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A Hall of Shame

Posted by A birch tree on June 2, 2008

[Updated 11Jun08]

From the “What Men Really Think About Women” files…

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a member of the United States Navy. I serve on a base that consists almost exclusively of men, with the exception of some female corpsmen (and don’t even get me started about the nomenclature of Navy jobs; corpsman, fire controlman, signalman, yeoman, and on and on and on…) and civilians who work at the NEX, among some varied and widely spaced others.

In such an environment, men feel quite free to express themselves at their truest; that is to say, with no one watching them who may be offended or angered by their prejudicial, racist, misogynist words and behaviors.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been covertly collecting sexist phrases and conversations overheard in the smoke pits and elsewhere, as a bit of an experiment. You see, many people claim that sexism is limited to certain geographical regions, economic classes, occupations, age ranges, or a host of other factors which would cut the potential pool of sexists into a relatively small minority of men.

Of course, I’ve discovered that this is unequivicably false. I serve with men from California, Texas, New Hampshire, Vermont, Oklahoma, Oregon, and every state and region in between, and some further away like Puerto Rico and a small steel-making village in Russia that I can neither pronounce nor spell. I have served next to men who have been my senior by fifteen or twenty years and my junior by nearly a decade. Some of these men were high school students before joining the Navy, others were factory workers, farmers, college students, small business owners, or bankers. I know one man who came from the streets, and I know another whose family is so wealthy he drops a “small” bet of $4,000 on a horse race without batting an eyelid. These men are Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, and independants who wish to vote for McCain, Huckabee, Clinton, Obama, Perot, or not vote at all. I have served with atheists, Protestants, Catholics, Buddists, Wiccans, and agnostics.

The unifying factor among all of them are the nasty, horrible things they say about women (and, among the white men, minorities).

Now some might argue that the military calls for these people, in an attempt to deny that the hatred and derision for women is a trait drilled into all men of our culture from childhood, but to say such a thing is both wrong and offensive. All the people, women and men alike, who serve in the US Armed Forces are answering a calling that is personal to themselves, not some sinister desire to inflict their hatred onto others. Our training does not, and needs not, instill such a great hate into us as a matter of course, so the argument that the military turns men into these kinds of horrible people is also faulty.

Rather, the undeniable and terrifying fact is that the attitudes I have collected are a cross-section of America’s culture of misogyny, and I only put the Navy into it to show the vast differences among these men that are crossed by a single brow: hatred of women.

I am ashamed to say that all but one of these comments, I allowed to go unchallenged, although I did quickly remove myself from the conversation, I did not stick up for women until pressed beyond where I should have needed to be pressed. I often hold to the excuse that I am not especially quick-witted, and as often as I hear these things I am still stunned when they actually exit another man’s mouth, but they’re copouts and artificial barriers I set up to avoid having to change my behavior in the face of those whom I am otherwise safe to confront. I will alter my behavior in the future with regard to these kinds of statements.

Here are some I have collected since I arrived at this command. I will warn you that many of these are the foulest things I have ever heard escape a person’s mouth in my presence, and people who are more sensitive to the kind of language I am about to recount may be better off just taking my word for it.

The rest follows after the break.

Pages: 1 2

Posted in Feminism, Misogyny | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

RIP Sunset

Posted by A birch tree on May 31, 2008

Sad news.

I love finches, and my family loves finches. We keep a few finches as pets, and they’re the very best pets ever; they sound like summer all the time, and they’re so pretty and active. Watching the finches is like fifty times more fun than watching fish in an aquarium.

Sadly, our oldest friend, our first finch, died just yesterday. Sunset was a Peter’s Twinspot, and his song was the prettiest song we’ve ever heard.

We didn’t know anything about finches when we first brought him home. We were in the pet store, because playing with the puppies is the best free entertainment a family can have on a saturday night, and I walked by their finch aviary. It was little more than a big, plexiglass box housing dozens of small birds of different sizes and types, from tiny Spice finches to big, agressive Orange Weavers and Red Bishops. Not good.

So I walked by this aviary, and looked in, and this miniscule little bird with a red breast and polka-dotted wings hops up to the wall and looks back at me. What struck me right away is that this poor little bird was not having a good time of it. His feathers were damaged and there was not a single feather on the top of his head; the bigger, agressive birds had plucked him bald.

I kept looking at that bird, and it looked right at me. I walked to the other side of the cage, and it followed me. It just keep looking at me like “Please, please get me out of here, I want to come home with you.”

So I brought Ari over and while the kids played with another puppy, I showed her this poor little bird. She agreed with me right away; we were going to buy him and take him home. So we picked out a cage, and we picked up one of those “How to care for finches” books and skimmed it, got all the other stuff, and set out to find out how much was that finchy in the window.

