Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Domestic Violence is So Mainstream

Have you heard the new song "Many of Horror" by Biffy Clyro?

Have you even heard of Biffy Clyro?

If not, I don't blame you. I only recently became aware of this Scottish band, and that was due solely to AltNation on XM radio. Upon hearing this song, I just sort of rolled my eyes because their general feel gave me a way too strong Nickleback or Daughtry vibe. Blech.

Upon actually listening to the lyrics, I was a bit worried. Here's the opening and the beginning of the refrain:

You say "I love you boy"
But I know you lie.
I trust you all the same
And I don't know why.

'Cause when my back is turned,
My bruises shine.
Our broken fairytale,
So hard to hide.

I still believe,
It's you and me
till the end of time.

When we collide we come together,
If we don't, we'll always be apart.
I'll take a bruise I know you're worth it.
When you hit me, hit me hard.

Those are some pretty disturbing lyrics to me. I'm trying to find a way to view them that doesn't invoke images of domestic violence, but it's really hard. It seems to capitalize on the myth that violence perpetrated against men by women is no big deal. I mean, he'll take the bruise, he knows she's worth it.


If we imagined that lyric sang by a woman instead of a man, most people would be deeply disturbed. Fact of the matter is that we have got to take a stand against all forms of violence. Excusing a woman who batters a man is not only incredibly dangerous for all men, but it also perpetuates stereotypes about what it means to be a "real" man and the idea that women are weak, defenseless little things. Yes, we all know men are, on average, physically larger and strong than women. But does that mean that protections against violence should only be extended to women?


Unfortunately, if the popularity of Nickleback and Daughtry are any indication of the public's tendency embrace shitty rock ballads, Biffy Clyro isn't going anywhere, regardless of their DV message or not. I guess I'll just be a one woman protest by turning the dial when this tripe comes on.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Big Girls Don't Cry

I'm going to do another partial post, simply because I am bursting with enthusiasm about the book I am currently reading. It was recommended to me by a friend and I can't put it down. It's all about gender in the 2008 election. I feel like as the author, Traister, discusses the feminist opinion of Clinton as a presidential nominee, she's writing my exact thoughts/feelings/experience of the time. (And it's totally changing my perception of Hillary Clinton.)

I will try to do a full review later, but for now I just wanted to share this. Should you ever be foolishly tempted to think we live in a "postfeminist" society, here are some of the words printed on T-shirts in TWO THOUSAND AND EIGHT (not 1908) about Clinton:
  • Life's a bitch so don't vote for her.
  • Fuck Hillary: God knows she needs it.
  • Anyone but her '08.
  • Even Bill doesn't want me.
  • Stop mad cow.
  • KFC Hillary meal deal: Two fat thighs, two small breasts and a bunch of left wings.
  • I wish Hillary had married O.J.
  • Wanna see Hillary run? Throw rocks at her.
...and then try to tell me I don't live in a misogynistic world.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Seriously Hate American Apparel

I just wanted to drop a quick note about American Apparel and the slime that is Dov Charney.

I've become an anti-AA spokesperson because of this tool. And a few people have been throwing it back to me that AA is actually great because they pay their employees living wages and treat them fairly and blah blah blah.

OK OK! I get that. And I wish more companies were like that. So, fantastic for them ...HOWEVER, you will have to excuse me if I don't think that workers are treated all that "fairly" and wonderfully when half of them are at risk of rape, harassment, or assault. So, yeah, I'm sorry if I don't get all googly eyed at their general worker's practices.

Hidden Identities

I've written a bit about identity before. It's a topic which I find endlessly fascinating. And it's something that plays a big role in my day to day discoveries of who exactly I am. I spend probably way more time than the average bear contemplating identity. I can't help it.

Some identities come to you naturally, and the ones which are natural are probably different for each person. For me, my gender identity is one which I relate strongly to, while my sexual identity is less straight forward. My race is something I don't contemplate much (being of the majority) until I think about all of the various privileges I encounter and "unpack the knapsack."

Last October, I went to a diversity training, that I mentioned back then. One thing from the training, which has stuck with me and I've been thinking of frequently, is the notion of hidden or secret identities. These are simply the things that have had an enormous impact on who you are, but you don't readily share them with others and they are not easily seen. For some people, this could be their sexuality, before coming out. Other examples can include, rape survivor, child abuse survivor, mental illness, family member of someone with mental illness, elder caregiver, etc. Being a feminist could even be a hidden identity.

