Sunday, January 31, 2010

Things I Read About This Week

According to the Tebow Super Bowl add may be a - Tim's mom may not have been able to "choose."

A medical school student in Canada has made the fact that a school has students perform pelvic exams on surgical patients without their consent.

The doctor who said there was a connection between MMR immunications and autism has been found to be "dishonest, irresponsible, and with callous disregard" by the General Medical Counsel.

Looks like I'm not the only one who thought the grieving of J.D. Salinger was a bit over done (particularly since we also lost Howard Zinn the day before). Personally, I HATED Catcher in the Rye - probably because it was another story about another boy. Is that fair? Probably not, but neither is the American Lit canon.

A great review of the Lifetime movie about the so-called pregnancy pact.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Roeder: Guilty of 1st Degree Murder

Friday awesome has been revised:
It took jurors 37 minutes on Friday to convict Scott Roeder, an abortion opponent, of first-degree murder in the death of George R. Tiller

Judge Wilbert ruled that he would not instruct the jury to consider a lesser charge when they begin deliberations on Friday. Mr. Roeder pleaded not guilty to murder, but defense lawyers had argued that his beliefs about abortion might warrant a voluntary manslaughter conviction if jurors concluded that Mr. Roeder possessed, as Kansas law defines it, “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.”

The Justice Department's investigation into whether or not other people or groups were involved is "open and ongoing." Now, can we start referring to him as Dr. Tiller instead of "abortion doctor"?

Thanks to Ms. Caitlin for the heads up.

Your Friday Awesome: How to be a reporter

Nothing like an informed citizenry.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Whole Foods: The Skinny Shall Be Rewarded (with more food)

Granted, the price point was already enough to limit my shopping at Whole Foods - even though it is so pretty and right on my way home from work.

Now, Whole Foods employees who are skinny with good lab results are being rewarded with larger discounts than their larger or less genetically elite counterparts.

Monday, January 25, 2010

School District Bans the Dictionary

No, you read that right.

A school district - in CALIFORNIA - has banned Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary because it includes the term "oral sex" which is age-inappropriate.

And - AAAAAAAAANDDDD!!! - they have formed a committee to review ALL dictionaries to "determine the extent to which the challenged material supports curriculum, the educational appropriateness of the material and its suitability to the age level of the students."

Okay, when I was a kid they tried to ban The Bean Trees from the 9th grad curriculum because it had the word "penis" in it. And people are banning other books left and right. But, the banning the dictionary has officially ushered in the era Newspeak.

Via Shakesville.

Things I Read This Week

After a week of thunderstorms our internet decided to go out due to brief showers and Comcast took seven hours to get it back up, so this is a day behind...

We lost three incredible activists among the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Miranda discusses the arbitrary determination of adulthood in the US on her eighteenth birthday.

Jenna dissects and discredits the "logic" behind PETA's marketing and its founder's excuses.

Elizabeth Gettelman talks about the Focus on the Family Super Bowl Ad in the larger context of football and the special status of quarterbacks - of which I know nothing about.

And in the "hope for the rest of us file": Orangutans have learned to be mediators.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Your Friday Awesome: Providing Care

As Vanessa points out, this is not just the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It is also the first day of opening statements in the murder trial of Dr. Tiller's assassination.

I'm a woman-educated physician. I don't know how many abortions he did, but the women in my father's practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me that abortion is not about babies, it's not about families, it's about women's hopes and dreams, potential the rest of their lives - abortion is a matter of survival for women.

Full transcript at Feministing.

Blogging for Choice

Remember when the the Supreme Court made good decisions?

Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade:

Thirty-seven years ago, the US Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision, Roe v. Wade, recognizing the constitutional right to privacy and a woman’s right to choose. Our supporters, the millions of people we serve, and those who serve them – we are Planned Parenthood, we stand in support of Roe, and we will continue to stand strong in the years ahead. - Planned Parenthood

While in graduate school in Texas, I had the privilege of meeting Sarah Weddington. She argued Roe v. Wade in front of the Supreme Court at the age of 26, because as she told me "no one else would take the case."

As I've said before, living in Texas was part and parcel of my education. Growing up the in San Francisco Bay Area, raised by a feminist mother, and born six years after Roe v. Wade, the right to complete reproductive health was simply part of the fabric of my life. But, that does not mean I took it for granted.

In my experience, it was very clear just what Planned Parenthood and other women's clinics, offered to women and girls. Going to a Catholic college, Planned Parenthood was a place to get treated for a UTI without a lecture on the pre-marital sex you weren't having. It was the place I drove young women who came to the college's Women's Resource Center, because if I wrote down the address or phone number I would be expelled.

Once kicked off your parent's healthcare plan, in the middle of the post dot-com recession, Planned Parenthood was a place to receive basic medical care, your birth control, and your annual pap smear for free (or for the cost of a thankful donation as you left).