They had a little price chart, with pictures, but we couldn’t find this little guy on it. We called over a salesman, and he told us it was probably a Strawberry Finch… $50. Ouch. On top of a cage and everything else. We almost didn’t go through with it. I mean, if we had that kind of money to drop on a bird, we wouldn’t be spending our saturday nights playing with puppies for free. But he was so pretty, and so sad, and kept following me as I walked around the aviary. We couldn’t take it; we bought him anyway. The salesman mentioned that finches are social animals, and he wouldn’t be happy by himself, so we also bought a much cheaper Zebra finch to keep him company.

When we got home, we set up the cage, got the food and water all ready, and put them in it. They got along great, and we named them Sunset and Shyguy. Sunset, because he looked like a sunset, and Shyguy because he always slept in his little nest rather than out on a perch like Sunset did. The two of them got along wonderfully, and within a couple days we began to hear this absolutely beautiful song. At first we didn’t know if it was Sunset or Shyguy, but after a little bit of observation, it was clearly Sunset.

After a while, we decided to get some more finches, but, like I said, we didn’t know anything about finches, so we looked it up on the internet.

Turned out that Sunset was not, in fact, a Strawberry finch, but a Peter’s Twinspot – which usually run closer to $150 at a pet store! All the websites also said that Peter’s Twinspots are supposedly so agressive, as tiny finches go, that they’re unsuitable for a mixed aviary. Fortunately for us, Sunset didn’t read websites. He was always the most laid-back, happy, friendly bird we’ve ever known. He never fussed with anyone, never fought, never made a ruckus. He lived with Zebras, Socieites, Gouldians, and even a Canary, with no trouble or stress at all.

Thus began our love affair with finches. Unfortunately, they’re also fragile. We made several mistakes in the first year we owned finches, and some of our little friends paid for it. We lost Pebbles, a little Society, after she got her toe caught in the weave of a cheap nest and couldn’t free herself. We freed her, and she got on fine for a day, but we found her dead with her mate, Hermes, cuddled up next to her the next evening. Hermes himself died sometime later because I had gotten too busy to check their water, and he dehydrated; I will never forgive myself for that. Finally, that winter, we lost heat, and Shyguy passed away from the cold.

But through it all, Sunset was there, singing and being pretty. His feathers all grew back on his head, making him even more beautiful. We learned more about finches, and have a healthy little colony going with two Gouldians (Thelma and Louise, since we can’t tell which is the male and which is the female), a Canary (Finchybird), a Zebra (Nadie), and Sunset.

Last night, however, Ari came back from a dinner out with the kids and found Sunset sitting on the bottom of the cage, unmoving and still warm, but definitely deceased. We all cried, the kids and she took turns holding him, petting him, remembering his song and his beauty, then buried him in a little wooden box next to the millet plant in the herb garden. We’ll always miss him, and we know we’ll probably never have another Twinspot, since his laid-back friendliness was apparently an anomaly among his kind.

We still don’t know why he died; the websites all say finches can live to be 8-12 years old, and he’d only been with us for 4, although we don’t know how old he was when we first got him. The other finches in the cage are all fine, active, healthy, and happy looking, but we’re keeping a close eye on them in case Sunset had anything contagious. My feeling, however, is that for whatever reason it was just his time to go. I hope he was happy here, and I hope he knows how much we all loved him.

Goodbye, Sunset, and happy journies to you, wherever you may be headed next. Thank you for spending your time with us and brightening our lives with your song and your beauty. You will be sorely missed.

RIP.


This is not actually Sunset, but much to our horror, we discovered that in all four years we’d known him, we’d never taken any pictures of him! That made us all very, very sad indeed.

Posted in Miscellany | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Paula Gunn Allen

Posted by A birch tree on May 31, 2008

On May 29th, Native American activist and feminist Paula Gunn Allen passed away from lung cancer.

I have to admit that until I read about her on Women’s Space, I hadn’t heard of her at all. But Heart’s 2-part tribute is beautiful and touching and powerful and everyone should read it.

-a birch tree

Posted in Feminism | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Better Late Than Never

Posted by A birch tree on May 30, 2008

I chose that title only because I’m an optimist at heart.

So it seems that the White House has finally released its most comprehensive Climate Report to date… four years after the deadline. And then only because the court ordered them to release it.

Oddly enough, the report says, yes, there is global warming, yes, it is our fault, and yes, it will have a significant and deadly impact on American lives. There’s a shocker. Would Bush have suppressed it for half his presidency if it had said anything different?

