Whipping Girl by Julia SeranoWhipping Girl is an outstanding book on transsexual women, feminism and trans-misogyny. Serano draws well thought-out lines from general societal misogyny to the hatred and fear of gay men, feminine men, and trans women. She blows up a lot of tired paradigms of sex, gender, gender presentation, gender identity and all that stuff. M

y main complaint is that she confuses two different definitions of class, one that refers to social/economic differentiation (as in “working class”, “upper class”, etc) and one that refers to a category or group of something (like in “class action lawsuit”). Through this confusion she mostly avoids conversation about the intersections of trans identity and class status, shielding and invisibilizing her own class privilege. The same thing happens with race- Serano is almost completely silent on how race intersects with trans identities. Once again she covers up her own privilege when in fact nearly every facet of life in the racialized US is affected by racial identity, including trans identity.

Critiques aside, there is still much to be gained from the book. I found the following quotes quite illuminating:

“[M]ost of the anti-trans sentiment that I have had to deal with as a transsexual woman is probably better described as misogyny.” pg.3

“From my own experience in having transitioned from one sex to the other, I have found that women and men are not separated by an insurmountable chasm, as many people seem to believe. Actually, most of us are only a hormone prescription away from being perceived as the “opposite” sex. Personally, I welcome this idea as a testament to just how little difference there really is between women and men. To believe that a woman is a woman because of her sex chromosomes, reproductive organs, or socialization denies the reality that every single day, we classify each person we see as either female or male based on a small number of visual cues and a ton of assumption.” pgs.51-52

“The fact that we perceive two major categories of gender enables us to view women and men as “opposites”—a premise that is founded on a series of egregiously incorrect assumptions. [I]n order for the two sexes to be “opposites,” they must first be mutually exclusive. Therefore, on a societal level, we purposefully ignore that variation that exists in sex characteristics and create the illusion that there is absolutely no overlap between the sexes.” pgs.102-103

“Cissexuals may want to believe that their genders are more authentic than mine, but that belief is dishonest and ignorant… [T]he major difference between my life history as a woman and theirs is that I have had to fight for my right to be recognized as female, while they have had the privilege of simply taking it for granted.” pg.169-170

“Not surprisingly, no aspect of my social transition has been more difficult for me to adjust to than the way I am treated by some (but certainly not all) men… On an intellectual level, I knew that I would sometimes be dismissed or harassed once I started living as female, but I underestimated just how frustrating and hurtful each one of those instances would be. Words cannot express how condescending and infuriating it feels to have men speak down to me, talk over me, and sometimes even practically put on baby-talk voices when addressing me. Or how intimidating it feels to have strangers make lewd comments about having their way with me as I’m walking alone at night… [W]hile I had numerous run-ins and arguments with strange men back when I was male-bodied, I’d never before experienced the enraged venom in their voices and fury in their faces that I somtimes do now—an extreme wrath that some men seem to reserve specifically for women who they believe threaten their fragile male egos.” pg.223

“[T]hose who patrol the gates of women-only spaces are often dead set on discriminating against me, driven by the ridiculous belief that my girly little estrogenized penis is somehow still pulsating with hypermasculine energy.” pg.229

Feminist Theory from margin to center by bell hooksI finally read this 1984 classic by bell hooks. A fundamental text on intersectional feminism, stating clearly why race and gender cannot be divided into separate spheres of concern.

I was struck by some particular passages:

“White women and black men have it both ways. They can act as oppressor or be oppressed. Black men may be victimized by racism, but sexism allows them to act as exploiters and oppressors of women. White women may be victimized by sexism, but racism enables them to act as exploiters and oppressors of black people. Both groups have led liberation movements that favor their interests and support the continued oppression of other groups. Black male sexism has undermined struggles to eradicate racism just as white female racism undermines feminist struggle. As long as these two groups or any group defines liberation as gaining social equality with ruling class white men, they have a vested interest in the continued exploitation and oppression of others.” pg.15

“Women must begin the work of feminist reorganization with the understanding that we have all (irrespective of our race, sex, or class) acted in complicity with the existing oppressive system. We all need to make a conscious break with the system. The compassion we extend to ourselves, the recognition that our change in consciousness and action has been a process, must characterize our approach to those individuals who are politically unconscious.” pgs.161-162

Normal Life by Dean SpadeEverybody should probably go and get a copy of this book right now. The long title is Normal Life – Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. Spade criticizes mainstream gay politics and suggests a more radical, less marginalizing politics that centers poor trans people of color. The book is amazing.

