Thursday, May 31, 2007

Being anonymous makes you brave.

Though I have to say, I appreciate the honesty of the comment below. I don't think I realized before that there are people who see racism this way: there's x amount of power, and we white people have got it, so if we try to change that, we'll be giving all the power to the people of color who hate us and only pretend to be our friends. Moreover, it doesn't matter if they're being oppressed, as long as we aren't. Why should we give up any advantage we have?

That's just sad. Maybe I'll have more to say about this later. Particularly about the implication that genocide is just fine, as long as whites aren't being killed. Except...though the comment is written in an even, reasonable tone, it smacks of white supremacist "logic" and rhetoric, particularly the suggestion of a coming race war. Which makes me simply want to share it, as it's important to know our enemy, so that my readers can note that Aryan Nation or whoever has learned some measure of subtlety.

And incidentally, as far as people who make such arguments as the one below are concerned, I'm not really a white person. I mean, I am - I totally have white privilege. But under the terms of the Wannsee Conference, the Nazis would have thrown me into the camps along with everyone else, and I'm pretty sure no white supremacist would want me, either. Which is fine with me.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Anti-racism, race traitors, and whiteness.":

I am white. Why should I support 'anti-racism'? By definition, its only purpose is to disadvantage white people. Now you may argue that 'white skin privilege' is unearned and unfair and thus we should work to abolish it, even if it does disadvantage us. To that I can only ask, why? Do you really believe if the tables were turned and instead of 'white skin privilege' there existed 'dark skin privilege' that those with dark skin would be falling all over themselves to purge their society of the advantages it afforded them? I don't believe that.

Some may argue that even if we could not expect such moral reciprocity were situations reversed that we should press on to abolish 'white privilege' regardless, because it's the right thing to do. Again, I must ask why? Is it supposed to result in the making of a better world? Let's consider the example of South Africa. I cannot think of a nation in which the white population has proceeded further or faster with the abolishment of their 'white skin privilege'. What has been the end result? What was once the most modern nation in Africa has been reduced to a violent, corrupt hell hole. Crime is so bad that the nation had been referred to as both the rape and murder capital of the world. A great deal of this violence is directed against the dwindling white population by the black population. Such is the extent of the anti-white violence that Genocide Watch has stated that the actions of the blacks are warning signs of the beginning of a genocide against whites in the country. See here:

Have the anti-racist actions of the white South Africans to dispel their 'white skin privilege' resulted in a better world? It certainly hasn't for them. Far from creating harmony and peace, the actions the whites took to disempower themselves left them vulnerable and essentially defenseless in the face of the violence now directed at them by blacks who utterly hate them. Many of the white South Africans have realized what a mistake they made in surrendering their 'white skin privilege' and agreeing to live under the rulership of an ethnic group that wants to commit genocide against them. Unfortunately, for them, it's too late. Why, as a sane white person, would I want to put myself in the same position these white South Africans have? There is no reason. There is absolutely no reason a sane person would want to submit themselves to the power of a group with such hostility toward them as the black South Africans have toward the white South Africans. There is no reason at all - the very notion is insane.

The experience of the white South Africans is hardly unique. Nearly anywhere in the world where whites are a minority they are treated with contempt and hostility by the non-white majority. If you are white and doubt this, I invite you to take a trip - unescorted - thorough one of the 'minority' neighborhoods of your nearest large city. Or, better yet, why don't you go for a short vacation to some nation in South America, or Africa - and don't just stay in the tourist areas. To get the full experience you need to really meet the natives. Another wonderful place to visit would be nearly any of the nations of the Islamic world. Again, don't just stick to the tamed tourist zones, you want to experience the real culture. Most of you would be quite hesitant to do any of these things because you know to be true what I have been saying all along - most of these people *hate* you. As the white South Africans learned, no amount of anti-racist action on your part is going to make them hate you any less. The only thing your anti-racist activities can do is to serve to make you more vulnerable to their hate. Why would any sane human being want that? I certainly don't.

