What if those pulling the strings of the economy are as bad with finances as I am?

Every time I have listened to, watched, or read news over the past few weeks, I have been inundated with stories about the economy. Freddy and Frannie. AIG. WaMu. The Dow. Re-hashing of the Savings and Loan bailout. Wall street is up, it’s down, everything is ok, everything is doomed and the world economy is about to come crashing down around us.  So many different stories, so many excuses, so much hemming and hawing from all sorts of ‘experts.’

I myself am about as far as you can get from an expert on the economy. I can’t manage my own finances, let alone keep on top of the global economy. I am one of those people that uses credit cards way too much and figures out how much money I have by checking my balance online. Even in the days when most people balanced their checkbooks in hard copy format, I never did.

As a kid, I thought checks were magical papers that you wrote on to use like money. I didn’t make the connection between those little papers and a bank account (sometimes I still don’t). Neither my parents or my teachers taught me anything about money, economics, finances. Why would they? I was a girl after all. I would grow up and have a man by my side to do all that. (Ugh!)

So, now, years later, I am suffering from an upbringing where I learned nothing about finances (and was simultaneously raised on the consumerist ethic where life equaled shopping and spending money).  As such, I am not conversant in all the hefty economic jargon being thrown around. I do, however, know enough to realize that what is currently going down is akin to daylight robbery. It’s Robin Hood in reverse – the rich cats (government and corporation heads) are robbing money from the poor (U.S. taxpayers) to try and sort out a fiasco caused by duplicitous, money grabbing schemes.

As per usual, they are whipping up fear and panic while ignoring questions of accountability. I am no Suze Orman, but I don’t trust these guys (yes, they are literally men) to decide the financial fate of our nation. If they are up to their usual tricks, their ‘fix’ will merely mean more deeply filling their own overstuffed pockets. Their game and its dodgy rules are elucidated by Representative Marcy Kaptur in her address to the House “the latest reality game: WallStreet Bail out.”

And, as Michael Moore makes patently clear, these gameplayers are attempting an economic coup. Referring to this economic fiasco as “the Corporate Crime of the Century,” Moore notes that “Wall Street and its propaganda arm (the networks and media it owns)” stayed silent on all of the following regarding the bailout:

“1. The bailout bill had NO enforcement provisions for the so-called oversight group that was going to monitor Wall Street’s spending of the $700 billion;

2. It had NO penalties, fines or imprisonment for any executive who might steal any of the people’s money;

3. It did NOTHING to force banks and lenders to rewrite people’s mortgages to avoid foreclosures — this bill would not have stopped ONE foreclosure!;

4. It had NO teeth anywhere in the entire piece of legislation, using words like “suggested” when referring to the government being paid back for the bailout;

5. Over 200 economists wrote to Congress and said this bill might actually WORSEN the “financial crisis” and cause even MORE of a meltdown.” (read the entire piece here)

Writing about this crime of the century on Monday, Moore explained the true mission of the bailout:

“This bailout’s mission is to protect the obscene amount of wealth that has been accumulated in the last eight years. It’s to protect the top shareholders who own and control corporate America. It’s to make sure their yachts and mansions and “way of life” go uninterrupted while the rest of America suffers and struggles to pay the bills. Let the rich suffer for once. Let them pay for the bailout. We are spending 400 million dollars a day on the war in Iraq. Let them end the war immediately and save us all another half-trillion dollars!”

So, I don’t agree with the metaphor that the roof is on fire (sorry CulturePress, but I disagree with you on this one). More like the gameplayers want to convince us that the roof is on fire and we just may be burned alive any second so that we will agree to anything… Well, if they’re the ones selling the water, I don’t want it. I guarantee its laced with poison. I may not be that great with finances, but I can spot a corporate crime when I see one.

So far, the most rational response I have heard to address the financial situation comes from Green party candidate Cynthia McKinney. Her 14 point plan can be read in their entirety here.

What if whiteness vanished?

On my quick morning read-around before hunkering down to work, it dawned on me that every face I encountered on my screen was white. The Yahoo home page had an image from dancing with the stars (skinny white couple), an ad for the film Eagle Eye with white actors, a promo for online college (white woman in grad cap), and, the most ironic of all, an “Escape to Mexico” ad with two tanned white people in white beach attire (yes, cuz it’s fine for whities to ‘escape’ south, but please, brown people, don’t come north!).

Even when logging on to my campus internet portal, I noted the smiling white student at her laptop that decorates the page.

And, as my daughter grabbed a 5 minute cartoon fix before heading off to school, guess what, ALL the characters were white.

Then, as I walked daughter and dog to school, I saw various white people out and about in the neighborhood. Once we began walking through the park, I saw a white caretaker, a white lifeguard prepping the community pool for water aerobics (which consists of all white elderly students), a white woman unlocking the community services office, and, endless white people driving by in big honking SUV’s. When we arrived at school, it was finally apparent that the whole damn world is not white (my daughter goes to a dual immersion school that has the biggest percentages of Latino and White students).

My neighborhood is not all white, my town is not all white, the frickin’ world is not all white, so why is whiteness so damn ubiquitous and omnipresent? Why might, for example, it be more common for me to see white faces as I walk my daughter to school even though we live in a neighborhood with many Latino residents? Because it’s safer to be on the streets if you are white! I am not going to be harassed with “go back to where you came from” comments when I walk my kids to school. I am unlikely to be accosted if jogging in the park by racial slurs. I would, if I chose to, be able to swim at the community pool or go to the community service office without anyone questioning my citizenship or my ‘right’ to be there.

