November 4, 2008

Maddow on New Poll Tax

Posted in activism, oppression, politics, social justice at 2:22 am by LB

Well, it’s been a while since my last post. I must say, I have been absolutely swamped with teaching (being the first time, and all), not to mention misc. things that have come up in the last month. I’ve had much to say, and not enough time to say it. Teaching, especially, has given me many blogging ideas from the kinds of questions and concerns my students have. I hope to rectify this soon…so readers, don’t go away!

I have also become somewhat of an election junkie, so I have been absorbed in the news. So many apologies, and I hope to be back to blogging regularly soon. So don’t forget to vote tomorrow!

Today my student asked me if I thought that a professor would let her leave class early to vote since she has class all morning and has to work immediately after. I told her what I thought, and I really felt for this student, who at 18 had the desire to vote, yet to do so meant hurting her at work or school. I teach at a community college, known for having significant percentages of students who work and attend school full time, and many are mature students returning to school for a better job. These student lead very complex, full lives and schedules.

I had that conversation in my head as I watched Rachel Maddow’s Live Sunday special (thank you, DVR!). I was incredibly moved by Maddow’s scathing characterization of the long, long early voting lines as a poll tax. I was moved because of the way that Maddow pleas with the audience–as voters, employers, public officials–to persevere to vote in this historic and all-important election, and then demand that we, as a nation, fulfill our democratic values and eliminate what is effectively a poll tax. I couldn’t agree with her more.

Watch her assessment here


July 18, 2008

Awesome Colbert Report clip

Posted in humor, social justice at 12:36 am by LB

Great clip from The Colbert Report

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Awesome Colbert Report clip“, posted with vodpod

July 14, 2008

A thought on economic incentives for having kids

Posted in double standards, economics, myths, social justice at 2:00 pm by LB

As I sit here finishing up the final edits of my Master’s thesis, I had this thought:

The Right tends to argue that our social welfare system provides incentive for single women (a.k.a. “welfare mothers”) to pop out children left and right.  This constitutes an abuse of the system.

I’m not saying that’s at all true (and actually the stats on this “phenomenon” are rather skewed: the number of kids women on welfare have is about the same as the general population), but take their argument and consider this…

Yet there are a slew of tax breaks for families with children.  Does this not also constitute an incentive to have kids in order to receive unearned money (one could call it welfare, sure!) for those kids?  Yet I don’t hear anyone on the right complaining about fact, they usually want to raise them!  Yet why should “we” subsidize “their” children?!

Curious, huh?

I guess so-called “incentives” are OK for the “right” kinds of families…

June 10, 2008

Times article on gender, marriage and same-sex couples

Posted in economics, gender roles, heteronormative, ideology, marriage, queer, social justice at 8:42 pm by LB

via Feministe

The New York Times reported an interesting study on the relationships of married (heterosexual) and same-sex couples.

Same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility […] With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.

While generalizations couldn’t be made by sex, I would be interested to see if husband and wife “types” emerge in same-sex relationships, along lines of economic providing/dependency and domestic work–especially when children are involved in the relationship. Economic necessities of families–and the government and social restrictions on how these are met–don’t go away just because the sex of the partners changes. Economic roles in families are indeed gendered, and are organized along sex-based gender role expectations. But this isn’t to say that the structuring effect of the heteronormative traditional family won’t in any way also structure same-sex marriages.

I’d be interested in reading the study itself, because, notably, the above quote was the only comment made about income and domestic work…and it was with reference to heterosexual couples only. There was nothing reported in the Times about the of division of labor and employment in same-sex couples, and nothing about how things change when children are involved. Some studies have shown that egalitarianism in heterosexual couples tends to go out the window once children are born. The article was really more about conflict resolution and less about economic relations in the family, which I think misses a very important aspect of family constitution. Read the rest of this entry »

May 12, 2008

“Insufficient evidence” for De Anza rape case to proceed

Posted in news, rape and sexual violence, social justice, victim-blaming, WTF at 11:30 am by LB

*trigger warning*

This incident took place in March 2007. 3 female soccer players found an unconscious woman girl (she was 17) being gang raped in a room by a group of 9 male basketball players. When they tried to enter the room, the door was repeatedly shut on them by a guy all three were able to later identify. Originally, the DA’s office said they weren’t bringing charges at all. That changed after public outcry, but this past Tuesday the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the grand jury came back saying there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with the case.

