I’m Just Not Impressed

Am I supposed to be?

Archive for the ‘Intersectionality’ Category

Things that are pissing me off this morning.

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So, here’s the deal – I’m 34 weeks pregnant, I feel like a whale, my back hurts and I really really really don’t want to end up with preeclampsia and on bed rest in the next three – six weeks, so I’m trying to keep my stress levels down. Evidently, part of what this means is that instead of engaging in controversial discussions in my usual online haunts, I’m going to get it all out here and hope my annoyance dissipates in the act of more general ranting.

So, lucky you, my handful of readers, or something like that. Anyway, without further ado:

1. So, the esteemed Governor of Virginia has decided that it’s not only appropriate to issue a proclamation about Confederate History Month (April Fools? Please?), but to do so in a way that erases all references to slavery as being essential to “the Confederate way of life”, but to tie it into Civil War tourism. How family friendly…for certain values of family that are somewhat more limited than my preferred definition. And how proud am I as a VA resident of more than a decade.

2. Amanda Palmer. I suppose to be over her, I’d have to first be into her, and the main reason she’s even on my radar screen is because of Neil Gaiman and various associations therefrom. But really. Her public statements have started to read like a checklist from Stuff White People Do:
-Misuse of the term “irony” to justify comparing product placement to giving money to the KKK? Check.
-Appropriation of voices of oppression?
-Veiled allusions to economic slavery?
-Appropriation of artforms giving voice to non-privileged people?
-All of the above wrapped in a bundle of “people are so over sensitive and just don’t get me”? Check, check and check.

There’s a whole ‘nother post bubbling there about artists and the current culture of immediate access and how that changes the way that we interact with the people who make the things that we enjoy and effects how we are even able to enjoy them (which I started exploring here, actually). But that will have to wait.


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April 7, 2010 at 9:17 am

Real pain is being a woman…

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…not, you know, actual inflicted violence.

Been a while since I’ve written anything, but I stumbled upon this while perusing Andrew Sullivan’s “The Daily Dish” and I just can’t let it go.

Now, first I think it is wonderful and admirable that Britain’s National Centre for Domestic Violence is making an issue of domestic violence against men. And I understand that they are trying to get at the very real issue of men fearing being “viewed as less of a man” for admitting to being a victim (the implication is .

But is it really necessary to show a male victim of domestic violence as being made into a woman (or read alternatively, being completely un-sexed)? Not only does the accompanying image completely reinforces the very concepts of masculinity that the ad purports to be trying to counter by portraying  being a woman or woman-like as bad or inferior and something to be considered  shaming, but it is also completely cis-centric, ignoring the very real problem of domestic and other violence against transfolk of any identification.

Written by emandink

April 1, 2010 at 9:05 am

Things that are bigger than Amazon, fail or no.

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…with love and hate and passions just like mine…(The Smiths)

It is slightly odd to me that this blog suddenly has visibility of a sort because of a dashed off post on an issue that I’ve not really thought much about – the living embodiment of “the personal is the political” I suppose. Part of me feels slightly uncomfortable that 150 plus people have read my posts over the past week due to a post that in some ways trades on the identity and experience of an ex-boyfriend who I’ve had only the most minimal contact with in over 10 years. But it was also my experience. Part of how we dismantle privilege is by relating problems to our own experience and working past that filter and acknowledging how things are different for us as privileged persons. I can relate to the invisible nature of sexuality for the disabled because I lived it for a time as the privileged partner of a person with a disability. I’ve experienced first hand the nature of most discussions of prejudice and privilege – that my past experience as the able bodied partner of a person with a disability counts for more in these discussions than the experience of people with disabilities themselves.

One of the bigger picture results of my reinvesting myself with feminism over the past few years is a greater awareness of other intersecting issues. One of these that comes up with less frequency than you might think is ableism and disability rights. And that right there is part of the problem I see with the rhetoric around #amazonfail and the aftermath. Honestly, at this point, my issues are less with Amazon, and more with how the blogosphere, the twitterverse, the LJ-whatever and the mainstream media cast the entire issue.

