Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

February 2, 2010

This afternoon I got so angry at the radio that I had to turn off the heat in my car. I was boiling in my own rage. I don’t think I’ve so forcefully yelled a string of expletives at an inanimate object since since that one time I kicked an irrigation pipe really hard. (Safety tip: bad idea.)

What had me so steamed? Why, former California Representative Duncan Hunter, of course!

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Michelle Obama: So Hot Right Now

March 13, 2009

As I was walking through the tunnels of the Harvard Law School campus, this bulletin board caught my eye:


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Joe the Plumber is going to have an unpleasant day at work tomorrow

October 15, 2008

I don’t really feel like writing some big long political post right now–and not just because I’m so excited to see Mittens back on the air–but I do want to say this: I think anyone still self-identifying as an “undecided voter” has to be kind of an idiot.

It’s one thing to be unenthusiastic about the two-party system, or disillusioned because we’re in the midst of a major economic crisis and a lot of people are spending a lot of money on stupid campaign ads, or frustrated because neither major candidate is willing to get passionate about your views for fear of alienating moderates and independents.

But, seriously? Less than a month before the election and you haven’t figured out who will get your vote?

Okay, fine, I’ll get mildly political to see if any of the crazies come out, because there’s nothing I like more than crazy commenters:

I’m voting for Obama. Not because I think he’s so super-duper–I’m disappointed on his stance on same-sex marriage, for one thing–but because I think John McCain got wicked scary in the past eight years, and because his running mate scares me to death. (Well, realistically, his running mate combined with his current life expectancy scare me to death.) And in my state it’s not going to matter much–there would have to be some kind of freak disaster [is disaster the opposite of miracle? Because that’s the kind of longshot we’re talking about] for Massachusetts to go red–but I think it’s important to vote, even though the electoral college is kind of bullshit.


October 7, 2008

Due to the rousing success of Palin Bingo, I decided to make up my own cards for tonight’s debate. (And hopefully I can reuse them for the final debate too…) Yes, I borrowed heavily from Palin Bingo on design–and had a dickens of a time turning the outline blue for the Obama card. But I also painstakingly chose my list of words, and then used a random number generator to fill in the cards. Because I am just that kind of nerd.

4 different versions of each card, plus blanks for make your own, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

December 13, 2007

On Tuesday the lecture for my class on gender and performance focused on theater for incarcerated women (specifically The Medea Project) and AIDS activism (specifically ACT UP). Afterward we had discussion section, and several of us seemed visibly deflated.

For me, the depression came not from hearing once again stark tales of the AIDS crisis, but rather from realizing that I’m deeply out of touch with any kind of activist presence. I’ve always been really drawn to stories of activism, from Vietnam war protests to civil rights marches to queer performance art. And every time I finish watching or reading about some really powerful historical moment, I’m left with a sense of emptiness. I don’t feel connected to anything that earth-shaking in my own generation, in my own life, and for that I feel a profound sense of loss.

In section we tried to tease out why we might feel that lack, and I thought I might share some of our theories with the rest of y’all to open up a little discussion. (Note: anybody should totally feel free to say “You fool! There’s all kinds of exciting activism happening right now!” I would be really open to hearing that, particularly if you’d like to share how I might get involved.) I can’t and won’t take credit for all of these ideas, but I’d also like to protect the privacy of the students involved by putting these out there as more or less anonymous thoughts. I should also mention that this discussion is really limited just to America. I’m woefully unfamiliar with international activism, beyond what I read about one feminist blogs, so none of these theories necessarily applies to any other countries. (But I’d be thrilled if anybody wanted to chime in from an international perspective!)

So, where’s the activism?

1. It’s an economic issue.
Apparently there was a lot of personal wealth floating around in the 60s, and kids who were getting arrested didn’t necessarily have to worry about that standing in the way of their careers and futures. Folks of my generation, on the other hand, know that potential employers are perusing our Facebook profiles. We’re not guaranteed tenure, or a job at daddy’s firm, or anything five years from now.

[Note: I have a really hard time with this argument. I don’t know much about economics in general, but I suppose I’m willing to maybe believe that, say, some percentage of the Berkeley set had the kind of connections and dollars this argument assumes. It doesn’t hold water for a lot of other sites of activism and protest, though, and it strikes me as extremely … elitist? Classist? Stupid? The “only rich kids can afford to be activists” line is about as plausible to me as the “only rich kids can afford to work in public interest” argument, particularly in looking at arenas like the civil rights movement.]

2. Activism evolves.
They say history flows in cycles. Maybe large-scale, highly visible activism just isn’t a part of this generation’s cycle. Or perhaps activism has evolved into a totally different form. Is blogging an activist production? What about social networking? Virtual worlds?

3. Information is widely available.
Organizations like ACT UP formed in the wake of massive government silence and misinformation, which understandably meant the American people were, well, misinformed about the AIDS crisis (among other issues). Now, however, information is readily available to those who know how to access it, and each generation is increasingly more information literate. My generation in particular is made up almost exclusively of digital natives. The kind of activism that sought to inform the people, to shock the general populace into action, is no longer necessary.