Even in my quick peruse of blogs this morning, most images were white because, if you want to cover big news or the MSM, most images still are white. I saw Katie Couric interviewing Sarah Palin (this clip, by the way really made me question all the claims that Palin is ‘super smart’), I saw Clay Aiken coming out of the closet on the cover of People, I saw John McCain and his white makeup artist (who knew he had one? and, at the tune of $5,583?), a picture of big white hands holding an image of a tiny white family to advertise the PBS documentary The Incredible Shrinking Middle Class (yeah, cuz only white people are middle class).

I saw white actresses, models, politicians, white rockers…

When looking up some links for this post, I saw images of blogger bios at MSNBC.com (10 out of 11 were white), Lance Armstrong advertising some new energy concoction, and images of Versace, Daniel Radcliffe, and a whole bunch of other white people. I did not see ONE, not one, image of someone Latino, Indian, Native American, Middle Eastern, etc (I did see a few images of Obama and one of an Asian male reporter). If I had seen more non-white images in the MSM and MSI (mainstream internet), they would have surely been linked to issues such as terrorism, crime, and other social ills all those non-whities cause. Gag.

What if this omnipresence of whiteness vanished? Here, I do not mean white people need to vanish (although there are quite a few I wouldn’t mind having evaporate into nothingness). I mean whiteness as normative, as expected, as desirable… I mean the notion that whiteness is supreme, better, above examination.

What if, as the movie A Day without a Mexican ponders in regards to the Latino population of California, we woke up one morning and whiteness had vanished?

Well, there would be an uproar of course. It would be unfair to have all those non-white faces representing everything from government to toothpaste. Can you imagine the loud outcry from most whites? Yet, somehow, the near invisibility of other-than-whiteness in our world is a-ok, no problem there.  It’s enough to make you scream.

And please, WPD’s (white privilege deniers), don’t go sending in comments about how ‘it’s only a reflection that white people represent the majority of the population.’ If you are ignorant enough to believe that, well, you probably think Palin’s rambling non-answers in the Couric interview were ‘really smart’…

Published in: on September 26, 2008 at 10:48 am  Comments (18)  
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What if the satirical was more common than the stereotypical?

 

Comedy often utilizes broad generalizations and relies on an extreme, in your face approach. However, some comedy does so in order to critique and undercut problems within society, some does so in order to bolster and promote sexism, racism, homophobia, etc.  Satire falls in the former category. It aims to show society its foibles, to mock them, to subvert norms. The latter type of comedy, however, does not have the aim of changing people’s minds, let alone society, but merely is out for laughs. It is the difference between Jonathon Swift and Andrew Dice Clay, between South Park and The Howard Stern Show, between Margaret Cho* and Esther Ku

Swift railed against racism (spefically of the anti-Irish variety) and classism, South Park satirizes homophobia, religious fanaticism, racism, Cho criticizes heteronormativity, gender essentialism, body image norms. Conversely, Clay and Stern promote and encourage sexism as fun and funny, Eshther Ku perpetuates racist attitudes and indicates stereotypes are TRUE, rather than problematic.

Yet, recognizing the difference between comedy that aims to shine a light on negative aspects of society in order to encourage those laughing to do something about injustices verses comedy that shines a light merely to suggest “ha, ha, isn’t injustice funny” can be tricky…

Take as an example ‘fat humorists’ – both those that are fat and those that do ‘fat jokes.’ Some fat comedy is satirical and aims to reveal our obsessions about bellies and everything else are inane (Joy Nash’s Fat Rants and Eve Ensler The Good Body come to mind), while some encourage the audience to laugh AT fatness and fat people rather than at our stupid societal bodily norms (John Pinette).

Sadly, the type of comedy/entertainment that does not aim to change our thinking or better society is the more common. Stereotypes ooze from every type of popular culture, suggesting that all black men are criminal, all Latinas are maids, all Indians work at mini-marts, all Middle Easterners are terrorists, all fat people are dumb, all gays love fashion, all poor people are lazy, etc, etc.

While stereotypes can be used in a satirical manner in order to try and reveal to the audience that their ways of categorizing the world are not only laughable, but dangerous, most popular culture bolsters stereotypical thinking rather than subverts it. Disney comes to mind here.

As the “man in chair” character of the post-modern musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone quips, “Audiences today are too sophisticated for broad racial stereotypes… Those have been banished to Disney…you know… for the kiddies to sort out.” As this line indicates, many like to think they are ‘beyond stereotypes’ or living in a post-racist society. Yet, as Disney (and every other MSM output machine) reveals, our entertainment is overflowing with racist/sexist/classist/homophobic stereotypes. The Arab thugs who will cut off your hand for stealing an apple (Aladdin), the backwards Asians who enforce arranged marriage and are war-mongers (Mulan), the black people as apes and whites as heroes (Tarzan), the Latino as lecherous, scroungy mutt (from Lady and the Tramp to the forthcoming Beverly Hills Chihuahua), the Native American as incoherent and backwards (Peter Pan) or as loving those who commit genocide on their peoples (Pocohantas).

In other media, we see Latinas as maids only (Will and Grace, Weeds), transgendered people as serial killers (Nip Tuck), fat people as stupid, lazy, and incompetent (Wall*E), Eastern Europeans as human traffickers and mafia thugs (Crash, Dark Knight)… We don’t tend to see disabled people at all… (except in those feel good narratives that frame disability as a plight to be overcome…) And, in general, anyone deemed as “Other” in any way are rendered either invisible or, if shown, are depicted in a negative way.

Due to the pervasiveness of comedy that aims only for laughs and not for any higher form of satirical catharsis, lots of people don’t even seem to recognize satire when they see it. For example, in their papers analyzing popular culture, my students often apologize for liking South Park, The Family Guy, Borat, Dave Chappelle… (and, to be fair, there are instances where these examples border on the merely comedic rather than the satirical). What these apologies indicate is a failure to recognize the satirical intent of shows like South Park. Yet, if the satirical intent is not recognized, does the comedy truly work as satire? If the audience doesn’t ‘get it,’ is the satire then only perpetuating the very norms it critiques?

