Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Protect choice tomorrow (Wednesday).

National Call-In Day to Support the
Freedom of Choice Act

Wednesday, April 25

Call 202-224-3121

Use our script:
"Please cosponsor the Freedom of Choice Act (H.R.1964/S.1173) to codify Roe v. Wade and guarantee the right to choose for future generations of women."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Women-Only Spaces

Winter at Desperate Kingdoms has a great post about women-only spaces and the lies we women tell in order to preserve the illusion that we have a happy, unified community - you know, the sisterhood and all that:
Now I have barred myself from these events. No one would tell me not to go, although it would be a lot more honest if they did, but we are predominantly white middle-class women and we are not raised to be honest with each other. It’s incredibly difficult for us to enter conflict and express anger and hurt in constructive ways. There are always more devious ways of excluding people, and if those don’t work we can all pretend to be nice to each other publicly while we bitch behind people’s backs. I know I perpetuate the problems by telling more lies myself. When other lesbians ask if I’m going to an event (which they do even when they know I can’t because we have to maintain the pretense), I say “No, I’m ill,” or “No, the toilet needs unblocking [or preferably a less obviously aggressive excuse].” What would happen if I told the truth for a second? The real answer is, “No, of course I can’t fucking go. I used to be in love with you know who and we had a hideously messed up hurtful relationship, and she’ll be there with her girlfriend and we’ll all be uncomfortable all day.” But I can’t say any of that because it kinda spoils the narrative by bringing past anger, hurt and desire into the story and drawing attention to the fact that women often treat each other badly. I’ve moved on in my life, but I still won’t go to the events because even more lying and pretense would be necessary to my attendance. I would have to refuse the past and ignore pain and anger in the aim of maintaining the illusion of happy lesbian-only space and the political fantasy demands more than I can give in this instance.

I've been thinking a lot about community lately, and about confrontation, and about how we talk to each other about difficult things. When it comes to women-only spaces, I've found myself at different times in my life feeling more or less included, depending on the company. "Women-only" means different things to different people. Some people interpret this as "lesbian only." Others take it at face value. Some others have very narrow definitions for what "women" can mean, not just with regard to gender, but also to race and other categories of difference (I've never heard of anyone using race as a reason to keep someone out of a women-only group, but I have heard of people being told that their concerns about racism, disability issues, classism, etc. were not "women's issues" - we saw some of that a while back right here).

I keep thinking about Bernice Johnson Reagon's writing about home v. coalition. "Home" is the place where people are like you, and because of this, you feel safe there. "Coalition" is the place where people are not like you, and coalition isn't home. As a friend of mine who has trained young activists for some time told me, in coalitions, you should expect there to be disagreements, even really big uncomfortable ones, and this is healthy - it means that people are challenging themselves and each other, and as a result, growing. Anyway, as Reagon says, we often confuse the two, and think we are home when we are really in coalition. Women-only spaces are a perfect example of this. They feel like home to many people - and we often expect them to be home because we assume that women share many things simply by nature of being female. But really, women-only spaces are still coalition spaces, spaces where we have different identities and experiences and assumptions and politics. And Winter's piece does a nice job of beginning to draw this out.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Atheists can handle tragedy just fine, thanks!

I really liked this post over at Nicest Girl and Destroyer of Planets. Why - WHY?! - do religious people go on the attack when it comes to atheists? What does it say about their faiths that they depend on atheism NOT working, NOT resolving problems, NOT encouraging moral behavior (I mean that in the general sense of treating people decently, not in the Moral Majority sense)? It doesn't say much for Christianity, I'll tell you that. Just because atheism doesn't work for some folks doesn't mean it doesn't work for anybody. Anyway, go visit Girl and read her great response to the jerk who used Virginia Tech as an excuse to get all huffy at atheists.

UPDATE: I just saw this from a faculty member at VT:
"There is also an infusion of religious groups from all over. While
most are here unobtrusively and are truly trying to help, I feel like
we are now a site for (some) groups to witness and convert. I wanted
to just be silent, but there was preaching
there so I didn't stay long. Others have been far worse; one
evangelist set up loudspeakers on the drillfield and preached--about
repenting of our sins etc.! People asked him to stop, disconnected
the speakers, etc., and he refused. It is not a surprise that his PA
system was eventually damaged, police came, and it was turned
off. And now we hear Fred Phelps is planning to come. This is
incomprehensible to me."

And to me, as well.

Just some stuff about where I'm at.

1) I somehow injured my shoulder last night between the end of dance class and my arrival home. I've done far worse to my poor shoulder - a couple of summers ago, trying to waterski, I ripped the heck out of both shoulders and couldn't lift my arms for a couple of weeks. And then, a couple of years before that, when I was swimming laps on a regular basis, I injured them both similarly though not so severely as in the water-skiing incident. Both times, everything seemed to heal on its own. So, I'm not too worried this time, except that I'm supposed to be in a dance recital on Saturday night, and I don't think I can pull it off in a sling.

