Monday, August 31, 2009

Now Let Us Praise Wicked Men

So dear friend of the blog Sady has a post up at Salon's Broadsheet about Sophie Tucker, whose career as a female singer who pushed gender boundaries in the early 20th century would normally make her a feminist icon--except that she also did blackface for a long time. And that, as well as the funeral of Senator Kennedy, has me thinking about bad people who did good things, or vice versa.

Of course, Teddy looms large in this calculus.

Liss at Shakesville has the most nuanced discussion of the senior senator from Massachusetts' career, I think:

Teddy, as he was known, was privileged, in every sense of the word. And he made liberal use of his privilege, in ways I admired and ways I did not. The terrible bargain we all seem to have made with Teddy is that we overlooked the occasions when he invoked his privilege as a powerful and well-connected man from a prominent family, because of the career he made using that same privilege to try to make the world a better place for the people dealt a different lot.

Twice, Teddy did despicable things with his privilege, very publicly.
...the two things being the horrific Chappaquiddick affair, and whatever role he helped play in getting his nephew, William Kennedy Smith off the hook for his (alleged, I have to say alleged) rape of a young woman.

Those are two pretty terrible things, by the way.

Daisy over at Daisy's Dead Air does her best to speak for the dead:
I will mourn the working woman who was forgotten, as the actual circumstances of her death were covered up by a powerful family, who then arbitrarily assigned her slut status.

Imagine slowly, slowly drowning, water enveloping you inch by inch as you drown, waiting for the person to rescue you that never arrives.

Sorry, folks. Some things, I do not excuse.

Mary Jo represents all the nobody-women killed (or allowed to die, if you want to quibble over my terms) by all the powerful, rich men, because they were "evidence"--because they got in the way.
And yet, and yet--he fought hard for people who weren't able to fight as hard for themselves--the Americans With Disabilities Act, fighting apartheid, even helping Jews escape the Soviet Union. He never let up on the universal healthcare fight. He blocked Robert Bork from the Supreme Court. And he did all those things largely in part by using his name, his wealth, and his reputation to accomplish things other people might not have.

And he let a woman slowly drown. And he helped an (alleged, ok? alleged.) rapist avoid punishment.

Lots of--let's not say heroes--icons have feet of clay. Martin Luther King had affairs. Thomas Jefferson raped his slaves. And lots of wicked people do great things: Napoleon spread the rule of law, the ideals of the French Revolution, and death, death, death throughout Europe; Wagner wrote some of the most complex (and occasionally even beautiful) music in history and was a dead-beat, adulterer, and depraved anti-Semite. Julia Child was frequently homophobic. And so it goes.

How do we judge? Is it only time that allows us to be dispassionate? What are the morals of admiring the Declaration of Independence or the ADA when you know that they are the results of men who did despicable deeds?

I'm not sure I know. I mean, I'm glad for the Declaration and (well, sometimes) Tristan und Isolde and the millions of people that Senator Kennedy helped. I am aware of the enormous good that has been wrought by flawed men and women.

But I still can't shake the thought of that woman drowning, or that woman screaming on the beach where nobody could hear her.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pepper

Ducks, I beat up on the NY Times sometimes. OK, quite a bit! Sometimes not even on my own blog! But today I found something I actually liked there. (Besides Paul Krugman. Thank you, Paul, just for being you.)

It's from their photo/multimedia series, One in Eight Million, about interesting New Yorkers. Today's spot, The Night Keeper, is about a transgendered woman living in Brooklyn:

For nearly 30 years, Pepper has lived in the same building in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. She used to hustle and shiplift, snagging designer clothing to flaunt at drag balls. "I can be very dangerous," she explained, "it depends on how far you push me." Once, a man hit her in the face with a beer bottle, breaking her nose and cutting her cheek. "That devastated me for a long time," she said. Pepper stopped taking hormones four years ago because they were making her sick; now she spends nights cooking, cleaning, talking to her mother on the telephone and "looking out for her building."
It's a fascinating piece, evocatively photographed by Todd Heisler, especially as Pepper is a living link to New York's more frentic drag heyday, when the lines between transgender and gay, drag and transitioning, were much blurrier.

And it's fantastic to have a piece on a transgendered person who isn't white, middle-class, and post-operative for once.

There are criticisms I suppose I could make, like how an element of the "sad life" meme creeps into the story (poor Pepper is all alone because she is trans), but in my opinion they are drowned out by her remarkable strength and will to survive and go on, head high.

So go read it...if for no other reason than ghu knows how long it will be before I send you back to the Times.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Adventures in Transition: Faster, Evil Space Pussycat, Kill, Kill, Kill!

I am a child of the video game era.

Like most white, middle-class kids of my era, we owned an Atari 2600 (the real thing, not the cheesy Sears version.) And while we enjoyed the hell out of the system, we also knew...it sucked.


Plate 1: This was once considered cool!

Like I said, we lived in the golden age of video games, and arcade games--with their superior graphics and gameplay--were all around us. Things weren't helped by how poorly most arcade games were ported over to the 2600--the infamous Pac-Man port is widely credited as causing the North American video game market crash of 1983.


