Monday, July 14, 2008

An Appalling Display of Bigotry from the New Yorker

New Yorker cover

Dear New Yorker Assholes,

Your cover of the New Yorker this week featuring Michelle and Barack Obama dressed up as "terrorists" is atrocious, sexist, racist, uninformed, and unbelievably offensive. I cannot BELIEVE that the NEW YORKER would agree to print such a thing. It is NOT ironic. It is NOT funny. Not only does your cover feed into the beliefs of many uninformed assholes in this country (who already privately believe that the Obamas are Muslim and therefore "terrorists"), but it also gives them the impression that, if the (formerly) well-respected New Yorker is doing so, then it must be okay to publicly assert such lies and bigotry. I would have thought that a magazine with such a large respected following would give more thought to the influence it has on people's beliefs before propagating such vile bigotry.

Don't you DARE put me on your email list.

Contact Info for the Editors:

The Mail
The New Yorker
4 Times Square
New York, NY 10036

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Open Letter to Queer Alllies

So it was Pride here in St Louis last weekend. I had a great time of course, but i was really struck this year by the rampant consumerism and air of assimilation about the place. I've always felt like Pride should be a protest, and in many countries it IS, but there was absolutely ZERO feeling of activism at our Pride. I was trying to explain how horrified I was by the assimilation/consumerism to my parents, but they thought that it was really great that society has gotten to the point that MacDonald's will have a stall at a gay pride event, whereas in the past they would have shunned it. Their position was essentially that queer people have arrived as a model minority in that they are now being welcomed into fold of mainstream consumer America.

But here's the thing: It's all a trick. We all know that MacDonald's doesn't give two farts who you fuck as long as you'll shell out your dough for their greasy cardboard burger. But more importantly, the assimilation of Pride by consumerist America serves to distract us from the fact that our community is constantly dehumanized and oppressed. See, you're just like everyone else now that MacDonald's will cater to you! You TOO can redecorate your big fat unnecessary summer-home by buying thermal windows and shopping at Macy's! How can you feel discriminated against when so many icons of mainstream America are willing to make a special trip to Pride just to give you a coupon? As Audre Lorde said, "Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless."

But we must NOT forget that there IS a psychological — and sometimes physical — war against queer people in this country. Queer youth are forced to grow up trying to cram themselves into a social model that doesn't include them. They do not have the support of their own community because they do not KNOW that they are part of that community. They do not have the support of their family because, for the most part, their family has never had the same struggle that they have. While they are crying in their beds at night, their families have no idea that their children are going through severe psychological turmoil because their children can't express their anxiety to them, perhaps cannot even clearly articulate it to themselves. When they finally do come publicly into queerness, it is with the fear that they do so at the peril of losing their families, their friends, their jobs, and possibly their life.

Whether they actually lose their support networks and safety is immaterial, because for the rest of their lives they will not only have to deal with that isolation and lack of security — but also with the psychological baggage that comes from being a child dealing with loneliness, isolation, harassment, discrimination and fear. As the PFLAG website reports, "The average high school student hears 25 anti-gay slurs daily. Ninety-seven percent of high school students regularly hear homophobic remarks. This harassment takes its toll: Gay students are far more likely to skip classes, drop out of school and/or commit suicide."

And that's just gay students. What about all the gender-nonconforming youth? What about all our homeless queer youth who have either been kicked out or have run away from their families? As Richard Haynes reports, " Nearly 35% of Illinois' homeless youth population self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. These youth often find their access to homeless services limited by service providers who are indifferent, fearful, or not educated about this population. Left with no place to turn, homeless youth often find themselves neglected, invisible, and forgotten; at increased risk for drug addiction, prostitution, violence, HIV infection, and suicide" (emphasis mine).

