Fair and Balanced!

Its no secret, or at least should be no surprise, that I do not trust the New York Times. But sometimes they agree with me.

In accordance with the NYT’s aggressive pro-gay-marriage agenda (picture the announcements revenue when we get same-sex nuptuals in New York State!), The Paper of Record has an interesting article arguing that homo relationships are “healthier” on average than straight ones. And by “healthier,” they mean more egalitarian.

Huh.

Thanks for pointing this out!

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How do you get a reverse-bikini-tan-line sunburn? If you would like to try this at home, email me for further instruction.

What’s next, people? Marrying dogs?

As the boys say, “unless you’ve been living under a rock” you know that the gay marriage ban in California was overturned last week. Here in my home state, marriage has snuck in under what CNN called a “loophole,” a hole looped by my all-time favorite, Governor Patterson, that orders state functionaries to honor MA and CA marriages here in NY, regardless of our own locally segregationist marriage policies.

Perhaps it is too soon to say, but it looks like the days of orientation-segregated marriage are numbered.

To tell you the truth, it makes me a little nervous. I don’t like marriage, and to be honest, its not entirely transparent why. Back when I was straight, I limited my engagement with this institution to the city’s back-of-the-bus vehicle for gay partnership, because, really, what kind of person buys into segregated institutions, on purpose, from a position of privilege? Plus, I didn’t–and don’t–think rights like health care, pensions, living wages, education, free movement across borders, living wages, and parental rights (etc) should be allocated on the basis of people’s love lives.

Well, that and the consumer-fest of wedding showers and the specter of adult women playing candy-penis-based games at bachelorette parties make my skin crawl. I suspect I won’t like it any better when the tradition is “transformed” into “pin the boobies on the (other) bride”, and vulva cookies instead of penis Popsicles. I love looking at naked people, but truly hate going to strip clubs. Particularly with (my) blood relatives. Gay strip clubs seems likely to only make that kind of scene more awkward.

I don’t like going to church. I hate posing for pictures, and I despise matching dresses, except in the context of vintage Motown. And, any open bar that I have to pay for seems to entirely defeat the purpose.

It appears that marriage, or at least weddings, just may not be for me.

I could just live an let live, and leave it at that. But, Mattilda has been arguing high and low that the evolution of gay marriage as the number-one demand of the movement was a strategic mistake and an example of the worst kind of right-wing, assimilationist politics. This argument strikes me as essentially correct; universal health care would have been a better demand to focus on in the early nineties. If the queer lib movement had done that, the 2008 elections might be somewhat different, and have more actual political content.

Mattilda makes a good case, but not one that tells us much about gay marriage, the issue at hand; things didn’t go her way a decade and a half ago, so here we are.

Where is that again?

A lot of people are worried that gay marriage will fatally maim “gay culture,” further stigmatizing things like hook-ups, sex work and public sex while undermining the political economy of kinky subcultures and all-night dance clubs. If that happens, it will make me sad, but not in an intensely personal sense; I’d feel the kind of dread one might experience as their favorite island paradise is transformed into a hell of matching condos, but not the kind of identity crisis inspired by losing ones physical or spiritual home.

That’s because my preferred mode of sex and romance looks, on the surface, a lot like traditional, monogamous, boring-old marriage. I can take or leave public sex, promiscuity and kink, but I really like partnership, and the intensity and interdependence of two. I like to be someone’s special someone. I like being proud of my partner, becoming part of a family, commitment, cooking dinner and spooning. I realize these good-for-me things are not necessarily tied to monogamy or pair-bonding, much less to marriage. I’m just pointing out the resemblance to popular, romantic view

Which makes it seem like I’m nitpicking on this marriage issue. As my mother constantly asks me, while I mercilessly dissect every latest piece of potentially hopeful news, “Why can’t [I] just be happy?”

Because, thats why. I think underneath my sense of ambivalence, lies a serious flaw in the “new,” supposedly gender-neutral marriage. Namely, the new institution will still be segregated. Inherently so. Expanding marriage is expanding social inequality. I hate that.

