment protecting a right to privacy, but there's no reason to believe that this would have an effect on protections of what the radical right wing calls murder.

    I could rehash my views on privacy vs. liberty, and the pros and cons of each, but this post is getting long enough as it is, so let's look at how, in comments below Liza's diary, crazymoloch questions the "right to privacy" approach:

    The problem with the pro-choice argument is the premise that all discussions of abortion right must be limited to the issue of privacy. They completely dismiss any and all moral considerations. Atleast consider they (sic) such concerns exist.

    For abortion rights to be limted to a discussion of privacy rights, you HAVE to assume that the fetus is not a living being during pregnancy. You rightly contend that religion shouldn't dicate the government's answer to that question. The problem is that science can't answer that question either. Should America turn to you?

    Why doesn't a fetus in the second or third trimester qualify as a human life in your opinion?

    First of all, the privacy argument is not "the pro-choice argument" but something being put forward by some people, and eagerly embraced by many who'd rather not talk about abortion at all. (You know, it's "icky" and all that.)

    This is a liberty issue, an equality issue. Women are autonomous beings, or they aren't. The embryo/fetus is not a "person" -- the legal status of being entitled to rights -- until it is born, and no longer a part of the woman's body.

    My question is why try to come up with bullshit thresholds like "trimesters" for such definitions?

    Cracks in the left, and what they seem to mean

    Other comments to Liza's diary are quite illuminating, too. Among them, Kos begins to show his colors:

    Here's the thing -- people may think I'm dismissive (and other male bloggers), but our problem isn't with what these groups are fighting for. I think the Constitutional Amendment to enshrine privacy is brilliant.

    Rather, it's clear that all the progressive groups, and that includes the women's stuff, are getting killed right now. We're losing on multiple fronts because we're fighting multiple battles. The right is a cohesive movement. They're united. We're divided. And hence we're losing.

    So criticism of these groups is taken as criticism of their goals, when really, it's criticism of their ineffectiveness. We all want the same thing.

    Ah, but do we all want the same thing? I want my country, America, to embrace and fight for equality, justice and liberty. Kos wants the Democrats, any Democrats, to win the next election. Do we want the same thing? Apparently not.

    Kos' analysis does not ring true to me. It seems clear that the right is winning because they are taking clear positions on issues, while the Democrats have been trying to tap dance around everything. Kos seems to think that the Democrats just need to tap dance faster, and in step. That just strikes me as a ridiculous proposition. If the Democrats won't stand up for liberal/progressive values, then what do they represent? What do the Democrats stand for? We don't know. I haven't known for years.

    stephanie76 calls bullshit on his post, to which Kos responds:

    I mean to say, "where's them damn burkas when you need them?"

    I don't care about the institutional movement that has failed to stem the erosion of privacy/health rights for women. NARAL and Co have failed. Liza seems to understands that. Lots of people do not. You, apparently, being one of them. Liza seems to understands that. Lots of people do not. You, apparently, being one of them.

    Yet the status quo ain't doing anyone but the Right Wing any favors.

    I care about the end result, not about whose feelings get hurt because I criticized the wrong person.

    Love the burkas comment, Kos. Tell me again how you're just kidding. You say you care about results, but indict a fundamental moral value because you don't approve of the tactics of one organization. (You also seem to be quite proud of hurting feelings, as if it's some badge of honor. Is that machismo, military training or what? Do you really think that women are crying "bullshit" out of hurt feelings? Is it beyond you to consider that the emotion you're seeing and hearing is triggered by real injustice? Or are you just trying to dismiss dissent as mere emotionalism?)

    cityduck offers a rewriting of constitutional history:

    The ERA isn't something I've given much thought too. Why? Because in my view women are entitled to equal rights with men under our present understanding of the Constitution.

    I certainly understand why the ERA was first proposed by the Suffrage Movement back in the wake of the 19th. But, that living Constitution thing appears to have prevailed over an originalist view of the Constitution. If you're not an originalist (and I'm not), there's no need for an ERA.

    The problem with that thinking is that the Supreme Court has generally held that nobody has rights, unless they're specifically enumerated -- Bill of Rights be damned. Of course, cityduck hasn't given much thought to the ERA. That much is obvious. And his attitude about "no need for an ERA" is one huge reason why reproductive rights can't seem to make any real headway in many Democratic circles.

    But cityduck perceives the top problem with the left as being:

    (1) Identity politics: This should be self-explanatory. The hispanics advocate for hispanic rights, the gays advocate for gay rights, the feminists advocate for women's rights, etc., too often it seems that the advocacy is not for principles but for groups.

