What if you prefer your monsters fictional? (On violence, war, hate crime, etc as more human than monster…)

(This post originally ran at Womanist Musings. It has since been updated to reflect the comment thread from the original posting and my subsequent rethinking of this topic. As always, I am thankful for those who take the time to comment, to open up the dialogue, and to help me question/refine my own thoughts.)

I am beginning to wonder – have we become less like Frankenstein’s monster, who was horrified by his own monstrous reflection, and more like traditional vampires, who could not see their own reflection? I am in hopes the monstrous acts of violence, war, hate crime, etc will  lead us to contemplate our collective reflection in that largest of mirrors – our society – and to become horrified by our own monstrous acts (as well as our monstrous inaction).

As pointed out in a comment from Sparky (of Spark in Darkness), designating people as monsters and their acts as monstrous allows a distancing — as if what she/he/they did is profoundly Other, not human, not us, not a reflection of our society.  As Sparky points out, this shuts down analysis and allows for the writing off of certain acts as an aberration. “I hate it when we describe criminals as monsters. Because I think it is used to AVOID showing and AVOID examining. It is used as a simple closing word, a dismissal, and avoidance,” he writes. We certainly saw this phenomenon with the Abu Ghraib torture and the writing off of Lindsey England as a “bad apple,” a monstrous women.

We also see it in the labeling of Sarah Palin as a monster (as many pundits do and as one comment in the thread named her). While I am no fan of Palin, I think labeling her as a monster demonstrates Sparky’s argument. Palin is a product of U.S. culture and politics — in fact a creation that mirrors in many senses what is expected of a powerful woman. It is our society that is monstrous, evil, greedy, sexist, racist, etc — humans like Palin are the products of this, the modern Frankenstein “monsters” that SHOULD reveal to us our insanities and injustices. By labeling her a monster we instead Otherize her, discounting how she is a logical product of U.S. empire.

When I posted a few weeks back at my Seduced by Twilight blog on “What does a monster look like? someone commented as follows in the thread:

“I think REAL monsters are those that don’t look like monsters at all. The most innocent looking, quiet ones that wait in the shadows and kill young women are today’s monsters. Monsters are violent and relentless but not always obvious.”

While I agree that real monsters are scarier than fictional ones, I am intrigued about the way we use the word monster both to designate creatures of the imagination – vampires, zombies, dragons, etc – as well as to designate people who act in ways defined as monstrous, cruel, and evil.

The etymological roots of the term monster come from “monere” (to warn), “monstrum” (that which teaches), and “monstrare” (to show). As noted in this essay on monsters, “The theme of teaching or guiding is thus implicit in the etymology, with the English word ‘demonstrate’ turning out to be a cousin of ‘monster’ in that the Latin ‘demonstratum’ is a past participle of ‘demonstrare’, which means ‘to point out, indicate, show or prove’.”

These etymological roots indicate that monsters (both those we create in our fictional worlds AND those that inhabit our societies) teach, warn, show, prove, and indicate.

Though I agree with Sparky’s points that labelling some as monsters can lead to a lack of analysis, I do think that the etymological roots of the word provide us with a critical lens with which to examine today’s “REAL monsters” (as they are referred to in the above comment). The daily acts of rape and murder should WARN us that our society condones and perpetuates violence. These monstrosities of war should TEACH as that war is not the answer. The prevalence of hate crime should SHOW as that we are not in a post-racial, post-feminist, or post-heterosexist world. All of these different acts of human monstrosity DEMONSTRATE, INDICATE, and PROVE that our corporate capitalist heteronormative patriarchy breeds monsters at an alarming rate.

Those we generally consider monsters – those that kill/torture/abuse indiscriminately and repeatedly – do serve as a warning – a warning that our society not only allows such monsters, but actively creates them. Are not such monster indicating that our world breeds violence? Do they not point out that the main modes of societal organization – patriarchy, corporate capitalism, militarism – is perhaps the perfect conditions for monsters to thrive? Does not their existence – in exorbitant numbers and in all branches of society – priesthoods, schools, sports, government, media, etc – PROVE that we may be creating more monsters than we can slay or contain, let alone eradicate?

I am focused on such so-called REAL monsters for reasons close to home. Last month, a 17-year-old female from my town was raped and murdered while jogging alone in a local park. This past weekend, on Easter Sunday, the attendance secretary from my son’s school was shot in her home, as was her husband, by a disgruntled neighbor who decided the best way to solve their long-standing disputes over a parking space was with a shotgun.