However, I'm fairly optimistic tonight, since I'm in considerably less pain than I was last night. Also, while I still can't use my right hand to pull on a pair of pants just yet, I'm a lot closer to this goal (and I've gotten good at getting dressed one-handed, thank goodness!).

2) Apparently, some people at work have been wondering if I am pregnant. No, you fuckers, I'm not. And fuck you very much.

3) For the first time EVER, I am actually getting reimbursed by my job to attend a conference. I am GIDDY. I will not only be able to afford this conference, but I will also be able to enjoy it without feeling guilty. I can't tell you what a load off my mind that is. (And also, I just saved Mr. Plain(s)feminist $400 on one of his trips by looking on Travelocity. I rock.)

4) I've realized once again just how poisonous talking behind people's backs can be. Really, it never does any good. We always think that the venting is helpful, but venting is how the poison is spread, and venting does not resolve the problem. Unfortunately, as I've been told by a few people, this is a way of life in small communities, which is one reason why I miss the relative anonymity of larger ones. (At least there, people never know who is being talked about!) It's also a way of life in my family of origin, whom I'm going to see in a couple of months, and so I'll have ample time to practice what I preach.

5) I really love my kid. We're at a great age. This afternoon, I picked him up early from daycare and brought him home and introduced him to The Munsters and Junie B. Jones; let no one say /I do not expose him to culture. And, yeah, there was a meltdown at the rummage sale when I wouldn't buy him the ginormous ugly pink stuffed bunny, but then there was also that moment a short while later when he snuggled onto my lap and we read stories. Or the moment, while he was getting ready for bed, when he came out of the bathroom to show me a handful of soap bubbles. I just love my little guy.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Missing Person.

Kevin at Slant Truth needs your help to find his brother. Please check out the link and the photo.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Inside the Ivory Tower, Part II*: Stuffy Academics at the Gate

Er...doing the gatekeeping, that is.

Let me back up.

In academe, one must publish in journals in order to get anywhere in one's career (hell, even to stand still, one must publish). The way this works is that an author submits an article to a journal. If the editorial board (which is sometimes a grad student) sees fit, it is then passed along to reviewers. This is usually a double-blind process - the author doesn't know who the reviewers are, and the reviewers don't know who the author is. This is to prevent any special treatment (or the reverse) that might occur if the author and reviewer actually know each other in real life or have strong opinions about the other's work or some such thing.

Reviewers are chosen because they have some knowledge of a particular area. The idea is to get experts in the field, but as many people don't want to review articles (too busy, not interested, etc.), this is not always possible.

Now, reviewers have a lot of power in this process. If a reviewer thinks your article sucks, that can mean that your piece doesn't get published - whether or not it actually sucks. Reviewers also get to write whatever nasty thing they want to say - anonymously. I mean, think for a minute about how the relative anonymity of the internet works. Now, imagine that approach applied to a professional review on which people's careers rest. It's frightening, the kinds of things people will write when they know they can get away with it.

Anyway. You might think that it's not a big deal to get a paper rejected; after all, one can simply submit a paper elsewhere. This is true, and it's what most of us do - papers make the rounds, one journal at a time (submitting the same piece to more than one journal at a time is seen as a breach of ethics), and we wait for months to find out whether or not the journal is even interested (if it is, there might still be heavy revising in the future before the article will see publication, and there is still no guarantee).

But very often, the same reviewers review papers for several journals. This means that a small group of people have a lot of power to decide, not just what should appear in one journal, but what should appear in a number of journals. This is a problem because the reality is that what individuals research is highly - HIGHLY - controversial. Journal editorial boards and reviewers have political biases, like everyone else. Certain scholars' work - particularly those doing work on women, on sexual minorities, and on people of color - are more likely to be seen as less rigorous scholarship, particularly the ground-breaking work that challenges canonical knowledge or method. Or, conversely, these areas of inquiry may be seen as hot and exciting and valuable, but it is much easier for established (often white, often male) scholars to be published in these areas, even if they have no real expertise in these areas.

Now, the other day, I heard a talk that addressed the problem of lower publication rates of women and people of color. The speaker attributed this problem to "the pipeline" - the publication process itself. In other words, it is not a failure to do good work, but a failure to get good work accepted for publication, that is behind this lower publication rate.

The following day, I heard a panel offer suggestions for getting work published in academic journals. While some of the information was helpful - read the journal carefully and be sure your paper is structured the way the papers that have already been published are structured; keep sending the paper out and don't be daunted by rejection; be willing to take criticism and revise seriously; etc. - most of it assumed that the process was fair. The panelists even stated, flat out: Trust the process. The process will result in you having a stronger, published paper.