    Setting aside the indictment of identity politics -- that's worthy of another long blog post, if not an entire blog -- what the heck is this about "women's rights" as being identity politics? We're talking about equal rights here, and moves against women that have implications for everyone.

    Back to the "maternalistic" rhetoric....stefanie76 had enough of it:

    It's probably just me ... (1.00 / 3)

    but I'm willing to bet this only got bumped up because Liza is willing to kiss ass as much as the bootlickers around here.

    Choice has been a winning strategy for decades. It's only losing because Democrats are moving away from it.

    Note the 3 downratings on her comment, presumably for calling out the bootlickers. She makes an important point, though -- The Democrats have abandoned their position, and then used their retreat as justification for the abandonment. It's not a popular fact, but you see it all the time these days in the "Do you want to be right or do you want to win?" arguments.

    Bartman responds:

    I'm a left-leaning independant (sic) myself, but attitudes like this are the reason I consider the pro-choice movement to be the home of the wingnuts in the Democratic party.

    I believe in the right to choose, but I think the whacked out nut-jobs who insist on pissing off everyone on both sides of the isle should be booted out of the party until they learn some proper manners and teamwork.

    Yes, that's right, girls. No need to get all uppity and make the boys upset. Now go make some sandwiches for everyone, will you? We'll hear your concerns after we deal with the important shit.

    Julius declines to be Caesar, uh huh

    Most disturbing to me was this comment by Kos himself:

    Aside from the assault on choice by the governing Republicans, abortion is the one issue in which teens are more conservative than adults. Kinds that are strongly for gay marriages and other progressive causes are trending away from Choice. Not a good long-term development.

    Where does he get this data? Or is this just a subjective impression? And is that a rationale to run away from reproductive rights as a political cause? It's looking more and more like that's where he's going with this. He seems to perceive values themselves as being divisive, and so he would rather pretend they don't exist. Or maybe it's just that he wants all of us to sign up for his values. Maybe that's whence the "We all want the same thing" kind of pap.

    So why should I care what Kos thinks? Well, let's look at what he wrote yesterday:

    A few things -- I AM a guy with a blog. One that has built a platform that allows lots and lots and lots of people to have their say and organize and advocate for their causes. People want to equate that with "leadership" and assign me "responsibilities".

    Well, what happens when i say "fuck that"? Because I'm not being falsely modest when I say I don't want that responsibility nor power and I won't take it. I'm simply not interested.

    This comes from a man who is a PAC founder, and who repeatedly talks about what "we" under his leadership are going to do, who, in the same "it's not about me" post, can't help but try to claim that the traffic at DailyKos is all because of him:

    This site became popular because of my style, because of my voice, because of my refusal to compromise what I believe in order to appease anyone (Daily Kos was already one of the top blogs before the move to Scoop).

    As someone who's been online since 1994, I will say this: I never even heard of DailyKos until last November. I went there not for his style or insights, but simply because other people were talking about it. I went there because it was where people were going. I joined the site more for the interesting discussions -- which have mostly degenerated now into dogma exchanges -- and investigative reporting that was being done there by others -- many of whom left since then. Now I go there rarely -- and if not upon someone's reference to a specific post, then only to see what the "mainstream left community site" is saying.

    DailyKos is the 800-pound gorilla. You almost have to pay attention to where it's sitting, to know what's going on in the room. He might have had a hot blog back when the word "blogosphere" had not yet been coined and most blogs were about the funny thing that happened in the office and what Uncle Eddie said at Thanksgiving dinner, and Markos most certainly deserves credit for building a community site that grew to a point where now it's a must-read mainly because it's popular (which, of course, maintains its popularity). The site now carries weight, and that in and of itself draws people. But to lay claim on all that traffic due to his own voice? Yeah, and people use the internet because Al Gore invented it.

    One can only assume that, as the political season really starts to kick in, Kos will stop talking out of both sides of his mouth and give up on the transparent Julius Caesar ploy of declining the laurels, when he clearly enjoys being a "player" in politics. It's just sad, to me, that he considers reproductive rights to be too divisive to be an important issue for Democrats.

    Putting one's mouth where one's money is

    I suppose this is a good point for full disclosure: Kos has bought an ad on this site, which, if you read this before the end of the month, you can see in the right-hand sidebar. It says (today):

    Don't click on this ad. Just consider:

    Bloggers spend countless hours on their craft, creating the sort of noise machine the GOP built while the progressive movement slept at the wheel.

