Friday, December 29, 2006

Basic Principles, Well Stated

What do we want? Justice, equality, freedom, all that stuff.


Because it feels good.

I'm down with that. I also want usefulness. I want all the institutions, and rituals, and objects in my life to do what they are meant to, easily, and to be pleasurable while they are about it.

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
- William Morris

I'll change "houses" to "lives" and make it my motto, when I am Queen of the World.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Got Plan B?

From a weekly round-up at Feministing, I got to reading this article on the availability of Plan B or emergency contraception in the Chicago area.

The author decides to test whether she could get Plan B if she needed it.

I was surprised by how nervous I became before each call. This was especially true if I'd just spoken with an attendant or nurse that seemed resistant to my request. The call to Weiss and the attendant's hostility shook me up, leaving me to wonder about the reactions of a woman who actually needed EC. I should have been fairly well insulated emotionally — my story was fake, whereas a woman seeking much-needed medication would have become more distraught over each discouraging call.

Once upon a time I was called upon as part of my work to call up doctors' offices and see whether they would accept me as a new patient if I had private insurance or was covered by Medicaid. Not an experience I would volunteer to duplicate. Sometimes the people talking to me were perfectly nice. If they understood that I had private insurance. If I had Medicaid I could rot in hell waiting for an appointment as a new patient. Many people were explicit: the doctor was not accepting any new Medicaid patients, that particular quota was filled. One person, memorably, went off on how I had better promise that I would show up. Apparently us (faux) Medicaid patients never bother to actually show up for our appointments. [Don't worry, I didn't actually make appointments. I always found out when the earliest appointment available was, and then said I would call back.

It was horrible. How horrible? Well, it's been more than ten years since that research project, and it still unnerves me to think about it. So when Brienne Callahan writes about how hard it was for her, I totally got it. It's hard to put yourself into a submissive position and take the abuse, even when you know you're just pretending. Do I have to explicitly state how much it sucks that being poor or being female and needing emergency contraception opens you up to that sort of abuse? What's worse, though, is that the anxiety is just as great, even if you aren't getting abused. Just knowing it might come is enough.

Go ahead, try the experiment, and post your results. Call your local pharmacies or ERs or doctor's offices and ask about Plan B. My local Kerr Drug pharmacy, I'm happy to report, graciously informed me that they stock Plan B, and that a prescription isn't necessary, although you have to ask for it in the pharmacy. Even the pharmacist at the evil big box store greeted me warmly and checked for me whether she had any in stock. She was sorry to inform me that they had sold out of the non-prescription kind, but she did have the prescription kind in stock. Even though she was perfectly nice, I didn't have the courage to go on asking more questions. It was a relief to hang up.

I Always Felt a Kinship with San Francisco

- even though I've never been. But before today, I never knew why. Who knew the importance of good friends and some pets, in the event that you become broke and totally detached from reality?

I'm Joshua Abraham Norton, the first and only Emperor of the United States of America!
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

Hat tip to The Countess: feel better soon!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Finally, A Good Night's Sleep

...which I haven't really had in seven and a half years. Kids tend to disrupt sleep. It's wonderful to snuggle with a baby or toddler, and co-sleeping while breastfeeding was a piece of cake. but by age five or so, their legs are too long, and their arms, and that adorable tendency to sprawl sideways means I spend all night wedged in between two people, unable to move, and wake up drenched in sweat from all that body heat and with my left leg killing me. Something about being trapped on one side makes my left leg kill me, all the next day, and I have to lie on the floor and pop my hip, and it's hard to sit in my chair for very long at all. Waaanh.

But lo! I bring tidings of great joy! Because last week, for the first time ever, Princess Carrots (four years, ten months) woke up in the middle of the night, came to me for something to drink, and took her drink back to her bed. Her bed! Where she stayed, the rest of the night! Last night, she did it again!

The reason she didn't have to climb into bed with me, was the Possum (seven years, five months) was sleeping with her in the lower bunk. What do I care, her poor sister is getting crawled over repeatedly? She's young and strong. Hehehe.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

About that "Meritocracy"

A fine review of elite universities and who gets in. Not surprisingly, the same people who've always gotten in. The sports scholarships that were used to keep WASP admissions up a hundred years ago are serving the same purpose these days."The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates" It's good to know that the privleged elites aren't going to have to squeak by on just their SATs.

hat tip to Bitch Ph.D.

It's a Carnival of Treed Groundhogs!

Somedays a girl needs reassurance that "it's not just me." Turns out, it's not just me, my family, our groundhogs, nor our trees. There's some kind of crazy epidemic of groundhogs in trees, which makes this more clearly a mark of the end times, or, if you live in the reality-based community, compelling evidence that "ground"hog is a belittling stereotype. Whatever.

Enjoy*, and feel free to provide more links in comments.

Groundhog up a Tree 2

Tree-climbing groundhogs on speed, #2 Photo

Ground Hog, the song

...and a Groundhog in a Pear Tree, the Musical

Groundhogs at HogHaven - Berry

Groundhogs at HogHaven - Berry (2)

*If I were more skillful and/or more informed about using other people's images, this would be a better looking post. But given my skills and knowledge, you're just going to have to click.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Olbermann Schools Rumsfeld

This is good. It's scary how welcome a mainstream media voice is, when it actually points out the truth. Crooks and Liars » Keith Olbermann Delivers One Hell Of a Commentary on Rumsfeld

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Another sign of the End Times

Groundhog in my tree.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Insane Troll Logic's Meme: The Balancing Act

Here are the rules: Answer all the questions with the song titles of one band/group/artist. Multiple albums are fine (recommended, in fact). State the band/group/artist you're using in the subject line. Perty simple.

Use songs whose titles answer the question, not songs whose lyrics do. Not all of us know these songs, so it's not as fun.

Covers are NOT legit unless it is on a normal (non-live) CD.

For a true 10 questions challenge, do this without the aid of the internet/CDs/outside sources. (I had to use The Balancing Act's page)

1. Are you male or female?: A Girl, Her Sister and a Train

2. Describe yourself: Kicking Clouds Across the Sky

3. How do some people feel about you?: She Doesn't Work Here

4. How do you feel about yourself?: A T.V. Guide In The Olduvai Gorge

5. Describe your girlfriend/boyfriend/interest: Searching For This Thing

6. Where would you rather be?: Between Two Oceans

7. Describe what you want to be: The Neighborhood Phrenologist

8. Describe how you live: Zig Zag Wanderer

9. Describe how you love: Wonderful World Tonight

10. Share a few words of wisdom: Sleep On The Trusty Floor

Monday, August 14, 2006

It takes Attitude, and some Defensiveness, to Offend the Village

It started with Lauren at Feministe, and then was picked up by Ilyka Damen. And my response to Ilyka's post got too long for comments, so I've brought it here.

There are nearly as many non-parent commentators feeling unjustly maligned in that thread as there are parents feeling the exact same thing

It's the polarization of choice. Because there are options available, everyone feels as though his or her choice is being criticized by everyone else all the time.

Most adults in the US can avoid kids if they want to. That wasn't true fifty years ago. Up until about 150 years ago, the demographics of humanity was skewed heavily to the 18-and-under crowd. Few adults lived to 50, let alone 80. High infant/child mortality and poor birth control meant a whole lot of children. Getting away from them was inconceivable. No one complained about kids in the workplace, except some do-gooders who wanted the kids to go to school. The only problem with kids in bars was when they wouldn't give you a seat.

Most of the world is still like this.

If someone can make money guaranteeing residents a community free of children, why shouldn't they?[...]What's the negative impact on society if this occurs?

Well, segregation is bad thing for society. The more isolated groups become, the less likely they are to a)accept one another b)treat one another well c)avoid abusing one another. If there are no kids in your community, or very few, it is unlikely that your community will consider them worthwhile members of society. You won't pay for schools for them, or medical care, or day care, or public transportation, or playgrounds, or anything else which is solely or mostly for them. This is bad, because most kids can't afford these things on their allowances and occasional tooth fairy bonus.

If there are no, or few, kids in your community, you will be deeply offended when they are brought to any of your public spaces, spaces which you have become used to thinking of as "for adults". You will be indignant at the imposition of children into public life, and you will resent any efforts to accommodate them. You will be annoyed at their sandcastles cluttering up your beaches, at their strollers blocking your sidewalks, at their fabulous parking spaces right up by the grocery store door when they can't even drive.

