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Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex: Towards a Queer, Trans and Feminist Abolition Politic

A wonderful thought provoking panel by Eric Stanley, Dean Spade, Ralowe Ampu, and Vikki Law on Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex.

amazing

(if I go to grad school, can I become Dean Spade?)

(via crunkfeministcollective)

So this happened…

So this happened…

Oooh, the Baltimore Sun (the city’s major newspaper, which didn’t suck once upon a time) published my most recent blog.  I respond to the media smear campaign against #occupybaltimore, and discuss the actual gender issues at play on site.

This is not a very good blog, but I wrote it in a huff after the GA yesterday and didn’t have time to edit.

Today, I had an awesome opportunity.  I was interviewed by WBAL, a Baltimore news station, as a voice of the #occupywhatever movement.  Fellow media teamer Spencer decided that I would be a good candidate, based on my blog yesterday. 

I did not say, “I feel that we’ve reached a critical juncture, and we must act now in order to keep our momentum going.”  I did not say, “People need to look around and realize that our current system is not working, and let the government know that keeping it the same is not an option.  If all we’re doing is sitting in the park, it’s still an option.”

I did talk with my hands a lot, and bounce back and forth.  I did say, “If I weren’t here tonight, I would be at home, sitting in my room – the same room I lived in when I was in high school – and, like, reading.”

I said a few other things that were hopefully more relevant and less stupid, and I hope those are the ones that make it on the air.  I know it was better that WBAL get the basics of the occupation rather than an articulate insider critique.  Still, I know that more people will see that broadcast than will ever read this blog, and I can’t help but feel disappointed that I awkwardified my chance to speak for the 99%.

Stay tuned for a critical, articulate blog after the General Assembly.

My personal take on the birth of the #occupy movement in Baltimore.  Hopefully I will blog again tonight about the progress that has/not been made.

Charm City SlutWalk stirs the melting pot, which is incidentally unplugged.

Check out this article I wrote on SlutWalk Bmore!  My goal was relatively unbiased, across-the-board coverage of SlutWalk (locally and internationally) and the race and gender politics surrounding it.  At last Saturday’s march, I bravely clutched my borrowed digital recorder and accosted people as they attempted to protest.  Everyone agreed that rape culture had to go, but that was about it.

Things I did not write in the article:

- GOD DAMN, did it feel good to shout about something I believe in!  And shout we did.  The night before, I tossed and turned with vision of awkwardness (seriously) dancing in my head.  I was sure that the turnout would be low, that people would try to start chants and fail, and that bystanders would sneer.  Instead, I convinced several people to join the march, and experienced the rare exhilaration of mass unity.

- I was so busy interviewing people during our stroll down The Block that I don’t know what to believe.  Some people said the sex workers came out and chanted empowerment slogans with us, some people said they looked askance at our gaudy display of privilege and ignorance.  I’m sure it was both, but I feel like a prize fool for not witnessing it firsthand.

- Never Have I Ever was uncomfortable.  I enjoy that game, just as I enjoy drinking and sleeping around, and I don’t care who knows it.  However, I could tell that some of the people in that crowd felt differently.  Sex positivity is the future, and Lucé Tomlin-Brenner is hilarious and super cool.  But making people divulge personal information if they didn’t want to stand out wasn’t a good idea, especially with so many survivors of sexual assault present.

- The racial composition of the march was pretty depressing, but honestly, it was a little better than I expected. 

- My own feelings about the word ‘slut’ are pretty mixed.  As much as I would like to reclaim it, I want to defer to the people who continue to be hurt by it, because clearly it matters more to them.  (I did some flyering for SlutWalk Bmore in Towson and Mount Vernon, and I sometimes felt uncomfortable saying the event’s name in front of children or while alone with large men.  Almost no one had a problem with it.  The worst were the coffee shop liberals, who always felt the need to snidely inform me, “I know what SlutWalk is.”)

- Did anyone consider SkankWank as a titular alternative?

- SlutWalk is not about dressing up.  That said, I was hoping - as I do each morning - that the weather would permit me to wear less clothing than I did.  Bad feminist?  Dude, if loving the hot sun on your naked skin is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

This appeared at the Lutherville Light Rail police outpost today.  Good choice, guerilla activist, considering it was the first football game of the season, and SlutWalk is next weekend!

This appeared at the Lutherville Light Rail police outpost today. Good choice, guerilla activist, considering it was the first football game of the season, and SlutWalk is next weekend!

Breaking news: Wal-Mart and the Supreme Court hate women

It’s hard to think of a supposedly gender-neutral profession that hasn’t been described to me as a “boys’ club.”  I think I first heard that phrase from my mother, complaining long ago about being in state politics, and most recently from my friend who works as assistant technical director of a theatrical scene shop. 