But there's a contradiction here because obviously, the process doesn't work. The process, in fact, is the problem. There is a structural problem with the whole system, and it's not going to go away. It is a problem, for example, when a journal rejects manuscripts in order to dishonestly drive up it's exclusive acceptance rate. It is a problem when a journal asks an author to revise and resubmit, but then does not send the revision to the original reviewers (which means it is less likely that the piece will be accepted). It is a problem when an idea, an approach, or a field of study are dismissed out of hand as unscholarly or irrelevant because of the personal bias of the editorial board or reviewers. And yet, all of these things happen regularly.

In frustration, some (not me, for what it's worth) have begun to simultaneously send the same articles to multiple journals. This is dangerous because it's not something one wants to get caught doing - it could indeed jeopardize future submissions. But it's also an understandable response to a system that, if not completely broken, is desperately in need of fixing.

(I haven't even mentioned that many people are expected to publish in the top journals in their field - publications elsewhere don't count. If each journal publishes 30 articles a year, and each journal receives between 130 and 300 submissions a year...you do the math.)

So. A small percentage of people control the means to publish in the top journals, and thereby have inordinate control, not only over the careers of many academics, but also over what counts as knowledge in a given field. Am I overstating things? When these issues were raised in the panel, the journal editors again urged the audience to trust the process, mentioning their own, numerous publications. As they spoke, and as others joined in the conversation, the network of which they were a part became clearly visible: they were editors, they had reviewed for each others' journals, they had been published in each others' journals. They had connections to the names in the field.

Never once did they mention the existence of this network.

And when it was pointed out to them, they bristled, insisting that the network was, in actuality, really just the only available experts in the field, the only ones who could be counted on as gatekeepers. But, as a colleague of mine pointed out, once people believe they know who the experts are, they never look outside of their own networks to see who else is doing what and where. And so the same people control the production of knowledge, over and over again.

(It feels like a low blow to note that all three were white men, but then - they were. And this, too, is suspicious, not because white men can't be excellent editors, but because...well, you all know why.)


*I'm considering my earlier post on Women's Studies hires to be the Part I.

Friday, April 13, 2007

New Black Man.

I just found Mark Anthony Neal's blog, so I'm linking to it and telling you all to go check it out. Mark and I were in the same grad program; he was a few years ahead of me. Since then, he's had an enviable career, but the thing that has most impressed me was his take on the Duke rape case. In fact, you should just go listen to this right now. Seriously. I'll wait.

Race and Rape (Air Date: 3/29/2006)

You see what I mean? I will be adding him to the blogroll in short order.

And yes, I thought, given recent events, a reminder of such an analysis was in order.

And, by the way, Mark will be speaking at the upcoming National Women's Studies Association Conference in June. For those of you who have been following BFP's Radical Women of Color Theorists series, Deborah Miranda is also on the conference program (which isn't out yet - sorry!!).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Is it something in the food?

I took Bean to McDonald's today (we're collecting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - or, in Bean's phrasing, "Inja Turtles" - that come with Happy Meals).

It's been a while since I was actually in a McDonald's. This one is new, all chrome and fancy furniture design, complete with STILL-LIFE PAINTINGS on the walls - a far cry from the red and yellow plastic chairs and tables and clown posters of my youth. Seriously. It was like being in someone's futuristic waiting room. (I would have taken pictures for you, but my camera batteries were low.)

The point is, it was surreal to begin with. But then, on one of the giant flat-screen tv's (I told you - surreal!), which was unfortunately tuned to Fox "News," Michelle Malkin and Bill O'Reilly started talking about Don Imus' recent firing. I braced myself, waiting for O'Reilly to start frothing at the mouth and rampaging against those who called for Imus' firing. I closed my eyes and waited, holding my breath. But all I heard was level, rational tones. I opened one eye: O'Reilly was saying that the tables had turned when the Rutgers' coach had given the press conference. He didn't use any nasty language to describe her. I opened the other eye: he was saying that Imus had gone too far and that CBS could no longer justify his comments. I looked out the window for flying pigs: O'Reilly and I agreed on something? Could it be? Or had I mistakenly ordered a Filet O'LSD?

And then, as O'Reilly continued to talk - still rationally, though very, very ironically - about the problem of hate speech and "shock jocks," I figured it out: this was just an excuse for him to get in a dig at the "liberal" news media.

And, having contented myself that the world wasn't ending, and that dogs and cats were not living together*, I finished my burger.

*Who gets the reference?

You know that t-shirt that says, "why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?"

Well, Renegade Evolution asks, "why do we use pornographic images without the actors' or photographers' consent and without paying them royalties to show that pornography is exploitative?"