If there are no, or few, kids in your community, you will find the behavior of individuals strange and extreme, and you will be more likely to stereotype all on the basis of your very limited (and only noted where negative) experience. You will find their presence in groups of three or more to be threatening and hostile, you will find their high-pitched voices grating, their lack of height annoying.

All of these are attitudes have shown up in the comments of these two threads. There is a tremendous amount of justification and defensiveness on the part of childed and childless adults, both of whom feel attacked by the other. Because that's how humans tend to see the Other; as both crazy and hostile.

That family care is primarily a feminine responsibility in this society, and that women may be criticized by strangers for everything they do, wear, and think, only adds to the perceived hatin'.

Even as more people consider it inappropriate to discriminate on more subjects (to the old standbys of race and religion we've added sexual orientation, health/disability, looks, and weight), pretty much everyone seems to think that age discrimination is just fine. Either adults who don't want to be bothered with children in their spaces, or adults who have very clear opinions on what is acceptable for the children, and expect all of society to accommodate the prescribed needs of kids. It's either a two-year-old at an R movie, or an R-movie bowdlerized down to G.

Here's what it comes down to: My kids are perfect, and if you disapprove of their behavior, it's because you're bigoted against kids. I go out of my way to ensure that they are never disruptive or disturbing in any way in public, such that mostly I just keep them doped up and out, because I live in terror of anyone being in any way put out by them. The Spouse, though, he can take them out and do whatever, and he just gets heaped with praise. Of course, he's kind of big, and potentially scary, so no one would dream of ragging on him.

Everybody else's kids suck though, and it's okay to rag on them. Except the offspring of any of my friends and relations, all of whom are very nearly as perfect as my own kids.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's Still the Economy, And We're Not Stupid

Continuing the theme of Stuff Heard on NPR That Makes Me Crazy

The other morning on the way to work there was a brief commentary by an economics professor. His topic was fear about the economy, and his thesis is that Americans today are a punch of wambly, whiny, cakesniffers. Because the Economy is Doing Just Great. Really. He didn't offer any supporting evidence of the greatness of the American economy, because, well, I don't know, maybe he just couldn't be bothered. So. The economy is great, but Americans are whiny, non-Manliness* scaredy-cats. And for this he did drag out one piece of evidence: during the Carter Administration, 3% of the workforce became unemployed in any given month, and 3% of the workforce found employment. Today, he told us, those numbers are both 2%. Feel better?

No? I didn't either. Here's what he didn't bother to mention, before he went off on his digression into Manliness. He didn't mention that wages for all but the top 20% of workers have declined in real terms over the past forty years. He didn't mention that workers who are laid off now are typically out of work for at least a year, and that when they find work, it is at even less money. [I haven't found anything yet to tell me if that's been true for the past forty years or not]. He didn't mention that a much greater percentage of the workforce has attained anywhere from some to extensive post-high school education, incurring debt along the way, in order to get jobs that pay less. He didn't mention that despite tremendous gains in productivity, workers have been rewarded with neither shorter work weeks nor increased wages (except, again, those folks at the top of the corporate ladder).

He also didn't mention that the workforce has surged over the past forty years with an influx of women. He didn't have to. By bringing up Manliness he made an unstated, but nonetheless clear, message. All of this economic fear isn't based on anything real, he told us, it's just our womanly fear.

Once again, the women are to blame.

While looking around I found The Mismeasure of Poverty by Nicholas Eberstadt - Policy Review 138, where I learned that :

Mollie Orshansky intended her original standard for counting the poor to designate an income level below which “everyday living implied choosing between an adequate diet of the most economical sort and some other necessity because there was not money enough to have both.” [emphasis mine]

I like that as a definition of poverty, although it is by no means absolute. What constitutes a necessity is different to almost everyone, but the formulation of "cheap food or something really important, but not both" helps clarify. In discussions of poverty someone always seems to get incredibly annoyed at the foolish way other people spend their money (often it's me). And someone always points out that many people go through a period, often while going to college, or while starting a career, when they are broke, but with good prospects. Going back to Orshansky's definition for the American poverty level enables us to talk about the economy and what's wrong with it and how to make it better without bogging down in judgements. Okay, when we're talking about poverty, we're talking about food or shelter, food or medicine, food or education. Of course, many potential remedies to poverty will also help out people who are temporarily broke, or are struggling. Universal primary medical care, for example helps the poor as well as the uninsured grad student making a tiny stipend, or the average worker who has the misfortune to be laid off for a year.

*No, I am not going to link to that sexist, posturing drivel, thanks for asking.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Kids, Media, and other Trivia

NPR is running a series on All Things Considered about kids and the media. And each little bit is just making me sick.

The first segment was on Toddlers and Advertising on TV. I've watched a lot less Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon than Disney or PBS, just because of the commercials. Yeah, yeah, teachable moments, blah, blah, blah. But PBS does all their commercials-that-aren't in one fell swoop, making them easy to pass over for a Weather Update, and Disney only advertises more Disney, and largely those commercials are devoted to selling the brand, rather than a product. I find that much less annoying than kids clamoring for some stupid toy that's going to fall apart and not be any fun. Oh, yeah, the excitement wore off the Doodle Bears mighty fast (although the light pen is still popular).

So, I'm all in favor of restrictions on commercials during children's programming. I'm with the story there. And like the report, I have a problem with the licensing of children's show characters, but that's just because they never sell the stuff I want to buy. Forget a Harry Potter action figure, I want to buy a painting with a moving figure in it. Aren't those cool? I don't want Scooby plates, I want Scooby Snacks. Yum yum yum yum yum. I don't want a backpack with Dora's picture on it, I want a backpack just like Backpack, Map and all. And if it can interact with me and produce the contents based on a voice command, all the better, because I always have a hard time finding my keys when they slip down to the bottom.

But the big concern running through these stories is about sexual content. One quote about tweens encapsulates all my annoyance: "But they're exposed to a lot more than they used to be exposed to."

You mean, more than they were exposed to in the 50s when they got married right out of high school and became pregnant immediately, or you know, before?

Or do you mean, more than tweens would know about sex historically, or cross-culturally? The US is very big on kids sleeping in their own rooms, and no boys and girls sharing rooms, and if at all possible, no kids sharing rooms at all. But that's the preference of only a small percentage of humans over less than 200 years of human existence. Most of the children that have ever lived have gone to bed at night in the immediate vicinity of kith and kin who were busily creating more kith and kin. For that matter, most of humanity has a lot of experience with nudity, and very little with privacy.

I just don't get it. Yes, I understand about not wanting ten-year-olds to have sex. But I don't understand about not wanting them to see any naked humans. Nor do I understand why they need to be protected from sexual content. Not that I'm advocating for porn. But what do we even mean when we worry about "Letting an 8-year-old listen to music that's a little sexy"? My daughter doesn't like words written across her clothes any more than I do. But even so, "juicy" or "sweet" is equivalent to "cheer" in her view. It's all equally meaningless in that context. Her world view doesn't seem to include the notion of "a little sexy."

NPR : Monitoring Teens' Media Intake Poses Challenges

"But you'll probably also find things that would make the most liberal parents cringe, such as one Internet-based animated game allowing players to sexually humiliate a popular singer."
Abracaduh. I simply can't imagine it's possible for even the most devoted parents to monitor their kids' worlds. I find the suggestion rather creepy. My kids are going to interact with other kids, they're going to visit other people's homes, they're going to encounter all kinds of stuff I've never considered in school, in camp, at birthday parties. Is it really my job to micromanage their brains? Where do people get this notion that they must protect their children from words and ideas? And how do they reconcile that with their idea of "liberal"? [Me, I'm still pissed at Tipper Gore. I love Al, keep up the good work, I'll elect you again in a heartbeat.] But the contents of song lyrics are hardly the biggest threat facing our children. I don't think that a game based on sexually humiliating a popular singer is a good idea, but then again, I didn't think gobbling up little dots and ghosts was such a good idea either.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


This is Woof Woof Woofie, shortly before surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids. Holding the mask to put your child out for surgery that you know is going to cause a lot of pain - - not fun. Fun is the surgeon coming out to tell you how freakin' big those adenoids were, and making a little (and yet, freakin' big) origami adenoid to demonstrate. Her left tonsil was so big it was sticking to the uvula. And yes, I am enjoying the joke from Monster House.

That was last Wednesday. The pain was continuing and considerable, but it seems to have slacked off a bit now. She used a plant mister to keep the back of her mouth moist, without the discomfort of real drinking and swallowing. A week of having to wake up my daughter every four hours to give her pain meds makes me a little sleep deprived and cranky.