Which is why before leaving for Texas I volunteered as a community outreach member for my local affiliate. It was then that I learned just how fragile the necessary services Planned Parenthood provides were, even in California. I also learned how few women knew that they even existed (even outside my Catholic school bubble).

But when I moved to Texas, I truly learned just how hard people are working to strip women of their ability to access basic services.

The first day I volunteered at Planned Parenthood in Austin, the staff asked to see my teal Medical card (the program that allowed me to access services for free in California). You would have thought it was made out of gold. I soon learned why.

When I arrived in Texas, Title X funding had been reduced so only women 18 and under could access services on a sliding scale. Six months later only women under the age of 16 could.

I volunteered in the downtown clinic - the only one that could then accept what few patients could access the sliding scale, but could not provide abortion services. The North clinic could, but only medical abortion. Surgical abortions could only be performed in the South clinic - a feat of community organizing and architecture created after a fierce battle to provide services despite the efforts to make building it nearly impossible.

But, I knew a lot of this going in. I knew that there are counties in Texas without a clinic of any kind for miles, and that the efforts to limit access were immense. What shocked me most was how few young women in Texas knew that services like these even existed anywhere. The UT campus has an amazing women's clinic that provides basic women's healthcare. But once I stepped foot off the campus, whether at work or at Walgreens, I continually found myself, not an abortion counselor, but a biology teacher.

Young women quietly asked me about STI symptoms they were experiencing, not knowing they were an STI. Or they quietly asked me about normal changes in their body that they were sure were a sign that something was wrong - because they had no knowledge of their own anatomy. At 20 or 23 or 28 they had never had a pap smear. These women were not just experiencing a culture that made abortion a bad word. The extremely conservative lawmakers that had not only made women fight to access basic services had also succeeded in keeping them ignorant of their own bodies, thanks to abstinence only education and the pervasive culture that a woman's body was dirty and abnormal.

All of this is to say that the efforts to shut down clinics, make it impossible for them to provide services, difficult for women to actually obtain services, or perpetuate acts of violence against providers for providing a basic medical procedure, are not the only actions taken to strip women of their ability to choose.

The theme of this year's Blog for Choice day is "trust women." But, in order to ensure safe and legal access to abortion, it is not simply enough to trust that women can make the decision to have an abortion or not, to access Plan B or not, to take birth control or not. Denied access to abortion is a symptom of a greater mistrust in women. A mistrust that limits our ability to understand the biology of our own bodies, to know how to keep ourselves healthy and to be able to seek preventive services.

Read more posts as part of Blog for Choice day, here.

Image via PEP.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quote of the Day - Jane Lynch

"Shouldn't there be safeguards against the majority voting on the rights of a minority?" Lynch wonders. "If people voted on civil rights in the 60s, it would have never happened. It took somebody like Lyndon Johnson going, 'F all of you! I'm going to do this.'"

Via Feministing. Image via snarkerati.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unobtainium is Real?

Dreaming of diamonds

Only, in this case its called diamonds.

Evidently there may be diamond lakes with diamond icebergs on Neptune and Uranus. Cue the jerk-off contractors now.

image via flickr user swamibu

Quote of the Day - Roger Ebert

Who knew? Roger Ebert: feminist?

"The Lovely Bones" is a deplorable film with this message: If you're a 14-year-old girl who has been brutally raped and murdered by a serial killer, you have a lot to look forward to. You can get together in heaven with the other teenage victims of the same killer, and gaze down in benevolence upon your family members as they mourn you and realize what a wonderful person you were. Sure, you miss your friends, but your fellow fatalities come dancing to greet you in a meadow of wildflowers, and how cool is that?

The rest of the review is just as lethal and funny. I haven't read the book or seen the movie, but thanks to him I can check them both of my to-do list.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Your Friday Awesome: Learning is Awesome Edition

Lets be frank. We could use some awesome this week, but rather than kittens and puppies how about totally useful awesome things, like this:

That is a page from 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), and not only does it make learning super fun, it is for kids - not boys or girls - just kids, and those of us who are actively curious.

I was raised on backyard and kitchen science experiments. I also spent a summer as a camp counselor at the Children's Discovery Museum working with middle schoolers to facilitate experiments with early elementary kids. The favorite project? Making rockets out of film canisters and baking soda. The record for height was over the building...yeah, could be dangerous. But, you know what? No one got hurt and it was an awesome good time - even for the 13 year-olds and that, my friend, is saying something.

Also, I totally need to find a place for this:

Will definitely come in handy after the zombie apocalypse.

via BoingBoing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bypassing Bureaucracy to Give Help to Haiti

Everyday on my way to work I pass the California Nurses Association building. Yesterday there were news cameras in front of it because, in partnership with National Nurses United, they are sending 700 nurses to Haiti to help with the urgent relief effort.