    Please donate to blogs like this one. Help us build something wonderful. Thanks, kos

    Where this gesture came from, I have no idea. He certainly did not need to do that. The ad buy came with no message. Perhaps he did it because Liza mentioned mediagirl.org at the end of her diary. (I noted the same ad on Pam's House Blend, who also was mentioned by Liza. But maybe it's a broader effort?) Perhaps it was a sort of challenge to this post that has topped the page-view logs here on mediagirl.org over the past couple of days. I have no idea. I thank him for the ten bucks (less Blogads administration fees). But I'd really like him to put his mouth where his money is, because that's where he does have quite a bit of power. However you want to explain the fat traffic to DailyKos, his having that soapbox in his name means he has a lot of reach. (I benefit from the same kind of effect, albeit to a much much lesser degree, what with mediagirl.org's modest popularity's owing to the many incisive contributors here.)

    Money talks, especially in politics. But if he's going to be the non-leader leader of the netroots of the left, I'd rather he paid some real attention to what others are saying, and talked about them on his own site. When it comes down to it, the people seeing the ad here are already here. Don't get me wrong: I do appreciate the ten bucks. Maybe I'll forward it along to NARAL....

    ...Or maybe I won't. Liza wraps up with some interesting thoughts:

    Blogging has become the breath of fresh air in American politics and activism. Let's use our platforms, pump up the volume and turn what we do into a cohesive, strategic blast. I suggested to NARAL to take bold steps and :

    (1) Organize a conference of national pro-choice bloggers (men and women) for an open discussion about strategy and vision. Make sure you invite "we, the people" of the new grassroots; especially "we, the new media" of the blogosphere.

    (2) Invest in the new media that blogs are creating. This is not only about supporting their own supporters through ads and what not. They really need to take a hard look at the new mass media of the internet. Case in point? Whenever I get a "GoogleNews Update" for the word ABORTION, almost invariably LifeNews appears with a link. LifeNews? Are these the people the pro-choice movement aiding and abbeting by allowing them to act like news channels? NARAL, NOW, Planned Parenthood NEVER appear in news updates about abortion. EVER. And we feminist bloggers have been repudiated by Google and Yahoo!News because we are not real broadcasters of news.

    Meanwhile, there may well be a guy in pajamas in the middle of nowhere doing all those posts for LifeNews. But all feminists bloggers are bootstrappers. We don't get paid for what we do, nor do we get the big advertising bucks other bloggers get. We don't get a lifeline of millions of progressive and liberal monies or internet traffic that would allow us to do this as a legitimate news group.

    An alternative, grassroots media should be one of the first items on pro-choice movement's agenda. Actually, the whole left should be working furiously on supporting progressive bloggers as this new alternative broadcasting network.

    That way, millions would not be wasted on ads like the one pulled by NARAL.

    I agree that NARAL needs to get a clue about "new media."

    But let's be honest: NARAL needs to get media savvy when it comes to old media like television, too. Their ad sucked, as most all political ads suck. They haven't changed in 20 years. Yes, it's important that NARAL embrace the future that is interactive, view-on-demand media. But we're still living in today's world, and that means that with television you reach orders of magnitude more people, and you reach them with a medium that has the potential to not only inform, but to move emotionally. That should not be dismissed. It should be embraced and understood.

    As with the rest of the politocracy, punditocracy and advocatocracy in DC, NARAL needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

    And yet...and yet....

    It's the liberty, stupid

    What we are seeing from many so-called liberal bloggers are calls to compromise on choice or abandon reproductive rights altogether. They use NARAL as an excuse. But NARAL is no more dysfunctional and suffers no more Beltway Blindness than any DC advocacy group. NARAL's failings do not mean that the retreat from progressive moral values is the way to go. And trying to obfuscate abortion discussions in privacy rhetoric isn't going to win many arguments or sway many people.

    When we say, "It's not the government's place to decide what happens in a woman's womb," we're not just talking about privacy -- we're talking about liberty, about self-determination, about recognizing protections under the law for women equal to those that men already enjoy.

    And no tap dance, privacy talk, pie fight or post-modernist theories are going to avoid that fundamental question.

  • (13)

    People have come to this site, and elsewhere, and expressed skepticism that Republicans are trying to ban birth control and control reproduction -- namely women's bodies. The evidence is all around us. You have but look at the news.

    But here's something that really takes the cake -- or womb:

    Republican lawmakers are drafting new legislation that will make
marriage a requirement for motherhood in the state of Indiana,
including specific criminal penalties for unmarried women who do
become pregnant "by means other than sexual intercourse."


    This has to be a sick joke, right? RIGHT????

