Thursday, October 25, 2007

Was it worth it?

So...perhaps some of you are wondering, given my past complaints about the academy, if all those years of grad school and on the job market, not to mention adjunct work, were worth it. I've had occasion to think about this today, as I reflect back about a decade on the devastating manner in which one grad school professor commented on my paper, which nearly led me to quit grad school. I also thought of the many friends who did quit grad school, convinced that it was no longer worth their time and money to be abused by faculty (in some cases) or the system of State Universities of New York (in all cases). And, I thought of others I've seen beat down to the point that quitting becomes the only way to make the pain stop.

I've been at this job for about six weeks now, so I'm still learning the ropes. However, I think it's not too early to say -


Yes, it was worth it.

I reserve the right to complain about faculty workloads and pay and all sorts of other things, including grading. I also am not gloating, here - I still think the job market sucks, and I still want to work to overhaul this system.

I also came pretty close to leaving the academy, the big question being, what would I do instead? The answers I came up with - teaching dance and writing - were fun and fulfilling, but they didn't exactly help me pay my rent. And I still maintain that the academy, in general, is often harmful to one's psychological and physical health. (I know too many completely exhausted junior faculty on Prozac.)

But for the first time, I am finally in a position to do the work I know I can do, to use my talents as fully as I want to.

And it feels pretty good.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The 46th Carnival of Feminists is UP!

And it's here. And I'm very excited to be included, and to read all this great feminist blogging!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Feminism and the question of appropriate clothing.

A while back, Linda left a comment on my post, "Defending Britney.":

I agree about the comments on the poor girl's body - get a grip folks. I'd love to look like that, and I haven't had kids.

Something I've been wondering about though, and have been hesitant to bring up in most of the feminist spaces - after all, who wants to be flamed? Why is it empowering to go around dressed in a way that seems to encourage others to treat you like a vapid twit? Why does so much of the feminist world seem to think it's okay - indeed, it's good and encouraged - to show your underwear, your butt crack, your nipples, your whatever to the whole world? I'm not talking about on the beach, or in your own home, nor am I advocating wearing long skirts and sleeves and a veil. I'm just talking about not exposing what are supposed to be your private bits - you know, the ones we tell 3 year olds about? - to the whole world.

There's been this whole uproar over the passenger on Southwest. I talked to someone who works for them, and they said the part of the story nobody is mentioning in public is that the young lady was wearing no underwear, and the people sitting near her were tired of seeing her crotch exposed to the world. I haven't been following the whole thing too closely because it's such a case of he-said she-said they-said, but it's a prime example of what I'm asking about.

Don't get me wrong - women are beautiful. Men are. Humans are. But we complain about being treated as objects, then proceed to push dressing in a manner that encourages that very behavior. That seems counter productive.

Non-flamed thoughts anyone?

While I would be the first to defend a woman's right to wear whatever she chooses, I will add that I honestly and fervently believe that many of the clothes that hang in my closet are tools of the patriarchy - the underwire bras, the 3-inch heels, the miniskirts, etc. Not that they are *only* tools of the patriarchy - I also honestly and fervently believe in the possiblity and the power of reclamation. But when fashion - and I don't mean Vogue, folks, I mean every damn strip mall in the country - dictates that I can only wear jeans that show off my butt cleavage and shirts that show off my belly, I'd say that there is something else going on than just happy, fashion-conscious women who like to look good. Because the reality is, most of us don't look good in these clothes. And even those of us who do know that there are limits to what is practical, and, yes, acceptable in the average workplace or grocery store.

What I object to is not that some women want to show off their bodies. It's that there seems to be no real option for the rest of us if we still want to wear hip clothes. We often have the choice of wearing the "Kindergarten teacher" look or the "slut" look, and I use the word "slut" not to slut-bash but to point out that this is a look that is designed to convey very particular ideas about our sexuality, and that, while this is part of its appeal (because it's sexy and fun), it is also something that not all women want to project all of the time. My point: we should get to have a choice about this. Our options should not be between looking frumpy and revealing our bodies. I like what Brumberg and Jackson have to say about American women and "fashion":

"The burka and the bikini"
By Joan Jacobs Brumberg and Jacquelyn Jackson, 11/23/2001

THE FEMALE BODY - covered in a burka or uncovered in a bikini - is a subtle subtext in the war against terrorism. The United States did not engage in this war to avenge women's rights in Afghanistan. However, our war against the Taliban, a regime that does not allow a woman to go to school, walk alone on a city street, or show her face in public, highlights the need to more fully understand the ways in which our own cultural ''uncovering'' of the female body impacts the lives of girls and women everywhere.

