Deconstructing Cheney’s De-Inaugural Wheelchair

When I heard that Dick Cheney had pulled a muscle and was going to be attending the inauguration in a wheelchair, I was filled with deadly fascination. How would that play out?

Would the inaugural ceremonies be even remotely accessible? Not bloody likely!

Would he self-propel, or would someone push him? Would the person pushing him be secret service, a family member, military, or a medical worker?

Would Cheney have a steel framed 70-pound hospital clunker of a wheelchair, or would it be halfway decent? My vote was for an x-frame Breezy, still cheap and easy to lay hands on, but under 40 pounds, maybe in red for its political symbolism value. Other wheelies I know were saying “No way, he’ll be in a clunker.” Even though I think that Cheney should (and WILL) go to jail for being a war criminal, I would have liked him to have a halfway decent wheelchair. Hell, I would personally have decorated it with the stars and stripes.

I imagined, and then later saw, Cheney being shovelled about from place to place behind the scenes, through freight elevators and dank back-hallways, maybe even a steam tunnel or two, carried ignominiously or bumped up backwards over some surprise steps no one thought about, and I felt a bit of schadenfreude there though I’m not proud of it. But I wondered, would anyone in power notice, a little bit more than they did before, what inaccessibility means, how excluding and alienating and humiliating it can be? Would anyone process, or whatever they were doing, with Cheney in his wheelchair, rather than leaving him to be tunnelled and elevatored and ramped while they triumphally process up and down majestic red carpeted staircases?

If you were enjoying their own moment of schadenfreude at the powerful man brought low, did you think about why wheelchair use was being brought low, was disempowering? Because it shouldn’t be.

Yes, I kind of giggled at the Dr. Evil jokes, but I also thought about them. Did you? Did you think on why they are a stereotype – how our stories have to give its villains a scar or “deformity” or a wheelchair (and a cat), using disability as a metaphor for being evil? I’m not saying don’t make the joke. I’m right in there posting the LOLcats of Blofeld-Cheney. But think next time you use the stereotype of the Evil Cripple.

I also certainly saw friends and strangers wishing permanent disability onto Cheney like it was a horrible fate, one that he deserved. I understand that is mostly just some anger talking. But this too exposes a bit of thinking in our society that people with illnesses or disabilities deserved them as a sort of punishment for wrongs or sins committed. I would like to invite people to think on that idea for a while. And think on this: why you think it might be such an awful fate for Cheney to use a wheelchair? Why is that? Do you think I have an awful fate? Do you pity me, to the extent that you would damn Cheney?

It was amazing to me, while I watched the inauguration, to see people I know from disability activism online, also Twittering and Facebook-chatting their reactions to Cheney’s de-inaugural wheelchair. Were you watching? Did you feel that strange agitation and excitement and curiosity?

What I felt was this:

How bitter, but how very expected, that the top levels of our own government, the most powerful men around, can’t pull it together to obtain a halfway decent wheelchair and decent access, for one of their own. That exposes the deep, deep ignorance in our country about access for people with disabilities, and how far we have yet to go.

(Have to add: I thought the Daily Show’s coverage of Cheney’s wheelchair was **hilarious**!! It starts at 2:32 in this video clip. He totally could have pushed it further!)

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In Celebration of Bitchitude

Hat tip to Jo Freeman, aka Joreen, who in the 70s wrote The Bitch Manifesto. I love this manifesto, and reprinted it in the 90s as a xerox booklet which I sent out over the riot grrl zine network. Later I read Jo Freeman’s more academic writing and found her to be an academic writer I could admire wholeheartedly; she’s right up there with Joanna Russ and Dale Spender. Her books on politics and the history of feminism are incredibly great. I recommend her newest book, We Will Be Heard: Women’s Struggles for Political Power in the United States if you are feeling politically inspired by the elections and want to keep your momentum going. On her website, you can read the full text of many of Jo Freeman’s articles on women, feminism, law, and politics. I talk about this sort of thing a lot: The Sexual Politics of Interpersonal Behavior; it is so nice to read it written up formally and coherently. Take a look!

