Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The one in which I'm embarrassed by my home state v. 2
An interesting report in yesterday's Detroit Free Press.

According to the article:

Violent crimes against Michiganders because of their sexual orientation jumped 133% last year, according to a report released today by the Detroit-based Triangle Foundation.

In 2007, there were 226 reported cases involving violence or violent threats against gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered people, the report said. Out of those cases, two were murders, 46 were assaults and 101 of them involved intimidation or harassment, the report said. There were 97 reported incidents in 2006.

In addition to the violent incidents, there were 72 cases of discrimination, according to the Triangle Foundation.

I can't help but remember last week's news that the Michigan Supreme Court decided to outlaw same-sex partner benefits. Discrimination and hate begets discrimination and hate. Perhaps even more so when the highest court in the (state) land is setting the example.

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Monday, May 19, 2008
Dangerously Reading v. 5
This month's selection was Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms. I went through a bit of a Capote phase obsession a couple years ago so I've already read this one. I enjoyed it but didn't need to revisit it. Instead, I substituted a Virginia Woolf selection. I decided upon A Room of One's Own. Even though I finished it yesterday, I still can't decide how I feel about it.

On one hand, it was very poignant and ahead of its time. Written in 1928, the book is a combination of lectures given by Woolf about art, fiction, intellectualism and sexism. In particular, I enjoyed her discussion about who controls "knowledge" and who has access to it. Her observations were true then and still ring correct today. I also enjoyed how applicable her words were to all writers and thinkers. I know the book is specifically about fiction but I found a lot of richness about writing in general.

However, the book was so boring. I hate to say it but I found my mind wandering constantly. She used so many examples that her argument got redundant after a while.

Of course, it is only a 2008 world that allows me this critique. I cannot imagine reading this work in 1928. It would have been groundbreaking and controversial.

Despite my boredom, I found lots of words of wisdom:

Pg. 5 "At any rate, when a subject is highly controversial--and any question about sex is that--one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. "

Pg. 30 "The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt i another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

Pg. 40 "...and I thought of the organ booming in the chapel and of the shut doors of the library; and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in; and, thinking of the safety and prosperity of the one sex and of the poverty and insecurity of the other and of the effect of tradition and of the lack of tradition upon the mind of a writer, I thought at last that it was time to roll up the crumpled skin of the day, with its arguments and its impressions and its anger and its laughter, and case it into the hedge. "

Pg. 152 "It would be a thousand pities of women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with only one?"

Pg. 188 "Intellectual freedom depends upon material things."

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Sunday, May 18, 2008
Weekly Geek v. 1

I couldn't pass up this blogger challenge over at The Hidden Side of a Leaf:

Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

Not surprisingly, I immediately started gathering feminist books that I think every feminist and feminist reader should have in her/his library. BUT! I know that isn't that much of a stretch for this blog so I tagged on a bonus--Political Speechwriting! Feminism! Politics! And books! All in one post!

Maternal Thinking (Sara Ruddick): Fantastic book for feminists and peace activists. A new way to conceptualize motherhood and femininity. A must read.
Gender Trouble (Judith Butler): An academic book that has been accused of being too dense. But the book was fundamental to my understanding of the gender system and all that it encompasses.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Carson McCullers): A book about isolation, loneliness and labor politics. While not explicitly feminist, I'm not the first to view it as such. McCullers is magical and this book is her best.
The Color Purple (Alice Walker): Duh. Alice Walker. A heartbreaking book that exposes the true depths of patriarchy and misogyny. Walker's contribution to the feminist movement cannot be overstated.

And now for the bonus! Speechwriting. I am obsessed with political speechwriters. I love to imagine the intimate relationship they have with the President and words. So romantic. I haven't read either of these books but I plan to this summer.

White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters (Robert Schlesinger): Veteran Washington reporter Robert Schlesinger opens a fresh and revealing window on the modern presidency from FDR to George W. Bush. This is the first book to examine a crucial and often hidden role played by the men and women who help presidents find the words they hope will define their places in history.

Counselor: A Life At the Edge of History (Ted Sorenson): John F. Kennedy's closest advisor recounts in full for the first time his experience counseling Kennedy through the most dramatic moments in American history.

Let me know if you've read any of these--or plan to read any of these!

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Friday, May 16, 2008
Friday Flicks v. 6
I've seen some good movies lately. Perhaps you need some movies to watch this summer....

May I recommend:

Dedication: Many Moore and Billy Crudup. Charming romantic movie. The characters had just enough quirks to make them believable and likable. A tad predictable but an enjoyable two hours just the same.

