Sunday, November 4, 2012

the epiphany itself

"This was again very dumb because Frau H. failed to perceive the true meaning of the epiphany that had come unto her, which was not, as Frau H. thought, that she had been chosen to bring the beauty of dust to the world, but rather that she, Frau H., was just as whole, as profound, and as valuable, as the epiphany itself."

– Stephan Sprenger, "Dust," trans. from German by Dustin Lovett, Best European Fiction 2011

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

someone else's thoughts about George Orwell

"You used to be bullied and sat last in class, but now you break windows with the eagerness a brick has for glass."

"In addition to social connections of a pragmatic or idealistic kind, there is a third way of understanding the relations of individuals to the state. It was first demonstrated, as far as I can calculate, by Socrates, when he refused to avoid his death penalty and escape Athens. We need to see society as an extension of ourselves, an invisible part of our anatomy that assists us every day without dominating us and that, like our own arms and legs, we tend when injured, and whose welfare we consider at all times. The relation resembles that of a violinist to his instrument – useful but more than something useful, cared for like an esteemed friend. If such a part of us fails, we do not discard it for a peg leg, nor are we fired from our job because we cannot play hopscotch. We may be a disposable member of the symphony, but our violin is us to us. The relation is sometimes – oh dear – called love."

– William H. Glass, "Double Vision: George Orwell's contradictions," Harper's, October 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

jury duty

At first, she felt prepared. Even sophisticated. Ah yes, I am someone who reports for jury duty with my coffee in a thermos. No need to try to dash across the street, in the spittle-like rain, to wait in line for a cup of too-hot brown water, then scramble to arrive on time. 

She opened the thermos and coffee splashed everywhere, on the table, on her skirt. Undeterred, she took out some tissues and began sopping it up from the tabletop. She got a stain-remover pen out of her purse and applied it to her skirt. I am prepared for this contingency, she thought, I am someone who is ready, I am someone who has a plan, even when the coffee thermos has a leak.  

After all, she thought, it's not as thought I knew it had a leak. I borrowed it this morning. I do not own a coffee thermos. I'm someone who has a borrowed coffee thermos. I'm someone who has borrowed a leaky coffee thermos. I'm someone who knows the kind of people who own leaky coffee thermoses and lend them out willy-nilly. I'm someone who is already so used to the possibility of spilling and making a mess – did this stain my skirt? no way!! – that I'm already prepared to clean up the mess I know I'll eventually make. And yes it's true I forgot to clean out my purse before I came and I had to go outside in the rain and hide my Swiss Army knife under a bush and I just have to hope it'll still be there later because I'm not, of course I'm not allowed to bring it in the building and yes it said that in the jury summons but I forgot, I simply forgot until I was standing in line for the metal detector and by then it was too late, although it's true that even when I realized it was too late, I refused to accept it, and when my bag had gone through the scanner and set off all the alarms and they asked me nicely was there a knife or anything in my bag I tried to bluff, I tried suggesting it might have been my key chain, my wine bottle opener which I'd also forgotten to take out of my bag, my bike multi-tool, and, no? Well, oh, dear, how embarrassing, I forgot about my pocket knife, I'm so sorry and now it's under a bush, if it's even still there, if someone hasn't found it already, it's probably rusting, it's probably gone.

I am someone who is accustomed to dealing with my own incompetence.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

unrulyidiom productions proudly presents

Laugh Track from unruly idiom on Vimeo.
Yes, it is our new film. We call it "Laugh Track."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

a crisis of language

" 'False statements' were useful but mostly superfluous because a peculiar system of regulation left much of the actual regulation to market participants. Rules about 'disclosure,' which specified that an investor be kept informed of any 'material' information having to do with a company's finances, meant that disclosures in a financial report could be buried in the footnotes and, with some clever wording, made sufficiently dull to ensure that they would rarely be seen as red flags . . . All this would merit the word 'monstrous,' except the adjective implies an element of excitement and drama, whereas this is a system that thrives on abstraction and boredom. According to the conventions of this system, the footnotes are more important than the main body of the text. Sentences are crafted so as not to be read. Language should confound rather than communicate. These conventions operate completely counter to those of narrative as we know it. To fixate on 'human nature,' . . . is a sentimental fallacy; it presumes that the problem is not structural dysfunction, the truly tangled web of politics and money, but individual hubris – villains who threaten an established order, a benign status quo."
– Jennifer Szalai, "The Banality of Avarice: Why the financial industry never had to lie," Harper's, February 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

we're all going to die

There were a lot of things I enjoyed about Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman. This is merely one of them:

"Personally, I like the fact that we're going to die. There's nothing more exhilarating than waking up every morning and going, "WOW! THIS IS IT! THIS IS REALLY IT!" It focuses the mind wonderfully. It makes you love vividly, work intensely, and realize that, in the scheme of things, you really don't have time to sit on the sofa in your undies watching Homes Under the Hammer.

Death is not a release, but an incentive. The more focused you are on your death, the more righteously you live your life. My traditional closing-time rant – after the one where I cry that they closed that amazing chippy on Tollington Road, the one that did the pickled eggs – is that humans still believe in an afterlife. I genuinely think it's the biggest philosophical problem the earth faces. Even avowedly nonreligious people think they'll be meeting up with nana and their dead dog, Crackers, when they finally keel over. Everyone thinks they're getting a harp.

But believing in an afterlife totally negates your current existence. It's like an insidious and destabilizing mental illness. Underneath every day – every action, every word – you think it doesn't really matter if you screw up this time around because you can sort it all out in paradise. You make it up with your parents and become a better person and lose that final 14 pounds in heaven. And learn how to speak French. You'll have time, after all! It's eternity! And you'll have wings, and it'll be sunny! So, really, who cares what you do now? This is really just some lackluster waiting room you're going to be in for only 20 minutes, during which you will have no wings at all and are forced to walk around, on your feet, like pigs do.