And that's just queer youth. What about elderly queers? Many elderly queers lack the support of family and/or children, are denied health care, pensions, and widows rights, and are forced back into the closet when they join retirement communities or move into assisted-care facilities (read more). What about elderly queers who depend on the care of strangers? I don't have as many nice statistics here, but a gay man hanged himself after being isolated and shunned in his nursing home. A nurse in an assisted care facility refused to wash a patient because she was a lesbian. As Dr. Melinda Lantz, a geriatric psychiatrist, says “There is something special about having to hide this part of your identity at a time when your entire identity is threatened. That’s a faster pathway to depression, failure to thrive and even premature death.” In a study done by Fairchild, Carrino & Ramirez (1996), "More than half of the nursing home social workers surveyed said their staff were intolerant or condemning of homosexual activity between residents; 38% declined to answer the question." How can adult queers feel embraced by mainstream American when their youth are targeted and their elders are harassed?

Queer people have the interesting position of being a minority that is not born into it's own community. Like the Deaf community, most queer people are not raised by their own. They are not nurtured by members of their community who know what their struggle will be and who will support them through it as best they can. They have no model of queerness and are forced to undergo psychological trauma, as well as possible harassment, abuse, isolation, and physical danger in order to access their community. Both in their youth and upon joining their queer community as an adult, they have little interaction with those older than them. There are no gay grandmothers, transgrandfathers, or queer parents to mentor them. They do not see the unique struggles that queerness presents at different ages until they live them. It is all too easy too forget/avoid the psychological trauma of your youth when you are busy planning your newly legalized California wedding. And how can we truly know the discrimination we will face when we are old until we become old ourselves? Especially when we are bombarded by the trappings of approval from our capitalist society.

The assimilation of adult partnered queers into consumerist America is a trap and a distraction. — Oh boy! Adult queers can get married in California! Hurrah! MacDonald's will no longer fire you for being queer! Yippee! Now you can register your gay wedding at Macy's! — Homophobia and heterosexism is not a single point of discrimination based on adults not being allowed to marry each other. Discrimination against queers is a life issue. It is not something that you only experience when you want to get married. Just because you — an adult queer — are comfortable being out and feel embraced by mainstream America DOES NOT mean that queers as a community have arrived. You are not the prodigal son being welcomed back with a fat pig of capitalism. Do not be distracted by that pig into forgetting your past, the youth of your community, the discrimination your elders face and that you too will one day face again as well.

THAT is why it is disgusting to me to see the trappings of consumerist mainstream assimilationist America at my Pride Protest. Because it lulls us into forgetting that our youth are being beaten down and that our elders are being abused. Because it takes the place of the activism, education, and consciousness-raising that should be taking place at Pride. Because it is not enough to be reluctantly allowed to get married in two states. It is not enough that MacDonald's and other corporations no longer openly discriminate against queers. Queerness should not be an issue. We should be raised with an expectation that we will treat others with decency and humanity, that we will take care of the people we love, and that we will celebrate love without boundaries. Nothing less.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Why is Deodorant Gendered?

Why? Why is deodorant gendered? I've been buying that idiotic Secret for years and it sucks ass. It gets all over your clothes, it's expensive, only comes in "ladylike" quantities and doesn't work all that well. I was fed up with it so I bought some organic, or maybe 'natural,' deodorant. It didn't work. So then i was back to buying the noxious kind. 'But!' I thought, 'I'm not going to blindly just buy Secret.' So I did a little price comparison shopping, and it turns out that if you buy men's deodorant you get a bigger stick for a smaller price. Plus, the kind I bought at least, does a much better job and--wonder of wonders!--doesn't get all over my clothes. And it smells nice. And really, why does deodorant need to be gendered anyway? We all sweat. And if must be gendered, why is the women's deodorant more expensive?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

The Straight Person's Guide To Gay Etiquette, the hilarious self-explanatorily titled article, is now back online after a too long hiatus! hooray! bring author-god The Plaid Adder the best bagels and muffins in the land!* huzzah! huzzah! And now, my good friends, you may recommence sending the link to everyone you know--gay or straight... hooray!

*bonus points if you can name this quote.

