Thursday, December 19, 2019

Donald Trump: Impeached

Yesterday, in a historic vote, the US House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, becoming the third president in US history to be impeached.

No Republican voted "yes" on either article of impeachment, which comes as no surprise given that the Republican Party has rotted to the core and will use any means necessary to grab and maintain political power, even if, now, that involves colluding with foreign states to win elections.

Nonetheless, despite what may happen in the Republican-controlled Senate, this impeachment will forever stain the presidency of a fundamentally bad, immoral, criminal, corrupt, reprehensible, and predatory man and this win, even if "just" symbolic, would have never been possible had Democrats not won back the House in the 2018 mid-term elections.

In addition, given the status of the Republican Party, we also have to remember that while defeating Trump, either through impeachment or the 2020 election, is vitally important for a plethora of reasons, the issues facing our nation do not begin or end with Trump.

Many factors in our media, social media, and political landscapes enabled his rise, and no matter what happens, we must continue addressing those factors.

This topic, of course, merits multiple posts if not an entire book, but these issues include (but are not limited to) realities like Fox News effectively serving as a propaganda arm for the Republican Party, the paywalls that exist for mainstream news sources but not for rightwing media sources, the mainstream media (even liberal, leftist, and progressive sites) being dominated by cishet white men (some of whom are, still, predators and abusers), the mainstream media treating Trump and politics like reality TV/entertainment for ratings and money, political commentators engaging in "both-sidesism" with respect to the two major parties, coddled and unacknowledged bigotry among the US populace, the fallout of Citizens United, the spread of propaganda on unregulated social media, voter suppression, gerrymandering, the unrepresentative electoral college, and, oh yeah, cheating in our fucking elections.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Semi-Review/Deep Thought: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

I recently read The Miseducation of Cameron Post (and then proceeded to watch the movie adaptation, as well), about a lesbian teen sent to "conversion therapy" in the 1990s for being gay. Think of it as a more realistic, less campy, but still at times darkly-comedic version of But I'm a Cheerleader.

It was a very good read (and movie) and I identified pretty closely to the main character Cameron and, specifically, her inherent resistance to being indoctrinated by anti-gay bigotry, even as it permeated her environment.

As a teen, I felt pretty strongly that I didn't have a huge problem with myself being gay; rather, the main problem was that it seemed like everyone else had such a huge fucking problem with it. I realize that's not a universal experience for all lesbian/gay/bi/queer people and, maybe not even all that common, even now, but that was my personal experience with it. I knew I was gay at a very young age and really made no serious attempts to thwart it.

Anyway, as I wrote on Twitter recently, something I think about in the context of how relatively quickly LGBT progress has happened in the US, on some issues, is that, for some of us in Gen X, LGBT social and legal progress has likely outpaced how quickly our trauma from coming of age in a deeply homobigoted society has healed.

For instance, as more and more states ban "conversion therapy," it is a pretty mainstream opinion in the US that the practice is immoral and abusive. That wasn't really the case in the 1990s.  And now, in a post-marriage-equality US, even some of the most prominent opponents of marriage equality will do things like publicly acknowledge that divorce rate are currently at historic lows, without concurrently referencing or acknowledging their previous fear-mongering around same-sex marriage and the Imminent and Total Destruction of Marriage and Society!

While a pre-marriage-equality narrative was that Fred Phelps was perhaps the last homobigot left in the US, or that the only way a person could be one is if they went around saying "faggot," now a lot of people simply act like, "Sure, there were bigots back then, but I certainly wasn't one of them."

Look, I get it. The US mainstream is, historically speaking, bad at apologies for social injustice. A lot of people, once they lose a culture war, just want people to move on without having their noses rubbed in the loss. Or, you know, they continue to pathetically cling to their Confederate flags and racist mascots.

Many cishet people simply don't seem willing to acknowledge, much less apologize or atone for, their past complicity in LGBT bigotry, even if that bigotry did tangible harm to people in their lives.
 Now that acceptance of LGBT people is more mainstream, compared to 20-30 years ago, it's like they conveniently act like bigotry was a thing "other people" engaged in "back then," rather than something they believed and that probably all people (still) have to some extent.*

I suspect that many LGBT people have friends and family members who were previously pretty openly anti-LGBT who have quietly come to the other side and are now accepting.

The opinion change is not a bad thing. I want to be clear about that. We always wanted people to change!

The issue is more that there's probably many LGBT people of a certain age who are still walking around with residual trauma from bigotry and "conversion therapy" that happened in our lifetimes, years ago, inflicted upon us by people who now see themselves as allies, and there's a certain level of pain in that that I think a lot of people are holding onto because a lot of harm was simply never directly addressed.

