Sunday, July 22, 2007

So, I've finished the new Harry Potter.

And I have no one to talk about it with, as no one in my family is reading the series. Sigh.

I'll just say that it was good, it did everything I wanted it to in terms of tying up the loose ends and providing a resolution, and there were a few things that I turned out to be right about.

Also, I think I finished it in record time, considering that I only started reading yesterday afternoon.

I'm disappointed, now, that the stories are finished.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Boom chicka wakka wakka wow...

Yesterday, I was in the grocery store, and I passed by a young man who had shaped sideburns that should I say...reminiscent of the '70s in a way that isn't exactly decent. In other words, there was a nearly audible soundtrack that followed him as he pushed his cart down the aisle, and I desperately wanted to burst forth with a "wakka wakka boom chicka boom" as per the infamous Axe commercial. If I had been a braver person, and one able to refrain from laughing hysterically (how many takes do you think they had to do for that commercial?), I might have done so. Because, seriously, one should not be allowed to have bad '70s porn sideburns and walk the streets without hearing a few "wakka wakka wows."

As it was, I bit my lip (hard), fought back the tears in my eyes, turned my laughter into a cough, and went off in search of the sauerkraut.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Support the Lesbian Seven.

I hadn't followed this story because I naively assumed that it was such a ludicrous case that of course the court would find in favor of the defendants. (And, also, I refuse to watch sensationalistic news much anymore, so you can imagine what that leaves me with.)

Sometimes I wonder what planet I think I'm living on.

Anyway, if you haven't kept up with this story, please go to Heart's blog and read about it. And then consider helping.

Specifically, what is needed is:
*Pro-bono legal support for the appeal.
*Media contacts and writers.
*Pen pals for the women who are in prison.
*Money for legal fees, collect calls from prison, transportation costs upstate for prison visits, paying for prison commissary.
*Diverse organizational support: Building a public campaign requires support from all
corners. If you think the sentences these women are receiving are too harsh, there is a place for your support.

For more information about how to get involved, please contact:
Bran Fenner [], Jessica Robertson [], or Jessica Stern [].

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Eight things.

I'm so tired that I'm wired. Can't sleep. Eyes are shutting but my body is twitching. In a minute I'm going to flop on the couch with a movie. But first:

(I neglected to post that I was tagged by Jessica Dreadful! Sorry!)

* We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.* Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

* People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

* At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

* Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Sadly for you, all eight of my things are moving-related. Sorry.

1) Stucco houses make me depressed. When I was a kid, we knew someone who had a huge problem with a leak in their stucco house - one whole wall was a mess - and ever since then, I see stucco and think "damp, mildew, water damage."

2) I am moving into a stucco house that thankfully does not conform to this expectation. (Yes, that means I did find a place!)

3) I have printed out all the photos that I took of the new place and have been busily writing things like "my dresser here" and "Bean's workspace here" on the walls in the photos. I can't tell if this means I am super-organized or super-OCD.

4) I just went through my huge, four-drawer filing cabinet, and I still can't bear to part with my college papers. Not because they are useful or well-written, you understand, but because they give me a brief whiff of what it felt like to be me in college, and in that way, they're kind of like diaries. Diaries, I keep.

5) We are getting rid of our record albums. Mr. Plainsfeminist is, as I type this, burning them all onto cds. This is a very freeing prospect! I am giddy with the thought of having the space that their absence will leave. I haven't felt this liberated since I smashed most of my record collection in 1989. (Don't ask. But it meant I didn't have to haul those heavy milk cartons of records around to new apartments anymore, and it was awesome.)

6) While sorting out the crap to keep and the crap to toss, I found some photos (yes, I wasted about an hour this afternoon sorting photos, because the fifty or so doubles that I threw away will save SO much room on the truck) taken of the apartment we used to live in in NY when the people who moved in after us were living there. The photos reminded me that either I need some serious decorating help or else we need to get some stuff that is less "graduate student." I mean, I like that my stuff doesn't match. I think it's "funky and eclectic." But when I have to put all the funky and eclectic stuff close together, so that Great Aunt's big cherry secretary is next to the seven-foot unfinished bookcase my dad built...let's just say the next tenants had a bit more flair. And I need some flair. I need something to pull all my crap together into a "look." (That something might be a huge house, the space of which would allow my mismatched stuff the room it needs to become funky.)