Monday, May 26, 2008

More Thoughts & Critisism of Little Brother (contains SPOILERS)

okay. so this book rocked pretty hard. if i could write a blurb for the back of the book it would say "cory doctorow: i didn't finish your book because i was too pumped up and freaked out to keep reading so i went out and overthrew the government and incited mass rebellion in the middle of the night."

of course i did finish the book though. it was awesome in a lot of ways. read this book. then give it to everyone you know. i haven't quite worked out how to give it to everyone at the same time yet, but Cory Doctorow has it for free download on his website so that should help.

here's the thing though. the book fails the bechdel test abysmally. (for those that don't know, the Bechdel Test measures how women are treated in a particular piece of media. it deliberately sets a really low bar in order for the work to pass the test. all that's necessary is for the work to have 1. two female characters with names 2. who talk to each other 3. about something other than a man. Easy, right? The horrifying thing is that most movies/books/etc fail the Bechdel test. Not only do they fail, they also pass the anti-Bechdel test with flying colors. That means that the proportion of books/movies/whatever that feature men talking to each other about things other than women is WAY out of proportion to the number of books that feature women talking about things other than men). So the book sends awesome messages about not sacrificing your personal freedoms for the sake of security, not letting the government cease to represent you, and defending yourself by refusing to be silent. However, it sends this message in a vehicle that ultimately recreates the same power structures that oppress people who struggle against the same sort of tyrannical governmental policies.


BrownBetty (on goodreads) hit it right on when she said that Marcus's success depends on his access to upperclass white privilege. There are few women or people of color in the book. Doctorow clearly has good intentions, but it is not enough to simply have a strong female main character (Ange), it's not enough to have an of-color sidekick who helps critically (Jolu). Imagine the power of a book like this which, instead of being written about a white upperclass boy, was written about a couple of chicana lesbians, or a group of workingclass black people.

Doctorow sort of addresses this issue with Jolu. He says "I hate to say it, but you're white. I'm not. ...White people see cops on the street and feel safer. Brown people see cops on the street and wonder if they're about to get searched. They way the DHS is treating you? The law in this county has always been like that for us" (160). Maybe that's the point. To say to the upperclasswhiteboy, hey this can happen to you too. Not just to brown people who have the "wrong" religion or the wrong "ethnic" name. But the portrayal of women (or rather lack thereof) still makes me uneasy. For a book that's all about challenging authority and social norms, it could push a little harder in challenging the norms in the way it's written.

Maybe this book will have wider appeal because it's protagonist is your typical whiteuppermiddleclassmale. Maybe people wouldn't read the same book if it was about a group of girls, or gay people, or people of color. Am i willing to overlook that for the sake of the overall theme/message of the book? i'm not sure. MLK Jr said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," I'm not sure that I want to sacrifice some of my views to help spread other of my values. I don't think we really want to get into playing a game of whose issue is "more important."

Damnnit Cory Doctorow. Help me out a little here. Your book rocks hard, really it does, but THINK BIGGER!

Oppose the DSMV Committee Members on Gender Identity Disorder

Here's the link to the petition again. In case you need convincing, or know someone that does, here's a letter I wrote to get people to pay attention:

Hi Guys,

I don't for the most part send out mass emails because I think it's really annoying. However I just signed the petition "Objection to DSM-V Committee Members on Gender Identity Disorders" and it's really important to me that you at least know what this issue is about. Signing the petition would be great too, but telling other people about what is going on would be better. People need to know. Please at least read:

Here's the deal. The American Psychiatrist's Association is rewriting the DSM-V (manual that describes mental illnesses, etc). They've appointed to the committee a bunch of people who think that gay and transgendered people should be treated with "aversion therapy" to "cure" them of gayness/transgenderism. There was a show on NPR about Kenneth Zucker, one of the appointees, a couple weeks ago if you happened to hear it. It described (among other things) a 6 year old biologically male child whose parents had been counseled by Zucker to punish the kid if he played with dolls, hung out with girls, or showed any interest in the color pink. Listen here. It's heartbreaking.