Plate 2: You've heard the legends, but I actually played it--and it was really that horrible.


I didn't care that much for video games.

You probably think that it was because I was some high-falutin' intellectual, with my nose in a book all the time and too much of a nerd to be any good at sports. But that wasn't the reason...well, it wasn't the only reason.

The reason was that I generally stank at them. I have a rather low eye-hand coordination, so most of that generation of video games were full of FAIL for me--I didn't have the reflexes to be any good at them, or rather, I just got too frustrated to actually learn how to play through my difficulties.

So I watched a lot of other people play video games--hell, I just hung out for weeks while a buddy of mine played Ultima IV, which is about as interesting as watching people play D&D...in a language you don't speak.

Once I got to college and had a computer of my very own, however, I got interested in games again. There were actual genres that didn't require me to have the fast-twitch reflexes of a chihuahua who'd drunk too much coffee, and I played those--SimCity, Civilization (I racked up insane hours conquering various planets), baseball games where you only had to "manage," and even less-athletic, more strategic games like Sid Meier's Pirates.

So when I was finally out of college, and got a "real" computer (well, a Packard-Bell--26% new parts!), I made sure to pick up a few games to go with it. One was Doom, which I had played in multi-player mode and enjoyed. (I didn't get too far in that one: have I mentioned my reflexes?) The other was Wing Commander IV. And that one hooked me.

I'd heard about the Wing Commander series for years, but never owned a machine powerful enough to run them--the closest I'd come was playing on a friend's Nintendo once. But the third and fourth versions of the game were really different--they used movies to forward a plot line between missions, and you could actually make choices in how to respond during some of the movie sequences. It was like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book! (Yes, I am a child of the '80s.)

It certainly didn't hurt that Mark Effin' Hamill played your character.


Plate 3: Hey, isn't that the guy from Star Wars?

While I understand while this kind of video game (usually called Full-Motion Video or FMV) didn't catch on (costs were high, graphics got good enough to do all the stuff inside the game itself), it was extraordinarily compelling for the time--they really managed to come close to the state objective of making it an interactive movie. I ploughed through WCIV in about a month, and for my birthday my girlfriend gave me a boxed set with the first three games. Which I slogged through as well, even though the first two were more standard video games--no movies, but there was an overarching storyline for both. I started playing WCIII, the climax of the series...and stopped.

I was changing computers, I had a girlfriend, I was taking aikido--I had a bunch of reasons. So I never finished the third game, never got past the third mission. And I mostly stopped playing anything resembling shoot-em-ups; I had the occasional game of Civ going on, but for the most part I didn't have any time to play videogames. I did reload Wing Commander I on my machine a few months after my wife and I separated, played it all the way through again, but didn't bother to play the next game.

And then I transitioned.

Now, obviously, video games are a huge minefield of misogynistic crap. (Just check out the ongoing saga of Fat Princess over at Shakesville.) Most games are marketed for men, often in the crudest, most sexist way possible--and then you play the game, and it just gets worse when you see how women are depicted inside the games themselves. Plus so many video games are filled with non-stop, wall-to-wall violence, domination, and macho posturing.

So it makes sense for me to avoid video games, and for the most part I've had no interest--not even in my beloved Civ. Until recently.

Because on a whim I dug out my copy of Wing Commander III, and after wrestling with Windows for a few days, have been flying missions again. And loving it.

This is full of irony for me. First, aren't I the person railing on about kyriarchy and how we need a culture freed from the evils of domination? Aren't I generally opposed to violence of almost any kind? And don't I love cats? Hell, don't people call me Cat?

So why in the hell am I zipping around space blowing up evil space cats and following a plotline that ultimately ends with a shocking act of genocide?


Plate 4: I'm sure with a big enough lap to cuddle up in, he'd stop trying to DESTROY ALL HUMANS.

I have no idea. I'm sucked in, again, by the storyline, and the gameplay remains challenging but not impossible even for a slow-fingered person like myself. There are even female characters in the game, and they're not decoration--two are highly competent fighter pilots, and one is the ship's chief mechanic. (Of course, one set of choices leads you to have a relationship with one of them, which is a bit squicky, but on the other hand it is remarkable to have a video game that was a combat sim even mention the word love.)

I've noticed a few things different this time around. I'm not any better or worse a pilot than I used to be--I always played the game the way I thought my character really would fly, so I don't try to run up my score if the mission can be finished otherwise. My adrenaline reactions are...different nowadays, though. After a long session at the game, I can get a bit twitchy, and somewhat spatially disoriented, like I keep expecting the constant motion the 3D sim provides. I don't recall that stuff happening the first time around, and I wonder how much my current endocrinology has to do with that.

Of course, playing a video game--playing a violent, combat-oriented video game--brings up all sorts of gender crap for me. (But then, getting the paper in the morning has the potential to do that.) Mostly it's societal stuff that I, of all people, should know better than to listen too--women aren't violent, women don't play video games, women should sit down and watch the damn Lifetime Movie Network and keep careful notes of the cleaning products they must buy next trip to the store. Like I said, mostly crap.

