What if you would like to partake in some everday activism with a Halloween twist?

Well, there is pumpkin activism, of course. Here is my contribution:

PUMPKIN ACTIVISM!

PUMPKIN ACTIVISM!

I would love to see a No on Prop 4 with no wire hangers image… This was beyond my carving skill. (For more pumpkin activism, see Harriet’s Daughter’s post with the link to yeswecarve.com here.)

And, there is all sorts of costume activism — I will be out as Rosie the Riveter today, carrying a sign that reads “We Can Do It! Vote NO on 8!”

I hope those of you who celebrate Halloween are finding fun, activist ways to spend the day. Happy Halloween everyone!

What if the ridiculous rhetoric of the “Yes on 4” California group took into account the many negative effects of parental consent laws as evidenced in other states? (Such as increase STI rates among teens, increase in the number of unsafe/delayed abortions, and an increase physical, psychological, and emotional problems among teens…)

Sorry for the long title there, I am all hot and bothered over this one. Anyhow, this post is in response to my previous Prop 4 post and the hostile comments from an anti-choice commenter with the fitting screen name “Ridiculous.” While I don’t usually post based on comment threads, I am aware that the Prop 4 race is very close in California and that every vote from those us who believe in social justice and a female’s right to choose is needed. Further, because Ridiculous uses the typical tactic of exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims meant to convince voters that Prop 4 is a good thing for teens (rather than a disastrous thing for teens specifically and women in general), I would like to counter these claims in detail.

Ridiculous started her/his comment with the claim that Prop 4 will help stop ‘child predators’ with the following:

“right now an embarrassed teen can go to a clinic, even with the guy who abused her and get an abortion. With parental notification, the parent already knows about the sex. The parents can ask who the father is. Better chance of turning in criminals, better chance of the abuse stopping.”

This claim has a number of problematic assumptions as follows:

1.    The teen is ‘embarrassed’ -as supposedly SHE should be for having sex – naughty, naughty!

2.    The guy who had sex with her is characterized as an ‘abuser’ – what if these two people are in a consensual relationship? While laws claim you cannot consent until 18, the reality is that teenagers have sex. Ignoring this fact and trying to legislate sex will not work. Read up, Ridiculous, on the ridiculous failure of all the money wasted on abstinence only education.

3.    The parents are set up as watch-dogs policing their daughter’s sexuality. They can turn in ‘criminals’ and ‘abusers.’ Yeah, because anyone doing the nasty before 18 should either be locked into a chastity belt or a cell!

Ridiculous goes on to claim that parental consent laws are “written with protections for girls fearing their parents.” (Note that although Ridiculous accuses me multiple times of doing no research and writing based merely on opinion, that s/he (?) does not cite any sources for her/his claims.) Regarding the assertion that such laws provide ways around parental consent in ‘necessary’ cases, Ridiculous writes that “there is an expediated court process, and the clinic is required to help the girl navigate the process, to allow the decision to be made for her” (emphasis mine.)

The decision to be made for her?!? At what point should she get to be part of this decision making process? So, she is old enough to decide whether or not to abide by parental consent or to go through a court process, old enough to argue her case before a judge, old enough to be making decisions about her reproductive capacity, but not old enough to decide whether to carry out the pregnancy? Huh.

Ridiculous then claims that “Many states have parental notification laws, and their (sic) has been no increase in back alley abortions since they were enacted. There have been lowered teen pregnancy, abortion and childbirth. There have been lowered rates of STDs. There has been zero evidence that these laws have done anything but good.” These are odd (and false) declarations given that STI rates are up, teen pregnancy rates are up, and that evidence indicates more teens that live in states with parental consent laws are traveling out of state to have abortions and/or are delaying abortions past the 8th week. For discussions of the negative impacts in other states as will as the implications of passing such a law in California, see, for example, here, here, here, here, and here.

Ridiculous then notes that “12 of the 13 states with lowest rates of teen pregnancy have parental notification laws in action. That stat, courtesy of your friends at planned parenthood if you read their charts.” Well, as said chart was not linked, I could not find it to verify. Though, at the Planned Parenthood cite, one can read for hours the reasons why parental consent laws are harmful. For example:

In Minnesota, the proportion of second-trimester abortions among minors terminating their

pregnancies increased by 18 percent following enactment of a parental notification law. Likewise, since Missouri’s parental consent law went into effect in 1985, the proportion of second-trimeste abortions among minors increased from 19 percent in 1985 to 23 percent in 1988.

Ridiculous, when you claimed abortion rates are lowered by parental consent laws, did you mean to write HEIGHTENED?

And, in Arizona, another state with parental consent laws:

According to a recent study by Dr. Madeline Zavodny, who was formerly with the Department of Economics, Occidental College, Los Angeles, “imposing a parental consent requirement for contraceptives… appears to raise the frequency of pregnancies and births among young women.”

Arizona ranks second highest in the United States in the rate of teen pregnancies, and teen pregnancy contributes to the fact that Arizona has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also rising among Arizona teens. (see here for full article)

Ridiculous then tells me to “Get a grip. Use some stats to support the emotional crap you are spewing.” Hmmm, do you ever take your own advice?

But, wait for it, the best part is Ridiculous‘ last lines:

“These laws have not led to girls dying with coathangers sticking out of their vagina. There have been years of these in action, and you will not be able to find any evidence of harm because there has not been any.”

Wow, nice image. Discounting the millions of women who have died due to unsafe, illegal, and or self-induced abortion, the “coathangers sticking out of their vaginas” is not only insensitive, it is based on the LIE that women don’t die when access to contraception and safe abortion is limited. Perhaps you might want to read up on all the ways that females currently attempt to induce abortion globally – they do so for various, complex reasons – and resort to putting corrosive substances into their vagina, taking pills, and yes, using hangers, knitting needles, and other implements. See, for example, here, here, and here.

As for not being able to find any evidence of harm, this I assume is meant for those people who are not reading up on the issue but merely taking anti-choicers rhetoric as true. There is all sorts of evidence of harm of various kinds – physical, emotional, psychological. The American Psychological Association, for example, notes that:

Parental notification and consent laws can have harmful psychological and health consequences for the minors affected by these laws. By restricting adolescent access to confidential contraceptive services, these laws can result in an increased number of unintended pregnancies.