On the good side, the Possum started summer day camp this week. Swimming, hiking, crafts, snacks and lunch, plus some other stuff she hasn't much mentioned. Every afternoon I get the meal review, though. Along with such newly acquired information as "it's easier to peel the blue and yellow Roll-ups off the plastic." Good to know.

Yesterday's big move was that she went under water for the first (deliberate) time. She loves to play in the pool, but has been very wary of accepting this whole "floating" concept. Seven summers have seen a vast array of floaties, water wings, boogie boards, and noodles. Do you understand what I mean when I say she would not let go? And putting your head under water - why would you want to do that?

We'll celebrate this evening by blowing some cash on goggles. She deserves 'em for being such a good sport during her sister's convalescence, and for putting her head under water with no compelling reason.

Oh, and if you're wondering, I have pretty much always hated water running over my head, and didn't learn how to swim until I was 16.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's Not Self Defense? You Haven't Birthed a Child Then

Jill, at Feministe, set me off with three thought-provoking posts. In the first, she addresses anti-choice organizations and terrorists. I'm much more threatened by fundamentalist Christian terrorists than by any other kind, so gathering all the damning evidence into one spot got my ire up.

Then, she had to cover the federally-funded frauds that are “pregnancy resource centers.” It enrages me that our government pays Christian fundamentalists to lie to people and endanger their health, through these bogus clinics and through the fact-free curricula of abstinence-only sex education courses.

But then, she drew my eye to the truly bizarre Why the Life of the Mother is Not a Valid Exception for Abortion. I'm not going to ask you to read through this whole article, because it's pretty horrible. Including one of the longest, most stupid, and most slanted hypothetical situations ever. The author, Doug Phillips, starts by comparing the killing of a three-year-old to the killing of a fetus. Is there anyone who thinks that killing a six-week-old fetus is exactly the same as killing a three-year-old child?

Now, this is what's really upsetting to me. Phillips is explaining why a mother's life doesn't need to be exempted by abortion laws:

“But we must have abortion when the life of the mother is in jeopardy,” some will argue. “Is it fair to deprive a husband and family of a mother?
The woman in question exists only as a wife and mother. Phillips denies her any rights whatsoever. And I thought the fundamentalists were supposed to cherish the mother. Oh, well. You can imagine how he'd feel about the life of an unmarried, childless woman.

He goes on:
After all, such an abortion is simply an act of self-defense by the mother against the child. And what if the child’s chance of survival is rather slim in comparison with the likelihood that the mother will die if the baby is brought to term? Surely, abortion is reasonable in such circumstances.”
Simply? Abortion isn't "simply" anything. I don't think of abortion as being legally akin to self-defense, but since Phillips has brought it up, let's go there. Isn't self-defense a perfectly legal defense to charges of murder? Because in Phillips world, an abortion is exactly the same as murder. Even if the fetus won't survive and the mother is going to die. What kind of person can't admit of any scenario where it might be better to abort
For thousands of years, man has found ways to rationalize murder,

Ain't it the truth? "Their army attacked us first, murders deserve capital punishment, God really hates abortionists." It's all just rationalization. It's all murder, right?*

but for those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there is but one standard for resolving this and all ethical questions: Holy Scripture. The Bible gives no authority for a parent to ever take the life of an unborn child[my bold].
So, humans are only granted the rights expressly stated for them in the Bible? Boy, is that going to be a hard sell. I prefer the way the Constitution is worded. But doesn't this go directly against the story of Abraham? Perhaps he's exempting that because Isaac wasn't unborn. Anyway, he's saying that abortion is wrong in the Bible, because we're never told it's okay. By that logic, you pretty much have to throw out anything developed in the last few millennia. God never says it's okay to give birth in a hospital, either, does he?
To conclude, mothers should never kill their babies. There are no exceptions. The Bible condemns abortion and offers no exceptions to this rule.
Before he was writing that the Bible didn't expressly condone abortion, now he's created an absolute prohibition. The reasonable reader might ask: how do we know that abortion is condemned by the Christian god? Phillips doesn't provide references, so I had to Google. Well, of course the Bible tells us so, according to God and
The Old Testament provides most of the information on God's view of life before birth, since it gives us the law. The law specifically addresses the issue of taking the life of a fetus in the book of Exodus:

"And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life." (Exodus 21:22-23)

Therefore, the law tells us that a man who induces an abortion or miscarriage is to be punished, indicating that God values life before birth.
No, actually, what that seems to say is that if two men are fighting and one who is not married to her hits a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry, her husband can demand some cash. If the woman is more seriously injured, then her attacker can be put to death. But there's nothing here about abortion. There is nothing here about any sort of premeditation, let alone a deliberate effort to abort and only to abort. Contrary to the commentary, it is clear that punishment is not required for this accident, only payment for the lost property. In exactly the same way that modern American courts deal with unimplanted embryos created through IVF; they are also property.

Nor is there anything here suggesting that the Christian's god has any particular interest in fetuses. If their god valued the fetus so highly, I don't think he'd let the wrong-doer off with a fine.

So, not only does this not provide a strong anti-abortion position based on the Bible, it makes it clear that accidentally killing a fetus indirectly (through an attack on a woman) is not an offense requiring the death penalty.

Now to return from the Biblical law which isn't "Thou shall not abort" to the woman-loathing Phillips. He's really, really opposed to abortion under any circumstances. In fact, he raises abortion up into "child sacrifice," which is just not the place for a Christian to go. Really, he's going against an awful lot of theology, not to mention Bible verses.

Furthermore, child-sacrifice as a means of self-preservation is universally condemned in Scripture as one of the most wicked crimes imaginable.
I don't know, it doesn't seems to me like Abraham is condemned. Of course, he didn't actually kill his son, but that he was ready to, in response to an order from his god, is considered a commendable sign of his faith. There's an idea: women demanding church-supplied abortions, because their god has spoken to them and demands the sacrifice? Not going to happen, I know, not least among the reasons, that no woman should have to defend her decision to anyone. Oddly, Phillips chose to ignore the even more famous child-sacrifice of the Bible, referred to in John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Child Sacrifice: It's fine unless a woman does it.

*Nope, it's not. Even though Phillips has raised the idea that in some circumstances an abortion may be self-defense, he's not going to let a mere woman use it:
Scripture does give three valid bases for taking the life of another, none of which can even remotely be construed as a justification for “abortion for the life of the mother.” Man may take another’s life in the case of just warfare; man may take another’s life when acting on behalf of the civil magistrate to execute a person guilty of a capital crime; or man may take another’s life as an act of self-defense, or in defense of others where there is a significant and immediate threat to life best remedied with a lethal response. [my bold]
He has created this scenario of the self-defense abortion, but he isn't going to let a single woman use it.

Mothers may not kill their babies as an act of self-defense because an unborn child intends the mother no harm and lacks the mental capacity to pose a willing threat to a mother.
Did you know that the law requires self-defense only against someone intending to kill you? When did the mental capacity test come into play? What is the mental capacity required?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bigotry, a Primer

Well, obviously bigotry is on my mind today. So I thought I'd try a little experiment. I'm linking to today's top story at the New York Times, ostensibly the United State's paper of record: Israel Extends Strikes Deeper Into Lebanon. The big world news story will make a fine example of some of the aspects of bigotry that we must all actively strive to fight.

How are they doing?

Well, only one person quoted on the first page of the story is singled out by a professional title that gratuitously specifies sex

"Miri Elsin, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told
Agence France-Presse."

Nine people are named in the first page of the article, only one is singled out as being female, thus an unspecified default of "male"

A different woman is quoted in the last paragraph of the story, giving a Beirut resident's view of the attack

Other Issues
The story doesn't rely on too many assumptions; race, religion, sexual orientation are never brought up, for example. There's a fair amount of classism common to news reporting where world leaders get a lot of coverage, over people who are directly involved in the story: no soldiers, no families of the dead or wounded, only one Beirut resident mentioned.

That's what I see. Feel free to read the article and share anything you notice. I don't expect any one person to notice every common bigoted assumption.

Prove It

I am sick and tired of people pointing to tiny differences in averages between men and women, differences much smaller than the larger ones within either group, as evidence that men and women are different. I am sick of people doing the same thing with averages between racial or ethnic groups, or socio-economic groups, or religious or sexual-orientation or whatever crazy half-assed basis for segregating.