I am particularly worried about this given some recent comments from students. For example, after watching Mickey Mouse Monopoly (a great documentary that takes Disney to task for not only its corporatism, but its perpetuation of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc), one student said (in reference to the ubiquitous representation of Mexicans as little, irritating dogs), “But Chiuahau’s are a Mexican dog! I don’t see the problem.”

When discussing racial stereotypes, I get the usual, “But they are true, all Asians are bad drivers” (by the way, this was said in one of my classes by a male student who had an Asian female student sitting directly in front of him). I asked her in jest, “So, did you nearly run him over on your way to school today?” He was embarrassed, as he should have been, and turning the tables allowed this student and others to talk about how hurtful such comments/beliefs are. Just yesterday, a student again argued  racial stereotypes are true and offered the example “all Indians really are cheap.” The audacity with which people share such blatant racism scares me deeply.

What I wonder is this:  if the satirical were more common than the stereotypical, would audiences (and my students) more readily be able to tell the difference between that which is offensive for laughs and that which offends in order to prompt analysis, rethinking, change…? If there were more entertainment that leaned towards the satirical, would we, as a society, lean more towards changing our problems rather than just laughing at them?

*Margaret Cho certainly walks a fine line between the satirical and the stereotypical. Lately, some of her comedy has leaned a bit too far towards promoting existing inequalites (woman as sex object) and racist stereotypes (Korean parents as overbearing). For two recent post that discuss Cho in this vein, see here and here.

What if WPD’s (white privilege deniers) are just as dangerous as WMD’s (weapons of mass destruction)?

 

Anyone twenty or older who has been somewhat awake to global issues has undoubtedly heard of “WMD’s” and knows that the “war on terror” was justified via claims that “terrorist countries” had, or were about to have, weapons of mass destruction. This was revealed to be a lie – a lie even the promulgators of mass deception, the MSM, had to eventually admit. (And, as those with their heads not stuck in the sand of denial must surely realize, the U.S. is more of a “terrorist country” than many of the other places it throws that label at).

Thus, the war-cry of “they have WMD’s” turned out to be a lie – a lie that was vehemently defended by the likes of Bush, Powell, Cheney, Rice – you know, the whole US Empire gang. Yet, this gang denied their wrongdoings for sometime, trying to cover their lying tracks with claims they were misled by misinformation.

Denial seems very popular these days amongst politicians. And, while wealth is not “trickling down” as the republicans and neo-cons keep promising it well, one thing that is definitely trickling down is denial.

One type of denial I come across regularly is WPD – white privilege denial.

WPD sounds like this: “Yeah, I’m white, but I worked REALLY hard to get where I am. I am not successful because I’m white; I’m successful because of my work ethic.”

Or, it sounds like this: “I suffer from racism too. I went to a school where I was one of few white kids and I got picked on all the time.”

Or, it sounds like this, “I am discriminated against as a white person because I can’t get financial aid or scholarships. I don’t get the benefit of affirmative action. ..”(By the way, for a post that debunks myths surrounding affirmative action, see here.)

Or, it sounds like this: “I am not white. I am a mixture of German, Dutch, Scandinavian, and Scottish.” (Hello! What the hell color do you think that is? Mix a bunch of different whites together and what do you get? White!!!) Another one in this vein: “I’m not white, I am Caucasian.” Duh.  You and Homer Simpson.

Many white people are very reticent to own up to their white privilege. Many, in fact, get VERY ANGRY when confronted with the claim that their white skin privileges them in NUMEROUS ways.

What these deniers often fail to realize is the concept of intersectionality. They think because they are disadvantaged or oppressed in other ways that this somehow cancels out the white privilege. But, one can have white skin privilege, or be, as I like to call it, a POWP (person of white privilege) and NOT have class privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege, etc. Or, as Tim Wise puts it, “None of this means that white folks don’t face challenges. Of course we do, and some of them (based on class, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or other factors) are systemic and institutionalized. But on balance, we can take for granted that we will receive a leg-up on those persons of color with whom we share a nation.”

Or, in other words, regardless of how many other ‘oppressive marks’ one has, white skin is NOT a mark of oppression, but a mark of privilege.

Just how dangerous are these WPD’s? Very!

Like weapons of mass destruction, white privilege deniers are incredibly harmful. They damage the fabric of society. They perpetuate racism, prop-up white privilege, and create animosity within social justice movements. WPD’s keep white privilege in place while simultaneously blaming POC at an individual level for problems that are societally induced and maintained.

WPD’s are those white people that claim racism doesn’t exist while they go about being racists in their daily lives. WPD’s are those white people that always try to change the subject when a critical examination of whiteness takes center stage. WPD’s get offended when you tell them their whiteness is showing. They defend their position in society, their status, their prime place in history with all sorts of excuses, and particularly with claims that they themselves have worked REALLY, REALLY hard for any perks they have. They also love to pull out “I suffer from all the horrible stereotypes about white people” talking points such as “Because I’m white, people think I am rich and stuck up, but it’s just not true,” or, “Because I am white people think I am racist, but I am not. I have a black/Mexican/fill in the blank friend.” Blah, blah, blah.

WPD’s suffer from, as Renee at Womanist Musings calls it, the “Audacity of Whiteness.”

Face it all you WPD’s, if you ever find yourself denying your white privilege or complaining that you are oppressed because you are white, you are acting not only as a WPD but as a WMD –  as a weapon of mass destruction. Racism is weapon, and one that undoubtedly takes a massive, destructive toll on society. As a WPD, you are actively attacking the world with your racist weaponry, with your white privilege denial.  As Tim Wise notes, “White privilege is, in short, the problem.” (Read his excellent post, “This is your nation on white privilege,” here.)