On the upside, at least he didn’t try to stealth-edit this one, right?

There’s a cloud to this, and then there’s a silver lining to this. The cloud is that most of the predictions made back in 2004 have already come true; had we been warned, we might be having a better time of it. The silver lining, unfortunately, is a bit morbid: the report talks about things we’re seeing now, but hadn’t yet seen at the time the report was made. It’s a primo example of the predictive power of properly-applied scientific theory, as opposed to the pseudo-scientific reactionism that opposes it.

If it had come out in ’04, and then we saw the results it predicted, our woefully short national attention span would have completely forgotten that these things were previously forecast, and then came to pass. With the late release, we have sudden attention placed on the report and its predictions while the effects it warns of occur simultaneously.

It’s really hard to call global climate forecasting “junk science” and be taken seriously when such a stark juxtaposition exists, as both prediction and observed effect are lodged in the national consciouness at exactly the same time, ready for anyone with three working neurons and access to Yahoo! News to compare and contrast.

Let’s take a moment to review. The report forecasts:

  1. Increased deaths from heat. Between 1978 and 1999 (19 years), 7421 deaths in the US were heat-related, a median of 274 per year. Between 1999 and 2003 (4 years), 3442 deaths were heat-related, an average of about 688 per year. This one is a “hit”.
  2. Worsening water shortages. If you think it’s bad in Atlanta, you should see the rest of the world. Another “hit”.
  3. Increased electricity demand in the summertime, possibly leading to shortages in the longer term. The peak electricity demand in the US was 12.1% higher than in 2004, and 4.0% higher than in 2005. “Hit”.
  4. Increased wildfires. The number of acres burnt in the last 5 months is already double the 2001-2008 average. “Hit”.
  5. Increasing insect infestations. It’s tough to find accurate data about the US, as this isn’t usually a newsworthy topic, but other countries, like Sweden, are certainly seeing this one. Should I call this one a “hit”?
  6. Increased cases of water- and food-borne disease outbreaks. This is the only one I couldn’t find any supporting statistics on, and more for lack of time than anything else (even though I’m friends with the guy monitoring everyone’s computer time, I can still only ask for a reset so many times in one day).

In the end, Bush may have done more damage to his anti-climate-change crusade by stifling this report for four years than he would have caused had he just released it when the law said he had to. Who remembers anything that was in the news in 2004? We forget major events appallingly quickly around here, maybe as a symptom of a people with such a relatively short history to begin with. But coming out now, just as most of the things it predicted are coming into the limelight as well? In addition to the suspicious-looking skullduggery of sitting on the report until the courts forced him to release it? Ouch.

It’s getting harder and harder to deny that we’re in deep poop. I’m starting to worry if the whole point of said denials is to postpone any significant actions until it’s too late to fix anything, if it isn’t already. I mean, from the time global warming was first proposed in the 1970’s, the forces arrayed against it seem to have been engaged in a delaying action. First, they ignored the idea entirely. Then they said “There is no such thing as global warming.” Now they’re starting to say “Maybe there’s such a thing as global climate change, but it is absolutely not our fault and there’s nothing we can do about it,” and maybe tomorrow it’ll be “Well, I guess you were right, there is global climate change and we did cause it, but it’s too late to stop it now. Oh well!” and all the while the status quo of energy consumption and radical consumption ideology will prevail.

Scary stuff, yo. I’m gonna go hide under my mattress now.

Posted in Global Environment, Global Warming, Hard Facts, Political, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

“But the Earth is so BIG…”

Posted by A birch tree on May 28, 2008

Barf.

Ok, so there’s folks who believe humans had fuck-all to do with climate change. “Big Plant, Little Human!” they scream at the top of their CO2-emitting lungs. “CO2 is a trace gas!” they whine, over and over again, as if that particular combination of words had any meaning. “Cows produce more than cars!” they gripe, oblivious to the fact that it’s humans’ fault that cows are so ubiquitous as to be such a large provider of greenhouse gasses.

Over and over again, they cite “natural cycles” and Earth’s allegedly massive “self-correction” potential as rhetorical proof, minus any scientific backing, that humans are completely blameless for anything that may or may not be happening to the planet, so they can continue the devil-take-tomorrow approach to radical consumption ideology, guilt-free.

Question: How’s this part of a natural cycle? What does it say about the planet’s wonderous miracle-like ability to heal itself from humans’ paltry, negligible enviornmental effects that the ocean has become 30% more acidic since people have started pumping CO2 into the air like it was going out of style? The fact that you’d have to go back through 35 million years worth of ice cores and geological records to find a time when oceans were this acidic due to excess CO2 being dissolved therein is what? An unhappy coincidence? A fluke of timing? Just circumstantial? Shelled critters that have managed to evolve and live for the last twenty-million-and-change years without too much hassle have suddenly noticed their houses getting thin and brittle, and it’s just a very odd, very intriguing turn of events we’re totally not responsible for?