I greatly respect that Freeman acknowledges her pseudonymous younger self, and her fierce & harsh manifesto, and doesn’t keep that side of her life in the closet.

Jo Freeman

The Bitch Manifesto still inspires me. Here’s part of its beginning:

Bitches have some or all of the following characteristics.

1) Personality. Bitches are aggressive, assertive, domineering, overbearing, strong-minded, spiteful, hostile, direct, blunt, candid, obnoxious, thick-skinned, hard-headed, vicious, dogmatic, competent, competitive, pushy, loud-mouthed, independent, stubborn, demanding, manipulative, egoistic, driven, achieving, overwhelming, threatening, scary, ambitious, tough, brassy, masculine, boisterous, and turbulent. Among other things. A Bitch occupies a lot of psychological space. You always know she is around. A Bitch takes shit from no one. You may not like her, but you cannot ignore her.

2) Physical. Bitches are big, tall, strong, large, loud, brash, harsh, awkward, clumsy, sprawling, strident, ugly. Bitches move their bodies freely rather than restrain, refine and confine their motions in the proper feminine manner. They clomp up stairs, stride when they walk and don’t worry about where they put their legs when they sit. They have loud voices and often use them. Bitches are not pretty.

3) Orientation. Bitches seek their identity strictly thru themselves and what they do. They are subjects, not objects. They may have a relationship with a person or organization, but they never marry anyone or anything; man, mansion, or movement. Thus Bitches prefer to plan their own lives rather than live from day to day, action to action, or person to person. They are independent cusses and believe they are capable of doing anything they damn well want to. If something gets in their way; well, that’s why they become Bitches. If they are professionally inclined, they will seek careers and have no fear of competing with anyone. If not professionally inclined, they still seek self-expression and self-actualization. Whatever they do, they want an active role and are frequently perceived as domineering. Often they do dominate other people when roles are not available to them which more creatively sublimate their energies and utilize their capabilities. More often they are accused of domineering when doing what would be considered natural by a man.

It’s nice to read this, to remember & honor my own bitchy moments for what they often are: strength. I think it’s good for all of us to honor our bitchiest sisters. Go ahead and think of the most annoying bitch you know. Measure her up to Freeman’s manifesto and consider what in her is admirable and powerful. It’s a good thing to keep in mind when you might be tempted to tear someone down. There’s nothing wrong with being a nice person; I strive for it myself — and still, for me, Bitchy is Beautiful and Bitchy is Powerful.

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Infrastructure for civil service

I have drunk the Koolaid.

I’m so excited to see the change.gov site. Mandatory civil service, I expected. But this goes way beyond what I hoped. This could mean real participation in government. Activism – real activism but built into our government – mobilization of people who have the most time and energy, not through churches and charities but through an organized infrastructure for nationwide civil service.

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

People will put in work they can be proud of. Rather than accepting help shamefully from “charity” everyone can be part of building communities and services. I think of the short but intense time I spent helping with Katrina relief in the Astrodome in Houston. And the moments when authority decreed and doled out, and the depression that caused, vs. the moments when people had the tools at hand, the resources, to organize themselves.
These volunteer corps will build structures where that work is respected, where it will lead to experience and self confidence and paying jobs for people.

I’m heartened by the Obama administration’s apparent respect for people with disabilities, teenagers, and senior citizens.
Look at this. It gives me chills. I keep looking at it and crying with happiness. I believe it. Agenda: Plan to Empower Americans With Disabilities.

First, provide Americans with disabilities with the educational opportunities they need to succeed.

Second, end discrimination and promote equal opportunity.

Third, increase the employment rate of workers with disabilities.

And fourth, support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities

YES!!! Someone GETS IT.

Thank you.

I think of all the fantastic people I know online who are living with disabilities and who contribute so much to society with all their intense, hard work. Work that is not recognized as such. They don’t need charity or a hand out they need decent health care and for their talents, knowledge, and work to be respected. This administration really could lay out paths for that to happen.

Look at the goodness of the change.gov site. It’s savvy, it’s well built, it was poised for launch. The organization of the Obama campaign convinced me deeply of this coming administration’s competence &efficiency, & their ability to use technology with good common sense. That convinces me too.