So, from now on, I'm not only going to assume bigotry, but I'm going to call people on it. You get nothing from me. You want to claim that Affirmative Action is unfair, you better find the evidence to demonstrate that position, and I'm not granting you anything. I'm sick and tired of someone proclaiming how "I'm not prejudiced, but..." You are. We all are. Part of human intelligence is pattern recognition, and humans are consequently prone to finding patterns where none exist. We are all susceptible to extrapolating from a few personal examples to sweeping generalities. We are all just as prejudiced as we can be, and it takes hard work every day to fight against that.

So, today I would like to praise Ben A. Barres from Stanford University, for an excellent article in Nature, Does gender matter?, calling out gender prejudice as demonstrated by some very privileged people.

Hat tip to Feministing

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Now, without all the complications of Race and Class

Let's talk about tragedy again. Up to 10 accused of assault of girl, 11

"'It's a tragedy on two fronts,' [Police Chief Jerry] Dyer said. 'Number one is that you have an 11-year-old victim that was obviously taken advantage of by a number of individuals and sexually assaulted. What heightens the tragedy is the fact that these are individuals that we believe to be attending our local colleges and involved in our athletic program, playing football for at least one of these colleges.'"

Let's compare and contrast: one 11-year-old victim versus up to 10 men in their late teens or early twenties who may have committed criminal acts or may have been complicit in criminal acts. Which is the greater tragedy?

Now, let's parse how the tragedy is heightened: Is it that assault by 6'3" football players is worse for the child? Or that this incident could unfairly cast all football players in a poor light? Or that this could unfairly tarnish the reputation of all men who attend junior colleges?

In case you hadn't realized, a lawyer makes it clear for us:

[attorney Michael] Idiart said [Tony] Caviglia [football coach at Fresno City College] called him Sunday afternoon to ask if he would meet with the seven players at Fresno City College. Idiart, whose son played for Caviglia in 2001
and 2002, agreed.

He spoke to the players for a half-hour in a conference room at the college, explaining their rights and answering questions.

"They wanted to know if something happened, and if they were simply there, if they could get in trouble," Idiart said, adding that some of the players were concerned about their football careers.

The tragedy is that this may be damaging to the players' future.
* * *

An amusing side note: people make contradictory statements all the time, usually without realizing it. Usually the listener doesn't notice it either. But it makes for some strange looking statements when someone gets quoted in print. Check this, from a witness about the victim:

"She looked a little mature," she said. "She didn't look 11. She was a cute little girl."

Hat tip to Feministing and Inside Higher Ed

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Shame of the Sea

Is it a good pun or a bad pun? That is the question.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Time Lies...

...for the first time in eight years. Previously it flew, but last week it was all stretched out in a poolside lounge chair, lounging, reading half a chapter from The Poe Shadow while the Offspring frolicked in the pool.


Eight years. Eight years of summer beach trips spent standing in the pool, bouncing babies, pulling floaties, spinning kids around, and always, always, always,looking at them. This year both girls were old enough, and brave enough, and friendly enough to amuse themselves and play with noodles and other kids for minutes at a time. Not all day mind, but for maybe fifteen minutes after I'd finished slathering everyone in sunscreen. Three dutiful applications of sunscreen a day; that's forty-five minutes!

Friday, June 30, 2006

Here's My Sense of Humor

Yesterday the Spouse told Wolf Wolf Wolfie (4 1/2 years old) that he was planning to loose some weight.

"You do have a big belly," she agreed. He told her he planned to watch what he ate and to get more exercise.

"You're going to have to pee and poop a lot" she said.

* * *

Earlier I had given the Offspring a hard time about not getting ready in the morning.

Wolf Wolf Wolfie, oddly channeling James Dean, said "You're ripping my world apart."

* * *

In the car, apropos of nothing as far as I could tell, the Possum (7 years old) said, "Clover fell into the Realm of Death because she was wearing her pink suit."

Yeah, happens to me whenever I put on a pink suit.

Wolf Wolf Wolfie disagreed. "It was red."

The Possum decided to compromise: "Let's just say it was violet."

I say "pink", you say "red", so we compromise on "violet" which does not appear between pink and red on any spectrum in my universe? I don't think so.

Where's My Sense of Humor?

From the Raleigh News and Observer today: Player who sent message is reinstated at Duke:

"Since then, administrators have said that while the message was in poor taste, it was sent in jest* as a take-off of 'American Psycho,' a Bret Easton Ellis novel about a serial killer that was made into a movie and was a team favorite."

Here's a copy of the email message, saved at The Smoking Gun:
To whom it may concern

tomorrow night, after tonights show, ive decided to have some strippers over to edens 2c. all are welcome.. however there will be no nudity. i plan on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex.. all in besides arch and tack please respond


I read American Psycho as soon as it was released, because I really liked Less Than Zero. I would simply like to point out the following points that the administrators seem to have overlooked:

There are no email messages in American Psycho
There are no strippers in American Psycho
The only shows are television shows (almost always the fictional The Patty Winters Show)
There is no Spandex(TM) nor any sports uniforms
There is nudity
There isn't any skinning, which is about the only thing he missed since:
Bateman, the title psycho, prefers to torture his victims alive
Bateman did not attend Duke, but rather, Phillips Exeter and Harvard
While Bateman tells people after the fact that he's a psychotic serial killer, he never invites others to join in

So, there isn't anything in the admittedly brief email that refers to American Psycho, neither directly, nor indirectly. The details of the email have no relationship with American Psycho, the story of a Wall Street yuppie. There is, however, a direct reference to the party, to the team, to the strippers who were insulted, threatened, and assaulted. I agree with the administrators that it was in poor taste. But if they think this has anything to do with Ellis' novel, we'll have to concede they didn't even bother to read a movie review.

* When was the last time anyone used the word "jest?"
** $43K a year for tuition, I'd expect better writing than this. At least Ellis can write.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Scientists playing God? We should rejoice - Sunday Times - Times Online

"But what on earth is wrong with humans playing God? I am all for it, especially as God doesn’t seem to be doing it. "

You got to love that.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Julia: Redirect

In the comments of a Hirshman-spawned discussion I saw this

"Which leads me to my point...women of the last generation have helped to create the inflation which has disallowed women, for the most part, to have the choice
to stay home. The majority need to have two incomes to stay above water. I find
child rearing and creating a positive home atmosphere extremely important. I
also believe women are far more superior to men, I am a feminist in that way,
but the last generation has done us a disservice because now we have to do

Next things you know, feminism is going to be blamed for global warming. Women created inflation? That's some staggering economic ignorance. As for the historical ignorance, do people not realize that most of humanity has worked? That child-rearing had to take place around all the other tasks that survival demands? That the novelty of a mother staying home with nothing to do but rear children only ever applied to a handful of people of a certain economic class, for a certain brief time? Of course, feminism has never been about women's "superiority" either. Oh, that worthless feminism, all I wanted was full legal equality under the law, and somehow I got stuck with all the dirty laundry. Back in the golden age of yore I'm sure women didn't have to do laundry.

How can one individual be so wrong about so much?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Less Framing, Please

Talk about framing: when Tracy Clark-Flory writes about Lynn Duke's writing on the Duke case, why does she keep referring to the woman in question as 'the accuser'? Lynn Duke considers how coverage/discussion of the case has reinforced stereotypes about the sexuality of African-American women; her article is mostly about race in the case. Tracy Clark-Flory focuses more on class, and how the relative socio-economic positions of the principles are covered.

Much of the coverage of the case so far has used the details as a lens to consider something else: race, class, town-gown conflict. I have used it to write about campus and gang rape.

But how do we talk about Her? A woman was attacked while at work, for which she received medical attention at a nearby ER. There are legitimate reasons for preferring not to call her 'the victim', since that defines her by the crime others committed against her. It makes her an object being acted upon, both metaphorically and grammarily.

Calling her 'the accuser' reinforces the idea of a he said/she said equivalency. It affords her a more active role in the case, but it has the subtext of "alleged". The emphasis is placed upon her words, which, it suggests, may or may not be valid.

Given that her body became a crime scene, one might refer to her as 'the witness', although that could lead to potential confusion with the other woman who was working at that party on that night.

What are some other possibilities? How should we refer to a crime victim in a way that doesn't stress the victimization? Should we refer to the characteristics of a job title, or a college major? Stay-at-home-parents, as well as those who are unemployed and under-employed, all find that an emphasis on paid work as an identifier excludes them. Emphasizing her roles as daughter or mother make an appeal to her vulnerability and reinforce a patriarchal viewpoint by defining her in terms of her relationships.