7) In my haste to get rid of stuff, I've become addicted to Freecycle. (If you haven't Freecycled, you really need to check this shit out.)

8) I am beginning to hate Bean's teacher. She keeps having the class do these tremendous art projects, and then she sends the kids home with the pieces. We have one four-foot-tall purple space alien, one three-foot-long fish, and one life-size painting of Bean, among other things. I am expected to keep all of these, of course, as Bean loves them all dearly. Where the heck am I supposed to put them? Why couldn't these projects be smaller in scale? Now I have to pack this stuff!!! I am considering an installation in the back hallway of the new place...

I'm supposed to tag people now. I know this is a cop-out, but please consider yourself tagged. If you don't have a blog, feel free to post your eight things as a comment.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Looking for a place to live really sucks.

And the thing is, I always forget this. I always think that it's going to be fun and that I'll get to look at lovely places and pick the one I like the best. I don't know from whom I've gotten this naive gene, but I definitely could not have been more wrong. I think maybe I had one experience in Hartford in the early '90s where I got to see some really nice places, and I keep remembering that and blocking out all the rest of the awful ones, like the place with no stove or refrigerator (just a sink in the kitchen, and a line of people ahead of me who were nevertheless filling out applications), or the little claustrophobic crawl-space (I am not exaggerating or kidding), or the places that were obviously infested.

I always forget that looking at places to rent means looking at utter crap. I don't understand why it is that people would even show a place that is filthy. One Craigslist ad boasted about the jacuzzi in the bathroom, but by the time I made it through the stained-carpeted, dirty, bug-infested apartment that I was too polite to leave immediately, the thought of actually bathing in that tub made me nauseous.

The first house that I looked at wasn't bad - it was very nicely decorated and maintained. The rooms were too small for our furniture, though, so I couldn't even consider it. I was surprised to find that the homeowner had chosen to fill the master bedroom - which was quite small - with an enormous bed that made it difficult to move around the room. Whatever. It was nice, but not in a great neighborhood, and the "basement" was, in fact, a painted cellar. Not a place where I would want to spend much time. I don't like basements, and I especially do not like cellars.

Most of the rest of the places I saw were obviously intended for student housing, meaning that the landlords hadn't bothered to clean the place up (or get the tenants to clean it up), nor had they bothered to fix anything so that the place was in obvious disrepair.

Landlords: Treat your renters with some respect! Fix things. Pay attention to the outside of the home, as well. Make the house look nice. Don't assume that the renters won't notice. And please, don't bring me into a home if you haven't notified the tenants. It was really embarrassing to stand there while the tenant yelled at you for coming in without calling first (or even knocking!). And don't, in that case, tell the tenant that you disagree with his interpretation of the law. Just do the decent thing and apologize. You didn't impress me as a landlord when you surprised your tenant that way, and when you then chose to argue with him, you certainly did not make me want to rent from you.

Renters: Why is it necessary, when moving, to take all of your clothes out of the drawers and leave them in piles around the apartment? I don't need to see your underwear, nor would I want you, if you were coming through my apartment, to see mine. And never, in any of my moves, have I needed to put all of my clothes into little piles along the floor in order to pack them.

To that one very nice landlord who put up with Bean rampaging around the apartment: I am so, so sorry. He was supposed to stay in the car with my mom precisely so that that wouldn't happen, but he got out and followed me, and it was a busy street, and I was really stuck. You, sir, are a prince among men, and again, I apologize.

Friday, July 13, 2007

More proof that "you guys" is gender neutral.

Allison Bechdel says so. Which is good enough for me.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Off to the big city... find a place to live. Comment moderation is on, as I won't have internet access for about a week. See you when I get back - hopefully, I'll have a new address!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Clarifying my NWSA post

So much for trying to be subtle.

It's been pointed out to me that what I posted and what I meant are not necessarily the same thing, so I want to correct any mis-impressions. This, of course, means being a lot more obvious about who I am and who is currently irritating me than I generally like to do on this blog.

I wrote this in my earlier post:
"If you come to a conference for the first time, instead of whinging about "where are all the panels about x" and "why is NWSA so racist/classist/etc.," you might think about why *you* didn't bother to propose a panel about x. And then propose one for next year."