Unfortunately I can't for the life of me find the segment that aired on KTVU. But I think the 30 seconds of it spoke volumes about relief efforts such as these. To summarize, the spokesperson for National Nurses United said that they had already found housing (in a country where housing has been devastated) for 150 nurses, because they have learned to bypass government agencies and work directly with health care providers in the location they are going to. They learned that lesson after Katrina.

These are before and after images of the Presidential Palace in Haiti:

That is not what the White House looked like after Katrina.

If you would like to donate to the relief effort, Mother Jones has a good list of people already mobilized and helping the effort, as well as ways to get information about friends and relatives who are there.

If anyone can find the video let me know.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Things I Read About This Week

The USO has decided that of all the things female soldiers need, Cosmo and mascara are the most important.

And the Gap thinks toddlers need "boyfriend jeans."

This dude tries to make fun of a teenager and only succeeds in showing us that he is not as funny as her.

In good news: NYU now has The Kathleen Hanna Papers.

Public Note to Self: Make These

This is how you make awesome gender-neutral crafts and play things:

French braids + superheroes + warmth = amazing.

I want to be the kind of mom that inspires that.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Avatar: Dances with Blackwater in Space

Avatar Various
First things first: You are telling me that James Cameron had 12 years to make a movie and the best he could come up with is unobtainium?

Really, twelve years? T-W-E-L-V-E years?!? And that is the best you can come up with? Jimmy, its time to hire yourself one less coder and one more screenwriter, or just some kid of the street, cause really...unobtainium? You're telling me that who ever made their way to Pandora and found this ore of awesomeness decided, "Um...screw naming it after me, this crap was frickin' hard to find!"

Oh wait! Turns out he's been wanting to make the movie for fifteen years.

Once again...James Cameron had FIFTEEN YEARS TO PRODUCE THE MOST EXPENSIVE MOVIE EVER MADE and all he could come up with is unobtainium? Holy hell. Also, um, what exactly are we mining it for again? Oh that's right, we never find out, because twelvefifteen years and nobody came up with a reason as to why we need it, other than its hell of expensive, yo. And probably unobtanium = oil.

Okay, sure, the movie was very pretty. Though it did seem like he saw the Disney Electrical Parade one too many times and decided to make the new planet and all of its inhabitants entirely out of fiberoptic wire. But, I have to give the man credit for paying enough people long enough so that they could finally figure out how to make CGI mouths non creepy.

But, those braided head tails? Totally creepy. They totally would NOT have been creepy without the "if you play with it you'll go blind" comment. But, since Sigourney Weaver made the comment (in all of her character's second-wave feminist awesome glory) they were totally creepy throughout the entire movie. Way to go. Now we all get to look forward to people weaving their wigs together at Comic-Con.

Oh, and what I was afraid of happening is happening. I didn't just see Avatar . I saw Avatar: An IMAX 3D Experience. I shit you not. The experience began with a slough of previews for movies in IMAX 3D. Until Jimmy made giant blue space cats, the only IMAX 3D movies I'd seen were ones having to do with creatures of the deep and the Grand Canyon. The only exceptions of course, were V for Vendetta and Beowolf (what? I was an English Major. It is a requirement to see all big-budget pop culture interpretations of Old English poems), but that is two movies in like the last five years. Now there is something like five IMAX 3D movies coming out in 2010, only one of which has to do with science.

But, the IMAX 3D (am I the only one that must yell that in my head everytime I read it? Say it with me: IMAX 3D!!!) revolution doesn't end there. IMAX, Discovery, and Sony are creating an entirely 3D television channel. Here's a thought for y'all: If everyone comes out of the theater saying "Oh, pretty!" but also slightly cross-eyed because those flimsy lenses have given them a headache, you better focus on improving the delivery method before you go and greenlight Jersey Shore 2 and that Jennifer Anniston rom-com in IMAX 3D(!!!).

But back to the topic at hand.

Not only did James Cameron not come up with a good name for the ore that will be the end of Fern Gully in Space, or a reason why they are mining it, as many, many, many people have pointed out (I like this one best) he didn't really come up with a script either.

But beyond the post-colonial "white dude is hot for princess, realizes his culture is wack, must save her community of bad-ass warriors with a combo of their bad-ass warrior training, giant beasts and some guns" story, the movie has also been identified as a blockbuster commentary on war.

I disagree.

The commentary is not so much in opposition to war or racism or genocide as is against government contracting. It is not the military that we are set up to hate and told to root against, instead it is a private corporation seeking profits (with the help of some ex-Marines to be sure). And that reminds me of another movie: District 9.