Not only would Zucker and the others reclassify transgenderism as a mental illness to be treated with "aversion therapy," they would reclassify it as a form of homosexuality which they also think is pathological. Meaning, if they get their way, a gay or trans person could go to their local friendly psychiatrist for help with depression/anxiety disorder/whatever, and end up being "treated" so as to reverse their gayness/transness. Basically Zucker wants to reclassify homosexuality as a mental illness. In case we need some reminding of what that means, here's a direct quote from the NPR story on what used to happen when homosexuality was defined as a mental illness: "According to Jack Drescher, former chairman of the American Psychiatric Association's committee on gay and lesbian issues, one treatment was to try to condition homosexuals out of their sexual preference by attaching them to electrical shock machines and shocking them every time they were aroused by homosexual pornography."

This is a really big deal and it is not getting enough attention. Please sign the petition and talk to other people about why it's important. Imagine the queer people you know. If they were in a bad spot and needed help from a professional, would you want them to be able to get that help without being judged? Or would you want the people who are supposed to be helping them subjecting them to more degradation and forcing them to twist their own identity?

Thanks for reading,

Happiness as a Feminist/Radical Activist

This is a modified post from my personal blog. A few weeks ago my boss said something about how our workplace had always been a place for people who had their eyes open politically and then made a joke about how that's probably why three quarters of the staff is on anti-depressants. That got me thinking...

Mostly i've been of the opinion that feminists are generally happier with their lives and themselves personally because they can sort of shed all that social programmed shit. But a few weeks ago i was feeling more like i didn't want to read some of my new feminist books/feminist news sources because it's just too much. Sometimes i get in these moods where i'm all inside my head so i try to distract myself by watching Friends (which i really like, actually). But then I start thinking about the ways in which it's not actually that funny because it insults women or plays on insecurities of personal appearance (or any social insecurities, really). The other day i was wondering if the acquaintances I have who AREN'T feminists are actually happier in their bubbles because they don't spend time worrying/raging about rape victim blaming/women body hating/sexuality fearing societies/etc. They can just go on with their lives not worrying about or being aware of larger social issues.

But then again, there are so many non-feminists who participate in fucked up shit like weight-losing contests, etc. That's kind of fucked. I guess at least i don't have to worry about that kind of shit. (not because i'm perfect, obviously, but because i'm okay with my body).

thoughts? does this sound self-centered of me? i'm beginning to feel like my non-feminist acquaintances are weary of me because they think i think i'm better than them or something. but some of them don't seem to care about anything that happens to other people. I told one of them about the DSM-V Committee on Gender Identity Disorders and she just said "oh" and left the conversation. "Oh?" "OH?!?!?!?!???" "Oh, your identity as a person might get reclassified as a psychological disorder thereby subjecting you to degrading and horrific "aversion therapy should you ever need to go to a psychologist?" "OH??? No big deal. Whatever Sarah, I'm going to go make out with my boyfriend now." Or worse, "how dare you get angry and bring to my attention the fact that you are oppressed!" AGGGHHHH!!!!

on other news: i am SO EXCITED for this book:

Little Brother Review (Cory Doctorow)

i stayed up all last night reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Everyone should read this book. i mean EVERYONE. You can get it online (legally, from the author) if you can't get ahold of the actual book: You know I don't advocate getting around buying a book at your indie store, so you know it must be crazy important for me to tell you you can download it instead.

it's crazy CRAZY good. it's about hackers and security and surveillance and terrorism and whether you can ever be truly free when a government that no longer represents your interests terrorizes you to "protect" you from "the real terrorists." it's funny and insightful and the whole friggin thing is set in the SF Bay Area which means it's like being home all over again for me. it's the kind of book you can't read before bed at night because you get too excited. if i could write a blurb for the back of the book it would say "cory doctorow: i didn't finish your book because i was too pumped up and freaked out and i went out and overthrew the government and incited mass rebellion in the middle of the night."

some quotes:

"I missed Harajuku Fun Madness. The company had suspended the game indefinitely. They said that for 'security reasons' they didn't think it would be a good idea to hide things and send people off to find them. What if someone thought it was a bomb? What if someone put a bomb in the same spot?
What if I got hit by lightning while walking with an umbrella? Ban umbrellas! Fight the menace of lightning!"