These laws often have the following additional unintended effects:

  • Delayed timing of contraceptive services and/or abortion, which increases health risks and expenses (Ambuel, 1995; Lieberman & Feierman, 1999; Melton, 1987; Pliner & Yates, 1992);
  • Stress, fear, and anxiety for those adolescents who go to court to obtain a judicial bypass for an abortion (Crosby & English, 1991; O’Keefe & Jones, 1990);
  • Intrafamilial conflict in abusive homes (Ambuel, 1995; Melton, 1987; O’Keefe & Jones, 1990); and
  • Restriction of adolescent access to abortion resulting in teenage parenthood or the use of dangerous extralegal methods of abortion (Crosby & English, 1991; O’Keefe & Jones, 1990).

And, as noted at the Medscape website: “Opponents of parental consent and notification measures include the American Medical Association (and respective state medical associations), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.” Yet, while these institutions as well as many others (such as American Psychological Association, Catholics for Choice, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice) support a female’s right to choose, those shouting the loudest against choice are coughing up big bucks to take us back to pre-Roe days.

Ridiculous refers to one of these loud anti-choicers, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the author of “Confessions of an Ex-Abortionist.” In this piece, Nathanson notes he was one of the founders of NARAL in 1968. He converted to Catholocism in 1996 and is now avidly anti-choice. For a taste of Nathanson’s changed beliefs, consider the following quote:

“I believe  with all my heart  that there is  a divinity of existence  which commands us to declare a final and irreversible halt to this infinitely sad and shameful crime against humanity.”

Note that this quote (and the entire piece) never consider the “divinity of existence” of the mother – no, as per usual, only the “unborn child” is divine. Is the control of women’s bodies, the massive rapes that occur in our patriarchal society (with the complicity of religion, Catholicism included), and the lies hawked about reproduction, not also an “infinitely sad and shameful crime against humanity”? Nope, sorry, the womenz don’t matter, only the divine little babes. Note also, as per usual, the loudest anti-choice voices are male…

The Protect Teen Safety: Vote No on 4 cite further reveals the male dominance in the anti-choice crusade:

“The anti-choice Knights of Columbus just donated $175,000 to the proponents of Prop 4, joining two anti-choice extremists – Jim Holman and Don Sebastiani in financing this latest dangerous parental notification initiative. They are not only anti-choice, they are anti-contraception, anti-family planning, and anti-comprehensive sex education.”

As cited at Ballotpedia.org

“Don Sebastiani is one of two chief financial backers of the California Waiting Period and Parental Notification Initiative (2008). As of April 14, 2008, Sebastiani and Jim Holman had donated approximately $1.8 million to this year’s effort.”

For very scary facts about these huge male financiers of anti-choice, see here. (For just a taste of the scariness: Holman, known as “The Catholic Crusader of Coronado,” has been arrested for blocking access to clinics and also bit a security guard at clinic. For more on who is behind the Yes on 4 Prop, see here.)

If you find it ridiculous that a female’s right to choose is being chipped away state by state (as well as globally), if you think a female, any female, should be able to decide what to do with her own body and its reproductive capacity, vote NO on 4.

If you are able to donate funds to help defeat proposition 4 (to match the big money of the rich males above — who, guess what?!?!? — will never themselves face an unplanned pregnancy) you can donate here. You can also sign a No on 4 pledge and find more information at the Feminist Majority Foundation cite here.

My godess, when will the fight for a woman to be able to make decisions regarding her own body be absolute? Get your damn state, nation, and religion the fuck out of my uterus!!!!

What if the numbers of supporters of “Yes on 8” in California are indicative of the de-volution of the USA?

The USA has undergone a massive dumbing down in the past decade (not that we were ever the most intelligent of nations, mind you…). A confluence of factors has led us to a state where we think it is just hunky-dory that we have a Vice Presidential candidate that peppers her speech with “You Betcha,” winks at the crowd, and knows wolf killing like the back of her hand but can’t name more than one Supreme Court Case.  Likewise, many don’t seem too bothered by the huge educational and intellectual discrepancies between the Mcain/Palin ticket and the Obama/Biden ticket. (As various versions of the educational background comparison posts peppering the web reveal, M/P are the flunkies and O/B the grads. See, for example, here and here.) Yet, it would be ELITIST if we elected someone really intelligent. We need to vote for “real Americans” (gag) – you know ones who don’t like them city folks, think community organizing is for liberal commies, and love ‘em some weapons to kill wolves, bear, and Asians (on McCain’s anti-Asian racism, see this book). Plus, it’s so much easier (and apparently more fun) to focus on skin color and celebrity cavorting. The VP candidate on Saturday Night Live with Alec Baldwin telling her “she is way hotter in person”? Cool!

I wonder how many other countries around the world that actually still value education, intellectual debate, ‘high’ culture (rather than Girls Gone Wild and The Man Show) look at us in horror. “How did that sad nation avoid evolution?” they must wonder. “How did a nation run by man-children (the top of which brags that he doesn’t read) ever get so much power?” Of course, as they read papers and news magazines, as they follow world news and exercise their brains, they surely see how this has happened – it is a case of a bully and his gang using threats, lies, and fear to takeover the playground (or, in this case, the world).

And how funny that a nation that is de-volving rather than evolving in such obvious ways is currently on the rampage to DENY evolution and act as if we were all prancing around with dinosaurs 6,000 years ago. Perhaps our own failed evolution here in the US has led us to be more prone to denying evolution exists –  a denial many would like us to teach to children – you know, because the bible is such a nicer story with neat Saints and stuff – it is far more useful to learn about Eve’s fall rather than scientific mumbo-jumbo. Who needs to know evolutionary science when there are so many more important things to teach – like sexism, prejudice, and out and out hate?

I can hear the cries from the Yes on 8 bible band that “Teaching children religion is not about teaching hate!” Oh really? Well, the Christianity I see evidence of in mainstream society is all about hate – hating gays, hating sex, hating science, hating other religions (especially Islam). It is about teaching children that “God loves us all,” but HE really only loves heterosexuals, Americans, Christians (aAnd loves men more –wait a second, is God gay? Come to think of it, isn’t there quite a bit of homo-eroticism in the “good book”? All that male bonding and male love…Was the last supper actually a gay dinner party? Looks that way according to some of the paintings I have seen…Anyhow, I digress.)

I know not all religions teach hate, I know many churches are working to progress ideas about “loving one another” (regardless of sexuality or nationality), and I personally know many religious people who are kind, good-hearted, non-judgmental, and anti-racist/sexist/homophobic. Yet, if I were to judge religion via what I have seen in my region surrounding Prop 8 and Prop 4, as well as via news coverage of these Propositions, I would have to say that, in these cases, religion is being used to spread hatred and lies.

