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Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars: Again, We Need a Queer Movement

Recent debates on whether Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars is an appropriate viewing experience for children exemplify a dangerous conservative trend in the LGBT movement.  As in debate on same-sex marriage, queer activists find ourselves being ask to defend our simple humanity, backed into a corner where visible queerness is seen as a bad strategic move.

Again, I find myself using an example of a queer celebrity in the media to argue the necessity of a truly queer movement.  The more time we spend arguing that we are normal, “just like” our opponents, the further we get from our policy priorities.  When we allow hate groups to define the debate, they have already won.

How can we turn this disaster around? Refuse to engage by framing our position around being like our opponents.  We are not like bigots, homophobes, and transmisogynists.  We embrace diversity.  We fight with creativity and humor.  We shift the ground under gender stereotypes and we regularly fuck with patriarchy.  We don’t accept conservative arguments that dehumanize us and challenge our right to occupy our space.

We’re here, we’re queer.  Join us.

Is Voting a Responsibility?

Readers, I am sick and I am tired.

I’m sick and tired of people shaming those who don’t vote in this country, attacking young people for failure to get involved in politics, and saying that a decision not to vote is a vote for the “other side.”  For many of us, there is no “other side.”  The political atmosphere in the United States doesn’t offer truly opposing viewpoints on many issues, and hasn’t for a long time.  Politics is not a sphere of creativity, activism, and problem-solving.  It’s a charade.  And I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that a vote for a Republican necessarily is worse than a vote for a Democrat who will do nothing.  I believe that both choices are appalling.

In school, we’re all indoctrinated into the ideal of “democracy.”  In a democracy, we’re told, political participation is the right and the duty of every citizen.  Political participation includes voting, campaigning, and writing letters to our Congressperson.  Those are the boundaries of participation, and if we do not choose to exercise our rights in these neatly delineated ways, we are not participants and we have no right to object to what happens in our nation.

I call bullshit. Read the rest of this entry

2010 Elections and the Need for Radical Social Action

I never get all that excited about national elections, to be honest.  I’ve worked on some specific issue campaigns related to abortion and gay marriage, but I tend to have difficulties with politics because my stances are significantly more radical than those of the available candidates.  If I had to select a party, I would go with the socialists.  I’m more interested in policy than in candidates, and so I’d like to use this post-election-day period as an opportunity to highlight the need for social action.

Politics has its uses.  Government cooperation is necessary for many causes.  But we can’t underestimate the power of social awareness for social change.  A coworker and I were just talking about the election and she mentioned that she doesn’t actually know that many Republicans.  I shared my theory that most Republicans our age probably come to the party based on economic issues, not social ones.  Many Republicans I’ve known have softened their stance or even switched parties after becoming aware of the importance of social issues such as gay rights, feminism, etc.

Most young Republicans I know, particularly those who are not evangelical Christians, consider social issues secondary and take a relatively weak stance on those issues.  I’ve known many young Republicans who weren’t active homophobes, pro-lifers, or anti-feminists, but simply didn’t consider these issues important in their own lives.  A lot of these friends had never met a queer person before me, or a person who’s had an abortion, or had never really thought about feminist issues.  Just talking about these things, or simply being aware of a friend or friends who are directly and substantially affected by these issues, led to a shift in these young people’s stances on social issues.

Remember this when you’re rallying for social change.  Visibility is important.  One-on-one conversations are very important.  It’s easy to consider an issue secondary when it doesn’t directly affect you, or to view a minority group as “other” when you think you don’t know any members of that group, and only recognize the group based on televised portrayals.  But a dinner table chat can break down barriers.  In the periods between elections, we should concentrate on these conversations and how to bring activism down to a person-to-person level.  Radical change starts at home.

Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Rape in the United States

I’ve been watching the webcast of a Senate subcommittee hearing on rape in the United States, and though I’m not able to watch the last panel, I wanted to note a couple of things.  One is that I’m actually encouraged by what I’ve heard, especially about the need to have better definitions of sexual crimes and the need for better reporting and police support.  Then again, the Senators present were Specter, Cardin, and Franken, so maybe that’s to be expected.

One thing, though, that bothered me, was that Specter seemed surprised that a public education and awareness campaign would be needed–what is to me one of the most important elements of eradicating rape culture.  He stated that “people are aware of what rape means […] that it is violent and anti-social.”  Seems to be missing the point a bit.  There was some back-and-forth in this hearing between recognizing and seeming to gloss over acquaintance rape.  The problem isn’t that people don’t know what rape is, but that sexual crimes aren’t culturally stigmatized and survivors don’t get social support.  So yes, a public education campaign is vitally important, to change the way people think about sex and to prevent rape before it happens.