Yes, white privilege is the problem, and white privilege deniers are a massive weapon that helps to keep this problem in place. If only we heard speeches of the like: “The USA has been found to be harboring WPD’s on a massive scale. Those of us who care about bringing an end to this world threatening fact need to take united action to help these WPD’s overcome their dangerous ways. Join with me, today, to lead our world out of its WPD dependence.”

As I don’t foresee this type of speech coming down the pipes anytime soon, and certainly not from the likes of Sarah Palin (who Sarah Benincasa spoofs as ‘meeting her first black person’ here), those of us who see WPD for what it is need to do our part to eradicate this invasive form of denial. So, POWPs and POC, I encourage you to make this week (and every week) one in which you do whatever you can to get WPD to put down their weapon.

(For a related post I wrote a while back on the social construction of whiteness, see here.)

What if the U.S. constitution is only “a god damn piece of paper”?

Quick, everyone, celebrate the US Constitution while you still can! Today, September 17, is “Constitution Day,” a federal holiday meant to honor the signing of the Constitution some 221 years ago. However, our current dictator, oops, I mean president, refers to it as merely “a god damn piece of paper.”

Now, while the constitution has its faults, it’s a pretty nifty document as government documents go. I am a fan of the Bill of Rights. I only wish my government was too.

Instead, the current administration has run roughshod over the Constitution, ignoring limits on executive power, dismantling habeus corpus, and enacting a torture/surveillance state, to name but a few. The Patriot Act, The Military Commissions Act (spearheaded by John McCain), and the FISA laws are some of the nails in the coffin of the US Constitution. Bush and co have heavily edited the Constitution, deleting some of the more important aspects of the documents (as hilariously documented some time ago in the post “Bush’s Amended Bill of Rights.”)

Ralph Nader, who is in favor of restoring constitutional rights and urges those who feel the same to pledge to do the same at http://constitutionpledge.com/, notes that:

We’ve seen The U.S. Constitution shredded over the past 8 years.
The Republicans led the charge, and the Democrats followed along, voting for the misnamed PATRIOT Act, the illegal war and occupation of Iraq, and the snoop FISA law that allows Washington to eavesdrop on our telephone calls whenever they want. These were 3 big blows to our constitutional rights, but the erosion of our basic civil liberties has been occurring for a long time now.

As revealed by the Safe and Free:Restore our Constitutional Rights section of the ACLU’s webpages, The Patriot Act, The Military Commissions Act, and FISA are unconstitutional and give the government unchecked powers. For more on these very worrying ‘edits’ to the Constitution, see here, here, and here. As I noted in an earlier post (here), these changes are worryingly indicative of a society that tends far more towards fascism than towards democracy.

In closing, I offer Keith Olbermann’s elucidating take on the death of Habeas Corpus below.

Happy constitution day everyone, and here is hoping this time next year, we have reinstated all the rights deleted by Bushco and maybe even finally passed the Equal Rights Amendment. One can dream…

What if you like peace, don’t approve of torture, don’t like debt, and don’t think corporations should be above the law?

Well, then you should vote for a 3rd party candidate, and NOT for McCain or Obama.

I know I am going out on a limb here given that, from what I can tell, the majority of the progressive/left blogosphere supports Obama. I also understand that the “spoiler myth” is pretty entrenched in US society and most voters feel voting 3rd party is equivalent to throwing your vote away. Yet, if we continue to buy into this MSM manufactured myth, we only make it so. Is voting for the less of two evils (i.e. either Republican or Democrat) really our best option? I think not.

I myself generally try not to wade too deep into electoral politics. This is ironic given that I am fascinated with the broader notion of politics – with the various systems of power, privilege, and oppression that shape our world – pretty much 24/7.

Want to pick apart white privilege and the insidious ways it infects every stratum of our society? I’m there. Want to talk about the vast and ingrained inequality that exists between the sexes/genders? I can go on for days.

But, want to discuss McCain verses Obama, Republican verses Democrat? Well, sorry, but my eyes glaze over a bit. I get a bit bored. I start to feel like I have ridden this merry-go-round before.

I am anxious for the endless campaign/elections season to be over. I am jaded by too many rigged elections, by ubiquitous propaganda, by a media that isn’t just asleep, but is in a zombie state. I am tired of false promises of change. I find it sad to admit, but it seems too much like yet another elephant verses donkey show, a circus to entertain the high fructose corn syrup munching masses.

I realize there is lots of hope surrounding Obama – and I think he is by FAR the better choice than McCain. I think his candidacy speaks to a profound and crucially symbolic shift, to, as his refrain echoes, a CHANGE. Yet, the change is not enough when it is a change still reverberating with war cries. The change is not enough when it is politics as usual, corporations first as usual, the same old one party animal parading as a two party system as usual. I am tempted to vote for him, even though his collusion with too many of the very scary things about our current system worries me a great deal. I am tempted because he and Biden are the “lesser evil” in comparison to McCain and Palin. The potential of those two nut-jobs in the White House give me the creeps in a big way. Yet, I don’t want to vote strategically. I want to vote for the candidate that best represents what I see as the way out of this miasma of war, greed, corruption, and unchecked power.

So, I have gotten here in a rather roundabout way, but, suffice it to say, I declare my independence from the one party system. And, while I do not agree with all the political stances of all the five third party candidates, I do agree with the 4 policies they jointly endorsed at a September 10th press conference in D.C.

