Friday, November 20, 2009


I've got a post about today--Transgender Day of Remembrance--up on Below the Belt:
Today is the eleventh annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day when trans people and allies are encouraged to pause and remember the people who have died in the previous year for the simple crime of being trans (or even, in the case of one person on this year's list, loving a trans person.) Today events will be held all around the world to memorialize, celebrate, and educate people about the lives of trans people and the all-to-often fatal prejudice they face.

Which isn't to say that there aren't controversies even inside the trans community about TDOR. Some people find it overly morbid--that by making our annual celebration about people who have been killed, we make ourselves out to be victims, not strong people struggling against sometimes impossible barriers. (I once heard a transsexual woman describe the day as a "pity party.") Another criticism is that we should be celebrating our lives, not our deaths--that people who are trans and live "normal" or "successful" lives should be the focus of our celebration, not the unfortunates that died.

But not me.
 The rest is here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Here's a quick duck-in to discuss some hobbyhorses of mine--the Polanski debacle, and the Senate filibuster rules! (What, you didn't know I have an obsession with that? Good thing most of you haven't met me in person, I natter on about them a lot.)

First, Jay Smooth does an amazing take down of all the arguments people have been throwing around about why Rapin' Roman should go free or something:

Like a lot of people, I always like Jay Smooth, but that was teh awesome.

(h/t to the fabulous Lena D.)

Next, here's a nifty piece from Gail Collins and everyone's favorite muddle-headed voice of conservative received wisdom, David Brooks, where they talk about the House's recent health care bill. Gail voices one of my particular frustrations with the Senate's arcane rules:
We used to think of the filibuster as a dramatic, once-in-a-blue-moon vehicle that was used only in extreme circumstances, like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” (What I like about that movie, in retrospect, is that Stewart was not standing there, holding the floor all by himself for hour after hour until he collapsed from exhaustion, in order to save puppies or fight unemployment. It was because the evil Claude Rains was trying to destroy his career, and Jimmy had to prove that he was as saintly as ever. It was all about him. So very Senate like.) Or, of course, when the Southerners wanted to stop civil rights legislation.

But now, a minority of senators don’t have to bother to actually keep talking, or take turns talking, or even hang around the chambers to bring progress to a screeching halt. They just declare their intention (it’s the thought that counts) and nothing can go forward without 60 votes.

That’s crazy. If we’re going to have this system, the filibuster should be reserved for matters that can’t be undone later, like important judicial nominations. Or wars. Not normal domestic policy, no matter how large.
 I so 100% agree with that. It would be a will of the people moment--if you've judged opinion correctly, then people will support your principled stand against oppressive legislation; otherwise, they'll think you're a bunch of obstructionist clowns.

Honestly, I can't see why the Democrats wouldn't go for this--can you imagine the glee in Chuck Shumer's face as he goes on talk show after talk show to run the same damn clip of Orrin Hatch reading the AMA membership lists into the Congressional Record? It would be great.

Gail then goes on to attack Joe Lieberman, which is always good fun. She doesn't, however, mention the single largest problem with the health care bills: the evil Stupak-Pitts amendment, the greatest rollback in women's health and reproductive rights in over a quarter of a century, and something Ms. Collins might presumably be interested in.

Unless, of course, she thinks it's just "politics" instead of "fundamental rights."

Or maybe she was afraid of offending Bobo's delicate sensibilities. WEV.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Female Imponderablization

Hey! It's time for another Below the Belt post......this time, on DRAG!
Nowadays, Halloween isn't much of a holiday for me; I rarely make special plans for it or bother to get a costume--and considering the average woman's costume--Sexy Ninja! Sexy Vacuum Cleaner Salesperson! Sexy First Lady!--that's maybe for the best. (I may not be a radical feminist--they won't take me--but come on, people--Amanda Hess at the Sexist has done yeowoman's duty on this subject.)

This Halloween, however, I was out in San Francisco and went to see a friend's performance in a drag show. So I donned my homemade ironic vampire disguise--fangs, pvc duster and dress, boots, and my "...And Then Buffy Staked Edward. The End." tee shirt--and caught some decidedly non-vintage drag.
 You know the drill!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monday Media Watch, Edizione Internazionale

O HAI AGAIN, DUCKS! And yes, this really is a Monday Media Watch--I get in just under the wire by virtue of being in California.And being in California, I decided to put aside my usual Monday Media Watch sparring opponent--the New York Times--and try one of the local papers for a change.

So today's target: The San Francisco Comical, er, Chronicle, and specifically this article on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi! Take it away, Joel Brinkley:
So Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is shaming his nation. That's what pundits and commentators are saying as the Italian courts pursue charges of bribery, corruption and tax evasion. But by far the most visible allegations revolve around his sexual escapades.

But before we all clamber aboard that bandwagon, is it possible we misunderstand?
 Hey, that is one promising start, Mr. Brinkley--because certainly lady people have noticed a disturbing trend to judge us by our sexual escapades rather than the substance of our scandals! In fact, we often get judged on our "sexual escapades" in the absence of any other "scandal"! Let's take a look at Mr. Berlusconi's issues:
After all, as the prime minister explained at a recent news conference, "to my male colleagues present here I say: Raise your hand and tell me you don't think it's nice to rest your eyes on pleasant and enjoyable feminine presences - rather than sitting at a table with people lacking aesthetic qualities."
Oh. I see. I think I can diagnose these difficulties. He's a douche.