I know that there is nothing I can possibly write about the topic that's going to help her in any way. She's had a horrific experience and her brave decision to report the crime means that in many ways the experience is unending. Nonetheless, I want to know: is there any way we can talk about a crime committed against a woman, or a man, or a child, that doesn't somehow make it worse?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Adulthood Isn't All Disappointment

It's a lot of disappointment, sure. When you're growing up you're always looking to the next important birthday, and all of those great things you can't wait to do. Then you discover the downside. The delight of zooming off all by yourself down a country road with the music blasting turns out to be...commuting. The novelty of driving is quickly offset by having to pay for a car, and insurance, and gas. Likewise, I haven't experienced much of the pleasure of voting, despite voting with enthusiasm and due diligence, early and often. My candidates rarely win.

But there is one blissful aspect of adulthood that has not yet let me down: cake for breakfast. Ahhh. I love my veggies and fruit, my healthy meals. But every once in a while, a gal wants itty bitty dark chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting. And if a gal is really lucky, she gets them. Lovingly hand-crafted by her beloved Spouse. With decorations.


Of course, discretion is called for. It's unkind to expose young kids to the temptation of cake for breakfast. I wouldn't want to flaunt cupcakes in front of them at 6:30 am. Mostly, because I'd cave, and give them some, and then there would be fewer for me.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

[NOW Action List] Time to Raise the Minimum Wage!

"It's Time to Raise the Minimum Wage!

Let Congress hear from you -- Support raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour by 2008.

The federal minimum wage has not been raised in almost 10 years. It is time to help struggling working families get a raise. Of the 7.3 million workers currently earning the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour, 61% are women and 72% are breadwinning adults, not teenagers in their first after-school job."

I notified my senators and representative, I hope you'll do the same. NOW makes it easy to take action. Let everyone know: if you really care about family values, you'll take this action to support families.

Remember what's really wrong with Kansas

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Here's a Clue

This is for anyone who is wondering "Where did Duke go so horribly wrong?"

Today Duke released another report from one of Brodhead's committees, this one specifically to address the administration's role in the fiasco to date. The Raleigh News & Observer has covered the report, as has The New York Times at this posting. Both papers are emphasizing a key finding: that the University did not take seriously the allegations of rape because of alleged comments from Durham police that doubted the credibility of the witness. Supposedly the Durham police told the Duke police that the victim "kept changing her story and wasn't credible" and that "if any charges were brought, they would be no more than misdemeanors".

A police report was made. A victim was taken to the ER. You damn well better take that seriously. You better assume all witnesses are credible until proved otherwise.

Let me be clear, if redundant. Sexual assault is the most common violent crime against college women. Of an undergraduate population of 6,534 students, Duke has approximately 3,136 females. By the best estimates, that means 87 sexual assaults against women per academic year. [I only leave out sexual assaults of men because it's so hard to find anything resembling a good estimate. You think women under-report rape, try finding the number of men.]

Eighty-seven sexual assaults per academic year. Duke reported 8 for 2004.

A second major failing--apart from communications failures but related to them--was that Duke administrators (especially Duke police, Dean Wasiolek, and Vice President Moneta) seriously underestimated the seriousness of the allegations.
In real terms that means they did nothing except notify the Athletics department, and the lacrosse coach.

All assault reports should be viewed as credible and investigated. All of them. Coaches should not be responsible for investigating or disciplining criminal complaints.

Durham City Manager Patrick Baker disputes that the city police questioned the report or the victim in today's Durham Herald, writing that "the Durham Police Department immediately launched a full investigation into these allegations". Brodhead's administrative committee did not actually interview anyone from the Durham Police Department. On the other hand, Baker is still trying to defend the police, who didn't interview the NCCU student for 36 hours, and didn't execute a search warrent at the scene of the crime for another day after that.

The comittee's report is very clear that there was no effort at a cover up. This is gross incompetence more than active malice. No one in the administration thought a rape report was a big deal. No one thought accusations of racial epithets coming from the house were a big deal. No one thought the race of the victim was a big deal. No one thought, is pretty much what it comes down to.

Duke of course has a policy on sexual misconduct:

Duke University is committed to providing an environment free of personal affronts against individuals and will not tolerate sexual misconduct in its community.

Here's another clue: not bothering to investigate reports of sexual misconduct is actually demonstrating an awful lot of tolerance. Deranged indifference, wanton disregard, even.

Penalties attached to a finding of "responsibility" by the Undergraduate Judicial Board

include, but are not limited to, expulsion, suspension, disciplinary probation, recommended counseling, and/or other educational sanctions deemed appropriate by the hearing body

The administration's indifference to a rape report is a personal affront to me. It should be an affront to every person who isn't actually a rapist.

I recommend counseling for the administration. They need a little course on violence and rape, because clearly, they don't get it.

At this point, it isn't the credibility of the NCCU student that is being questioned, but the credibility of a university who knew about a gang rape and did absolutely nothing. If I were paying $43,115 a year, I'd expect a little better.

Update: the Raleigh News & Observer follows up on the "lack of credibility" issue.

City Manager Patrick Baker said Tuesday that the Duke police report is based on what a campus police officer overheard a low-ranking Durham officer say on a cell phone early that morning outside Duke Hospital. The criminal investigation has been handled by Durham police.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

It's Not What You Think

Last night I dreamed about a man who smelled of slightly burnt toast. I'm not going to bore anyone with the dream, or with any pointless exercise in "dream interpretation."

The reason I mention this is that I have an impaired sense of smell. I'm not totally anosmic, as two of my friends are. I'm more the "hard of smelling" sort. Presumably, if I didn't have allergies to everything that grows, I could smell just fine. Realistically, I can detect maybe five different plants held up to my nose, a few foods (popcorn, bacon), a few really unpleasant smells that don't need to be named but are often associated with babies and cats, and not much else. Other people have rich memories associated with smells -- I have no memories attached to smells. I can't taste much either. Many days I don't taste anything beyond sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and I only like the first two of those. Thus, a meal of french fries and chocolate milkshake has maximum appeal to me.

Given the meagre scents available to me, it is a moment of transcendent delight to realize that I can smell in my dreams. Slightly burnt toast. Lovely.

Blind Committees, Bad Advice

President Richard H. Brodhead Statement on Committee Reports: "Committees examined lacrosse program, university disciplinary processes"

Look at this list of comittees:

Presidential Council
Investigation of Duke Administration Response
Investigation of Men's Lacrosse (May 1 Report)
Examination of Student Judicial Process and Practices (May 1 Report)
Campus Culture Initiative

What's missing? There is absolutely no mention of rape as a campus problem. No mention of violent crimes at all. No mention of the reporting, or tracking, or dissemination of information on violent crime. No mention of gang rape in particular. My guess, based on victim surveys, is that

What have the committees so far reporting determined? Well, the Lacrosse committee found that the team was worse than most teams, but that was no reason to dump the program.

The committee examining university disciplinary processes found that alcohol is a big issue and that nobody knows what's going on off-campus. They didn't say anything about the biggest problem:

the increased risk of rape when allmale groups (such as athletes and fraternity members) live together in houses with private rooms, where parties are frequent, and where alcohol is available

It's all a tremendous load of blathering. Developing policies, implementing mechanisms, stakeholders, blah, blah, blah, it's all PR. None of it means anything.

What should be in there? An acknowledgement that this isn't about one team at one school at one time. This is a single representation of a national problem. By breaking the inquiry up into seven different committees, Duke doesn't have to address the only real topic: Sexual assault is the most common violent crime on campus.

What I want to know is: how many students (or others) have been sexually assaulted on campus or in off-campus Duke locations? What is Duke doing about it?

Good luck finding any useful information. Duke reported 8 sexual offenses for 2004. My guess, based on victim surveys, is that rather more people sought assistance from Sexual Assault Support Service or the Durham Crisis Support Center than the reported number suggests.

Eight? Really? How many people did you know of in college who had been assaulted?

Update: "Duke treats up to 90 people a year who have been sexually assaulted" reported in Nov. of 1999, upon the opening of a dedicated treatment room for victims of sexual assault. Obviously, not all of those treated were students.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

It's a BookThing!

The fine reading and book-loving folk at Readerville directed me to this delightful toy, LibraryThing. It's a way to catalog your books online and share them with others. 'Cause, you know, we readers are all about pushing our literary crack down other people's throats. C'mon, it's just a taste. You know you want to.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Living Wage

Make Work Pay!

I know. It's a crazy idea. Actually paying people enough to support their families? It'll never catch on. Only, wait, wasn't that the big deal about that idyllic time "the 50s"? Because the man of the house was earning enough, and had employer-provided insurance, the family could afford to keep one person at home baking cookies, and still plan on sending the kids off to college.