If we wonder why people are so apathetic and casual about every eminently avoidable horror in the world – famine, war, disease, the seas gradually turning piss-yellow and filling with ring-pulls and shattered fax machines – it's right there. Heaven. The biggest waste of our time we ever invented, outside of jigsaws."

Monday, July 30, 2012

music makes the people come together

I saw Fiona Apple in concert Saturday night at the Fox theater in Oakland. I've loved her music for so many years that she'd long since acquired a kind of far-away-ness in my mind which meant, somehow, it hadn't occurred to me that someday, I might see her perform. 

When her new album came out, "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do," I did a flip. Fiona Apple's lyricism, her smart yet raw emotional language, her often catchy, haunting, aggressive melodies and incredible vocal control shoot an arrow the size of Cupid's Span straight through my heart, every time. 

So, housemates John & Kristin & I BARTed over to Oakland to see the concert. We had tickets for standing room, at the front. I was happy about this. I like going to concerts when I can see the facial expressions of the performers. I am not excited by massive crowds, with giant screens projecting the show for the people in the back. If I am paying for a live performance, I want to experience some physical closeness, some sense of reading a real person. I was happy to be standing. Fiona Apple's music isn't stuff I dance to, really, but I figured at least I'd get to see her play the piano. Neat. 

She ran onstage with a painting of her dog I recognized from the photo accompanying this New York Times interview, which she flat on the piano, parallel to it, and did not interact with for the remainder of the show. When we'd entered the Fox, there had been signs warning about strobe lights. At a Fiona Apple show? I'd wondered aloud. It was true. This was a very rock n' roll Fiona Apple. That was fine. I actually quite enjoyed the lighting design, although some of the guitar solos were a bit too much for me. I would have preferred longer solos of Fiona on piano. Still, I wasn't really there to complain, I was there to be mesmerized and have a big emotional experience. And to some extent, so was the rest of the crowd. To some extent, but in a different way than I was. A way than was drunker, shoutier, pushier, and far more raucous than mine. Now, I know that I cannot dictate how people behave at concerts. But just for fun, I'm going to pretend I can. Ok? So here we go:
Rules for Concert Behavior
  1. Put away your damn cell phone. Yes, I know: This is an incredible experience, and you want to remember it forever, which is why you're using the shitty, low-quality camera on your cell phone to take bouncy, shaky video that you'll no doubt later upload to YouTube. Let me take this opportunity to tell you I don't care. Your cell phone is getting in the way of my incredible experience. It is a little glowing box in my line of vision, and it is filling me with rage. Put it away before I smack your hand and confiscate your phone. Thank you.
  2. Shut up and stop singing. I know all the words too! I love this singer/band! That's why I bought a ticket, to hear them sing their songs. Not to hear you sing them, shouting, screaming in my ear. You are not a good singer, actually. Please stop. Also, all of you sing-screaming at the same time like this makes me think we're at a fascist rally. It's creepy/scary. Let's all be quiet and listen to the beautiful music together, ok? (Note: I am fine with you singing under your breath, softly. But not so loud, please, as though you are trying to drown out the artist we are all here to see. And not in my ear.)
  3. No shouting at the singer. This is so rude. This is like the rule that (maybe) your parents taught you about interrupting people: Don't do it! For example, when Fiona Apple is singing a beautiful song, and it's a soft, gentle, sad part, her voice low and full of an ache that, for a moment, we all share, we all feel pulling at the base of our spines and the soles of our feet, this is not a good time to get together with your two BFFs and shout in unison, "WE LOVE YOU, FIONA!" because that is rude. She is showing you her art, and you are shouting at her. That is a bad kind of love. Go sit in the corner and think about how to be a better, more supportive, more respectful lover. Corollary: No song requests! The artist has a set list. They will play the songs they want to play. Now stop shouting.
  4. Stop talking. This is so obvious, I can't believe I have to say it. But really? Stop talking. Go outside or something. Jeez. Sure, sometimes there are logistics to sort out. But if you are catching up on the gossip or whatever, at least move yourself out of the front area which is largely populated by people who are excited to be where they are, experiencing what is happening.
Hey, that's it! Only four rules! Basically, they could all be summed up under one rule: Enjoy yourself, but not at the expense of other people. Which I tend to think of as a good life-rule. Apparently, though, there are a lot of people out there who disagree with me.
In the end, it was one of the most isolating concert experiences I've had. I was in a place with so many people, and we were all watching the same performance, and I would even say we were all enjoying it, but the ways in which we were enjoying it, in which we wanted to experience it, were so different. Am I the problem? Should I just sit at home in my bedroom listening to music in private? If I hadn't so many other, positive concert experiences, experiences of joy and dancing and connectivity, I would unreservedly think the problem was me. But here, I don't know. There was a disconnect so engulfing, between how her music makes me feel and how it made so many other people feel Saturday night, and I don't think it can be explained away by alcohol and/or drugs alone. I'm not interested in making the case that I understand or appreciate her music "better" because of the way I wanted to experience the concert, and I am glad she has so many fans. I am especially glad there are so many dude-y looking dudes in polo shirts who know all the words to her songs, her songs that to me are so emotional, and so female. Way to confound my expectations of you, dudes! Now if we are ever drunk together and waiting for a bus in North Beach and I somehow feel obliged to make conversation, I will ask you about Fiona Apple!

