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01 May 2008 @ 12:09 am
What a horribly suggestive figure of speech.

Anyway, my relationship with LiveJournal is officially over, except to occasionally read Overheard In Berkeley.

My new lover: Subversion Therapy. Still under construction, but go there anyhow.  It's prettier.
Current Music: Fugazi
29 April 2008 @ 10:11 am
Tinkering with wordpress as of now.  The formatting is vastly less frustrating, which is nice.  WordPress doesn't let me font, though, which is annoying, but oh well.  That's what I get for never learning code.
28 April 2008 @ 05:38 pm
I'm either going to hop over to WordPress or finish tinkering with this layout, both of which must happen at a later date.  In the meantime, enjoy the spectacular fugly around here.
28 April 2008 @ 04:18 pm
livejournal's formatting is annoying the hell out of me.  wild color and style fluctuations, and a customization interface that is the artistic equivalent of spraying paint in the dark.  bah.
28 April 2008 @ 01:35 pm
A very good male friend and former romantic entanglement of mine recently called to invite me to the Socialism Conference in Chicago this June.  I knew about it already, and knew he would be going, since he's part of the ISO at a different UC.  However, this is how he posed it:

"I think it would be good for you...re-energizing...to spend time around some people who are actually doing something instead of writing papers on feminism and bitching on a blog."

This is very problematic.

The attitude sounds slightly familiar...or am I mistaken?  Surely, no lefty dudes have ever condescended to telling feminists that they're wasting their time?

Oh.  Wait.

The other trouble, unfortunately, is that he is right in many ways.  I am not an activist.  I am an idealist, and a fiercely cynical one at that.  I swear it's not an oxymoron.

I am a history student.  I can't help but generally take the long view.  Often, my practical long view consists of "fuck it, we're all dead," while my idealistic long view envisions a world free from the usual laundry list of oppressive societal structures we are all so familiar with.

But I recognize that this is a position that can only be cultivated in an atmosphere of great privilege.  It is easy to throw one's hands up in the air and stop trying to change the world when I have a fridge full of food and a functional reproductive health clinic nearby.  Not to mention being a white, vaguely middle class, cisgendered, fully-able university student.

So, about that activism.  Like I said, I don't do it.  For many reasons, one of which is that I'm physically kind of lazy.  But the real reason, one that took me right up until that phone call to figure out, is that I don't know what to do.

Actually, that's an overgeneralization.  I know many things I want to do.  Part of that privilege thing is being able to choose what you want to work toward.  You can go where your heart, rather than the urgency of your circumstances, takes you.  And my options right now, to me, seem inadequate.  Campaigning for a Democratic presidential candidate, or immersing myself in conventional politics, is not enough. I'm way too much of a lefty for that.  I am perfectly willing to hold their feet to the fire in my opinions, and hold my nose and vote for a right-of-center Democrat, but no candidate in the establishment really earned my wholehearted enthusiastic support. 

Yet the other option, giving conventional politics the finger and joining the ISO is also unacceptable to me because disengaging in favor of a loftier goal when there are real things at stake is hubris of such a degree that I can't bring myself to do so.  

Most of my options are productive in the long run.  Working for Planned Parenthood, or another nonprofit, or joining up with the Students Against War or even a local cause, would be productive because one is at least putting ideas out there that need to be spoken.

But I would feel like I was banging my head against a wall.  I know most activists feel that way sometimes.  Right now, though, just living here knowing that things are Royally Fucked Up and that every problem has a whole subset of gigantic root causes is enough of a daily head-beating.  Couple that feeling of powerlessness with the historian's perspective that things have usually been Royally Fucked Up and that progress is slow, excruciating, and without guarantee.  Now my inaction starts to make sense, at least to me.  Justifying my concessions and all that.

Which is not to say that I'm apathetic.  Far from it.  I care deeply about many things.  My parents lean toward socialist-atheists, and I learned all that and more from them.  There are lots of things I want to do, things that I feel are necessary.  That's why I'm looking at law school.  Working for a nonprofit or legal aid is an option generally open only to those with one or more of my set of privileges.  After all, someone has to challenge these goddamn state legislatures and their ridiculous anti-choice laws.

 In other words, I want to find a niche where I can be comfortable with what I am working for, have at least occasionally tangible evidence of progress, and not constantly feel like my energy would be better spent elsewhere, because I already feel like that now.