But on the other hand, I haven't talked much about this with other women I know. Maybe because I fear that the women who know about my history will view this as one more way I'm not like them--and the women who don't know about my history might get ideas.

Silly. But there you have it.

In any case, I'm close to the end, and I'll drop The Big Bomb on Kilrah and win the game pretty soon now. Maybe with more qualms than the designers might have expected their players to have--they may be evil space kitties, but that doesn't make me happy to blow up their home planet, for goodness sake. And then maybe I'll head over to Women Gamers; I'll be needing a new fix soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Looks Like Trouble

My second post for Below the Belt is up!

When I practice aikido, I always wear lipstick.

That probably seems odd. I mean, getting thrown around the floor has nothing to do with my cosmetics--despite advertising claims to the contrary, lipstick won't improve my performance or even distract my partner with my feminine wiles.

Still, I always make sure to wear some lipstick when I practice. Because I want to have something about me that looks feminine.

Normally I don't need to worry about such things. I am a bit of a femme by nature and wear skirts about as often as pants. I've developed sufficient curves over the course of my transition that I don't worry too much about the remaining somewhat-masculine features I possess.

But when I am practicing at the dojo, I find myself much more insecure about my appearance. Squashed into a sports bra and muffled under the heavy layers of my uniform top, my breasts are much less noticeable. Ditto my hips. With my hair pulled back for comfort and convenience, my face reveals a masculine cast. I suddenly become very conscious of how much taller, heavier, and broader I am than most ofthe other female students
You can read the rest here! And yes, new posts to the Blog Itself are coming, ducks!

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Get Around (and Around and Around...)

Howdy, ducks! Sorry no posts recently...I plead being busy writing this bit about Caster Semenya for the Guardian's Comment Is Free section!

And while a sex test sounds benign enough, it won't be anything as simple as a DNA test – as Meloncye McAfee points out, there are a variety of conditions that can lead to a man having two X chromosomes, or a woman having a Y chromosome. No: Semenya will not only have her DNA checked, her urine and blood sampled and her genitals examined, but will even be required to have an interview with a psychologist – hopefully to help her get over the trauma of having all these tests done in a media fishbowl.

The irony is that had she not been born female, she could compete perfectly legally.



The rest of the article can be found here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's Funny Because It's True

This made me laugh, which I needed to do.



(h/t Shakesville)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How To Be Alone

Greetings again, ducks.

One of the hardest things I've set myself out to do is to write something every day, mostly here. Not all that easy; occasionally even Motormouth Me runs out of things to say. So I struggle with it, usually right at the point when a bunch of readers have dropped by in response to some blogvertising I've done.

Way to keep up the momentum, C.L.

I've been busy with work stuff the last few days and not getting enough sleep. Which explains part of why I've been away.

Would that it was the only reason.

I've been struggling a bit lately with the consequences of my late-aborning political awakening. (You knew there would be consequences, didn't you?) Specifically, I no longer seem to be able to keep from alienating people, including people who are dear to me.

I'm not sure what to do about it, either.

The essence of my--enlightenment, let's call it--has been that I have become acutely, painfully aware of my own privilege. This has led me to radically reexamine the world around me and the ways that privilege, mine and others, interact to create this beaten up planet and downtrodden human race.

And I don't know how to keep quiet about it. I don't know how to stop seeing, how to stop talking (and let's face it, preaching) about what I see.

I don't know, in short, how to just shut up and let things roll over me without it seeming like collusion. That's in part what I was trying to say in my previous post: that I can't even watch a muddle-headed B-movie like Uncommon Valor without seeing all the hypocrisies and unspoken assumptions it contains.

And I'm not sure that I even want to stop.

Part of the reason I started the blog is that I wanted to find an outlet for what I was feeling (especially the trans-related stuff) that I could use to keep it from leaking into my everyday life. In that regard, The Second Awakening is an utter failure, because writing about this stuff, digging deeply into my own thought processes, learning about the things going on around me, has only radicalized me even more. (Plus, I've become just proud enough of what I'm doing to want to talk about it, which knocks not outing myself as trans into a cocked hat.)

I don't think of the blog as a failure, of course; I like writing it, I like how I've had to confront a lot of my own internalized issues in the course of writing it, I like how I've managed to start to come to some conclusions about the world based on the work I've done here--work that feels so important to me; maybe the most important work I've ever done.

All the same, I wonder about where I am going, where this is taking me. Most of all, I worry that I will go some place that many people who are important to me cannot follow. That as a result of what I am doing, I will end up alone.

Maybe that's the price to pay. Lord knows I'm used to that kind of thing--transness has always been the gift that keeps on taking.

But I was kind of hoping that I was finally coming home, instead of walking further out into the cold.

Friday, August 14, 2009

How To Lose Your Sense Of Humor

Greetings, Ducks! So I had a super bad day yesterday--one of my depressive episodes, just didn't want to do anything--which explains why there wasn't a post. (Also: why I still haven't touched some work for one of my clients, yikes.) I slept late and blew off most of my responsibilities besides feeding the cats, and watched some TV.