Think about it. Anti-porn bloggers and writers are using images that they have not gotten permission to use. Further, they are not paying royalties for their use.

This means that they are ripping off the people who made these images.

I think it's a damn good point. The question is, why is it considered ok? I suspect the answer is 1) that the images are being used to educate, and that it is necessary to see the images in order to really understand the issues that the activists want to address, and 2) that because they are being used to educate, they fall under fair use.

However, selling these images on DVDs for $5 a piece does not constitute fair use under any sense of the term. In fact, unlike an article in a book, which I could make one copy of for myself, films are protected against "unlawful copying" and I would not be allowed to copy all or part of a film. Visual images, too, have different copyright laws, I believe. And, just as it is not an infringement to sell copies of the hypothetical article, even if I don't charge beyond the actual copying costs, nor could I sell copies of the DVD.

What this means is that if a person wanted to, she could probably land the conference in question in legal hot water...so, Ren, you just need to find the right person to get the DVD to...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Imus: Racist Fuckwittery at its Finest.

For those of you who haven't been following the news, shock jock Don Imus referred to the Rutgers Women's Basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." He apologized and was suspended for two weeks, and the mainstream seems to be saying now that we should forgive, forget, and move on, while the progressives - at least the ones with any kind of race conciousness - are saying he should be fired because this sort of thing is simply unacceptable.

MSNBC is, predictably, distancing itself from Imus in a very "boys will be boys" sort of way. Here's a link that explains how (thanks to Pandagon, once again), and that also provides a good sense of what else Imus had been up to before this particular shit hit the fan. (Hint: it's the same old shit.)

What I think - I'm not as irate about this as everyone else in the blogoverse seems to be. I think it's simply because I'm not shocked, nor am I surprised, that he felt it would be ok to say this. I can't quite work up the juice to get angry, either, because the whole thing leaves me feeling so hopeless. After the whole Girls Gone Wild deal, I've been thinking a lot about how we get to a point where individuals can think it's ok to do things like coerce women into taking their clothes off or make comments on public airwaves (or, really, anywhere else) that are so horribly racist and misogynist.

When Mel Gibson did his bit of crazy last summer (following a fairly anti-Semitic movie, of course), and when Michael Richards had his moment, I felt open to the possibility that they both might just be, after all, white men who had been surprised at what came out of them under stress (or the influence of alcohol). I don't know what either have gone on to do in the service of what is known as "dealing with one's racism." And I've pretty much had to give up on Mel, I will admit - he's too far gone. (I don't know about Richards. He keeps a lower profile.) My point is, I'm willing to give people a chance to change, though it seems that many, many don't take this chance. But in the case of Imus - Imus has a long history of making or endorsing shit comments like these, as we see from the link above. This was not an aberration - this was business as usual, and it should have been stopped long ago.

I do, I confess, feel uncomfortable about taking someone down for one "mistake." But that's not what this was. It was no mistake. He simply figured that, having gotten away with it in the past, he'd get away with it again. Amanda Marcotte says it well:
"Let’s be perfectly clear. People aren’t mad at Imus for the sounds “nappy-headed ho”. We are mad because Don Imus is a racist fuckwit, everyone knows he’s a racist fuckwit, and when politicians go on his show and people go on TV defending him, they are saying, loud and clear, that racist fuckwittery wins and you people who are opposed to racist fuckwittery need to suck a lemon. We are mad because we want simple, basic justice and Imus and his buddies are resisting that. We want women to be athletes and we want black people to have the same access to education as white people and Imus and his buddies are resisting us. The exact language he used to convey the idea that he opposes female athletes and black scholars is interesting but not the ultimate point. The battle is over whether or not we as a society are going to grant full equality to women and black people or not."

So, yeah, I think he should be fired. If only that wouldn't create a martyr for all of those who think that the rest of us can't take a joke. But I can live with that.

Vote in online polls on whether or not Imus should be fired.

Sign the Feminist Majority petition calling for his termination.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thinking Blogger.



Wow. Thanks, Renegade Evolution. I wasn't expecting this! (blush)

Well, folks, the deal is this: display the above award icon and tag five other blogs that make you think. But I'm going to change the rules a bit, because one thing I don't like about memes is their exclusionary nature. So, I'm going to tag five other blogs in a second, but I also want to invite all of you who are reading to tag five others. Would you mind doing so in the comments? Because that way, we'll all get introduced to all kinds of great new blogs!

OK, then - let the tagging commence. This was hard, because most of the blogs I read I suspect have already been tagged. Others have deleted their blogs or don't have many posts up on their sites. But here we go:

The Daily Rhythm. Here's someone I actually know IRL. He recently left town, and it was only then that I learned that he is a damn fine writer.