Taliban rule has dictated that women be fully covered whenever they enter the public realm, while a recent US television commercial for ''Temptation Island 2'' features near naked women. Although we seem to be winning the war against the Taliban, it is important to gain a better understanding of the Taliban's hatred of American culture and how women's behavior in our society is a particular locus of this hatred. The irony is that the images of sleek, bare women in our popular media that offend the Taliban also represent a major offensive against the health of American women and girls.

During the 20th century, American culture has dictated a nearly complete uncovering of the female form. In Victorian America, good works were a measure of female character, while today good looks reign supreme. From the hair removal products that hit the marketplace in the 1920s to today's diet control measures that seek to eliminate even healthy fat from the female form, American girls and women have been stripped bare by a sexually expressive culture whose beauty dictates have exerted a major toll on their physical and emotional health.

The unrealistic body images that we see and admire every day in the media are
literally eating away at the female backbone of our nation. A cursory look at women's magazines, popular movies and television programs reveal a wide range of
images modeling behaviors that directly assault the human skeleton. The ultra-thin woman pictured in a magazine sipping a martini or smoking a cigarette is a prime candidate for osteoporosis later in life.

In fact, many behaviors made attractive by the popular media, including eating
disorders, teen smoking, drinking, and the depression and anxiety disorders that can occur when one does not measure up are taking a major toll on female health and well-being. The American Medical Association last year acknowledged a link between violent images on the screen and violent behavior among children. In a world where 8-year-olds are on diets, adult women spend $300 million a year to slice and laser their bodies and legal pornography is a $56 billion industry, it is time to note the dangers of unhealthy body images for girls and women.

Now that the Taliban's horrific treatment of women is common knowledge, dieting and working out to wear a string bikini might seem to be a patriotic act. The war on terrorism has certainly raised our awareness of the ways in which women's bodies are controlled by a repressive regime in a far away land, but what about the constraints on women's bodies here at home, right here in America?

In the name of good looks (and also corporate profits - the Westernized image of the perfect body is one of our most successful exports) contemporary American women continue to engage in behaviors that have created major public health concerns.

Although these problems may seem small in the face of the threat of anthrax and other forms of bioterrorism, there is still a need to better understand how American culture developed to the point that it now threatens the health of its bikini-clad daughters and their mothers.

Covered or uncovered, the homefront choice is not about morality but the physical and emotional health of future generations.

Whether it's the dark, sad eyes of a woman in purdah or the anxious darkly circled eyes of a girl with anorexia nervosa, the woman trapped inside needs to be liberated from cultural confines in whatever form they take. The burka and the bikini represent opposite ends of the political spectrum but each can exert a noose-like grip on the psyche and physical health of girls and women.

Joan Jacobs Brumberg is a historian at Cornell University and author of ''The Body Project: An Intimate History Of American Girls.'' Jacquelyn Jackson is a women's health advocate in Washington.

This story ran on page A31 of the Boston Globe on 11/23/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

I was thinking about these issues today when I happened to open the paper to an interesting story:

"Cover(ed) girls
Young Muslim- American women are at the forefront of a movement toward modesty, but that doesn't mean they aren't fashionistas."
Article Last Updated: 10/13/2007 11:28:29 PM CDT

Like many Muslim- American teens and women, 16-year-old Mona Hannon must balance her religious beliefs with her desire to fit in and dress fashionably. She models both sides while having her yearbook photo taken at North St. Paul High School. Arwa Osman would never wear the sleeveless, low-cut baby-doll top as it is shown on the rack at Wet Seal. But the 17-year-old grabs the revealing garment. She asks herself: "How do I 'Islamize' this?"

Finding creative ways to reconcile modesty and trend-consciousness has become so pervasive among young Muslim American women, there's now a verb for it.

Getting dressed is a constant balancing act for Osman, a senior at Central High School in St. Paul. On the one hand, she's a typical American teen - devouring fashion magazines, wearing jeans tucked into Ugg boots and shopping the malls with non-Muslim friends. On the other hand, her deep religious beliefs compel her to cover her head with the traditional hijab and refrain from showing any skin from the chin down - modesty is a core teaching of the Koran.