There may be some of you reading this who believe that whites are so evil and have such a history of oppressive behavior that they deserve to be hated and mistreated. There may actually be some of you reading this right now who feel that the world can only move forward once the corpse of the 'white race' has been cast into humanities collective ditch. Sure, you may think to yourselves, the dismantling of the white race may be violent and unfair to many but the overall good it will do will outweigh any such considerations. I've seen similar things written before, and I have no doubt that some of you share this view. I cannot hope to dissuade those so warped from such insane beliefs. Anyone white person who thinks that way is so consumed with pathological self hatred that reason is utterly lost on them. I can only say that your anti-white 'partners' in anti-racism will see that you are properly rewarded for your activities.

As for the rest of the people reading this - normal, sane people who don't hate themselves and don't want to submit themselves to the governance of groups that despise them - you need to ask yourself why in the hell you support this sort of a movement. It will not help you in the short run or in the long run. Helping to empower those who hate you while disempowering yourself is nothing less than cutting your own throat. Why do it? Those you are 'helping' sure as hell wouldn't do the same for you. Wake up, before it's too late.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why Craigslist is scary.

Enough said?


Just a note in case anyone is paying attention to the blogroll and noticing that I've dropped a couple of links. Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds was one of the funniest (and also most disturbing) blogs I read, but unfortunately, Subservient Worker has decided, not only to change the blog's focus entirely and write only about her own life, but to delink all of her past posts. She's a great writer and she has interesting things to write about, but you know, it's just not the same. I went there to read about the obnoxious traits of the filthy rich, and it's just not fair to do a 180 like that. At least, she could have left the old posts up. Well, whatever. I'm sure I'll still go back and read her from time to time, but her change in focus means I'm reading less, and if I'm reading less, it means I'm making room on the blogroll.

And then there's Strip Club Server. SCS had me hooked for a long while, until fairly recently when she wrote what I felt was a fairly mean-spirited and disrespectful post about prostitutes in her club (though I would bet that she didn't mean it to be mean-spirited or disrespectful but was simply going for humor). I thought about dropping her at that point because I thought it was really not cool and didn't feel inclined to read more. Anyway - she's dropping herself; her blog post yesterday says that she's discontinuing the blog.

By the way, don't look for any political rhyme or reason in this - I don't monitor the contents of the blogs I link to, nor do I necessarily delink if someone writes something that I find offensive. It's all about whether or not I read the blog I link to. If not, it's gone.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The new Technorati sucks.

It just does. I used to be able to look up my blog ranking easily - it would give me a number (the number of websites that link) and a rankings (the number of blogs more popular than mine, essentially). And Technorati used to update my ranking quite regularly.

Now - I have a number of new sites linking to me over the past couple of weeks, but none of them are showing up on my Technorati searches. And when I search from the main page, I have to run two searches - first a search that results in "There is nothing in the known universe about plainsfeminist," and then I have to click on "blogs" on that page in order to find any links to my blog.

Technorati has helpfully set up a blogsearch-only page at, but it doesn't give the ranking, nor does it allow you to order the results by "freshness" (recent links), which the old Technorati used to do.

Essentially, what they've done is to make Technorati faster so that people could search everything, all over the web. I guess that's great, if that's what you need Technorati for, but why fix the blog search and ranking when it ain't broke?

SO not impressed.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Sad Day for Reporters Everywhere.

I have to preface this first by saying that the following comes from a newspaper reporter's blog (I know, I know) and not from a news article. But even so.

Here is a classic example of why I so often have a hate on for reporters. My favorite quote:
"The fact that ten years after his death people still think [Matthew Shepard's murder] is a hate crime makes me contemplate the roll of the media. Why did the media jump on the bandwagon - it was a hate-crime based on Shepard’s sexual orientation? A 20/20 investigation in 2004 revealed his death was due to a simple robbing that turned brutal. If you ask several University of Wyoming alumni, they say it was a “drug deal gone bad.” I guess it depends which side you’re on and which side you want to believe. But there is information out there citing both – that it was hate-crime and that it was a drug deal gone bad."