In short, these 4 policies are as follows

1. The Iraq war must end ASAP. All war propaganda must end and our threats of nuclear first strikes must cease. (Or, in other words, let’s stop acting like an empire.)
2. Civil liberties must be protected, the Patriot Act should be repealed, and torture/spying in not acceptable. Executive power shouldn’t be absolute and signing statements need to recognized for what they are – unconstitutional.
3. Debt is not good. There should be no increase in the national debt. (This begs me to ask, why are we as citizens expected to pay our debts yet our government is allowed carte blanche to run sky high debts in the name of illegal wars and corporatist imperialism?)
4. The Federal Reserve and the corporatized, privatized banking system that controls our economy needs to change. Our economy should not be controlled by a privately owned bank ran by unnamed private shareholders.

For the longer version of these four policies, see here.

These principles seem so basic, yet they are not on the agendas of either major party ticket. Instead, we are distracted with trumped up fears and plays to religious fanaticism. Undoubtedly the issues that are being highlighted are crucial issues – for example, a right to control one’s reproductive capacity is integral to justice – but, the cynic in me knows that this issue is not being paraded about because it is considered important. Rather, it is one that can win votes – can get the anti-choicers in a “we must save the virgins” voting frenzy.

We are all, to a certain extent I think, being played. And, if one of those allowed to play the game wins (O’Bama or McCain) it will be the same old game with perhaps a few good tweaks to the rules of O wins, and many scary tweaks if M wins.

Ask yourself, why are independent candidates so zealously kept from press conferences, debates, and media coverage in general? (For more on the ‘invites only’ way our televised debates run, see here.) How many people know McKinney and Nader are candidates? How many realize each of them would have the possibility to win the presidency given the rules of the electoral system? Not many. Guess why… Because the MSM doesn’t cover them, they are not news, they are not a blip on the conscious of the majority of voters. Why? Well, because they really want to change things, that is why.

I do think – to be fair – that Obama wants to change things too. But, not enough things. Not on a global scale. Making change here (in parts) of the USA is not enough. I am sorry, no matter how much your achievements mean, no matter how great of a speaker you are, no matter how brilliant and likable you seem, I cannot throw away my vote on a person insisting escalating war is a good idea. If voting for peace (via voting for McKinney) is throwing my vote away, well, then call me trash.

What if Sarah Palin (and all the other “it’s a personal issue” voices) understood that THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL? Or, what if we baked a new damn pie?

I was going to avoid writing about Palin, mainly because the topic has already been covered so well by so many others. However, thanks to prompting from a reader, I decided to add my two cents to the discussion.

In reading around the feminist/progressive blogosphere, I have noticed two distinct threads that intrigue me in relation to Palin. The first is that many bloggers have weighed in on the matter of her 17-year-old daughter’s unplanned pregnancy, arguing this is a ‘personal matter’ and Palin’s daughter should be left out of the discussion. For examples of this line of argument, see here and here. The second thread that intrigues me is the analysis of how Palin’s ‘personal life’ and practices (i.e. 5 kids, a love of moose hunting, etc) shouldn’t have any baring on the analysis of her as a leader and, that, further, the focus on these details is fueled by the inherent sexism of our society. For an example of this line of argument, see here.

I agree with both of these lines of argument to an extent. Regarding the first, I agree Palin’s daughter should not be dragged through the mud because of the misfortune of suddenly having her life thrust into the limelight due to her mother’s VP candidacy. However, I disagree that this ‘personal, family matter’ should be left out of the discussion. (I will elucidate why shortly).

Regarding the 2nd line of argument, I agree much of the coverage of Palin has been sexist in the extreme and that we, even if we don’t endorse Palin or agree with her political stance, should call out the sexist attacks/coverage of Palin (as we should with any woman). However, I disagree that her ‘personal life’ should not be part of the political discussion.

As I thought about these issues, a famous feminist slogan began ringing through my head: “The personal is political.” While there has been much debate over the origins and meaning of this slogan over the years, it is most widely attributed to originating from the title of 1969 essay penned by Carol Hanisch.

In common usage, it has come to mean that what we do in our personal lives has political ramifications and, conversely, that our personal lives our dictated by the politics of society. Here, ‘politics’ is not meant in the specific sense as in of/or relating to electoral politics and politicians, but, rather, as in the broad systems and ideologies of power that shape society.

Hanisch, in her 1969 essay, was responding specifically to the belittling of feminist consciousness raising as unimportant, as unrelated to broader systems of power, and as ‘just therapy.’ Hanisch was also criticizing what she saw as an ‘anti-woman’ stance of some segments of the movement at that time – or, to clarify, a stance that attacked other women rather than the system of male dominance/patriarchy.

Hanisch and other radical feminists liker her called for a ‘pro-woman’ stance that avoided blaming other women or constructing them as dupes, and called for blaming the system instead. In relation to the now famous slogan “the personal is political,” this meant that the personal issues facing women were linked to the wider societal systems and institutions – that, what you do in your own house, your own daily life, is linked to (and defined by) the politics of the society in which you live. Or, as Hanisch put it in her essay, “personal problems are political problems.” Or, as Elanas at blogher defines it much more recently, “there is an entire political structure that takes shape in my everyday life. My personal life is a function of the political order.”

This slogan is very pertinent to Palin’s candidacy. She has been the victim of an extreme “anti-woman stance,” both from the mainstream media and from alternative media/the blogosphere. She has been personally attacked and vilified from the minute her candidacy was announced, as Kim Gandy elucidates here. Hanisch was critiquing just this type of stance, suggesting that we should not attack the individual woman, but the system that creates (and rewards) women for their appearance, their normative beliefs, their buying into patriarchy/sexism etc.