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that 1.5 million women who claimed to have experienced gender discrimination as employees of Wal-Mart could not join together in a class action lawsuit against the evil mega-corporation.

"Here, [the group of women employees] wish to sue about literally millions of employment decisions at once," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.

Without some glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together, it will be impossible to say that examination of all the class members’ claims for relief will produce a common answer to the crucial question ‘why was I disfavoured.’”

I don’t want to get into the semantics of the lawsuit, because that’s certainly not something I’m qualified to debate.  But this decision, written by the notoriously regressive, sexist Antonin Scalia, highlights the federal government’s refusal to acknowledge the war on women.  Even the White House won’t admit it.  Moreover, Scalia effectively dismisses gender discrimination as a driving force behind injustice in the workplace.  He’s telling us that in order for all these cases to have misogynistic motivation, they must follow the same pattern, have the same excuses, and manifest in the same kind of sexist behavior.  In reality, sexism takes more forms than I could ever hope to list, and the crucial question ‘why was I disfavoured’ will have a million answers with a million different interpretations.  But they’re all part and parcel of the underlying assumptions in our society that women are weaker, less capable, and less deserving of success than men.  

When the government finally acknowledges the war on women, it won’t make all our problems disappear.  But it’s a critical next step in opening national dialogue, and in shifting the perception of feminism away from a homogenous group of angry, strident women looking to stir up trouble anywhere they can.  A feminist is anyone who can look at our structural and social norms, see beneath the glossy rhetoric of equal opportunity, and decide that something is wrong with this picture.  Because that means admitting that America has a far-reaching weakness, a fundamental problem with only ourselves to blame, our politicians are afraid of talking about it.  And without talk, how can we get some action?

What we ignore about abortion rights

The news media and blogosphere are always buzzing with incensed coverage of the War on Choice, but, as usual, the dialogue is intensely slanted on the side of privilege.  I should know, that’s the side I live in.

While I have nightmares about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, and grapple with the even realer fear that statewide legislation will whittle down my chance to abort to a two-day window following insemination, I don’t really believe that I will ever be denied my right to choose.  Even if I never find another job and run deep into debt, I have incredible family and friends who would front me whatever money I needed to travel and pay for an abortion.  And this is true for most of the women who write about abortion rights on the internet.

The aggressive outcry over Planned Parenthood’s defunding took a decidedly problematic turn when advocates decided, early on, to shift the focus from abortion.  “Planned Parenthood does other stuff too!” they cried.  “Just look at all the medical care they provide for women with familes, women who love their children and just want to be healthy enough to raise them!”  What they ignored was the fact that taxpayer dollars SHOULD be paying for women to get abortions, just like they pay for other medical procedures and healthcare services.  The right to choose is not just for people who can afford it.  And the sooner we bring that fact front and center instead of brushing it under the carpet, the closer we’ll be to embracing a feminism that isn’t racist or classist or otherwise elite.

That’s why it made me so angry to see this post on the usually-progressive reddit the other day (emphasis added):

Why do people continue to be hypnotized by the red herring of abortion? Abortion has been legal for nearly 40 years and that’s very, very unlikely to change regardless of who’s president. Stop encouraging debate on abstract bullshit… let’s focus on real issues.

Let’s stop allowing candidates to debate soft topics like abortion and spend more time on real topics that require actual action like the wars, economy, foreign policy, etc.

And despite the significant feminist outcry, the majority of the top-rated comments agreed with the OP.  I left some angry responses, linked to this article (if you don’t click any other links, click this), and went to bed a little more disillusioned than when I woke up. 

Then today, a MotherJones article by my indomitable hero Mac McClelland directed me at this cheery piece of news.  The Ohio Senate has decided that not only can public hospitals no longer perform abortions, but public dollars can’t even fund healthcare plans that cover the procedure.  And the kicker?  It only applies to rural, unincorporated counties.  This means Appalachia and the Rust Belt.  It means Lorain County, my place of residence for the past four years, and Athens County, where my mom grew up.  It means all the tiny towns I spent the last week canvassing, wondering how on earth it feels to live hours away from the nearest Target - let alone an abortion provider. 

The reality of the War on Choice is that abortion has become a class issue.  It’s not a black-and-white issue of morality, and you can’t make the problems go away by upholding Roe.  It’s time for our politicians and advocates to stop legitimizing the anti-choice zealots by obscuring the issue and avoiding the sadly incendiary truth: MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT ONE’S BODY IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT THAT NECESSITATES FULL GOVERNMENT FUNDING AND SUPPORT, no matter what state you live in.  Let’s have some actual action, please. 

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Themed by: Hunson