I am also focused on such REAL monsters due to a slew of hate crimes on the campus where I teach – crimes that have largely been ignored by campus administrators as well as the local media.

I know that such incidents are far from unique. I know such monsters lurk in every neighborhood, on every campus, in every corner of the globe, and certainly in many governments, religious organizations, and law enforcement teams. But, somehow, the warning seems more urgent when such monstrous acts become so common as to be expected – as if daily violence, rape, murder, and hatred – not to mention never-ending war – is par for the course.

What if Obama is just a better looking, better spoken Bush? On Obama’s War Cry Speech of December 1, 2009

The opening ode to West Point set the tone for Obama’s speech: apparently what is best about our country is our militarism. While he couched our war-mongering in nicer terms, as “prepared to stand up for our security,” the remainder of his speech indicated that he may be just as much (or more) of a war president than Bush.

Echoing the rhetoric of his predecessor, he called on the 9/11 narrative as a rallying cry.

He failed to touch on key historical points, namely that the US caused much of the current instability in the Middle East. His failure to even once mention Israel and how the US-Israel alliance perpetuates Middle-Eastern instability speaks volumes.

While he noted we are in “the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” he failed to examine how permanent war has a HUGE hand in creating this crisis.

Taking liberty with facts, he waxed poetical about how “Our union was founded in resistance to opposition.” Ah, there it is, the comforting narrative that those white forefathers were an oppressed people merely seeking (religious) freedom. Never mind that these supposed resistance fighters decimated the people who were already here, committing genocide against the indigenous population.

No, according to Obama, “We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources.” What then was our occupation of this land? Did we really just seek to share turkey with the original inhabitants?

This claim is also preposterous given present day realities. We ACTIVELY seek to occupy other nations and WE DO – our military bases are all over the world. We have military in 70% of the world’s countries. Further, we claim and destroy resources on a global level, treating the world as our Wal-Mart.

Ironically, Obama claimed he is “mindful of the words of President Eisenhower,” referencing a quote about balance in relation to national spending. Apparently he is not so mindful of another famous Eisenhower quote: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex.”

Instead, Obama beats the drums of war yet couches his cry in double-speak. The escalation of the war was referred to as “Afghan responsibility” while our military might was linked to “prosperity” and “diplomacy.” Referring euphemistically to our global imperialism as “a foundation for our power,” he argued we will “compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last.” Hmmm, is he referring to the fact we will likely wage as many wars, compete with the rest of the world, and kill as many innocent civilians? Is this what he means by successful competition?

In jingoism typical of such speeches, he said “And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples.” Apparently he has forgotten about (or chooses to ignore) the “dark cloud of tyranny” hailing down within American borders. How can a country that does not secure the human rights of its own inhabitants (of women, of non-heterosexuals, of people of color…) claim to be a light for justice for the rest of the globe?

Claiming that “more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades,” Obama revealed himself as either a master of denial or in need of some serious history lessons.

Closing with the typical claim that it’s all for the good of our nation’s future, of the children, he argued “What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren.” Really, then why are we demolishing the education system and ramping up the prison  industrial complex? Are these not more pressing issues than stamping our red, white, and blue boot on other nations?

In his closing comments, he said “We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might.” Here, he switched up the more common phrase “might makes right,” which tends to be used to critique unwarranted use of power and again echoed Bush, insinuating that we are right, we are the center of the universe, and that our military might will make the world a better place. I doubt it. But it certainly will make the world more RIGHT– more conservative, more fundamentalist, more extremist, more based on haves and have-nots… It will continue to kill in the name of security, maim and disfigure in the name of diplomacy, and decimate nations and peoples in the name of justice. Sadly, my friends, the war marches on, with Obama as lead soldier.

For a full text of the war cry, see here.

Related posts:

What if we called it “America’s war against Iraqi civilians”?

What if the USA was a democracy? (Bodies of War part 1)

What if the war was news?   (Bodies of War part 2)

What if the United States was not wrapped in camouflage?  (Bodies of War part 3)

What if the hypermasculine US phallus wasn’t raping the world? (Bodies of War part 4)

What if we woke up and smelled the war? (Bodies of War part 5)

Professor, What If…? Short takes 11/29/09

1.Wal-Mart in Upland, California forced to close for two hours when shoppers got out of hand on Black Friday. Please, can we all stop shopping at this horrible corporation? Do we want the future to look like the one in Wall*E? (Not the fat-hating part, but the world taken over by Wal-Mart part.)