So I'm not going to hand out condoms with the Femsex people, or work with V-Day, even when reproductive justice is extremely important to me, when I feel like legal action is necessary.   Because the conversations about contraception access and sexual violence are also conversations about race, class, and ideological zealotry in government, and those issues need to be addressed.

I don't want to drive ambulances.  I want to give inoculations.

And for the record, I told my friend to shove it in the nicest way possible, by asking him where in the world he got the idea that I was ever energized in the first place.  I also told him that sitting out elections because you're too much of a socialist is all well and good, but it's easy for him to say so.  The sovereignty of his uterus isn't on the line.
Current Location: Berkeley, CA
Current Music: The Fiery Furnaces
26 April 2008 @ 11:53 am
1. I hereby retract everything I ever said about Eliot Spitzer.  I find the timing of his takedown far too convenient for the corporate establishment to have been a coincidence.  Why?  Even though the man liked paying money to degrade women, he was also keeping a regulatory eye on the Wall Street crowd, which was busy violating every orifice of the middle class with whatever they could.  Eliot Spitzer, who in all reality was probably going to be ineffectual at this point, was at least going to make some noise about our government's massive welfare bailout of the money market sector at the expense of everyone else.  He was dangerous.  He had to go.  And the bailout of Bear Stearns?  Hardly a blip in the news compared to a nice juicy sex scandal. 

I have to admit, I wasn't a young conspiracy theorist until the Bush Administration made it the only way to keep sane.

2.  I am hereby on ideological hiatus in regards to the November election.  Yes, indeed, a dastardly hotflash of apathy has come upon this young spinster-in-training.  Why?  Because Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, while not remotely similar in their fundamental beliefs about the relationship between the government and the citizenry, both rank right-of-center in my political spectrum, and thus I could give a fuck less.  Our fine nation has been brought to such crippling lows of integrity that it honestly DOES.  NOT.  MATTER. who ends up in the Oval Office next, as long as it's not John McCain. 

Shit, even my wacky liberal-libertarian friend who never votes is going to cast a ballot this fall, for anyone BUT McCain.  And I thank him for that.

Anyway, this election is my VERY! FIRST! PRESIDENTIAL! VOTE! and like all the other bubbly college students I'm supposed to be riding some zeitgeist of renewed civic interest, or something.  Well, it ain't working, folks.  I was seventeen in 2004, and while I don't blame my generation for failing to whip up some zeitgeist-y sentiment over John Kerry, that particular election may have erased my faith in popular mandates. Yes, yes, I am quite pleased that whoever I do vote for in November (and, yes, I am taking the utilitarian position and voting for whoever has the D next to their name when I'd much rather be voting for Cynthia McKinney) will be a goddamn historic first and what have you.  I was one of those little girls who answered the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" with "President!" so naturally I find all this very exciting as a theoretical exercise.  But theoretical exercises do not usually produce strong grass-roots support for one candidate or another.

Theoretical Exercises, indeed. Is America more racist, or more sexist? In public?  In private?  Hasn't anyone in the news media heard the term "interesectionality?"  If they had, perhaps they would realize that in such a mudfight as this primary is going to be, no matter who wins the nomination, WE ALL LOSE, because once again we've proved ourselves incapable, as a nation, of behaving like intelligent adults who are making a serious decision about social policy. 

Keeping my political thoughts in the realm of Theoretical Exercises helps keep me calm when I reach my logical conclusion, which is that this Democratic primary is merely a feel-good show allowed us peons by the powers that be.  We like to think that we're doing something historic and meaningful, but regardless of whether we elect the woman or the black guy, those financial powers that be will soon show us all who is still in charge here.  And you know what?  It won't be women.  Or black guys.  Or black women, God forfend.

3.  Rush Limbaugh is calling for riots at this year's Democratic National Convention.  Strange, so am I, but I don't think we're doing it for the same reasons.  It took riots in Chicago in 1968 for some party leaders to realize that they were being racist fuckwits, so what's the harm?  The entire militant arm of the Neo-New-Left, meaning all those obnoxious college communists and the ISO branches who disavow the Democratic Party (not that I don't sympathize) should be out there in the Denver streets, reminding people who claim to speak for the Left of America just how far away from us they are.  But then again, I just like anything that causes trouble.