"The law didn't care if you were actually doing anything bad; they were willing to put you under the microscope just for being statistically abnormal."

blurb on the back:

"Marcus, aka 'w1n5t0n' is only 17 years old, but he figures he already knows ho the system works--and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school's intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the department of Homeland Security and whisked away to secret prison where they're mercilessly interrogated for days.
When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state, where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself."


Saturday, March 22, 2008

There's a Reason "Paternalism" Refers to Children

It baffles me that feminists and activists don't focus more on children and education. Third wave feminism seems fairly infatuated with teens and youth culture (which is all very nice), but I don't see a whole lot of thought being put into the educational and literacy crisis. Third wave feminism is all about intersectionality, so from that perspective, we should definitely be talking about how the educational crisis feeds into issues of class and poverty. But feminism is also about uncovering the ways in which we are socially programmed. And what is more socially programming than education and the way that children are taught and treated in our society? This should be a huge issue for modern feminism. To quote bell hooks, feminism is for EVERYBODY, and that means feminism is for children too. "Children are the future," and all that, so we better be sure as hell that we're not programming our future to be racist, classist, sexist, homophobic bigots.

You know how everyone has to sort of "unlearn what you have learned" in order to not buy into patriarchy and oppression? You know how there's this whole metaphor about coming out of shame and small dark windowless spaces? Imagine how nice it would be if our children DIDN'T HAVE to unlearn everything they had learned. Imagine if what they learned was true, and fair, and not colored by political arrogance and misnamed "patriotism." Imagine if they grew up in a world where people WERE treated decently and not subjected to psychologically damaging stereotypes and oppression. Isn't that the goal of feminism, after all? To create that world? Why, then, are we not focusing on creating that world for our children NOW: in our homes, in our schools, in the libraries and movie theatres and concert venues? We can't wait around for a day in which it will be "less controversial" to teach decency and respect to young children. That day will never come if we don't start trying to create it now. To quote Phillip Pullman, "we have to build the Republic of Heaven where we are, because for us there is no elsewhere." If you care about social change, then FIGHT for children's right to be taught TRUTH and DECENCY and RESPECT. Teach them to think CRITICALLY about the world in which they live and not to blindly accept what is being shoved down their throats. I shit thee not, the most radical action comes from teaching the truth to children. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for us to have a plan for deprogramming our children, otherwise the marketers and patriarchal bigots and sexist homophobes will most definitely have a plan for them.

Vaginas? Really? (Eve Ensler, I'm Talking to You!)

So. Why all this fascination with reducing women to vaginas, America? *sigh* I suppose that since there's SO MUCH of that reduction going on, I ought to be a bit more specific of what kind I mean. Let's try to forget about the objectification of women for a minute (I know it's difficult, but let's just try). And let's also try to forget about all our puritanical friends who don't want to talk about sex at all (see ya later, asshats!). No no, for now, let's just focus on the people who actually TALK about sex, and try to do so in a respectful way. Everyone talks about vaginas as if they're the female equivalent of penises. "Men have a penis, and women have a vagina." "Women aren't going to vote for Hillary just because she has a vagina instead of a penis." "My vagina would wear a leopard print bikini." Even our enlightened feminist friends like Eve Ensler: all the time, vagina vagina vagina. I don't give a shit about my vagina. If we're going to reduce women to a "down there" part of their body, uh... HELLO, shouldn't it be the clit???? I don't think I need to go into the reasons why we should be talking about the clit instead of the vagina (semi-automatic and all that...), but I would have expected better from feminists. I guess I can understand the thinking of health and sex ed teachers who don't want to talk about something as SCARY as the clit, since it's about feeling good (*gasp*) instead of procreating in the image of god and chastity and properness and all that. But come ON feminists! I know YOU'RE not scared of a little good-feeling sex, so what's with all this buying into the dichotomy of penis-vagina? It seems to me that going with vaginas (instead of clits) just buys into heteronormativity, a puritanical desire to not to talk about pleasure, and this whole fixation with women being "the creators of the life" and "moon goddesses" and so on. Fuck that shit. Thanks, but I'll take that orgasm over a baby and a bunch of reusable pads any day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Questions & Thoughts of the Day