One of the things I watched was an old movie--I shudder to think how old, because I remember when it came out: Uncommon Valor. In case you never heard the name before, it was a Reagan-era film about a mission to rescue POWs still being held by the Vietnamese.

As a movie, it's not bad: it has a decent cast (Gene Hackman, Fred Ward, a pre-Dirty Dancing Patrick Swayze among others) and gives the idea an above-average treatment. I won't comment too much on the circumstances of the era the movie was made--Reagan-era macho posturing, the very real question about whether there were any POWs still in Indochina, and the overall wish-fulfillment the whole back-to-Vietnam genre invoked.

What was interesting to me, watching the movie for the first time in, hmm, over 20 years, was my reaction to it now as opposed to how I might have viewed the movie at different points in my life.

I first saw Uncommon Valor when I was in a, a, um, Scouting organization. Okay? Nuff said. So it was a decidedly masculine environment, we were all kids--I was 11, there were some teenagers--and we probably grooved off the well-done action sequences. (And the foul language--it was an R-rated film.) The film became a favorite of mine, and my brother and I borrowed it several times from the local library.

Since then, many things have changed, of course: I've grown up, I've changed genders, I've lost a lot of my taste for war movies. But maybe most important of all, I've become politically awakened. And that has radically changed how I see--everything.

Now, I know I'm caught up in the first flush of all this activism, that there's nothing so zealous as a new convert, and that I could be a bit of a prig under the best of circumstances. But at the same time, having begun to look at the world in terms of dominance and oppression, privilege and denial--well, it's like eating one potato chip: you just can't stop yourself.

So, watching Uncommon Valor brought up a lot of thoughts that frankly might not have occurred to me even after I transitioned, but do occur to me now, such as (spoilers follow):

Is it really true that men have to fight each other to resolve their issues? Early on in the film, Patrick Swayze--a skilled soldier with no combat experience--ends up fighting Randall "Tex" Cobb, the toughest of the Vietnam vets on the team. The vets resent Swayze for treating them like recruits while he trains them; he feels he has to prove to them he won't fail in combat. So they fight, as custom, law, and generic Hollywood screenwriting all demand.

But seriously? Is that the only way he could have proved himself to them? Why do we just assume so? Why do men think that's so? Isn't that a poisonous thing to indoctrinate our children with? Aren't there alternatives?

Wait a minute, you're the good guys?: When Hackman's outfit arrives in Thailand to pick up their weapons, they are seized by the CIA and the Thai police. Hackman, obsessed with rescuing his son (whom he believes is held in the prison camp that is their target) decides to continue on anyway, buying weapons in the Golden Triangle. He sends out some of his men to get a vehicle, instructing them to "Steal it!"

So they come back with a truck that is clearly owned by a Thai--it's decorated with Buddha imagery. And clearly not a rich Thai, because the back of the truck is covered with plastic, not the tarpulin it comes with. So WTF? They just stole some local poor guy's livlihood? Presumably, somebody used that truck to feed their family, earn a living, escape from poverty. Yet we're supposed to overlook this, because our "heros" are on a noble mission...that will involve killing some more poor people. Nice.

Speaking of the locals: Depsite spending the last half of the movie in Thailand and Indochina, the only people of color our heros have any interaction with is a porter/guide, Mr. Chang, and his two daughters. Purpose: to die (two of them are killed in the mission), and serve as a sex interest for one of the white characters. No other people of color have any major interactions with the main characters except to get shot or provide a service--even the arms dealer they meet in the Golden Triangle is French. (And a poorly-done stereotype he is as well.)

And speaking of people of color, who are we rescuing?: In the end, the mission succeeds, and four American POWs are rescued. All of whom are white.

Say what?

It's not exactly a secret that the Vietnam War was proportionally worse on African-American than on white soldiers:
African Americans often did supply a disproportionate number of combat troops, a high percentage of whom had voluntarily enlisted. Although they made up less than 10 percent of American men in arms and about 13 percent of the U.S. population between 1961 and 1966, they accounted for almost 20 percent of all combat-related deaths in Vietnam during that period. In 1965 alone African Americans represented almost one-fourth of the Army's killed in action. In 1968 African Americans, who made up roughly 12 percent of Army and Marine total strengths, frequently contributed half the men in front-line combat units, especially in rifle squads and fire teams. Under heavy criticism, Army and Marine commanders worked to lessen black casualties after 1966, and by the end of the conflict, African American combat deaths amounted to approximately 12 percent—more in line with national population figures. Final casualty estimates do not support the assertion that African Americans suffered disproportionate losses in Vietnam, but this in no way diminishes the fact that they bore a heavy share of the fighting burden, especially early in the conflict.
So the odds are that at least one of those POWs should have been black, unless there was some Vietcong/NVA policy to not capture black soldiers. (There may have been, perhaps motivated by both Vietnamese and American racism--white prisoners would have been more valuable, sigh.) But somehow I don't think a movie to go in and rescue black, Latino, or even Asian-descended POWs would have sold as well, especially not in Reagan-era America. Instead, a bunch of white guys (plus one African-American, who to give the film its due, is a highly decorated helicopter pilot and an officer) recuse some other white guys, and kill a bunch of brown people along the way.