Some of the most progressive venues I know – places that usually get almost everything right – completely ignored the disability angle of Amazon’s coding error, or mentioned it only in a laundry list of categories, never touching on the fact that there was a real impact of these derankings. And on the one hand, I sort of understand. Out of hundreds of books that were deranked on Amazon, a very small handful dealt with disability. The vast majority – and most of the most egregious examples of non-sexual materials – involved the queer community. That outrage is completely understandable, particularly because so much of the material was coded as sexually explicit because of its gayness – as if sex were the sole defining factor in any non-heterosexual/non-cisgendered context. What I’m no so sure about is why that is somehow an excuse for ignoring the complete erasure of the fact that people with disabilities can have sexualitywas not also worthy of commentary. It should not be a contest between oppressions – we can be outraged about and discuss both. To not even see the issue is a huge exercise in privilege.

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April 18, 2009 at 3:56 pm

About #amazonfail and ableism

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It’s not just LGBTQ and feminist related materials. Disability and sex related materialshave also been de-ranked, it seems. 

Can’t say I’m surprised, to be honest. Some of the worst street harassment I ever encountered related to sexuality was when I was dating a male wheelchair user in college. It didn’t help that we were both visibly freaky and arguably genderbending to a degree. But openly sexual and visibly disabled people are threatening. A man in a wheelchair with an obvious girlfriend is a threat to the widespread infantalism of people with disabilities. It is a threat to the idea that appearance and visible ability is valued. The idea that a chick with big tits might be interested in a guy who can’t walk is a threat to patriarchy (I mean, can he even, like, have, you know, sex?). Likewise, the idea that an able-bodied man might be interested in a woman who is “deformed” and imperfect. If we can accept people regardless of their perceived (and easily perceivable) “flaws”, then maybe we have to accept fat people and non-white people and others that don’t fit the societal ideal of beauty and mateability.

And heavens forfend that a person with a disability dare to express any sort of non-heterosexual non-vanilla sexual desires. Even if American society can wrap it’s little brain around the idea of a nice hetero relationship involving some sort of tragic heroic sacrifice on the part of the able-bodied partner, anything beyond that is cause for collective panic.

So, yeah. Count me among the not surprised that a search for sex and disability on Amazon turns up more results about developmental disability in sex offenders than it does guides to help people with disabilities have sex lives.

Written by emandink

April 13, 2009 at 10:24 am

The Thinking Reed

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So, in having a conversation this morning about Cindy McCain’s $300,000 outfit for a convention in which her husband and his supporters ranted about elitism, I had a bit of a “You keep using that word” moment. The Republican leadership do not seem to be opposed to “practice of or belief in rule by an elite” – that’s who they represent, after all. Nor can I truly believe that they have no “consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group”.

Then I realized – late to the party, probably – that elitism = intellectualism to this crowd. Which still sort of baffled me, at which point I remembered a conversation my first semester of college with a friend from high school in which she threw “You and your friends are so intellectual” at me like it was the most insulting thing she chould have said to me. Whereas she had a better high school GPA and ACT score than I had and showed no sign of changing that in college, she completely acknowledged that she had no interest in settling down with a carafe of cheap wine and bummed cigarettes for an in depth discussion of whether Kierkegaard was superior to Hagel. While I was firmly of the “hell is other people” crowd and had directed Sartre’s No Exitfor drama class the year before, she was firmly of the “hell is other people who want me to think while I drink” crowd. She did fabulously in school, got a job right out and as far as I know is wonderfully happy. If her politics are anything like what they were when she was avoiding any sort of political discussion with her radical roommate, then she is voting McCain-Palin.

Now, I certainly understood what she meant, in that I know what the words mean and what she was trying to convey. She didn’t want to think about what she had learned after she learned it. She wanted to use it, but she got no rush out of dissecting it. She didn’t like the process of struggling with a concept or not knowing what to think about something. She didn’t like engaging in discussions of the meaning of things. She was secure in her God and in her calling and that was enough for her.

Watching the wealthy, successful republicans, many of whom, I’m sure, attended the same east coast Ivy League schools they deride Obama for attending – and discussing it and chewing it over and analyzing it (of course) – I suddenly put two and two together. What they are talking about and what roomie was talking about are the same phenomena – the issue is not being successful, or even thinking that you are better than others for being successful – that after all is the American Dream.