question of the day: how do you incorporate activism into your life when you're so busy because you have two jobs because you don't want to sell out to the man, so you have your nice independent job, but it pays shit, so you have to have 2 jobs, and as a result you have no time to actually make activism any part of your life other than not actively participating in corporate culture? how can you incorporate activism that is, well, *active* into your life, instead of simply resisting passively?

another thought, has activism become too organized, rule-ified and corporate-ized by massive non-profits like HRC and NOW which are composed mainly of older, upper class white people instead of grassroots folk who are young, of color, poorer, female or lgbtq? why is activism being done by the relatively more privileged ppl on behalf of their poorer "brothers and sisters"? it feels a little paternalistic. i'm not saying that the work they do isn't valuable or coming from a good place. but when we are all affected by intersecting oppression, why are we recreating the same power hierarchies in the groups that are supposedly "fighting the forces of patriarchy," as it were.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Books for Raising Revolutionary Children (more to come & seriously in need of revision)

"The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to the light amid the thorns."
--George Santayana

Tired of reading anachronistic picture books to your kids featuring farm animals and lots of little white boys (or perhaps too many princessy girls slathered in pink)? Me too! Kids aren't stupid. They know the world's not perfect. condescending books just turn them away from reading. here are some tips for raising radicals and revolutionaries.

when harriet met sojurner:
absolutely beautiful picture book about what might have happened during the undocumented meeting between Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth.

as good as anybody:
this is a gorgeous picture book about Martin Luther King Jr and Abraham Joshua Heschel growing up and meeting each other. the reason it's so awesome is because it doesn't sugarcoat history for kids. both martin and abraham as children rage against the injustices they face. "things won't always be like this," their parents tell them, "maybe things will be better in the next world." "i dont want to have to wait for the next world" they say. this book inspires not only activism, but also the uniting of all oppressed groups. shockingly, it's published by Random House (the corporate scourge of consumerist conformity).

americans who tell the truth
i haven't read this, but it looks awesome.

evolution me and other freaks of nature
hilarious YA novel about a christian girl ostracized by her church for defending a gay classmate. but that all happens before the book starts. the actual plot is about her and her lab partner fighting for their science teacher's right to teach them evolution against all the religious fundies.

memoirs of a bookbat
harper loves to read, but her parents are conservative christians who travel around the country, enrolling her in different school districts so that they can ban as many books as possible. she has to sneak her books home and hide them under her mattress.

his dark materials
okay everyone knows about these books by now. but they are seriously revolutionary as I've pointed out before. in how many books do we get to hear a positive description of a female main character being dirty, conceited and arrogant? awesome. also features gay angels and sustaining mutual friendships between powerful women. the whole theme of the books is that experience and knowledge are better than innocence and purity. hott!

the family book
todd parr is way cool. i'm not very into his illustrative style--kind of cartoony and neon--but he talks about ALL kinds of families from ALL kinds of backgrounds. awesome. also, THE PEACE BOOK is neat too.