With the American Muslim population estimated at 6 million to 8 million, and the Islamic Society of North America reporting the number of women dressing modestly is on the rise, Osman is hardly unique. Yet she is virtually ignored by retailers and mainstream designers.

"Modest, pious and prolific shoppers, Muslim women ... are fast becoming a key high-fashion demographic," declared Ann Mack, trend spotter for New York advertising agency JWT, in a report last November. This year, JWT released a major study on marketing to Muslims, which estimated American Muslim buying power at $170 billion. The study found American Muslims are more educated and more brand-conscious than the average U.S. consumer, even though virtually no major brands target them.
"We didn't realize how overlooked they felt," Mack says. "It shows you that there is such an untapped need, and as of yet, not many retailers are addressing it."

So close and yet so far. Nike is the perfect example: The company has designed a hijab for volleyball play. The uniforms were donated to Muslim girls in Kenya, but you can't buy them in the U.S.

The JWT study does theorize on why retailers are reluctant to market to eager Muslim shoppers: Religion is a sensitive issue the business community feels safer ignoring.

"There is still a stigma, certainly," says Milia Islam, program manager for the Islamic Society of North America's leadership development center. Islam, 28, grew up in Missouri and started covering her head her junior year of college. In America, Muslim girls often decide on their own, sometime in their teens or 20s, to demonstate their religious beliefs by covering up, referred to as "practicing hijab." Interpretations of modest dressing can vary. Some women cover their heads; others don't. But the vast majority will not wear tight-fitting garments or show much skin.

Islam wears long sleeves year-round and steers clear of miniskirts. "I consider myself as American as apple pie, but there's a perception of me as being 'other.' "

It's ironic, says 25-year-old Asma Saroya of Blaine, that people tend to view her headscarf as a sign of oppression. In this country, she says, being modest is a choice. Saroya finds it liberating. "I don't have to show off my body. I'm protecting it."


As for the endless questions about being hot all summer and, oddly, not being able to have fun when you're covered up, Hafsa Kaka, 25, of Falcon Heights laughs it off. "I went canoeing with my husband on the Fourth of July, and he did all the work. Who's oppressed now?"

Kaka works with young girls at the YWCA in Minneapolis as a resolution and prevention counselor. The girls are not shy about asking why she covers her head and wears long sleeves and pants all the time. "I'm not a preacher in my job, but at the same time, a lot of it gets back to what I teach them about living a positive lifestyle and trying to avoid temptations in society."

For Islam, dressing modestly was in part a reaction to what she sees as the unhealthy standards set for women in America. "You look in magazines and see an image projected that is far from reality," Islam says. "It's not that I don't want to fit in, rather, that this is not how a woman has to be defined. You can be modest, intelligent and religious at the same time, and it can happen within an American context."

The notion of being more modest is gaining traction beyond the Muslim community. "There does tend to be a movement toward the traditional right now," Mack says. "More and more women are looking up to people like Reese Witherspoon, who has always been modest - you'll never find her without her panties. There's a backlash against celebrities showing too much skin. The younger generation, increasingly, is embracing the notion of family values, wanting to stay home with the kids. That trickles down into several areas of life, including clothing choices."

Online, it's easy to find evidence of what Newsweek recently dubbed the "modesty movement." Web sites like, and offer tips and resources for covering up and provide support for young women from various backgrounds making choices that are still considered outside the mainstream.

Change could be on the horizon for major retail outlets, as well. Macy's stores in the Pacific Northwest have picked up a trendy, yet conservative clothing line called Shade, designed by Chelsea Rippy, a Utah Mormon who, just like many Muslim women, had difficulty finding "hip, modest clothing" in stores.

But don't expect short dresses and sexy tops to disappear from the racks anytime soon. "Our customers have not shown a big demand for modest clothing in the Twin Cities," says Macy's spokeswoman Jennifer McNamara. "But retail is a fast-paced industry, and we are continually examining these factors and updating our assortments accordingly."


As it happens, dressing modestly, yet fashionably, is easier this fall as skinny jeans give way to wide-leg trousers and voluminous tops. "When fall comes, we hit the stores," says 16-year-old Muslim Mona Hannon of North St. Paul.