On the other hand, I was encouraged that particularly vulnerable populations were at least mentioned: indigenous people, immigrants, people with disabilities, people in institutions, LGBT people, the homeless, etc.  I don’t know how much hope I have for things improving, but this hearing has shown that journalism, and just talking about it, does mean something.

Competency Kinks, Violence, and Imperialism

A couple of months ago, I had a thought.  I was brainstorming an idea for an urban fantasy novel, one that would feature a strong androgynous superhero whose jurisdiction was over things like stopping rapists, confronting misogynists, and making vulnerable populations feel safe.  But as I was brainstorming this hero, who not only saves your life but has a penchant for cuddling and physical affection, I realized that one of the traits I was using was still “could kill you with hir little finger.”

That got me thinking about competency kinks and how they align with violence.

“Competency kink” basically just means that someone being really good at whatever zie does is a turn-on.  Movies certainly capitalize on this.  Sometimes it’s intellectual competence, or psychic ability, or something else unrelated to violence, but very often the protagonist is competent at killing, injuring, and/or self defense.  Whether it’s competence with weaponry, martial arts, magic, or some other violence-related skill, filmmakers are very good at combining destructive prowess with sexiness.  Think Christian Bale in Equilibrium.  Think Keanu Reeves in the Matrix.  Think of all the bad-ass chicks in films that are unexpectedly very skilled at physical combat.  Kill Bill, anyone?

Read the rest of this entry

Prop 8 Overturned, Sort Of

Your blogger’s inner cynicism rears its ugly head, I’m afraid.  I haven’t had time to read the decision or anything else, so I’m operating on what I know from the news, which is that a California District Court ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional on Due Process and Equal Protection grounds and that a stay has been issued, though it’s not a very long one and so it’ll expire before an appeal and another stay will have to be issued.

Assuming that’s correct, this is definitely something of a victory, but it doesn’t mean people can get married again, and it doesn’t mean that Prop 8 was really “overturned,” at least, in the sense I use the word.  I sort of feel like you can’t overturn something if the next guy can turn it right back.  But despite that, I’ll feel some cautious sense of victory, and eagerly anticipate the result of the appeals process.

No words.

A Haiku

Stars and Stripes

There’s red states and blue,

But what it all comes down to

Is the votes of whites.

The Significance of Rhetorical War

John Dickerson has a short piece up on Slate about rhetorical wars, the next one of which appears to be war on the economy.  Oops, I’m sorry, that’s war on the economic crisis.  My mistake.  Anyway, in my National Security Law intersession course this week, one thing we talked about was whether the war on terror is any different from the other rhetorical wars on drugs, poverty, cancer, etc. or if it’s just another phrase in the presidential bag of tricks.  I’d say yes and no.

In some ways, it’s like all the other rhetorical wars, in that the word “war” announces a policy priority and commission of resources.  It’s intended to make those who are doing whatever we’re at war with a little more afraid of us in the case of something like the war on drugs, and to make victims believe that we’re serious in the case of the war on poverty or the war on cancer.  The war on terror does announce a policy priority and commission of resources, and it is supposed to make terrorists fear us and Americans feel like the government is doing something to protect us.  But that’s not all.

While other wars may have done this to some extent, I think the war on terror sets a new precedent in terms of using the “war” as a justification for actions that may or may not be legal or otherwise socially justifiable.  Increased surveillance?  We’re at war!  Questionable interrogation techniques?  We’re at war!  If Congress doesn’t give the President more and more authority, then it looks like it’s on the wrong side of a war, and that’s something you don’t want to be.  It’s also fuzzy because while Congress has not actually declared war on terrorists (something it doesn’t have the legal power to do as the enemy has to be at least somewhat identifiable), it has authorized the use of force against those responsible for 9/11 in the AUMF.  We’re actively fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the President is allowed to do whatever is appropriate and necessary to track down the Al Qaeda people responsible for the 9/11 terrorist plot.  This means that the rhetorical war gets the added brunt of being associated with a real war, and sometimes the two get disturbingly enmeshed.  For example, it was easy to call Iraq just another battle in the broader war.  But Congress authorized force against those who had attacked us first; it never declared a wider war or referred to the war in Afghanistan as an opening battle.

Things to think about.

Heads up on an interesting discussion on gay marriage

If you haven’t yet seen it, Jon Stewart makes some really thoughtful arguments in a discussion with Mike Huckabee about gay marriage.  One of my favourite points: “Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality.”  You can get it online at thedailyshow.com, just click full episodes and select Tuesday’s night’s show. The discussion is right after the last little black commercial break bar at the bottom of your screen.

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