2.Huffpo reports that “First Ever Store for Porn Apps Launches.” Yup, that’s just what we need in this world, more porn. Especially porn on the go. And we thought texting while driving posed a problem. Wait until porn apps promote wanking while driving…

3.More troops to Afghanistan? Yeah, cuz we need more war in the same way we need more porn. I am disappointed in you Obama. Sorely.

4.IRS filed $79,000 lien against Governor Schwarzenegger. So, we in Calif our governed by a man who can’t pay his own bills? Hmmm, no wonder our state is in such an economic dilemma. Maybe he could sell off some of those Hummers to pay his debts.

5.Entertainment Weekly ( 12/4/09) notes in it’s Hit List that “Heidi Klum hits the runway in lingerie six weeks after giving birth.” Guess, the mommy myth so cogently critiqued by Susan J. Douglas is still going strong. Soon women will jump off the delivery table straight into a pair of high heels or exercise shoes. Nothing more important for a new mom than losing the weight or getting the sexy back. Gag.

What if our silence indicates our life is ending? (In honor of Martin Luther King, Junior on the eve of Barak Obama’s inauguration)

A poster with the following quote hangs in my campus office:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

When I consider this quote, I usually consider it in reverse as well, or via the concept that our lives BEGIN the day we become vocal and engaged with things that matter. Looked at in this way, the quote is one many of my students convey, albeit in different words, once they are awakened to feminism and/or working for social justice.

Coretta Scott King, whom I think should share this holiday along with Martin Luther King due to her lifelong commitment to social justice and to her many activist contributions, notes that “Dr. King knew that it wasn’t enough just to talk the talk, that he had to walk the walk for his words to be credible. And so we commemorate on this holiday the man of action, who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day.”

MLK’s insistence on “walking the walk” led to 29 jail sentences and various violent attacks against his person, yet he refused to become silent. Moreover, in spite of the violence and hatred directed against him, he refused to use his voice as an instrument of hate. He believed, as Coretta Scott King summarizes, “that nonviolent action is the most powerful, revolutionary force for social change available to oppressed people in their struggles for liberation.”

Today, unfortunately, we have not taken this lesson to heart. Oppressed groups struggling for liberation often resort to violence in attempts to bring about change. Likewise, those in power use violence as a first choice rather than a last resort. The US, for example, continues to act as if violence is they way to bring about change, that “freedom is on the march” due to our imperialist actions in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe.

If MLK was alive today, he would decry those pundits who claim that we have achieved the dream of a post-racist world, he would certainly be against the US occupation of Iraq, and he most definitely would speak about the enduring injustice of an anti-Palestine war/media machine that, through its lies, frames the oppressed as the oppressor.

MLK said that we must decide if we “will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Well, the US, and Israel, and many other global centers of power, are certainly walking in the darkness of destructive selfishness. In so doing, they are marching the world closer to its death.

Further, on this, the eve of a historic inauguration, many are remaining silent about things that matter. Even more disturbing, many are voicing comparisons between MLK and Obama while failing to discuss the very important ways in which their differences matter. Glen Ford, of Black Agenda Report, wrote an excellent piece, “Who is Black America’s Moral Emissary to the World?” which analyzes these erroneous comparisons.

As Ford argues:

It is true that there could have been no Obama presidency had Dr. King and the movement he sprang from not existed, but that simple fact of history does not amount to a King benediction from the grave for Obama’s moral character and political policies. Indeed, Dr. King’s life and words are indelible evidence that he and Obama represent opposing moral and political camps.

Yet, rather than examining the ways in which they differ in their visions, what we are supposed to see is the similar color of their skin. This melanin based ‘sameness’ is supposed to comfort the progressives and social justice workers among us. Many have indeed latched onto this only skin deep hope for change.

However, Obama’s bailout record thus far, his choices for his administration (Bush’s defense guy, the head of the Fed running the treasury?!?), his pandering to bankers, his hawkish support of EXPANDED military intervention, his alliance to AIPAC and the Center for Foreign Relations, all of these are proof, that, as Ford argues, comparisons to MLK are misguided. As Ford notes, “the fact that one of these men fought his whole life against the forces of militarism and economic exploitation, while the other empowers, and is empowered by, bankers and militarists” should be raising serious alarm bells for “Obama-ites.”