    According to a draft of the recommended change in state law, every woman in Indiana seeking to become a mother through assisted
reproduction therapy such as in vitro fertilization, sperm donation, and egg donation, must first file for a "petition for parentage" in
their local county probate court.
Only women who are married will be considered for the "gestational certificate" that must be presented to any doctor who facilitates the pregnancy. Further, the "gestational certificate" will only be given to married couples that successfully complete the same screening process currently required by law of adoptive parents.
    As it the draft of the new law reads now, an intended parent "who knowingly or willingly participates in an artificial reproduction
procedure" without court approval, "commits unauthorized reproduction, a Class B misdemeanor." The criminal charges will be
the same for physicians who commit "unauthorized practice of artificial reproduction."
    The change in Indiana law to require marriage as a condition for motherhood and criminalizing "unauthorized reproduction" was introduced at a summer meeting of the Indiana General Assembly's Health Finance Commission on September 29 and a final version of the bill will come up for a vote at the next meeting at the end of this month.
    Republican Senator Patricia Miller is both the Health Finance Commission Chair and the sponsor of the bill. She believes the new
law will protect children in the state of Indiana and make parenting laws more explicit.
    [more]

    Don't believe me? Read the draft legislation from the Indiana government's website (.pdf). Read the sickness. I've cut and pasted from the bill itself, line numbers and all.

    This is not science fiction -- this is Indiana!

    >20061258.001/84 (19) October 3, 2005 (1:24pm)
    (OBDAR)
    Sec. 12. (a) Before intended parents may enter into a gestational agreement
    4 and before conception occurs, the intended parents shall obtain an assessment from
    5 a licensed child placing agency in the intended parents' state of residence.
    6 (b) The assessment must follow the normal practice for assessments in a
    7 domestic infant adoption procedure and must include the following information:
    8 (1) The intended parents' motivation for entering into a gestational
    9 agreement.
    10 (2) The fertility history of the intended parents, including the
    11 pregnancy history and response to pregnancy losses of the woman.
    12 (3) An acknowledgment by the intended parents that the child may
    13 not be genetically related to at least one (1) of the intended parents
    14 depending on the type of medical procedure used.
    15 (4) A list of the intended parents' family and friend support system.
    16 (5) A plan for sharing any known genetic information with the child.
    17 (6) Personal information about each intended parent, including the
    18 following:
    19 (A) Family of origin.
    20 (B) Values.
    21 (C) Relationships.
    22 (D) Education.
    23 (E) Employment and income.
    24 (F) Hobbies and talents.
    25 (G) Physical description, including the general health of the
    26 individual.
    27 (H) Birth verification.
    28 (I) Personality description, including the strengths and
    29 weaknesses of each intended parent.
    30 (7) Description of any children residing in the intended parents' home.
    20061258.001/84 (20) October 3, 2005 (1:24pm)
    (OBDAR)
    1 (8) A verification and evaluation of the intended parents' marital
    2 relationship, including:
    3 (A) the shared values and interests between the individuals;
    4 (B) the manner in which conflict between the individuals is
    5 resolved; and
    6 (C) a history of the intended parents' relationship.
    7 (9) Documentation of the dissolution of any prior marriage and an
    8 assessment of the impact of the prior marriage on the intended
    9 parents' relationship.
    10 (10) A description of the family lifestyle of the intended parents,
    11 include a description of individual participation in faith-based or
    12 church activities, hobbies, and other interests.
    13 (11) The intended parents' child rearing expectations and values.
    14 (12) A description of the home and community, including verification
    15 of the safety and security of the home.
    16 (13) Child care plans.
    17 (14) Statement of the assets, liabilities, investments, and ability of the
    18 intended parents to manage finances, including the most recently filed
    19 tax forms.
    20 (15) A review of the local police records, the state and violent offender
    21 directory, and a criminal history check as set forth in subsection (d).
    22 (16) A letter of reference by a friend or family member.
    23 (17) A written consent from:
    24 (A) the gestational mother; and
    25 (B) a donor, if used and if known, to use of the donation in the
    26 medical procedure.
    27 (18) The recommendation for participation in the gestational
    28 agreement.
    29 (c) The gestational mother shall receive psychological counseling. The
    30 licensed child placing agency shall provide a certificate stating that the gestational
    1 mother has received psychological counseling. The gestational mother may not
    2 enter into a gestational agreement unless the person who provided the psychological
    3 counseling states in writing that the gestational mother is psychologically competent
    4 to enter into the agreement.
    5 (d) Except as provided in subsection (e), the licensed child placing agency
    6 shall conduct a criminal history check on each intended parent and any other
    7 person who is currently residing in the intended parents' home.
    8 (e) A licensed child placing agency is not required to conduct a criminal
    9 history check on an intended parent if the intended parent provides the licensed
    10 child placing agency with the results of a criminal history check conducted:
    11 (1) in accordance with IC 31-9-2-22.5; and
    12 (2) not more than one (1) year before the date on which the licensed
    13 child placing agency provides written approval for the
    14 commencement of the assisted reproduction procedure.
    15 (f) The intended parents shall pay the fees and other costs of the criminal
    16 history check required under this section.
    17 (g) After completing the assessment described in this section, and if the child
    18 placing agency approves the intended parents to enter into the gestational
    19 agreement, the agency shall issue a certificate that the intended parents have
    20 satisfactorily completed the assessment and are ready to enter into a gestational
    21 agreement.
    22 (h) A certificate issued under subsection (g) is valid for two (2) years.
    23 (i) A physician may rely upon a certificate issued under this section to
    24 commence assisted reproduction with the gestational mother.
    25 (j) A certificate issued under subsection (f) must be filed with the petition
    26 validate the gestational agreement.