This isn't to come down too hard on Uncommon Valor, which is what it is and is very much a movie of its times. Rather, I wanted to show you what my thought processes look like now--how becoming more engaged keeps me from just letting things slide; how learning about my own privilege makes it difficult for me to just ignore it and go with the flow.

Maybe this has made me "humorless" or "shrill" or "a pain in the ass." Actually, it probably has. And that makes me sad; I don't want to be those things, I don't want to alienate people or always be harping about things.

But we live in a violence soaked world, filled with oppressions and petty tyrannies, and they drive me to distraction. How can I not be outraged? How can I not feel sympathy with the downtrodden? How can I not acknowledge how I am complicit with these horrors?

I don't know. But it seems to have cost me my sense of humor. If that's what it was.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Think It Like A Man

Greetings, ducks! Today I am very pleased to announce that I have been invited to be a regular contributor to the Below the Belt blog, "a multi-faceted genderblog designed to provide a space for informed, critical commentary about gender, sex, sexuality, and the many other aspects of gender facing people around the world."

They do really good and cool work over there, and I'm enormously happy to be working with them.

My first post for them is up today:


In between rounds of the pub trivia contest, my friend Vanessa told me that
sometimes people tell her she thinks like a man.

"I hate it," she said. "It's so sexist."

I knew what she meant; Vanessa has been on several game shows and has an
astonishing recall of facts, as well as a killer competitive edge--two things
generally considered either "male" or at least "unfeminine."

I wondered if people thought the same thing about me.

In my pretransition days, I'm sure many people saw me as "thinking like a
man." I used to be told that I was very logical; I was good at analysis; I was a
fierce debater. Yet at the same time, I was always convinced that on some level
I was "thinking like a woman"--because part of me was convinced beyond all
debate or contrary evidence that I was female.


Go on over to BTB to read the rest of the post.


Oh, and I even get this cool pinkified avatar!
This is so cool.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Womyn Born Better...Than You

Over on Below The Belt there's this piece about the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.

If you're trans, the festival is fairly notorious. This is because of its "womyn-born-womyn" policy: only those people born female are allowed to participate; trans women need not apply.

Now, I'm all for safe spaces for women, and I can even see having places and services that might deal with the stresses of having grown up female. But I'm not sure that a music festival has much to do with it, at least not everywhere, at all times during it.

What makes it even more fun is that, much like Lu's Pharmacy in Vancouver, the festival has historically included trans men. So the "born womyn" thing obviously trumps the "womyn" thing.

Like I say, biology equals destiny is such a feminist point.

Supposedly the festival now allows trans women to attend, although still (in the words of organizer Lisa Vogel) "If a transwoman purchased a ticket, it represents nothing more than that woman choosing to disrespect the stated intention of this Festival."

Nice.

While I believe in community spaces, and even in community leadership for groups that advocate for a community even if the group doesn't restrict its membership (for example, I think a male president of NOW would be...disturbing somehow), I'm not a fan of separatists of any stripe--not even trans separatists. (For a taste of how that looks, check out this thread of fail at Bilerico.) Too often, in my experience, separatism and division only leads to each group acting out a shadow play of their own oppression against other groups--like they were building sandcastles instead of tearing down real castles.

Of course, I won't attend MWMF. But that's not about politics; I just hate camping.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Media Watch: Special Chan(n)eling Edition

Ducks! I almost forgot this bit of bizarreness in the upcoming September issue of Harper's Bazaar:

From “What Would Coco Do” in the September issue of Bazaar, wherein designer Karl Lagerfeld was asked to “channel the original fashion wit,” Coco Chanel:

HB: Your clothing liberated women in the 1920s. Are you still a feminist?

CC: I was never a feminist because I was never ugly enough for that.
Um. Wow. I know why they chose Lagerfeld (he's headed Chanel in the past) but still...a man being asked to channel one of the first major female designers? One of the first women to head her own house? And then to say she wasn't a feminist because she wasn't ugly?

Heh. Well you know what they say: ugly is as ugly does, Karl.

Monday Media Watch: The Grey Lady Strikes Again

Greetings, ducks! Today, on Monday Media Watch, a special double-hit from our favorite source of all the news the establishment deems worthy to print, the New York Times!

First, let's talk the economy! I'll wait while you finish crying. There, there.

It's bad, right? I myself am an underemployed computer worker, which is why I have so much time to write internet screeds. But do you know who has it worse than me? Did you guess men? Because the Times sure did!

We’ve pointed out before that that recession has disproportionately hurt men, who are more likely to work in cyclically sensitive industries like manufacturing and construction. Women, on the other hand, are overrepresented in more downturn-resistant sectors like education and health care.

Casey B. Mulligan noted, for example, that for the first time in American history women are coming close to representing the majority of the national workforce. It would of course be a bittersweet milestone, given that it comes primarily as a result of men’s layoffs.
The data is actually very interesting--it is in fact true that men are getting laid off more than women. The article linked in the quote has some ideas on why:

Women tend to be employed in areas like education and health care, which are less sensitive to economic ups and downs, and in jobs that allow more time for child care and other domestic work.
But is that the only reason? Or is it also that, well, women make a lot less?