I suppose what I am trying to get at is that all of this brought home for me the intensely private nature of experiencing art. Duh, I know; but I'd never had it hit me in quite this way before. I was really happy to have gone, but at the end of the evening, I felt alone. The next day, I sang her songs in the shower and then listened to "Extraordinary Machine" and it felt just as real and near and impossible as always.

Do you have any Rules for Concert Behavior you would like to add? You may submit them here for the committee's consideration.

the rest is noise

"Probably, the young Reiter answered himself, music would just be noise, noise like crumpled pages, noise like burned books. 
 At this point the conductor raised a hand and said or rather whispered confidentially:
'Don't speak of burned books, my dear young man.'
To which Hans responded:
'Everything is a burned book, my dear maestro. Music, the tenth dimension, the fourth dimension, cradles, the production of bullets and rifles, Westerns: all burned books.'
'What are you talking about?' asked the director.
'I was just stating my opinion,' said Hans.
'An opinion like any other,' said Halder, doing his best to end the conversation on a humorous note, one that would leave them all on good terms, he and the conductor and Hans and the conductor, 'a typically adolescent pronouncement.'
'No, no, no,' said the conductor, 'what do you mean by Westerns?'
'Cowboy novels,' said Hans.
The declaration seemed to relieve the director, who, after exchanging a few friendly words with them, soon took his leave. Later, he would tell their hostess that Halder and the Japanese man seemed like decent people, but Halder's young friend was a time bomb, no question about it: an untrained, powerful mind, irrational, illogical, capable of exploding at the moment least expected. Which was untrue."

2666, Roberto BolaƱo

Thursday, April 5, 2012

the fuel for the fire

I'm wrapping up this month of feminist blogging, my friends, and I want to begin by saying thank you. I've never had so many readers*, so much feedback, or so much encouragement as I've received over the past month. I'm really honored, and also really excited to hear that so many people are interested in talking more about feminism. Hooray! Researching new feminist work, connecting on and offline, receiving submissions from friends – this has been such an inspiring and invigorating month for me. Thank you all for reading and participating and sharing.

My final offering is one of my favorite feminist things in the world, and definitely my favorite publication; in fact, it's just one of my favorite things in the world: bitch magazine is what keeps me going. In this weird and sometimes depressing world of patriarchy and apathy, bitch is an endlessly delightful source of insight, critique, and irreverence. In addition to the magazine, they produce a podcast, host various blogs, and sell some cool gear. They cover so many things, and they do it so well. I've been a subscriber for probably about a decade now – wow, I just realized that – and they're one of the only causes I donate money to every month. They're a nonprofit and I'm happy to give them my money because I need them in my life.

bitch is having a subscription drive right now. Here's my pitch, folks: Of course, I really encourage you all to suscribe. And in honor of all the loyal reading that's been going on this month, I will sponsor a subscription for the first person who writes me.** And just to clarify: By "sponsor," I mean I will buy you a one-year subscription. For reals. I'll be excited to! (I'd totally love to buy one for each of you, but I can't afford it, ok? So first come, first serve.) 

*According to my analytics, the average number of monthly viewers on this blog hovers comfortably around 200. For March, it skyrocketed to 450. Wow. Thank you.
**Sorry internationals: U.S. residents only. Otherwise I also have to deal with shipping fees. Sorry.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

smokin' in the boys room

Just the name – Good Ol' Girls – made me laugh. It's pretty straight forward:
"Progressive women on the rise like you are busy: You are a professional, an activist, a friend, a lover and maybe a mother. How do you get connected without your calendar self-destructing in protest? 
You join Good Ol’ Girls — where you can meet women you would never meet just by joining a professional association or volunteering. Good Ol’ Girls is where savvy, progressive women, across sectors and backgrounds, open doors professionally and socially for each other. 
With member-driven educational and social opportunities and a vibrant listserv, Good Ol’ Girls is how women get in the know."
Amen, sister. And as long as we're talking about women supporting each other, let's throw in a plug for WIN-WIN. (Yes, that's the Women INvesting in Women INitiative. Cute names today, I know.) Again, they do exactly what you'd expect them to do, with a name like that. A project of the Calvert Foundation, they "evaluate prospective borrowers for their suitability for an investment based on a number of criteria, including their financial performance and operating history. Calvert Foundation has developed flexible criteria targeting prospective borrowers that engage in women’s economic development. WIN-WIN portfolio organizations and projects will offer products and services that primarily serve and/or empower women; will invest in women-owned or women-led businesses; and will support women entrepreneurs and female-headed households." Don't worry, fellas: They'll take your money, too.

What kinds of projects do they fund? According to the site, "[e]xamples include organizations that provide health care and child care to low-income women; women-run non-profit businesses that have a mission to serve other women; loan funds that invest in women’s entrepreneurship and small businesses; and women-oriented cooperatives."

Pretty cool stuff!

Monday, April 2, 2012

float like a butterfly

Many of you may already be familiar with the website Feministing.* I offer it to you all as a site of feminist aggregation. Woohoo! Check it out any time, especially as the month of feminist blogging is soon to draw to a close. But I'd especially like to direct your attention to Feministing's comments policy, which I only wish could be extended more widely across the internet. And life, actually, while we're at it:

"There is enough hate and oppression out there in the real world – we don’t need any extra of it here! While we can’t guarantee a completely safe space on Feministing, we can strive for an accountable space. And though we love differences of opinion, there’s a way to disagree respectfully and thoughtfully. We expect civility, respect, and patience for your fellow readers and for this space – please remember that we are all here to grow and learn from each other.
What isn’t tolerated (and if you’re unsure, err on the side of caution):
- Blaming the victim
- Fat-shaming
- Racist, sexist, ageist, transphobic, sizeist, ableist, homophobic commentary
- Plain malice (i.e. comments that don’t further the dialogue, but instead just harshly imply to writer that they need to educate themselves or that they are stupid) and personal attacks. Even if most of your comment is constructive, if the last line is “so thanks for that, asshole” we will probably not post it.
- Dismissal, silencing (i.e. anything along lines of “Ehh, i don’t think that matters too much” or “This isn’t an issue”)
- Questioning the feminist validity of a topic or post (i.e. Why do you care about this? You should really care about x, y, z because its more important)
- Derailing: Anything way off topic or leads the discussion in a completely different and unproductive from the original post"
A good intro to civil discourse. If only that was also an internet value... 

