Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Here I Am, World

I have started reading poetry again. I used to read poetry regularly and somewhere along the way, most likely during law school a long time ago, I stopped. I used to write it sometimes even, although thank the gods there are no electronic copies of it left.

I've come back to it, recently, in a time of grief, loss, anger, and political upheaval, simply because I need something more than, or perhaps different from, the ephemeral, constant outrage culture of modern social media discourse. I have felt unmoored from social justice activism, as so much of it seems completely counterproductive and cruel. I've been rethinking and contemplating what I even want this space to be, going forward, hence the light posting as of late.

I am so constantly angry that I sometimes have forgotten what I was angry about mere weeks ago. And yet, if I'm not angry, I'm not paying attention, and I simultaneously refuse to be apathetic during this political moment.

Sometimes, living feels like we're in the worst of times, in which rape culture patriarchy has infested every nook on this earth - including the most "progressive" - with people making cowardly acquiescences to its power over and over and over again.

At the same time, I still somehow feel that we are living in sacred, borrowed time.

Sometimes, poetry helps me process things when I'm not able to completely process them from a left-brain, linear perspective - or when I'm exhausted from doing so.

Presently, I'm been slowly reading Andrea Gibson's recent collection, Lord of the Butterflies, savoring one poem a day, rather than rushing through it. (Note, Gibson also goes by Andrew, but I've used Andrea since that's the name under which they've published this book and continue to use professionally).  The following sampling, from "Ode to the Public Panic Attack," shows the political commentary and wit that comprises many of the works in this collection:
..[W]e treat panic, anxiety, terror
as the failings of uncourageous minds
who haven't sipped enough chamomile tea

or haven't tattooed Namaste
onto the right part of their windpipe
or haven't picked enough lavender

from their herb gardens
to rub into their
pussy chakra.

A white yogi tells me I can breathe
through the apocalypse in my bloodstream
and I do 6,000 downward dogs

and never stop feeling
the choke of the leash.
I'm done

with the shame. Done
with the cage of self hate. The lie
that this is weakness

when I am certain it is the mightiest proof
of my strength, how hard it is to live
knowing there's a promised jaw

outside my front door
and I still step toward that horror.
Still I say, Here I am, world!
More to come.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Catholic Sex Abuse: Male Leaders Abuse Nuns Too

CBS News reports (emphasis added):
 "Nuns have suffered and are still suffering sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests and bishops, and even being held as sexual slaves, Pope Francis confirmed on Tuesday. The abuse was so severe in one case that an entire congregation of nuns was dissolved by former Pope Benedict.
The scope of the abuse of nuns by clergy members first came to light with the publication at the beginning of February of the monthly magazine 'Women Church World.' The edition included Francis' own take on the scandal -- long known about by the Vatican but virtually never discussed -- in which he blamed the unchecked power wielded by priests and higher clergy across the Catholic Church for such crimes."
Isn't it interesting that the Catholic Church remains so committed to male leadership that, rather than dissolving its abusive, raping male priesthood, it would dissolve instead the women who these men had victimized?

This is a regular reminder that the Catholic Church is not a progressive institution and neither is its current leader.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Nah, I think We Will Scrutinize Comedians

Admitted workplace sexual harasser Louis CK continues to accept invitations to do "comedy" shows across the country. Most recently, he's in San Jose, California, joking about "retarded" people, dead babies, 9/11, and how he likes to masturbate in front of people.

What I want people to understand is that, at this point, when people watch Louis CK perform, they're no longer watching comedy.

They're watching a man be rewarded and applauded for banal cruelty while they maintain a collective pretense that his work is edgy, and they - the audience - are cerebral for "getting it" when other people "don't," when what they're all really doing is simply colluding together in rape culture.

Kudos to the people there protesting Louis CK's putrid, unapologetic presence.