Across the Universe: I may be the only person who hadn't yet seen this movie. I finally watched it and felt like I was in awe the entire time. This movie is not for everyone. But if you like musicals and theatrical movies, it will not disappoint. Great performances from the entire cast. It reminded me a lot of Moulin Rouge which is my favorite film so how could I not swoon? And now I have a huge crush on Jim Sturgess so there's that.

Things We Lost in the Fire: Depressing as all hell. But also beautiful in this melancholy kind of way. I was so-so on the movie until the end. I loved the ending. It was the perfect ending. I watched it with a friend who remarked that she was surprised how it ended. We were both happy that it was surprising yet perfect.

Some movies you can skip....I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With and Introducing the Dwights. Both horrible. You'll hate yourself after watching one or both.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Perhaps there is a better way?

I'm a bit confused as to what to think about this story-- 'Dang-it-Dolls' Help Troops with Stress.

The dolls, made of pliable materials, are used to help troops combat stress and homesickness. The grandmother who first made the doll did it to get a smile out of her grandson who is serving overseas.

Unfortunately....the dolls are being returned to the State's needing an eye-ball replacement or a foot sewn back on because the troops have found that "Beating the stuffing out of pliable, google-eye dolls helps counter stress."

Um. What?! And the media is touting this as "cute" and "helpful"? I'm concerned.

As we all well know, our troops have had a bit of a problem with violence. And, I agree with the spirit of the project, our troops do need help dealing with stress. But, it seems, therapy would help. Perhaps some added assistance from the government, fewer deployments, ending the war? I don't know....beating the crap out of a doll? Just doesn't seem that healthy to me.

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Monday, May 12, 2008
Holy Mother of God
I was perusing PaperCuts this afternoon and came across their review of the 10 Books that Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others that Didn't Help by Benjamin Wiker.

Wiker, nice privileged white male that he is, gave honorable mention to The Feminine Mystique. Yes. That Feminine Mystique. The onethatchangedthecourseoffreakinghistory. That one.

Must be nice. Must be nice to live with your wife and seven children in rural Ohio and claim that that the Feminine Mystique screwed up the world.

Feel free to send e-mails to the guy....

Maybe include some of the highlights of the book:
1. It debunked the popular notion that all women would be happier at home with babies and a traditional, heterosexual marriage
2. It gave women an identity outside of marriage and motherhood
3. It created a sense of commonality among (middle to upper class) women who were feeling restless and unfulfilled

Perhaps Wiker levels a class charge against Friedan. Perhaps he's all like "Friedan you are so second-wave and you don't speak for the experience of all women so back off."

...But I doubt it.


Thursday, May 08, 2008
The one in which I'm embarrassed by my home state
I must say that I am confounded by Michigan's recent decision to ban same-sex partner benefits. I was beyond disappointed by the 2004 voter-supported ban on gay marriage, but this decision is a grossly inappropriate application of that ban.

I'm bothered for three reasons. Let's discuss:

1. Obviously to discriminate against people based on things like race, gender, religious affiliation is wrong. I just don't understand how it has remained socially acceptable to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation. Where does the breakdown happen? How do logical people fail to make the connection?

2. As I'm sure any human with ears has heard, Michigan is in a wee bit of an economic slump. Businesses and business professionals cannot get out of the sinking state fast enough. Leaving in droves. The state is depressed. One seemingly bright spot in the state is their public education system. This will crush that bright spot. Memo to Michigan--good academics will leave your universities and work at ones from which their partners can receive benefits. Hands down. Just like female academics leave universities to work at ones which grant them family leave time. This loss will not be confined to the academic sector. Other businesses who care about equality and employee well-being will be hesitant to start businesses in the state. No matter what one's hangups about gay marriage (although I'd encourage people to get the hell over those--perhaps in therapy?), most people should be able to get on board with sound business practices.

3. This just continues the trend of tying economic benefits to heterosexual marriage. The fact deserves quite a bit of attention. A question I always pose to my Women's Studies students is--If heterosexual marriage is so "natural" why do we have to provide so many incentives to encourage people to do it? Of course, the flip side is that for every couple who benefits from heterosexual privilege, there is a couple who suffers from it. To send the message that the only way to gain economically is to marry someone with opposite sex organs, is to reinforce heterosexual conditioning. Heterosexual conditioning makes Kristen sad. Heterosexual conditioning is a weapon of patriarchy and sexism. And memo to all people privileged enough to identify as heterosexual, these policies hurt you as well. Let's just say you're widowed at a young age. You move in with your sibling. You live with your sibling for 20 or more years. You want to share benefits with your sibling or she with you. Guess what. You can't. You also cannot apply for certain tax exemptions and you better have a damn good will because your sibling is not automatically entitled to any assets upon your death. We need to separate economic incentives from heterosexual marriage for the good of EVERYONE. To do that would diversify partner and household recognition. We all suffer from these policies.