*When read aloud, it sounds like both "feminist sting" and "feminist-ing," both cool. Fun!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

do you trust me?

I just found out about this, but I already really like it: Men Who Trust Women. As my non-U.S.-based readers may or may not already be aware, there's been a lot of shameful, sexist, back-peddling talk and action lately around women's reproduction freedom. This website was formed to start to address that, or more specifically, to help broaden the conversation: 
"There aren’t a lot of women’s voices in this conversation, and that needs to change. But there also aren’t a lot of pro-choice men speaking out. We aren’t hearing from enough men who trust women. That needs to change, too. Luckily, there are a lot of pro-choice men in America. These men believe that women are capable of making their own choices about what happens to their own bodies. These men believe that no man, whether he’s a politician, a priest, or a partner, knows what’s best for a woman better than she does. These men are appalled at the way that the national conversation about women’s healthcare has been dominated by anti-choice men. Men who trust women are a group that is ever-growing, but largely invisible. It’s time to end that invisibility."
Chloe Angyal is the creator of the website, and I find it very interesting (and cool) that a woman and self-identified feminist is creating a space to encourage male feminist allies to talk about why they trust women. And I'm intrigued that she's building this campaign around the issue of "trust." At this point, you may be wondering (and fairly so): Why provide a space for men to talk, rather than one to encourage women to do so? To this, Angyal responds "Men Who Trust Women is a tumblr where men who believe that bodily autonomy is every woman’s right can share their stories. It’s not about speaking instead of women, or on behalf of women, but alongside them and in support of them."

I confess, I didn't get quite the feedback I was hoping for when I posted about men and feminism in mid-March (although props to Dom for a thoughtful and articulate response!). But this is for real. This is for everybody. I need you. Here's my call to action, people: If you're a man, and you're reading this, and you trust women, submit a story. If you're a woman and you're reading this, share it with at least one man you care about and encourage him to submit. And then just spend some time reading the site. There are some gorgeous, heartfelt, articulate posts on their.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

gentlemen ladies

Ok, so I know I talked about fashion earlier this month, but I have to bring it up again, because if I was made of money, I would buy so many clothes from Marimacho. (And hey, I'm not criticizing them for charging for their craft, their goods are high-quality and tailored. It's just out of my thrift-store based price range.) See if this promo copy doesn't make you drool: "Marimacho is a masculine clothing line for cis women and transmasculine bodies. We design in-house, manufacture locally and distribute our entire line via our website. Our primary focus is fit. We make classic masculine garments with narrower armholes and necklines, shorter sleeve lengths, more bust room, etc. In this way, we offer cis women, trans men and gender queer folks the same standards of fit and style available in mainstream menswear. Marimacho is dedicated to creating classic masculine fashion that empowers people of all genders." Check out their hot, hot shop, their fun and boi-filled blog, and spread the word to your dapper-dressing female-bodied friends.  

Also, isn't the couple who runs it absolutely the cutest? Geez.

breeches part

Back in my good old theater days, something that used to drive me crazy was the lack of great roles for women in most plays, most of the time. Meanwhile, there are always, always more female actors than male actors. I got really sick of talented women working like hell to get cast in roles supporting (all too often) mediocre men in leading roles.

The San Francisco Shakespeare company Women's Will nicely circumvents this problem by casting women, exclusivley. Artistic diretor Victoria Evans Erville clearly shares my frustration, saying, "Every year, I work with a few women whose work I admire, but every year there are many more with whom I cannot work because there are so few good roles for women out there. This company arose from a desire to overcome this problem, to pull together talented women and create a supportive environment where we could grow and play." Shakespeare was always kinda genderqueer, afterall, since the orignal productions of his plays were all-male. In addition to putting on accessible theatrical performances during the summer, Women's Will hosts Playfest, an annual festival of new plays by women.  

Their website, unfortunately, seems quite out of date (all of the information, from auditions to performance schedules, is from 2011), but I lhope to hear more from them as the summer of 2012 approaches!   

Thursday, March 29, 2012

what is the lack

Not just because it's her birthday, but also because she's awesome: I'm dedicating today to Sasha Laudy, founder of the meetup group Women Who Code (SF). What motivated Sasha to form this group? In this blog post on Women 2.0, she states, "While many men were friendly and helpful to me, I grew tired of being the only technical woman at event after event. I craved a space — just one night a month! — where I wasn’t the only one. Where I didn’t constantly have to prove myself with every introduction, and where I could see what other technical women were accomplishing. So I launched Women Who Code." The group's grown to over 300 women and, even though Sasha's moving on to work for Codecademy in New York, it's clear that the group will live on without her. And that's the measure that you've made something good, no?