The “personal is political” slogan and the sentiment behind it also informs Gloria Steinem’s recent piece “Wrong Woman, Wrong Message”. When Steinem writes that, “Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life fairer for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie,” she elucidates that the ‘pie’ of our current culture is unjust, and that everyone’s ‘personal’ piece of pie is part of the bigger pie. When this pie is racist, sexist, classist, etc, it’s no good to have a nice big privileged piece of it – rather, we need to make a new pie! We should not be celebrating Palin’s nomination as a victory for women (and certainly not for feminism), rather, we should see it as a solidification of the existing system that tries to make itself look equitable by giving CERTAIN women bigger pieces of the existing corporatist patriarchal white supremacist pie.

So, how does all this further link to the “new hotness” as one sexist troll called Sarah Palin in the commentary on Steinem’s piece? Well, firstly, the fact that Palin’s appearance has been EXCESSIVELY focused on links to the fact that our pie, our society, is filled to bursting with sexism and that women, no matter how powerful, are ripe for being sexually objectified. Even though I do not agree with Palin’s anti-choice, anti-woman, anti-justice stance, I still take issue with the fact that we live in a society that thinks it’s ok to value women mainly for how ‘hot’ they are. This links to “the personal is political” notion in that our sexist society affects the personal lives of women via the way it values them based on their appearance. In Palin’s case, perhaps this affected her personally by giving her the message that beauty contests are a-ok and competing to be “Miss Alaska” is say, more important than competing for equitable wages.

In regards to the most recent kerfuffle over her teen daughter’s unplanned pregnancy, this ‘personal’ issue is one that is no doubt affected by the ‘politics’ of a nation that pretends teenagers won’t have sex if we don’t teach them about it (as with abstinence education). Moreover, claiming that this is a ‘personal matter’ is utter hypocrisy. So it’s personal when Palin’s daughter gets pregnant, but when anyone else does, it should be a matter of the state??? Or, as Gary Younge puts it in his piece on Palin, “The woman who would like us to keep her daughter’s pregnancy a private matter is running for office so that she can make the pregnancies of other people’s daughters an affair of the state.”

As Younge also points out, “Palin decided to showcase her personal life, and particularly her motherhood, as a centerpiece of her candidacy.” Thus, as he advises her (and other politicians in general) “if family and children are off limits, then do us all a favor and keep them the hell off of the stage and away from the microphones.”

Or, as Tim Rutten similarly argues in the LA TIMES “the fact of Bristol Palin’s situation and the way in which she and her family have chosen to deal with it are legitimate issues, because they involve public policy issues on which Sarah Palin, candidate for vice president, has taken political positions.” These positions include opposing sex ed in schools and trying to eradicate choice for everyone not in her own family. So, if you are a Palin, you get to make reproductive choices. Not a daughter of Sarah? Sorry, no choice for you. (To get a laugh from the mind-blowing hypocrisy of this stance, see Samantha Bee’s brilliant piece here.)

The other thing we need to consider is that not only is the personal political, but the political is also personal. Political decisions, acts, laws, etc., affect our personal lives each and every day – they determine everything from how much we pay at the pump to whether we can get our birth control prescription filled at the local pharmacy. As such, the binary split we tend to uphold between public and private, between the political verses the personal, is false (as are all socially constructed and maintained dichotomies).

So, yes, I agree that much of the commentary on Palin (and Bristol) has been intrusive, however, I disagree that the fact Palin’s teen daughter is pregnant is a “personal issue” – especially given that Palin, as a current governor and possible VP is using her personal (evangelical fueled) religious beliefs to limit the choices and opportunities of the people in her state and potentially, if she becomes VP, of people all over the world.

I also agree that much of the commentary on Palin has been very sexist. And this gets me back to the pie issue. When our culture is akin to a pie baked with sexism, flavored with anti-choice laws, laced with abstinence only education, and filled to the brim with the sexual objectification of women, should we really expect any different? Well, not unless we work together to bake a new damn pie! (And guess what?!? Palin doesn’t want to bake a new pie, she just wants a big ole piece of the existing one – with a side of moose.)

What if you need more kick ass, brilliant blogs to read?

I was recently honored with three different blog awards from 4 other bloggers.

Renee of Womanist Musings, Rachel Cervantes of Tilting at Windmills, Eric of Eric Stoller, and Kevin of A Slant Truth, thank you profusely!

Seeing as I only started bloggin in May 2008, I am very excited that I have readers, let alone awards!

Thanks to all my readers as well. Your readership is what keeps me blogging and gives me hope we can indeed blog our way to a better, more equitable world.

I hope to keep delivering posts that keep you all coming back for more.

Keep reading to learn about 12 other blogs I am nominating for kick ass and brilliant awards because we all need more brilliant ass kickery in our lives!

Womanist Musings and Eric Stoller honored me with a Kick Ass Blogger award . Right back at ya, people!

In keeping with the tradition of honoring other bloggers and sharing the link love (and via the power vested in me from the intellectually riveting Renee and the always erudite Eric), I hereby award Kick Ass Blogger awards to these ass-kickin’ blogs:

The Minority Militant – MM offers a brilliant “Aggravated Assault On Mainstream America” (his blog tagline) in a voice dripping with sarcasm, razor-sharp wit, and a wonderfully refreshing militant tone. As one of the first readers and commenters on my own blog, he has a special place in my blogging heart! He writes kick-ass posts from an anti-racist, anti-bullshit, anti-United States of Amnesia perspective. Check out this blog and join the militant cause!

The Feminist Underground - This blog kicks some serious ass and uncovers current issues of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism and every other type of hateful paradigm in post after brilliant post. Habladora brings issues kicking and screaming out from the underground and puts them under her laser-like scrutiny. If you are not already reading TheFU, add it to your feed reader and treat yourself to some kick ass analysis from the second innocence crew.