Now, "pleasant and enjoyable feminine presences" by its very nature is enough to make me do a Radfem Stomp. But for the sake of my blood pressure, and the possible edification of a dudebro who stumbles upon this site, let's unpack that: first, only feminine presences are pleasant and enjoyable--this comes as a surprise not only to big ol' bisexual me, who has been known to find masculine presences both pleasant and mm-hmm-hmm enjoyable, but it also pretends that there are no men who might agree with Your Duckmistress about said pleasant and enjoyable masculinities.

But let's dig, Starbuck, to the little lower layer: you can't just utter a sentence like that without it seeping context. And the context for it is that for men in power, women have far too long been seen only as, well, pleasant decoration and the occasional useful sex object. One would presume, just from his saying such an asinine thing, that a room with Chancellor Merkel, Baroness Thatcher, Secretary Clinton, and Secretary Albright would not be one of "pleasant and enjoyable" presences, despite all the named presences being female. So to sum up, on the Berlusconi scorecard of douchiness:

Female Heterosexual Desire....................................................Inconsequential
Male Homosexual Desire........................................................Invisible
"Plesant and Enjoyable" Males................................................Ignorable
Women Who Aren't "Pleasant and Enjoyable"
by virtue of Silvio's Lust..........................................................Inconceivable

Okay, I know what you're saying: I'm making some leaps of logic here. Maybe his (very debatable) Excellency isn't a douchebag--maybe he's just a man of his time, well-meaning but saying douchey stuff. Allowances should be made, etc. And maybe you're right; maybe I haven't given him a fair shake...
Certainly that must be why he showed up at 18-year-old Noemi Letizia's birthday party last spring. It's probably a coincidence that Letizia, a model, poses for provocative photos in her underwear. That couldn't have been why he gave her a nice birthday present, a gold necklace worth about $10,000.

Berlusconi's wife was angry. She left him, saying his visit to the birthday party "really surprised me because he has never come to the 18th birthday parties of any of our three children, despite being invited."

Come, now. Berlusconi is the prime minister of Italy. He has a busy schedule. Even a young Noemi Letizia understands that. "I am in awe of him," she told an interviewer. "He calls me, and I go to him." But only "if he has time."
 Right. Well-meaning guy who can make time for underwear models but not his own children...como si dice "douchebag" in italiano?

But let's not stop at Italian heads of state--there's plenty of members of the doucheoisie right here at home!
For example, two newspapers, Corriere della Sera and La Stampa, recently reported that [businessman Giampaolo] Tarantini told police he lined up 30 women for Berlusconi and his friends, "if the need arose," and brought them to 18 parties in Berlusconi's homes in Rome and Sardinia in 2008 and 2009.

"I wanted to meet Premier Berlusconi, and to that end I spent a lot to get into contact with him, knowing his taste for women," Tarantini told the papers. "I merely accompanied to his house young women who I introduced as my friends while keeping quiet about the fact that I sometimes paid them."

You'd assume that all of the press coverage, all of that back-room business, would spell Berlusconi's political demise. Think of Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, both of whom are accused of covering up extramarital affairs. The South Carolina legislature is considering impeachment, and Ensign's re-election prospects in 2012 appear to be slim.

What about Berlusconi? Do we misunderstand? If the public opinion polls are an indicator, we do. His popularity among Italians, in recent polls, stands at 63 percent - a figure any chief of state would envy.

What do Italians know that we don't?
Well, Joel, first off, maybe Americans do know something about this--President Clinton had approval ratings at or near the 60% range all during l'affaire Lewinsky. And you conveniently ignore the fact that in the case of Urbin and Sanford, a huge part of the scandal is the hypocrisy of a candidate who deliberately cultivates an image of being squeaky clean and virginal (outside the God-sanctioned marriage bed) being caught metaphorically with their trousers down. Neither Berlusconi nor Clinton built their image around their presumed superior morals, and more importantly neither routinely made political hay out of condemning other people for their presumed moral failings.

And of course the article ignores, or minimizes, the fact that Berlusconi is the richest man in Italy, someone who routinely throws bushels of money into his various political campaigns (he owns his own political party) and has been mired in controversy, legal actions, and charges of criminality pretty much from the inception of his political career. With Berlusconi, his sexist actions are just the tip of the iceberg. Which could have been an interesting jumping off point for an article that might look at how hidebound belief in personal superiority (such as sexism) might also be revealed in other aspects of someone's personal dealings (such as rampant corruption from within the government.) But that wouldn't be as fun to write as a "Europe good sexy fun, America evil Puritanical morals police" article, which continues to get written whenever any scandal remotely sniffing of sex heaves into view--witness how often people have taken this precise tack over the Polansky arrest, even when European opinion is hardly neither uniform nor even close to the perception of the writer.

And besides--writing about how a European leader who is both sexist and corrupt, and whose sexism reveals things about his corruption, might force you to consider the same things about American leaders--and then who would invite you to the cool parties, or give you op-eds in local papers?