It's certainly braver and more ethical than the statement put out by the folks at San Jose Improv, justifying giving this loser abuser a platform (emphasis added):
 “We want [artists] to perform without scrutiny,” according to the statement. “We trust that our audiences can decide for themselves what their limits are. We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision and we respect their right to protest. We also respect Louis C.K.’s right to perform.”
It's funny how it's never women, queers, and/or people of color who are given this special entitlement by the powers-that-be to perform "without scrutiny."  I mean wow. WOW.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Third Reich, Trump, and The Gravedigger of American Democracy

From the October 25, 2018 New York Review of Books, Christopher Downing compares and contrasts the Trump Administration to the Third Reich:
"If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more. Nowhere is this vicious circle clearer than in the obliteration of traditional precedents concerning judicial appointments. Systematic obstruction of nominations in Obama’s first term provoked Democrats to scrap the filibuster for all but Supreme Court nominations. Then McConnell’s unprecedented blocking of the Merrick Garland nomination required him in turn to scrap the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in order to complete the 'steal'' of Antonin Scalia’s seat and confirm Neil Gorsuch. The extreme politicization of the judicial nomination process is once again on display in the current Kavanaugh hearings.

One can predict that henceforth no significant judicial appointments will be made when the presidency and the Senate are not controlled by the same party. McConnell and our dysfunctional and disrespected Congress have now ensured an increasingly dysfunctional and disrespected judiciary, and the constitutional balance of powers among the three branches of government is in peril."
So much of the harm Trump has caused, especially on the US Supreme Court, was enabled by Mitch McConnell.

During the tail-end of 2018, I read William L. Shirer's multi-volume The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and what I'll add to Downing's observations is that a lot of really bad men in Hitler's administration have received props for "resistance" when they basically stood around with their dicks in their hands taking no action with meaningful consequences in the real world while millions of people were slaughtered.

The media narratives today, as they have been for our nation's entire history, continue to be shaped by shitty men. Today's incarnations are those who are Very Impressed by men like Mitt Romney who "resist" Trump in the most tepid ways imaginable given their power and status while the ordinary people who put way more on the line resisting are largely ignored or ridiculed as pussy-hat wine moms.

My other observation, also noted by Downing, is that Hitler had no single opposition leader who the country could rally around as an alternative. Conservatives were happy to rally behind him because their interests aligned with his enough, and when he went too far they couldn't, or chose not to, stop him. The center-to-left side of the political spectrum remained fragmented, with Communists continuing to act like moderates, rather than Nazis, were the real enemy and true barrier to progress. Far be it from me to suggest we coronate an opposition leader to Trump in 2020, but approximately 53 people running in the Democratic presidential primary doesn't seem like a great idea either.

My final observation at the moment is that Shirer talked a lot about the narrative that so many ordinary Germans tolerated, even welcomed, the Nazis because they were humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles. That struck me as sort of like the mythical narrative that ordinary Americans voted for Trump because they are economically anxious. Maybe a lot of ordinary Germans, like Americans, were simply bad, immoral people.


Related: 
America: The Broken

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Further Thoughts On the Sisterhood

As we gear up for the 2020 election, I was re-reading some of the stuff I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, particularly my Election 2016 Fallout series.

Here's me, on white women's complicity, two years ago:

---

This loss is largely on white people, who disproportionately supported Trump while minority groups rejected him. We also saw white women voting against their own interests for a racist misogynist candidate.

Despite that, I also refuse to demonize white women more than white men.

I mean, really, the pieces that instantly came out about white women "selling out the sisterhood"? Yeah, they did. And people are surprised by this why, again? Oh, right, because nobody fucking listens to feminists, that's why. EVEN THOUGH it's the sad lesson from The Handmaid's Tale (1985): The very worst, most patriarchal, racist dystopia would not exist without the complicity of privileged classes of women.

Men alone cannot make racism and sexism "work." It is always a tangled knot. Forgive the circularity here, but many women hate women because women are hated. White women have a long history of benefiting via their kinship and marriages to racist, misogynist white men. It pays to be a cool non-feminist girl, for a time anyway. ("Trump can grab my pussy," boasted one Trump supporter, who both completely misunderstands the consent element of things and perhaps thinks her offering will insulate her from even worse misogyny than what she sees around her, inflicted on "other" women).

And this sweet, fresh hell in The Nation? In it, the author argues that white working class women in particular rejected Clinton because Clinton spent too much time cozying up to Lena Dunham and Big Feminism, whatever the fuck that is, when she should have been promoting:
"...[A] robust economic agenda focused on women’s needs: a $15 minimum wage, universal child care and pre-K, paid family leave, free college, and tough laws that crack down on wage theft and guarantee fair scheduling and equal pay for women."
You know, the very policies Clinton supported, to varying degrees, had anyone in the media stopped talking about her emails for 10,000 straight days and actually fucking covered them.