Appetite for Equal Rights - I love the title of this blog and I love the ironic 50′s-esque image of the woman carrying a tray of food in the sidebar. The posts cook up some serious questions about how far we still are from equality in a style that is concise and clever. Lucy would definitely approve!

Oh, You’re a Feminist - Yet another brilliant blog title! And, the content kicks ass too! Feminist Gal delivers up smart, well researched, excellently argued prose with heavy doses of sharp analyis and wit. She is an activist, a feminist, and a great writer – what more could you want in a blog author?

Onely - Christina and Lisa blog about about ‘being onely’ (single) in a couple-normative world. I like this blog for its fresh content and unique take on heteronormativity. Analyzing the cultural obsession with monogamy, commitment, and coupledom, this blog works under the premise that “when society values those who are in heterosexual, monogamous relationships at the expense of people who are not in heterosexual relationships (or relationships, period), we think it’s wrong.” Yeah, me too. Check out this relatively new blog whether you are an onely, an onely ally, or a wanna be onely!

Kevin of A Slant Truth honored me with a Brilliante Weblog award. Well, I think his blog is brilliant too (and LOVE the Emily Dickinson inspired blog name). Too spread the love, I am awarding the BW to seven others blogs that I think are, you guessed it, brilliant:

Don’t Do That – A blog by the wonderful Harriet’s Daughter whose voice is incisive, critical, witty, and excellently erudite. The blog covers racism, sexism, and activism (among other things) from a noticeably reasoned standpoint. If you want to read more about the do’s and do not’s of creating an equitable world, give this blog a visit.

Menstrual Poetry - The title of the blog alone is beyond brilliant. As the tagline promises, this blog offers a “feminist response to just about everything.” Moreover, it does so in an perceptive, comprehensive, provocative, and inspiring way. It ain’t just menstrual poetry, it’s menstrual brilliance!

Don’t ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me? - To answer the question posed in this blog’s name, well, I wish everyone’s girlfriend and boyfriend – and well, just EVERYONE – was as smart and witty as Linda Beth. A uber-great feminist blog that, as the tagline reads, offers “cultural commentary and media analysis with a shot of feminism and a twist of wit.”

Queers United - This self-proclaimed activist hub for all things LGBTQ covers queer history, activism, events, issues, people, you name it. I find their “Word of the Gay” series and the “Queering up History” posts particularly brilliant.

Jump off the Bridge – Frau Sally Benz blogs from a feminist/activist perspective. Her posts are funny, crisp, critical, and addictive. Go on – take the jump, read this brilliant blog.

Uppity Brown Woman – She’s uppity, she’s brown, and she’s brilliant! Biting sarcasm, incisor sharp wit, and awesome analysis. If this is what uppity looks like, I want to be uppity! (Plus, like me, she’s a TV junkie.)

Stuff White People Do – A brilliant anti-racist blog! Macon D. analyzes white privilege via his revelatory posts on stuff that white people do. Great posts, great links, and a great sense of humor. Something all people should be doing (and especially those POWPs who deny white privilege), is checking out this blog!

Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 10:50 am  Comments (18)  
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What if the question wasn’t one of “liberal or conservative” but one of “democratic or fascist”?

As if I needed to make my blood boil more in the heat wave that is radiating across San Diego, while listening to NPR on my drive home, I began to hear the voice of Mitt Romney booming from my radio. I instinctively reached to change the channel when I heard the question “What do you think Washington is right now, liberal or conservative?”

“This I gotta hear,” I thought.

With the rhetorical question “is our government liberal or conservative?” framing his RNC speech, Romney attempted to claim that we live in a country that leans far too far to the left, that we have a liberal Supreme Court (yeah, Alito et al or SOOO liberal), and that we are all under the spell of ‘big government liberals.’

Now, it would have been nice if Romney had defined for his listeners exactly what he meant by ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ as these are very slippery, complex terms. For now, let’s suffice it to say that ‘liberal’ seemed to be used by Romney in the catch all insulting way it is by many Republicans and neo-conservatives – it supposedly means one is too easy on “terrorists,” that one supports “government dependency” (yes, because believing social services like education and healthcare are the purview of the government is so sadly dependent…), that one cares WAY TOO DAMN MUCH about the environment and wants to make the US “dependent on Middle Eastern Tyrants” (MR’s words, not mine!). Romney even suggested that liberals are to blame for high gas prices. Yeah, Mitt, that has nothing to do with the big oil industrial complex, global militarization, and CONSERVATIVES blockage of getting the US off of the oil sauce. (See, for example, the wonderful documentary Who Killed the Electric Car. As a hint: it wasn’t liberals.)

While many would call me ‘liberal,’ (my dad, in fact, likes to call me a ‘bleeding heart liberal’), I choose to call myself progressive. This is partly due to the fact that many self-proclaimed liberals and leftists have of late widely diverged from tenets I hold dear, and also because I think ‘progressive’ more correctly sums up my beliefs. You see, we progressives want to PROGRESS society forward by bringing about changes that benefit all people, not just people in the United States, not just people with white skin, not just people with sausage and waffles (my son’s way of referencing penis and testicles). Conservatives, on the other hand, want to CONSERVE the status quo. They want to keep things as they are. Heck people, it says it all right there in the word!

But, let’s get back to good ol’ boy Mitt. What if the question wasn’t one of “liberal or conservative” (as in his speech) but one of “democratic or fascist”? Well, if he was asked “Is this country right now democratic or fascist?,” I am quite sure he would loudly proclaim that we are a democratic nation, that we are, as the closing words of his speech proclaimed “the hope of the world.”