Well, what does it have to do with us, anyway? It’s just a few fish that’ll be screwed, not humans. You know, those completely useless fish like salmon and pollock…

Go on, deniers, try it. You know how many people with an IQ higher than GWB’s are taking you seriously right now? Wanna see what happens to that number when you try to blame oceanic acidification on cow farts?

Oh, and hey, remember those climate forecasts y’all keep saying are “chicken little”-like, or “doomsaying” or otherwise biased to give horrible results as quick as possible in order to serve as a vehicle for some insidious political agenda like… um… something? About how they’re too liberal, play fast and loose with big numbers, and are otherwise vastly inflated? Well, as it turns out, they’re actually too conservative. This wasn’t supposed to happen until around 2100. Surprise!

{Hat tip to Climate Ark}

Posted in Global Environment, Humans vs. Planet, Oceans | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Superbowl

Posted by A birch tree on May 26, 2008

So I had an argument with my wife, Ari, recently about the Superbowl, or, more specifically, American Football (and, thematically, professional sports in general). She refuses to watch it, and told me that supporting it was supporting a misogynist industry and therefore was an un-feminist act due to the way the players treat women, and the way the league treats said players.

I disagreed (ok, that’s putting a certain spin on it… I suppose I actually got pissed off and defensive and turned what could have been a genteel discussion into an absurd argument), mostly on the grounds of “But I like it!” backed up with “I have no knowledge of any of the things of which you speak”.

And men consider themselves to be the “logical” gender. Riiiiight.

Well, ignorance is no excuse. I was wrong. And, as is the right and proper thing to do when one does something hideously stupid and realizes one was wrong about it, I’m making a public apology. I’m sorry, Ari.

Beyond that, I’m sharing with others exactly what I was wrong about, and how I was wrong about it, so maybe they can avoid doing or saying the same stupid shit that I did.

***

So, guys, here’s what I found out.

I typed “NFL Rape” into google, and, in a turn of events that will probably shock no one, came up with some 470k hits. I’ve compiled a few facts here, with citations. Note that while I’m still using endnotes, the HTML format that the Fact Dump is in, with linked superscript numbers referring down to the specific footnote at the bottom of the page, was way, way too cumbersome for me to ever want to repeat.

21 percent of NFL players — more than one in five — have been charged with at least one serious crime. The docket begins with assault, rape, and domestic violence and keeps spiraling out of control.1

Atlanta Falcons defensive back Patrick Bates was charged with assaulting his pregnant girlfriend and, three weeks after the baby was born, kidnapping the child and beating the mother with a gun. Bates finally was let go by the Falcons, pleaded guilty to reduced charges and was signed by the Oakland Raiders.1

Falcons all-pro linebacker Cornelius Bennett was charged with rape, sodomy, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment. Bennett pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and was sentenced to 60 days in jail. He was neither released by the Falcons nor fined by the NFL.1

Forty-four cheerleaders formerly employed by the Philadelphia Eagles have filed suit in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court claiming opposing teams spied upon them while the women changed and showered in the cheerleaders’ locker room.2

In July 2003, Dwayne Carswell, a Denver Broncos football player, was arrested in Atlanta for assaulting his girlfriend, Nkeiruka Anyamone, reported the Associated Press. Carswell was charged with simple battery, domestic violence and obstruction of an officer.4

That athletes are treated differently in the criminal-justice system doesn’t help, notes [Ed Tapscott, vice president of the New York Knicks]. “When Joe Sixpack abuses his wife, he must go through the criminal-justice system,” he says. “But when Joe Athlete does, he is treated royally. Not only that, when he goes out and scores three touchdowns or 32 points, the acclaim of his accomplishments restores very quickly any self-esteem he lost by beating the woman.”4

(Got to love that last little bit, don’t ya? This guy believes men who beat their wives lose self-esteem from it? And then refers to said victims as “the woman”? Jesus Christ on a pogo stick.)

