Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dismantling Civilization

Check out this post I wrote for the awesome radicalist blog Dismantle Civilization. It discusses what I thought of an MSNBC documentary I saw tonight called Sex Slaves in America. I'll give you a hint: like most American media productions, it did nothing to address the real underlying issues surrounding prostitution and sex slavery. Yippee!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dead Black Bear Wrapped In Obama Signs

A news story was released today that reported that a black bear cub had been found in the middle of a college campus. It was shot and wrapped in Obama signs.

When I first read the news, a chill ran down my spine. How can such blatant and violent forms of racism still be prevalent in today's society? Of course, the above news clip features a whole slew of bystanders that speculate that they "think" the statement "might" be racist, rather than political. Wow - ya think?

My second thought after hearing of the story was the sympathy I felt toward Obama. My fiance (a fellow Obama supporter) told me today that many people predict that Obama will be assassinated if he is indeed elected to office. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to absorb the constant harassment and disrespect he receives simply on account of his race, and how much courage he must have to be able to deflect it all.

But then, I realized that Obama is a strong, insightful, intelligent man. And it's kind of like being a feminist - you already know that everyone is going to hate you for taking a stand, but it's your responsibility and privilege to do so. Consider this lyric from Ani DiFranco's great song Crime for Crime:

"They make it even easier
by seeing me as a symbol, and not a human being
that way they can kill me
and say 'it's not murder, it's a metaphor
we are killing off our own failure
and starting clean'"

When you stand up for what you believe in, you have unknowingly made yourself into a symbol. You sacrifice your ego and identity for your cause. Therefore, when people personally attack you, they're really having an emotional response to the issue at hand, not you as a person. Being a symbol takes strength, and I believe that Obama has what it takes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Breast Cancer Awareness Crap

This post is my official celebration of the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Finally, an end to all of the pointless, distracting, and misleading campaigns that claim to provide an end to breast cancer.

First, let's consider this thought from breast cancer survivor and feminist blogger Twisty Faster:

"My fucking problem is the popular belief that the greater the obsequiousness with which the breast cancerettes comply with the infantilizing femininity mandate, the prettier they’ll feel, and the less likely they’ll be to drop dead at any moment...You wanna cut a breast cancer patient a break? Let her know that the pink self-esteem injunction is a crock of shit, and that attempts to solicit approval from patriarchal authority won’t smite a single cancer cell." - Breast Cancer Awareness Month Finally Over: Retailers Descend Into Funk

Not only do breast cancer awareness campaigns contribute to the myth that devoting yourself to femininity will cure you of your diseases, they're also downright wasteful. The pollution that they cause actually makes women more likely to develop breast cancer than they would if they didn't buy a bunch of plastic crap. In the words of eco blogger The Worsted Witch:

"'There are some products that have a pink ribbon on them, but might actually be contributing to the disease by producing toxins that have been linked to breast cancer,' Katrina Kahl, a communications associate at the San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action, tells TreeHugger. She points out auto companies that encourage people to test drive their latest hot rods by doling cash to a breast-cancer group for every mile driven. 'At the same time, car exhaust actually contains chemicals that are linked to the disease,' she says. 'So it's a little ironic to encourage people to test drive a car for breast cancer, knowing that what's coming at the other end of the tailpipe is actually contributing to people getting the disease.'" - Think Before Your Fall For Cause-Related Marketing

So let's all take a nice deep breath and focus on the real way to solve breast cancer - prevention - rather than ponying up a bunch of dough for "cures" that are self-defeating in the end. Goodbye October!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Klean Kanteens

I used to be pretty ambivalent about the green movement, until I started working for so many different eco companies. In no time at all, I was forced to learn the cold hard truth about what we are doing to the planet because of our waste and pollution, and the effects were much more extreme than I realized. Among other things, I learned that only 23% of the plastic water bottles used in America are recycled each year, which means that 38 billion end up in landfills. I also learned that plastic bottles leak toxic chemicals like BPA into our drinking water, which can cause cancer and infertility.

Before I learned about these issues, I thought I was being eco-friendly by reusing the same plastic water bottles over and over. Then I realized that I've probably been taking in a bunch of nasty chemicals, as well as a bunch of mold and who knows what else. So! In my new quest to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle, I've decided to invest in a Klean Kanteen. These reusable bottles are made of 100% stainless steel, contain no BPA, and are dishwasher friendly. I considered going with Sigg, another popular brand, but preferred the delightful minimalism of the Klean Kanteen bottles.

A 27 oz. Klean Kanteen bottle is $19.95, and shipping is $11.00, making my total around $31. I initially balked at the price, but then realized that it's definitely preferable to continuing to buy bottled water the rest of my life, or reusing old bottles and getting cancer. I'll post an update when my bottle arrives to let you know whether it meets expectations.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Man and Wife

By now, we're all quite familiar with MTV's desperate attempts to fill late-night time slots with "educational" adult-themed programming. In the past, this has meant enduring the onslaught of productions such as Undressed, Loveline, and other short-lived entities. The newest show of this nature is titled Man and Wife, and features the advice of real-life married couple Scoop and Shanda. The show was spawned from the immensely popular internet podcast streamed from

I accidentally ended up watching the first episode of this new show a couple nights ago. I expected to find the usual pseudo-advice spewed from MTV underlings; lick this, touch that, buy her flowers, and so on. I was shocked to find that the show was actually refreshingly original and entertaining. Highlights included a caller whose husband was in the army and had been deployed for a few months. She was interested in purchasing a larger "device" in order to meet her masturbatory needs, but was wondering whether a large device would change the size of her vagina, and thus make her husband think she had been cheating on him.

Scoop's response? "Ask him to get a mold of his penis so that you can get a device made in his size. That's what I do for Shanda when I'm gone."

Shanda's response? "Just get a bigger one. I do it all the time and Scoop doesn't even know the difference."

Ha! It's hard to believe that the response to that question was even funnier than the original inquiry. The great thing about the show is that Shanda and Scoop have wonderful relationship dynamics, and Shanda consistently espouses feminist-friendly advice to both male and female callers. Case in point: A man in the audience asks how he can get his girlfriend to do a threesome with him.

Shanda's response? "Ugh, we get this question all the time! If you want to have a threesome with you and two women, you have to reciprocate by having one with you and another man. If you don't want to do that, then just forget it."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

White Privilege and the Election

This is Your Nation on White Privilege
by Tim Wise, anti-racism writer and activist

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.
  • White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
  • White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.
  • White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.
  • White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”

  • White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

  • White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

  • White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

  • White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

  • White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”

  • White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

  • White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

  • White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

  • White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.

  • And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain…

  • White privilege is, in short, the problem.