 ________________________________________________________________________
Male Female
_____________________________ _____________________________
Number Mean income Number Mean income
Age and year with ___________________ with ___________________
income Current 2007 income Current 2007
(thous.) dollars dollars (thous.) dollars dollars
________________________________________________________________________
15 YEARS OLD AND OVER
2007 104,789 $47,137 $47,137 105,230 $29,249 $29,249
2006 103,909 46,677 48,001 104,582 28,416 29,222
2005 102,986 44,850 47,635 104,245 26,261 27,891

CY 2007 data

Even when you factor out women working part-time jobs, the median wage gap between full-time male and full-time female employees was still almost $10,000 a year. (see page 14 of the pdf.)

So maybe that's another reason that women aren't losing their jobs as fast--they're cheaper to keep on.

Of course, some things never change:

When women are unemployed and looking for a job, the time they spend daily taking care of children nearly doubles. Unemployed men’s child care duties, by contrast, are virtually identical to those of their working counterparts, and they instead spend more time sleeping, watching TV and looking for a job, along with other domestic activities.
Speaking of things that don't change: Ross Douthat is still kind of a tool! Today he bewails the fact that nobody likes Judd Apatow's new movie--not because it's not that good, but because it's too conservative:

Don’t laugh. No contemporary figure has done more than Apatow, the 41-year-old auteur of gross-out comedies, to rebrand social conservatism for a younger generation that associates it primarily with priggishness and puritanism. No recent movie has made the case for abortion look as self-evidently awful as “Knocked Up,” Apatow’s 2007 keep-the-baby farce. No movie has made saving — and saving, and saving — your virginity seem as enviable as “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” whose closing segue into connubial bliss played like an infomercial for True Love Waits.

Oh yeah, Knocked Up sure makes keeping your baby look glamorous and wonderful--plus you get to be the reason a 30-year old man finally decides to grow up! And The 40-Year Old Virgin tells us that woman can be the reason a...40-year old man finally grows up. Which is a great deal, if you're not the one who's the lady.

Somehow I don't think that ever crossed Ross's mind.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lies the Internet Told Me

Sady at Tiger Beatdown, who is having an awesome week, wrote an amazing post about the (false) rumors that Lady Gaga is intersex:
So, yeah. It will always puzzle me when cisgendered people don't see how the marginalization and oppression of trans people affects them. Because the fact is that there are a ton of trans people in the world, and you don't necessarily know who they are, and they're not required to tell you. But when people get a case of the Deceptive Tranny Fever, nothing - not decency, not tolerance, not basic fact-checking, not even Google - will get in their way.

So true. The whole "deceptive tranny" thing is the old double-bind in action as well, ergo: if you're trans, and you don't tell the whole wide world, aaaand you sleep with some cisgendered dude or lady, aaaand they find out, then you are a deceiver and deserve to die or at least have your CDs thrown out; but if you're trans, aaand you tell the whole world, then people call you a thing or refuse to use your correct gender, aaaand you deserve to die or at least have your CDs thrown out.

That is, you get it both ways: you're punished for both telling and not telling, because the culture punishes "deception" without rewarding "honesty."

Go read the post, because like most things Sady, it is awesome.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's a Crime

Richard Cohen, writing on Tuesday, had this to say about James von Brunn, the man who attacked the Holocaust museum earlier this year:

He also proves the stupidity of hate-crime laws. A prime justification for such laws is that some crimes really affect a class of people. The hate-crimes bill recently passed by the Senate puts it this way: "A prominent characteristic of a violent crime motivated by bias is that it devastates not just the actual victim . . . but frequently savages the community sharing the traits that caused the victim to be selected." No doubt. But how is this crime different from most other crimes?

First, let us consider the question of which "community" von Brunn was allegedly attempting to devastate. He rushed the Holocaust museum, which memorializes the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis and their enablers. There could be no more poignant symbol for the Jewish community. Yet von Brunn killed not a Jew but an African American -- security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns.

So which community was affected by this weird, virtually suicidal act? Was it the Jewish community or the black community? Since von Brunn hated both, you could argue that it does not matter. But since I would guess that neither community now gives the incident much thought, the answer might well be "neither one." So what is the point of piling on hate crimes to what von Brunn has allegedly done? Beats me. He already faces -- at age 89, remember -- a life sentence and, possibly, the death penalty.

The real purpose of hate-crime laws is to reassure politically significant groups -- blacks, Hispanics, Jews, gays, etc. -- that someone cares about them and takes their fears seriously. That's nice. It does not change the fact, though, that what's being punished is thought or speech.
Actually, the real purpose of hate crime laws is to punish terrorism.

Yes, I used the t-word. A hate crime is one where the victim was a target only because of membership in some group (frequently a disprivileged or discriminated against group.) Hate crimes have the effect (even if the intention is not always so far-reaching) of terrorizing that group; of reminding them that they are in danger by virtue of who they are; of reminding them that violence remains the prerogative of the powerful.