At the training, we had the chance to share hidden identities with the group, by simply stating them or saying "I choose not to share." There was something incredible about firstly, recognizing my two hidden identities to myself, and secondly, stating it out loud without judgment or fear. It was as simple as that. I got a chance to speak my truth.

And the truth is that I am a survivor of verbal abuse growing up and the child of someone who is mentally ill.

As I've been in Austin for over a year now, I've developed some close friendships. It has been very interesting going from a life where all my closest friends were people who had an inherent understanding of my upbringing because they saw it first hand, to a world where I have to tell my story. In some ways, telling my story has been therapeutic. In others, it has led to some sloppy short hand versions of my own tale.

I'm not sure these short hand versions are productive, but it's hard when you want to tell a funny story about your past, but the story requires more back story than you'd actually like to share at the time.

I've also recently become able to understand how these two hidden identities of mine have come to interact in my life, and separate them from one another. I wasn't verbally abused because my dad is mentally ill, those two things just went hand in hand in my case. I've begun to understand what was and wasn't within my dad's control of his behavior.

Anyway, those are just a few realizations I've had lately. Hidden and secret identities are so fascinating to me because they can be absolutely critical in forming our individualities, and yet we rarely share them with others.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gay Marriage, Abortion, and the Lies the Right Tells about Small Government

In my most recent post, I wrote a little bit about how I believe that the anti-gay marriage position is a foolish one for conservatives* to champion. I would now like to submit this piece of evidence as just reported by Jezebel.

I know I'm not usually in the business of telling conservatives how to become better politicians. I'm usually in the business of simply pointing out why I think their side sucks. However, when it comes to gay marriage, I think that the right* is making a big, big mistake. They are betting against the American tendency to become more accepting of different relationships over time. For example, anti-miscegenation laws used to be commonplace. Now the idea of making it illegal for people of different races to marry is absurd to a vast majority of Americans. I think that outlawing gay marriage will someday be seen as equally absurd. To align yourself with such a viewpoint just isn't an intelligent position to take. It is painfully short sighted.

But that's not the point of this post. What I want to examine now, is one of the utter lies that we are told about the right: they favor small government. I think the best way to do this is to examine two of the positions they are most known for, anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion rights.

The idea of small government is supposedly focused on individual liberties. For example, from The Center for Small Government:

Small government means individual liberty and personal responsibility.

Small government enables and encourages self-reliance and voluntary cooperation. Creativity and productivity. Progress and prosperity.

To me, this means that the government is as uninvolved in my personal affairs as possible. However, the same people who assert this premise also are attempting to regulate some of the most personal affairs that there can be: The state of a woman's body and the intimate relationships between consenting adults.

To make my point, I submit this "rant" by Representative Anthony Weiner (greatest name for this topic, ever.) As he points out, attempting to outlaw abortion is one of the biggest examples of of government overstepping its bounds. Ever.

I think that outlawing gay marriage is another perfect example of this. Gay marriage for me highlights the intersection of personal liberties, religious freedoms, and human rights. In my mind, the government, as a governing body of all people should not have their hands in the business of allowing certain benefits to some people (straight) over other people (gay.)

Usually, the right wants to claim that marriage is a holy contract, preformed by the church, before God. Ok, let's run with this premise for a moment.

In this case, a "small government" would remove itself from marriage all together, viewing it as solely within the realm of the church. Therefore, the government would stay totally neutral to marriage and totally allow churches to make their own decisions. If a church disallowed gay marriage, so be it. If a church allowed gay marriage (which there would be many!) then so be it. To offer a religious neutral option in this arrangement, the government could offer civil unions to ALL couples (gay and straight) who did not want to unite in the church.

However, this option is NEVER discussed by the right...which I feel is due to the fact that it is well known that this would lead to a plethora of gay marriages. Conservatives in America want to limit gay marriage so much that they do not even follow their own doctrine of "small government" which would stay out of intimate affairs and a couple's relationship with their church. However, in order to argue against gay marraige they speak religious-talk in political institutions. They extol the virtues of "tradtional marriage" intended by God to be one man and one woman.

You see what they did there? They claim to act on behalf of church and God, but don't actually let the churches make the decision for themselves.

When all else fails, they turn to ridiculousness. In an NPR interview with Maggie Gallager, the Chairman (wth?--chairperson!) of the Board of the National Organization for Marriage, she went to the old standby argument: If we allow gay marriage now, next we'll be allowing poly-marriages and marriages to animals. It's like they can never, ever just let it be about the right for two, loving, consenting adults to marry. That's what this is really about.