All of which leads me to this, the real reason I can't bring myself to get excited about this election:

4. As of now, I'm just holding my breath, waiting for the Reichstag to blow up sometime during the DNC.  Gee, then all those private security forces our government has on retainer sure will come in handy for keeping order, won't they
Current Location: Berkeley, CA
Current Music: Belle and Sebastian - The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House
23 April 2008 @ 02:00 pm
Yep, don't we all have to make 'em.  All the time.  The un/examined concessions of women my age appear to be fanning the fires of another feminist generational holocaust.

The Pussycat Dolls are empowering.  Indeed.  We've grown up seeing women do most things they've never had the chance to do before.  We see these women in highly promoted situations.  The American media of the 70's loved "first women" stories.  The skimmed and dessert displayed cream is supposed to inspire all of us other vagina-americans to forget about what still binds us.  Obviously, we just aren't working hard enough.  You can have it all.  All you need to do is graduate at the top of your class without ever intimidating the intelligence of the boys, climb to the top of your corporation without scaring off your husband pool, pick a mate by the combined size of his shoulder pads and bank account, deliver several children through scheduled c-section so as not to interfere with your business trips, then at the end of a long day, don that corset for your husband and pray it keeps him from going to strippers.  Who, exactly, is liberated again?

Starting in the 80's, we were sold liberation at $3.99 per tube of "natural" lip gloss and $4.50 per pack of Virginia Slims.  Don't stop buying the stuff we've been deliberately hawking to your insecurities at being insufficiently feminine/subordinate.  Instead, just keep buying the same kinds of stuff, because now it promises sexual freedom.  And now that every individual part of your body is liberated for sexual display, not just the idea of you as a woman, we'll show you places to wax that you'd never even thought of before.  Thank you, capitalism.  What the hell happens when all of these ideas intersect in the mind of a 20-year-old?

Much, much, much more about this has been written by many, many, many other people.  More eloquent feminists than I.   But fuck'all if this isn't shaping up to be a large component of my adult identity!

So here it goes.  Older feminists accuse the younger generation of frivolity, with the understandable hurt at essentially seeing their daughters blow off everything they lived for.  Younger feminists and "feminists"  reject the criticisms as vehemently as daughters brush off advice from their mothers.  This all makes sense in an interpersonal sense.

I have to say, though, that I think my generation is far more to blame for this tension.  We think that learning about all the "waves" is enough to internalize what our mothers and their mothers were talking about.  It's not.  They are reluctant to take us seriously because they see us referencing feminism while discussing the value of pole dancing as sexual expression.  And they're on to something, girls.  We as a generation (at least those of us who are even willing to use the label "feminist, which is a sad minority) are either failing to understand the level to which we, too, must concede and are conceding to the power structures at hand, or are failing to sufficiently articulate our understanding of the inherent contradictions within our speech and actions. 

Granted, the older generations often fail, willfully or not, to comprehend our circumstances.  All women, everywhere, all the time, have to concede to the patriarchy.  Because it's there and it's not going anywhere.  Even living on an all-feminist commune completely off the capitalist grid is a concession of sorts, because defining yourself in opposition to still grants legitimacy to the rejected institution, turning the ideal created in the commune into a Bizarro World, when it should be a norm.  I think older women, when examining their own life concessions, underestimate the political importance of ours, and thus write us off as silly, vapid, etc.  This is unfortunate.

But it is not their job to understand us and place us in context of the movement.  It is our job to successfully explain and contextualize ourselves.

Nobody likes hearing criticism of their decisions.  Especially not in this age of "it's my hot body I do what I want" "feminism."  Women my age, we've been told our whole lives that we're "liberated" (and we damn well better be grateful), but also that we should want to constantly present ourselves as sex objects because, well, sex is fun!  And our choice!  Why would prudes want to harsh on our choices?

What we are not being told, homegirls, is that the patriarchy (in its current American incarnations as free-market capitalism, religious fundamentalism, and consumerism) hasn't gone anywhere.  Any.  Where.  Every "choice" is made after constantly breathing the noxious culture all around us.  So while some of us may find the commercial lipstick-liberation rhetoric obnoxious, being told that we overall have no full agency due to our continued second-class status just plain hurts.  It hurts because it contradicts every other message of "liberation" we've received.  But who packaged those commercial liberation ideas for us?  It sure as hell wasn't the spinster aunts out to ruin our twentysomething good time.  Direct your rage of injustice at those who deserve it. 