We are in sad, sad shape as a nation if newspaper reporters are looking to 20/20 to get their facts (not to mention random U of W alumni).

In other news, Rodney King's beating was really deserved because he resisted arrest. I know, 'cause I saw it on t.v. Oh, and also, I asked some people who live in L.A. But, you know, it's all about whom you want to believe and which side you're on, right?

Thanks to Anna at Dakota Women for the tip.

No one wants to see your pledge card.

I saw someone at the mall the other day with a huge abstinence pledge card in her wallet, and I immediately wanted to grab her arm and force her to listen to my detailed sexual history. Too Much Information, in both cases.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ex-Gay Book.

I've pointed out numerous times to my students, friends, and colleagues that what the "ex-gay movement" does for conservative Christians is allow them a place where they can be open about their gayness within the Church. Of course, it's not exactly "open" if the reason they are open about it is to denounce it, but anyway - the point is, elsewhere within conservative Christianity, there is deep and widespread revulsion for the gay person, despite all the rhetoric about loving the sinner and hating the sin. In "ex-gay" communities, there is a belief that gay people are simply people who are struggling with this particular sort of "sin." This is, of course, one of the main things that draws people to the movement - it resists the mean-spirited homophobia that exists elsewhere in conservative Christianity, offering instead a sort of "homophobia lite" that grants personhood and salvation to the struggling Christian: "Their sense of relief, of belonging, of finally discovering an authentic self, springs from their sudden experience of mutual recognition. They can be Christian in a place where they won’t 'hear any of the stuff about you’re scum, you’re going to hell,' and where no one will try to exorcise or ostracize them."

The above quote comes from an interesting book review in the Women's Review of Books about this very topic. Tanya Erzen's Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement appears to get at this important component of the movement that many outsiders to conservative Christianity do not understand. She also explores the ways in which gay culture, while expressly discouraged, continues to flourish within the movement - though it is, to be sure, a sort of a sad echo (in college, I attended one meeting of an ex-gay group in Hartford to support a friend of mine who wanted to go, and that's what I remember most about it - the pervasive sense of sadness that dogged the people there, the palpable feeling of loss).

Interestingly, Erzen points to ways in which ex-gay people are manipulated and used by the Religious Right; reviewer Esther Kaplan notes that "At one point, a few New Hope participants contribute their testimonies to an ex-gay ad campaign and become furious when their stories are manipulated to oppose AIDS research and gay civil rights."

I am already trying to dream up courses in which I can use this book.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Status Report: Cat Pee.

Someone in this house is taking great care to pee outside the litterbox. I first noticed this about three weeks ago, when Mr. Plain(s)feminist brought the litterbox into the bathroom to clean it out. After he'd removed it - and after I'd taken a shower and then walked every inch of that floor with bare feet - I noticed that the bathroom floor stank of cat piss. I washed the floor with Lysol disinfectant wipes (and scrubbed my feet with hot water and soap) - and by the way, folks, if you have any of these wipes in your home, you might as well throw them away. Cat pee - 1; Lysol - 0. And I washed the floor three times before I figured that out. I did have some Windex wipes, though, so I washed the floor again and the smell disappeared immediately.

I couldn't quite figure out how the pee had actually gotten on the outside of the bottom of the litterbox, though. I blamed the pee spillage on the stupidly-designed litterbox liners that fit like a sleeve over the whole box. We bought the old kind, the kind that sits inside the box like a garbage can liner, and I prepared myself for a clean floor.

About a week later, same scenario - Mr. Plain(s)feminist bravely cleaning the catbox, and again, there I am, this time haplessly sitting on the pot - again with bare feet - and realizing that the reason the bathroom reeks of pee is that there is cat pee all over the floor.

And again, my first response was the damn Lysol, because I'd managed to completely forget what had happened the week before.

This time, I decided to remove the top of the litterbox and to keep the box meticulously clean, in case someone was deliberately peeing outside the box in protest. (And meticulous it has been. To say that I have paid more attention to that damn box that to my own grooming is not much of an exaggeration.)