The list goes on and on. But, hey, a spot of light! My team, the team that I’ve been a fan of since I was a child, apparently has a better policy:

So far, only New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has taken a stand against employing players with criminal records. In the fifth round of the 1996 NFL draft, the Patriots picked Nebraska defensive lineman Christian Peter, who had been arrested eight times (and convicted four times) during college for a variety of offenses, including the assault of a former Miss Nebraska and the rape of another woman. When Peter’s past came to light, Kraft cut the player before he was even offered a contract. “We concluded this behavior is incompatible with our organization’s standards of acceptable conduct” said Kraft. 1

Great! So I can still watch when New England plays and not be engaging in the support of misogyny…. well, if they’re the only team on the field, anyway. Tip: The advertisers and the players whose salary I am helping to pay don’t give two shits who I’m rooting for.

Oh, and also only if they’re not playing in the Superbowl:

Workers at women’s shelters, and some journalists, have long reported that Super Bowl Sunday is one of the year’s worst days for violence against women in the home.3

“Well, there’s always college football…” I thought while googling, desperately trying to hold on to an entertainment venue that I knew, inside, would turn out to be pretty much irredeemable once I scratched the surface.

And I was right:

At least one recent study reinforced the connection between athletes and domestic violence. Researchers at Northeastern and the University of Massachusetts reviewed 107 cases of sexual assault at 30 Division I schools between 1991 and 1993. They found that male student-athletes, compared with the rest of the male student population, “are responsible for a significantly higher percentage of assaults reported on the campuses of Division I institutions.” Although male athletes at 10 of those schools made up only 3.3 percent of the population, they were involved in 19 percent of the reported assaults.4

An appeals court revived a lawsuit by two women who claim they were gang raped at a University of Colorado recruiting party in 2001, ruling there is evidence the alleged assaults were caused by the university’s failure to adequately supervise players. The ruling by the 10th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, which sends the case back to the trial court, said there was evidence the university had an official policy of showing high school recruits a “good time” and that it showed a “deliberate indifference” to any known sexual harassment.5

There are coverups and criminals aplenty in the college atheletics scene, which makes sense, really, given that it’s the same place pro teams get their players from.

Of course, an argument can always be made that out of the many thousands of men who have played professional football, only a handful have committed horrible crimes, and why am I still watching anything else on TV, or buying Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, or whatever, if someone can show that a few people associated have raped or beaten women? Mostly, I think, it’s a combination of factors.

  1. A guy who works for Ben & Jerry’s isn’t making a 5-7 figure salary
  2. The NFL and all of its teams has turned a blind eye to the entire affair, since these players can make them a ton of money

It’d be a different thing if the NFL was busy firing people who had been convincted of violent crimes, like just about any other occupation in the world would do. If the Ben & Jerry’s CEO was convicted of rape or domestic violence, I’m fairly sure his resignation would follow shortly. While the individual action is the same, the theme presented by how the NFL responds to those actions seems to be one of coverup and general apathy. And that is why I can no longer support that industry, and that is why I encourage all men who care about women to change the channel away from NFL games, or NBA games, or MLB games, because all the major sports in America seem to grok to the same theme: “We don’t care how our players treat women, because they make us money.”

It gets especially rotten when you get to hear what the owners think:

Ed Tapscott, New York Knicks vice president of administration and scouting, says that some athletes have difficulty making the transition from field to home. “An interesting comparison is to Vietnam vets who one day were in this survival mode, then the next day were given their walking papers,” he says. “What are athletic games if not war?[…]”4

I don’t even know how to respond to that, as a member of the US Military. I cannot even begin to imagine how being in war is in any way comparable to playing in a competitive athletic event, and furthermore, I can even less begin to imagine how either war or sporting events somehow make rape and domestic abuse acceptable or even remotely understandable. They aren’t out there punching and raping other men, dudes. Apparently, in their adrenaline-fueled fury, they are still cognizant enough to focus that rage only onto a target that can’t or won’t hurt them back. That doesn’t sound like “heat of the moment”, even if “heat of the moment” can in any possible way be mangled into an excuse; it sounds like premeditation.

And then there’s a heavy dose of victim blaming, in this case under the guise of “It’s all womens’ fault anyway, for expecting us to take responsibility for our actions”:

Violence also might be a backlash against the women’s movement, which has made great strides in promoting female independence during the past 25 years. “Men need sports in order to bolster a dying form of masculinity,” writes Mariah Burton Nelson in her 1994 book, The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football. “Men are very emotional about sports. They are cheering for a type of violence.”4

That last line is what really got me though. When I watch football, I am cheering for violence. Not only on the field, but off the field, against their wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, and random strangers they’ve never met before. Isn’t there enough violence out there without me supporting more of it?

So guys, let’s do this together. Write the NFL, tell them why you can no longer support their product, and let’s change the channel to something less thematically nasty against women. I mean, hell, most of us probably only ever got into it to start with just so we could feel masculine and “with it” when standing around the water cooler at the office or in the warehouse. When you really think about it, the whole concept is pretty dumb, especially when enjoying it involves ignoring the very real danger and pain supporting that industry can help put very real women into.