So hats off to her. And this makes me wonder (and I bet it makes you wonder, too): What is the lack in my life, the lack that is not only mine, that I could make a space to fill?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

the one speaking my heart

Women LEAD is a nonprofit based in Nepal that works to enable "women and girls to take key leadership positions alongside men." Their mission is to "provide young women with the personal and professional skills to pursue their vision for change." Ambitious, yes, and they're quite new in the world; they seem to have just started running full-time programming last year. But they have quite a few impressive-sounding programs: Their Leadership Institute annually trains 30 high school girls "...on issues such as human rights and conflict resolution, personal and professional skills (goal setting, teamwork, public speaking), [offers] leadership experiences, [and] support networks (peers, staff, mentors)." Many of the students they work with teach the skills they learn back at their own schools. They also have a women's entrepreneurship program, and an internship-placement program.

Their get-involved page lists not only the usual request for donations (cameras, or laptops, in this instance), they're also looking for folks to write for their blog. Two opportunities: "If you are a female leader in your school, community, or country, we would love to feature you on our blog!" and "Do you know an amazing young female leader? We want you to highlight her by interviewing her and writing a 300-400 word post for our blog." Think on that, y'all.  

Finally, check out the incredible and super-charming young women they're working with:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

a brave new pedagogy

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” 
― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
I talk and write about education so much not only because I work in it, but because it's become a kind of failed state within our country. Fewer low-income students are graduating college than in decades, and high school graduation rates are sadly stratified along racial lines (check out California's data). Land of the free and home of the brave, right? It is hard to change education. It is especially hard to make sweeping change. But looking local, looking at where you live, and at what can be done right now, for this generation, well, some change is possible.

Which brings us to Grace Lee Boggs, who's been doing rocking work for radical education since at least the early 90s – and she's 96 herself. Wow. She lives in Detroit, and her current project is the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, whose mission is "to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century."

I've said here before that the patriarchy hurts everybody, and let's face it, school is often (usually) a place where students, male and female alike, are taught to accept the established order, to fall in line, and to perform within existing systems in order to be rewarded. So when I hear about a non-authoritarian, student-focused, community-empowerment-based system, it really warms the cockles of my heart.

(Cheers to Angie for today's topic.)

p.s. Special bonus at no extra cost: Grace wrote a book called Women and the Movement to Build a New America. I can't seem to get any decent information on it, but I sure do love the title.

Monday, March 26, 2012

the feminists you were warned about

By now, I know, most of you are starting to worry. This is great, you think, but what, what will I do when March is over? Let me sooth your troubled feathers in two ways: 1) Since I started late, a few days into March, I'll continue a few days into April, and 2) Let me tell you about Opinionated

What is Opinionated? Well, it is "[a] podcast to discuss all things feminist, from gender politics to pop culture. Hosts Amanda Marcotte and Samhita Mukhopadhyay comb over the news and spend one hour a week dissecting items that aren’t getting the mainstream media coverage they deserve. When the mainstream media isn’t ignoring important stories about gender issues, they’re providing piss-poor coverage. We can’t fix that problem, but we can aim some sarcasm in its general direction while informing the self-selected smarty-pants Citizen Radio crew. The show will feature news, digressions about music nerding, and interviews with some of the coolest and sharpest feminist minds of our digital age." If you're so excited you can't even finish reading my blog right now, I honestly won't blame you.

In fact, they're such good talkers, I won't put words in their mouths. Here's how they define their feminism: "You won’t be hearing a mealy-mouthed debate about whether or not Sarah Palin is a 'feminist' on this show. (The answer is, 'Sarah Palin is a feminist like Richard Dawkins is a Catholic.') Hardly a day passes anymore that women don’t see basic rights being attacked or glossy magazines publishing pieces about how education makes women unmarriageable, making the only real question, 'How can we triage what needs mocking today?' We see everything from police brutality to DJ culture as feminist issues, and figure we’re pretty persuasive in showing how we’ve come around to that belief."

Check it out! And, if you feel moved, you can become a member at the "Dirty Hobo," "Miscreant," "Pirate," or "Zombie Pirate" level (among others).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

ladies who ink

The hard data seems hard to come by, but all the anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that the tattoo world is pretty seriously male dominated. The women tattoo artists interviewed in this New York Times article have pretty mixed feelings as to how pervasive sexism in is in the industry, as well as the value of a tattoo artist convention solely for female artists. (Marked for Life is an annual conference that gets women tattoo artists together.) Which reminds me that I'd really like to do some extended thinking on female separatism soon. But probably not right now, because I'm sleepy.

Meanwhile, here in the Bay Area, we've got Diving SwallowBlack and Blue Tattoo, and Sacred Rose Tattoo, for starters. There may be more, but it's a weirdly hard search to do. P.S. Hey Yelp: What's up with that? Why can't I search for "women-owned business"? Thanks. Actually, that's a great point. I just searched for "women-owned businesses" on Google and came across this helpful site for women who'd like to open a business, brought to us by the Small Business Administration, who also maintain this (warning: glaringly ugly!) directory of women-owned businesses around the country. It's impressively long and the index isn't even alphabetized, so I can't believe I haven't used it before. Right. This information should be free and friendly, people. No reason why not.

Want to know more? The SBA also maintains this handy page of recent studies and research on women owned businesses. Neato!

so awkward

Tired of mainstream narratives of both women in general and African-American women in particular? Look no further than The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, a web comedy series created by and starring Issa Rae. Totally low-budget (& funded by a Kickstarter campaign). May I recommend, particularly if you're not super into The New Girl? (Or have spent some time mulling over the Zoeey Deschanel problem?)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

how to heal that?

