Life Choices: A 20th Century Book in a 21st Century World

November 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

by ELENA

Are you a white, cisgender, educated, New Agey, feminist woman? If so, then Linda Weber’s book Life Choices: The Teachings of Abortion (published by Sentient Publications) is an excellent book for you. If you are not, then Linda Weber has very little to offer. Weber, a prominent feminist and counselor wrote Life Choices using her experience as an abortion counselor at a women’s clinic in Boulder, Colorado. While Weber’s intentions were good, the execution is far from it.

Like many “second wave” feminist leaders who rose to prominence in the 1970s (I’m looking at you, Gloria Steinem), Weber follows a cissexist, binarist point of view throughout the book when she repeatedly writes about women’s unique/magical/etc ability to bear children. Could someone please inform Ms. Weber that not all women can get pregnant? And that some men can? And that sex and gender is not nearly as cut-and-dried as she makes it out to be?  Weber missed a great opportunity to write about special issues and concerns of nonbinary individuals seeking advice about abortion — an issue that is not mentioned enough in our current reproductive rights dialogue.

Weber does make some good points: a crisis pregnancy and/or abortion can be an opportunity for personal growth and development, and this perspective is refreshing. In writing about the history of the pro-choice movement, she makes a very important point about the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision: Roe  had more to do with establishing physicians’ rights than it did with protecting the health, well-being, and bodily autonomy of people seeking safe abortions.  Unfortunately, these passages get lost among her New Age navel-gazing. I have no issues with those who enjoy meditation and/or worshiping The Divine Feminine, but if your spiritual habits are not of the “woo-woo” variety, you’re not going to enjoy this book. Weber’s message alienates both Christians (surprise: some Christians are feminist!) and skeptics alike. Some of her advice is simply not practical: while I can’t deny the possibility of abortion  via soul-to-soul communication between a fetus and its carrier, I do not think that this a realistic or practical method to recommend to anyone.

Legislators in Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, and Michigan have introduced anti-choice legislation, from increased restrictions to abortion access and funding to even more disturbing proposed “personhood amendments” that would also outlaw most forms of birth control.

Rick Snyder, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, et al want to restrict our bodily autonomy, and bring us back into a world where, like a teenaged Weber, we would have pretend to be married so we could receive an abortion via IUD implantation, and risk an infection. They are not interested in going on a vision quest. They don’t care if we meditate. They are not going to listen politely to us. The personal stories in Lie Choices are touching, but out of place in an increasingly hostile political and social environment.

Now is not the time to get in touch with our inner goddess. Now is the time to hurl bricks.

This review is part of a blog tour hosted by Linda Weber’s publisher, Sentient Publications, who provided me with a review copy. The next blog on the tour is at The Abortion Gang on November 20 and the previous blog on the tour was at The Abortion Monologues. Linda Weber will be doing an actual physical tour of the west coast in February. Please consult her website for more details closer to that date.

Happy Coming Out Day!

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

Today is National Coming Out Day. Why do we mark this event? Because coming out is awesome! What could be more delightful than celebrating your identity? I’m a fan.

The queer community at my school organized an event in the main plaza with music, rainbow flags, and a physical closet door that you could open and walk through. They also made a bunch of OUT and ALLY pins. I had class but was able to swing by towards the end of the event, hoping to pick up an ALLY button. Which means that I didn’t get a pin, but also that hundreds of my peers were excited about publicly declaring their alliance with the queer community. Sweet.

One more thing: This day is a wonderful opportunity to come out and to talk about the process of doing so. What’s not so wonderful, but what I’ve seen illustrated on more than one occasion, is the subtle implication that if you’re not ready to come out, you’ve somehow failed at the equality cause.

But sometimes that pressure can be negative, and I’d just like to say that rushing someone “out” is not constructive. It’s okay to still be questioning, still figuring things out. It doesn’t make you less of a member of the queer-and-allied community. Those who are questioning deserve our support just as much as those who are queer.

Today in Transphobia

September 19, 2010 § 7 Comments

by ELENA

Trigger Warning for transphobia.

According to Investigation Discovery, being trans is just as bad as being a bank robber, serial murderer, Russian spy, or polygamist.

Until the media stops treating transgendered individuals as freaks/weirdos/comic relief/or as not really being their identified gender, many will continue to assume that being trans is a crime, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to sensationalize members of the transgender community. And the transgender population will continue to face harassment, discrimination, and horrendous acts of violence.

Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? should really be called Why the (Bleep) does John Waters Have Anything To Do With This Cluster(Bleep)?

Kudos to Fuck Yeah FTMS for posting Investigation Discovery’s Facebook page, and contact information. If you’re as upset as I am, please contact them. The only way that networks like ID will change is if they hear from viewers who will not continue to watch their programming, and will not buy products from programming advertisers.

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino gets paid $10K per episode of The Jersey Shore. Joelle ruby ryan blogged about the most recent episode at Transmeditation’s Blog.

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, known for an obsession with his own abdominal muscles and hooking up with women in order to openly degrade them and call them ugly “grenades,” is flirting with a blonde woman at the club.  We don’t actually see her face because it is pixelated out, evidently meaning she would not sign a release agreement to allow her face to be shown.  She is wearing a choker. Cast member Pauly D states: This person “got all the clues that leads me to believe she’s a man– something to hide the Adam’s apple, something on her hands The Situation got himself in a situation with a tranny.”   Other cast mates than all go on to say: “There is a saying in Miami: if you have to think about it, or hesitate to think: it is.  It’s usually a dude… it’s a tranny: stay away!”  The hate-language of “tranny” and calling gender-variant people “it” are used multiple times.

Mike Sorrentino is making a lot of money to behave like a complete asshole on a reality TV show. Some executive, somewhere at MTV seems to think this is a great idea.

MTV doesn’t seem to have a “Contact” page on their website, but you can leave comments on their Facebook and Twitter.

And, as Fuck Yeah FTMS points out, LOGO is owned by MTV.

Jezebel: Still Not Progressive

September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

by KATIE E.

Nope. Unless your idea of busting the kyriarchy involves heteronormative, classist, ageist, woman and sexuality shaming, pro-rape bullshit.

Overall, the entire piece fails due to its insistence that the only “real virginity” is man’s penis into women’s vagina. It makes no reference at all that might not be true for people who are trans,  non-gender binary conforming, bi/pan/asexual, lesbian, gay, and/or queer identified. Plus, it effectively erases people who simply choose not to have PIV sex, or don’t want to count it as “losing their virginity” due to rape/assault/other trauma, or the belief that oral/anal/something else was their “first time.” And what about people who can’t or can’t comfortably have PIV sex due to sexual dysfunction or a similar condition?

None of these people exist in Jezebel-land.

You know who else is apparently a figment of my silly feminist imagination? Twenty something virgins. Instead of respecting the fact that someone couldn’t or didn’t want to do it before they hit 21, let’s talk down to them and insist they need a “a solid core of female friends to guide you through the first-time sex experience” or “Get out of town. Preferably Paris, France. Pick an attractive, mysterious European stranger who doesn’t speak a word of English and is totally inappropriate for your real life, but perfect for this occasion.” You know, I really have no problem with one-time sex with someone you don’t know, even if it’s your first sexual experience. Nothing wrong with that. But doesn’t the idea of picking someone who can’t understand the language you speak scream with consent issues and sound a little like rape? Or actually, sound exactly like rape because that’s what it is?

Besides, how many twenty-somethings (or anybody, really) can afford random European vacations? Not a whole lot, yet the piece  normalizes it and doesn’t offer solutions for the many people who can’t do it.

The entire piece just perpetuates the culture of  shaming women for not having their first sexual experience go a certain way, something that conservatives are regularly called out on. Jezebel would refuse to publish a piece telling women the best way to have first-time sex is after the wedding, but they are fine telling women they need to have a party or be drunk. While their isn’t a huge culture of shame forcing their advice, it’s still the same concept: telling women they don’t know how to handle their own sexuality. It’s time that all of us-conservative, progressive, or somewhere in between-trust women enough to know if, when, and how their first sexual experience will take place.

More Things That Aren’t News

August 5, 2010 § 4 Comments

(Trigger warning for transphobia.)

by KATIE E.

Seth Macfarlane epicly fails.