-a birch tree

References

  1. NFL’s Tarnished Heroes – Don Yaeger, in his book ‘Pros andCons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL,’ claims that 21% of the players in the National Football League have been charged with one or more serious crimes – Brief Article
  2. Former Eagles Cheerleaders Expand Lawsuit Against NFL Teams; Players, Coaches and Owners of 29 Teams May be Deposed to Determine If They Watched Cheerleaders Change and Shower.
  3. Does Domestic Violence Increase on Super Bowl Sunday?
  4. Illegal hits off the field – athletes and domestic violence
  5. College Football: Colorado Rape Lawsuit Is Revived

Posted in Feminism, Media, Rape, Studies | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Update to Fact Dump – Pornography and the Sex Industry

Posted by A birch tree on May 25, 2008

Just a note that a new statistic has been added to the April 14th, 2008’s “Fact Dump” post. Under “Prostitution: Working Environment”, I have added the following.

The workplace homicide rate for prostitutes as of 2004 was 201 per 100,000. Compare to the “Most Dangerous Profession” as of May 2008: Mining, with an occupational death rate of only 30.1 per 100,000.

And under “Prostitution: Effects on Prostitutes”, I have added

The average age of death for a woman in prostitution is 34 years old.

The primary sources are Mortality in a Long Term Open Cohort of Prostitute Women and NYT: Miners Found to Have Highest Death Rate On the Job (which, serendipitously enough, came out just today), but I’d like to give a hat tip to Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog for linking the study. You should check the place out; I’ve literally done nothing at all today beyond eat, smoke, make a blog post earlier this morning, and read that blog.

Something to keep in mind next time some dork dude pulls out the “Men work in all the most dangerous jobs!” canard… apparently, they (and the New York Times) don’t think of prostitution as a “job”.

Oh, and one thing I found interesting and scary and depressing all at the same time, but which doesn’t belong in the fact dump, was this quote from the NYT article:

Among female workers, 42 percent of all on-the-job deaths were because of homicide, compared with 11 percent for males.

Wow. Ok, guys? Seriously? I don’t ever want to hear any fucking nonsense about dangerous, demanding jobs in which lots of guys die, ever again Among all the other things we don’t have to worry about because we have a penis, we also don’t have to worry as much about being murdered on the job as women do. 42% of all on-the-job deaths for women are murders. What. The. Fuck.

I can’t get over how disturbed this has made me. When I started the Fact Dump, that’s, shamefully, all the were: bits of facts that were good debate points but which didn’t really manage to cross the dude-brain barrier. The more I read about feminism, the more they start to come out in living color as events, not statistics, that actually have an impact on real people every single day. Reducing women’s tragedy to a list of numbers is just as privileged as ignoring the tragedy altogether. It’s a lot easier to exercise male priviledge and dissassociate those numbers from the women they represent, than it is to actually think about the atrocities involved, and it’s wrong, and I apologise for engaging in that kind of avoidance-based thinking.

Posted in Feminism, Links, Studies | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Men Get Different Rules

Posted by A birch tree on May 25, 2008

Do y’all remember, back when you were kids, playing pretend? My friends and I used to pretend we were cops, outlaws, cowboys, superheroes, villians, wizards, dragons, whatever, and we’d use our made-up superpowers to engage in little pretend combat with one another, then when everyone had died about fifty times, we’d get up and go inside for dinner. More recently, I’ve sat and watched my stepchildren play the same kinds of games. It’s cute. It’s imaginative. It’s creative.

But invariably, your little group would always pick up that one kid. That Kid. The kid who would start making rules, usually on the fly, and for some reason it always seemed like the rules would all be in That Kid’s favor. “That’s not fair! You can’t kill me because I have a super-duper god shield on!” or “You can only come back to life if someone uses magic to bring you back!” then “No fair! Only one person can have that magic, and I have it! It’s the rules!” or “You can’t hit me, because I can fly at the speed of sound!” or “No fair! Lightsabers can’t block my death ray! You’re dead!” until the entire thing devolved into a huge argument and everyone went home pissed off.

The point? That Kid grows up. And he becomes your senator, congressman, president, circuit judge, what-have-you, and he keeps making up absurd rules while screaming “No fair!”. He usually pulls them out of his ass, he never writes them down, they change on the fly, and they benefit him and only him.