    Any questions?

  • (13)

    Usually terse blogger John Aravosis really lays into Target's support of pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions based on personal bigotry-- er, bias -- um ... religious convictions? Personal conscience? No, the latest spin on this now is "diversity"! We must accept bigotry -- aka intolerance of diversity -- in the name of diversity.

    John's not buying it.

    You have to love Target. They're willing to hire people who don't wan to do the very job they're applying for. And their own employee's bigotry and bias matters more to them than the emergency health needs of their own customers.

    So let's ask Target if they also support the following Target employees:

    - Check out clerks who verify how fat you are before selling you that package of potato chips?
    - Pharmacists who don't want to fill prescriptions for Jewish customers who killed Christ.
    - Pharmacists who don't want to help customers who worship a "Satanic counterfeit" (read: "The Pope," in fundie-speak).
    - Pharmacists who only dispense HIV medicine to "innocent victims" of AIDS.
    - Pharmacists who want proof that women seeking emergency contraception were really raped, and that they didn't "deserve it."
    - Pharmacists (or cashiers) who are Christian Scientists - can they refuse to sell any medicine, even aspirin, to anyone?
    - Pharmacists who won't sell birth control pills to unmarried women, condoms to unmarried men, or any birth control at all because God doesn't want people spilling their seed.
    - Can fundamentalist Christian employees refuse to interact with gay people in any way, shape or form since gays are sinners, abominations, biological errors, and very likely pedophiles?

    And that's the point: Providing governmental and corporate cover for personal prejudices in what is supposed to be a trusted profession and what in fact is a government-licensed and government-regulated business smacks of institutional discrimination. And, of course, Target is not alone in backing religious holier-than-thou-ism with the force of corporate lawyers and PR campaigns. There are people who believe women must be punished for having sex, and now, in the 21st century, they have corporate and governmental backing, leaving women to fend for themselves when it comes to healthcare.

    What next? Racist doctors refusing to treat "those people"? Parking lots refusing to admit cars with bumper stickers for the "wrong" party? Citizens blocked from attending a governmental event because of their voter registration? --Oh wait, that's already been happening.

    This sounds very much like the kinds of things that were happening centuries ago, when a young man and pregnant woman were turned away from an inn and she had to deliver her baby in a manger.

    There always will be bigots wrapping themselves in the flag or piety or genetic theories, but do we have to institutionalize their narrowness in order to defend their right to be stupid? Is this the direction we want to be going as a country?

  • (13)

    You know the mainstream media doesn't tell you everything it knows. That's obvious. Some of the reasons why are obvious, too: limited space in newspapers, limited time on news programs, limited resources of news departments, limited number of reporters.... Some things are bound to slip through the cracks.

    Like the things back then.

    But you have to wonder if those reasons are sufficient for the utter lack of substantive coverage of these following stories.

    Top 25 Censored news stories of 2007

    1. Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media
    2. Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran
    3. Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger
    4. Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US
    5. High-Tech Genocide in Congo
    6. Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy
    7. US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq
    8. Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act
    9. The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall
    10. Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians
    11. Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed
    12. Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines
    13. New Evidence Establishes Dangers of Roundup
    14. Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US
    15. Chemical Industry is EPA's Primary Research Partner
    16. Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court
    17. Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda
    18. Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story
    19. Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever
    20. Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem
    21. Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers
    22. $Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed
    23. US Oil Targets Kyoto in Europe
    24. Cheney's Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year
    25. US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region

    What this amounts to is a list of 25 stories that alternative media will have to pick up. Come on, bloggers, pick one and write about it. Because the New York Times won't write about it. And Fox News won't talk about it.

  •