Unfortunately, people are too blinded by their homophobia to think through these things.

Shame on Michigan. And shame on a society that allows this discrimination to occur.

*thanks to BK for the tip

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008
The one in which I become that woman...
...The crazy woman.

8:59 am. Grocery store. Morning breath and hair. On the conveyor belt? Two boxes of brownie mix, some red wine and stamps. My nice southern clerk tilts her head and asks:

are you okay today?

I'm pretty sure there is an emergency prayer meeting in the break room right now.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008
I-Tues v. 12 Concert Edition
I'm beginning to feel like I speak only in superlatives when it comes to music on this blog. "This concert was awesome." "This concert was the best I've seen in Athens." Blah, blah, blah. But if you'll allow me one more...On Saturday we saw Josh Ritter at the Melting Point. And, well, it was the best concert I've seen...maybe...ever. I know. But, my friends, this is not mere hyperbole....Allow me to present some evidence.

First of all, the venue is so incredible. I think I'd be happy only seeing shows the Melting Point from now on. It is small. There's a patio lit with gold Christmas light. There are pomegranate martinis. There is always a good crowd. I just adore it. If you are in the ATH, you must go to the Melting Point. And then write me a thank you note because I just changed your life.

Second, Ingrid Michaelson opened for J.R. She is all kinds of adorable. Most of you have probably heard her sing on this Old Navy commercial.

But don't hold this endorsement of capitalism against her. She released a cd without a label. You go girl. Her show was fantastic. Not only is she very talented (think Regina Spektor meets Vanessa Carlton-- only better) but she was charming without being nauseating. And let's not under emphasize the import of that. Not only that but she's a feminist. HELLO. Her lyrics are incredible and very empowering. After she was done both Drew and Dave turned to me and said that it looked like I had a BFF. How right they were.

And I bought her cd. At her own show. How lame am I?! But I couldn't help it. I just had to have her music and support her. I told her I taught WMST and I loved her lyrics. And she signed my cd.

Yes, it does say Vaginas Unite. Yes.

Ok so it is safe to say that I <3 Ingrid Michaelson. But I also love Josh Ritter. And his whole darn band. They are all adorable. And they got along so well. See?

And their energy was contagious. The set was awesome. They took us high and they brought us low. They seemed legitimately thankful we were all there and earnest in their attempt to give the best show they could. For those of you that know me in the "real" world, you know that I sometime use earnest as a descriptor for people I think are lame. But when I saw that Josh Ritter is earnest, I mean that in the good way.

If, for some reason that I cannot think of, you don't already listen to Josh Ritter you need to start. RIGHTNOW. I've told you this before. And maybe you haven't listened. I'll overlook it. But it is never too late to correct a bad decision.

And a big shout out to Drew and Dave who asked me not to post a picture of them. Whoops.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008
A Little Sunday Reading v. 12 Summer Reading Edition
The semester is winding down. My grading is done. My grades will be turned in momentarily. Summer fever has begun to set in. We'll be in Michigan for the month of June. It will be a busy month filled with a class reunion, wedding, bachelorette party weekend, family/friend bonding, Drew's birthday celebration and dissertation writing.

But there will also be time for reading for pleasure! I always get a lot of reading done in Michigan. Something about the porch, the water, and the sunset makes it seem criminal to watch television.

I've been browsing some summer reading lists and my Dangerous Reading challenge list to get my reading wits about me. I've checked the library stacks. I think I have a pretty good list.

Books that I'll be reading this summer:

A Room of One's Own
Jane Eyre
The Secret of Lost Things
The Senator's Wife
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Beginner's Geek
A Wolf At the Table: A Memoir of my Father
When You are Engulfed in Flames

I'll also be reading some academic books for my dissertation but I don't count those. I'm excited about the list. It seems appropriately ambitious and fluffy. I'm beyond excited that both Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris have and will have new books out.

What will you be reading on those lazy summer evenings?

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Thursday, May 01, 2008
Leave it to Sweden....
This put a smile on my face. Last semester an exchange student from Sweden enrolled in my Women's Studies course. To say she was shocked by the attitudes of many students would be an understatement. It is very easy to understand why....

Gender equality is coming to Sweden's roadways with pedestrian crossing signs soon portraying women as well as men, the Swedish government has decided.

The National Road Administration has until Oct. 1 to design the new signs, SVT reports. The nationwide signage change came about after two local councils failed in their bids to make the changes on their own.

So by the end of the year, Swedish motorists will begin seeing pedestrian crossing signs with a female image, being called Fru Garman, either replacing or alongside the male version known as Herr Garman, which translates to Mr. Walkman and This is where you walk, The Local reported.