Even so, there are issues. "You'll see a long skirt that looks perfect, turn it around and it has a big slit up the leg," says Brooke Samad, 28, of New Jersey, who channeled her shopping frustration into Marabo, a fashion-driven clothing line aimed at Muslim women. She sells online at and at Islamic conventions, but she has yet to receive any interest from mainstream retailers. "There's such a huge emphasis on women being sexy all the time," Samad says. "Retailers try to cater to that."

Samad and other American Muslims in their 20s aren't waiting around for major manufacturers to discover them. Instead, they're starting to fill gaping holes in the marketplace themselves. Muslim Tees ( is a line of graphic T-shirts launched two years ago by a group of University of Minnesota students who noticed an absence of messages and images that mattered to them on mainstream clothing. They are currently working on a long-sleeved style - not too tight but not dowdy, either - for Muslim women.

"The current generation of (Muslim) kids who grew up here wants something that caters to them," says Taqee Khaled, operations director for Muslim Tee. "I don't think it would be farfetched to see someone on 'Project Runway' in five years designing for covered Muslim women."

The recently launched Muslim Girl magazine is giving women a place to find current fashions that don't require a lot of creative tweaking to be appropriate. The September issue included a Ramadan fashion spread featuring sleeveless dresses worn over turtlenecks.

"The primary reason for the magazine is we didn't have a voice," says editor in chief Ausma Khan. "The images we see in mainstream media are generally very negative. We wanted to make sure the positive contributions are seen."

Perhaps the surest sign of progress is Hannon, a junior at North High School in North St. Paul. She decided to cover her head when she was 13. She won't wear anything revealing, but she shops at American Eagle and Old Navy, just like her friends, and feels accepted by her classmates at school. If forced to label herself, the best Hannon can come up with is, "People know me as a person with really cute clothes."

Funny, isn't it? From the women who are so "oppressed" - and please note that I'm referring to women who choose to wear hijab, not to women who are forced to do so - a way out of the madness. You can be cute and hip AND still decice that sharing your butt crack with the world is not how you roll. For that matter, you can decide what parts of your body, if any, you want to display. This is what feminism is all about, isn't it? Not just having the freedom to make choices, but recognizing and fighting oppression - in this case, the oppression of the fashion industry.

Am I going to toss the 3-inch heels? Hell, no. But I do plan on checking out Marabo.

American Indian Movement leader dies.

I saw this sad news online when I was gathering materials to post about something else entirely:

AIM leader Vernon Bellecourt dies in Minneapolis
Associated Press
Article Last Updated: 10/14/2007 09:24:28 AM CDT

Vernon Bellecourt, a longtime leader of the American Indian Movement, died Saturday. He was 75.

Bellecourt died at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis of complications of pneumonia, said his brother, Clyde Bellecourt, a founder of the activist group.

Clyde Bellecourt said his brother had been in Venezuela about four weeks ago to meet with President Hugo Chavez to discuss Chavez's program for providing heating assistance to American Indian tribes. Vernon Bellecourt fell ill around the time of his return, his condition continued to deteriorate, and he was put on a respirator.

Vernon Bellecourt - whose Objibwe name WaBun-Inini means Man of Dawn - was a member of Minnesota's White Earth band and was an international spokesman for the AIM Grand Governing Council based in Minneapolis. Clyde Bellecourt helped found AIM as a militant group in 1968, and Vernon Bellecourt soon became involved as well, including in its 1973 occupation of the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

In recent years, Bellecourt was active in the fight against American Indian nicknames for sports teams as president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media. He was arrested in Cleveland during the 1997 World Series and again in 1998 during protests against the Cleveland Indians' mascot, Chief Wahoo.

"He was willing to put his butt on the line to draw attention to racism in sports," his brother said.

Bellecourt was involved as a negotiator in AIM's 1972 occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington as part of the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan. He was present only briefly during the 71-day Wounded Knee standoff with federal agents, Clyde Bellecourt said. He stayed mostly on the outside to serve as a spokesman and fundraiser.

After Wounded Knee, Vernon Bellecourt became a leader of AIM's work abroad, meeting with presidents such as Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, as well as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, his brother said. He added that they plan to list them as honorary pallbearers.

Vernon Bellecourt was active in the campaign to free AIM activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a shootout in 1975 on the Pine Ridge reservation.

Wakes are scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday at All Nations Church in Minneapolis and Tuesday night at the Circle of Life School in White Earth in northwestern Minnesota. The funeral will be Wednesday.