*And, to be clear, the LGBT rights struggle is not over and explicit bigotry, particularly facing trans individuals, still exists. I also believe our gains are at risk of being rolled back, due to the current composition of the US Supreme Court, Congress, and Executive branch, if not all at once, at least on a piecemeal basis.

Friday, December 13, 2019

On the Death of Internet Feminism Being Greatly Exaggerated

I have to admit that one aspect of the post-2016 feminist backlash that I did not anticipate is women writing clusters of articles declaring Internet feminism to be dead. But alas, here we are (she typed, from her 12-year-old feminist Blogger blog).

The most recent example of this trend is a piece posted at Jezebel (yes, really) bizarrely-entitled, "How the Internet Killed Feminism," which neither proves that feminism is dead nor that it was "the Internet" that killed it.

To put it in the most mild way I can, my issue with this particular piece - in addition to the factual inaccuracies* - is that it is missing quite a bit of nuance.

The piece is sort of all over the place, but if you piece the narrative together, her general thesis seems to be that the main problem with the feminist blogosphere was that a few of the most privileged, white feminist women leveraged their blogging platforms into book deals and were not inclusive, which led to rifts with women of color. For instance:
"Within the blogosphere, Feministing was side-eyed for watering things down, getting things wrong, not being inclusive and even appropriating other bloggers’ work. Outside of it, the blog was known as the feminism 101 site and Valenti the number one feminist blogger. That meant bylines in mainstream publications like The Guardian and The Nation, and book after book.


The disparity between white feminist bloggers and bloggers of color was underscored by the first annual BlogHer conference in 2005, which 1000 people attended, almost all of them white, and the first annual Blogalicious conference in 2009 (also sponsored by BlogHer, oddly), which had about 175 attendees, almost none of them white. Reappropriate’s Fang referred to the 'balkanization' of the feminist blogosphere from the beginning, where the standard was an upwardly mobile white coastal community that had limited self-awareness. 'They were like, let’s have feminism as a race-neutral conversation,' she said. That meant refusing to engage when they were asked to examine their privilege. 'So much of the culture of feminism that is forward-facing is driven by New York,' Angry Black Bitch blogger Pamela Merritt said. 'But the people who contribute to the movement dialogue are not living in Park Slope.'”
As I tweeted yesterday in response to this piece, those of us who were active in the blogosphere during its heydey are well aware of the blog wars, in-fighting, blindspots, and abuses of privilege.  Yes, there were many, much-needed conversations about race. At the same time, I think it's overly-simplistic, and a profound erasure, to suggest that the issues that feminists sought to hash out online, among each other, were solely along racial lines, particularly because also occurring during this time period were splinters and rifts between feminists online who were trans-exclusionary and trans-affirming, in addition to issues such as abortion access, sex work, fat acceptance, sexual orientation, religion, and class - and these issues are barely, if at all, mentioned in the piece.

I think this framing speaks to the way this article sort of lumps some of the larger feminist sites together and acts like they all had the same issues and blindspots, which is very similar to how MRAs used to treat feminist blogs back in the day, like they were one giant, monolithic feminist hivemind.

For instance, the article vaguely references Shakesville as being problematic in the same ways as some of the other large blogs, but the writer doesn't take the time to actually specify what "Shakesville" had done wrong. (She also categorizes a recent hit piece on Shakesville, written by someone with a longstanding grudge against Melissa McEwan, as an "expose." And, when she couldn't reach McEwan for comment on the piece, the writer simply framed the hit piece as the big "explanation" as to why Shakesville shut down, ignoring McEwan's stated, published reason that running Shakesville was harming her health.)

Rather, this writer's implicit distillation of the feminist blogosphere's demise into one easy, simple answer ("white feminists") seems to be more a reflection of this particular political moment, and the liberal-left political spectrum's loathing of the oft-cited "53%**", than of the many coinciding, more complicated reasons the feminist blogosphere declined.

I would attribute this decline, by the way, to burn-out, the dearth of financial opportunities for doing this work, writers' receipt of abuse and harassment, in-fighting, privileged people acting poorly, and changing trends in the media, social media, and economic landscapes.

And, disturbingly, even as the writer of this piece says that it wasn't "blog wars" that killed the feminist blogosphere, she devotes far more paragraphs to "blog wars" than she does to any other reason for the demise of the blogosphere, including the titular "Internet" or even to harassment, even though pretty much every feminist online has cited harassment as a big fucking problem, if not a key reason for scaling back or stopping their work.

In short, the article treats the feminist blogosphere like it was largely a big, dramatic catfight among women, which strikes me as pretty sexist and does a huge disservice to a lot of people's contributions to feminism. But, I suppose that the harassment of feminists online is old news that women have been talking about since forever, and there's always market in patriarchy for women taking down women, even in this very meta- way.