Why isn't this a huge issue? Ever since Reagan and his folksy racist anecdotes about "welfare queens" we've acted as if the only thing stopping anyone from succeeding was sheer laziness. Even Clinton bought into the whole blame-the-victim attack on poverty, introducing welfare "reform"that threw people off the rolls if, for example, they should be so foolish as to expect their job earnings to exceed their daycare cost.

You know what's the matter with Kansas? A minimum wage of $2.65. Anyone who thinks an adult can live on $5512 a year, let alone support a family, has to believe in divine intervention. Even generous blue state minimums of six or seven dollars an hour don't come close to realistic, though.

According to the NC Justice Center

a living wage in North Carolina is $12.32 an hour, full-time and year-round
Contrast the federal minimum wage, which hasn't changed in nine years, with the increases Congress has given itself:

During the same period, Congress has given itself eight cost of living pay increases
increasing their incomes by $31,600.

Thirty-five percent of workers who receive a minimum wage are their families’ sole earners. Sixty-one percent are women, and almost one-third of those women are raising children.
NC's State Treasurer is pushing for a $1.00 an hour raise in the minimum. It's not enough, but it's a start. If you're a resident, drop a note to Richard H. Moore, or call him, or send him a fax, to let him know you care:
325 North Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27603-1385
Phone (919) 508-5176
Fax (919) 508-5167

Friday, April 21, 2006

When Rape Stories Go Bad

I'm reading this story and it makes me so angry. From The Raleigh New and Observer, New Tension Cloaks Team.

Gumiela [a lacrosse-playing high school teammate of one of the Duke captains] is angry about the wreckage caused by this high-profile case -- reputations ruined, a season canceled and a friend's athletic career and quest for a national championship at an end.

'The whole team's a casualty,' he said. 'If the actions of a couple of guys ruined it for the whole team, that's a terrible weight. The season's gone, the coach is gone, the whole program is decimated.'"

Reputations ruined? A woman trying to do her job, raise her kids, and go to school is called a "ho" by half the nation. There's a reputation ruined. A season canceled? How much time will Mary Doe spend recovering from the injuries she sustained that night? I'm guessing you don't get over being strangled fast. What about the likelihood that she's going to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for the rest of her life, jumping at sudden noises, panicking when she sees a group of white men together, terrified of parties, terrified to leave her house?

Equating the whole team with the victim is ludicrous. The whole team didn't have to go to the ER. Commentators are carefully not accusing any members of the team of anything. The school waited three weeks after the rape to take any steps against the team, although they have clearly violated the school's rules and some laws with their conduct towards neighbors of the house in question.

Only three men have been mentioned, however obliquely, as rapists. But the whole team was either present, or afterwards, aware of that night's party. Their silence pits their group identity, their collective manliness, against women and blacks. That is a terrible weight.

"I can't tell you the pressure and the anxiety and the fear and the terror that all these families have lived under for the last several weeks," he [Finnerty's lawyer] said.

You think it even starts to compare with the pressure and the anxiety and the fear and the terror of being trapped and raped and strangled? I don't. It might be hard on the families of the teammates, but I'm guessing it's a hell of a lot harder, orders of magnitude harder, on the family of Mary Doe.

'Could there have been a conspiracy of silence?'

An "exclusive all-boys academy" lacrosse coach asks.

Why, yes. Although the authors of Campus Gang Rape: Party Games? are specifically addressing fraternities, they are clear that gang rapes are not limited to fraternity houses, but also happen at other off-campus parties, "The dynamics are essentially the same."

In almost all the cases of fraternity gang rape, many more brothers knew what was going on than actually participated but none that we know of interceded or went to the authorities. Often, the “bonds of brotherhood” prohibit “getting their brothers into trouble”; therefore, witnesses may remain silent or even lie. One victim was told by a fraternity member not involved in her rape that he was indeed her “friend” and would like to help her (in testifying in a college investigation); but he didn’t want to get his brothers in trouble—he had to “stick up” for them. At another institution a male student member of the disciplinary board noted that nearly all the cases brought before the board concerned fraternity brothers who commonly covered up each others’ indiscretions. He described the role of the fraternity: “By using the (fraternities) as a crutch, a sanctioned way of lying to protect the guilty, individuals never need to account for themselves. Those men learned a lesson: no matter how sleazy your actions there is always the fraternity to hide behind.”

Duke University, like many other colleges and universities, encourages athletes to live apart from other students and together as a team. The school, the alumni funding, the coaches all encourage the team to bond and depend on one another, to regard their loyalty to one another as most important. The other accusations about misbehavior at the house suggest a general pattern of teammates together behaving in ways they probably wouldn't dream of individually.

I realize the writers of the story had a hook: the sword of Damocles hanging over the team is the possibility of another indictment. But everyone is not equally a victim here. And the threat of a possible indictment is nothing compared to the threat of being raped and strangled. The threat of death to a woman should rate a little higher than a court case. Besides, odds are anyone tried for the crime will not be convicted:

The general population has a conviction rate of 80%. The conviction rate of an athlete is 38%.
[stat from NCAVA]

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Racist, Sexist, Misogynistic

This makes me want to weep bloody tears, and scream, and hit someone. Check out what one author has to say about publishing:Millenia Black - Taking Care of Business: The Great Betrayal - Jim Crow Publishing

I'm a big reader. Always have been. It takes more than two hundred books a year to feed my jones, and I've been known to stuff my rapacious maw with every imaginable genre, subset, and Dewey classification. Put two readers together and pretty soon they'll be talking about the ghetto that their favorite writers are in - unless the writers happen to be white males. While there is an advantage in narrow marketing to the group-most-likely-to-buy any given book, it has to be cross-marketing. Sure, advertise the book where the narrow target is most likely to find out, but if you also market to everyone else you stand a chance of creating a bestseller.

It seems so obvious, doesn't it? But publishers, loathe to stoop to advertising anything except a guaranteed bestseller (based on previous bestselling books by the same author, natch) just don't get it. Stephen King is assumed to appeal to readers other than late-middle-aged white men. He must, because those guys aren't buying a lot of books.

A short list of random authors who deserve the attention:

A hat tip to M.J. Rose for the fighting words, and a fine, sexy backlist.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted, whom I've mentioned before, always makes me laugh.

David Levithan writes wonderful romances.

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez deserves a broad audience.

There, that's a start. Five writers, every single one of whom is writing Great American Novels, all of whom are in some kind of publishing ghetto. Feel free to suggest more.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What's wrong with this picture?

Amy's Brain Today is dreaming of a "safe feminist world" - Feminist Reprise: I'm sick of heterosexism too

It's a lovely dream, but not at all workable. The dream is predicated on two notions:

men like raping women and they like hitting women and they like controlling women and they’re not going to stop until they have to
Rape, battering, war, capitalist exploitation—they [men] should stop doing all of this immediately.

So, here's what wrong with this picture: "men" don't like raping and hitting women, rapists and assailants do. It's a subtle but important distinction. Assailants, for example, are not necessarily men. There are lesbians who batter their partners, there are non-lesbians women who assault others. Not all men are rapists or assailants, anymore than no women are.

And the idea that an entire laundry list of crimes against humanity would stop if it were up to women? That's lovely to think about, but unlikely. I'm in favor of sisterhood, I believe in other women, but I know that many women are active or complicit in personal and national crimes. Bush wasn't reelected by men alone. The drums of war were beaten by Rumsfeld and Rice. Charges of torture at Abu Ghraib have been brought against male and female soldiers.

I'm not saying that women have achieved equality with men in rates of commission of violent crime. They're nowhere near close. I'm just pointing out that if one wants a society without violence, it's more important to keep out the violent than to keep out the men.

Femivist » Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Femivist suggested a day to blog on the subject. The links to the blogs are gathered in one convenient spot. Femivist » Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Eschaton on Duke

Atrios backs up a comment from someone else, somewhere else.

There are also the obvious race/class issues of which stories get national coverage and which don't, but even without that...
But he fails to note that this story does not fit the obvious race/class issues of what stories receive national coverage. Usually, the stories on the big networks are about young white children in peril, or young white women in peril (preferably blonde). Rape cases rarely receive national attention, the preference being murder and missing persons cases, because then the news can cover the victim in detail without those pesky rape shield laws. Televised news relies on the pictures for capturing interest, and if there aren't big pictures of pretty white gals, then why bother. Maybe this case was intriguing because of all the white athletes.