And shortly thereafter, somebody did indeed pee on the floor outside the litterbox, which explained how the pee was getting underneath the box.

And so I went to the pet supply store and I found the very largest litterbox I have ever seen. It is a thing of beauty. It has a high "spill-proof" attachment that adds several inches of height. It is large and comfortable enough that all of us can start using it if we want to. I am thinking of installing cable in it. And further, I have added to it Nature's Miracle Litter Treatment. If there is
any sign that anyone has been there and even thought about leaving a deposit, I am there with my little kitty poop shovel and my plastic bag. And I don't scoop out only the poop - oh no. I scoop out the wet litter, as well. I am now the full-time litterbox attendant.

And still, someone continued peeing outside the box. Regularly.

Mr. Plain(s)feminist brought both cats - with full bladders - to the vet on Friday morning to have their urine tested for infection. Unfortunately for everybody, when they got there, they no longer had full bladders, and so there they stayed until the vet could determine that neither had a urinary tract infection (the vet staff was kind enough to clean the carrier and liner). "Can you separate them tonight?" she asked, "so that we can figure out who is doing this?"

So, into the bathroom with a private litterbox went the eldest for the night, so chosen because she was far less likely to raze ankles in a mad dash for the door. However, she has a hell of a mee-yowl. Finally, at about five am, after numerous dreams in which her piercing cry featured prominently, and after said cry had dropped significantly in register (yes, she was getting hoarse), and after I'd checked to make sure that neither had overflowed their litterbox, and after I'd newspapered the rooms the litterboxes were in within an inch of their lives, I let her out.

I still don't know who is responsible for all the pee. However, I've noticed that having two litterboxes seems, for the moment, to have done the trick. While there still seems to be a little problem of aim, at least there is no evidence - so far - of further spraying. After ten years, "they may be tired of sharing," the vet offered.

Which gives me an idea re. our tiny, one-bathroom apartment.

But the good news is, so far, it looks like there will be no need for any behavior modification drugs for the cats. Just to be safe, though, I still haven't taken down the newspaper.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Spring, and a young woman's fancy turns to...

Today I cleaned the venetian blinds, something I've been wanting to do since around the time when Bean was born. I did start to clean them then, but found that it was a huge task. Either in the last stages of pregnancy or the first stages of new motherhood, I did not place the venetian blinds very high on my list. So I put that project on the back burner for about 5 years or so, and today, finally, we have clean venetian blinds. This is a more strenuous job than you would think, and I'm glad for all the weight-lifting I've been doing.

I also did Bean's windows and screens and the dining room sliding glass doors and screen.

And I started on the porch furniture.

Tomorrow I'll finish the windows.

I have more interesting posts for you, but I have to get through my spring cleaning first. Also, I'm in an organizing and painting mood, so I have to head over to and look at office furniture in order to reorganize what Mr. Plain(s)feminist calls his workspace but what is really an exceedingly messy corner of the bedroom. (In all fairness, he's doing the best that can be expected given only a corner of the bedroom - hence the need for better office furniture.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Amnesty's Report on Native American and Alaska Native Women.

I know this is old news, but I promised to blog about it, and maybe some of you haven't read about this yet. You probably all heard that the Amnesty International report found that more than one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetimes.

Did you know that the U.S. Government has made it difficult to impossible for a Native woman to report a rape on the reservation?

According to Andrea Smith, author of Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, "rape falls under the Major Crimes Act," which means that "tribes are generally reliant upon the federal governments to prosecute sexual assualt cases." However, she explains, "Department of Justice representatives have informally reported that U.S. attorneys decline to prosecute about 75 percent of all cases involving any crime in Indian country. U.S. attorneys are particularly reluctant to prosecute rape cases...[and as of] 1997...only two U.S. attorneys regularly prosecute[d] rape cases in Indian country" (32).