Sure, everyone has their theories about whose fault this is.

What seems clear is that white men are almost completely being given up on as people who can contribute to the electorate as anything other than angry beings who must be coddled and centered lest they elect nightmare authoritarians to make life hell for everyone else.

Example: An actual think piece in The New York Times, which I won't link to but is titled "The End of Identity Liberalism," sneers at the "failure" of liberalism's "narcissistic" "identity politics." Here's my summary of this piece and the dozens like them I've seen: As Trump fills his cabinet with KKK-supported white guys, white guys everywhere think liberalism has failed them because liberals talk too much about race and gender.

And so, the twin narratives about white people are that we ought to empathize with white male feelings of aggrievement while being disgusted at white female complicity. That, my friends, is just another fucked-up misogynistic fallout from this shit-show of an election that I refuse to indulge.

---

My addition to this piece, now two years later is about The Women's March, which I was initially very excited about as a movement to channel women's anger and feminist resurgence.

Many of the women who marched, in my experience, were angry and somewhat-traumatized by the election of Trump and the misogyny we watched Hillary Clinton endure during the race. Relatedly, Trump's election is a symbol of white male supremacy, and very specifically female subordination, in the United States.

I had long known that prominent national leaders of The Women's March had supported Bernie Sanders and seemed to, I'll just say, not be fans of Hillary Clinton. They excluded specific reference to Hillary Clinton's historic run in communications about the March, which always seemed like a major disconnect from the rage and pain many women were feeling very specifically about how the mainstream media and Hillary's competitors treated her.

I have always wondered why seemingly anti-Hillary folks were chosen as leaders of a movement that was largely catalyzed by Hillary Clinton, and had been uneasy about it, but staying united against the Trump regime has always struck me as more important than letting that bother me too much 

A little over a year ago, I wrote of some of the intra-feminist conflicts within The Women's March, and specifically the decision some on the national team then made to invite Bernie Sanders to speak at the Women's Convention in Detroit in 2017, with some of their initial communications suggesting a sort of center-stage role for Bernie at this women's event. To me, it seemed like a decision that simply didn't think very highly of a not insignificant number of Women's March supporters - and the resulting criticism bore that out. For the leaders to virtually ignore, and thereby diminish, the historic nature of Clinton's run while continually lauding one of her white male opponents was bound to alienate many women.

Now, I think the best I can say is that I'm not even sure how relevant the national leaders are to the numerous local Women's March groups or the many women doing progressive, feminist work across the country, in their communities, and on social media.

From reports I've been reading, I think some factions of the left at best have very strange, gaslighting definitions of intersectionality that posit that only certain forms of identity-based oppression are valid for progressives to focus on at the moment and that if a person isn't that identity then they are a political neophyte, and an all-around shit person, who has nothing to contribute to the movement.

Somewhere around half of the white women who voted in 2016 voted for Trump and the left has been in a moral panic about it ever since. That statistic is also now used to treat white women as a monolithically-privileged class of conservative monsters, regardless of whether we're progressive and/or also poor, queer, trans, old, fat, disabled, or non-Christian. White privilege is real, even for women. And, many people have simply given up on trying to adeptly talk about people who have white privilege while also being oppressed along other axes of identity.

White Feminist used to mean a non-intersectional feminist, but it has quickly come to mean "any women who is white and has an opinion about something," such that now progressive white women are in the same category of "feminist" as Ann Coulter, which you'd think would render the whole fucking concept null and void among any person with a rational thought in their brain but here we are. And, even many progressive feminists have internalized this thinking.

It must be an MRA's dream come true.

In many ways, I have felt very disconnected from politics on the left, right, and center for the past couple of years, with a few exceptions. All of this is part of the backlash. Women have so many pressures to "forever cancel" other, flawed women, when men rarely do the same to each other.

Every generation of women will have to endure this, I believe, as the reasons women are given to hate themselves and each other, including and especially the "progressive social justice" reasons, continue to adapt to every gain feminists make.