Hats off to housemate Annabel for submitting an idea to the Month of Feminist Action! (Yes, you can submit one, too!) She was actually the first person to tell me about the City of Joy, a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo aiming to address the after-effects of the traumatic violence so many women have suffered. The name of the organization couldn't be clearer about the seriousness of the problem: STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE: Power To The Women And Girls Of The DRC. It's sponsored by UNICEF, Eve Ensler's V-Day, and the Panzi Foundation, an organization whose mission is "to raise awareness about the challenges in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and partner with Panzi Hospital to heal women and restore lives." Heart-rending statistics from the Panzi Foundation's website:
  • It is estimated that there are over 200,000 surviving rape victims living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today.
  • From 2006 to 2007, an estimated 1,100 women were raped EVERY DAY.
  • Today, it is estimated that 36 women and children are raped daily.
It's so hard to take that in.

The goal of the City of Joy is to "support women survivors of sexual violence to heal and provide them with opportunities to develop their leadership through innovative programming. Through its groundbreaking model, the City of Joy will provide up to 180 women a year with an opportunity to benefit from: group therapy; storytelling; dance; theater; self-defense; comprehensive sexuality education (covering HIV/AIDS, family planning); ecology and horticulture; and economic empowerment." They seem to have had a rocky first year, and they're so new it's obviously hard to tell what their ultimate impact will be. But the need couldn't be clearer. In addition to monetary donations, the City has a registry where you can provide them with everything from pencils to tables. Let's hope they're able to grow this program to help meet the needs of so many women and children in the DRC. The ultimate goal of the City is to "provide women a place to heal emotionally as they rebuild their lives, turn their pain to power, and return back into their communities to lead."


(Okay. I am behind. Two today & two tomorrow, and then we're back on track.)

Let's kick it off with the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art in the Brooklyn Museum! When I was in New York about two years ago, I made a beeline for this place. Why's it so awesome? Couple reasons: For one, their mission is "to raise awareness of feminism's cultural contributions, to educate new generations about the meaning of feminist art, to maintain a dynamic and welcoming learning facility, and to present feminism in an approachable and relevant way."(ahem, HELL YEAH!) They're also the permanent home of Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party," a work of art I'd dreamed of seeing since, geez, sometime in high school. This is the only permanent, dedicated space for feminist art in a major museum in the U.S. (Anybody know any good ones elsewhere in the world?) When I was there, they were also showing some work by Kiki Smith, so that was cool.

Women continue to be wildly underrepresented in art museums, even modern and contemporary ones. To quote Chicago, "We've made advances, but not enough. I hope the fight for the recognition and validation of feminist art will be seen as part of a fight for larger diversity in our art museums and in art history."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

woah! nominate an awesome woman you know!

Ok, so I just found out that Good Magazine is having a contest to honor awesome local women. And today is the last day to nominate someone. You should totally enter one of the incredible women in your life! What is the contest and who can win? According to the website, they want to "celebrate the women in your local community who make a difference in the fight against hunger and poverty— someone whose efforts make a difference and inspire others." (Presumably, they're focusing on hunger and poverty because the contest is underwritten by Oxfam.)
    More suggestions: "Some possibilities include:
    • The founder of a local charity or nonprofit
    • A chef or farmer who helps promote sustainable food choices
    • A journalist or blogger who writes about poverty or social justice
    • A friend or relative who volunteers her time and expertise
    • An entrepreneur or small business owner who gives back to the community
    • A professor who educates others on these issues"
And then the winner gets $1,000 from Oxfam America. Super cool! More info and contest submission tips here. Shed some light on a rad lady in your life.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

hey girl I mean woman I mean person who certainly should be treated as my equal in every way, of course

Feminist Ryan Gosling is exactly what you'd expect it to be. It's cheap, sure, but it's damn fun. (And for those of you studiously avoiding memes, 1) great work! and 2) it's riffing on this decidedly less feminist series). It is awesome. As is the FAQ. Sample:

"4a. It’s not very feminist of you to use a white male as your avatar. As a black women who has lived every moment of my black life as a black person in a country that never lets me forget that I’m black (and who has an academic focus on intersectionality, representations of race, and examining the feminist relationship to racism), this is not lost on me. It’s actually quite intentional. That. Is. ALSO. Part. Of. The. Joke."

If you need to find me, I'll be giggling in the corner.

Monday, March 19, 2012


This is so badass, I don't even know what to say. Back in January, feminist punk group Pussy Riot scaled some fences to enter the Kremlin and, wearing some really brightly colored clothes, rocked hard to their song "Putin Pissed Himself." In the snow, because it's Russia. You have to watch this. Rock out with them and their pelvic thrusting until they get arrested by the police. And then they performed in a cathedral! Amazing.

I don't know Russian, but Google offers me this (incomplete and no doubt imperfect) translation of their song about Putin (their cathedral song was called "Holy Shit"):

Go to the Kremlin is the rebellious colonies
In FSBshnyh offices explode window.
Females ssut for red walls
Riot announce Abortion System!

Attack at dawn? I will not argue
For our freedom and yours a whip to punish
Madonna in Glory teach to fight
Feminist Magdalene went to the demonstration

Revolt in Russia - the charisma of protest
Revolt in Russia - Putin zassal
Revolt in Russia - we exist
Revolt in Russia - rayot rayot

Come out to the street
Live at the Red
Show me the freedom
civil anger

(a loss on the square)

Dissatisfaction with the culture male hysteria
Wild leaderism eats brains
Orthodox religion is a hard penis
Patients are invited to conformity

The regime is going to censor the dream
It's time to disruptive clash
A flock of females sexist treatment
He asks for forgiveness from feminist wedge.