Honestly, I wouldn’t really miss house music, if it didn’t make it into the brave new world. And if we think about “gay culture” in those terms, the the ill-effects of gay marriage seem to mostly affect the boys; the political economy of public dyke culture has long been comparatively tenuous at best.

But, if we look deeper, we can see that gay marriage may, in fact, undermine core feminist principles, reinforcing ideas of domesticity and adulthood that feminists have been battling since domesticity was invented. This expansion of marriage will segregate the gay world in a way that the straight world has long been segregated, dividing us into ‘single’ and ‘married.’ It will expand the reach of a social logic into a sphere once carved out to oppose it, further legitimizing a series of social assumptions that make people’s lives worse, and whch stigmatize the majority of us that don’t meet the marriage–and parenthood– norm. For example:

“Single people would rather be married/are social failures“; Gays “bachelors” and single women have long been stigmatized as lonely, mentally disturbed, socially unsuitable and sexually dangerous. We are cat ladies and pathetic men with tiny dogs. Sex In the City may signal a decade-long extension for women on the marriage imperative, but it’s by no means an amnesty. Everybody wound up hitched, in the end, right?

It’s okay. Don’t tell me how the movie turns out. I don’t want to know. I’m just afraid that adding the choice of gay marriage to the pre fixe menu of adulthood options will only make this worse.

“Single people would rather be married to one person:” The fight for gay marriage makes it hard to talk about families based on mutually supportive romantic relationships between more than two people. When even Dan Savage can’t come out and say that he has your back, you know you are being thrown under the bus of socio-sexual normativity.

“Single people are social children”: Surely I’m not the only one who has faced demotion to the “kids table” upon finding myself single or arriving at family events partner-free? Only to have someone ask when I’ll be “settling down?” More marriage will make us even weirder at Thanksgiving, glaring enviously as our married lesbian cousins are offered more wine, while the singles smile and convince small children to stop throwing soft food.

“Reproduction and parenthood truly gives life meaning–especially for women”: Opponents of gay marriage have been making the rounds arguing idiotically that gay marriage is wrong because children deserve two parents. Personally, I think children deserve at least four parents, but that is another post.

My point here is that these right-wing asswipes assume that the purpose of marriage is to create infrastructure for childbearing and parenthood. One walk around Park Slope and I quickly begin to worry that gay marriage aficionados disagree only in the details.

I think children can be great, but I hate to reinforce the idea that having children is the highest purpose that women–or other adults–have in life. Writing books, doing fantastic plumbing, making art, teaching, being a great friend, aunt or conversationalist also strike me as worthy goals.

Gay parenting, at least in part, also depends particularly heavily on a social structure that systematically separates children in oppressed nations (domestically and internationally) from their families. My thoughts on adoption are much longer than we have time for here, and in no way amount to a blanket condemnation, but it is worth worrying about the degree to which increased heteronormativity among the gay upper-crust can create “demand” in a market for human babies. To the extent that this happens, its a great example of how the heteronormative “success” of some is dependent on the normative failure of others, particularly poor women.

“Friends are nice, but not very important”: We all have priorities. But state-and-culture sanctioned marriage vastly elevates a single relationship above all other relationships we have in life. Fidelity and honesty are the least common denominator for human decency in the context of marriage, but fucking over ones friends is much less stigmatized in society at large that cheating on a spouse. When you “break up” with a friend, few will ask “what happened!?!” or offer condolences. Its my opinion that we’d all be happier with rich social lives filled with significant relationships. Straight culture doesn’t have much time for that perspective; will the gays go the same sad way after marriage?

“Extended family is nice, but not very important”; Marriage has, at various times and places, operated as a kind of treaty between extended families and clans, but in our world reflects the formation of an autonomous, nuclear unit. Stigma against, for example, single mothers, discounts the value of supportive extended family networks and is usually based in the belief that there is one, and only one, right way to go–two parents and one or two kids.