It's sad that, once again, the online commenters have nothing nice to say about the man. A sample: "the man did nothing for the American Indians. Peltier was a murderer as the judicial system ruled and Belacourt running around with the likes of Ortega, Gadhafi, Arafat, and Chavez is utterly immoral. Good riddance." Tiny minds think alike.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Drug recall...what we need is a BRAIN recall.

Crossposted at DakotaWomen.

Like many other parents, I went rooting through the medicine cabinet to figure out which medicines to keep and which to toss, following the recent decision of four drug companies to pull infant cold and cough products off the shelves. In order to figure this out, I had to hunt to find any of the names of the four companies, because few of the media are reporting them (I found mention of Johnson and Johnson, only), and I also had to hunt to find a complete list of the recalled products, because they, too, are underreported:

Dimetapp Decongestant Plus Cough Infant Drops
Dimetapp Decongestant Infant Drops
Little Colds Decongestant Plus Cough
Little Colds Multi-Symptom Cold Formula
Pediacare Infant Drops Decongestant (containing pseudoephedrine)
Pediacare Infant Drops Decongestant & Cough (containing pseudoephedrine)
Pediacare Infant Dropper Decongestant (containing phenylephrine)
Pediacare Infant Dropper Long-Acting Cough
Pediacare Infant Dropper Decongestant & Cough (containing phenylephrine)
Robitussin Infant Cough DM Drops
Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips Decongestant
Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips Decongestant Plus Cough
Tylenol Concentrated Infants' Drops Plus Cold
Tylenol Concentrated Infants' Drops Plus Cold & Cough

But in my hunt, I noticed something really interesting. I'll preface it by saying that, for at the least the last six years, if not longer, we've been hearing research that suggests that cough medicines don't work in young children, and that it's better not to give them at all. In other words, the medical truth is that they don't work. The pharmaceutical truth, however, is "shell out your money, or you won't sleep at night!" So I came upon a story - and I fully intended to post a link to it, and then boneheadedly deleted the URL and cannot find it - that explained the recall, noted that cough medicines don't work well in young children, and invited reader reaction.

Please note the reader reaction:

Posted October 12, 2007 @ 07:39 PM by RPh
If any of you had read the directions on any of these bottles you would have noted that none of these medicines have dosing for 2 years or younger. It can only be dosed by the doctor. (under 2 years old consult your doctor) By law even the pharmacist cannot dose these, although many do. Only a doctor can go "off label use" for over the counter medicines. Many parents take it on themselves to guess at the dose rather than call the Doctor or Nurse Practitioner.

Posted October 12, 2007 @ 01:51 PM by ER nurse
Being an ER nurse, I see a huge number of inappropriate treatments parents have tried on their children prior to coming to the ER. The problem is NOT the OTC drug in the hands of the conscientious parent, but rather in the hands of the careless/uneducated parent. This is a poor knee-jerk reaction. We need better education for parents overall. Removing medications meant and formulated for small children is not the answer. Adult formulated medications will now be given by uneducated parents.

Posted October 12, 2007 @ 12:26 PM by FedUp
This is crazy! Because of a few parents who may not know English or educated, the rest of us have to suffer. By banning OTC cold and cough medicines, will parents of young children now have to go to the Ped. for prescriptions? Meaning that most likely will cost more (Dr. appt co-payment, higher priced prescpt).... so over all, who's making even more money?? Seems like the FDA and the big money makers are going to be making even more out of this in the long run.

Posted October 12, 2007 @ 11:35 AM by Ron Melancon
Remember the College President that was caught drunk while driving. I think the excuse was he drank to much cold medicine. Well its a conspiracy!!!! All the College Presidents are buying all the Infant cold medicine to use during the holiday season so when they get pulled over they will use the same line.. officer I was not drinking alcohol... I consumed 50 bottles of Infant cold medicine.

Posted October 12, 2007 @ 08:58 AM by The Data is incomplete
O.K. So we had 1,500 problems over two years with almost 81,000,000 (million) bottles. The data is not accurate.. How many of these people speak english? or understand how to read? Are they here legally?? I mean if educated people know how to fill up to the line and follow directions why should we be penlized by the people who don't know how to follow directions?