Cohen sarcastically asks, "which group was terrorized?" which seems so disingenuous coming from a Jewish person. Can he not see that one of the effects of von Brunn's attack was to remind people that just being at a Jewish cultural institution is dangerous? If even one person decides not to go to the Holocaust Museum because of von Brunn's actions, doesn't that make what he did terrorism?

People forget, I think, what the purpose of terrorism is: it's not to kill people. September 11th remains the worst terrorist act in history, and the casualty count would barely make the list of interesting battles of the American Civil War. No. The point of terrorism is terror: the use of asymnetric violence to break the morale of a militarily superior society; to make all people, not just soldiers in combat, afraid of violent death; to cause people to change they way they live, to bring the battle home to them.

Cohen understands this, even if he doesn't seem to appreciate it--maybe because he doesn't think his example affects him:
If there's a murder in a park, I'll stay out of it for months. If there's a rape, women will stay out of the park. If there's another and another, women will know that a real hater is loose. Rape, though, is not a hate crime. Why not?
Indeed, why not? as Liss at Shakesville ponders. Especially in light of a story like this:

Four people are confirmed dead and nine others were wounded when a gunman opened fire inside the L.A. Fitness in Collier Township Tuesday night.

The shooting happened shortly after 8 p.m.

The county coroner's office has identified the gunman as 48-year-old George Sodini from Scott Township. [...] Sodini was keeping an online diary where it appears as if he was planning the shooting for about nine months. He also detailed on the site how he attempted to carry out the shooting once before, but backed out.
Right now, there's at least one woman worried about going to the gym because she might be cornered there and shot simply because she's a woman. (I know that for sure, because she is me.) This isn't a random crime, or an act of desperation by a criminal: this is a cold-blooded act of mass murder, an act of "revenge" for a mythical wrong, a crime designed to make a whole group of people feel afraid.

It's terrorism. And we shouldn't stand for it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Adventures in Transition: Definitely not Fast as Lightening Edition

Last night I took an aikido class for the first time in three years.

I first started doing aikido about ten years ago, during the summer when I finally started to treat my depression. I stayed for about two years at a very, very tough dojo, then quit for a variety of reasons (including my desire to quit my lousy job and go freelance.) About three years ago I found another dojo in my nabe and was there for maybe seven months, before the instructor moved to California.

The points being a) I'm not a complete beginner and b) all of this took place before my transition.

These are relavant because last night, for the first time ever, I had to leave the mat while class was in session. Twice.

Now, there are some decent reasons for that: it was hot and muggy yesterday. I didn't eat a big lunch (my usual onsite gourmet meal of yogurt and a buttered roll, with a peanut butter granola bar thrown in for good measure.) I've gained a lot of weight recently. And of course, I did have major surgery five months ago.

I think there was more to it than all that. The fact of the matter is, I'm not the same person I used to be.

One of the things that shocked me about starting hormones was just how much muscle mass I lost in a relatively short time. I never needed to worry about binding my breasts (Not that there was a lot to bind. Then, I mean.) because my suits and dress shirts suddenly got huge on me. And I also stopped doing a lot of physical activity after a few months on HRT, so I wasn't really keeping track of how much I was changing. (I dropped my gym membership after about six months because I couldn't stand using the men's locker room anymore, which meant that I stopped biking into work--about a 6.5 mile ride each way; in any case, I wasn't pushing myself anywhere close to what I had done before hormones.)

So I think that a lot of what I learned once before I'm going to have to unlearn, because the strength (and endurance, until I get my wind back) just isn't there anymore; a big part of my "failures" yesterday was trying to do things as if nothing had changed. But it has.

This isn't really a bad thing, because one of the reasons I decided to go back to aikido is that it is the only martial art I know of with a philosophy against domination--and as you may have gleaned, my current project is to find ways to live without dominating other human beings. My first dojo had a definite macho air about it, and I learned to use my strength--not that I was Conan or something--in ways that let me blow past a lot of the deeper philosophical lessons of aikido, like blending with your partner or using her energy against her instead of using your own.

So like everything else related to my transition, this is a learning moment. And I hope I can really learn from it--maybe I'll even be able to survive the whole class tomorrow.

I hope so--I have a peanut butter Twix bar waiting for me when I do.

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Blog note: I had wanted to start another new weekly feature, "Evil Willow's Weekly Web Round Up," which will have some snark--er, witty--commentary on the dreck that Google Reader finds for me, but for once there's a paucity of teh stoopid on the nets right now--and a surfeit of actual, horrifying evil. So it can wait til next week.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

And the Lightbulb Goes On

So I'm reading this post at Shakesville about a full-of-FAIL article by Satoshi Kanazawa about how feminism is evil and unneccesary because women are HAWT and only need shoes (or something; his logic is hard to follow, mostly because there doesn't seem to be any.) And there's a comments thread that is in the best tradition of Shakesville comments threads. Which means, among other things, that there's a discussion of why a common epithet turns out to be far nastier than you thought.*

In this case, it turns out the word "maroon" really is a racist term**, even though I (and the original commentator) seem to have always associated it with Bugs Bunny's joking mispronunciation of "moron." (Which is also not cool, because it makes fun of people with mental disabilities.)

