Friday, June 25, 2010

Things I have been thinking about...

Partly these have just been things that seem to keep coming up in my head, and partly these thoughts have been coming up because of what happened between Womanist Musings, FWD/Forward and later Having Read the Fine Print... I don't know that it is useful, warranted or even necessarily any of my business to recount those events here.

In fact I've sat at my computer just staring at it far more times than is usual in the past week trying to sort out whether to speak up about what I think about those events and it's possible that it being 3AM is what has finally worn me down, I dunno. One part of me says that showing support and expressing critique are always things we should do, another part says that I am sticking my nose into a conversation I was not invited to nor involved/wanted in, like overhearing a discussion and turning around to say "well you know what I think".  I'm sick of being that stick-my-nose-in person and so even as I type and plan to publish this post I don't know which way to go...

I say all of this to give some context to what I'm going to say next, which is expanded from something previously published on my Tumblr.

Are all these tools we social justice types are learning really any good if we can turn them on each other so easily? Or is that a risk with any kind of tool or weapon?

And what does it mean that we so easily and vehemently turn on each other for our -ism's?  Especially when we already know that society has infected all of us with its poison -ism's?

What does it mean that, if we are angry, if we are in pain, and we respond to that pain by lashing out in an abusive manner, that we don’t own up to that abuse later?  Especially when we already know that dealing with pain in an abusive fashion is what we have been taught to do, is what has been modeled for us, is what we have been subjected to by others? When we KNOW we are trying to create a different model?

We have, most of us actually imo, internalized a seriously fucked up way of relating to Other people and as far as I can tell that doesn’t go away just because we’re social justice activists/feminists/womanists/liberationists. But why isn’t this something I actually see more people actively working out for themselves?

Is it just too painful to do in public?

If so, why is it that other such painful processes, like purging ourselves of cissupremacy and racism and ablism and such, is expected by so many to be done in public?  Surely all these things are forms of abuse towards fellow human beings too?  But, when it comes to each other, there are no holds barred?

If we are not safe in being accountable to each other, how can we ever truly be vulnerable to each other in the way necessitated for those purgings/exorcisms?

Is this community? Is this love? Is this solidarity? Is this creation?

I guess this all swirls around something I asked on Twitter a few days back: What would social justice look like if we all truly (truly) acted towards each other with compassion? #thingsihavebeenwondering
Because it seems pretty obvious to me that most if not all of us (including me) really are not.

And I continue to doubt myself.  I doubt if these questions are as valuable as they seemed when I first got them stuck in my brain.  But... I suppose that is in part what this space is for, my trying to puzzle stuff out, not just to post when I have all the answers.  We'll see what comes of it...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bay Area Event to Raise Awareness About Leonard Peltier - 6/25/10

AIM-WEST, Inter-Tribal Friendship House and American Indian Movement (AIM) cordially invites the Bay Area to an afternoon of fundraising activities and information with a theme of political prisoners held in the U.S.

Come learn about the case of American Indian prisoner, Leonard Peltier, incarcerated over 35 years! Yes, longer than Nelson Mandela! It is cruel and inhumane, Leonard should be release immediately!!

The youth, students and young adults (that’s you!) are especially encouraged to attend and learn about the “reign of terror” that took the lives of over 65 people during 1973-76 in South Dakota and no one has been held accountable for their deaths! And yet Leonard Peltier languishes in prison today.

Date: Friday, June 25, 2010
Time: 5 pm to 9 pm
Location: Inter-Tribal Friendship House, 523 International Boulevard, Oakland, CA
Price/donation: $ 5.00, no one turned away for lack of cash!

The program will be aired with live audience on radio KPFA radio FM 94.1 starting at 5 pm to 6 pm with “Flashpoints” hosted by Dennis Bernstein, Miguel “Gavilan” Molina, and special guest Jimbo Simmons.

The evening MC will be Bill “Jimbo” Simmons, AIM-WEST host, with musical performance, along with drummers and singers, the traditional Mexica Azteca Danzantes, prisoner rights advocates, and raffle!

A special showing of film, “Warrior-The Life of Leonard Peltier” This video (starts at 6:30pm) is officially endorsed by Leonard Peltier (85 minutes): The shocking, true story of Leonard Peltier, the American Indian leader locked away for life in Leavenworth Penitentiary, convicted of aiding and abetting, for the death of two FBI agents during a bloody shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Reservation on June 26, 1975. To understand Peltier’s story, ”Warrior” takes us back to the violent confrontations at Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee in the Seventies, and then to today’s Indian reservations where the government’s plans for uranium mining and waste dumping are still being heatedly resisted by Indian activists. The heart of the film, though, is a detailed painstaking account of Peltier’s harrowing odyssey through the American justice system.