Posted October 12, 2007 @ 08:21 AM by What If
Imagine if our Government acted this quickly and effectivley with problems in our Country then we would lead a better life. Imagine if other agencys acted as quickly with lets say......... The E-coli outbreaks. The Lead Paint recall The Beef Recall The peanut butter recall The Bridge Collapse in Minn. Maybe we should fire all the goverment agencys and hire the pediatric doctors to run our government then the world would be a better place Mark my words we will have an increase in the ER.

Posted October 12, 2007 @ 08:09 AM by Look at the numbers
look at the numbers. 41 million packages of these in the United States, according to the healthcare products group, about a fifth of which were sold in the form of drops that are generally targeted for use in infants. devide 81,000,000 million by 1,500 children under the age of 2 suffered complications in 2004 and 2005 What is the problem rate. Even a computer can't have a better breakdown rate. In the scope of the numbers... The sky is not falling. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Posted October 12, 2007 @ 08:06 AM by Ron Melancon
Look at this comment: There is very little evidence that cough and cold medicines are effective in young children, and there are increasing fears that they may be dangerous. From 1969 to 2006, at least 45 children died after taking decongestants, and 69 died after taking antihistamines, This year alone... We almost have 800 people who have died on the roadways of Virginia. Should we ban people on cell phones, people who don't use a seat belt or people who drive reckless?

Posted October 12, 2007 @ 08:02 AM by I feel sorry for you
I am so glad my children are now over 2 years old......... To the parents that have children under 2 years old......... Its going to be a long, long, long cold season..... You will be going to work with dark circles under your eyes . Why do we always go to the extreems... Somehow my parents never had a problem. We did not seem to have a problem in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and last year. All of a sudden we have this??? What is going on??

Posted October 12, 2007 @ 07:58 AM by Ron Melancon
Once again we have a few people (Parents) Who can't read the directions on a bottle of Childrens Cold medication now making it harder for the rest of us. The parents who are responsibe and follow the directions should be outraged when their children come down with a cold will not be able to get medication because of this. After millions and millions of parents who are sleep deprived and are going to the emergency room and causing insurance companies to pay then we will see the meds come back.

I found it interesting how quickly this group of chronic misspellers jumped to assume other people's lack of education. Not only that, but they immediately assumed that the problem was due to parents who didn't speak/read English and to parents who were in the U.S. illegally, as if there is some sort of conspiracy on the part of migrants to deny U.S. citizens their ineffective and sometimes lethal cough medicine. Further, it's pretty clear from these comments that the general concern here is not that infants and children should be protected from dangerous drugs that have been lethal in many cases, but that PARENTS should not be forced to lose sleep because someone else's kids may have died. And let me repeat - the cough medicine doesn't even work in the first place!

That said, you gotta love the one who sees in this a vast conspiracy of college presidents. Sigh. America, land of freely and bravely stupid.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Things that make me happy.

1. The heat wave of the last few days has passed, and it's a crisp October night. So crisp, in fact, that Bean is wearing his fleece footy pajamas. There is nothing so cuddlesome as a little kid in footy pajamas.

2. I just bought a pair of these:

3. I finished the bulk of my grading last night. That means that tonight, I can relax and watch Damages.

So, I met Terry Jones...

I have to confess to being a Python fan from way back, and while Terry Jones was not my favorite Python (I always especially liked Cleese, Palin, and Idle), it was still a fairly unreal experience to be walking over to the bookstore, knowing that he'd actually be there.

I pride myself on being not terribly flappable when it comes to meeting celebrities. Well, these days, anyway - in college, when I kept running into the brothers and children of the rich and famous, I was definitely flappable. And not that I've met very many. But I'm usually not all that impressed by their celebrity, and while there are some people I'd really like to meet, in general, I've always thought of myself as unlikely to get flustered around the average famous person.

But there I was, palms actually sweating, thinking, "I'm going to meet a childhood idol. What the hell am I going to say?!" Because it's all well and good to be unimpressed, but obviously, if I'm bothering to get my book signed, I'm somewhat impressed. And if I'm impressed, then that means that it matters to me that I not be a total idiot when I get my few minutes of chatting time. Suddenly, you realize that this is a person who has in some way mattered to you - made you laugh, made you cry, made you think - whatever - and you want that brief moment of contact to be meaningful.

I got to the bookstore before he did, so I had time to take a look at his books. (I had no idea he'd done that pressed fairies book, the one that made me laugh out loud in Barnes and Noble a few years ago.) And he came in while I was in line to buy the three copies of Barbarians that I'd picked up. By the time I got my books and made it over to the line to see him, there were about 20 people ahead of me, and he was taking his time. So, I opened his book and started to read. This turned out to be a brilliant idea - I liked the book! And now I had something to say when I finally met him.