I did not mean to imply - though it is clearly implied, anyway - that criticisms of the NWSA for being racist/classist/etc. are groundless. I've been involved with NWSA for about 11 years, and during that time, it has wrestled with inclusion, accessibility, and many, many other issues that have at times threatened to break the institution apart.

I also did not mean to imply, but nevertheless did, that I don't take such criticisms seriously. I do indeed take them seriously. In fact, on many occasions, I have made these criticisms.

What I *was* trying to address was a trend I've noticed in the bi/trans group particularly, which is to come to the conference and focus only on the panels and issues that are relevant to that interest group, and from that, to declare that NWSA is conspiring to oppress trans people. Now, NWSA still has a ways to go on trans issues, though I think it's worthy of mention that in a couple of years, it has done two things that I never, ever thought it would do: it's added "gender identity/expression" (I'm not sure of the exact wording) to its non-discrimination policy, and it's made a statement opposing women-born-women only policies. That doesn't mean we're out of the woods. But I helped found the bi/trans group a while back because the bi and transphobia were clearly evident (and I will write about my experiences with these at NWSA another time). I have definitely seen huge strides in the right direction since then.

So what I'm angry about has nothing to do with the practice of calling NWSA to account for itself, which I think is a healthy and important practice. I'm angry about people who come to the conference wanting to be pissed off; they enter without ever looking around to see what anyone else's interests/concerns are; they resist, year after year, making alliances with other groups and never bother to attend other groups' meetings unless they suspect that they need to show up to make a point about inclusion; they refuse to take part in the life of the organization, showing up at general assembly meetings only long enough to vote on their own interests - and on more than one occasion, asking other groups to support them in their votes and then skipping out before voting with those other groups on the votes of those groups.

It is not a coalition effort, and that is what I object to most.

And re. my point about taking responsibility for proposing the necessary papers/panels - I just mean that it's one thing to criticize an organization. It's another to criticize it as being too this or not enough that and "why isn't anyone doing anything about this" and then to state openly that you have never been there before, and you have no interest in getting involved, and you plan not to attend in the future, though you might be willing to do some guerilla consciousness raising. What the fuck? Why bother? What point, what greater transformation, do you hope will be made?

And to think it is a radical move to get on the committee that reviews paper submissions - thereby overhwelming the conspiracy to prevent trans panels from being accepted - is just silly, since there are open invitations to be on that committee, which anyone would know if they got involved in the organization and read the newsletters and the emails from the organization.

I keep thinking of the year when the bi/trans group attempted to torpedo the Feminist Mothering Task Force's (then called "Feminist Mothers and Allies) transition to a Caucus. What happened was this. I had earlier been to the bi/trans meeting as a participant, but also to ask for support for this shift to a caucus. The group agreed. But later, at the assembly at which we were all to vote on the shift to caucus-hood, one of the bi/trans group members suddently raised the concern that the name of the group excluded trans parents, and the group made clear that it would not vote for the Feminist Mothers group to become a caucus unless the name was changed. We saw no problem with discussing a name change, but the group needed to vote on the name change, and only a few members of the group were present (usually, a name change would be done over time and with the input of the group members).

That was not enough. And we came very close to losing the chance to become a caucus, after ten years of trying, during which I was the only member of the bi/trans group to become involved in the Feminist Mothering group.

Since the bi/trans group felt strongly about being included in the Feminist Mothering group - and I, too, feel that this inclusion is important - and made clear that members wanted to participate, we sent them a few invitations to participate in the group: to be part of the discussion about our name change that followed, to submit panels with us on parenting and trans issues, to join the caucus. We never received even one response.

And all of that I remember when I walk into a meeting and hear about what a horrible organization NWSA is and how oppressive it is, and I look around and see people who resist and refuse the effort that is necessary to transform an organization. The Women of Color Caucus, the Lesbian Caucus, the Feminist Mothering Caucus - we struggle with NWSA. But we also work with it. There are examples of groups that have, at times, succumbed to the NWSA's indifference, such as the Disability Caucus. But one cannot transform an organization if one refuses to be a part of it, and that, at bottom, is the root of my anger and frustration.


I have not yet discussed the safety issues at this conference, but I want to direct you to someone who does: Diary of an Anxious Black Woman. The only thing I want to add to what she's said is that I know of a couple of additional cases of men at the hotel harassing lesbian couples who were walking/talking together. Clearly, this was a white, middle-class, heterosexual environment, into which dropped NWSA.