Best quotes:

“Lesbian and gay organizations have also generally followed a model of governance and efficacy based on private sector norms rather than social justice values. The most well-funded organizations have pay scales similar to the private sector, with executive directors often making three to four times the salaries of the lowest paid employees. Pay often correlates to educational privilege, which again means that the greatest share of resources goes to white employees from privileged backgrounds while the least goes to employees of color and people without educational privilege.” pg.67

“Trans populations are disproportionately poor because of employment discrimination, family rejection, and difficulty accessing school, medical care, and social services. These factors increase our rate of participation in criminalized work to survive, which, combined with police profiling, produces high levels of criminalization.” pg.89

“Three concerns about law reform projects permeate many sites of resistance. First, these projects change only what the law says about what a system is doing, but not its actual impact. Second, they refine a system in ways that help it continue to target the most vulnerable people, while only partially or temporarily removing a few of the less vulnerable from its path. And finally, law reform projects often provide rationales and justifications for the expansion of harmful systems.” pg.92

“The myth of legal equality in the United States is supported by the narrative that US laws used to exclude people on the basis of race and gender but now they do not. Supposedly, all is now fair and equal. However, our nation itself was built by the establishment of population-level systems of property and labor regulation that created and utilized racial and gender categories from the beginning. The population-level programs that were mobilized from their inception by explicit race and gender exclusions continue to do the work of distributing security and vulnerability along race and gender lines, just under the auspices of race and gender neutral criteria.” pgs.116-117

“[L]egal inclusion and recognition demands often reinforce the logics of harmful systems by justifying them, contributing to their illusions of fairness and equality, and by reinforcing the targeting of certain perceived “drains” or “internal enemies,” carving the group into “the deserving” and “the undeserving” and then addressing only the issues of the favored sector.” pg.124

“For those who have long articulated opposition to state incentivization and reward for heteropatriarchial sexuality and family structures and punishment for others, the idea that lesbian and gay people should seek marriage recognition rather than aim to abolish marriage and achieve more just methods of distribution is…problematic.” pg.126

“[O]ne might observe that the lesbian and gay rights agenda primarily operates to restore privileges of the dominant systems of meaning and control to those gender-conforming, white, wealthy gay and lesbian US citizens who are enraged at how homophobic laws and policies limit access to benefits to which they feel entitled.” pg.60

“We must not only refuse reforms that require dividing and leaving behind more vulnerable trans populations, but also try to assume that the most easily digestible invitations to be included are the very ones that bring us into greater collusion with systemic control and violence.” pgs.161-162

“[T]he legalistic approach of [law reform projects] has been linked to concerns about an unjust distribution of power and leadership, especially when the work is funded and directed largely by white, upper-class professionals who inevitably create an agenda that centralizes the concerns and experiences of people like themselves.” pg.172

“[A] challenging dynamic has emerged: social welfare has increasingly become dependent on private businesses and foundations. Corporate funders have become the sponsors and benefactors of social services… The situation translates into overreliance by many organizations on income from corporations and accumulated wealth stored in foundations.” pg.173

“Nonprofits serving primarily poor and disproportionately people of color populations are frequently governed almost entirely by wealthy white people with college and graduate degrees. Staffing follows this pattern as well, with most nonprofits requiring formal education as a prerequisite to working in administrative or management-level positions. Thus, the nature of the infrastructure in many social justice nonprofits often leads to concentrated decision-making power and pay in the hands of people with education, race, gender and class privilege rather than in the hands of those bearing the brunt of the systems of maldistribution… “This dynamic leads to the reproduction of the very same systems of maldistribution that organizations are purportedly targeting. Inside those organizations, white elites determine the fates of the vulnerable and get paid to make decisions about their lives while people directly impacted are kept out of leadership.” pgs.176-177

“Nonprofits are one way that wealthy people and corporations avoid tax liability. Most of the money that gets redirected out of the tax system by philanthropy does not go to social justice.” pg.179

Manufacturing Consent by Michael Burawoy Not to be confused with the book of the same title by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, I recently read the Manufacturing Consent by Michael Burawoy. Burawoy spent time working in a machine shop in the 70s in the Midwest, and wrote about his experiences, connecting them to larger historical and social movements.

A quote:

“Managers…must be aware of the consequences of enforcing restrictive rules—in particular, their inevitable demise. Why then do they persist in this apparently futile efforts? A possible explanation is that the cyclical intensification of “obsolete” rules constitutes a ritual affirmation of managerial domination.” pg.175

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” is the title of a book by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. In it she discusses the development of racial identity, focusing predominantly on childhood. I’ve noticed some discussion on the internet of this topic lately, particularly this article by Brittney Cooper, in which she discusses how growing racial identity caused social separation between herself and her black peers vis à vis her white peers.

Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

“The task of resisting our own oppression does not relieve us of the responsibility of acknowledging our complicity in the oppression of others.” pg.27

“We need to understand that in racially mixed social settings, racial grouping is a developmental process in response to an environmental stressor, racism. Joining with one’s peers for support in the face of stress is a positive coping strategy.” pg.62

“The social pressure from friends and acquaintances to collude, to not notice racism, can be quite powerful.” pg.101

People sometimes ask me this question. As in, How do you maintain your sanity whilst steeped in the most troubling elements of our society? How do you live your values in a racist, capitalist, misogynist heterosexist homophobic, etc world? How do you keep resisting? I wonder this about a lot of people myself… there are some really amazing human beings out there fighting the good fight against enormous odds. I do what I can where I am. For awhile there my full-time (overnight) job was at a homeless shelter for youth, and my part-time job was giving anti-rape teach-ins. Plus being active online and IRL for various other causes that I care about. People seemed to find this combination overwhelming to consider, and wanted to know how I survive and keep going. They want some ideas about how THEY can survive and keep going.

I don’t have a fancy answer for myself. I drink a lot and I take a lot of mental health days.

Yet I recognize many people have to work under such circumstances where they can’t even TAKE a sick day. So there’s that. Also, I’m depressed a lot.

I mean, how do YOU do it?

Here’s part of a great answer:

I am a feminist because I do not want that right, because I never want to stand on the same side as my abusers;

I am a feminist because, if I am honest with myself, I cannot deny that I am, as a man, always and already on that side, because to be honest with myself is to recognize the changes that my side needs to make…

A page on the Geek Feminism Wiki defines a grunch as one of those little moments that just causes all of your illusions of being seen as an equal to fall apart.

From an outstanding article by Tim Chevalier about programming, women and sexism, entitled How To Exclude Women Without Really Trying. Read it!

Here is just a taste:

Countering sexism requires courage and (in Samuel Delany’s words) moral stamina. It is work that largely needs to be done by men, since men who tacitly believe that women aren’t quite human are hardly going to listen to women’s opinions on the subject.

I admit I was not really in the know about the teachers’ strike in Chicago. UNTIL I read this very helpful article:

CHICAGO’S TEACHERS JUST WENT ON STRIKE — HERE’S EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WHY

So if you didn’t know, now you know.

There’s actually not a lot more to say about this story. Shawn Lowe, who hopes that “I and everyone else can just move on,” was recently convicted of raping two 14 year old girls when he was 21. This wasn’t simply statutory rape- these girls both said “no” and he proceeded to coerce them. He fed one half of a 40 first.

Missoula County District Court Judge John Larson sentenced Shawn Lowe, 23, on Thursday to 20 years in prison, but suspended all of that but 90 days, which he said Lowe could spent in the Missoula County Detention Facility. He also designated Lowe a tier 1 sex offender, meaning that his risk of repeating the offense is low.

As a commenter on the story says, that’s only 45 days per rape, an experience that will haunt the girls for a lifetime. So much of the “justice” system has to be messed up for a sentence like this to be handed down, that I honestly don’t know where to start and I don’t even want to try. I’m depressed enough.

Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma, gained my notice by expressing this extremely creative history of Oklahoma at the Republican National Convention:

Governor Mary Fallin

“The history of my great state of Oklahoma offers a great example of pursuing the American Dream. It was built and settled by pioneers movibe west to seek better lives. During the Great Land Run of 1889, thousands of families rushed to put a stake down on empty plots of land. They built tent cities overnight. They farmed the land and they worked hard. And, in 1897, eight years after the land run, a handful of adventurous pioneers risked their own money — not the federal government’s money — to drill Oklahoma’s first oil well, the Nellie Johnstone. By doing so, these early-day pioneers changed the future and Oklahoma forever and today Oklahoma is one of the nation’s key energy producers and job creators. President Obama wants us to believe that Oklahomans owe that success to the federal government — to the Department Of Energy,to the EPA, to the IRS, or maybe even to him. Mr. President, we know better. As we say in Oklahoma, that dog won’t hunt.”

I recommend the following party game: have someone read this statement aloud (or play the youtube video!). Everytime Fallin says something that is TOTALLY MADE-UP AND/OR OBSCENELY OFFENSIVE, everyone takes a shot. The first person to black out loses.

Read Wonkette’s take on this laughably predictable piece of racism at the Republican National Convention.

Deep Secrets by Niobe WayI just finished reading Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships & the Crisis of Connection by Niobe Way. Way is a Psychology professor and performed her own research to create this book- a study of boys and their friendships, and how the pressures of “being a man” create loss as the boys grow up and feel they can no longer be emotionally intimate with other males. Recommended!