Hope for the Flowers
"A different sort of book for everyone except those who have given up completely. (and even they might secretly enjoy it.)" this book is about two caterpillars (Yellow and Stripe) who met each other while making the arduous soul-sucking climb to the top of the caterpillar ladder. it's every caterpillar for itself with faces getting stepped on and caterpillars being shoved off the top. but what's the point in all this struggling to get to the top, they wonder. so they stop climbing and instead spend their days snuggling together in the sun. awww!

why war is never a good idea
i haven't read this yet either, but its a new picture book by alice walker and it looks awesome.

the great kapok tree
a man comes to cut down the great kapok tree in the jungle. he falls asleep in the heat before his work is done. as he sleeps, all the animals and chidren of the forest come and tell him how they depend on the kapok tree for survival.

okay, not that activist-oriented. but it's about gay superheroes, and its an excellent way to sneak The Gay into kids hands. who doesn't want to read about superheroes?

Not one damsel in distress
collected stories from jane yolen featuring self-sufficient heroines. good for bedtime reading.

the hero and the crown, and the blue sword
women warriors. hot. hot hot hott. and newberry award winning. better than the Alanna books because the main characters aren't constantly obsessing about the fact that they're women and therefore can't possibly be as strong and heroic as men (gag).

this book seriously rocks. it's about a sheep that doesn't fit in with the rest of the herd. he wont let the farmer shear his wool and he cards the wool on his body instead of the wool he's supposed to be spinning. then he dies himself blue, instead of the yarn and tries to weave his own forelock. finally his parents tell him that he has to act just like all the rest of the sheep--no more individuality! so instead of conforming, Woolbur gets the rest of the herd to be individualistic too!

paper bag princess
"you are an ungrateful bum!"

dealing with dragons
"princesses dont cook. princesses dont fence. princesses dont juggle." cimorene does not WANT to be a princess if she cant do these things and she certainly doesnt want to marry some ditzy prince. so she goes to work for Kazul the dragon. but the princes just don't seem to understand that she doesn't WANT to be rescued. she's perfectly happy right where she is, thank you very much.

i had this book when i was little and i cant say that i found it crazy inspiring but it was fairly cool at least. basically its a bunch of essays about the history of notable women.

burning up
macy and austin start investigating the history of a building that was burned down 50 years ago when the first black family in town moved into it. but what was their own grandparents role in the burning?

armageddon summer
marina and jed's meet when their respective parents take them to the top of a mountain to await what their pastor assures them will be the end of the world. searing criticism of religious fundamentalism

if you come softly
this is a really amazing and devestating novel by jacqueline woodson about what happens when a white jewish girl and a black boy start dating each other.

the book thief
another devestating book, this one about the holocaust and a little german girl who makes friends with the jewish man her family is hiding in their basement. oh yes, and she steals some books too.

it's so amazing / it's perfectly normal / it's not the stork
so cute cartoony books about puberty, pregnancy, baby making, sexuality, etc. very inclusive, liberal, gay friendly, multiracial. nice. also: my body, my self for girls (or boys) and the what's happening to my body book for girls (or boys).

background reading:
Packaging Girlhood by Lamb & Brown, How to Get your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell, and Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood by William S. Pollack

Sunday, February 3, 2008

In Rainbows: A Cursory Review

I will admit to putting off posting this review longer than was strictly necessary. Blame it on a guilty conscience; I never thought I'd accumulate more than a handful of fightin' words about one of my favorite musical groups, but there it is.

First, let me state unequivocally that I am a huge Radiohead fan. I have spent more money to see them in concert twice than probably all of my other past shows combined, and both were spectacular. Radiohead is no studio band, despite the complexity of their sound. I have always found them to be musically exciting, the social commentary incisive and even humorous at times. So you can imagine the height of my expectations when the new album, "In Rainbows", was released online, free to those of us who like to try before we buy.

It is not what I expected, dear readers. "Bodysnatchers" smacks of a neutered "National Anthem": both are even in the same key, featuring the same decisive bassline that made the latter so structurally sound, but renders the former almost ineffective. And what, exactly, is one supposed to make of "All I Need"? I never thought I could ever describe a Radiohead song as cloying, but that's the kindest way to put it. "Faust Arp" combines the musicality of Elliot Smith with the vocal bastardizations of, say, Prussian Blue (sans the white nationalism). The result is unsettling: a troubling, icy little melody with no resolution. As for "Reckoner"? Meet Antony and the Johnsons. On second thought--don't.