So, in words probably dating back to some "consciousness-raising" sessions from the 70's, what we need to do is learn how to articulate our needs as a generation.  If we want older feminists to understand that our world is an even more highly sexualized minefield of impossible standards than 30 years ago, we need to say that.  If we find aspects of our liberated culture of raunch appalling, we need to say that.  I believe there is some feminist conventional wisdom about the silence of complicity so often observed in men.  Well, girls, we're guilty of it too. 

Likewise, we are obligated to justify our concessions, just as the older women are obligated to listen to our justifications fairly with an open mind to our different circumstances.  Yes, our circumstances are different.  And, in many ways, we can "choose" to do many more things than our mothers and grandmothers.  But can we expect those things to automatically make sense to them?  For a group of women who fought to erase the virgin/whore binary system of femininity, seeing the next generation effectively saying "Fuck it, let's all be whores, they at least get paid cash" does not look like progress.  Let's keep our eyes on the ball here.

If you resent having to intelligently justify your decisions, maybe you're making destructive ones.  Just a thought.

(there will be a part II, when I talk about my own life, sometime.)
Current Location: Berkeley, CA
Current Music: Róisín Murphy
03 April 2008 @ 01:00 pm
This is when you can tell school is getting on my nerves:
I have had it ABSOLUTELY UP TO FUCKING HERE with the Bible.  And that's both understandable and unfortunate, seeing as I've spent a good portion of my undergraduate career mucking around in its receding tideline. 

Okay, so I missed the memo about its cultural importance.  After all, it's the word of God, right?  Right?

Wait, no.  In fact, I can tell you precisely why the way Westerners currently read the Bible is actually leading them further and further from what the original texts MAY have been saying many many generations ago.  First off, if you speak English, you probably cut your teeth on the King James version, or some other by-product of that fabulous monarch's pretentions to theology.  That Bible was based on the 16th-century English translations produced in the heyday of humanism.  These scholars thought they were being ingenious by going back to the heavily-glossed Greek versions as their source material, riding along with classical Greek's academic popularity at the time.  Unfortunately, the re-learning of classical Greek was kind of a fad, and most of them weren't very good at it.  They also spent more time wrangling over subsequent theologians' footnotes than the nuances of the text, producing a translation that is wooden and dull at best, and dangerously misleading at worst.  An even greater travesty is the New International Version, produced by a bunch of American Bible-belters who fancied themselves Hebrew and Aramaic scholars in the 1960's.

But I digress.  In the course of my studies, I have completely failed to comprehend why a ragtag collection of old tribal creation myths and the subsequent memoirs of a few misogynistic desert-bound sycophants became the cornerstone of Western culture and morality.  Like Ayn Rand, one reads it and decides it is interesting but ultimately worthless.  Time to move on!
12 March 2008 @ 12:45 pm
Okay, so (now former) Gov. Eliot Spitzer likes prostitutes.  No big surprise, really.  I mean, look at him!

It is comforting, in a strange way, to know that Democratic pols are just as susceptible to flaming moral hypocrisy as Republicans.  Nobody likes monopolies.  Spitzer led a force breaking up NY's prostitution rings in his term as Attorney General.  He really should have known better.  At the very least, such extensive experience with prostitution should have taught him how to cover his tracks better.

I don't live in New York, so I don't have the same personal investment in Spitz' career as others.  It is deeply disappointing to see a pol who so strongly supported womens' rights to  have stooped to this; hypocrisy in the same vein as the Repubs who preach on and on about family values and still get busted with gay junkie hookers, or other such things (see: Vitter, David and Craig, Larry.)

I do have to give Spitz credit for one thing: his hasty resignation.  Really, this whole kerfuffle has unraveled within the public eye within about 96 hours.  He knew he was screwed for screwing, and just threw in the towel.  Meanwhile, David Vitter (R-LA) is still free to blather on about abstinence-only education in the Senate despite being caught on the D.C. Madam's frequent-flyer list and thorougly embarrassing his party, who really really wants him to resign.

Spitz decided not to hang around as a big stinking embarassment to the establishment.  And thank Ceiling Cat for that.   The quicker he gets the hell out of the presslight, the less of a liability he is for Democrats nationwide. 
07 March 2008 @ 12:43 pm
I do wish someone would tell me why a two-bedroom flat on Old Street in East London is cheaper than the fuckin' apartment I'm in now.  Yep, I'm moving back eventually.