Total Drek. I don't remember how I happened upon Drek's blog - it may be that it was he who happened upon my blog. Either way, I'm really glad to have found him. I'm always impressed by how well-informed he is, as well as by his wicked sense of humor (particularly when it comes to his students, tee-hee).

After Atalanta. Smart, smart blog about gender and sports.

This is Fact Not Fiction. I like this blog for its honesty and humor.

Laura's NYC Tales. One of the first blogs I ever read. WARNING: time suck. Lots of wonderful stories that will pull you in. Don't start reading if you have to be somewhere (like work).

Since I don't know if Laura is still updating - and since I'm pretty sure she doesn't read my blog - I'm going to also tag Ramblings of a Green Yogurt, who I think does stop by here occasionally. Green actually reminds me a bit of Laura, as both are known for their extremely witty comments about work, the characters we meet at work, and life in general.

I'm looking forward to seeing who y'all add to the list...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Thinking about a career in Women's Studies?

This issue came up on a listserv I'm on, and I debated about responding publically, since I am on the job market now and I don't really need to piss anyone off, if you catch my drift. But it isn't just about my own experiences job hunting, which really haven't been too horrible. It's about the state of Women's Studies, or, in fact, the state of academia today.

Something like two-thirds of all academics are adjuncts. This means that most academics are teaching close to full-time (or beyond) and getting paid around $1500 - $3500 per course (v. the $35 - $45 K that full-time faculty are making for the same courseload (or a reduced one)).

Now, some of us have interdisciplinary degrees - degrees in Women's Studies, American Studies, and so on. The deal is that, barring exceptional circumstances, traditional departments (English, Sociology, History, etc.) generally will not hire anyone who does not have a degree in that discipline. Now, if a History department is looking for someone who specializes in the history of women, and someone with a Women's Studies degree whose dissertation was historical in nature applies for the job, that person might perhaps have a shot at that position. However, if equally attractive candidates with History degrees also apply, chances are that the Women's Studies person will be out in the cold.

Over the last few decades, graduate programs in Women's Studies have been popping up, offering M.A.s and now Ph.D.s in Women's Studies. So, you'd think that these well-trained Women's Studies grads would have their pick of Women's Studies positions, right?

Er...well, here's the thing. First, many Women's Studies programs are located within discipline-specific departments, especially Sociology and English. Thus, candidates for positions in these programs would need to have a degree in Sociology or English, with perhaps a "certificate" in Women's Studies, in order to compete.

Second, these certificates in Women's Studies are given to acknowledge that a graduate student who has not pursued Women's Studies as a degree course has nonetheless done some amount of work in Women's Studies. In some programs, the requirements for receiving a certificate are minimal. Offering these certificates is a way for Women's Studies programs to attract more students to their classes. However, it directly affects the graduates of these programs, as it adds significantly to the pool of candidates with whom they will be competing for jobs.

Having a certificate can be very helpful. It offers credibility in a subject area that one hasn't studied extensively. But I have met many traditionally-degreed people with certificates, people who are teaching Intro to Women's / Gender Studies, etc., who have no clue how to put such a course together, who have no sense of how Women's Studies functions as an interdisciplinary field, or who don't understand the political battles going on between Women's Studies and Gender Studies, or who have not studied Feminist Pedagogy, or who don't understand the difference between feminist research and anti-feminist research, or who don't really understand what, at the root, Women Studies is.

This is not an indictment of folks with certificates. I simply wish to make the point that an M.A. and/or Ph.D. in Women's Studies demands a close study and familiarity that a certificate does not.

Third, very often, Women's Studies positions are split between Women's Studies and some other, traditional discipline. Frequently, the tenure home is in the traditional discipline, which again means that applicants will generally need to have a degree in that traditional discipline in order to be hired in the first place, much less to get tenure.

So, here's a question: if traditional disciplines generally don't hire candidates with interdisciplinary degrees, and if Women's Studies hires candidates with traditional degrees, and if Women's Studies considers a certificate in Women's Studies to be little different, when it comes to hiring, than the in-depth education that one experiences in a Women's Studies Ph.D. program - then, what is the value of a Women's Studies degree?

And, further, if there is no value to a Women's Studies degree, then why bother to create new degree-granting programs?

I think Women's Studies programs - and American Studies programs, as well - owe it to their graduates and to these disciplines themselves to make a point of hiring those with degrees in these interdisciplines.

Meanwhile, at a conference last week, a graduate student asked me if she should get her Ph.D. in Sociology or Women's Studies. Can you guess what I told her?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Girls Gone Wild: The Scoop.

OK, so here's the good, the bad, and the ugly about this whole thing.

I found out last Tuesday, via Dakota Women, that a local club, the Lava Lounge (the same place that brought Warrant here - insert eyeroll), had invited Girls Gone Wild to help kick off their Wednesday night Ladies' Nite.