When I got to see him, he was lovely - he didn't mind that I had three books for him to sign (and I did give him the option of just signing one). He could not have been nicer. And for my part, I did not stammer, nor did I gush. (Watch for jokes about Women's Studies. He had not a clue what that is.)

And I did leave rather starry-eyed, and repeated for the rest of the day, to whomever would listen, "I met Terry Jones!"

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I'm working on a few posts...

...but given my crazy schedule, I don't know when I'll have time to finish and post them. One follows up on a comment Linda made on my Britney Spears post. One is about meeting Terry Jones. And one is about racism and white privilege here in my house. Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The ENDA situation: how you can help.

ENDA is the name given to a bill prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation. The bill is currently in the House, and while it originally included protections for transgendered people, on September 27, it was announced that the bill would be stripped of these protections in order to get the bill passed (you can read the original bill here.)

This is not the first time this legislation has been proposed, nor is it the first time that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has supported an exclusive bill. If you feel, as I do, that transgender protections should be included in this bill, please read on.

From Phyllis Randolph Frye, a.k.a. THE PHYLLABUSTER, at

HRC sent its press release out today. Essentially, it boasts of being inclusive of GLBT since 2004 and wanting an inclusive ENDA (HR 2015). BUT IT WILL NOT URGE ANY MEMBER OF CONGRESS TO OPPOSE THE BARNEY FRANK NON-INCLUSIVE ENDA SUBSTITUTE (HR 3685).

Okay, GLBT and supportive straight friends -- so what do we do?

1. Go here to learn how the Barney Frank non-inclusive ENDA substitute bill (HR 3685) also waters down the rights of regular gays and lesbians. (Way to go, Barn!)

2. Personally contact your Member of Congress and say you want the original inclusive ENDA (HR 2015) passed. Tell them that ole Barn does NOT represent mainstream GLBT folks!

3. If you have given money to HRC since 2004, tell HRC ( that "they lied" and you demand a full refund.

4. Look at this list.

a. Send your money to these groups instead.

b. If you want your group on this list, contact

5. If you live in Nancy Pelosi's district or Barney Frank's district, let them know about it.

6. If you live in Tammie Baldwin's district, thank her for remaining LGBT inclusive.

7. If you live in the DC area, protest this Saturday's (October 6) HRC National Dinner. For details contact, Ethan St. Pierre at

8. Go to the HRC website and type in your city to learn where your local HRC group contact is.

a. Bend their ear on this issue.

b. Learn when their HRC fundraiser is, and start preparing the protest.

9. Fro the best up-to-dates, go to either the NGLTF site or the National Center for Transgender Equality site.

10. Keep your eye on the prize and get all of your friends to do #2 above.

And from the National Center for Transgender Equality:
Daily Update on ENDA
from Mara Keisling, NCTE Executive Director
Thursday, October 4

Today I spent quite a bit of time explaining (re-explaining) to the media and others that the current ENDA situation is not one of pragmatic people versus crazy idealists (not that there is anything wrong with being either practical or idealistic). No one is demanding that transgender people get ours or no one gets anything. The greatest likelihood in fact is that this year will end with no ENDA protections becoming law to protect anyone. We will all need to work together to pass the bill in the House, even harder in the Senate and then somehow overcome a likely veto by the White House.

Additionally, gender identity is not synonymous with transgender and sexual orientation is not synonymous with gay and bi people. Just as trans people face discrimination based on sexual orientation, gay people face gender identity discrimination. Yesterday, five legal organizations (Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, The Transgender Law Center, GLAD, and the ACLU) issued a joint statement ( that explained this and other legal shortcomings of a sexual orientation-only ENDA.

A split ENDA hurts all LGBT people-whether you are pragmatic, idealistic or, like most of us, both.

Today (Thursday) was another very fast paced day in Washington and around the country. Congressional offices are definitely hearing from everyone and it is just as definite that everyone's great work is really impacting things. Members of Congress and their staffs are telling us that they are getting calls and visits from people like you-people who live in their districts.