There have been two gang rape trials in the news so far this year, but both of those had the (same) interesting hook: the rapes were videotaped. The tapes weren't shown, but they sure were talked about.

So, why is this case lifted out of the many for prominent attention? My guess is, because the university actually did something about it. Cancelling the rest of a season for one sport isn't, as far as I know, a traditional punishment, but when 46 out of 47 teammates were under suspicion, it does seem like the first appropriate step. There are some unknown and unknowable number of gang rapes every year, of which the perpetrators are usually all male groups: fraternity brothers, military forces, sports teams. There is some scary large number of gang rapes occurring on college campuses each year. Most of those have gone and will go unreported. Most of those go uninvestigated. Most of those go unpunished.

Seeing all the grief one woman is being put through, all the accusations against her, all the talking about her, well - who would encourage a friend or loved one to go to the police? Would you?

HOLLY'S FIGHT TO STOP VIOLENCE: Rape and credibility of rape survivors!

Rape and credibility of rape survivors!

Can you think of any other crime where the police would expect you to undergo a polygraph before they would accept the charges?

Thinking about Houses

Specifically, Winifred Gallagher's House Thinking. Good book. And look what a pretty cover:

It was quite recently that I realized not everyone plans their dream house by thinking about which rooms need to be oriented in which direction, let alone plans rooms from an ideal-use perspective. I want a kitchen on the north and east, for example, so it's sunny for breakfast, but not too hot for cooking supper. I had a kitchen on the south and west last time. Shudder. [Full disclosure: I only cook supper maybe twice a week. But still.]

So, much of what Gallagher addresses so well is familiar to my way of thinking. She includes a great deal of recent psychology research, most of which was new to me. Oddly though, there's no mention of Christopher Alexander, let alone a fairly ground-breaking work on the topic, A Pattern Language (1977). Alexander covered much of the same topic and created a way for clients and architects to talk about the sort of features that make buildings and communities appealing and livable. And in linking, I discovered a great Pattern Language site. If you're interested in building homes and communities that are pleasing, sustainable, and working with humans, rather than against us, check it out.

On a personal note, just turning on the other light in my office has made me feel much more productive and efficient. I love easy fixes.

Monday, April 17, 2006

fattypatties brilliant debate guide

Pattie's truly marvelous series should be good for anyone fighting bigotry of any kind. And who isn't? In a normal week I'm arguing against sexism, good/bad parent dichotomies, red state stereotyping, racism, classism, the war by Christianity, and that's just Monday.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The False Accusations Meme

You can find a snippet of it in the comments here at Feministing, as well as in the comments at a number of web sites devoted to the horror that is False Accusations of Rape.

Two bits, in particular, are widely repeated:

- In the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit’s study of False Allegations conducted in 1983 of 556 rape investigations, a total of 220 (40%) of these reported rapes turned out to be false. -

- Linda Fairstein, who directs the prosecution of sexual assault in New York, says that there are approximately 4,000 reports of rape each year in Manhattan. Of these, about half simply did not happen. Says Fairstein, “It’s my job to bring justice to the man who has been falsely accused by a woman who has a grudge against him, just as it’s my job to prosecute the real thing.”

It's bogus. The whole thing. This information is brought to you from a 90-page self-published book by James Anderson, who was doing time for the crime of rape in 1993. Anderson lists the FBI information (without a useful citation), but I can't find it. I can't find the original source for the statistic anywhere. The closest I can come is this statement:
The number often cited is from the Crime Index Offenses tracked by the FBI. For example, the 1997 UCR states that, “a higher percentage of complaints of forcible rape are determined “unfounded” or found by investigation to be false, than for any other Index Crime. While the average of “unfounded” rates for all Crime Index offenses was 2% in 1997, 8 percent of the forcible rape complaints were “unfounded” for the same time frame.”
Catch that? It's tricky: "unfounded or...false." They're not the same. Some reasons investigating officers might "unfound" a report: the involvement of drugs or alcohol, an uncooperative victim,
Delayed report

Report made to a person other than law enforcement

The victim is indifferent to injuries or seems to experience a lack of pain

The victim is extremely vague about details of the assault, or is extremely detailed

The victim attempts to steer away from unsafe details in the description of the assault, i.e., suspect description or location of offense

In short, many of the common elements of the crime and/or the reporting of it are the very reasons that investigators may not believe it.

Likewise, I can't find an original source for the Linda Fairstein quote. However, I have read her excellent book, Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape and I can assure you, she never says anything even close. Furthermore, since her job was prosecuting sex crimes, it was not her job to prosecute women with grudges. On the contrary, a huge part of the success of her program was in training law enforcement on how to be sensitive to crime victims and understand the reports they were receiving.

And if you haven't had enough of lies about rape, check the FBI's definition of forcible rape
carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will
in the UCR reflects the thinking of the 19th century. Males can be assaulted, but not raped. Women who were not beaten, were not raped. A boy under age six cannot, by the FBI's definitions, be raped. Incest isn't rape, the sexual assault of someone who is incapacitated isn't rape, etc. By their reckoning, rape just isn't a big problem. Aren'y you relieved?

In the popular mind, as witnessed on the web following accounts of the Duke case, a report lacking in substantiation is "false" and should be penalized. Most of those folks who are calling for swift and terrible justice to fall upon the head of the victim discount entirely the witnesses, the supporting medical evidence, the scene of the crime evidence, etc. This is a remarkably strong case, regardless of what the defense attorneys would like you to believe.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lending a voice

Femivist » Blog to Raise Awareness About Sexual Violence - April 18th

Sexual violence is unacceptable in all forms. Investigate reported crimes. Prosecute the perpetrators of violence. Don't blame the victims: offer them treatment, and emergency contraception, and belief. Sentence convicted felons to jail.

How hard is that? Why does that feel like too much to ask?

Oh, I know: It's because El Salvador, in its anti-abortion craziness, has brought the words forensic vagina inspectors to my vocabulary.

It's because, as Broadsheet has noted, accusations of rape against a lacrosse team are primarily covered on the sports pages. Although it could be worse. It could be stuck in the "women's section."

It's because the forcible marriage of young women doesn't only take place in emerging nations.

It's because I learned today from Mind the Gap! that rapists in Mexico are just courting, and that rapists in the UK are getting off with a caution. Still, the Sentencing Guidelines Council are recommending lighter sentences for English and Welsh rapists.

It's because a young woman in Iran faces execution for stabbing one of three men attempting to assault her and her niece.

It's because you can get away with rape if you're a cop in New Zealand.

I could go on, but it would just depress me. Feel free to provide more links in comments if you've got them.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Pharyngula: Why the wingnuts hate Plan B

For anyone still questioning Saletan's assertion that Plan B might prevent a blastocyst from implanting, I bring you Pharyngula: Why the wingnuts hate Plan B.

I'm really loathing Saletan. Guess that's obvious, huh?

The Mommy Blawg

The Mommy Blawg provides a link to an excellent discourse on how the US medical industrial complex harms women and children: Midwifery is not the Practice of Medicine

The (Lame) Defense of the Patriarchy

ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES has a great take on a nasty bit of blaming the victim:

"For feminist analysis of the most basic kind is offered by Dr. David Yeagley's article about the Duke rape case. He takes the side of the lacrosse players accused of this crime, the side of Duke University, the side of white men and so on, and all this side-taking is enlightening, illuminating and a little vomit-inducing, too."

I don't have anything new or interesting to offer on the rape investigation, but I really hate this sort of justification. Why are people so much more willing to believe that rape accusations are unfounded?

Justice 4 Two Sisters is doing a great job of keeping up with the coverage.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The new lies about women's health

By Brian Alexander

'As a physician, I can no longer trust government sources,' says Dr. Shaber. She is not a political activist or a conspiracy theorist; in addition to her own practice, she's Kaiser Permanente's director of women's health services for northern California and head of the HMO's Women's Health Research Institute. Yet this decidedly mainstream doctor and administrator says, 'I no longer trust FDA decisions or materials generated [by the government]. Ten years ago, I would not have had to scrutinize government information. Now I don't feel comfortable giving it to my patients.

Is there anything at all we can trust government sources on?

My incompetence, my reading

If I weren't inept, I'd have added a blogroll and fixed this weird problem with my links. And, I'd probably have modified my template some. Oh, well. Instead, I'll just go read The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. This is a second read of a truly delightful book. It's got a sarcastic talking cat and ethical rats and a young witch. What's not to love?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Can we apply some logic to the issue of emergency contraception?

