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Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Y’all I’m really struggling with this attempt to displace vaginas from feminist conversations. Honestly, I don’t think this is the move.

Here’s the thing: feminism taught me to love my vagina. (Hip Hop) Feminism gave me the courage to use the word “pussy,” when I need to make requests in the bedroom. (Cues Missy E.) But feminism a la bell hooks also taught me about the historical politics of “selling hot pussy.” Feminism taught me years ago not to feel embarrassed about telling y’all a period story and gave me the structural analysis to think about why we ask women and girls and all people who have periods to hide them or feel shame about them. Even in 2017, I still have to walk into women’s and gender studies classrooms and tell my intro students about the historical reasons for period shame. Their faces still turn beet red – all of them.

But also: we live in a world that doesn’t love vaginas. Vaginas are structurally maligned, and considered the property of men. Just ask your new president. Let us not forget the transvaginal ultrasound fiasco of a 5 years ago, when several states tried to make it legal to put a phallic like ultrasound probe into a woman’s vagina against her will. In a hierarchy of genitalia, penises are chief. Vaginas are near the bottom. And then the genitalia that intersex people have labor and languish in epistemic obscurity, by which I mean, that up until only the last few decades or so, science chose not even to acknowledge that penises and vaginas aren’t the only configurations of genitals that exist.

When I think about what it would mean to build a Black feminist framework which decenters the pussy, it gives me pause. The call is of course to decenter cisgender Black women from Black feminist frameworks. Again, this move, and the ways in which, in far left social justice spaces, such moves are assumed to be a clear mandate, a clearly desirable end of our politics, gives me pause.

From The Crunk Feminist Collective with “Pussy Don’t Fail Me Now: The place of vaginas in black feminist theory & organizing”.

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But the pathology that’s animating these viral conspiracy theories is different. It’s a determinism of a far more granular sort: It assumes, quite improbably, that the Trump team knew exactly what sort of thing would happen after their every move, that they were only testing out the details. As if Jared Kushner could see through time, as if Stephen Miller could read our thoughts. Its universe is one that’s programmable. To adopt their own hermeneutic stance: What’s really going on, underneath all the layered lies, and what little puncta might give it away? The most notable clue here is that neither Zunger nor Fuentes are political analysts or journalists or academics or even civil servants. Instead, both come from the tech industry.

Zunger is on the privacy team at Google; Fuentes was behind LevelMoney, an app since acquired by Capital One. They belong to a particular class, with a particular way of looking at the world. Silicon Valley doesn’t really approach politics as a sphere of competing social interests, a space in which people have the ability to make collective demands and collectively alter the conditions of their existences, but as a system—something with an input, an output and reams of complex programming in between. Whenever the tech world turns its attention to politics, there’s always the hint of this nerdish fascination for system: an inattention to what politics actually is or does, but a fetishization of efficiency, the latent notion that all these 18th-century structures really should just be replaced with something you can download on your phone.

From Sam Kriss’ “Liberals on the edge of a nervous breakdown” in Politico Magazine.

All this is a sign of a political immaturity that continues to stunt the growth of the American left.

Were liberals on the march? Yes! And thank god. The movement to resist Trump will have to be a mass movement, and mass movements aren’t homogeneous — they are, pretty much by definition, politically heterogeneous. And there is not a single radical or revolutionary on earth who did not begin their political journey holding liberal ideas.

Liberals become radicals through their own frustrating experiences with the system, but also through becoming engaged with people who became radical before them. So when radicals who have already come to some important conclusions about the shortcomings of existing system mock, deride, or dismiss those who have not achieved the same level of consciousness, they are helping no one.

From  Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s “How to build a mass movement” in Jacobin. 

 

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Spend it on mental health, according to this very interesting policy research. In terms of government expenditure, it is both super cheap and leads to super impressive outcomes.

What gives you best future outcomes? Spending money on the mental health of mothers and schooling systems that focus on the emotional health of children (especially in high school).

(And I suspect some of the income inequality effects in this research are crowded out by work intensification lifestyle effects).

 

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This is wonderful writing by Chiwan Choi in the Cultural Weekly, “Whiteness isn’t intellectualism. Whiteness isn’t indigenous. Whiteness isn’t anything”.

He wanted to talk to me about a problem that LARB was having. A diversity problem, by which it means a lack of diversity. He said he was told I was a person to talk to to help solve this problem, to fix this shortcoming.

But the thing is, he said they didn’t really have a diversity problem. According to Tom, people were mistaking LARB for a publication with diversity problems.

He knew this because he had gone to the Authors page on LARB’s website and counted all the faces that weren’t white. The non-white faces. Or faces that were not white white. Ya know? That’s how he was sure it was just some perception problem because he counted many not white white faces.

Then he asked me to write something for them.

I said no. I refuse to be an extra number on their diversity count that improves their chances at grants.

We planned to meet. Then he canceled. We planned to meet. Then it didn’t happen.

Then we met finally. We talked. I told him the problem wasn’t how many writers of color LARB published. I told him he couldn’t have all white editors and solve this problem.