I recently drove passed an entire cadre of Yes on 8 sign wavers. Many of the signs read “Vote yes on 8. Protect religious freedom.” How is a homophobic law based on denying rights to all people equally ‘protecting religious freedom’? Oh, I get it – they mean the freedom to hate, to judge, to disqualify any deemed “Others” from fair and just treatment.

I assume the misleading tag-line about religious freedom is referring to the false claim that priests will be FORCED to marry same sex couples if Prop 8 fails to pass. Yes, hordes of lesbian on motorcycles will roar down church aisles, tie up unsuspecting priests, wrap them in a rainbow flag, and force them to marry non-heterosexuals.

Perhaps the “Yes on 8″ ideology is a case of “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (The famous Shakespeare line that indicates one is objecting so strongly that one loses credibility. The phrase is often used to indicate that someone’s ‘protest’ points out their guilt. Or, that their objection is denial based – meaning, they are protesting something based on guilt, complicity, or to distance themselves from their true actions/desires.) In other words, are the Yes on 8 people so busy “protecting marriage” because they themselves fear their own sexuality and desires? If the ‘love between a man and a woman’ is so damn natural, why does it need laws to ‘protect’ it?

All that being said, the good religious voices (or, in my book, the one’s that care about social justice for all) are being pretty well silenced by the religio-crazies. As Rabbi Elliot Dorff notes,

“Much has been made recently of faith leaders expressing support for Proposition 8, California’s measure on the November ballot that would eliminate the right to marry for thousands of committed gay and lesbian couples. Speaking less loudly – or perhaps ignored by media outlets hungry for controversy – have been the voices of thousands of other clergy members: Episcopalians and Methodists, Quakers and Unitarians, Muslims and Buddhists, and Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative Jews.”

So, why are the voices of No on 8 clergy members not heard – or at least not heard as widely – as the Yes-on-8-We-support-hate group? Well, I think this again has to do with the whole de-volving of our culture. We have de-volved into a society that thrives on controversy, on soundbites and headlines rather than analysis, on ‘extreme news’ that functions to grab attention rather than to educate. How ‘extreme’ is it to claim that if marriage is going to be a right, it needs to be one all people can partake in? It’s so much more exciting to focus on how a priest is going to be forced to marry two men or how teachers will be giving lessons on homosexual lovin’ to 5 year olds…

Yet, the claim that any clergy member will be forced to do anything by Prop 8 is an outright lie. As Dorff further notes:

“under California law, no pastor, rabbi, priest or imam from any denomination can be forced to marry a same-sex couple against his or her will.  Religious groups and clergy members have a constitutionally protected right to celebrate or refuse to celebrate religious marriages based on the tenets of their particular faith…

…Unfortunately the proponents of Prop 8 are using falsehoods and scare tactics to try and sway voters. As I said above, there is NOTHING in Prop 8 that would affect any religion or religious ceremony.”

The Rabbi also does a fine job of elucidating how Prop 8 wouldn’t protect or bring about “religious freedom” (as it claims), but, rather, would curtail religious freedom:

“…Proposition 8 would prevent thousands of faith leaders like me from following the dictates of our own denominations and consciences by not allowing us to marry gay and lesbian members of our communities. It essentially accepts only the interpretation of some denominations, but not those of many others, about what constitutes the “sacred” institution of marriage. That means the government, and not our own faiths, is telling us whom we can marry.”

As for the other claim, that Prop 8 will hinder “educational freedom” and teachers will be forced to instruct children about homosexuality, well, this one is preposterous too. As if all schools will bring in a “it’s great to be gay” rainbow colored pamphlet the day after 8 fails… yeah, right. Plus, wouldn’t it actually be useful for the at least 10% of kids that are not heterosexual to learn about homosexuality? Or should we just burn the kids exhibiting non-heterosexuality at the stake right now? I am sure James Dobson would provide the wood at no cost…Fannie’s Room points to the hypocrisy surrounding this “we can’t teach kids about same sex marriage” camp as follows:

“It’s not okay to teach kids about same-sex marriage but it is okay to promote dishonest propaganda and asinine slippery slope arguments in order to vilify same-sex couples as playing a key role in the End of the World!”

Yes, apparently dishonesty is fine and dandy as long as its done in the name of the children, in the name of “traditional marriage.” Apparently all those biblical injunctions to be honest, to love they neighbor, to treat others as you wish to be treated, well those can all be set aside when it comes to same sex love. As the post here reveals, the “Yes on 8″ ads are chock full of not only misleading information, but of downright lies. Oh, is THAT what they mean by “protect religious freedom” – they mean protect the freedom to lie to get what they want? Huh. (Furthermore, the ‘traditional marriage’ issue is fraught with complexities that neither side of the  Prop 8 divide is regularly addressing  —  the institution of marriage itself is questionable and problematic in many ways. The continuing construction of women as property within marriage, as well as the state sanctioned control of marriage, is perhaps something we should also be considering. However, if we are going to keep this flawed institution, everyone should be allowed to take part. For more on this line of argument, see my earlier post here.)

The Yes on 8 crew that live in my neighborhood are so blinded by the light of their own hypocrisy that they fail to see that their lovely little signs illustrate a same sex marriage image along with the ‘protect marriage’ logo. The sign is intended to represent a man and a woman (characterized by her skirt) holding hands above two children (one presumably a boy as he is in pants and bigger, the other supposedly a girl, smaller, next to mom and also in a skirt – so, yes, in ‘traditional families’ females must wear skirts! This law I am sure is somewhere in the bible. I will have to check here). Anyhow, when the sign is viewed through the sunlight (as it invariably is in San Diego) the mother’s skirt from the other side of the sign shows through and thus it looks like both adult images are wearing skirts. It looks like two women in skirts holding hands to celebrate ‘protecting marriage’!! Ah, poetic, illustrative (and, if you are so inclined to believe, divine) justice!

Please Californians, don’t do our supposedly progressive state wrong, vote no on Prop 8.

What if you need a dose of humor, a helping hand, or some carnival brain-fun? (Sunday link love – or Sunday blog worship, whichever you prefer)

For the humor:

I found this thanks to the wonderfully slanted Kevin of A Slant Truth whose “Much Obliged” post featured Coyote Crossing (among many other great blogs). When I was having a look-see of all the great blog links, I found this uproarious image by Chris Clarke of Coyote Crossing. Wow, how come I didn’t see this one at the San Diego Museum of Man (sic)???