Using the Vietnam War as an example of MLK’s refusal to become silent on things that matter, Ford further writes:

If the Obamites had more presence of mind, they would avoid comparisons with Dr. King, which can only redound to Obama’s great detriment. King’s break with his onetime ally, President Lyndon Johnson, set the standard for both political and moral behavior. When it became clear that the War on Poverty was doomed by the war in Vietnam, which acted “like some demonic destructive suction tube,” devouring all available resources, King publicly declared against the war. In doing so, he severed what had been the most productive relationship between an American president and a Black leader in U.S. history. But the war gave him no choice, since military expenditures made “rehabilitation” of the American poor impossible. Both morality and politics led to the same conclusion: the Movement could not coexist with war.

The lesson is directly applicable today, but Americans, Black and white, find it difficult to recognize the characters. Obama is Lyndon Johnson. National revitalization, including redress of historical African American grievances, is impossible unless military expenditures are dramatically reduced. But Obama is committed to putting 100,000 new pairs of Marine and Army “boots on the ground,” an expanded war in Afghanistan/Pakistan, a beefed up AFRICOM, and a generally bigger U.S. military footprint on the planet. This, in the midst of global economic collapse.

To compare Obama to MLK is insulting to the King legacy – yet, many remain silent when these comparisons (and other similar fawnings) occur. Obama does share some attributes with MLK – most obviously, both are excellent orators. Both are brilliant. Both have more understanding of racial injustice and white privilege in their little toe than G.W. has in his entire body. Yet, Obama IS not the champion for peace, non-violence, and equity that MLK was. Ironically, we are going against MLK’s call for a “color-blind” society when we act as if he is. What we are doing instead is acting as if his color makes him all the things so many of us hope he is. Further, the “touchy” issue of race is keeping many silent in fear a critical stance towards Obama would lead to accusations they are racist. Sadly, this fear is true.

We have become so wrapped up in the euphoria of Obama’s win and its symbolic meaning that we have forgot to take a harsh look at what really matters – NOT the win, but what he will do as president, NOT the color of his skin, but the character of his heart and mind. So far, I am troubled by what seems to be an extreme disconnect between his words and acts- he is charming, brilliant, passionate, and many other good things, but he is not the anti-empire progressive leader I crave. He is no MLK. He is no Coretta.

While I realize these assertions may anger many, I can’t remain silent about this. A colleague of mine shared that she is not critical of Obama in front of students as she fears she will be labeled racist, especially as a white woman. Yet, if progressive academics remain silent along with others working for social justice, our lives will continue to end at the hands of the imperialist corporatist war machine.

On this day, in honor of Martin Luther King, Junior and Coretta Scott King, I hope that you will find something that matters to NOT be silent about. I hope, more specifically, that people will speak their concerns about Obama’s worrying collusions with all those things that our marching the planet, and humanity, towards death.

What if the hypermasculine US phallus wasn’t raping the world? (Bodies of War part 4)

When the war is covered in the mainstream media, it is done so via surface stories and photo ops that foreground facile heroism and testosterone fueled hypermasculinity. This hypermasculine narrative is evident when Bush dons a flight suit, when in-your-face banners triumphantly claim “Mission Accomplished,” when aircraft carriers and missiles are metaphorically constructed as the ultra-powerful, unstoppable American phallus. This macho war stance, while foregrounding supposed US strength and heroism, also works to hide a number of key issues – firstly, it hides the profit/power motivations of the war, secondly, it hides the gender, race, and class dynamics of the war, and thirdly, it hides the extreme bodily costs in terms of civilian as well as military causalities.

In regards to the profit/power motives of war and its masculinist undertones, the money hungry devil is metaphorically hidden in the red, white, and blue robes of a protective patriarch. This ‘good father’ is not vengeful, nor does he suffer from a ‘god complex,’ rather, he wants to protect his innocent American family by fortifying the walls of his house and keeping out all the ‘bad guys.’ As a concerned father, he also supposedly wants to help others in need – to save the ‘poor and oppressed’ veiled women of the Middle East, to bring democracy to the masses. The devil within, who desires control of the world’s natural resources as well as of the bodies and souls (and labor) of the worlds people, is shrouded in happy face patriotism and facile, flag-wagging nationalism.

This hypermasculine warrior stances hides the fact that the war is about securing US corporate interests. It is also about shoring up American masculinity both at the specific level of individual American males and at the broader level of America as a ‘manly’ country that is powerful, aggressive, and dominating. Opposition to the war is coded as ‘wimpy’ and those countries that the US is either trying to ‘democratize’ or those countries that do not support the war effort are metaphorically emasculated.