Yet, as you can read and view here, here, and here, the United States currently exhibits all of the warning signs of fascism. In fact, Romney’s speech inadvertently conceded this fact when he characterized the US as an Orwellian society. As he said, “It’s time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother.” Now, Romney used this line to insinuate that the ‘liberals’ who supposedly rule this country are the party of ‘Big Brother’ (he apparently has never read the novel 1984 or he would now that BB is far from liberal). Yet, what is true in this line (although I am sure he didn’t mean it in this way) is that we indeed are under the leadership of ‘the party of Big Brother.’

Big Brother and the fascist society depicted in Orwell’s novel thrived on perpetual war, on keeping the masses overworked and undereducated, on controlling not only all media but language itself, on demonizing sexuality, on hatred, prejudice, sexism, racism, etc. Sound familiar? Sound a little bit like the US? Would you like to CONSERVE these ‘values’ or might you be interested in PROGRESSING society – changing society – in ways that benefit all humans, not just those with money, power, white skin, certain religious leanings, and who belong to certain clubs (Bohemian Grove, PNAC, etc).

Indeed, reading 1984 feels more like reading non-fiction these days.

Sadly, the key question we need to be asking is not “Is the US liberal or conservative?” but “Is the US becoming, or is it already, a fascist state?” How about posing that much more important question in your next speech Mitt? Or, do you wish to continue to allow “retreat in the face of evil extremism”? (A hint here Mitt, the ‘evil extremism’ I refer to is that of the corporate elite and their lackeys that rule the globe, NOT to the people you so broadly paint as evil – i.e. liberals, people of the Islam faith, and people of Middle Eastern descent.)

If I needed reminding why I am progressive (which I didn’t), Mitt certainly gave it to me… (In fact, listening to the coverage of the RNC makes my ‘bleeding heart liberal’ self want to cry, throw up, revolt, move to another planet…) If McSaim and Pain win, oh goodness, well it will be just as depressing (if not more so) than the last two stolen elections.

So, to end on a more positive note, let me close with a progressive shout out: “Go McKinney!”

What if we implemented a 4 day school week?

I heard a story on the radio yesterday about the rising number of schools in the US opting for a four day school week because of shrinking budgets. The rational is that cutting the school week from 5 to 4 days can save a hefty chunk of money. Well, yeah, but should that be the solution? Should schools buckle under the “who cares about education” paradigm that rules our nation and succumb to the further dumbing down of the USA?

Seems to me we need MORE education in this country, not less. (And if the ignorant trolls assaulting the blogosphere are any indication of the level of idiocy many US citizens suffer from, we need a LOT MORE education.)

The National Conference of State Legislators reported on this phenomenon recently. Their report reads in part as follows:

With strapped state budgets and alluring promises of significant reductions in overhead and transportation costs, the four-day school week has been an increasingly attractive option for legislators seeking to cut education costs…For small, remote school districts, instituting a four-day school week may provide considerable savings by reducing transportation, heating, and other overhead costs. Supporters of the shortened week also boast of improved morale and increased attendance (by both students and teachers), open Fridays for sporting events and doctor appointments, and more time to spend with loved ones.

“Increasingly attractive option for legislator seeking to cut education costs”??? Oh, so the rich big wigs who rule the roost find this proposal attractive? Do they assume each home has a June Cleaver-esque housemom to take care of the kids on that 5th day? Do they assume most parents can just opt out of work on that 5th day and maybe take the kids to play a round of golf at the local country club?

And by all means, Fridays should be about sports and appointments and perhaps more time for teen make out sessions. (Is this what thy mean by “more time with loved ones”?). Who needs five days of school with which to become educated??? Kicking around a ball and keeping the medical industrial complex afloat is far more important to our kids’ futures!!! This way, we can fight that dreaded scourge ‘childhood obesity’ in one fell swoop. Friday can become the day to make our kids buy into the false bodily obsessions of our culture as well as the day we help mold them into good consumers of the bio-pharm mentality. Nevermind educating them about the evils of high fructose corn syrup and the way capitalism promotes excessive consumption (of food and everything else)! We don’t want them to THINK after all – that wouldn’t be good for the economy.

If kids were taught to actually think in school, they might begin to recognize the idiotic hypocrisy of a country that has “family values” and “values education” yet puts most of its money towards imperialistic militarism… They might begin to question the fact that education doesn’t seem to be a pressing issue in this presidential campaign. They might learn that the US is abysmally low in education rankings (globally, the US is currently 21st in science and 25th in math). Heck, they might just learn that their brains are more powerful than how they look or what they are able to buy. Now, that wouldn’t be a good thing for corporatist USA at all. Come to think of it, how about swapping weekends with weekdays and going for a 2 day school week? The other days could be used for shopping, seeing films, attending concerts, playing sports, going to the gym, doctor, and dentist, etc. Think of what a boost to the economy this would bring about! Not only would a 2 day school week save money, it might just end our recession!

As for those of you parents who work full time for far less than what the politicians who make these decisions make, well, you might want to voice your belief that education should get more funding than military spending and prison building (2007 marked the first year that California spent more money on building prisons than on education – yeah, cuz who needs to educate the populace when it’s so much easier to just lock ‘em up).

Alas, as my bumper sticker points out, there’s always enough money for war… (and big honking campaign spending and party conventions I might add). As per usual, we are trying to cure the symptom (shrinking education budgets) rather than the cause (a corporatist government that doesn’t care much – if at all – about education).

If this 4 day a week schedule becomes the norm, and if school budgets continue to be slashed and burned, it is certainly not the politicians (or their children) who will suffer. Rather, less education and less funding will harm those in our society who can’t afford private schools or high-income neighborhoods, those who are already disenfranchised by our unequal society due to their skin color, their sexuality, their income level, their first language, etc. If ‘public education’ is about trying to educate the entire public, to level the playing field to give everyone equal opportunity, well, we are certainly failing miserably at it!

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