Take the things that are GOOD about the military, the Army, and make a decent U.S. Civil Service Corps where service is respected, turn all that to the power to build rather than destroy. Making things better isn’t the job of corrupt profit-based corporations or punitive institutions, or the prison-industrial complex, or religious-based “charity models” — building and maintaining our country is the job of government, which is – or will be – everyone’s job.

election night!

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Sockpuppets and astroturfing in disruptive political blogs

In case any one misses it, I’d like to point out that blogs like hillaryis44 and pumapac are full of sockpuppets. I gave a two hour long talk at SXSWi on the ethics of false identity on the net. It looks like the time is ripe to talk about ways of detecting falsity in blogging.

If you see a blog with 600 comments on every post, even the most trivial, try taking a look at the commenters, the pattern of their chatter, and their identites on the net. Only a very few of the commenters on pumapac, for example, have histories going back further than June and July 2008. Some of those are constructs and fewer are real people. Most have no traceable internet identity; they have empty profiles dating back to July 08, set up on a couple of social networks. So, one method of detecting sockpuppetry or large scale astroturfing on a blog or networking of blogs is to record the commenters, then spider for their internet presence, its depth and longevity. The footprints of many different blogs and forums could then be compared.

The pattern of interaction in comments can also reveal sockpuppetry. For instance, times and rhythms. A typical post on pumapc is made at 11pm Eastern Standard Time. The comments on pumapac are made about one per minute, and keep going until about 3 in the morning. I would guess they are written by a single poster. They’re strange in their rhythms, like a fictional chatroom – almost musical in structure. Commenters A, B, C, D, and E talk for the first few minutes, then a couple more will chime in, then A, B, and C will sign off for the evening only to be immediately replaced by H, I, J, and K, who go back and forth with each other, occasionally hitting a note from further back in the structure; only to sign off themselves and be replaced by a new batch. It is not a realistic pattern. Who are these women logging in and hitting reload every 10 seconds at 3 am? There are plenty of blogs being used as late night chat rooms. They don’t have this sort of pattern. It is not faked well enough.

Naming patterns are fairly clear in pumapac as well as in hillaryis44. The majority of pumapac commenters have a pattern that could come straight out of a traditional buzzword generator, using the following elements: Demographic category, Political affiliation or anti-affiliation, variety of feline, gender identifier, geographic location, number. For example, osaka puma,TexasTigress, asian4hillary, tennaseepuma, snowtiger, landiPUMA. I imagine a corkboard with index cards, as a novelist might keep on the wall, with lightly sketched out personalities:

* Alice1943, a senior citizen who thinks Obama is a Muslim
* gd4Hill4EVA, a racist white woman who rants about terrorism
* Luckyseven, always provides a link to a video and a news article. Spells things wrong.
* Nijma, the (fake) Muslim who everyone picks on, for fake flame wars.
* hillstheone Another like Luckyseven, gives a youtube video + news article

Their personalities are thin. Most of them don’t even have a sock! It’s just the shadow of someone’s hand on the wall! With a few exceptions, the ones who have a net presence reach only as far as other astroturfing blogs all in a network that sprang up at the same time, around June 08. For instance, GoHillaryGo/Camille424/bitterpoliticz.

In contrast, pumapac commenters “jody in florida” and “pooh496” are likely to be real people — or, a puppeteer stealing their identities and posing as those real people. Do a little googling and reading to see the depth of these two, compared to the other names listed above, and you will see the difference.

The “commenters” use really transparent rhetorical strategies in concert. One will say “Obama’s a dirty Muslim! ” and two more will agree, with links. Then the “Muslim” of the commenters will speak up, saying something obfuscational and tangential about Palestine. The others attack her and accuse her of being on Obama’s side. Then, the blog’s author steps in to say, in the false voice of reason, “Gals, gals, calm down, we don’t really *know* that Obama’s a Muslim! And even if he were, would it really matter? By the way, how about that spunky gal Sarah Palin?”

I read plenty of blogs written by real conservative Christian women, and they don’t talk like this. It is disrespectful to them, and their politics, to represent them like this.