Now - I am on principle against the sort of "hot body" contests that bars usually hold. The reason for this is that I think they're sad. I think that women often (but not always) enter them because they desperately need to be affirmed. I suspect that women with a lot of self-esteem and with a lot going on in their lives have better things to do on a Tuesday night than strut around for a bunch of drunk, not-so-good-looking (only important because they still get to impose ideals of beauty on women) boys and men. I also don't like beauty pageant type events, though I will say that the environment of the overall bar culture disturbs me far more than does the activity. And I'll add that, given the sorts of bars that hold these events, and the harassing behavior I've experienced there myself - in part, I feel, as a result of the way such events encourage male patrons to view female patrons as meat - I do think that such events make for a generally hostile environment for women.

So far, I've sounded like an anti-sex work feminist, though I don't count myself in that category. Context is everything. I could see, for example, events like this becoming less hostile in a variety of settings and incarnations, like the "best lingerie" contest I saw in the early '90s in which women were competing against a very beautiful drag queen.

Anyway. I've never protested these kinds of events because, whatever I may think about the reasons behind some of the women's consenting, the fact is that they are freely consenting and that they are usually coming with friends to the bar and hanging out with friends during the night. They know what to expect from the bar scene, and there are bouncers and cops around should their services be needed. This doesn't mean there is no risk of rape or assault - that risk is always there. But as these things go, events like this are fairly tame and the rules are generally understood.

What's different about GGW is that they manipulate women by getting them drunk and by taking them, one at a time, onto the tour bus. Once there, without their friends to support them, they can be intimidated and coerced into the soft porn we see advertised on cable. They can also be raped. If they are drunk or underage - both happen regularly - they cannot legally consent, anyway. And all of this has happened on the tour buses. I won't go into the details of why Joe Francis is the Devil, but you can easily find this out for yourself. Clearly, GGW is different. GGW poses a danger to women. And, further, Joe Francis and his cronies get rich off of their films, while the women who are filmed get t-shirts or caps.

And so I did everything I could to stop them from coming here. I had the advantage of knowing that, in the past, communities had been successful in convincing bars not to bring GGW to town. So, I sent out a mass email with the above links, urging everyone to call the Lava Lounge and tell the owner what GGW was really about and asking him to cancel the event.

(I was surprised, by the way, to find that not only the owner, not only the city officials, but many of the individuals on my email distribution list had no idea what GGW was beyond an organization that filmed women taking off their shirts. This is not ok. Adults should be educated about popular culture and not assume it's a "kid thing" that we don't have to know about.)

I also called the Lava Lounge. Then I called City Hall. I emailed council members. I talked to the Mayor's Chief of Staff. I called the Dean of Students at my school. I lectured my students about the difference between GGW and the average wet t-shirt contest. I emailed the press with links to the GGW exposes.

I was feeling pretty good about this effort: I knew that others were also making phone calls, and I also knew that people would likely have a strong reaction once they read the links I'd sent. But the next day, there was an interesting shift in the "movement." My original email had been forwarded, and I ended up on a distribution list of some religious folks. Here is a portion of an email call to action I received:
I am more than willing to go to the Lava and pray. The event apparently does not start until 9:00. An effective method maybe to emulate the red LIFE tape we use at the abortion clinics, only use blue tape and write the word "PURE " Silent prayer meetings versus vocal protests have a lot more power in this type of confrontational situation…I know I can rally the Bound4Life intercessors who have been praying at Planned Parenthood all winter; anything over 25 degrees is balmy to them and they will probably enjoy a change of scenery.

I believe that when men, especially, come to events like this and act in prayer and purity, it is extremely powerful against the forces of darkness. I personally believe this is important enough for churches to consider ending their functions this evening in time to get over to the Lava and pray before 9:00.

When we stand as Bound4Life outside Planned Parenthood with red tape on our mouths with the word LIFE ; we are holding a prayer meeting, not a protest. The enemy does not know what to do with this, because the tape on our mouths prevents us from entering into verbal jousting, and we are appealing to Heaven for the young women and their children in the abortion clinic. In the same way if we hold a silent prayer gathering at the Lava, it will cause the kingdoms to collide in the heavenlies, but will afford us protection on earth because we will not be drawn into a carnal battle of words.

There are a couple of problems with this response, aside from the obvious issue that it is based on a belief system that most people do not share. First, it is oblivious to the fact that many of those already acting to oppose this event were pro-choice, and that such a response would completely alienate them - in other words, this is not an example of a coalition effort. Second, I find it disturbing that this response was based on an affirmation of women's so-called "purity" and not on a refusal to allow women to be assaulted and raped. And third, I find it distressing that the word "enemy" is used in the way it is, as if we are not dealing with people with whom we can enter into dialogue but rather with instruments of evil.