As feminist war critics such as Cynthia Enloe and Carol Cohn examine, decisions and actions regarding war are cast as issues of masculine power and strength. For example, when one refuses to partake in war or when one is targeted as an enemy, images of phallic penetration are often employed. From bumper stickers that read “Saddam, Bend Over” to cartoons that show Saddam in prayer position with a US missile pointed at his ass, the message is clear – the US aims to penetrate the world with its specific brand of masculinized military power.

This championing of a very particular type of masculinity has a very dangerous companion – a de-emphasis on intellectualism, analysis, and critical thinking. The US seems unconcerned with our rash stupidity in rushing into a war based on lies (let alone questioning the intelligence of our president) – rather, the US is concerned about being perceived as ‘backing down,’ ‘pulling out,’ or, that most un-macho of outcomes, ‘going soft.’ Tellingly, MSM war coverage also relies on a masculinized rhetoric that not only characterizes the macho body of the solider as heroic, but also defends the ‘reason’ and ‘logic’ of our leaders. Simultaneously, ‘enemies’ are cast as weak, illogical, and unintelligent (much like the representation in the recent pro-war movie masquerading as a super-hero flick, Iron Man).

If we as a nation lost our aggressive, power-hungry erection that goes around raping the rest of the world, maybe we could turn our attention towards fixing some REAL problems-like racism, poverty, corporatist globalization, sexism, the degradation of the environment, etc. Instead, like a rutting male who can’t think straight because all the blood has drained from his head and into his penis, we keep screwing the world. (For another post that uses rape as an analogy for US war mongering, as well as a good consideration of why an anti-war stance and feminism coincide, see Punk Ass Blog here.)

I wish our hypermasculine warrior stance would go limp.

I wish that as a nation we would heed the words of the wise Wau Wau Sisters and “Just Pull Out.”

On another note, I also wish there was as much interest in eradicating war and critiquing militarization as there is in so many other topics covered in the blogosphere. While dedicated anti-war or build peace blogs have large followings, it seems blogs focusing on feminism, anti-racism, sexuality, etc don’t generate as much interest when writing on war related topics. I know from my own blog, when I write about beauty, white privilege, or popular culture, I get a lot more readers than when I write about war. I don’t get this — like Kevin Moore from Moore Toons, I am surprised one needs to spell out that war is a feminist issue.

What if the United States was not wrapped in camouflage? (Bodies of War part 3)

Along with the abstract, disembodied, and dehumanized language of war used by the military, the media, and the administration, we in the US are given comforting ‘bedtime stories’ by our MSM that attempt to lull us off to sleep with images of America as the knight in shining armor poised to save the innocent and oppressed maidens of Afghanistan or battle the evil villains of ‘terrorism.’ Part of this narrative relies on a pro-military media and culture that envisions military might as necessary.

As feminist theorist Cynthia Enloe reveals, contemporary American culture is one of pervasive militarization. From the Hummers that now rule our roads, to the camouflage attire available for all ages at everywhere from Target to Neiman Marcus, to the endless yellow ribbons and ‘support our troops’ bumper decorations that bedeck vehicles of all sizes and shapes, militarized images and commodities are everywhere.

However, the militarization of our culture does not seem to be accompanied by awareness, let alone an analysis, of what this pervasive militarism entails. Teenagers in camouflage t-shirts or suburbanites driving Hummers are not cognizant – nor are they promoted to be – of the realities of militarization around the globe, let alone the contemporary war in Iraq. As a case in point, in a recent survey in a San Diego paper that queried people if they were more worried about rising gas prices or the war, one person admitted they tend to forget a war is even happening while another noted that gas prices were more concerning as “I drive a big truck.”[1] What goes unspoken in these comments is the unblinking belief that the massive loss of life as well as continuing destruction of the infrastructure, culture, and value system of various Middle Eastern countries brought about by the war is on par with what we have to pay at the pump. And, as the comment above notes, trading in that ‘big truck’ is not worth an Iraqi life, let alone an end to war.

Further, that the paper could in good conscience and without public outrage even ask such a question reveals a very worrying amnesiac thought pattern in the contemporary US. The media, this newspaper being an example, does not foreground the war, how it is linked to oil interests, and how all this is linked to the profit driven corporatization of the globe – rather, it asks facile questions about the everyday cost of gas.

This outright failure of the media to address the excessive and continually rising militarization of US culture is criminal, as is its excessively sparse coverage of the war. Other than brief mentions of the death toll, or of superficial stories characterizing Iraqi’s as a crazy, violent people who insist on insurgency, civil war, and self-flagellation, the media does little to incite the American public to be concerned about the war, let alone analyze its root causes and motives. This is, of course, because the media is in the back pocket of those who benefit from militarization – our corporate, conservative, and religious right leaders who see the world as an oyster they can squeeze profit out of right until ‘end time.’