I’m not going to do a full expose on Darragh Murphy, the head of Pumapac, but if you look around you will find her bankruptcy and allegations of fraud (her construction company wrote out $60,000 worth of checks to her mom, for no discernable services, just before it filed for bankruptcy), claims to represent millions of Americans in a legitimate political organization which fundraised over 20K (but has not reported on the spending of that money), announcements of big conferences which turn out to be 30 people in a little motel, etc. I suspect that people like Murphy and whoever is behind hillaryis44 contract out to the same company to build their astroturf blog networks. They may also be funded by independent political organizations that merely seek to disrupt the elections or cause confusion. I don’t at all think they are supported by the Republican party.

If I had time to do a systematic analysis I would compile a db of all the commenters on this network of blogs and see what kind of stats I could come up with. IP numbers might not be too difficult to find, in cooperation across several blogs where the suspected sockpuppets come to make a few comments to establish themselves or to leave linkbait.

One might also start from the other end with the real people who are known to be behind some of these sites. For instance, Heidi Li and Mark Rubin as well as Darragh Murphy, Alex Rodriguez. Or look for identities, like Billiejo/Betty Jean/Freemenow and delve into their associations with other blogs and the people behind them.

How else might we detect blog puppetry? We could write tools to scrape the comments, gather comments by the same “people” and run them through some textual analysis tools. I can see that some of these comments are written by the same person, through a filter of a thinly invented fictional “personality” and writing style, but I would have a hard time proving that. Take a look for yourself and see if you can detect the same veneer of stylistic differences.

The lack of link backs and identity representation is another major clue for badly done sockpuppetry. Most blog comment software allows for link backs to the commenter’s identity either to a profile on the blog itself, or to an external source. These blogs don’t allow for that. In other blogs and forums that don’t build in identity tools, at least some commenters would build in their own sigs with links back to their own blogs, profiles, or email addresses. It is not conceivable to anyone who has seriously studied, or been immersed in, Internet culture for the last 10 years, that a group of over 50 commenters on a subject they feel passionately about, in a “place” where they read and write daily, would NOT link back to some other anchor or “home”.

Why do people hang out in blog comments on a big forum, bulletin board, or blog? Certainly part of the motivation is to make intelligent enough comments that others will come over to your place and hang out there. You are talking in a public forum to establish your own reputation and identity. This is true on the dippiest social networks, on the most primitive bulletin boards talking about bands or action figure collecting or whatever, on MySpace, on blogs, on conservative forums like Little Green Footballs or Free Republic or leftist ones like Daily Kos.

Dig a little deeper and you will find whole fake “attack blogs” whose purpose is only to link back attacking the first blog, to shore up their tenuous claim to reality.

My point is: think a bit when you come across a site like pumapac, really analyze and compare it, and you will see the flaws in its setup.

I do know there are women who were going to vote for Clinton and who now are going to vote for McCain – but these sockpuppets are NOT their voices and do not represent a large political movement.

If I came across a leftist blog displaying this same pattern, I would happily expose and debunk it too.

One thing that may be possible, and more plausible than the same small “astroturfing firm” building and running these sorts of sites: there could easily have been some training sessions or workshops on how to astroturf and run a bunch of sockpuppets. Conservative strategists and thinktanks funded training camps for college conservative journalists and funded college newspapers in the mid to late 80s, with dramatic results; a similar move has likely been happening for the blogosphere.

Too bad they aren’t as good as msscribe in their sockpuppetry and intrigues! They need to take lessons from a master.

I leave you with a link to the Anti-Astroturfing Wiki.

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How not to be a Generic Politician

I just got this email from my senator. Talk about Generic-Off. How pathetic. Could the Senator’s office at least go to the effort of having *different templates on different issues*?

Or even some actual information content in the email?

Like “Ms. Henry, we have noted your concern on the Iraq War, and would like to let you know that X percent of Californias agree with you. Here is Boxer’s position on the issue, and here is how she plans to vote.”

What earthly use is this to me? I’ll be damned if I can remember what I wrote a letter about, or what petition I signed, in this case. Behold!!!