For queer people, “family” can mean a non-biologically based version of this extended family model. As the gay version of the nuclear family becomes more socially valued and–likely–more popular, can both models co-exist?

If not, I know which side I’m on.

“Working class and poor people, and Black people are not responsible or successful”; Related to the assumptions above, its already the case that the straight ideal of marriage and the nuclear family is heavily class-biased and much more difficult to attain and maintain under economic duress; for example, in situations where where workers are forced to migrate long distances away from their families, in circumstances where large percentages of a community are in prison, or where unemployment is high. These days, all over the world, we are talking about a lot of people.

Failure to meet these family/marriage norms used to be something that queer people shared with this majority, helping, I think, to contribute to a left queer and liberal gay political spectrum; what will happen (has been happening?) to queer politics as the elite minority of gay people get hitched, fit in, and lose any vestigial sense of connection to other oppressed people?

Sorry. That was rhetorical question.

In any case, you can play this game at home. There are many more oppressive and divisive assumptions that marriage–even gay marriage–help to reinforce. Feel free to contribute–I live for participatory rants. In the mean time, I’ll wrap this over-long post up by suggesting that this kind of (il)logic has always been oppressively applied to gays in the straight world, and to some extent even within the queer sphere. But gay marriage further entrenches this normative logic in a realm where it was once seriously contested. Part of me is glad that it looks like people who want to get married will now be able to, but, as a woman who, in all likelihood will never be a mother, and a human who hopes for liberation not just for the elite, these developments also make me feel a little like dressing up in a sequined mini and heading out for fabulous karaoke rendition of Nowhere to Run.

I wonder if she’s already writing it?

Because it is May, and because I once used the word “salutatorian” in a post about how stupid capitalism is, a top search that finds my blog is “what makes a good salutatorian speech?”

Kids, let me just say that I am the last person you should ask. I have never been a salutatorian. I was more the kind of student who screwed around and then sneered at the kids who thought they were smart, but who were obviously actually just working really hard. Because of this retrograde attitude and general lackadaisical approach, I came in 12th, not second, place. For the same reason, I also misspelled “salutatorian” the first time around.

Despite my total lack of credential, I want to offer you some advice on your speech. I may have never been a salutatorian myself, but I did date one. Or maybe he was a valedictorian, I can’t recall. In any case, he was the kind of person who was very smart and who also worked very hard. That is why he is now a doctor, while I remain a doctoral student.

Though my date’s actual rank my have receded into the distant haze of memory, I do recall his speech. He quoted it to me the night we met, in the back of a student ride van between elite liberal arts college campuses. It went like this:

A man goes to a monastery to find enlightenment. The program is that he meditate alone for a year at a time–no speaking, no singing, no human contact.

At the end of each year, the man is permitted exactly one word with the great teacher of the monastery as his only guidance through this intense spiritual task.

At the end of the first year, the man is approached by two monks and led to the top of the mountain where the teacher lives. He is led into the presence of the great man, who looks at him, inviting him to speak. The man says, simply, “The.”

He returns for another year of quiet contemplation. Again, two monks come to take him back to the teacher. This time, the man says “Food.” Then he goes back.

The third time our hero gains an audience with his guru, after 3 full years of arduous spiritual struggle, he looks at the teacher and say “Here,” and then returns to his isolation.

After four years, the now practiced student completes his sentence, relating the insights of his four-year-long meditation practice to the teacher, saying “Sucks!”

Now, I realize this is not an incredibly funny joke. But it is kind of funny as a dig at compulsory education, and I think my friend even managed to get in trouble for this speech. That is, if he even gave this speech. I have no way of knowing, so I can’t say whether using this silly joke as a salutatorian speech will work to earn you the campus-wide recognition that you deserve. But I do have it on good authority that sometime in the future, this speech just might help you get a lazy college freshman into bed on a first date.

Go boldly into the future, runners-up!

Holla Back That Ass Up!