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This article by Catherine Deveny on the ABC called “Financial abortion: Should men be able to ‘opt out’ of parenthood?” is infuriatingly limited.

I have recently come to the conclusion that, as a feminist, I support men being able to opt out of fatherhood early in a pregnancy via what is known as a financial abortion.

I believe a woman should not be forced to become a mother any more than a man should be forced to become a father. If a man has not said, “I want to have a child with you now-ish”, it is fair to assume he doesn’t, and therefore should be able to legally withdraw from becoming a parent.

It would also be less traumatic for children, and more empowering for women.

A financial abortion (also known as a paper abortion or a statutory abort) would essentially enable men to cut all financial and emotional ties with a child in the early stages of pregnancy.

Men can ‘opt out’ already. Don’t have sex with women, get a vasectomy, take lots and lots of responsibility for contraception. Oh.. you mean not that kind of “control over reproductive choices”.

Men can have more control than they do currently over whether parenthood happens (see my paragraph above), but just like women they don’t have full control over conception. Pregnancy is not something you can ‘make happen’.. you can provide circumstances that will facilitate pregnancy or which won’t… but conception is a biological action that happens outside of women’s and men’s control. We all need to carry responsibility for that.

It is not something one can ‘opt out of’ if you, like me, happen to enjoy the act of putting sperm near eggs inside women’s bodies.

What certain men are seeking to ‘opt out of’ is not whether parenthood can occur, it is the responsibility of parenthood. How very user choice, what part of reality might possibly be missing from this?

The parent with the ability to decide to carry a pregnancy to term (or not) is the one whose body has a foetus inside it. If we lived in another reality where men could choose to carry a foetus in their body to term then they could opt out of doing so.. and I am sure many women would be content to concede that right to men.

 

And of course on the wider issue of opting out, as someone said on my Facebook page, is this…

“In practice men do have this choice: courts won’t demand men conform to care and contact agreements & DHSCS has a poor record of enforcing compliance with child support assessments/ agreements. Women’s access to abortion remains practically constrained and single mothers a group at high risk of poverty – these remain the bigger issues than further expanding masculine financial & paternal discretion.”

 

 

 

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It is another common assumption that a single mother is a woman who puts her sex life ahead of her social responsibility. Manipulative or sexual, she exhibits either too much self-control or not enough (what is never mentioned in relation to teenage pregnancies is the possibility of child abuse and rape). Behind the idea of maternal virtue, therefore, another demand and/or reproach. A mother is a woman whose sexual being must be invisible. She must save the world from her desire – a further projection that allows the world to conceal from itself the unmanageable nature of all human sexuality, and its own voraciousness. Even in the years leading up to the 1960s, when there was more sympathy for the predicament of single mothers, the basic assumption was there. ‘Innocent’ girls could get into trouble and deserved understanding ‘provided that they did not flaunt their transgressions’. Nor is the childless woman immune from sexual taint. ‘Surely,’ one journalist said recently, expressing a common attitude to the declining birth rate in 21st-century France, ‘a woman who refuses to be a mother enjoys lovemaking rather too much?’

In this context, ancient Greece and Rome are again refreshing. Cleopatra, deemed the most desirable of women, was the mother of four children, one, she claimed, by Julius Caesar and the three youngest by Mark Antony, something most representations of Cleopatra conspire not to remember or talk about (no one I have mentioned this to had the faintest idea she was a mother).

From this amazing essay, “Mothers” in the London Review of Books by Jacqueline Rose.

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What fantasy is Trump giving his supporters the liberty to consider? What secret have they been hiding from themselves?

Trump seems to awaken something in them that they feel they have, until now, needed to suppress. What is that thing? It is not just (as I’m getting a bit tired of hearing) that they’ve been left behind economically. (Many haven’t, and au contraire.) They’ve been left behind in other ways, too, or feel that they have. To them, this is attributable to a country that has moved away from them, has been taken away from them—by Obama, the Clintons, the “lamestream” media, the “élites,” the business-as-usual politicians. They are stricken by a sense that things are not as they should be and that, finally, someone sees it their way. They have a case of Grievance Mind, and Trump is their head kvetcher.

In college, I was a budding Republican, an Ayn Rand acolyte. I voted for Reagan. I’d been a bad student in high school and now, in engineering school, felt (and was) academically outgunned, way behind the curve. In that state, I constructed a world view in which I was not behind the curve but ahead of it. I conjured up a set of hazy villains, who were, I can see now, externalized manifestations, imaginary versions of those who were leaving me behind; i.e., my better-prepared, more sophisticated fellow-students. They were, yes, smarter and sharper than I was (as indicated by the tests on which they were always creaming me), but I was . . . what was I? Uh, tougher, more resilient, more able to get down and dirty as needed. I distinctly remember the feeling of casting about for some world view in which my shortfall somehow constituted a hidden noble advantage.

From George Saunders’ “Who are all these Trump supporters?” in The New Yorker.

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