To learn more about Leonard Peltier, please contact:

For more information call 415-577-1492, or visit the website:


(via ilykadamen and poc-news)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Priceless quote of the day

"911: “I really just don’t give a s**t what happens to you.”"

(From: Let’s Not Be Silly: The Marie Arraras 911 Call, and What It Means)

What can I possibly add?

Also, that's a really good post, if you're in the mood to rage...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Medical Sexual Assault of Children at Cornell

There are major, major, trigger warnings on this story in general and the articles posted specifically. But the word needs to spread about what is happening at Cornell.

Bad Vibrations | Bioethics Forum
For over a decade, many people (including us) have criticized this surgical practice. Critics in medicine, bioethics, and patient advocacy have questioned the surgery’s necessity, safety, and efficacy. We still know of no evidence that a large clitoris increases psychological risk (so is the surgery even necessary?), and we do know of substantial anecdotal evidence that it does not increase risk. Importantly, there also seems to be evidence that clitoroplasties performed in infancy do increase risk – of harm to physical and sexual functioning, as well as psychosocial harm.

But we are not writing today to again bring attention to the surgeries themselves. Rather, we are writing to express our shock and concern over the follow-up examination techniques described in the 2007 article by Yang, Felsen, and Poppas. Indeed, when a colleague first alerted us to these follow-up exams – which involve Poppas stimulating the girls’ clitorises with vibrators while the girls, aged six and older, are conscious – we were so stunned that we did not believe it until we looked up his publications ourselves.

Can You Hear Us Now? | Psychology Today
Finally, do we really think this is like what happened in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study? Yup. A population gets marked as being not normal sexually, and then ends up as research fodder with sub-standard ethics oversight, without anyone even telling them they're research fodder. The docs publish years of follow-up studies in medical journals, and their colleagues, including the medical journal editors, don't stop and say, "Wait, what now? What are you doing?" And the only way these girls are going to get protected is if the press finally gets involved.

We Need to Talk About IGM... | bird of paradox
Consider: the report states that the subjects had enlarged clitorises, and that this anatomical variation “is often a prominent manifestation of virilizing congenital adrenal hyperplasia and other disorders of sexual development”.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia(CAH) is an endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of virilising hormones and as such is already known to the medical profession as an intersex variation – or “disorder of sexual development, the preferred pathologising and stigmatising term which, although preferred by the medical profession, is objected to by some intersex activists.

It seems increasingly likely to me that, not only are we talking about a research project on intersex children, but also that that fact is being suppressed in Dreger and Feder’s article

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Photos From the San Francisco Flotilla Solidarity Demonstration

Click on the photo to see more.

What Is Not Allowed

What is Not Allowed:
No tinned meat is allowed, no tomato paste,
no clothing, no shoes, no notebooks.
These will be stored in our warehouses at Kerem Shalom
until further notice.
Bananas, apples, and persimmons are allowed into Gaza,
peaches and dates, and now macaroni
(after the American Senator’s visit).
These are vital for daily sustenance.
But no apricots, no plums, no grapes, no avocados, no jam.
These are luxuries and are not allowed.
Paper for textbooks is not allowed.
The terrorists could use it to print seditious material.
And why do you need textbooks
now that your schools are rubble?
No steel is allowed, no building supplies, no plastic pipe.
These the terrorists could use to launch rockets
against us.
Pumpkins and carrots you may have,
but no delicacies,
no cherries, no pomegranates, no watermelon, no onions,
no chocolate.
We have a list of three dozen items that are allowed,
but we are not obliged to disclose its contents.
This is the decision arrived at
by Colonel Levi, Colonel Rosenzweig, and Colonel Segal.
Our motto:
‘No prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.’
You may fish in the Mediterranean,
but only as far as three km from shore.
Beyond that and we open fire.
It is a great pity the waters are polluted –
twenty million gallons of raw sewage dumped into the sea every day
is the figure given.
Our rockets struck the sewage treatments plants,
and at this point spare parts to repair them are not allowed.
As long as Hamas threatens us,
no cement is allowed, no glass, no medical equipment.
We are watching you from our pilotless drones
as you cook your sparse meals over open fires
and bed down
in the ruins of houses destroyed by tank shells.
And if your children can’t sleep,
missing the ones who were killed in our incursion,
or cry out in the night, or wet their beds
in your makeshift refugee tents,
or scream, feeling pain in their amputated limbs –
that’s the price you pay for harbouring terrorists.
God gave us this land.
A land without a people for a people without a land.
Richard Tillinghast is an American poet who lives in Co Tipperary. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the latest of which is Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2010 ), as well as several works of non-fiction
The Irish Times - Sat, Jun 05, 2010

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Love It/Shove It?: Dan Savage Can Shove It

So earlier today Cara pointed me to the newest edition of Bitch, to a specific portion of a regular feature; "Love It/Shove It." This particular piece would be put in the "love" portion. It is a "love/open letter" to Dan Savage. One which seeks to educate him on gender, a subject on which he had professed he is lacking in a recent column. The author signs this piece "Gender Wiz (Bree Kessler)."