Revolt in Russia - the charisma of protest
Revolt in Russia - Putin zassal
Revolt in Russia - we exist
Revolt in Russia - rayot rayot

Come out to the street
Live at the Red
Show me the freedom
civil anger

What can you do? Honestly, today I would just love you to share this video with someone. and, y'know, you can always get involved with or give money to your local chapter of Girls Rock Camp.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

naked people have little or no influence in society

I like clothes. I also hate injustice. So this is actually a big quandary. Even if you're not as mad crazy about cute dresses as I am, you probably wear clothes. And your clothes are probably made by exploited workers in third world countries. This is one of those things we all prefer not to think about, because what can you do, right? Right. I wish I had an easy answer. Obviously I don't, but I do have a few ideas.

For one, I'm happy to have learned about the existence of the Clean Clothes Campaign.  They focus on:
  • Putting pressure on companies to take responsibility to ensure that their garments are produced in decent working conditions;
  • Providing solidarity support in urgent cases of labour and human rights violations;
  • Raising public awareness about working conditions in the garment and sportswear industry and mobilising consumers to push for change;
  • Exploring legal possibilities and lobbying for legislation to promote good working conditions and to compel governments and companies to become ethical consumers.
 (kindly note the British English spelling). I am, however, a little depressed by two things: 1) they're active in 15 European countries, but no North American ones, and 2) they've been around since 1989, and well, here we are. That's not their fault, of course. It's a lot of people's faults. Yours, mine, and most especially various governments. Because it is still really hard to buy fair trade clothes.* (And why is it so much easier to buy fair trade coffee? If you know, please tell me) I want to buy a new bra, and I thought to myself, I wonder if I can buy a fair trade bra? The internet has only succeeded in showing me these four, none of which I'll buy. Ugh.

Another thing I love (although it doesn't solve my bra problem) is shopping at thrift stores. What a nice way to op-out of exploiting labor and also not be naked! In San Francisco, at least, you can dress yourself real nice, pretty much head-to-toe (at least outerwear) from thrift stores.

Finally, I want to point out the genuine and total awesomeness of women-owned co-ops. Poking around the internet just now to see what I could find that would be positive and inspiring and action-oriented, after getting all depressed (justifiably so!) over sweatshop labor, I came across Mata Traders. They have some super cute dresses, as well as jackets, jewelry, and more. Got a couple leagues up on Ideeli, that's for sure.

And if you're all like wait, what does this have to do with feminism? Well, let's see: Women are constantly being encouraged to adorn themselves and their attention is constantly directed away from the way they're participating in post-colonial oppression of women, men, and children in other parts of the world. I'll go ahead and chalk this up to a feminist issue.

(p.s. Know of an awesome anti-sweatshop movement or source of fair trade clothing that I'm ignoring? Super! Tell me all about it!)

*And I am not even going to start on American Apparel. Talk about a wasted opportunity to be awesome. That's all I'm going to say about them.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

feminism is for everybody (part two)

Until quite recently I hadn't been aware of much out there for men interested in feminism and gender equity. I suppose there are a lot of reasons for this: I'm most interested in things that are written for me (a woman), and I already have enough trouble keeping up with those things. And I suppose because I feel feminism is so embracing, I hadn't really thought it would be necessary for there to be a separate place for men. Although of course I can see how it might be alienating or even terrifying for a lot of men to spend time on a website called "bitch" with the tagline, "a feminist response to pop culture" (my personal favorite antidote to the patriarchy). Ok, I'm sold: To ensure that men are being reached, let's get excited about more accessible spaces.

It wasn't until I stared dating my boyfriend that I heard of The Good Men Project. I was immediately intrigued. What is the titular project? They want to talk about "men’s roles in modern life. We explore the world of men and manhood in a way that no media company ever has, tackling the issues and questions that are most relevant to men’s lives. We write about fatherhood, family, sex, ethics, war, gender, politics, sports, pornography, and aging. We shy away from nothing. Our content reflects the multidimensionality of men — we are alternatively funny and serious, provocative and thoughtful, earnest and light-hearted. We search far and wide for new stories and new voices from 'the front lines of modern manhood.' And we do it without moralizing and without caricaturizing our audience; we let guys be guys, but we do it while challenging confining cultural notions of what a 'real man' must be." Which sounds pretty awesome. Which is why it was it was a pretty big bummer when the founder of the project got into some unpleasant feminist bashing lately (tidily summarized here). It lead one of their frequent-contributor male authors to resign. Shortly thereafter, that same contributor was surrounded in a different controversy which caused him to decide to "withdraw from explicitly feminist spaces." It's a big controversy, and complicated. It's also clear to me that Hugo Schwyzer is an incredible and articulate feminist ally, and it's sad to me the way so many have resorted to name-calling. In sum: I am bummed out that The Good Men Project does not seem interested in committing to making space for feminism or treating feminism and feminists respectfully, and I am bummed that so many feminists would so fiercely turn on a male ally.

I remain firm in my belief that there is a place for men in feminism. In fact, I think it's really important that there is. Bitch media recently posted an awesome article about this that pretty much mirrors everything I'd want to say on the subject, but the short version is that feminism is for everybody because the patriarchy hurts everybody. Sure, it hurts some people a lot more than it hurts others; but it hurts everybody. What saddens me about all of the controversies above is that the willingness of people to turn on allies. There was a lot that went wrong here, but when a bridge is broken, you need to repair it, not burn it down. It is a bridge. It is the thing that connects you. We have to support each other. There's far too much worth uniting over to set out to destroy the people who are already on your side. Where is the go-to place for men in feminism now? I'm not sure.

