I’m Just Not Impressed

Am I supposed to be?

Posts Tagged ‘identity politics

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.

Written by emandink

April 7, 2010 at 9:17 am

The Divided Fifty States.

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A lot of people have been talking about the “divide” in the U.S. lately.  On one side are the Glen Becks, the Rush Limbaughs, the Pat Buchanans. The teabaggers, the birthers, the folks who desperately need a Political Theory class so that they can learn the difference between socialism, communism, National Socialism, fascism and why it is hypocritical to protest against government spending and against inadequate government services at the same time. On the other side are the rest of us.

But that’s not the only divide. In discussions of feminism and rape culture and kyriarchy, it is abundantly clear that there is another deep chasm, between those who think she deserved it and those of us who don’t. Between those of us who think that women are objectified and those of us who think its their right to objectify us. Between those of us who think that the victims of rapists are the real victims and those who think the rapists are the real victims.

The discussion of the false rape allegations at Hofstra taking place at The Sexist today is a glaring example of this divide. And like so many such discussions, it makes me want to throw up a little because the differences in the way we view the world are so fucking obvious that I start to wonder if anything can make a difference and if we ever really can be “United”. Because despite what Buchanan thinks, we never really were.

Written by emandink

September 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm

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.

Written by emandink

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

Fairey Tales

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I have a growing fascination with the Shepard Fairey copyright case.  Part of what makes it so fascinating is that, unlike a lot of copyright cases where a close look at existing law and precedent makes it pretty clear who is likely to win, this one is a crap shoot to my mind.  Cases like this one, and the recent Harry Potter Copyright Trial of Doom, illustrate a trend in the U.S. federal courts to apply nuanced reasoning about what fair use really means and what it truly means to “transform” a work into something new that does not depend on the original.  I don’t think that Fairey will win on his declaratory judgement action.  There are too many questions of law and fact at stake and I suspect that it will require a full trial (provided that it doesn’t settle first).  At full trial, though, I think he has a decent chance.  Then again, so – potentially – does AP.  I suspect, though, that it would tip in his favor, since while his image is clearly derivative, it does not represent a market that AP was likely to exploit, nor does it supersede the value of the original image.  OTOH, he copied it.  AP has made it’s basic case.  Whether Fairey’s Stanford legal team can establish the fair use defense will be the real issue.  It’s a decent case, but not a slam dunk.  Fair use is a defense that applies only after the case for potential copyright infringement has been proven, after all.

In the meantime, how about that Shepard Fairey.  The more I learn about him as an artist, the more I sort of dislike him.  But, boy, is there a lot of interesting stuff there to think about it.  There are three different angles to look at this art through – legal, art criticism and social justice, all of which can lead to far reaching conclusions.

From a legal perspective, my feelings are mixed – on the one hand, probably 30-40% of the art referenced in that first link  is in the public domain and is therefore fair game for any sort of use.  OTOH, a lot of it isn’t.  So we’re back to fair use and whether the use that he’s making really transforms anything, particularly the work that largely shifts perspective on works that were overtly political to begin with and whether his works act as substitutes or damage the market for the original works.

Then there is art criticism – and certainly reasonable people will differ on he question of is this art, although I certainly think it is.  I’m not sure how to categorize it, though.  My first thought is to forget the comparisons to Warhol and Lichtenstein – they copied iconic images, for sure – iconic images that were easily recognizable from their source.  And they transformed them into something else.  Warhol turned household goods into art objects (and did settle a lawsuit with Campbell’s for his trouble).  Lichtenstein took comic images from the 2×2 inch paper booklet and put them on walls.  Obama poster aside (which is somewhat like Warhol’s famous figure works), Fairey takes other people’s propaganda and turns it into…propaganda. 

This recasting of propaganda art from the 60s and 70s is the most problematic part of the work that I’ve seen.  Fairey borrows heavily from works made by people of color to publicize and fight their oppression and commodifies them into something easily consumable by an audience comprised primarily of white hipsters, while simultaneously marketing some of the actual emblems of their oppression right along side.  This is the real insidiousness of this work.  It is an exercise of enormous privilege for a white person to appropriate images by and of people of color for “art”, no matter how politicized and “in tune” with the original message.

Written by emandink

February 16, 2009 at 5:38 pm

We the People…

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I have to confess that parts of the Obama mega-ad made me cry last night, especially the clip when he was talking about how “all of you have someone in your family who came to America to follow a dream of a better life; maybe they worked in a coal mine, maybe they got hurt” etc. It got me thinking about my grandfather and how he should have died in a rig fire in the Texas oil fields in the late 30s, years before my mother was even born, and how he stayed in Oklahoma because my grandmother refused to leave the family farm when all of his family lived The Grapes of Wrath and caravaned to California to escape the dustbowl.  I remember playing all over what was left of that farm as a child – running through the pasture, riding the occasional calf, playing in “Lucky Rock Creek”, so dubbed my my mother and uncle as children because they found a stash of Lucky Strike cigarette packets there.