The number of organizations who have publicly proclaimed their support for transgender people and our desire to pass the fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 2015) was up at about 180 the last time I checked sometime this afternoon. Earlier today, we blew past 2,500 signatures on the petitions that we co-produced with the Transgender Law Center. People are really enthused and turning that enthusiasm into action. And it's working.

One side effect of all of this sudden somewhat unexpected activity is that our expenses have gone up tremendously. Suddenly we are paying for meals for volunteers, lots of taxis to Capitol Hill, consultants, cell phone minutes. This coming week, it looks like there will be some travel costs and hotel rooms for specific people who we need to have here in DC. All in all, we think that this may cost us an additional $10,000-15,000-all of which is very difficult for a small organization like NCTE. Though so many people are doing so much, your financial support would also be very helpful. One donor sent us $150-one dollar in honor of each of the LGBT organizations who has stepped up in solidarity to support transgender people and our effort of keep ENDA inclusive of all LGBT people. If you would like to make a donation, please go to our website. It would help a lot.

Thank you.


Mara Keisling
Executive Director
National Center for Transgender Equality

The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people. The National Center for Transgender Equality is a 501(c)3 organization. For more information, please visit our website.

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I had twelve meetings this week.

That is not an exaggeration. All day, I've been telling people that I had fifteen, and then I thought, "OK, let me just check," and it was actually twelve (although, I think I forgot to count one or two that were not written down in my book).

And on top of that, I think I just finished an article that I have been trying to get placed for a Very. Long. Time. Whether or not it gets published now is anybody's guess, but for now, I think it might be done.

And on top of THAT, I was too tired to go hear Terry Jones speak this week. (Yeah, that Terry Jones. I'm hoping I can catch him at his book signing this weekend. What does one say to Terry Jones, I wonder?)

But Mr. Plain(s)feminist and I have been sitting here happily for the last several hours, clickety-tapping, each on our own computer. Awww...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Critiquing Lorber.

I'm teaching Judith Lorber's book, Gender Inequality, and as the semester progresses, I'm finding that I have quite a lot of issues with this text. So, where does one go to air one's grievances? Why, to the internet, of course!

One of my problems with the book is with its approach. Lorber is a social scientist, and she seems to be heavily influenced by Gender Studies rather than Women's Studies. (Gender Studies is very often located within social science departments, notably Sociology.) Anyway, some of Lorber's definitions seem to come from somewhere I don't recognize, and I'm guessing it may be Sociology. For example, she says that the political goal of feminism is women's equality. However, as many decades of feminist battles, along with her own discussion of various trends of feminist thought, have shown us, that is a fairly white, heterosexual definition of feminism. Women of color feminisms, and lesbian feminisms, and working class feminisms, as well as transnational feminisms, have focused less on achieving equality with men and more on ending oppression, with a particular focus on women, of course, but with attention also to ending racial and other oppressions. This means that feminism has focused on things like access to health care, ending poverty, caring for the environment, etc.

Lorber also defines "transvestitism" and "transsexual" in ways that are at huge odds with these words' common usages. To Lorber, "transvestitism" is simply living as a member of the opposite gender but without having surgery, whereas being a "transsexual" means having surgery and taking hormones. To the rest of us, "transvestitism" is cross-dressing. "Transsexuality" is less about surgery - that's an outdated usage - and more about feeling certain that one's gender is at odds with one's body.

Lorber further states that "the current feminist movement is called the second wave" (3). While this may be a strong sense that many feminist scholars have, it is arguable that the second wave is fairly far down on the far side of the wave, while numerous other waves have cropped up. I'm not saying that the Second Wave is over, but rather that it is no longer the prevailing force of feminism - it is past its PEAK but not its EFFECTIVENESS, if that makes sense. I haven't yet read her section on Third Wave feminism, so for all I know, she'll locate Third Wave feminism WITHIN the Second Wave, which is ok, too, I suppose, but confusing.

I'm also a bit perturbed by her discussion of "Standpoint Feminism" and "Social Construction Feminism." First, I would argue that these are not particular kinds of feminism at all, but rather ideas/approaches within a number of different feminisms, disciplines, etc. These, too, comes from the social sciences. What irks me about her mention of "standpoint theory" in particular is that I have almost exclusively heard and seen it referred to in Women's Studies as "situated feminism" (the idea that one's position affects one's world view). I'm coming out of Women's Studies and this is a book about feminisms, so I feel that, just maybe, it should be situated more firmly in an interdisciplinary, feminist approach.

More to follow, I suspect.