Sure, lots of people compared the two because "white dude becomes alien", but that bit of the storyline is not so much similar as it is mirrored. Avatar functions within the framework of imperialism and environmentalism. District 9 functions within the the framework of immigration, segregation and apartheid. In Avatar "we" invade "them." In District 9, "they" get stuck with "us." In Avatar "we" want to become "them." In District 9 "we" must live out our Kafkaesque nightmare incarnate and become "them." In Avatar, "we" help "them" defeat "us" and evict the imperialists because "we" realize "we" were wrong. In District 9, "we" help "them" defeat "us," but only because it will save our own ass. In District 9 our hero uses a giant walking robot exoskeleton to save the day by killing the biggest, most racist asshole. In Avatar our hero defeats the biggest, most racist asshole who is using a giant walking robot exoskeleton, to save the day.

However, in both cases, the assholes in question are not active military or politicians, they are employees of government contractors who act as hired thugs to control a population and gain resources, whether it is better weapons or a better source of energy. In District 9, even the highly-problematic Nigerians are doing the same thing that the company is doing: trying to profit off of the violent power of alien technology.

Which, if we are going to precise, military contracting isn't really something unique to our era of post-colonial white guilt. Columbus and his hand-amputating crew? Not a part of the Spanish Armada. Nope, instead they're the 15th century version of independent contractors. Licensed by the state to go do its dirty work and bring back the spoils.

However, I think District 9 achieves this commentary far better than Avatar does. In Avatar the technology gets in the way of the story (oh, I get it these guys are Blackwater Xe and - ooooooooh! pretty!) where as in District 9, the CGI is integrated into the story seamlessly (minus the ship). Also, every bit of the movie is dirty and messy - and not only because the "other" in Avatar is hot, while in District 9 they are made to look like crustaceans. In District 9 there isn't a single character we actually like and who has pure goals (excepting, perhaps, the child alien). In Avatar the dichotomy of the dumb, exploitative humans, and knowledgeable, pure Other is cut and dry. In District 9, the aliens are portrayed as violent and incompetent, both in our world and in theirs (my husband has a theory as to why they got stuck on the planet with no knowledge of escape: they were the oppressed class in their world, too. Perhaps that is a slave ship hovering above Johannesburg?)

District 9 also better achieves the commentary because it doesn't have the one actress of color with a speaking role of more than two lines playing the tough-as-nails Latina who evidently finds the alien planet much hotter than the rest of her colleagues and therefore must cut her tank top for breathing room. Or Sigourney Weaver's avatar in that weird Stanford crop tank top, for that matter. But then, at least they aren't straddling motorcycles.

But, here is the main difference between the two movies: District 9 does not end happily for our hero. He is transformed completely to the Other and must wait for years living among the community he despised for rescue that may or may not come. Avatar however ends with a victory over the oppressors who are evicted from the planet.

Unfortunately, you cannot have a true and useful commentary on the evils of greed and violence with a fairytale ending. Jake Sully and his new found friends have succeeded in winning one battle, not the war. Sure, they are off the hook for about six years or so, but if "unobtanium" is so damn awesome, there will be new folks that come to take it.

But does this mean I hated the movies? Nah. I mean Avatar is very pretty. And we don't have to watch creepy CGI mouths anymore - hopefully. District 9 certainly made the viewer, who came for a sci-fi shoot 'em up, leave uncomfortably thinking about what they saw. It also is one of the few blockbusters with a giant US marketing campaign that takes place in a culture that is not American. Trust me, a lot of references went over my and lot of US viewers heads. Will that make them think? Once can hope - after all, they pissed off the radical conservatives so they must be doing something right.

Regardless if it is the same story told over and over again, by someone who has inherited the privileges of a history of oppression (all billions of dollars of it), obviously we need to keep telling the story since lots of us haven't learned the lesson. It would be great if those billions of dollars were funneled to directors, writers and actors who have a different story from a different perspective to be told. And, it would be infinitely better if those billions of dollars were spent on things that might actually put an end to and rectify the the violence and oppression they are commenting on...but this is hollywood - ooh, pretty!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A "Mighty" Gender Neutral List of Skills for Everyone

If I hadn't already mentioned it, I'm not a fan of gendering specific skills, hobbies or life lessons.

Uber-blogger Maggie (aka Mighty Girl) agrees. She's come up with list of 100 gender neutral skills everyone should master. Its a pretty great list - though, I still need to learn a second language and how to build a campfire.

Her list also makes me feel better since she's been working on it since 2008 (in response to male-centered lists) and if a professional blogger can shelve a post for that long, then my list of partial posts waiting to be let out of pre-published limbo might just have hope. Maybe learning how to write faster and without reservations should be on my list...

She is semi-crowdsourcing the references, too, so if you know how to skip a rock, let her know.


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