So, while I found most of the ad to be somewhat bland and predictable – a nice summation of the campaign and well designed to raise confidence in Obama for the undecideds and to enforce the desire to vote in decided voters – that part really got to me.   As in seriously fighting back sobs and I’m not sure why.  Part of it, I’m sure, is the fact that while I’ve lived on the east coast for twelve years now, I grew up in that mid-western milieu that John McCain romances and Obama was playing too last night.  Born in the Missouri Ozarks, raised in central Illinois, family trips to Oklahoma every year until my mid-teens, visits to my step-mom’s family farm in a tiny Missouri community first populated by her ancestors, detours to Kansas to see the unquestionably small town where my mother grew up.

My mother was the first woman in her family to go to college.  I may be a lawyer, but I don’t come from a family of doctors and lawyers.  I come from oil workers and traveling salesmen and Air Force Sergeants and dairy farmers and homemakers and college dropouts.  I’m the only person in my generation to go to grad school of any type.  I’m the only one to have moved east.  My biological cousins are fundamentalist Christians to the core, as were my grandparents.  I don’t come from John McCain’s elite.  I come from allegedly “real” America.  I am not less of an American because I wanted to follow my dreams of a career.  I am not less of an American because I went to the best school I could get into and afford.  I am not less of an American because I followed a job and in time found one I love.  I am not less of an American because I choose to live near and work in a city.  I am not less of an American because I believe in the words of our Declaration of Independence, that “all [people] are created equal” or the promise of our Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, do hereby ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I memorized those words as an eighth grader at Parkside Junior High School in Normal, Illinois and they are the words that led me to be a lawyer a decade later.  Those are words that I believe in.

Written by emandink

October 30, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Hand in glove…

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So, I just found out about Write to Marry Day while reading Shakesville, which is a blog I clearly should have been reading for ages, but there you go.

Anyway.  Gay marriage.  Some might wonder why a woman in a monogamous heterosexual marriage even cares that much about the right of women to marry other women and men to marry other men.  After all, I can do what I want to do, clearly.

But, of course, nothing ever is, nor should it be that simple.  First off, marriage – I never thought I would get married.  Well, yes, when I was little I’m sure I did, but I don’t really remember having the stereotypical little-girl-fluffy-white-dress sort of fantasies that supposedly all little wannabe princesses have as wee bairns.  From a pretty early age I figured I would be the happy old maiden aunt who could be really awesomely cool with my step-siblings kids and then could go off to my fantastic artsy loft apartment with my fantastic artsy friends.  I was about 15 I think when women started appearing in the relationship part of those fantasies with almost the same regularity as men.  So, wonderful marriage to a man aside, I also know that but for the chance of meeting him before I met a wonderful woman, I could be directly affected.

But I still partake of and engage in and have oodles of heterosexual privilege, regardless of which onscreen personalities make me short of breath and there is something that smacks of simple platitudes for someone so publicly heterosexual to try to empathize with the situation of couples who have wanted what I have for decades.

Which brings me to another thought, which is about the term “marriage” itself.  Now there is a train of thought – which I’ve flirted with from time to time myself – which is the idea of “why not just civil unions?”   And in theory, I could support the idea of marriage as a solely religious term and civil union as the term for what we now think of as a civil marriage ceremony but for the fact is that words have power and meaning beyond what the dictionary definition might be.

“Marriage” as a concept in U.S. culture is loaded with social meaning that transcends the religious meaning for many people. I understand that the religious aspect of being “joined before god” is very important to many religions and that the concept of mated partnership is a vital part of many world religions. And while the concept of marriage may have begun as a religious ceremony (something which I doubt, personally, but I don’t have enough background in ancient cultures to really know for sure), as soon as it became something recognized and enforced by the state, it ceased to be something purely religious.

The importance of my marriage – of being joined to my husband as family, with all of the legal and social recognitions – is not remotely lessened to me because the ceremony was performed by a justice of the peace in a secular castle. My commitment to my husband of 11 years is not less because we do not believe that we were joined by “god”.

I’m completely fine with marriage meaning different things to different people – and goodness knows, I completely understand why some people do not want to be married/otherwise-legally-unioned because of what the term means to them. But I don’t want to cede the term “marriage” to bigots.

I remember a rousing debate engagement twelve years ago when we announced our engagement in an on line community that my husband and I frequented at the time in which someone I had considered something of a good friend had an extraordinarily difficult time understanding why I would want to enter into a legally binding socially endorsed relationship like a marriage, particularly at my then relatively tender age.

It’s because marriage has meaning.  A marriage becomes something larger than just the individuals involved.  And there is absolutely no justification I can think of for why any adult who wants to should not be able to marry any other adult who wishes to enter into that relationship.

I can think of a multitude of legal reasons why not acknowledging same sex marriages is a violation of the U.S. Constitution – starting with the Equal Protection and Full Faith and Credit clauses.  But really, what it comes down to is basic human rights – the right of people to love whomever they love and to freely enter into whatever relationships meet their needs.

Written by emandink

October 29, 2008 at 9:01 pm