“…a recent episode titled “Quagmire’s Dad” shocked some of “Family Guy’s” gay fans with a storyline about the title character having to accept his military father’s feminine manerisms. Quagmire’s father explains to him that he’s not gay, but is a “woman trapped in a man’s body” and is going to have a sex change. The show’s main family characters show virtually no sympathy for their neighbor, referring to the newly out “Ida” as “odd” and a “he-she” who is having her penis “lopped off.” At a post-surgery dinner, they invite Ida and Quagmire to come over, but throw out a dessert that she contributes. That’s followed with lots of rude comments about gender reassignment surgery. Quagmire and Ida have a falling out, and Ida leaves to go to a bar. There she meets the family’s male dog, Brian. They talk, then kiss (and assumably have sex). But when the family finds out Brian has fallen for Ida, they laugh at him. Once Brian connects Ida to Quagmire, he engages in a 40-second vomiting gag. Later, Brian is seen panting and washing desperately. In the meantime, Quagmire reconnects with Ida. But when she tells him about Brian, Quagmire rushes next door to beat the dog to a pulp.”

And his comment:

”[The unhappy reaction to our transgender character] surprised me. I don’t meet a lot of stupid homosexuals. They seem to be a pretty smart bunch. But it seemed that they were not picking up on the fact that it was a very sympathetic portrayal of a transsexual character….  Look, Brian happens to be a heterosexual character, as I am. If I found out that I had slept with a transsexual, I might throw up in the same way that a gay guy looks at a vagina and goes, ‘Oh, my God, that’s disgusting.”’

Isn’t Seth Macfarlane just that wonderful LGBT ally he always says he is? Afterall, sensitive portrayals of trans* people always need to include misgendering, othering, and cliched I-just-did-it-with-a-transwoman panic.

The biggest fail here has to come in his surprise. Really, Seth, you’re SURPRISED that “stupid homosexuals” were not pleased with your “sypathetic” portrayal of a transwoman? You’re surprised that promoting the trans panic scenario that routinely gets trans people killed didn’t bring in the lulz? You felt it was okay to attribute all the outrage to “homosexuals,” and not bother to even give trans* people a voice?

 I am so sick of white, straight, cis men thinking they know everything about oppressed people. Especially someone like Seth Macfarlane, who already has millions of fans (why, I’ll never know), giving him even more power. Soon enough, his privileged fans will start parroting this, and the vicious cycle of transphobia and lesbo/bi/homophobia will continue. People living in ignorance of privilege will continue to try to tell us that words can’t hurt us, but it’s words like these that create a culture in which trans* people fear for their lives daily.

Calling All Readers: Help me boycott Target in a creative way!

August 3, 2010 § 9 Comments

by ELENA

Nationwide retailer Target (alternative pronunciation: Tar-zhay) has wound up on many people’s consumer shit lists (mine included) due to the recent news that an executive at the Minnesota based chain donated $150,000 to a Republican candidate who is against LGBT rights legislation. But wait–there’s more! In the past, Target’s CEO has given money to such fine, upstanding individuals as Michele Bachmann.

I’m shocked and disappointed by this behavior, because according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Buying For Equality 2010 guide, it has a prefect score, meaning that it has policies supporting LGBT employees in place.

I want to do more than just write the requisite “I’m-not-going-to-buy-your-stuff” letters to Target higher-ups.

So, fellow readers and contributors, I’m looking for creative and effective ways to protest Target’s recent decisions that:

-Will not get me arrested (being asked to leave a store, or being banned from a store is fine.)
-Will not make other Target employees jobs more difficult. So, while Karen’s suggestions would certainly get the point across, that would lead to a lot of pointless work for employees that have little control over the retailer’s policies.
-Will be effective regardless of the number of people participating.
-Will be enjoyable to do.

Shopping should not have to be a constant weighing of the lesser of two evils. And I fail to see how maintaining a healthy business, and promoting basic human rights are mutually exclusive issues. Shame on you, Target.

UPDATE: Target’s CEO has issued an apology for their donation to Rep. Emmer, but many organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign aren’t convinced that Target’s apology is genuine, and want the mass retail to back up their words with actions. I’m still looking for protest ideas, because I’m not buying their apology, either.

UPDATE, PART TWO: I’ve come up with a pretty cool idea for a protest, which involves dressing up as Zombie Michele Bachmanns, and doing the Thriller dance outside a Target store. Are any readers in the Grand Rapids, MI area interested in joining in?

UPDATE, PART THREE (THOUSAND): A flash mob group performed an adapted version of DEVO’s “People are People” in the Target store. Check out their video below.