Dear Ms. Henry:

Thank you for contacting my office to express your views. I believe that all citizens should become involved in the legislative process by letting their voices be heard, and I appreciate the time and effort that you took to share your thoughts with me.

One of the most important aspects of my job is keeping informed about the views of my constituents, and I welcome your comments so that I may continue to represent California to the best of my ability. Should I have the opportunity to consider legislation on this or similar issues, I will keep your views in mind.

For additional information about my activities in the U.S. Senate, please visit my website, http://boxer.senate.gov. From this site, you can access statements and press releases that I have issued about current events and pending legislation, request copies of legislation and government reports, and receive detailed information about the many services that I am privileged to provide for my constituents. You may also wish to visit http://thomas.loc.gov to track current and past legislation.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I appreciate hearing from you.

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

How hard could it be to hire someone to write you some decent “issue tracking” and letter writing software to keep your constituents informed without sounding like a mealy-mouthed robot talking to another, much stupider robot?

Meanwhile you might like to be aware that watchdog.net is useful, maybe more like what I’m looking for as a constituent than a flail -n- trawl through the entire Library of Congress.

Obviously I still end up voting for Boxer no matter what, but isn’t the idea to make me *really, really, really* support the politicians in office? Maybe even donate to them, because they’re awesome?

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When disaster relief becomes a police state dragnet

I don’t have time to be a serious investigative journalist, so here’s a little rant.

I noticed in Katrina relief work that Homeland Security was swooping down on even small shelters and on people aggregating peoplefinding data. They took the data and warned people to silence. They started doing criminal checks, looking for people on their watchlists, but right down to the level of people who might have violated parole or be wanted for various crimes. Is this legal? Is it constitutional? As far as I know, they just seized that data. The people signing into an emergency shelter in some tiny church, or community center, or high school, didn’t sign up to be picked over by the Feds.

They tried with Gustav to “wristband” and register people for evacuation. They did it for some of Hurricane Ike. Is anyone realizing what this means? Disaster hits, citizens who are particularly powerless become the target of random criminal investigation. And if you have a criminal record? What then? They going to “evacuate” you to a “special shelter”?

Not that Galveston even bothered to evacuate the people in its city lockup, people awaiting a hearing and not even convicted of a crime.

I expect the registering, wristbanding, and electronic tracking process will become more efficient over the next few years.

I wonder what people were told? You have to register and show your ID, or we won’t let you on the bus out of town?

Oh, here we go, a little bit of the plan, that I’m sure didn’t get implemented all that well, because of course FEMA and emergency management officials were thinking about how to save and feed and shelter people, not how to treat poor people like automatic criminals?

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5380868.html>http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5380868.html

What the state is doing, is perfectly legal, according to at least one expert.

“Since it’s a government record they’re checking you against, there is not the same invasion of privacy concerns that may come up in other contexts,” said professor Charles Rhodes, who teaches constitutional law at South Texas College of Law. “I think the need for it would outweigh any privacy concerns. This is a public safety issue”

Rhodes’ only reservation would be the system itself, whether it’s set up to handle, perhaps, a false match indicating someone had a criminal record when they did not. He also wants to know how smoothly such checks could be processed.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how this is implemented in the time of an emergency,” Rhodes said.

They take the exact tactic I would expect. They claim they have to “wristband” and register and track everyone, centrally, and check everyone on a government criminal-record database, in order… get this… to protect special needs citizens from sex offenders. Is that really the motivation here? If the government gave a flying fuck about protecting people with special needs from sex offenders, there are far more effective things they could be doing than violating the civil rights of people evacuating from a hurricane.

Earlier this month, it was announced AT&T Inc. has contracted with the Texas Governor’s Division of Emergency Management to provide electronic wristbands for those residents wanting them, before they board an evacuation bus.

The wristbands would be scanned by emergency management officials and the person’s name would be added to a bus boarding log. That person’s name and their bus information would be sent wirelessly to the University of Texas Center for Space Research data center.

….
….

The decision to wear a wristband is purely voluntary. But anyone who boards an evacuation bus will have to provide a name. There will be no requirement to show an identification card, such as a driver’s license, but officials may ask those boarding for an ID.