For the helping hand:

Kevin’s “Much Obliged” post (noted above) offers a “helping hand,” reaching out to bloggers who have inspired his work as well as to those whom he thinks more hands should be clicking on. (Thanks for including me, Kevin. Due to many a recent negative comments at my blog, your helping hand couldn’t have come at a better time. It felt like a big nice pat on the back that encourages me to keep on blogging…)

For carnival brain fun:

See The 67th Carnival of Feminists at Jump off the Bridge. The carnival was put together by the wonderful Frau Sally Benz and is brimming with fun food for the brain. Enjoy! (And thanks for including me Frau Sally!)

Now, be off with you — click that mouse tell your clicker finger is sore. That is what I call some good Sunday blog worship.

What if the Yes on Prop 4 group dropped the deceptive language and opted for the more fitting slogan “Bring back the wire hanger”?

 

As per usual with propositions that are based on draconian measures, there is all sorts of misinformation regarding Proposition 4 here in California. While the proposition aims to make it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to have access to an abortion without parental consent, Prop 4 is advertising itself with the logo “stop child sexual predators.”

Just this morning, as I drove onto campus, I saw a large sign with the above logo. How does criminalizing abortion have anything to do with stopping sexual predators? This is blatant misinformation and propaganda of the ugliest kind. Orwell (and Sanger) are rolling in their graves…

Rather than being anything remotely related to “sexual predators,” Prop  4 aims to be another nail in the Roe coffin. As the subtitle of an editorial from the LA Times, notes, “Proposition 4 isn’t really about parental notification; it’s an attack on the right to an abortion.” This odious proposition being touted in California as a “stop predators” law is also called “Sarah’s Law.” The story behind this name, as the piece in the LA Times documents, reveals a great deal:

“Sarah” was, according to Proposition 4 supporters, a 15-year-old girl who died from an abortion gone wrong 14 years ago, a death that might have been prevented had her parents been notified beforehand. Much of that is false. The girl’s name wasn’t Sarah; she lived in Texas, not California; and though she was 15, she already had a child and was in a common-law marriage, which means she wouldn’t have been covered by the law Californians are being asked to consider.

Wow! The scare tactics and deception surrounding Prop 4 is off the charts. While Prop 4 pretends to be about “teen safety,” what it is really about is eradicating reproductive freedom and providing the first legal step to outlawing abortion in California. Moreover, this is the third attempt to pass such a measure. Shouldn’t there be some sort of limit as to how many times we have to vote this down?

The proponents of this measure are acting like toddlers, hoping if they ask again and again and again the answer might finally be yes. Here is the scenario dramatized in this way – with a child who keeps asking the same question in slightly different ways in hopes of finally garnering a ‘yes.’ (The role of the ‘child’ represents Prop 4 proponents – imagine a man-child who does not ever face being pregnant in order to accord with the fact that those without pregnancy capabilities (MEN!) make the majority of repro rights laws; the role of the “Mommy” represents prop 4 opponents — imagine a feminist mother who understands that women’s advancements, health, well-being etc are directly related to their ability to own and control their own reproductive capacities):

Scene:

“Mommy, can we please outlaw abortion?”

“No.”

“Please, mommy. I want to protect teenagers from the dangers of abortion. Plus, I like the bible.”

“No. Abortion is a very safe procedure, safer in fact than pregnancy. And, your personal fondness for the bible should not translate into laws affecting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own life and body.”

“Please, please mommy. I want to stop sexual predators and I don’t like baby killing!”

“No. Don’t be ridiculous. Outlawing abortion will do nothing to stop sexual predators. This may be over your head, but sexual violence and abuse is linked to our patriarchal society that champions violent masculinity NOT to a female’s ability to control her own reproductive capacity. And, Roe V. Wade never did give absolute abortion rights. Abortions in the third trimester have always been limited to those cases where the mother’s life is at risk or the fetus is not viable. Plus, an embryo, zygote, and fetus is not a “baby.” You are mixing terms, sonny!”

“But, mommy, please? Life begins at conception!”

“No. The way you are characterizing life is simplistic. If the embryo/zygote/fetus cannot survive outside the womb on its own, does it represent an individual life? A potential life, maybe, but not a ‘baby’ that could survive without relying on its mother’s body/womb. In this type of scenario, the ‘life’ of the fetus is given far more precedence than the ‘life’ of the mother. Please refrain from throwing around terms like ‘life’ until you understand the complexities of the argument.”

“But, Mommy, please, can we? Can we just outlaw abortion? Pretty please?”

“No. Stop asking! Now run off and do something useful. And leave your sister alone!”

Curtain.

So, this dramatization might seem a bit of a stretch, but what I am trying to convey is that the Pro-4 group is acting like spoiled children who just want their way – they are lying to get what they want and trying to tug on the heartstrings of voters with misinformation. Despite the continual rejection of such propositions (this will be the THIRD TIME in California!), and despite the hard work of groups like The Feminist Majority Foundation, the “children” (re: anti-choicers) keep asking the question! In so doing, they ignore the fact that most teens already inform their parents of pregnancies. And, although the anti-choicers claim Prop 4 has loopholes that would allow girls/young women with abusive parents an out, the hoops one has to jump through to be able to avoid parental consent are preventative. How many 12 year old girls that are pregnant as a result of sexual abuse by their father are going to make a written accusation to take to the authorities or go before a judge to petition to avoid parental notification? How will said twelve your old get to the court? What will she tell her parents she is doing? Seems like this “judicial bypass” would create the need to deceive and sneak around as well as likely require girls/young women to try and navigate transportational needs and the court system on their own. Yeah, but the law is about “protecting and helping teens.” BS!

What a passage of Prop 4 would do is promote UNSAFE abortions, not curtail the number of abortions. Prop 4 is not going to make teens have any less sex, it is not going to do anything to promote safe sex or the use of contraceptives, it is not going to do one damn thing to “stop sexual predators.” If anything, teens who would have likely told their parents about their pregnancies might feel less inclined to do so when this sharing of information is mandated by law. Wouldn’t focusing on good, trusting, open communication with one’s child/teenager be the best option for parents/caregivers to take? Does this sort of thing really need a law? And what message does this give to children/teens about personal responsibility and maturity? Do we really want to raise a generation of youths who are forced into revealing information by law rather than by choice?