But, let's take a step back.

And, uh, this seems obvious to actually write, but feminism isn't "dead" just because feminist blogging has declined. Many feminist bloggers have simply migrated to other platforms, platforms where audiences and users have likewise migrated, such as Twitter or podcasting, because these platforms now typically have greater reach than blogging. Or, they issue private newsletters, if they want more granular, limited engagement.

For, it's not just feminist blogs that have declined, it's blogs in general. Yet, we don't get story after story about how atheism or Christianity or mommy-ing have "died" just because these blogs have declined. People rightly mostly acknowledge that people just do this sort of topical work elsewhere now.

(Uh, except for me, I guess. Hi! No, just kidding, there are still like 60+ blogs in my Feedly that are still updated regularly, many of them feminist blogs).

In conclusion, this piece was ambitious and the writer touted it on Twitter as "the real story" of what went down regarding the feminist blogosphere, which is why I think I've been disappointed in it.

Many influential bloggers were omitted from this "real story" of the feminist blogosphere, particularly women of color, including women of color who wrote at some of the larger feminist blogs she critiques as excluding women of color. I mean, so much is missing, really. And, in reality, one would need a book, if not volumes, to even attempt to do justice to this topic (and it seems like this writer is angling for a book deal, goddess help us, even as her piece implies that feminists who get book deals are immoral/greedy/bad).

An interesting thing about the feminist blogosphere is that there's actually an extensive written record of what happened, if one simply reads the blogposts and comment threads themselves, and thus it seems like that record should be used pretty extensively in a historical account. One doesn't have to rely solely on oral, after-the-fact interviews and impressions to piece together a narrative about the feminist blogosphere, so that's a choice when one does do that, as is the case in the Jezebel piece.

The feminist blogosphere is/was a deeply important social phenomenon, and I hope one day someone does take the time to write a just history about it, someone who knows how to do the scholarship. I reckon it's not going to be a neat, tidy story with simple, cartoon heroes and villains, cranked out in a few months. 

[Update, 12/21/19: After the writer of the Jezebel piece continued to promote her piece on Twitter after it didn't go viral, feminists primarily engaged the piece by critiquing it, pointing out errors, and disputing the overarching narratives. 

In response, the writer of the piece made the following statement: "the responses to my jezebel piece really make me understand why so many renounced feminism in the end." This statement was alarming to me because it's the same sort of victim-blaming that MRA/anti-feminists habitually engage - that feminists are too insufferable to deal with and, thus, feminism is a garbage movement that they want no part of.

As of today, she has deleted her Twitter account.]

The End of an Era at Shakesville
A Woman Will Win, Eventually, But Will the US Let Her?

*For instance, the writer asserts that the "lifepsan of the feminist blogosphere" was from 2001 - 2009, even though feminist blogs continue to exist today and multiple large sites she includes in her piece, such as Shakesville and Feministing, existed through 2019. As another example, the piece erases the fact that the founder of Jezebel, framed as a big white blog, is a Black woman.
**The oft-cited "53% of white women" who voted for Trump in the 2016 election, which is sometimes loosely equated with all white women.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Queerest Night on Television

Is now Sunday.

With Batwoman and Supergirl airing on the CW, and now The L Word: Generation Q and Work in Progress airing on Showtime, queer women have quite the selection of TV shows featuring Strong Female Characters all on one day (although, yes, with the reality of how many people watch TV, on demand any day, any time we want via Hulu or wherever you enjoy your pop culture streams).

First, the CW series. I've enjoyed Batwoman so far, primarily because it's meaningful to view a show centered around a lesbian superhero. At the same time, while I don't find fault with Ruby Rose, I don't think Batwoman, as a character, has been written particularly strongly as she, at least in contrast to villain Alice, seems relatively passive.

She's already been captured numerous times and often seems completely dependent on her sidekick, Luke, and her (or, er, her cousin's) gadgets to get her out of jams.  What I want to know is, what unique personality traits and skillsets does she - Kate Kane - bring to the table that makes her strong and worthy of being a superhero?

On another note, Chicago is used very well as a stand-in for Gotham City. The use of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, with its Ceres-could-be-Batwoman-looming-over-the-city figure at the top of the skyscraper, is clever.

On the Supergirl front, I continue to enjoy the show and its embrace of the gay Alex Danvers and trans Dreamer. I don't have a great, pressing need for Supergirl and Lena Luthor to end up together, as some SuperCorps shippers desperately want. And, especially with Lena's latest betrayal, their relationship has been dishonest in ways that I think would be hard to overcome. Even the way Supergirl talks about Lena to her friends mirrors the way people in abusive relationships continually make excuses for their abusive partners. That being said, the show drops a lot of Supercorps subtext for viewers to read into.