What's killing me is that, in prior albums, the subject matter of each song was almost always reflected in the melody and instrumentation, or vice versa, and that's hard to pull off, and it's very satisfying and rewarding when accomplished with the finesse most fans have come to expect. If you downloaded "In Rainbows" with that in mind, well, lasciate ogni speranza. You've been warned.

Here's the thing, though: if this were any other band's album, I'd think, "Gee, this is pretty interesting stuff. I wonder where they'll go from here! Maybe I should check out their other stuff!" But this is Radiohead we are talking about. Not some second-rate, electro-pop wannabe band. This isn't innovation, it's some sort of flimsy noise-quilt stitched haphazardly from patches of past opera. It's lazy, and I'm not at all impressed, Radiohead. I expected better of you.

The only possibility for redemption that I can see is that maybe, just maybe, mediocrity was the goal. If indeed this is the case, then kudos.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A big "fuck you" to the democrats

hey obama,

i notice you have a whole section on your website devoted to civil rights issues.... you talk about employment discrimination, hate crimes, and equal pay issues faced by african americans, latinos and women. that's all wonderful, but i'm wondering about the employment discrimination, hate crimes and other discriminatory issues faced by LGBT folks. I guess those aren't really civil right's issues, huh?

Then I thought, maybe he's decided that those are "family" issues, not matters of civil rights. But no. Not even in your "family" section do you even mention LGBT americans. Wtf obama? Yeah I know you went to the Logo/HRC forum just like every other democratic candidate. But if you're going to make such a big deal out of your commitment to civil rights then you need to include LGBT folk ON YOUR WEBSITE'S FORMAL STATEMENTS just like every other group you talk about. Don't talk to me about how it's not politically prudent to do that, but really, at heart, you support LGBT rights. Stop being such a fucking hypocrite afraid to come out in support of EVERYONE who has civil rights issues. At least Hillary doesn't pretend to have a substantial devotion to civil rights issues by devoting a whole section of her website to it.


Dear John Edwards & Dennis Kucinich,

If you're going to devote a section of your website to "LGBT Rights," please make sure that you are actually talking about the important issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual AND transgendered americans. Don't use the LGBT acronym to make us think that you do, and then only talk about marriage equality (which only benefits the upper class, dennis kucinich) or issues faced solely by lesbian and gay folk to the exclusion of trans folk (john edwards). The terms "LGBT" and "lesbian and gay" are not interchangeable. If you're only going to talk about marriage equality and adoption rights then label your section as "LGB Rights," or perhaps, more accurately "Rights for Upper Class LGB folk". Don't pretend that you support transgender civil rights when you clearly have no commitment to them. LGBT is not the new hip, politically correct way to refer to gays and lesbians. It actually means including bisexual and transgendered people too.

In short, fuck off.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Dear PFLAG, I love you

After bitching for years about how much I wish it would occur to my parents to join PFLAG, I finally mentioned to them tonight on the phone that they ought to go. Upon reviewing PLFAG's website so that I can send the link to my parents, it's really occurring to me what a cool organization they are. How cool is it to have a group composed entirely of the privileged class advocating on behalf of the oppressed? And not just being like "oh yeah, i'm against homophobia," the way so many white people are nonchalantly opposed to racism. But there are actually straight people who are dedicating a significant portion of their time to advocating for queer people. For some of these people that's their job! Thinking about that warms my heart. Everytime I see PFLAG at pride it makes me cry because they're so wonderful and loving and unselfish and amazing. It is so admirable that they would spend so much time and be so dedicated to advocating for the rights of an oppressed class they don't belong to. Wouldn't it be cool if there were national advocacy groups like "Whites Against Racism" or "Men for Feminism"? I just checked on Google. There's not. At least not as far as I can find. Although I did just find the Men's Network Against Domestic Violence. Which is cool, but not really as established as PFLAG, or as inclusive as something like Men For Feminism would be.