When I was in high school in the late 80s, I recall a number of stories of attempted self-induced abortions – and this was in the pre-Bush empire days when there was a lot more access to family planning clinics, etc. The most horrific example involved a good friend of mine who was afraid to tell her mother that she was pregnant as her mother was already verbally abusive and controlling in the extreme. It was just her and her mom, with no support of involvement on the part of the father, and they were financially struggling. Thus, she had no financial means to seek out an abortion, let alone the car that would be needed to get her to the clinic in our no-public-transportation locale. So, she opted for a hanger. Her mother found her passed out, surrounded by a pool of blood. She nearly bled to death. This was in 1987 – not 1957! If this was happening pre-evangelical USA, what must be happening now? And how much worse would laws like Proposition 4 make things?

Before the passage of Roe V Wade, the number of illegal abortions occurring each year was in the range of 1 million – this is an estimate as this 1 million number represents women willing to divulge such information. Thus, the actual number of yearly abortions pre-Roe is likely much higher. Would we like to go back to the pre-Roe days of knitting needles, wire hangers, bleach solutions, Drano douches and the like? Um, NO! No! No! No! (Sorry for the repetition — the anti-choicers seem to have trouble hearing “No” when it comes to their desires to curtail reproductive rights.) The slogan for the Yes on 4 group should NOT be “stop sexual predators” but “Bring back the wire hanger!” Sadly, even if this were the slogan accompanying Yes on 4 signs, there are still all too many people – some of them women – who would vote yes.

If this disturbs those of you in California, go here to sign a pledge, donate, or learn about No on 4 events in your area. And, go here to see a No on 4 video by the Feminist Majority Foundation, and, of course, vote NO on 4 come election day

What if we are a nation rocked to sleep? (A McCain/Palin inspired nursery rhyme redux)

As I was trying to formulate a post analyzing McCain’s manic blinking[i] and eerily robotic performance from Wednesday night’s debate, I thought back to the veep debate and Palin’s winking[ii]. Then, an old nursery rhyme line popped into my head: “Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod, one night, sailed off in a wooden shoe.” As these candidates are acting like children, perhaps a nursery rhyme in their honor is quite fitting.

While Palin and McCain (Winkin and Blinkin) are like schoolyard bullies, the corporatized media machine is giving a big ‘Nod’ to the fascist turn their candidacy bodes. And, unfortunately, vast numbers of the populace seem as if they’ve been rocked to sleep in the arms of the MSM. These arms encircle the inhabitants of the US, smothering and crushing them. They are not the arms of the ‘good mother,’ but of the domineering patriarchal father, the bad dad. These arms are composed of muscles and joints that work in tandem – corporate power, corrupt politicians, and “special interests” (i.e. AIPAC) that control the MSM and give a ‘nod’ to whatever furthers their power mad agenda.

Many nursery rhymes are meant to soothe babies to sleep and stop their crying. The lullaby we are being collectively rocked to sleep with in the US does much the same thing, although with a sinister rather than a benign purpose. Carly Sheehan wrote a poem a few years back after her brother Casey was killed. Her poem was entitled “A Nation Rocked to Sleep.” Like this earlier piece, I too feel we are being dangerously rocked to sleep, that “The leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won’t be so deep.”

So, here it is, my revised version of “Winkin’, Blinkin’ and Nod.”[iii] Happy wake up Friday!

Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod, one year, set to sail off with the win
Sailed off on a river of lies on a sea of corporate spin
“Where are you going and what do you wish?” no one asked the three
“We’ve come here to hate and oppress, to hang that one from a tree,
Water boards and propaganda have we” whispered Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod
Many ignored songs of hate as they were rocked asleep by Nod’s news
A nation rocked to sleep could guarantee they woudn’t lose
Now the citizenry is like a herd of sheep that live in a grassy sea
“We believe” the sheep bleeted, unaware they were no longer free,
“Maverick!” they cheered to the corporate three, Winkin, Blinkin and Nod
So all election long the nets were cast to the sheep in their mindless sleep
‘Til down from voting machines the verdict was set: “The house is yours to keep”
‘Twas all too horrible a nightmare; it seemed as if it couldn’t be
Some folks say twas a planed coup*** in the so-called land of the free
From they who aimed to be the fascist dictators three – Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod
Now Winkin and Blinkin are two candidates, and Nod is their BIG BROTHER
And the stolen election is set to be just like the ’04 other**
If you close your eyes while the Nod lies you won’t see
That thanks to DRE machines* the vote ain’t free
And this country is rocked to sleep by the fascist dictators three – Winkin  Blinkin and Nod

***

*DREM stands for Direct Recording Electronic Machine. These machines have no paper trail. Hint: this is a BIG problem. For coverage of voting fraud issues, see Bradblog.com.

**For good coverage of the previous stolen elections, see, for example, Stealing America Vote by Vote, Recount Democracy, and Hacking Democracy.

***On the coup, see Naomi Wolf’s Give Me Liberty: A Handbook For American Revolutionaries. A video can be found here. See also her previous work warning of the US turn to fascism, The End of America. I have also posted on the US as fascist here.


[i] See here for an interesting analysis of candidate’s blinking: http://www.dailynewstribune.com/multimedia/x1263015509/Eye-spy-Wellesley-resident-studies-candidates-blinking. See also http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/09/the-blinkers.html

[ii] I discuss Palin’s penchant for winking here.

[iii] A copy of the original nursery rhyme (which can also be found here.)

Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod, one night, sailed off in a wooden shoe; Sailed off on a river of crystal light into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going and what do you wish?” the old moon asked the three.
“We’ve come to fish for the herring fish that live in this beautiful sea.
Nets of silver and gold have we,” said Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.
The old moon laughed and sang a song as they rocked in the wooden shoe.
And the wind that sped them all night long ruffled the waves of dew.
Now the little stars are the herring fish that live in that beautiful sea; “Cast your nets wherever you wish – never afraid are we!”
So cried the stars to the fishermen three – Winkin’, and Blinkin’, and Nod.
So all night long their nets they threw to the stars in the twinkling foam.
‘Til down from the skies came the wooden shoe bringing the fisherman home.
‘Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed as if it could not be.
Some folks say ’twas a dream they dreamed of sailing that misty sea.
But I shall name you the fisherman three – Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.
Now Winkin’ and Blinkin’ are two little eyes and Nod is a little head.
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies is a wee one’s trundle bed.
So close your eyes while mother sings of the wonderful sights that be.
And you shall see those beautiful things as you sail on the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three – Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.
Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 10:28 am  Comments (3)  
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What if every day was “Love Your Body Day”?