Some quotes:

“The gender divide — where girls don’t think and boys don’t feel — the virtual “DNA of the patriarchy” does not capture how boys actually experience their worlds.” Pg.263

“The very social and emotional capacities, needs, and desires that are associated with being female and gay are not only the very same skills that are at the foundation of our survival as individuals and as a species; they are also capacities, needs, and desires that boys themselves have and are explicit about if one is willing to listen.” Pg.265

“Friendships as well as our emotional and social intelligence are central to our emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being. Yet we continue to ignore the evidence and blame female teachers, mothers, fathers, and the “feminized” school curriculum for boys’ problems. We fail to see that they stem from our idealization of a stereotypic version of manhood…” Pg.268

“Just as our masculine stereotypes rest on constructs of autonomy and stoicism, so does our definition of maturity — revealing, of course, the patriarchy at work, with manhood meaning the same thing as adulthood.” Pg.268

“The opposite of patriarchy is not a fictional matriarchy where emotions rule and thinking is passé. It is a thick democracy where thinking, feeling, learning, and having a range of different types of relationships are possible and encouraged for every “citizen.” ” Pg. 276-277

Here is an article written for the Village Voice in 1979. It was written by Lester Bangs, at the time an important music journalist. Entitled “The White Noise Supremacists”, it is about the racism Lester has been encountering in the Punk and New Wave scenes.

Truly worth checking out!

From ABC News:

Paterno told his son, Scott Paterno, that he did not know anything about Sandusky’s sexual abuse, noting that he did not listen to rumors and only knew what McQueary told him.

“‘I didn’t hear anything, why are you badgering me?’ Paterno told his son. ‘What do I know about Jerry Sandusky? I’ve got Nebraska to think about, I can’t worry about this.’ Nebraska was the next game.

Thanks for laying out your priorities there, bro.

The article also says:

He had his dark moments, certainly, when he wondered how old friends could turn so suddenly on him and how people at Penn State, the school he had loved and championed for most of his life, could believe such terrible things about him.

How could they believe that he didn’t give a rip about child molestation? Maybe they got that opinion by listening to him talk.

Sigh.

Remember when Penn State students demonstrated their disgust for child sex abuse by rioting in defense of Paterno? Because it was so unjust to expect him to investigate serious allegations about an underling?

Sigh.

I guess some ICE employees are itching to kick more brown people out of their United States. I’m supposing they got involved with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the hope of making life worse for people of darker hue, and then stuff like budgets and politics and human rights got in the way.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE “BROWN TIDE” and the DEMOGRAPHIC DISASTER??

The natural answer is to sue. Certain enterprising government employees at ICE established a natural link to the nativist organization, NumbersUSA. NumbersUSA, with extensive ties to racists of all types, is a big supporter of all the toughest anti-immigrant legislation, and has agreed to fund this lawsuit.

MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN HELL.

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West published a book called The Rich and the Rest of Us. I recently read this book, and here are my favorite quotes. I highly recommend this book as an excellent introduction into poverty issues and America’s class system.

” “There has been something crude and heartless and unfeeling in our haste to succeed and be great,” President Woodrow Wilson declared in 1913 at the beginning of the 20th century…”

“Poverty is 21st-century-style slavery; its eradication should serve as the battle cry of a new civil rights movement.”

“[A] condition of truth is to allow the suffering to speak.”

17-year-old Savannah Dietrich was sexually assaulted at a party. The two boys even took pictures of their heinous deed. The criminals actually had to go to court, but received light sentences, and then a gag order was placed on the case so that no one, including the victim, could speak publicly about it again. Dietrich, upset at the lack of justice, used Twitter to speak out, and dared to name her attackers. The boys’ attorneys tried to have her charged with contempt, a jailable offense.

Thank god that they withdrew that motion, after international outrage.

Savannah Dietrich

Dietrich sounds like one cool lady:

“There you go, lock me up,” Savannah Dietrich tweeted, as she named the boys who she said sexually assaulted her. “I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.”

…“I’m at the point, that if I have to go to jail for my rights, I will do it,” she said. “If they really feel it’s necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me … as opposed to throwing these boys in jail for what they did to me, then I don’t understand justice.”

From the AP:

The numbers suggest that the legitimate votes rejected by the [Voter ID] laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent. Thousands more votes could be in jeopardy for this November, when more states with larger populations are looking to have similar rules in place.

So… doesn’t that indicate that Voter ID laws in fact perpetrate greater fraud than the “fraud” they’re supposedly fixing? Isn’t preventing someone from voting some sort of crime?

Just some thoughts.

Also from the article:

A Republican leader in Pennsylvania said recently that the state’s new ID law would allow Romney to win the state over President Barack Obama.

Huh. YOU DON’T SAY.

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