...and getting the government the hell OUT of such intimate situations. I'm not for small government, necessarily, but I am for less government where is really, really counts...such as inside my body or my relationships. The hypocrisy of it all is staggering. I'm with Rep Weiner. Don't let conservatives tell you they are in favor of small government until they stop trying to outlaw gay marriage and abortion. Just don't let them feed you that egregious lie.

*I am using the terms "conservatives" and "the right" interchangeably in this blog to discuss people affiliated with the Republican party. I realize that this group of people is a diverse one with many political views represented, but here I am speaking to those who adhere to what is considered traditional conservative views.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Indiana's Gay Marriage Ban

So I've been in a no-good-foul-totally-horrible mood for several days now. There's no one thing that I can definitely say is the reason I'm in a funk. There's quite a bit. I've been eating junk for weeks. I'm absolutely ready for the dude to be home from Indianapolis. I'm itching for a change. Something new and interesting to devote my attention and creativity towards. And despite what my last blog indicates, I learned today that some people are not capable of change or introspection and that gets me way, way down.

No matter what the cause, the result of said funk (that even a mani/pedi couldn't shake!) is a relative lack of writing.

Be that as it may, I wanted to take a moment to mention what's going on in my home state. Indiana is on its way to a constitutional ban on gay marriage. I don't have the words to express how sad this makes me. Not only will it codify hate into Indiana law, but is also an insult to all Hoosiers. In a time of widespread budget issues, conservative lawmakers in Indiana have chosen to devote time, resources, and attention to outlawing something that is already not legal.

It's a slap in the face to all LGBTQQI Hoosiers, their families, and allies. It's an attempt to further deny something already denied.

My friends back home participated in a march to protest the ban. I wish I could have been there...this is something that I care so deeply about and I am so ashamed of my home state.

Not only are these attempts to outlaw gay marriage straight up bigotry, they also just aren't smart policy for republicans to continue to pursue into the future. Fact of the matter is that, as the oldies die off, so will opposition to gay marriage. (Don't believe me? Look at the various generational opinions of gay marriage.) So putting a ban into place is a totally foolish waste of time and a won't make the conservative viewpoint popular into the future.

Ah well, thinking about all of this is just going to bring me down further. I try to imagine that someday gay marriage will be legal, we'll have a female president, and no co eds will be making horrifically racist online rants. I've got to keep trying to imagine it, otherwise I might cry.

Cue Debbie Downer sound.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Note to Self: Don't Become Jaded

When you live in a world that you perceive as outwardly hostile to you...your opinions, lifestyle, and identity, it can be really, really easy to become jaded. To be extremely cynical. To give up on caring.

Especially when you read shit like this (trigger warning.) I mean, if an 11 year old girl can be brutally raped by 18 men and boys and then be BLAMED for it, what hope can I hold in this world?

Then, every once in a while I get a reminder that I should have faith in people. That I should be open to talking about my feelings, thoughts, and opinions with others who might not share them...because ultimately, we might learn something from one another.

All too often, I take the passive aggressive route. People say, do, write, or joke about offensive things. And my response is a nervous laugh and eye roll...a vague status update...a conversation behind their back.

These behaviors on my part get us no where. And they push me further into cynicism. "So and so's just another straight, white, male asshole...fuck him." Sometimes these thoughts are legitimate. And sometimes they are a cop out. By alienating people who might be open to learning more about how I feel, I unfairly lump them in with those who are truly ignorant.

I know there's a lot of talk in feminism about "Go educate yourself!" when someone of a privileged group essentially demands but that the marginalized person has "a responsibility to educate people who mean well." I totally get this viewpoint, as I can see how utterly exhausting it can be to constantly explain your identity/viewpoint/experience. However, I've realized that assuming the worst in others and keeping them at arm's length is not contributing to my overall well being.

I am someone who loves to talk about feminism and all the many, many sub-categories of it.

I am someone who wants to educate others about what feminism means to me and how I think it can affect our lives.

I am someone who thrives on healthy debate.

To assume that everyone I encounter won't "get it" is to deny myself these opportunities and sink further into cynicism. Sure, when I engage in discussions with people, I stand to expose myself to criticism and even hatred. But I also stand to gain respect and understanding from others. Plus, I get the opportunity to perhaps, even once, change someone's mind. And that's an honor, when you think about it.

I'm going to end this with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people. Conan O'Brien on his last night of the Tonight Show. Great words for my generation to hear:

All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.