 

Can you remember a time when you felt completely at home in your body? When you looked at your reflection and saw no ‘imperfections’ or areas that needed ‘fixing’? When you loved each and every inch of your mortal coil? When you frolicked around with not a body care in the world – perhaps say, on the beach with no concern for whether your bathing suit was ‘flattering’ to your figure? When you felt confident and beautiful completely naked (with the lights on)? When you didn’t have a body policing voice in your head?

Can you also remember when the policing voice kicked in? Maybe it began when a classmate told you your nose was too big, your dad suggested your thighs were chunky, your grandma noted how her hair was always straight… Maybe the policing voice grew slowly as you watched television and read magazines that constantly told you your body was not ok, that it did not deserve love.

Ten years ago, the National Organization for Women inaugurated national Love Your Body Day to mitigate this policing voice. While this day has spurred lots of activism and awareness surrounding beauty and body image issues on college campuses and among feminist groups, the love your body message has sadly not spread to wider US culture. If anything, the past ten years has seen further entrenchment of body policing and body hatred. Cosmetic surgeries of every type are on the rise while new body policing practices, such as teeth whitening and anal bleaching, continue to proliferate.

Yet, while cultural indictments to hate and police our bodies are ubiquitous, we can resist. In so doing, we are body loving activists. As the popular t-shirt saying “Start a Revolution: Stop Hating Your Body” suggests, we all can be part of this crucial revolution. We can, as Eve Ensler suggests in her wonderful play The Good Body, begin by “stepping off the capitalist treadmill” and “stop trying to be anything, anyone other than who you are,” to realize “we live in a good body.”

So dear readers, today and everyday from here on out, please love your body, turn off the body policing voice, and start a body revolution!

Happy Love Your Body Day!

Published in: on October 15, 2008 at 1:23 pm  Comments (5)  
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What if “Columbus Day” was given the more accurate name “Celebrate Genocide Day”?

 

Today is “Columbus Day,’ a day that has been celebrated in various ways since at least 1792 and was declared a federal holiday by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934. Currently, elementary schools around the nation combine the ‘holiday’ with learning units about Columbus and his “discovery.” The ways in which this portion of history is taught consists of a massive lie.

To start with, most history books claim Columbus “discovered” America. Well, forgive me  for asking, but when there are already anywhere form 10 to 45 million inhabitants living on a land mass, why does one conqueror’s greed induced voyage equal “discovery”? (Not to mention Columbus was lost and thought he was in Cuba when he first landed in the Caribbean and thought he was in India when he landed in North America.)

Teaching children Columbus “discovered” American obliterates the history of the indigenous people’s of this continent, it ignores the genocide that ensued, and it suggests that greed-driven imperialism is something to be celebrated.  It equates being a “hero” with being racist, violent, power-hungry, and arrogant. Woo-hoo.

Many websites offer teachers lesson plans to help kids “celebrate” the wonderful imperialist genocide Columbus’ “discovery” made possible. You can make tiny egg cups to represent the ships. Neat! You can make your own “discovery map.” (Do teachers encourage children to note the numbers of indigenous people massacred at each of Columbus’ ‘discoveries’?) Or, you can download pictures to color. (I wonder if these include native people’s being eaten alive by dogs – a popular way to ‘kill heathens’ by our hero.)

What if students learned a less glorified version of the not-so-great CC? Perhaps they might benefit from knowing some of the following:

  • One of CC’s earliest boasts after encountering the peaceful Arawaks was “With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” (Zinn, 1)
  • Columbus was on his ‘discovery mission’ for gold and power – he was a power hungry zealot – so greedy in fact that he denied the promised yearly pensions to some of his crew and kept all profits for himself (Zinn, 3)
  • At the time of Columbus’ quest for gold, power, and conquest, indigenous peoples numbered in the multi-millions in the Americas (Zinn puts the number at 25 million; Gunn Allen notes the number was likely between 45 million and 20 million and further points out the US government cites the pre-contact number at 450,000)
  • Indigenous people’s were not “primitive” but advanced agriculturally and technologically with complex societal systems (so advanced in fact that the notion of democracy was stolen from the Iroquois)
  • The majority of indigenous people were not war-like but peaceful and did not have a concept of private ownership – hence the term “Indian Giver” – which became a pejorative rather than a compliment in our ownership crazy society
  • Many indigenous societies had far more advanced sharing of power between the sexes/genders – or, as Zinn puts it, “the European idea of male dominancy and female subordination in all things was conspicuously absent” (20)
  • “Contact” with Columbus and the conquerors that followed resulted not only in mass genocide, but continues to have negative effects on the small percentage of remaining indigenous peoples. For example, in the US, 25% of indigenous women and 10% of men have been sterilized without consent, infant mortality and unemployment are off the charts, and many existing tribes face extinction – hundreds of tribes have already become extinct in the last half century (Gunn Allen, 63)

These widely unknown facts (that are certainly not part of most public schools’ curriculum) are vitally important. As Zinn writes, “historian’s distortion is more than technical, it is ideological” (8). The distortions surrounding Columbus serve to bring about “the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress” (Zinn, 9) – an acceptance the USA is practicing today with its imperialist occupation of Iraq. This approach to history, in which the conquerors and corrupt governments shape both how people view the past and how they interpret the present, consists of a massive propagandist campaign to justify greed and power.

In terms of the way Columbus is historically represented, the whole “discovery narrative” not only problematically glorifies (and erases) genocide, but it also passes off lies as truth. Students are led to believe that Columbus came upon some vast and nearly wilderness, when in fact many places were as densely populated (and ‘civilized’) as areas of Europe (Zinn, 21). More prosaically, many people often mistakenly believe Columbus actually set foot on US soil (he never did). Moreover, US inhabitants are encouraged to lionize the man who not only precipitated mass murder of indigenous people’s, but also brought slavery across the Atlantic Ocean. Even ‘revisionist history’ fails to condemn Columbus, arguing he needs to be read in the context of his times. For example James W. Loewen, in Lies My Teacher Told Me, refers to him as “our first American hero.”  Well, if he is a hero, I certainly don’t want to be one of those, nor do I want to encourage my children, or my students, to look up to this version of heroism.