To sum up my reaction earlier in the day is quite easy, it went like this: WHAT.

And as I walked away from my computer to read a book, something that during my summer break I have been trying to make sure I take time to do every day, I just could not get this article out of my head. This post kept trying to write itself and wouldn't let me concentrate. And so, though I don't really feel that I can entitle myself a "gender wiz" and given my cis-privilege I will probably miss pieces of what makes this thing so, well, awful, I am going to take a stab at it anyway and I hope if I utterly fuck it up that you, dear readers, will be there to tell me so.

As Cara so eloquently put it in her Tumblr post, "my head exploded about twelve times" reading this, but I am going to try and hone in on just the worst bits.

For instance,
I give the students in my Human Sexuality course a handy way to remember the difference between ["sex" and "gender"]: "gender" is pink and blue; "sex" is penis and vagina.

Do you see what is going on here?

Here is what I see, and it centers around that last part: "'sex' is penis and vagina." First, I would agree that this is the common construction of sex, the assumption that it is a label for which secondary sexual characteristics you are born with. The problem is, Kessler is, quite clearly, not setting up that assumption to be challenged, but accepting it as fact. And let's be absolutely clear here: that is not fact.

Sex is something that is assigned to us by doctors and/or our parents when we are born, usually based on a visual examination of our genitals. If we have something that looks like what these people think of as a vagina, we're labeled "female," if we have something that looks like what these people think of as a penis, we are labeled "male."

And then there are those whose "sex characteristics" do not look like either of those things.

So, quite literally, right off the bat Kessler utterly erases intersex people for her discussion (and for her students...from understanding that they exist at all).

Secondly, what I see going on here slightly more subtly (or at least it would be subtle to anyone who has absorbed the ideas of cis-normativity, which most people, especially cis people, have) is that Kessler is also equating penis with maleness and vagina with femaleness. There are, apparently, no females with penises and no males with vaginas. They, like intersex folks, don't exist in Kessler's world.

This constant conflation of sexual organs with sex identity and gender identity is one of the major obstacles, in my experience, with acceptance of and real respect towards trans people's identities. The idea that penis=man and vagina=woman is so entrenched that (cis) people just do NOT question it, even when contradictions of that assumption are staring them in the face. Oh, you look like a woman, talk like a woman, etc. but if I find out you have a penis under that skirt you are clearly "really" a man, or, at the most generous, "were a man once."  That you could have been a woman ALL ALONG is not even up for consideration.

And that dynamic is being reinforced here.

I am editing the original post to insert a paragraph here because in comments it was pointed out that the "pink/blue" dynamic is just as problematic as the "penis/vagina" dynamic. Originally, I sacrificed this piece for the sake of "honing in," but on reflection I don't think that's really appropriate, so let me say here that this binary construction leaves yet another group of people erased: people who are genderqueer.  Specifically, those who don't identify with gender at all.  If "gender is pink and blue," where does that leave them?

Let's go on to another part (and I think it's worth pointing out that this section is the "pull quote" for the article, so apparently someone in the layout or editing department of Bitch thought it was noteworthy, presumably in a good way),
So back to that caller's question: Can you raise a child with a different gender than the one assigned at birth? Yes, you can.
And before going on let me just say that, since she recognizes (or at least uses the rhetoric of) "assigned at birth" what she goes on to say I find even more baffling:
According to gender schema theory, kids don't even identify their own gender until they are about two or three years old. If you have a boy who wears dresses, and no one tells the boy that this clothing is not "appropriate" for boys, then indeed you have changed this boy's gender.

I'm going to let that section sink in for a minute.


Did you pull the pieces of your brain back together?

Ok. So, most bluntly, NO. Just, NO. Allowing a little cisgender boy to wear dresses if he wants to does not change his gender. It changes nothing about his gender. All it does is mean that this little boy does not hold the now common belief (in the U.S.) that dresses are "girl's clothes." If anything, what has happened here is that the clothing of a dress is DE-GENDERED. But that has nothing to do with this little presumably cis boy and his gender identity.

I mean I'm pretty sure all those Scottish men who wear kilts aren't changing their genders, I'm pretty sure they just have a cultural tradition/understanding of men wearing what are heavily considered "skirts" (aka female clothing) in the U.S.