Now, being what I am--a human being caught in the invisible web of the kyriarchy--I couldn't help for a second thinking, "great, another word I'll have to be careful about using." (Just for a second, ducks, we take checking privilege seriously around here.) And then it occurred to me: oh yes, how terrible it would be to end up living in a world where a person's thoughts would have to be actually addressed, instead of just dismissed by a senseless epithet that lets you turn off your brain. How truly awful that would be for everyone.

But I never claimed to be quick on the uptake.

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*That's not snark; one of the great things about Shakesville is that you continually get your assumptions challenged there.

**The people the term applied to were actually pretty amazing--fleeing slavery to forge an existence out of almost nothing.

Big Tent

I finally got around to doing something I've wante to do for a while--expand the blog list and categorize it. So we now have feminism, queer pride, and, of course, Teh Tranz links to the right.

I've also started a category called Friends of the Blog to express my appreciation to anyone who follows the blog or has contributed with their comments in a productive way. If I've missed you or screwed up your link or something, please drop me an email.

And thank you again for dropping by!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday Media Watch

Greetings, ducks! This week here at TSA we're going to try something new and different--recurring theme columns! Today will be the inaugural Monday Media Watch.

Over the weekend, in between writing SQL specifications, I managed to actually watch some TV (other than Buffy DVDs, that is.) In fact, I caught Mike Judge's 2006 internet cult fave Idiocracy.



I'm mostly confused by Mike Judge--I was in college when Beavis and Butthead first came out and was never really impressed by watching a couple of barely-articulate slackers make fun of music videos. (I mean, I wasn't even a fan of that in real life.) But after that came King of the Hill which might as well be a modern-day Leave it to Beaver--Hank Hill's solidly middle-of-the-road conservative values always win out in the end. In some ways it's similar to Parker and Stone's "common sense" values on South Park, although without that show's audacitous offensiveness and sometimes spot-on satire. But both are similar in the way that the "common sense" approach that always manages to win out looks suspciously like the point-of-view of middle class white privilege.

(With some caveats: I liked Judge's Office Space for its gleeful and accurate satire of the mindlessness of modern corporate existence, and the South Park movie's general gleeful destruction.)

Idiocracy probably had visions of being a satire, and its vision hits some easy but satisfying targets: a Costco the size of a city, every conceivable surface--clothing, furniture, even the flag--covered with advertising slogans, cable TV hitting the lowest possible common denominator (the Violence channel has a show called "Ow! My Balls!" consisting of an hour of a guy getting hit in the crotch.) Much of this is chuckle-inducing, greatly enhanced byLuke Wilson in another of his startled shlub turns.

Other jokes, however, have a cringe factor. Judge ferociously attacks the pornification of American advertising by showing us a world of franchise sex: Starbucks gives hand jobs, H & R Block offers "gentleman's tax planning" and there's even fried chicken with "full release." All of which might have gone off better had not the other main character (played by Maya Rudolph) been--a prostitute.

And that leads us into some other troubling matters. The English language, we are told, now resembles a mix of "hillbilly and Valley Girl slang," but there seem to be a preponderence of hispanic names and "accents" around to demonstrate how much stupider America is in the 26th century. And yes, there's a black president--but one who comes off as just another bunch of 21st century stereotypes: he's a former wrestler and porn star. (In fact, the three main African-American characters are: a porn star, a prostitute, and a pimp.)

Not surprisingly, the movie ends up validating a white male slacker as the only reasonable character--and hey, given that Mike Judge is a white male slacker who made very good, I guess I can't blame him. But Idiocracy has developed some kind of hip-cult status on the Internets, and I have news for you guys: it ain't as transgressive as you think.

While I was watching Idiocracy, I got treated to the usual series of ads catering to the doucheoisie that Comedy Central routinely runs. (It's much worse on both CC and Adult Swim late at night, when the ads for the local stripper clubs run.) One of those included the newest Burger King Late Night series, in which their "King" character plays a prank on a sleeping person--in the spirit of this:



Except this one apparently was set in a woman's dorm (or at least a house with female roomates.) Sadly, the video isn't up yet, but what happens is that they do the old "shaving cream on the hand, tickle the face" gag--the woman wakes up and slaps her face to brush away the "bug," only to smear shaving cream all over her self.

But here's the part that makes this ad even douchier than normal--she wakes up and sees a strange man wearing a bizarre mask on his face. And screams. Well, no shit! I mean, this is the start of a slasher/rape nightmare, and I'd scream too. And I know that makes me a Humorless FeministTM, but give me a break--it's bad enough that this forms the plot of every cop show on TV, do we really need it to sell burgers?

There was, however, one ad I did like:



I can't say I'm a huge fan of the Progressive ads--I don't own a car, so I'm largely indifferent to them--but I love how she totally rocked this guy back on his stereotypes. Rock on, Flo!