Let me quote a bit more, here. What this means is that the Federal Government cannot be relied upon to prosecute these cases. But, Smith continues, "[b]ecause sexual assault is covered under the Major Crimes Act, many tribes have not developed codes to address the problem in those rape cases the federal government declines to prosecute. Those with codes are often hindered in their ability to investigate by a wait that may last more than a year before federal investigators formally turn over cases. In addition, the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) of 1968 limits the punishment tribal justice systems can enforce on perpetrators...[and] the U.S. can prohibit remedies [such as banishment] that do not follow the same penalties of the dominant system" (32).

Rosa Del Angel of Amnesty International writes me that,
"At the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation (in North and South Dakota), women often have to wait hours or even days before receiving a response from the
Standing Rock Police Department, if they receive one at all. Many survivors reported that they had experienced sexual violence several times in their lives at the hands of different perpetrators.

Some survivors have to travel more than an hour to get to the Indian Health Service (HIS) hospital in Fort Yates, where they may discover that no one on staff can conduct a sexual assault forensic exam. Staff may send women to a medical facility in Bismarck, 80 miles away -- those that make this journey may then face lengthy delays and leave without an exam. If a woman has to go to a non-IHS facility, she may initially be charged for the service. These factors can be a serious barrier to reporting the crime and undergoing a forensic examination."

Does this make you angry? Take action.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell is dead.

And all the jokes have already been made (be sure to read the comments).

But seriously - I know that "Christians" like Falwell see themselves as at war with the rest of us, and that therefore, he would have seen these comments as just more evidence that he was on the correct path. But - it's just sad when you have nothing to show at the end of your life but hate and a lot of people who are glad you have died.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why I Hate Mother's Day.

I have never liked Mother's Day. I don't like Father's Day, either, but that one tends to fly under the radar quite a bit compared to Mother's Day. Right or wrong, with Mother's Day, I feel pressure. With Father's Day, I feel that anything I offer - card, gift, warm sentiment - will be accepted (except, perhaps, by Bill Cosby, who has often complained in his stand-up act and in his television show that his kids' Father's Day presents lacked evidence of care).

But the bar is significantly higher for Mother's Day. It's not that it's set by my mother, particularly, but culturally, this is the one moment when we are all supposed to show our mothers just how much we appreciate them, and the event takes on a kind of sickening tribute to Stepfordism. The cards always focus on all the laundry and cleaning and baking mom always did with little appreciation from the rest of her family (who, in Hallmark-land, never did any of these things themselves). They worship the selfless sacrifice of Hallmark-land mothers.

OK. I'll say it. Hallmark-land bears little resemblance to the real world. In how many families these days are mothers solely responsible for the housework? They may do more of it than other family members, but I'll bet many or most older kids are helping with laundry and cooking and cleaning - that is, if the family doesn't "outsource" this work to a paid employee.

Further, how many of our mothers are set to "selfless sacrifice" all the time? Of course, this is part of a parent's job, to sacrifice for our children and to put their needs first. But it is not ALL of a parent's job, nor is it something that we should - or could - do all the time. A child should see his or her parents as real people, and that means that parents should sometimes put their own needs first. And children, too, should learn that being part of a family means making sacrifices and compromises for and with the other members. It doesn't just happen from the parents on down.

Then, too, Ellen Goodman points out how false the pronouncements of Mother's Day appreciation ring when we see how poorly moms fare in the workplace (not dads, by the way!). We pay a lot of lip service to the importance of family, but we don't think twice about putting moms in the workplace out to pasture on the mommy track.

But none of this is really why I hate Mother's Day. At bottom, I hate it because it is a trumped-up, co-opted holiday. It had its origins in a radical movement to promote peace and disarmament, first, and later, to involve women in fighting for better sanitation. Noble goals. And this has been turned into an excuse to spend money on greeting cards, flowers, jewelry, and restaurants. From a political movement to a lavish expenditure on one's own individual mother, without thought of mothers - and children - who could really use our help.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Old School.