Probably not. Still, it's worth a shot.

Over in Slate, William Saletan is considering how emergency contraception works. He gives an excellent overview of the subject, heavily linked to references. I pretty much recommend it.

But, he ends the piece with an effort to show how pro-choice and anti-choice people are both equally extreme, and should make more effort to find common ground (Yeah, like there's so much common ground to be found with SD's law, where the only legal option for abortion is self-defense. Now there's a compromise position).

Who's right? Does EC kill some embryos, or doesn't it? The answer is, we don't know. We can't know, because, as the Catholic Health Association explains, "There is no current method for ascertaining that an ovum has been fertilized until implantation." It takes a week and a half for hormones to register in pregnancy tests. To verify fertilization before then, you'd have to open the woman up. And that would kill the embryo.
That "current" (my emphasis) sounds as if there may be some kind of test any day now. But there is no envisioned test, either. No theoretical framework for any such test. The blastocyst is not interacting with the female host. The only way to know that an ovum has been fertilized is to take it out of the woman, put it in a petri dish, and introduce it to some nice, friendly sperm. Not that the anti-choice position likes in vitro fertilization, either.

I know I'm a freak, but when I want to answer questions of medicine or science, I ask medical professionals or scientists. Oddly enough, I do not expect a group with rather obvious religious bias such as The Healing Ministry of Catholic Health Care to answer questions of fact.

Each side spins the uncertainty its way. Opponents of EC say pharmacists are entitled to refuse to sell drugs "suspected" of causing abortions.
Here's the equivalency, again. And doesn't that position sound reasonable? Except that there isn't anyone saying that pharmacists are entitled to refuse to sell any other kinds of drugs, certainly not because of "suspicions". Once we start conceiving of pharmacists as people with moral concerns that inhibit their ability to fulfill their job, then what's to stop a Scientologist pharmacist from refusing to fill any prescription? Remember Tom Cruise saying Brooke Shields should have used vitamins instead of Paxil? You want that kind of interference from your pharmacist?

Proponents demand a "presumption" that Plan B does no such thing. If you're troubled by the moral or factual ambiguities, each side offers the simplifying comfort of semantics. Proponents say EC can't abort a pregnancy, since "medical authorities" define pregnancy as beginning at implantation. Opponents reply that "embryologists" define pregnancy as beginning at fertilization. Everybody wants to give you an authoritative answer, when there isn't one.
I'm a proponent of EC. But I'm not very demanding. Just as I cannot prove to you that the leprechauns aren't hiding pots of gold at the end of every rainbow, I cannot prove that EC isn't preventing fertilized ova from implanting left and right. What I can say is that public policy and law should not be based on possibilities. I say that "medical authorities" are people with medical degrees and training who practice medicine and that the "embryologists" Saletan mentions are a construct of the imagination of The Concerned Women of America who neither name nor cite these "embryologists" who define pregnancy at fertilization. That's because defining pregnancy at fertilization has no practical use. Look at the wording of the CWA says "Embryologists have long believed that a pregnancy begins at fertilization". This is philosophy, or religion, not any sort of science.

Probably the most compelling argument for the "EC can't abort a pregnancy" issue, is the copious research that demonstrates that EC will not terminate an established pregnancy. Saletan links to Plan B's web site, and to James Trussell, to argue against Planned Parenthood that EC does affect implantation. But both of those links will only tell you that it may prevent implantation, not that it does. Likewise, newspapers and web sites may decide to hire women to write about abortion-related issues, but it hasn't been proven yet.

Anyway, here's the best reason to continue to call EC contraception, rather than abortifacient: "It is important to know that Plan B® will not affect a fertilized egg already attached to the uterus; it will not affect an existing pregnancy."

If there is an actual, demonstrable, provable pregnancy, EC will not end it.

If the two camps were to stop spinning and listen for a moment, they might learn something from each other. Proponents of EC, who talk so much about choice and information, might realize that their denials of any abortion risk from Plan B, through semantics or stretching of the evidence, deprive women of informed consent. The right to choose a pill that's probably birth control but possibly abortion includes the right to know that's what you're choosing.
Really? By not telling women an unprovable, purely theoretical possibility we're depriving them? Is it part of informed consent to tell organ recipients that they may, after surgery, suddenly start acting like the person who's heart they're getting? We can't prove that it won't happen, but the possibility was raised in a movie once, so maybe we should include it.

Opponents of EC might realize that the risk of abortion depends on when the drug is taken. The odds that it will abort an embryo, rather than prevent an embryo's creation, are very low. The earlier you get the pill, the lower the odds are. And every successful EC intervention spares a woman the greater danger of ending up with a surgical abortion. Plan B should be available over the counter so it can be what its advocates hope for, not what its enemies fear.
Yeah. The opponents of EC are going to be fine once they are told that "The odds that it will abort an embryo... are very low." No odds are acceptable. The anti-choice position is strict, it's zero tolerance. How did Saletan miss this? Here's a clue: the odds of complication from pregnancy and delivery are greater than the odds of complication from surgical abortion. Does anyone in the anti-choice camp care? No, hell, no. The enemies of choice don't care what's best for women. They have made a fetish out of "innocent life" such that it doesn't matter if real women die to protect it. This is not a just-slightly-right-of-center position. This is extreme.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

No, It's Not

I saw a guy yesterday in a t-shirt with a big Rebel Flag and these words:

It's a Southern thing

ya'll [sic] wouldn't understand

Now, I'm not going to call out a stranger in public, but just for the record, I'd like to clarify a little. It would be foolish of me to speculate on the motivations of that particular man in selecting that particular t-shirt. Regardless of his intentions, that shirt is wrong on so many levels.

The adoption of this flag as an emblem of Southern Pride is directly tied to the struggle for civil rights: it was first flown over the South Carolina capital in 1962, which is not the 100th anniversary of the Civil War (1861-1865). Whatever its adherents claim, the flag is a smack in the face to those who fought against slavery and for civil rights. That flag invokes white supremacy just as the Nazi flag invokes aryan supremacy. For more, visit Same as It Ever Was: South Carolina and It's [sic] Flag.

Sadly, racism is not exclusively Southern. In fact, by some measures, incidence of sundown towns, or housing segregation, the South is arguably the least racist region.

And illiteracy isn't a Southern thing necessarily, either. Many Southerners know that the correct spelling of the abbreviation for "you all" is y'all.

Friday, March 31, 2006

A Note about Breastfeeding and Hospitals

Baby Babble is running a piece on The Public Health Council in Massachusetts prohibiting hospitals from giving away infant formula and coupons to new parents. The ban was scheduled to go into affect in July, then Governor Mitt Romney requested a repeal of the ban, and nothing is settled or going to be settled for a while.

What's to reconsider? Well, I suppose the money companies like Nestle make, roughly $3000 per child per year. The US is currently 36th in infant mortality. That's not good. Romney supposedly said that the ban would limit choice for parents. That's total crap. The only choice he's afraid of limiting is that of formula companies to market heavily to a captive audience. Perhaps he'd like hospitals to branch out: how about Benson & Hedges gift bags in the cancer ward, Rollerblades (without helmets, natch) in the sports injury department...I'm sure someone out there has even better ideas.

This is not about parental choice. This is about social policy. Social policy that is at the mercy of big companies.

This is about how social policy in America sucks eggs.

Ever heard of something called the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative? No, I didn't think so. That's because only 52 hospitals in America are certified Baby-Friendly. That puts the U.S. well behind Turkey (83) and way the hell behind Mexico (692). [These are absolute numbers provided by UNICEF, not rankings or rates.]

So, what kind of crazy stuff do hospitals have to do to be "Baby-Friendly"? Here's the complete list:

* Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.

* Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.

* Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.

* Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one half-hour of birth.

* Show mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation, even if they should be separated from their infants.

* Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically

* Practice rooming in - that is, allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.

* Encourage breastfeeding on demand.

* Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to
breastfeeding infants.

* Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support
groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative was begun in 1991. It is a follow-up to the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutions, from 1981. The US did not sign on to the Code, which forbids Breast-Milk Substitutions (how's that for reframing?) to be marketed to the public. No free samples, no doctor's offices and parenting magazines rife with glossy ads, no commercials on TV showing a woman with a six-month-old baby slurping from a bottle and a disclaimer that "breast is best" .

Mitt Romney has asked the Public Health Council in Massachusetts to reconsider. To spend some more time thinking about a policy WHO recommended 25 years ago. You know how many Baby-Friendly hospitals there are in Massachusetts? One. Admittedly, that's one more than NC.