This kind of response isn't surprising: it's a standard Christian Right response to the sex industry. But what I wanted to focus on in preventing GGW from coming was the danger of rape and assault and the manipulation of consent. I did not want to have anything to do with a reaction that would judge women who might want to participate - or any women who worked in the sex industry - as impure or immoral. I didn't want to focus on the women at all but rather on GGW as an industry. And I certainly didn't want to paint the bar owner as immoral or evil, particularly when he hadn't yet had much time to consider the information we had only just given him.

By the end of that day, as it happens, I got the news that the Lava Lounge owner had decided to cancel the event due to community concerns. This is significant for a few reasons. First, it should remind us that it's possible to change people's minds through conversation - even rational, respectful dialogue. I don't know what kind of interactions he had with, say, the religious community (who were further concerned that this event was happening during Holy Week) or with city officials (who were concerned that the bar is located next to a daycare (that would be closed during the event - I was not concerned about either of these issues). But I do know that he heard from some of us in the feminist community that this could place women in danger. He also heard that he'd be liable for rape if it occurred on his property.

Second, the fact that we, random activists with no special political power, were able to help influence this outcome means that we have more power than we think we do to make things happen. We didn't just call and email and protest: we got the event cancelled.

Third, while I don't know how much I personally had to do with this, I feel like the steps I took are at the least one model for how to organize quickly, a model that anyone can use: 1) disseminate information about the problem and a solution to everyone in your immediate circle; 2) make your own complaint to the controlling party; 3) contact relevant officials; 4) contact the press; 5) contact any other authorities who might have power to help or who represent the target group (e.g., college officials, etc.); 6) once the situation has been resolved favorably, use the same steps to thank the controlling party.

And fourth - I'm glad it never got to the point of a public protest. Had that happened, though, I'd like to think that some of us could have launched our own protest by installing ourselves inside the club as advocates and insisting on the right to accompany every woman who wanted to bare her breasts into the bus.

Way to go, Sioux Falls!

UPDATE: Thanks to Pandagon, some good "how-to" information for those trying to keep GGW away.

Also, dig this quote from Indiana activist, Liz Ladd, about GGW: "Porn is a business and its workers should be contracted while they're sober and paid with money, not T-shirts, hats and underwear." YES!!!

Girls Gone Wild event cancelled!

This is old news for South Dakotans, but it's also a huge moment for citizens who often seem to think that they have no power to change things. I just got back from my conference, and I will soon post a discussion of what is really an awesome success story!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hey, I've been tagged!

I'm cheating. It's not really Wednesday yet, but I want to go to bed and I want this to be Wednesday's post so when I get back my blog won't look quite as hopelessly out-of-date. Anyway...thank you, "jew" "girl"!

A- Available or Single
No.

B- Best Friend
I learned the hard way that it's better to have lots of good friends than to have just one best friend. I do have lots of good friends, though.

C- Cake or Pie
Pie, absolutely. The best pie ever is raspberry pie, but it must come from Down East Maine to be true raspberry pie, the kind with a thick layer of cream on top. Mmmm. I haven't had it since I was 21. But my favorite cake is made by Mazotta's in Middletown, CT, and it's a white sponge layer cake with peaches and strawberries in between the layers and it's frosted with whipped cream. MMMMMM. (Now I'm hungry!)

D- Drink of Choice
Diet Coke, which I'm really trying to give up, because Coke is the blood of the people of India. Or if you meant alcoholic beverage, it would be tequila shots, and not least because I enjoy throwing one back and having people around me, take-no-shit people whom I respect, look at me in awe and say, "did you just do a shot of TEQUILA?" (I think what they find surprising is that I don't change my expression at all. It's like I'm drinking a shot of water. We used to have contests in high school for who could drink the most vile concoction and remain blank-faced, so I'm pretty good at it.)

E- Essential Item
My cell phone and my notebook (actual notebook - with paper).

F- Favorite Color
When I was a kid, I read a book called The Real Me, by Betty Miles, which my mom bought me (I think) because it is totally a feminist book. Anyway, the main character talks about being asked by adults what her favorite color is, and knowing that the adults aren't very poetic and that they don't appreciate individuality, doesn't want to answer "all the colors of the sunset, especially where it fades into deep blues and purples." Instead, she simply says "blue" because she knows it's an answer that will satisfy them.

So. Purple.

G- Gummi Bears or Worms
If I must have Gummi, it must be Gummi peaches.

H- Hometown
Schenectady, New York.

I- Indulgence
Food and hip scarves. In that order.

J- January or February
January. February is the month of becoming sick to death of winter. It is also the month that my hair always goes nuts and won't be tamed no matter how much conditioner I pour into it.

K- Kids
One human and two feline.

L- Life is incomplete without
Chocolate, good conversation, dancing, and laughter.