The issue is actually thinking about what it means to be successful and questioning the status quo. There is also a classism element here – the Republicans are trying to turn that on the Dems, I think – i.e., you have to be well off and cushy to have the luxury of thinking, not doing. But that’s where I think that the ‘Pubs are wrong – they are selling the American people short by assuming that intellectual = advanced education. What they don’t realize is that “east cost intelligentsia” (of which I am one, let’s be honest) don’t own the market on reading and thinking and discussing. A lot of people sell this short, not just the Republicans. It is a mistake to assume that someone needs a college degree to think critically. It is a mistake to assume that someone must work in an office to be interested in politics. The great thing about thinking is that it can be free.  The catch is lowering the cost.

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September 5, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Some quick thoughts about the DNC

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August has sucked.  I’ve several posts shaking around in my head and absolutely no time, but before these thoughts are completely irrelevant, I figured I’d throw them out here.

Clinton rocked the house last night.  I alternated between proud and excited and sad that she came so close.  She hit all the right notes and (hopefully) effectively closed the book on the whole “Clinton Loyalist” bs.  A vote for Obama is a vote with Clinton – she hammered that home.  Keep going, keep going, etc.  If the media has any say, they will milk it for a while yet, but here’s hoping we can forget that one for a while.

One thing that struck me on a larger level, that has nothing to do with Clinton and everything to do with our totally wacked out culture – it is perfectly acceptable to talk about trailblazing as a woman.  Thousands of people were moved almost to tears when Clinton tied into the intro video with the line about her mother being born before women had the vote and her daughter getting to vote for her mother.  (As an aside, I loved Bill being identified as “Hillary’s Husband” in the vid and his mouthing “I love you, I love you” as she spoke – he looked so damn proud of her in the exact same way that political wives look whenever the camera shows them during their husband’s speeches.)  Feminists may get shot down when they try to call out privilege, but at least we can talk about it.

OTOH, race still seems to be the elephant in the room, even at Obama’s convention.  As noted by The Rude Pundit, Michelle Obama never once really spoke about race, even though her entire speech was designed to – as seen on The Daily Show – turn her from the New Yorker black panther caricature into Laura Bush.  No one that I’ve seen so far is talking – on stage – about how amazing flipping historical it is that a black man is the Democratic nominee.  I don’t for one minute believe that it’s because the U.S. has conquered racism.  Jeffrey Weisberg at Slate has the measure there

If anything, the fact that no one has yet gotten up on that stage and talked about how it was almost unimaginable when Martin Luther King, Jr. was marching in Chicago that one day a black man would be a frontrunner for President.  Pundits, bloggers, writers – sure.  But it has not been a theme of the convention.  And it should be.  It should be just as much of a theme as gender would have been if Clinton had a million more cracks in the glass ceiling.  The fact that it’s not says volumes about the United States in 2008, and none of it is very positive.

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August 27, 2008 at 1:54 pm

What’s in a name?

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Not surprisingly, I suppose, I am not alone in my past ambivalence to the term “feminism”.  While in the past few years I’ve found my way to again actively embracing the term, there are still plenty of people who seem to think that “feminism” is not just about the radical notion that women are full fledged human beings with agency and that there is some sort of monolithic feminist agenda.

There’s not.

No, really

Is there a radical feminist manifesto?  Well, sure.  There are plenty of people and articles and essays who try to define feminism and what it should be.  But in the end, there are almost as many different “definitions” of feminism as there are people who consider the term.  Valerie Solanas doesn’t speak for all of us.  Hell, I’d venture to say she doesn’t speak for many of us.  Andrea Dworkin, Gloria Steinem, a lot of the second wave feminists who get trotted out in debates about what feminism is – they are inspirational women on whose hard work a movement has grown.  But they are not the arbiters of what feminism is, or what it can and should be.

White feminists – myself included – need to get our collective heads out of our collective asses.  We need to recognize that feminism – right now, today, in 2008 – reinforces white privilege.  Feminists should know our history.  We should know and acknowledge that Elizabeth Cady Stanton engaged in race baiting rhetoric in the interests of fighting for women’s right to vote.  We should know and acknowledge that the women who are viewed by the mainstream press are woefully silent on issues of race, or embarrassing often as not when they are not.  

We need to take back the movement.  We need to listen to people who want to be our allies.  Feminism is not just about people who look like me.  Feminism is not about lipstick and disposable razors and (not) wearing skirts or bras.  It’s not about menstrual cups.  It’s about breaking down barriers.  It’s about putting 18 million cracks in a glass ceiling and about recognizing that gender, race and class privilege are not individual issues.  It’s about all women leveling the playing field.

That’s my manifesto.

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July 2, 2008 at 6:35 pm