Regarding Showtime, I'll start with The L Word, whose Generation Q reboot piloted this past Sunday. First, whew, quite an opener there. Hello queer sex scenes, how I've missed thee. (What? CW is very PG-13 in that regard.)

Secondly, it was great to see previous characters Alice, Bette, and Shane again. I've re-watched The L Word series, erm, multiple times, so it's frankly just nice to see them engaging in new plotlines and dialogue. In addition, the new characters include at least one trans main character, the Asian-American Micah, and multiple women of color.

Then, in the grand tradition of The L Word tackling current political events, the pilot that aired this past Sunday included a #MeToo plotline with Bette and references to the opioid crisis. The #MeToo plot revolved around the past behavior of Bette, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, and specifically how she is being publicly called out for having sex with a previous subordinate employee.

Her friends, Alice and Shane, sort of convinced her that the charges of impropriety were not legitimate and were based on the fact that she's a lesbian, but sorry gals, I disagree.  Because I remember Bette Porter and the Bette Porter I remember should probably never run for political office. (See above, regarding my multiple re-watches of the series).

In six seasons of the original series, we saw a pattern of unethical sexual behavior on Bette's part, including an affair with both a student and a professor while she was dean of an art school, an affair with a contractor she hired, and multiple instances of her cheating on a partner.  Yes, it's true that men often get away with far worse and still get to keep their jobs and political ambitions, but that reality doesn't mean that women should also be able to get away with it as well. Feminists and progressives lose credibility on the matter of sexual harassment when we don't hold each other to the same standards we try to hold conservatives to, and I wouldn't be okay with a male politician with multiple instances of sexual impropriety that included sex with a student and subordinate in his past.

And finally, Work in Progress is a delight so far, and reminds me of Tig Notaro's brilliant One Mississippi in its authenticity and use of comedy to explore dark themes, in this case mental illness, bullying, and suicide ideation. Also, the characters in this show look and act like the queer people I know in real life, and that's a very rare thing.

Relatedly, the way that the main character Abby, has thus far interacted with her love interest, Chris - who is a trans man - seems true to how some middle-aged lesbians would act, messy flaws and all. Her intentions seem good, but she engages in some impropriety in their initial interactions, including not apologizing upon misgendering Chris (even as she complains to Chris about being misgendered her entire life) and outing Chris as trans to her group of lesbian friends. It's not far enough along in the series to know whether and how these issues will be addressed (as learning moments for Abby and some audience members?). But, hopefully Chris will serve as more than a vehicle for Abby's personal growth and salvation (and Abby will show some interest in Chris' story rather than just vice versa).

In any event, I find the series compelling, relatable, and want to see what happens.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Melissa Benoist Shares Experiences With Intimate Partner Violence

In an Instagram video she posted last week, Supergirl star Melissa Benoist shared that she experienced intimate partner violence in a previous relationship.

The full video is currently up on YouTube here, and in it she details how a previous romantic partner emotionally and physically abused her. Benoist did not name the previous partner, although some in the media have attempted to fill in the blanks based on the timing of some of the incidents she refers to. Out of respect for the fact that Benoist didn't name him, I won't speculate here.

Instead, I'll offer my story.

When I was 18, in one of my earliest relationships, my partner was emotionally abusive, including regularly belittling me, isolating me from my friends and family, cheating on me, and making us keep our relationship a secret (always complicated and "easy" for abusers to justify in queer relationships). Even after I broke up with this person, they continued to stalk me and break into my email account to keep track of what I was doing, who I was communicating with, and who I was hanging out with.

I didn't have many tools at the time to recognize much of this behavior as abusive, let alone to effectively counter it. After years of work, including therapy, martial arts and self-defense training, and feminist education and analysis, I am in a very different place now.

My past experiences with abuse also inform why I have little to no tolerance for abusive Internet behavior, especially those who, for instance, stalk and harass me through my Twitter account even after I've blocked them.

The fact is, especially after more than 10 years engaging with folks on the Internet, I almost immediately know how to recognize abusers and their abusive patterns, and the best course of action for me is to simply refuse to engage with them because what they desire more than anything is to keep their target trapped in an abusive cycle on their terms, not yours.

This is not to say that Internet abuse is the same as physical violence. In fact, I don't think it's useful to compare or rank which types of abuse are "worse" than others. To put it simply, and to paraphrase Tig Notaro in One Mississippi, "they're all bad."

I'll just offer that I'm sorry Benoist experienced intimate partner violence. I have long admired her acting on Supergirl, but even aside from that, no person should have to endure abuse in an intimate, or any other, relationship. And, I hope she is getting any help and support she needs to deal with the trauma from her experiences.