[Disclaimer: I have no clue whether the links below will work or not. I tried on Monday evening to post the above YouTube video on my site, and here it just appeared today, so who knows what the hell YouTube will do.]

Isn't it cute when young folks today talk about "old school" with regard to music and they mean something by the Counting Crows? Tee-hee.

No, seriously, I'm feeling nostalgic for old school rap. I wanted to have my students look at some rap lyrics in class, and as I was searching around to find which ones I wanted to use, I started thinking about how much fun I had twenty-something years ago listening to folks like these guys...

Sugarhill Gang, Public Enemy, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Sister Souljah, Kool Moe Dee (I know, stop laughing)...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bean has embarked on a quest find out "what happens if." Last week, he used his child safety scissors to cut his hair.

A couple of days ago, he taped a piece of paper to his nose and then cut the paper - and his nose - like he'd seen Sponge Bob do on television.

Yesterday morning, I awoke to a soaking wet Bean who had been pretending to be a fountain while brushing his teeth. There were puddles of water (and even some toothpaste) decorating the sink and floor, and I even had to throw away the roll of toilet paper because it was too wet to be salvaged. (I suppose I should be grateful that he's never seen any of those old fountains that feature statues of little boys peeing!)

By the time I had cleaned up the bathroom, he had already taken a crayon and written his initials on the dining room table.

Last night, while I was picking up and trying to get him into bed, he called to me from the other room. "Mommy...not that I want to get into trouble...but I wrote with my crayon on the green chair." (This would be the New Green Chair.) Fortunately for both of us, Folex worked perfectly (and immediately). (PSA: This stuff is amazing. It got grape juice stains out of my beige rug.)

After I cleaned the crayon off of the New Green Chair, Bean and I had a conversation about how much fun it was to see what it would be like to try something new. I asked him to please check with me first before going ahead and trying it. He nodded, looked thoughtful, and asked: "Mommy, is it ok to draw on my clothes?"

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bone tired.

I wanted to post a whole bunch of old-school rap clips, as I am just finishing up a unit on poetry and today's class focused a bit on rap. I was nostalgic last night and wanted to share with you some of the clips I showed my students.

I also wanted to post a picture of my new coin bra (for bellydancing).

But I am too tired to deal with the (admittedly not too taxing) technology involved. I am beyond tired. I've skipped the gym for two days in a row and I have no interest in doing anything that doesn't involve lying on the couch.

I am in a rut. I am ready for vacation. I want school to be over and I want it to be summer, and then I want there to be, if not a sandy beach, then at least me on my balcony with a book and an umbrella drink and a warm breeze.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

It seems I also owe the Wheelock Conference folks an apology.

I'm eating a lot of crow lately, and it's not very tasty.

I posted about the Wheelock Conference a while ago and suggested that their DVD did not constitute fair use. I have since been in contact with Gail Dines, one of the conference organizers, and I asked her about this as well as about the use of images of performers in pornographic media, without their consent, to argue against pornography. Here is her response:

"These are good questions, ones we discussed at considerable length as we developed the slide show. On the question of permissions: We consulted an attorney and other experts, and we have no doubt that our use of these images constitute a "fair use" in copyright law. On the issue of the performers: The feminist anti-pornography critique has been rejected by some women in the sexual-exploitation industries, of course. We go forward recognizing that it's a difficult choice, but believing that without the images many in the audience would not understand the systematic misogyny and racism in pornography. Below is the part of the script where we acknowledge that. In the script we make it clear that we focus our critique not on the women who perform, but on those who make and distribute --and reap the profits from -- the material.

From the script:

In what follows, the women's faces are not blurred and are often recognizable. We cannot know how these women would feel about having their images used in this presentation. We have made the difficult decision to show them, because the women's facial expressions are crucial to understanding these images. We ask you to recognize with us the moral complexity of this decision, keeping in mind that these
women are human beings with dignity."

So, first: as I am not an expert in copyright law, I cede to the lawyers and experts the conference committee consulted on the meaning of fair use.