Oh sure. It’s totally voluntary to wear an electronic wristband, but who is going to tell you that? And who is going to ask, in the face of disaster?

No requirement to show ID. But the cop who decides if you get on the bus or not can ASK YOU FOR ID. They don’t have to tell you it’s not required.

How about if you’re an immigrant and your immigration status is in question? Are you going to evacuate under these conditions? Or take your chances? What other databases are the authorities running the names against? Where will they stop? Who will stop them?

Don’t make any mistake about this, disaster might strike a whole city, but it is primarily the rich and middle class people who have the resources and social resources to get out of town and go stay with friends or in a motel. What the government is doing here is part of the immense disrespect and violation of human rights of working class people, people living in poverty, and immigrants. They might as well just go through whole neighborhoods of people who have less money and stop people at random to do criminal checks on them. OH WAIT … that already happens.

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Lose your house, lose your vote

The Republican Party in Michigan plans to bring lists foreclosure notices to polling places on Election Day, to disenfranchise people who may have lost their homes.

This is evil and should be illegal. It is a tactic to gum up the works and discourage people from voting, by creating long lines and slow-downs.

A foreclosure notice doesn’t necessarily mean a person has moved out of their house to a new address.

In Wayne County, where I lived when I was a kid in Detroit, 1 out of every 150 people got a foreclosure notice in July 2008. In Michigan state-wide, 62,000 people got foreclosure notices.

The economy sucks! People are suffering!

I know, let’s *pick out those very people* and target them for harassment, and pick the very counties where working class and middle class people are suffering the most, and systematically try to deny them the right to vote.

They appear to be targeting voters in predominantly African-American communities who are under threat of losing their homes.

Great idea, Republican Party. Keep it coming. Voter caging, and now this. Your obscene, sleazy tactics will be your DOWNFALL.

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aesthetics and hateration

When you hate on a woman for her pointy-toed shoes, skinniness, hairstyle, cheerleaderiness… you are participating in a misogynist system just as if you hated on her for being fat and not shaving her legs. You’re trying to comment on patriarchy, but on the way, you’re doing some woman hating. I’m hearing and reading it all week from 25 year old women on myspace, tech guys, radical feminists, friends, and my own brain.

Fembots and ‘basement cupcakes’ – – – model-thin, dressed wrong, identical – – It’s equally hateration whether it comes out of the mouth of a man or a woman.

Everyone loves hating on the Bejanes. Again, if you’ve been doing this and that was your first reaction, I’m not pointing and yelling “You’re sexist!” We’re all sexist. Look at your gut reaction of hate towards the outfits, chirpy voices, “identicalness”, hair, and shoes of the two women on stage, and think about why that reaction is so violent and powerful. What are you hating? Why did it come out in that kind of language that dehumanizes the two women from Microsoft? Sit with that for a while. Who else is “like that”? I would even challenge you to free associate a list of similarly hateable qualities.

Mixed in with the misogyny there is some fine criticism of Microsoft and of the very idea of the commercial break.

All anyone has to do is describe these women physically (very thin) and maybe say the word “fembot” and “we” think we know what’s being talked about. We hear a type – not a person. We hear qualities of femininity, which of course are understood to be despised. If we’re women talking this hate talk, we’re saying “I am not that.” If we’re men, we’re also delineating, “I am not that.”

This kind of talk is why I play with femininity at all. I am that. And I’m still your sister and I still have a brain. I am not a fembot. Talk to me like I’m a human being. Respect, y’all.

You know how people were making fun of some of us for worrying about “what to wear to BlogHer”? This is why. A good bit of the criticism directed at Microsoft drives home that where they erred is in sending women who wore the wrong thing.

I want people to dig around in their minds for a while and think about why that’s fundamentally messed up. You can be wrong. It’s okay. I think we all have internalized sexism, racism, classism – it is called hegemony. Pointing it out is not divisive – it’s helpful, and gets that stuff out into the open so we can give it a little analysis.

