Thursday, July 9, 2009

Odds 'N Ends

1) Gay Iraqis Fared Better Under Saddam Hussein?

Investigating the lives of LGBT people in Iraq, the BBC's Ashley Byrne found that every LGBT person interviewed "maintained that life was easier for them when Saddam Hussein was in power, from 1979 to 2003." That's not to say, of course, that life was particularly great for LGBT people under Hussein; mostly, I think it speaks to a situation going from bad to worse.

During the US occupation of Iraq, reports have been surfacing of some of the extreme violence and brutality subjected upon gay men that some men in Iraq inflict upon gay men. As Byrne recounts, some of this violence includes genital mutilation, murder, and gluing the anuses of gay men shut and forcing them to consume laxatives. Perhaps that unfortunate trend of freaking out about anal sex between two men is a cross-cultural phenomenon?

You will notice that these reports mostly pertain to gay men, although Byrne uses the term "LGBT" throughout the article. I wonder whether he was able to interview any lesbian/bisexual women and transgender people in his documentary and I am highly interested in learning more about the experiences of these seemingly invisible sexual minority populations.

In any event, if reports are true and hostility toward homosexuality has gotten worse over the years, I would theorize that it's been brought about mostly by a fundamentalist male-centric theocracy, the oppression of women, and the US-led war and occupation of Iraq. Looking at situations like this, it truly frightens me that some people in the US want to turn our nation into a fundamentalist theocracy or, worse, think that we already live in one.

2) The F Word

I had no idea until reading this interview that Jay Leno's wife, Mavis Leno, was such a public, active, and proud feminist. She was campaigning against the Taliban's treatment of women in Afghanistan years before 9/11 happened.

In response to the question of why "feminist" is a "dirty word" to some people, I like her answer:

"The women who freed 50% of the American population -- at last, to hear their names in speeches [at the Democratic convention] was the most emotional thing in the world to me. So if you don't want to call yourself a feminist, then give it all back, OK? If these women so long ago had the guts to stand up and go through what they had to go through, then have the decency to call yourself a feminist."

Unfortunately, many people define "feminist" by the caricatured definition that anti-feminists like Rush Limbaugh have perpetuated. Out of ignorance and (dare I say?) ingratitude, many young women today refuse to call themselves "feminists" because they don't want men to think they are ugly, bra-burning, man-hating, hairy-legged lesbians. I think the public discourse would be improved immeasurably once we all got it through our heads that it is far more accurate to speak of feminisms than one single monolithic feminism and that, if you ever want to know what a particular feminist thinks about something you should ask her (or him), rather than people like Rush Limbaugh.

3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Oh look, Obama said some more pretty words about LGBT rights. Isn't that nice?

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