I want to end by saying while most of the feedback I've been getting about this series (which ain't over yet, y'all!) has come from the ladies in my life (encouragement, questions, Facebook "like"s), I'm really, really happy that I've gotten some responses from my male friends, too. I mean, on the one hand, if you're friends with me, you kind of already know what you're in for. So I guess my final thought is a question: Fellas, what do you see is your role in feminism? And what do you think it could be? I invite your comments (ladies, too).

Friday, March 16, 2012


I signed myself up for the mailing list of Women, Action & the Media and promptly filed it away in the back of my brain, i.e. basically forgot about it. Happily, they just sent me an email. Because you know what they're all about? Exactly. It's in the name. And so they're every bit as excited about Women's History Month (or maybe it should be called Women's Future Month?) as I am! They're having a decentralized conference in a lot of places, some of them online, so check that out. What exactly is WAM! (yes, it's the same acronym as the Women's Audio Mission, I know – but it's not my fault!)? Well, WAM! "connects and supports media makers, activists, academics and funders working to advance women’s media participation, ownership and representation. Our work is part of an advocacy movement for gender justice in media." Righteous! They have some pretty stark statistics about the media. So, that should change. Let's get on it!

I'm thinking it's about time to have a chapter in San Francisco. If I start one, will you join me?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

feminism is for everybody (part one)

For no particular reason, this thought crossed my mind today: What if I just bought bell hook's Feminism is for Everybody for everybody's birthday for a year? ("everybody" here used to mean, "everybody I would be buying a birthday present for that year") I don't actually think I'll be doing that, but I do want to take a moment to talk about feminism, women's rights, and women's bodies. After all, the body is the start and source of all "difference" and discrimination. But what is a woman's body?

I started writing this post about about the Intersex Society of North America, an organization dedicated to "systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female." (Hyperlinks theirs and, especially if you're not sure what I'm talking about right now, I encourage you to follow them.) It seems that, as an active organization, they are no more, although they do maintain a comprehensive web page. The new action place seems to be Accord Alliance.

Now while I am eager for us all to enter a post-gender world, that's not what Accord Alliance is (or ISNA was) all about. And that's okay with me. They are tackling a largely ignored challenge and source of discrimination in this country, and I stand with them in that. And although ISNA is closed, their webpage continues to have a lot of helpful information about what it means to be intersex, and do a great job of unpacking why it's neither accurate nor okay to call someone a hermaphrodite. Accord Alliance is doing a lot of work around education, for medical professionals, for the general public, and for families of intersex people. What can you do? Read up, get educated, and, if you feel so moved, make a contribution.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

writing women in

I'm pretty sure there are more articles about Yu-gi-oh! on Wikipedia than there are about the Blue Stockings. Or even the suffragettes. Is this related to the fact that over 80% of Wikipedia contributors are male? Possibly. But let's not sit and stew about it; let's change it! 

This Saturday I'll be attending Wikipedia's women's history edit-a-thon, and you should join me! It's in downtown San Francisco, and includes food & drinks. Not in San Francisco? No problem! That's the amazing thing about the internet, kids; you can edit Wikipedia from anywhere in the world. This is something you can totally do. And it's free. I would love you to join me. Hope to see you there!

(p.s. Huge kudos to Angie for sending this my way!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

shoot to kill

Street harassment is a problem that, historically, even somewhat sympathetic male-bodied people have a hard time understanding. If you're not used to the endless pile of insults and come ons that assault women in public spaces, it's hard to understand the rage many women feel even at more "innocuous" remarks. It's never just a drop of water, my friends, it's a drop of water being added to a deluge. Just yesterday I was out for a run and I was jogging in place at a stop light, waiting for it to turn green, when a male voice behind me said, "Did ya forget how to move forward?" I thought: Do I even want to deal with this? Because sometimes just acknowledging these remarks "invites" further comment, acknowledges these remarks "escalates" the situation. 
I turned and frowning, said "Were you talking to me?" 
"It was just a joke," said the middle-aged dude behind me.
"Right," I said, and turned back around. The light turned green and I ran off. But this could have gone a number of ways. And what I think many men fail to understand is that this, this "innocuous" situation, this is annoying. 

Well, no one needs to fake empathy and harbor confusion any more. They can just play a video game. That's right. Hey baby is a game about street harassment. It's a first-person shooter. You're a woman. You're being harassed by men as you walk down the street. And then you shoot and kill them. I've never been a man, but I was interested in this New York Times article by a man who played the game. Speaking of which, you should play it. It's free. I did. Tell me what you think!

Monday, March 12, 2012

sisters doin' it for themselves

It's past time to start reppin' some explicitly lesbian/dyke/queer org, I thought to myself, and happy thought indeed: It lead me to online magazine Sharp, funny, and hella stylish, it saves modesty for others. According to itself, it "is an intelligent, hilarious & provocative voice and a progressively feminist online community for a new generation of kickass lesbian, bisexual & otherwise inclined ladies (and their friends)." Am I a fool for not already knowing about this awesome publication? Clearly. But don't join me in the land of sad regret, read one of their articles about Rush's latest idiocies, or marriage equality, or how to be gay, or their whole section called "NWFW Sundays", and, yeah. Wow. Oh. Um, where was I? Oh, or  "Glee" (Why, why do I watch that show? Oh god. Well, I guess this is as good a time as any to admit that on the internet. Which means it's forever.)

What I am saying is you have got to check this out, whoever you are. And apparently it's independently owned, so that's rad, too. They have a store with some way sassy posters, including an infographic, called "Is it Sex?"("A handy way to answer the extremely difficult question 'how do lesbians have sex?!' "). What I'm saying is, stop reading this blog, and go check out Autostraddle. (But come back tomorrow, because who knows what I'll be talking about by then? I don't!)
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