Very Quick Congrats

August 3, 2010 § 4 Comments

by KATIE E.

Before all the gender-policing, right-wing radio tangents, conspiracy theories, OMG WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDRENZ!!11!!, and plain old transphobia start to crop up, I would like to offer my  congratulations to Thomas Beatie and his wife on the birth of their third child, and my sincere condolences for all of the crap they get to hear, again. That is all.

Today In Good News vs. Bad News

July 24, 2010 § 12 Comments

by KATIE E.

Bad news: A Merseyside woman was caught with child pornography that included pictures of children being abused.

Good news: She was not detained because she is a transwoman, and the judge understood what danger that would put her in, especially since it was required that she be put in a men’s prison.

Don’t get me wrong, I think child pornagraphy is despicable, particularly the kind that Voyce was looking at. The article mentions that she is facing 100 unpaid work hours, supervision, and being put on a sex offender registry, which I think is appropriate, and I hope she recognizes what she did wrong and changes her ways, and that the children victimized are receiving help and compensation.

However, trans* people in prisons, particularly prisons that misgender them, are often subject to horrific treatment. No one — not a possessor of child porn, not a rapist, not a murderer — deserves that kind of treatment. All people deserve some basic human rights, which should include the ability to identify as whatever gender they choose, receive treatment and/or surgery to make that happen, and not to be victimized because of that.

I do believe that broadcasting this in a national newspaper wasn’t the best approach. I am glad that I was able to find out about one judge that was doing it right in a corrupt system of justice, but I wish the woman in question had not had her name and picture published.  Outing a transwoman and associating her with something almost universally considered evil is going to open her up to transphobic attacks, though they hopefully won’t be as bad as what she would have faced in jail.

I also think it is worth noting that the woman in question stating in the article that she looked at pictures of the children to “come to terms with her troubled childhood.” Again, I firmly believe anyone caught with abusive child porn should face legal punishment, but I don’t believe that this woman is evil. I believe this woman, as a transwoman, had an extraordinarily rough childhood (and it hasn’t had a long time to recover from it — she’s only 20), and is trying to deal with it in ways that are, yes, harmful to children, but are the best she can do. I don’t condone her continuing to look at the images, but I really hope she is receiving sincere, non-judgemental support and help.

David Letterman, Comedian/Bigot

January 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

You may have heard the news that Amanda Simpson, a trans woman, was recently appointed by President Obama as a senior technical adviser to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security. The National Center for Transgender Equality points out:

“What is noteworthy about this appointment is not that a transgender person is serving this administration—many transgender people work for the federal government—the real story is that Amanda Simpson was selected based on her exemplary credentials and not because she is transgender,” commented Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Countless transgender people are overlooked every day for jobs they can do very well. When an employer does not discriminate based on gender identity, they have access to more highly qualified people. That’s what happened here.”

So Simpson’s apppointment is certainly a milestone.

Now for the requisite media transphobia and transmisogyny hate cocktail in response, courtesy of David Letterman.

Letterman: Well here’s something interesting. President Obama has appointed a transgender person, a transgender person, her name is Amanda Simpson and he has appointed her to be part of the Commerce Department. We have a photo, here she is right there. Yeah, that’s Amanda Simpson, and she’s a transgender…

Alan Kalter: WHAT? AMANDA? Amanda used to be a dude? OH MY GOD! (Runs away)

(Audience laughs)

Letterman: (Laughing. To someone offscreen) Will you talk to him later for me?

LOLZ! Because trans women love to trick cis guys into sleeping with them!! (Also — why are you calling attention to the photo, Dave? Want to have proof for the audience that she looks “like a woman”?)

Sign this petition demanding that Letterman apologize.

Via Feministing.

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Recommended Reading

November 20, 2009 § 1 Comment

Today is the Eleventh Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. There’s great reading all over the place.

Questioning Transphobia; Shapely Prose; Shakesville; The Curvature; gudbuytjane; Feministing; TransGriot (and Monica again at Global Comment).

Rachel at Deeply Problematic says it nicely:

This is not the only day to recognize and fight transmisogyny and cissexism. If you are cis, you need to consider the privilege that you have just by existing. Think about the danger cis women are constantly in just because we are women. Trans women face exactly that danger, but their trans status makes them many times more vulnerable.

To the dead, you are not forgotten. And to the living, let us work together so that there may be no more names.

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