I'd be interested to know if NWSA will follow up with a statement to the hotel of some kind, or to the St. Charles Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

In honor of the 4th of July...

...I wanted to share a Boondocks comic strip with you all.

But I couldn't find it. Anywhere. And I've been searching online for quite a while.

So here is the next best thing: a synopsis.
Huey Freeman is the older brother of the family, a quick-witted, elementary school socialist. His younger brother Riley is a self-styled gangster rapper, and the two are being raised by their traditionalist grandfather.

Huey and his family deal with yuppie neighbors, a classmate who thinks that all African Americans are either rappers or basketball players and a school principal whose idea of racial sensitivity training involves having teachers watch 1970s blaxploitation films.

The strip is frank and honest in dealing with political issues. In one installment, Riley complains about having missed the neighborhood Fourth of July barbecue. "I can’t believe Independence Day came and went and nobody told me," he says. Huey responds: "I bet millions of African slaves said the same thing a couple hundred years ago."

The visuals help, but you get the point, right?

I think I can still call myself Plain(s) Feminist...

...but I am moving to the Twin Cities, baby!

Yes, I got a job.

Yes, it is in Women's Studies.

Yes, that fact makes this post seem unnecessarily bitter, but trust me, it's really not. Just ask my adjunct or temporary-hire colleagues.

Yes, it felt awful to run into friends at the conference who had applied for the job I ended up getting. Almost, but not quite, as bad as when the situation was reversed. There is just nothing good about this job market.

Yes, the band from Minneapolis that I listened to in college is still playing gigs there, which is quite cool. (Someday, I will have to write a post about them.)

I'm going up in a few days to look for a place. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Back from the National Women's Studies Conference

I didn't make it to the "sexy" sessions (Jessica Valenti, on one hand, and the Wheelock Conference folks, on the other), but there was still plenty of drama.


I just wrote and then deleted what would have been a really snarky and pointed paragraph. Instead, let me say this:

- If you come to a conference for the first time, instead of whinging about "where are all the panels about x" and "why is NWSA so racist/classist/etc.," you might think about why *you* didn't bother to propose a panel about x. And then propose one for next year.

- If you submit an individual paper when the directions clearly state that full panels have a better chance of being accepted, please don't mope and act surly when your paper isn't added to the session you want it to be added to. If you want to be in a paper session, then propose a full panel. This is not rocket science, people.

- Having a wedding in the same facility as the feminist conference does not oppress you. I don't care how much you hate the institution of marriage and how much you don't want to be around wedding rituals. You are in a public space, and you don't get to impose your preferences on everyone else's behavior. Deal with it.

- Complaining that the wedding is oppressing you will seriously undermine your very legitimate concerns about safety in public spaces.

- Organizers should perhaps not book feminist conferences at golf resorts that were formerly "gentlemen's clubs." I'm just saying. I think some of the safety issues and harassment were connected to the sense of what that space was and the access that gave the other guests to women's bodies.

- If you perceive the mere existence of panels that speak to the experience of mothering as a message that women should "stay home and have babies"...well, I really don't know what to say to you, other than that you clearly are not doing much in the way of listening, now, are you?

- If you perceive reasonable objections to your presentation as confrontational, then you need to consider taking a vacation next year, instead.

- If you are a resort hotel that routinely overbooks and tells its guests, "I know you think you reserved a non-smoking room, but that's really just a request and not a guarantee," you suck.

- Music by women only is a nice idea, but it is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad approach to a DJ'd dance. Please, do not do that again. And while we're on the subject, one might consider quizzing potential DJs on what constitutes danceable music. One Pointer Sister-style song is fine. Many such songs are not fine. Also, switching genres dramatically and erratically is not fine, either, which is why real DJs generally don't do it. And seriously, if you're just going to play crappy music that no one can dance to, that is not empowering to anyone. (Has no one ever heard of Alison Moyet, for pete's sake?!)

Aside from all of that, I did get to witness history in the making. The NWSA passed a resolution opposing women-born-women policies and urging feminist organizations who had such policies to rethink them. This is a huge deal, and it could not have happened five years ago. What's more, I believe that it passed unanimously, or very nearly.

OK, so seriously: I had a great time. I did. Which is why, despite my laundry list above, I never miss this conference.