April 29, 2008

Handy illustration of hot feminist activism? Or just more sex-sells advertising? I can never tell…

Some of you may be aware of the much-lauded feminist self-defense project, Holla Back. The project started with Holla Back NYC, and has spread to an uncountable number of world-wide locations.

Personally, I’ve always had some concerns.

First, some of these cretinous Dudes are probably proud to have their grinning mugs and exposed penises posted on the internet.

Second, many of the comments on Holla Back trade in heavy doses of classism to put pervvy assholes in their place–including on post in which the poster called the harassers’ “nice,” “polite” boss. This is unsurprising, but strikes me as a strategy likely to reproduce, rather than eradicate, a cycle of shame, resentment, misogyny and harassment.

But my main concern is that there is nothing particularly feminist about the technology of the camera phone-plus-internet combo, or strategic about this kind of individual resistance to street harassment. In the context of a sexist, porn-sick society I fear that defending our right to take pictures of whomever we want in public and do whatever we want with them on the internet will be more than likely to bite us in the ass, than solve the problem.

The Camera phone expose is a neutral technology on a power-infused field; who’s going to be more humiliated to find their picture posted on the internet against their will (given that a main function of the internet is collection and delivery of pornographic images)–me or some asshole street harasser?

I don’t know quite yet, because I haven’t located my picture on the internet as of this morning. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. My feeling is that 80’s night should be a sacred space of cheese where I’m allowed to dance in peace without some shitbag taking pictures of myself and my companions to giggle (or worse) over with his friends, but, alas, it isn’t.

Which leads me to my final point. Regardless of what recent 20/20 “journalism” might suggest to the average viewer, straight men getting turned on by live girl-on-girl action and then hitting on said girls or taking their picture or laughing and pointing or following them home really doesn’t count as social “approval” of gay public displays of affection.

Food Fight

April 15, 2008

the global economy is making me crazy

The global economy is making me crazy

Its not good, people. High gas prices not only trapped me in the scenic Airports of the American South for the better part of last weekend, they appear to have sparked a spate of food riots from Haiti, to many parts of Africa, the Philippines and Indonesia. *Updated to add Mexico, and a whole bunch of other places according to Democracy Now! this morning; apparently 15,000 garment workers are on strike in Bangladesh, protesting high food prices and slave wages.* The main South African federation of trade unions, COSATU, is warning that SA could be next.

Food crisis happening in these countries because they already have high rates of inequality and poverty, and because they are net importers of food; increasing gas prices increase the cost of food production and the cost of food transportation.

This is, of course, only the most immediate problem. For a deeper explanation, we’d have to look at the impact of fossil fuels, global warming and history of colonial and post-colonial land ownership on food production. But those are not really points best made in blog format.

Instead we will talk about what the problem is NOT. The problem is not a lack of food in the world. There is enough food in the world.

Brief interlude for a vignette;

When I was a younger, equally smart-assed anti-capitalist, a teacher, (who closely resembled Monica Lewinsky, during a historical period in which that was a serious social detriment) once explained to me and the rest of the class that “Capitalism is the Most Efficient System”

“Efficient,” I loudly wondered, “at what?”

She was baffled, but a future salutatorian answered my question: “Efficient at distributing goods and resources!”

Ahhh. Now it remains my turn to be baffled. This assertion, whenever I see it repeated, strikes me as egregiously illogical one. Or, at least, as a pure declaration of faith in a premise with very little evidence to support it. Many of the ideas in the human cultural cannon, ideas often considered the epitome of antilogical faith–say animism, or belief in magic–have a much longer and more successful empirical track record if all of human history is taken into account. Food riots are endemic to this crap system and they always have been.

And despite the category I’ve stuck this post in, rising food prices aren’t just a problem for Africa or for island nations dominated by US military and economic imperialism; food is a global market. Price pressure at the pump is likely to hit us in the pantry, and I’m worried it might be soon.