If you ask me, Columbus Day should be voided from the Federal Holiday calendar. Instead, perhaps we should institute an “Indigenous People’s Day” or a “Native American Day” to celebrate the true discovers of this continent. Columbus was an arrogant asshole, a murderous bigot, the cause of history’s largest and longest genocide. Who the hell wants to celebrate that?

Works cited:

Gunn Allen, Paula. “Angry Women are Building” in Reconstructing Gender. Ed. Estelle Disch. (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2006) 63-67.

Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. (New York: Harper Collins, 2003).

For further reading:

Gunn Allen, Paula. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminism in American Indian Traditions.

Jaimes, M. Annette. The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance.

La Duke, Winona. The Winona la Duke Reader.

Smith, Andrea. Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.

 

What if Desperate Housewives was flashing forward not only in years, but also in its representation of race, class, gender, and sexuality? (A review)

I don’t know exactly why I continue to watch Desperate Housewives. Perhaps it is because there are so few shows to pick from that feature smart, funny, capable female leads. There are even fewer that champion female friendship over and above ‘romance’ narratives. Plus, DH has often mocked stereotypes rather than perpetuated them. It has dealt with key issues in an entertaining and often thought-provoking ways (i.e. working mothers, stay at home dads, teen sex, homosexuality, illness, ageism, interpersonal violence, workplace sexism). It has walked an interesting line somewhere between comedy, drama, mystery, and night-time soap. Yet, while it never was the most feminist of shows, if the first two shows if this season are any indication, it seems to also have lost most of its quirky humor and screwball drama style.

Regarding it’s less than f-cred worthy bits:  its way too damn white, wealthy, heterosexual, skinny, and able-bodied (but it’s hardly unique here as most shows are populated by characters of privilege). Too many of the story lines revolve a woman’s ‘need’ for a man. The ads focus almost entirely on the ‘hotness’ of the cast as does the show (well, at least for the women – anyone notice how shabby Tom looks most of the time? And how Carlos is the only one who appears to have aged in the 5 year flash-forward with his graying locks? Apparently looks only matter for those with B&V’s – boobs and vaginas).

And, there is the usual myopic view on both class and race. Everybody is wealthy on Wisteria Lane – kind of like Friends but with picket fences. And, when a black character FINALLY moved to the street, guess what? She’s was a crazy who locked up her crazy son. Other than that, to my recollection, there is no racial diversity represented on the show – except for the light-skinned Latina beauty, Gaby, and the likeable (also light skinned) criminal Carlos – you know, cuz Latino women are “hot tamales” and Latino men are all criminals, regardless of how much money they have.’

The representation of sexuality is a bit better – the show did include the long story arc of Andrew’s homosexuality and Bree’s rampant homophobia quite well. I do wish the two new male homosexuals on the block would get a few story lines of their own though rather than living on the lane as ‘the gay ones who have an annoying sculpture in their yard.’ No lesbians to speak of, yet… And, while the show indicates it is fine for women to be actively sexual and have various sexual desires, it does present Edie as an oversexed, man-stealer.

So, yes, it’s hardly a show to go shouting about from the feminist rooftops. Yet, if the season premiere was any indication, it has sunk lower than ever. I may just have to strike it off my let’s-turn-off-the- brain-for-an-hour list. Every single plotline of the premiere was broadly stereotypical in the most banal of ways. Here is a quick summation:

Gaby – She has two kids now and has gone all frumpy. Her two biggest worries are 1) the loss of her beauty and 2) her four year old daughter Juanita’s body. The focus on the ‘fat kid’ plotline was particularly heinous, perpetuating the idea that anyone not fitting stick thin standards eats way too damn much and loathes physical activity (Juanita eats “half a sheet cake” – candles and all!).

Lynette – Bad mom who worked too soon and too much when her kids were little now has two really bad teenagers. Tom is more aloof to reality than ever, worshipping his shiny red convertible while his kids run a gambling ring. This narrative is insulting to both sexes equally – it has both the ‘blame the mother’ and the ‘boys will be boys’ theme in spades.

Susan – She can’t get over Mike. Poor Susan, so so many man troubles. She is fornicating the man painting her house, but is too emotionally damaged to commit. As per usual, she has the fluffiest storyline to go along with the ‘pretty but scatterbrained and emotionally inept female’ theme.

Bree – After losing her true meaning in life, controlling her children (and grandchildren), Bree gives birth to a ‘new baby,’ a successful catering business. She controls her catering ‘partner’ Katherine, taking all the fame and glory for herself. This narrative presents the typical “cat fight” scenario where women are out to get, rather than to support, one another.

Edie – She has a crazy new husband. He is more important than she is judging by screen time. He also has her under his thumb, controlling his ‘trophy wife.’
The second show of the season was no better. Gaby proves her class snobbery hasn’t abated, lamenting that “we used to be the help, now we are the help.” She also whines to Carolos about his work as a masseuse and informs him he needs to make more money because she misses shopping. How original. Susan is placed in a triangle with Mike and Jackson (the new beau) and the men share intimate sexual details about her. Lovely. Mike, in a make-a-feminist-vomit moment, intimates Jackson is ‘pussy-whipped.’ Lynette has an Oedipus style online exchange with her son. Yes, really. And, while the show supposedly has jumped forward in time 5 years, Bree’s plotline jumps back into the previous century with Orson out of sorts because her new cookbook has her last name on the cover, not his. In order to pacify his need for her to be “Mrs. Hodge,” she calms him with the promise of a pot roast. In the closing scene of the episode, she comes home after midnight from work to find Orson sitting at the table waiting for his meal.  After being menacingly reminded by him “You promised,” she dutifully goes into the kitchen to cook said pot roast. The closing image is of her crying in frustration as she chops carrots. Nope, not kidding.

Yet, according to Entertainment Weekly’s 10/17/08 issue, “This season, the Housewives aren’t desperate: They’re avidly ambitious, like the series itself.” Yeah, if you define ambition (as the magazine does) as having your “face and derriere …remolded with some state-of-the-art doll plastic” (Edie), or doing some jealous “flame-haired fieriest jousting” (Bree), or becoming “more interestingly heartbroken” (Susan).

It would be nice if the 5 year time jump was accompanied by a flash forward to present day feminist sensibilities. Would it be too much to have smart, funny, capable female (and male) characters that didn’t rely on outmoded stereotypes and live in such tiny gendered boxes?

Unlike the male reviewer at EW, I am not finding the show or the series “avidly ambitious.” Yet, I may have to keep watching to see how low the show can sink. If it sinks any lower, it just may make Palin’s debating skills look impressive.