Gender identity is not something you can just outright change, in the way being suggested here. I mean, I would argue that gender identity is somewhat changeable, in that each person kind of has their own, unique, spectrum of "masculine" and "feminine" behaviors and appearance etc. that they are comfortable with, and that those understandings of self can change over time. But this hypothetical little boy who wears dresses isn't going to think himself a girl just being he wears dresses! That is, unless she really is a little girl, and the assignment of her sex was (as it sometimes is) just outright wrong.

As with the more "subtle" portion of the "sex" definition, what we have here are cis-normative-meets-gender-constructivist assumptions about what gender is. And those assumptions utterly undermine the credibility of trans and genderqueer people's gender identities.  Because if gender can be taken on and off as easily as the clothes you wear, what possible motive do cis-supremacist people have to take trans people's identities seriously?  And if sex and gender are always binary, how can cisgender people take genderqueer people's identities serious?

This works perfectly in tangent with the point before, that man=penis and woman=vagina; THAT is the understanding people will fall back on when in doubt!

And as we see time and again, that understanding leads to violence when those poor cis people are "tricked" by some "man in a dress."

Also, somehow, I have a hard time believing that this presumably cis woman who authored this piece would agree that her womanhood is as malleable as she is suggesting "gender" is. Somehow, I don't think she believes she has changed genders when she wears pants.

If there were any doubts about the comfort which Kessler has in undermining the gender identities of trans people they were silenced for me in her final paragraph. She has earlier stated that, unlike with gender, you can't "change a gay man and make him straight" and not long after says,
Even Oprah, goddess of advice, as evinced confusion on this issue, when (in discussion of her book-club pick Middlesex) she wondered aloud if being transgendered was the same as being homosexual.
This states loud and clear that Kessler does not actually believe trans people when they say they were "born this way." Gay cis men, apparently, are believable when they claim the same for their sexuality, but not trans women or trans men (or, presumably, genderqueer people) for their gender identity.

Now, look, I AM a gender constructionist. I DO think we are socialized to look and behave a certain way, based on our assigned sex and that, that socialization shapes how we think about and present ourselves, etc. But, CLEARLY, there is more to it than that, as well.

I am a cis woman; being a woman is part of my identity. Often "woman" to me does not mean what it means to cis-supremacist society, and I sometimes defy expectations. But fundamentally, under all that, there is some core understanding of myself, in this body, as a female person. You can't change that fundamental piece of self, whatever exactly it is.   And to openly invalidate that piece of self for trans and genderqueer people is just...absolutely horrific.  It is violent.

And to do so in the name of being an "expert" on "gender" and "educating" a man who has time, and time, and time again been lambasted for his transphobia (among all his other race fails, bi-fails and just general douchiness), and specifically transmisognyny, is AT BEST extraordinarily irresponsible.

So let me just say this, I am no expert on gender, I think I know a thing or two about it, but if you REALLY want to understand gender, Dan Savage, (and I think there's a lot more it would be good for you to understand too, btw...) then here ARE some experts (and this is just a brief list) (and do read the comments on this post):
bird of paradox
Combat Queer Online
Life Journeys to a T
nueva voz
The Second Awakening

My last thought on this now rather long post is that, you know what, Bitch? I'm appalled that this piece got by your editors.

ETA: Thoughts from the author of the piece can be found in comments. Feel free to join the continuing conversation.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

San Francisco Protests of IDF Attack on Freedom Flotilla

Title:Bay Area Emergency Protests TODAY & beyond of Israeli Massacre of Gaza Aid Convoy
START DATE:Tuesday June 01
TIME:4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location Details:
3 upcoming protests, the first one Tuesday 6/1 -
Bay Area Emergency Protests of Israeli Massacre of Gaza Aid Convoy
Event Type:Other


at the
456 MONTGOMERY STREET near California Street,

Please forward to your memberships and/or lists!


Friday,June 4th 12 Noon
Interfaith Action
San Francisco City Hall

Saturday, June 5th 11am
Mass Mobilization
San Francisco, Civic Center

* Immediate cessation of all U.S. aid to Israel
* Arrest and prosecution at the International Criminal Court of all those who
conceived, planned and executed this act of piracy and murder on the high seas
* Severe sanctions by the international community against Israel's Apartheid regime
* End to the blockade and siege of Gaza

The ships, helicopters and guns used by Israel to commit these crimes were
subsidized and possibly even supplied by the U.S. government, paid for with our
tax dollars. That makes the U.S. government complicit and Congress directly
responsible for aiding and abetting the commission of international crimes.

Silence = Complicity

Please share this call with others.
via Indy Bay