And second: if, then, the DVDs constitute fair use, then legally, consent from the performers is not necessary. In fact, it is most likely the publishers of the original material that would need to be consulted for permission to use the images, though again, this is not necessary if the usage falls under fair use.

Finally: I realize that Dines' explanation does not resolve the tensions around the conference (see here (scroll down to the comments) for sex workers' responses to it); nor does it resolve the issue of using pornography - and therefore, the images of sex workers - to argue against pornography; nor does it resolve the issue of anti-porn websites and DVDs publishing images of pornography and thus becoming, in a sense, pornographers. These are all sticky issues. As an educator and researcher, however, I recognize the need to use pornographic images in order to teach about pornography, whether it be to argue against porn or for it or for a more middle-of-the-road critique. Simply to analyze it requires being able to study the images. (I suspect that, had the conference been a critical examination of porn rather than an anti-porn conference, sex workers would not have been concerned about these images being used.)

In one of my sexuality classes, I paired Kamala Kempadoo's Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition with Rebecca Whisnant's and Christine Stark's Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography. This, I felt, was the most ethical approach I could take to the issue (and I'm not holding myself up here as an example of how to be ethical re. pornography, I'm just explaining how I personally have tried to resolve the contradictions I've been talking about). There are images in Not for Sale that are hard to look at. One of the things I asked my students to do was to critically analyze these images, to see them apart from the specific critique that accompanied them and to discuss whether or not they'd necessarily draw the same conclusions. This was a way of testing the strength of the argument (and generally, we found that the arguments were strong - as were those in Global Sex Workers). But, as Dines states above, it is also important to look at several examples of porn in order to draw conclusions about porn as an industry. Sometimes, we hear "scare tactics" about what is represented in pornography - but other times, the conclusions, particularly about issues such as how race is represented, are right on.

(Incidentally, this is also true for advertising in general - not a bad connection to make, I think, in the classroom.)

I'm sure this post will upset some people, and I'm sorry for that. I continue to see value in both sides' analyses of sex work (though my use of the term "sex work" would, for some, already place me in the non-anti-porn camp, despite whatever my feelings might actually be). I also continue to give particular weight in my own considerations to the voices of sex workers, while I still keep up with what researchers on either side have to say. That's the best I can do.

Edited to add: Some folks have argued that, instead of using the images, it would be more ethical to simply use testimony from sex workers, whether they be guest speakers or, I presume, written testimonies. I've done this, actually. I've also allowed students to go to a strip club to interview folks who worked there (this was an option they came up with and asked permission to do). One of the problems here is that management doesn't always like this, and it's possible that 1) the interviewer could get the employee in trouble, or 2) the employee might not trust the interviewer or want to talk in the club. Also, in this smallish town, there is perhaps more stigma attached to dancers, and so it's not easy to find dancers who are willing to be identified for research projects - understandably!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Blogroll updates.

There are some new folks on the blogroll, and maybe this is a good time to explain how I choose whom to add:

I add the people whose blogs I read frequently enough to want to shortcut from my own blog. I don't agree with everything every blog listed there says, but for one reason or another, I read them because they're interesting, informative, funny, and/or well-written. They may also anger, offend, or disturb me, and if that happens often enough, I will probably delink them.

I also add people who are my friends, just because.

I also add sites that I think might be useful or interesting to others.

I don't have any political policy for linking or delinking.

(Danielle, I wanted to add you, but I wanted to check with you first - is that ok?)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I suppose I shouldn't be shocked any longer by things I find online, but this struck me as so bizarre and so disturbing that I can't even come up with a title for this post.

In short, one former blogger and frequent blog commenter has essentially blackmailed another blogger into not writing about radical feminists or radical feminism. The threat: to "out" her online. (As if there aren't already enough people who think feminists are nasty and vicious - now there's more fuel for that particular fire. Thanks for that.)

(I actually wasn't going to post much myself because Belledame did such a great job with her post. But then I got going...)