What if Maher’s Religulous offered a catholic critique? (A review of a film by a man who claims “a lot of girl’s in this country want to be hoes”)

Near the end of Religulous, Bill Maher notes that “faith makes a virtue of not thinking.” While this is a valid point given that arguing something is “a matter of faith” often has the ability to shut down a conversation or obfuscate enquiry, it is something that Maher hypocritically makes a virtue of in his film. In fact, his “faith” in what he calls “anti-religion” does not involve a critical, even-handed examination of religion but rather a myopic, stereotypical, racist, classist, sexist ‘not thinking’ round-up (in typical Maher style).

The film opens and closes with Maher standing in the spot where, according to the Book of Revelation, the world will end. This is a fitting frame for a film that argues that religious belief may indeed bring about the end of the world and Maher’s claim that “religion is detrimental to the progress of humanity.” While Maher more broadly frames the film around the question “how can people believe,” (and, in so doing, repeatedly references talking snakes, being swallowed by a big fish, and the Rapture), the underlying message of the film holds up (rather than undercuts) a number of key stereotypes – namely, that Christians are stupid and weird, that Muslims are violent, and that Jewish people are smart yet miserly. 

The majority of the film focuses on debunking Christian faith. This problematically places Christianity at the center, as the ‘gold standard’ of religion, and, in so doing, entrenches Christian normativity rather than debunking it. And, although Maher criticizes the profit motivations of particular churches and preachers, he ironically makes many positive comments regarding the teachings of Jesus (such as pointing out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and his teachings are incompatible with nationalism). Thus, his claim to believe that all religion is equally bad doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Now, this can be viewed as an attempt to concede that some doctrines/beliefs are in fact beneficial and, this would be fine IF Maher also conceded that Islam (or other belief systems) also have some beneficial aspects…

 So, while he makes fun of Christian fundamentalists (and the Creation Museum and Holy Land theme park in particular), overall Christianity is shown to be rather silly but fairly benign (in comparison to those Muslim crazies). Christianity is a religion, according to the film, that prompts one to hand over money to charlatan preachers, to believe you will ride away on a white horse after the Rapture, and to enjoy bible based theme parks/museum more than DisneyWorld. (Islam, on the other hand, makes you want to blow up the world).

Catholicism is treated with kid gloves as well. Maher interviews a Vatican astronomer who espouses that science, not religion, has it right. Another kindly Catholic priest asserts the bible is a book of nice stories not to be taken literally.  Bill Maher offers no critique of the prohibition against birth control and condoms, and only passing jokes about pedophilia and condemnations of homosexuality. Mormons are treated a little more scathingly – although still along the ‘they are stupid’ line rather than ‘they are evil.’ The same goes for Scientologists.

In his brief examination of Judaism, Maher begins by interviewing an “anti-Zionist Jew.” Not bothering to define Zionism or place it within a historical context, Maher takes President Ahmadinejad’s comment that “Israel should be wiped off the map” out of context (as the vast majority of media/politicians have) and plays the “you are just a holocaust denier” card to the Rabbi rather than allowing him to speak. In the only other sustained examination of Judaism, Maher visits some sort of invention laboratory where Orthodox Jewish scientists work to create technology that will help people from breaking any rules surrounding working on the Sabbath. Yes, these inventions are shown to be silly, but in a smart kind of way. They require technological wizardry, unlike the the theme park Jesus or the lizard shoes of the Christian evangelical preacher.

Muslims (unsurprisingly) fair the worst. They are presented as terrorists, as imperialists, as violent extremists. The well spoken Muslim rapper Maher interviews is presented as intelligent until Maher reveals his ‘true’ violent intentions. The Muslim woman interviewed on the spot where a Muslim man was murdered in Holland is not allowed to complete any sentences without know-it-all Maher butting in – perhaps because her arguments are valid, even-handed, and intelligent  and would thus undercut the broad ‘they are all violent terrorists’ brush Maher paints Muslims with.

No other faiths are covered – not even Hinduism or Buddhism.  According to Detroit Free Press, Maher justified this exlcusion as follows, “they are so far afield from the experience of the average American or European moviegoer, you would almost have to do the whole film as a tutorial.” Yes, as part of the five biggest religions of the world, they are right down there with “Holy” – the fictional religion practiced by Preacher Bessie in Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road.

Thus, while Maher argues that “religion must die for mankind to live,” his critique seems to indicate that the Muslim religion is the most dangerous and Christianity and Judaism are the most benign. There is no question that he is critical of religious faith, yet the way he critiques such faith frames Christians as incompetent loonies and Muslims as evil jihadists. And, while he argues that “human history” stands as evidence of “getting shit dead wrong,” he to gets a lot wrong in this film — in a film that claims “arrogant certitude is the whole mark of religion” he himself comes off as arrogant and all too certain.

Near the close of the film he call for “anti-religionists” to come out of the closet and not enable religious belief to negatively shape society. Yet, while I would consider myself an anti-religionist of sorts, and definitely an anti-religious establishment  and anti-fundamentalist, I do not agree with Maher’s brand of anti-religionism. I concur with him about the problematic profit/power motivations of established religion, I agree that religion often is “selling an invisible product” in order to shut down individual thought/dissent, and I also would encourage what he calls “selling doubt,” and what I would call a questioning, analytical attitude towards any belief system. However, I don’t agree with the ranking of faiths that this film enacts – rather than questioning all faith equally, he most strongly condemns Islam. I also feel that a true, productive “anti-religionism” would more critically analyze the sexism, homophobia, ableism, and classism of mainstream religions – not to mention the way religious texts have been interpreted and re-interpreted in order to justify slavery, war, oppression, murder, etc.

Thus, although the film makes many interesting points about the more insidious aspects of religious belief, it is also maddeningly hyporcritical. Yet, I suppose this is hardly surprising given that Bill Maher oft pretends to care about women’s rights and social justice, and then reveals himself to be a sexist jerk (for examples of this jerkusnous, see Unapalogitcally Female’s post here or Melissa’s post at Shakesville here or refer to the claim referenced in the title of this post, which he said on The Jay Leno Show a few night’s back).

If Maher set out to offer a meaningful critique of religion and to “sell doubt” (as he claims), well, he got a lot wrong. For a guy who is obviously smart and can be very funny, his non-catholic take on religion would have been greatly improved if he had dropped the “I am so much damn smarter than you” routine and not so blatantly warn prejudices on his sleeve.

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