The mainstream media has become a huge propaganda machine, keeping Americans fearful, dumb, and shopping. It prompts them to be frightened of ‘terrorist attacks’ and be in a tizzy over ‘homeland security’ in order to allow the administration to enact neo-conservative domestic policies while simultaneously urging them to forget about the realities of the war we are waging and the extreme bodily, environmental, and monetary costs of our growing war machine. In fact, the sedatives offered by the media are so powerful that many fail to realize what the Hummers populating are streets represent-a militarization so ubiquitous that camouflage has become the new black, that driving a tank has become as common as sliced bread. Yes, the peace sign has made a comeback and adorns t-shirts, mailbags, and bumper-stickers as well-but, unfortunately, it is not backed by the same might (or money) of camouflage-there is no peace army, at least not one that can stay out of jail long enough to foment revolution or garner enough media attention to wake up a sleeping, camouflage wearing populace.

[1] Poway News Chieftan, May 18, 2006

What if the Sunday papers included information like this? Links for the week 5.30.08-6.6.08

Seven odds-and-ends for seven days of the week, plus a bonus death post. Happy reading!

1. Over at Don’t Do That Harriets Daughter posted “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” by Frederick Douglass. It serves as great reminder that so-called independence is not for everyone. As HD reminds us, “the wealth and power of this nation is due in large part, if not the whole, to the systematic program of genocide against one people and the forced enslavement of another”

2. Next Stop Iran: At the New Yorker, in “Preparing the Battlefield,” Seymour Hersh analyzes the Congressional approval of “major escalation of covert operations against Iran.” Yeah, cuz that’s just what the world needs, more war.

3. At SocialistWorker.org, in “Stupid, Racist, or Both,” Dave Zirin discusses the latest proof that Don Imus is indeed both stupid and racist. In my favorite bit of the piece, he opines

It is ridiculous that people like Sean Hannity–who are all for shredding the Constitution when it comes to the rights of antiwar protesters or detainees in the “war on terror”–wrap themselves in the Bill of Rights and champion the First Amendment and “free speech” when it comes to Imus.

This has nothing to do with free speech. This is about whether blatant racism is acceptable both in sports and on commercial radio. This is about whether we embrace the idea that with a microphone comes some measure of responsibility.

4. Renee at Womanist Musings reported that Thomas Beatie gave birth to a healthy baby (does it matter if the baby is female or male?) and called for the acceptance of a more fluid definition of gender. Yes, this is desperately needed as evidenced by the trangender inequality video posted here at Queers United.

5. Women’s E News reports on Jasmyne Cannick’s efforts to put an end blackface performances “that mock the plight and lives of African American men and women.” Cannick has launched a national campaign targeting Charles Knipp’s character Shirley Q. Liquor, a virulently racist, misogynistic ‘act’ that earns Knipp between $70,000 to $90,000 a year. She is also critical of Eddie Murphy, Tyler Perry, and Martin Lawrence for their blackface performance. (I would add that Murphy also enacts racist yellowface performances, among others.) See the full article here for an analysis of why blackface is not funny.

6. In “The Global Seed Police” over at Counterpunch Binoy Kampmark discusses the documentary The World According to Monsanto, the “corporate bully” that is working feverishly to patent seeds to the detriment of world farmers. Vandana Shiva (eco-feminist extraordinaire) critiques the “rhetoric of salvation” used by Monsanto, noting their aim “has little to do with ‘food security’ and everything to do with ‘returns to Monsanto’s profits’. The real aim here is patenting, and the corporate giant is in the business of biopiracy, targeting local markets and industries to gain an unassailable market share.”

7. The Feminist Daily News Wire reports that Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that graphic abortion images are protected speech. See the full story here. And, to counter this appalling news, see also here for the news that “twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have refused millions of federal dollars allotted for abstinence-only education programs for the upcoming fiscal year.” This represents a 40% drop in acceptance. Yippee – the nation is finally waking up to the abysmal failure of abstinence only ed!

And, as a bonus, a death for the week:

For a detailed account of Jesse Helms hate spewing rhetoric and actions from 1963 until his death (just in case you need reminding that he was not the wonderful man the mainstream media is making him out to be) see Lindsay Beyerstein’s post at Majikthise.