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.