If you are a woman hating on another woman for big hair, makeup, pointy toed high heels, and chirpiness, and being thin, you are hating her for what you perceive as her buying into the system of patriarchal aesthetics. It signifies that she is willing to give a significant amount of her time and energy to men. We think that fembot, consciously or unconsciouly is sucking up to The Man, and getting privilege for it. That perception of privilege (which I’d argue is largely wrong) creates a lot of divisive resentment. That’s why we think we can talk smack about “plastic actresses with boob jobs in Los Angeles” and think that it’s okay to dehumanize them in our thoughts and language. It’s not right to hate a Bejane or an Uncle Tom. Isn’t bejaning yourself presented to us women as a survival skill? Isn’t it the way to be loved? To be non threatening? Then why is it also a ticket to hate? Because – coding yourself with feminine qualities is a way to signify inferiority. So we bitterly hate the ones who can and do code themselves extremely well according to patriarchal standards.

I don’t accept that entire system although I live in it and it is more powerful than I am as an individual. I see no escape from it, and so I play with it. I have the luxury of my sense of self worth, my job, my relationships, not depending on my conforming to feminine requirements.

Oh, and p.s. Yes – I do feel annoyed and uncomfortable at condescending men in hardware stores, whether I’m in a dress or in jeans and work boots. Yes I can go buy a hammer, but I still notice the sexism. The sexism is worse if I’m in a dress and it’s especially worse if I’m in a sexy feminine dress. Because I have a lot of privilege, I can mostly ignore that sexism. Many women don’t have the kind of privilege I enjoy.

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thinking out loud

It’s so alien to me that people think that you have to say something, or write something, and that’s your Position. That’s what you think, that’s the end point, like the happily ever after at the end of a fairy tale of a process of inner reasoning. Then other people can argue with the Position, which represents you-ness at a point in time, but also is out there forever to be argued with. How peculiar to demand that people’s thought should remain static and definite. It seems more normal to me to start conversations as a point of departure and to keep participating in them to evolve thought. Life, and thinking, would be pretty boring if it were all in my head. If I didn’t need conversation to think with, I’d never have to say anything – I’d be an incarnation of the Buddha, and even most Buddhas talked out loud.

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third anniversary of war

It was a full moon three years ago as I drove down the highway crying, thinking of Salam Pax.  These days I still think of him, but every day wonder about Riverbend and her family…  Jeremy, of Daddy Dialectic and othermag,  asked me to post something as a parent on the anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Baghdad.

moon veil your mirror

    March 19, 2003

Moon, sky-hook, when I turn to you
my face is turned away from my mother.
My face is turned away from my mother.

I want to forget I am part of this world.
I want to forget I am part of this world,
so I can become round enough to pity the dust.

Future light won’t shine here.
Future light won’t shine here,
because the wheel of stars will dip below
a housing development conveniently named ‘Purgatory’,
built where teenage boys wake up
handcuffed with their black bandanas.

Moon, breathe the atmosphere of sorrow,
suck it from my dying mouth
as I prepare to put out the light,
because what you are about to see is blood.

What you are about to see is blood.
Turn your face away
if you aren’t strong enough
and for a moment I’ll look for you
long enough to put out the light,

because teenage boys like thin colts
veiled in ash & black bandanas
nerve their legs and put out the stars in their eyes,
preparing for that day when no light will shine.
That’s why they can stare at the sun
while I can only look at you, moon.

Because I don’t have any blood to give.
I’ve bought too many telescopes
in my housing development coincidentally named "The Shadows".
I don’t have any blood to give.
I’ve bought too many telescopes that fold up like ice
and they’ll endure until licked away by a cow’s warm tongue.

Moon
shutter your face
to cut out the harsh light, the violent light.
Wear a black bandana
because a silver lamb unfolds from your pocket like a sailing ship.
Because you can’t close your eyes,
I’ll give you my black veil.

Moon
veil your mirror,
because my eyes have been defiled.

Because my eyes have been defiled
by the future of my country,
because the light gathered by you and thrown back in our faces
has seen the blood that I can’t bleed or see,
because of that, I’ll look, though I have no tears to give,
because my tears are gathering dust in a gallon jug
under the sink, where I keep my lambs and my telescopes,
where I keep my mirror, and the ruins of the Golden Gate Bridge,
and a cow’s hoof, and a ship in a bottle.

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