I have commented a few times on others' posts relating to the feminist blogwars, and I've written a couple of my own, but in general, I've tried to stay out of it. Why? Because there is no point. There are people with whom I know I can have a rational conversation, and people with whom I know I can't. There are people out there who blog about people like me, I'm sure, and call me all kinds of names and challenge my commitment to feminism. So what? I really don't care. I don't have the time or inclination to make a habit out of justifying myself. I'm getting close to 40. I wasted a lot of time in my twenties trying to gain the approval of certain feminists and lesbians because I so desperately needed to be validated. I don't need that anymore. I'm validated all on my own. I'd prefer to stick to the rational conversation, for the most part, and to leave those who feed off of discord to starve.

But threatening to expose someone is beyond the pale - of feminism, of the bloggers' code, of the law. And threatening to do so unless a blogger desists from certain topics, language, attitude, whatever, is not only all of these things, but it's also naive as hell. First of all, the internet is public. Whatever information is on it is public, whether it be on a "private" or "locked" board or not - because putting it on the internet is a means of publishing it (and legally, this is pretty much where it stands, as I understand it: if you don't want people to know it or talk about it, don't put it out there.). Emails, bulletin boards, blogs, whatever - it's all out there, permanently. People take down posts and think it's over - nuh uh. It's retrievable (you know that "cached" option in Google?). And second of all, the nature of public discussion is that people talk about the issues they're thinking about, which may be ideas and arguments they've read on a blog or discussion board. The convention is not that folks *won't* talk about these things, whether they are criticizing or praising, but that they *will.* Again, if you aren't comfortable with that, then don't put it on the web.

Ironically, that someone who calls herself a radical feminist would use blackmail (what was that about "the master's tools," again?) to prevent Renegade Evolution from bashing radical feminists - and would even attempt, as well, to hold her responsible for what her readers (or her so-called "posse") might say - that right there just did more to hurt the image of radical feminism than anything Ren or anyone else ever posted. When people say hateful things on their blogs, as a reader, you have to assume that there are other issues going on. When people repeatedly go after particular individuals, after a while, you think, "man, why bother? Why not just stay away? This person must be looking for a fight." (And there are people on both sides of the aisle who do this.)

Blog readers, I suspect, see through a lot of the bullshit and posturing for what it is, and they don't get quite as bent out of shape about a nasty comment here and there (especially, I'd bet, the ones who don't post). They don't automatically assume, "oh, she said this about pros/antis - she must be right."

But most people find blackmail to be distasteful. Even the blackmailer herself apologized for resorting to such low tactics - which tells us something.

Thing is, she did this in an environment in which a few feminist bloggers have recently had their personal information strewn all over the net (by antifeminists, by the way). She's upped the ante, and it's not something she can take back: she's changed the whole nature of the dialogue. Now, others will figure, "hey, Stormy's blackmail worked - I can do this!"

How long will it be until Stormy becomes the target of what she's spawned? And no, that's not a threat, nor is it suggestion: I oppose outing in almost every circumstance (exceptions would include someone whose online anonymity is allowing them to put others at *real* (not internet drama) risk, and by that I mean, for example, that one is in danger of having this person stalk them in real life). It's an honest question. The dialogue has changed, and I only hope that no one else will decide to follow Stormy's path. Because any and every one of us could be next.

Other than that, with regard to Belledame's post (linked above): what she said.

I owe Katie Hnida an apology.

Because I originally criticized her book here after having gotten only a few pages into it. And then today, I came home for a late lunch and was looking around for something to read while eating, and I saw her book still sitting, unread, on my shelf. So I picked it up.

And I read it pretty steadily through for the rest of the afternoon and evening until I finished it a little while ago.

No, it's not perfectly written, and in many ways, I can't relate at all to Hnida (and her lists of her own accomplishments early on in the book are kind of a turn off - there's really no good way to do that without it sounding like bragging). But hers is a compelling story, and I did find myself not only unable to put the book down, but also cheering for her along the way.

And it turns out that she wrote the book herself, so I'm willing to overlook the little things. If you have a chance, check it out.