M- Marriage Date
Yup, I'm married, and I wish Mr. Plainsfeminist and I could have some dates. I miss him.

N- Number of Siblings?
One, and he rocks.

O- Oranges or Apples?
Apples. I am not a citrus girl.

P- Phobias/Fears
Spiders, sharks, fire, small spaces.

Q- Favorite Quote
"You know for sure you've made God in your own image when it turns out that he hates all the same people you do." - Anne Lamott

R- Reasons to smile
The memory of driving the other night with my friend and hitting every damn pothole in the road, not just once, but THREE times (I drove down the same road three times and kept forgetting to watch out). So the drive kind of went like this:

Me: "Aaaah!"

CLUNK

Me: "Dammit!"

Pause

Me: "Aaaah!"

CLUNK

Me: "GODDAMMIT!!!"

Pause

Me: "AAAAH!"

CLUNK

Me: "Jesus Christ!!! SHIT!"

My friend: "BWAA-ha-ha!"


S- Season
Fall. I love summer, too, but I love fall and the warm days and cool nights and Halloween and the smell of winter coming.

T- Tag Three People
Lara, Sally Sunshine, and Stuff Daddy.

U- Unknown Fact About Me
...is there anything still unknown? I can't think of anything y'all don't know already...anybody got any questions???

W- Worst Habit
I am a rabid control freak.

Y- Your Favorite Foods
Fruit, cheese, and chocolate.

Z- Zodiac
Leo.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Flood.


I have been wanting to write about this for over two weeks.

I spent my spring break visiting my parents on the East Coast. We got into the airport just as they were cancelling afternoon flights due to a horrible incoming storm. We raced home (two hours) and managed to get in before it, but it started snowing really heavily not long after we got there. By nightfall, there were a few inches on the ground. Sometime during the night, the temperature rose, and it began to rain steadily. This rain lasted almost the whole next day, during which time, much of the snow melted.

I have to say first that there is *no* body of water on my parents' property.

When I got up the next morning and looked outside, it was as if the snow had turned brown in great patches. When I came downstairs, I could see that it was water pooling on top of the snow. At first I thought it was just collected rain water, and I suggested to my dad that I go down to the edge of the front lawn and cut a trench through where the snowplow had made a dam of sorts, so that the water could drain into the street and run down the hill to the bay. He said not to bother. But I went out anyway, in shoes (I d no boots there, and nothing waterproof). When I stepped into the 6 inches of snow, there were at least three to four inches of water below it (and ice under that), so my feet were wet pretty quickly. I got down the drive and made the trench.

Then I noticed that one corner of the house was sitting in a giant pool of water.

I came in to dry off, and my dad noticed there was water coming into the basement. I put on fresh socks and pants (it was raining buckets and I was soaked) and went back out and dug a trench from the corner of the house to the channel I'd dug earlier, and now there was a rushing brook in the front yard.

I came back in - this was maybe 20-40 minutes after we saw that there was a little water in the basement - and now the basement had SIX INCHES of water.

Changed socks and pants again and went back out and dug another trench from another pooled area so it could empty into the street. There was now a torrent of water running through the front yard, with one stream running out the new channel and the other running right up against the house. I was standing in it halfway to my knees and it was freezing. I had to go in because my feet hurt so bad; I considered crying, but it was like the time I had to walk home in heels from a club downtown and it hurt so much that I wanted to cry, but I didn't have the energy for tears and for walking, both.

When I got back in, I saw that there was now 2 feet of water in the basement (this was, again, maybe 30-40 minutes later, so the water was rising fast). Changed again, rubbed my feet, put on dry socks and once more forced my feet into shoes full of water. This time I went around the back of the house to see what was going on - none of us had been back there because we'd been dealing with the front.

There was a stream rushing from behind the house, and when it came alongside it, much of it was travelling downhill and straight toward the house (and into the basement). So I dug the last trench, directing the stream down to the street and away from the house. At one point I dropped my shovel and had to FLY after it because the water was moving so fast. There were rapids in this water. It was 2-4 feet deep and 2-5 feet across. All I did was move some snow out of the way and the force of the water and the depression of the land did the rest.

For that whole day, there was an unending torrent of rushing water cascading through the yard and down the street in front of the house. Thankfully, that slowed the water coming into the basement, and the fire dept. was able to pump out the water. We never lost power. The furnace was off overnight, but we had kerosene heaters. It took a couple of days to get the water heater working, but we were so lucky. I have no doubt that if my dad hadn't suggested digging that last trench, or if I'd been unable to do it - or if I'd not been here, because I don't think my parents could have done it - the basement would have filled and the first floor would have flooded, as well.

The water kept running outside for days. It had lowered considerably after the first day, and after a couple more days, it was just trickling, but it kept running.