This food thing makes me even more nervous than the housing crash, especially given that they can’t be taken in isolation. See, in the earlier half of this century, in the US, food prices were substantially higher (relative to wages), but housing prices were substantially lower. Wages, in the US have been stagnating since the 1960’s or so, but this arrangement has been sustained, in part, by falling food prices.

The housing crash hasn’t made rent cheaper. Its just resulted in a lot of people losing their highly-leveraged houses. So now we have a situation where we have stagnant wages, rising food and housing costs and credit markets drying up.

Tasty!

*updated again to add: More at Rachel’s Tavern.*


Pop Quiz!

March 24, 2008

homer_simpson.jpg
Who’s The Husband?
If I was smarter, I would have anticipated this little kink of life as part of a girl/girl couple, but I didn’t. People, people who knew me as a straight girl, people who’ve known me a long time, people whom I’ve just met, other queer people–all kinds of people–have lately asked me: “Who’s the husband/boyfriend/butch?”

The best answer I’ve come up with so far is : “Are you asking me about who does what in bed?” ‘Cause, you know, you are. Ewww.

But just in case you, yourself, have been wondering the same; here’s a clue. If you have to ask the question, it might be because the answer is that there *isn’t* a boyfriend. Or because its none of your beeswax.

Nevertheless, being on the receiving end of this particular inquiry has been food for thought. I mean, to me, I haven’t changed. I’m still pretty much the same pushy broad I was when I busted out of the womb six weeks early. But when my nearest and dearest answer that question themselves (which they generally do, if I let them), the answer is always the same; Its me.

I’m the butch.

Except I’m not. I’m still the kind of girl I always was. Cute, short and with a taste for shoes, underwear and red wine. Plus a sizable personality. I like to think of it as ‘direct.’ And brainy. Maybe ‘challenging.’ On a bad day, crass, mean and with a mouth like an angry truck driver. (I, personally, love angry truck drivers, but thats another post.)

In any case, these mildly gender-contradictory traits, in the context of an apparently straight lifeplan produce no cognitive dissonance whatsoever in the audience; they are merely cute quirks that up until recently reinforced my essential femininity. Now, suddenly, without a Dude to back me up, the same qualities apparently reveal me as essentially mannish.

It seems to me as though there is an unstated equation; you can go this far and no further with your gender non-conformity without crossing some kind of line. Heels+lipstick+ boyfriend+ major ego and incredibly logical mind= femme but if you change one variable the whole picture is in question.

Alternatively, the only real concern of these friends and comrades with regard to my gender is that (possibly, as far as they can tell,) I might not be getting (properly) fucked, and that is the single definitional requirement of femme-ness and femininity. I’m not sure, because I’m not in your head.

But I’m curious. Which is it?

isetta20marriage1.jpg

But I think I’d rather own this car.

“Being married to me would be better than working.”

Why, that is the most convincing marriage proposal I’ve ever had. Even if it was in response to my admission that I am too poor to buy the Parliment special.

Come to think of it, its the only convincing marriage proposal I’ve ever had.

Dear Mom

February 29, 2008

momhat.jpg

Too bad it’s pink.

Sorry. You are not a bummer. I love you. I’m sorry I dont want to talk to you very much right now.

I mean, you are a bummer. Totally a bummer to talk to, anyway. But its not your fault that people are dying and getting into trouble and that they happen to be important people to you and to me. And its not that I dont want to hear about it and help. I do. Thats what I want. But I just don’t know how to help you and take care of myself at the same time right now. I don’t know how to let you take care of me a little bit. And I don’t want to add to your lengthy list of worries.

I think I have to figure that out pretty soon.

Its Not Me, Its Them

November 1, 2007

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— From Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride

 

The Dudes have found me on the internet. This blogs top search terms include the following:

Sexy corpse

Real corpse

Rape sexy girl

Real sexy corpse

Now I know thats my fault and all, for talking about SVU. But I still hope those repulsive hate-porn watching motherfuckers die painfully and rot in hell. Also painfully.