Not only does the entire male governmental structure seem to be made out of Those Kids, but apparently they infest our media as well. Barak Obama is definitely one of Those Kids. He can say that Clinton’s menstrual cycle influences her choice of add campaigns to run, he can call her dismissive, overly familiar pet names like “sweetie”, and, well, so what? But she says something he doesn’t like, even when it has nothing to do with him, and it’s all “NO FAIR!”, and MSNBC/Fox News/CNN, all made up of Those Kids too, support their brother-in-arms by picking up his whine.

“People turn to god and guns out of bitterness over the political system”? That’s just my death ray, you can’t block it. You should stay in the race just in case something horrible happens to me, so your name is still relevant and out there and democrats don’t loose all the eggs that they’ve decided to stupidly stuff into this one, unelectable basket? NO FAIR! You can’t say that! You’re supposed to be dead now, get out of my yard!

Men get different rules. Barak can say whatever the hell he wants, and it’s cool. If she complains about it, “NO FAIR! You can’t complain about that! It’s in the rules!”. But if she says anything other than “Yes, I will bow before your mighty penis and leave the race to the menzfolk even though my numbers versus McCain are increasing while yours drop precipitously, and you’re only so far ahead in the primary because you decided arbitrarily to not count two whole states worth of voters”, all we hear is “NO FAIR!”

Oh, and don’t forget, Barak can unload a barrage of sexism onto Clinton, but he’s not sexist. However, the rules say that since she’s running for office against a black man, even if she doesn’t say anything about it, she’s a racist. It’s in the rules! It’s fair!

I guess, at this point, it’s appropriate to post a little clip. It’s a great example of how Clinton has slog through rules that Barak doesn’t have to worry about. And whenever Clinton or a supporter gripes, all we hear is “NO FAIR!” from all of Those Kids in the media, the Barak campaign, and the legion of Obamabots that troll the waters of the internet looking for something to scream “NO FAIR!” about.

(Hat tip to Angry for a Reason for the video.)

Posted in Feminism, Media, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The role of the Gentlemen’s Auxiliary

Posted by A birch tree on May 24, 2008

A few thoughts on the role of men with relation to the feminist movement

So one thing I’ve had plenty of time to think about is what, exactly, should men be doing in feminism?

Shortly before my broadband went kaput, I found myself violating one of my own rules and arguing with a woman about feminism. Even at the time, it seemed grossly inappropriate, but in hindsight it just confuses me.

On the one hand, a self-identified feminist woman should not have to put up with a man telling her diddly squat, especially not in a confrontational manner. On the other hand, she was arguing that men should be able to just up and walk away from having to pay child support whenever they please if they don’t want to see their kids. That just seems like a recipe for more women to be shoved into poverty by irresponsible dudes more often and more easily than ever before, and how could I stand by and say that was feminist?

While I’m still conflicted on that issue, one thing she said did trouble me, that she was tired of men like me trying to protect women against their will, and that she and other women were not the defenseless, powerless, vulnerable people I was apparently making them out to be and were quite capable of self-determination and take-care-of-themselves-ism.

So now we’re back to me having multiple hands again (OMG A SPIDER!). On one of them, sure, any attempt that a man makes to portray women as lacking in self-determination is inherently unfeminist; women are autonomous human begins. On the other hand, the point of the Patriarchy is to take away that self-determination, and it’s been doing so craftily for a thousand-odd years (give or take). Men, who have been handed all the power and opportunity they could ever dream of as a class, should have a responsibility to use that power to protect the people whose oppression he’s benefitting from whether he likes it or not, from said opression. And letting a dude legally abandon women with a kid or two he helped create, with nothing but a handy “Sucks to be you!” tossed out the driver’s side window, seems a bit opressive.

And the line gets even fuzzier when you add in the fact that a lot of the time, a radical pro-feminist, despite his best intentions, will find himself speaking to women’s experiences, things he has no direct knowledge of. Is it out of bounds to say “Women don’t generally have orgasms from penetrative sex alone” or “Being pregnant and giving birth are highly dangerous for women*”? Even with the links? What if I link to other women who are currently expressing said sentiments? To add in yet more hands, one the left, we have a man saying, essentially, “I know female orgasm/female pregnancy!”, but on the right, he’s also saying things that are more or less objective facts.

So what are my responsibilities? What topics are in line for me? What topics are off-limits? My voice, being male, automatically carries with it a certain amount of power and credibility that a woman’s wouldn’t, all other things being equal, but at the same time, my voice in many areas is substantially less credible, not to mention rather unwelcome, because I don’t share a mutual oppression with women. At best, I’m speaking academically about subjects that are intensely personal to them.