4. Visual imagery is readily available.
This is the one that I find the most interesting, and perhaps the most compelling. As one of my classmates pointed out, the civil rights movement (just as one example) was responding to issues that had major visual components. Actual, physical signs segregated space and people. “Color lines” were drawn figuratively and literally. Responding to those barriers, then, was an equally visual task.

And that’s not the only example. Vietnam was our first televised war. The first Gulf War brought us images from night-vision goggles. The AIDS epidemic created bodies physically marked by disease.

But now we’re in an historical moment that’s extremely saturated with imagery, to the point that many of us have become desensitized to certain kinds of images. Cinematic violence is commonplace, advertising permeates every activity, and even the most shocking of images are played and replayed in news broadcasts until they become all but meaningless, or are reduced to mere icons. When MAD magazine can parody the photographs from Abu Girab, how can activists harness imagery that will have any impact on us?

Just a bully?

March 7, 2007

I’ve been having some trouble trying to figure out how I feel about this whole Ann Coulter thing.

For those of you out of the loop: Coulter, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last weekend, said,

“I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I’m – so, kind of at an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards, so I think I’ll just conclude here and take your questions.”

Now, part of the reason I’m having trouble figuring out what to make of this is that coverage on my favorite blogs turned into a slapfast instead of a discussion.

Personally, I’ve never felt the same about the word “faggot” since I was in high school and a really great guy from GLSEN brought up the word and its possible etymology–namely, that gay men were used as kindling when burning witches. I don’t have the historical background to know how accurate that origin is, but it’s pretty chilling either way.

Interestingly, someone I respect a lot wrote an op-ed today, which includes the following:

“The complaints of an injured minority with a reputation for hypochondria are not as effective as the reprimand of unanmious condemnation. In order to adopt a more powerful rhetorical position, the HRC and its peers have to be willing to resist the temptation for didactic speeches about the power of words and school yard bullies.”

This is the first such criticism I’ve heard of HRC regarding this incident. Most of what I’ve heard, in fact, criticizes HRC for not focusing more on the actual word, calling it out specifically as unacceptable hate speech.

I think what bothers me most isn’t that Coulter (sort of) called John Edwards a faggot. Objectively, that’s just a wacky thing to say. What bothers me most is that a huge crowd of CPAC attendees applauded Coulter’s remarks. And I think we have to address the “power of words” to address why that’s unsettling.

It occurred to me that this has a lot in common with my feelings about Eminem, so I think I’ll go with that analogy. I personally think Eminem is a pretty talented guy. His voice is kind of nasal and I don’t think I could listen to a full album of his music, but he does have a knack for clever rhymes and has some really slick songs. He also writes some pretty intensely misogynistic and homophobic lyrics. Whether the guy is being ironic or sincere in these lyrics is entirely beside the point. What’s more important is that a significant chunk of his fan base (adolescent boys) doesn’t make a distinction between irony and sincerity. Instead, these kids just hear misogyny and homophobia.

Similarly, Ann Coulter isn’t stupid. She has no real reason to call John Edwards a faggot, and admitted that she used it more as a schoolyard taunt than a homophobic slur. You can even make the argument that she was using the Isaiah Washington hoopla as an analogy, and didn’t make her full comments about Edwards (whatever they would have been; from her comparison, we can only know that they would have been inflammatory, and may indeed have included different hate speech) because she doesn’t want to get sent to “rehab.” But that part doesn’t really matter. Had she said

“I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that when you use inflammatory language in public, like Isaiah Washington, your agents send you to rehab, so I’m – so, kind of at an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards, so I think I’ll just conclude here and take your questions.”

…the crowd’s reaction would have been a lot different. Instead, she used “faggot” as shorthand, and the crowd went crazy.

Here, then, are my problems with this whole mess:

1) “Faggot” has evolved. It’s no longer just shorthand for “person who deserves to be kindling” or “effeminate man.” (Although it certainly still is shorthand for the latter, and not just for schoolyard bullies.) It’s now also shorthand for a larger incident–one that conservatives use as an example of how out of hand “political correctness” has gotten–and the punchline for a very public joke.

2) A huge crowd of conservatives reacted like that was the greatest joke a person could have made.

I don’t care what Ann Coulter said. Whatever. She says vile things pretty much every time she opens her mouth. It doesn’t surprise me at this point. I do care that people still embrace the vile things she says.


November 10, 2006

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Joe Lieberman, who won re-election as an independent, has a message for his Senate colleagues in the next Congress: Call me a Democrat.

Well, Joey boy, that’s a little bit confusing, isn’t it? I mean, you’re not a democrat, right? Because you lost the democratic primary, right? And then you won your senate seat as an independent, right? I mean, I’m not a Connecticut voter, but I’m assuming next to your name there was a little I instead of a D.

So will he count as a Democrat or an independent who caucuses with the majority Democrats? In an e-mail message late Thursday, Lieberman spokesman Dan Gerstein said the senator will begin his new term as a Democrat.

With the Democratic takeover of the Senate, Lieberman is in line to become chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

In a post-election news conference, Lieberman said he was reassured by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid that he would retain his seniority when the new Senate convenes.

Oh, thank goodness. Because we wouldn’t want you to lose your precious seniority. I mean, it’d be a real shame if you had to wait any longer to become chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

Here’s my prediction for Joe’s big plan for homeland security: keep fighting the war in Iraq, cause it’s totally swell!