I mean, for example: I have the opportunity to close my browser and play Crysis or Oblivion, then read The Lord of the Rings for a while, and maybe around midnight go out to a smoke a cigarette in the deserted, more-or-less-unlit smoke pit outside, without ever having to think about the sexism, mysogyny, and male priviledge that pretty much soaks each one of those activities if I don’t choose to. I can stop thinking about rape and the slandering of women in popular culture (when they appear in popular culture at all), because it doesn’t personally affect me. Too many men claim to be radical allies when it suits them, then choose to “turn off” that awareness when they’re done playing their internet D&D game where they Fight the Forces of the Evil Patriarchy and their Servants, the MRA for a few hours like some sort of perverted MMORPG. And don’t think I’m saying I haven’t done that myself!

The idea that male pro-feminists should be talking mostly to other men, using their increased credibility among males to try and sway them to a more whole view of the opposite gender assumes that such a thing is possible via enlightened reasoning (or at all). Do I believe that? Well, I’m here, aren’t I? Isn’t that some kind of evidence? Then again, while I am here rambling on incoherently about this topic, I’m also not exactly the best example of male pro-feminism. I have flaws I can’t blame on hereditary pre-determinism, and I do the wrong things at least as often as I do the right things without acting like I deserve a cookie. Does that make me evolving, or a hypocrite? I’ve done a lot of the things in my life that are on the Rapist Checklist that’s been floating around for a couple years now. I’ve used pornography in the past; and to be perfectly honest, “past” means “less than a year ago”. I argue with my wife in a way I would never argue with another male; hell, I get angry with my wife over things I’d never get angry at another male over! I don’t distance myself from racist or misogynist comments made by men in my general vicinity nearly often enough to make me feel clean about it. I can only blame so much of that on “Well, I am in the military, that that man significantly outranks me, and those men over there I have to deal with every single day, and what the hell am I supposed to say or do??” I am changing, have changed, and will continue to change in the future, but is it enough? And if it is, is it fast enough, or complete enough? Or will I always be a dickhead, just less and less of a dickhead asymptotically approaching 0 as time approaches infinity?

Are my hands clean enough to be talking about feminism at all, much less to another woman, regardless of how wrong her ideas feel to me? Or should I just stick to environmentalism, while linking to brilliant women on the sidebar and letting them speak about feminism? Or does that put feminism on the sidebar while I focus my energies, not on trying to raise awareness of and help end the oppression I have been a part of perpetuating against women, but instead on ending a similar oppression against those with whom I fail to share not only a mutual oppression, but even a mutual species?

Well maybe that helped out a bit. Is being a man advocating radical feminist goals and ideals in any way anagolous to being a human and advocating radical environmentalist goals and ideals? Or is such a comparison just offensive? I could see how it might be offensive to feminism to be likend to the animal rights movement, but since I’m just looney enough to see animals as sentient and autonomous beings too, does that help? Or does my individual context have no bearing on the more generalized issue?

I could go on, and when I do, I come out with a ton of questions, no answers, and more hands than a mutated centipede. I suppose, in the end, when you’ve got all those hands holding all those scales with a thousand different ways they could balance out, you just have to throw away all the scales and complexities and do whatever makes you feel less dirty in the morning.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what that entails. Like I said, these aren’t questions I have answers to. I suppose that at the end of the day, I’m going to be trudging on in roughly the same direction I’m currently trudging, with an open mind to correction and criticism, and while reading everything I can get my hands on, and inspecting my actions, both present, past, and future planned, for hurtful flaws born of priviledge and sexism. When it doubt, I greatly prefer to do something with common sense and good intententions and a balanced spirit, rather than nothing at all out of not knowing what the right thing is to do. Mostly I just assume that whatever I’m going to do will be wrong in spite of myself, but whoever tears me a new one for doing it might also reveal to me what I’m actually supposed to be doing. And plus, if I’m right, than I’ve done something good. If I just stand around doing nothing, however, nobody will notice one more guy standing around doing nothing in a whole world of guys standing around doing nothing, and there’s absolutely no chance of doing anything right or good.

-a birch tree

(*US Maternal Mortality rate: 12 per 100,000, compared to: Average US Firearm Death Rate: 10 per 100,000 and Average US Occupation-Related Fatality Rate: 4 per 100,000. Also, homicide is the number one cause of death in the US for pregnant women. That’s not figured into maternal mortality rates, but it certainly figures into objective calculations for how dangerous childbirth actually is in the US!)

Posted in Feminism, Musing | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The internet is a grand thing!

Posted by A birch tree on May 24, 2008

I’m back! I have a semi-reliable internet connection again, and lots of chirpings that have gone unchirped. Stay tuned!

Posted in Miscellany | Leave a Comment »