Some key problems with this case:

  • The three females who witnessed the rape were never called to testify in front of the grand jury.
  • The victim was said to have “no memory of the incident” but this was because she was unconscious!! Read the details from the softball players here.
  • The article states that:

“were unable to provide consistent, useful identifications of the persons they observed engaging in sexual contact with Jane Doe,” authorities said. […] Grolle and Chief Elk, though, said all three former soccer players could identify a young man who held the door shut and repeatedly refused them entry into the room after they had spotted the alleged victim lying on a mattress surrounded by a group of men. One of the men was forcing the 17-year-old to orally copulate him, the two women said.

  • Apparently the guy preventing the 3 women from rescuing the victim and stopping the rape isn’t guilty of anything. And that’s bullshit. As one attorney said,

“Anyone who holds the door closed while other men commit rape is equally liable for that rape,” Hammer said. “There’s always a weak link – perhaps the guy holding the door. With enough pressure, somebody can be forced to say what happened.”

Even further, the women claim, “[He said] ‘Mind your own business; she wants to be in here’ and slams the door,” says Grolle. Doesn’t sound to me like he didn’t know what was going on.

  • And three of the guys were given immunity…but no testimony against the others?

It’s hard enough getting evidence in a rape case. This one had 3 witnesses, who can positively identify one of the group, who took the victim to the hospital where evidence was collected (including testing that determined that the vomit in the victim’s mouth was not her own). And there’s not enough evidence to proceed?! And as Cara at The Curvature writes:

In short, rape apologism shifts. When it’s a “date rape” people will say “how do we know she didn’t consent? It’s not like she’s covered in bruises.” When she’s covered in bruises, the victim in question will simply “like it rough.” When the woman is unconscious and therefore can’t just “like it rough,” she will be accused of misidentifying her attacker, or people will argue “well, she didn’t say no.” When she does say no, it’s “why didn’t she fight? He didn’t have a weapon.” When she did fight back or he did have a weapon, it’s “well there’s no DNA evidence.” When there’s DNA evidence, it’s “well he probably did it, but it’s not like there were any witnesses…” When there are witnesses, three of them in fact, who are willing and eager to testify? When there are witnesses, they just won’t be allowed up on the fucking stand

And as one of the women who found the victim said:

“It makes us think that no girl is ever going to want to come forward and say they were violated as this girl was, because they’re going to think it doesn’t even matter,” says Chief Elk. “But it does.”

Incredible. Read the rest of this entry »

May 8, 2008

Read this post.

Posted in body politics, Fat Acceptance, identity, objectification, recommended reading, social justice at 11:30 am by LB

Read this post by Kate Harding at Shakesville. Please. Normally I’d just add it to my links but this deserves special attention. The article is primarily adressing the question Kate gets about how she can advocate “fat acceptance” when she’s “only” 1 or 2 sizes larger than the “average American woman.” Her whole article is quite moving and poignant.

But this “the average American woman wears a size 14!” shit is utterly meaningless in terms of defining what’s “fat” and what’s “normal” in this culture […] You’re right, of course, to want to get the message across to this woman that there is nothing wrong with her body. She could probably stand to hear that. But telling her she’s not fat is not the same thing. It denies her the anguish she feels about having a body that deviates from the ideal, however slightly–and believe me, deviating even slightly is plenty to cause legitimate anguish–and worse yet, it reinforces the message that her being fat by some other standard would mean there was something wrong with her body. That’s the underlying problem here–not whether the woman is officially “fat,” but that so many of us automatically equate fat with a host of other negative characteristics, with there indeed being something wrong with your body. The hilarious thing is that just before this wankstain yelled at me, my Pilates instructor–a student teacher who’s not used to me yet, let alone to how all sorts of different bodies work–had been falling all over herself telling me how amazingly strong and flexible I am. (Thank you, yoga.) In the space of ten minutes, I went from being praised up and down for what my body can do to being cruelly insulted because it’s not a socially acceptable size. And if that doesn’t drive home the point that the real problem is not anybody’s fucking fat but a culture that insists fat bodies are intrinsically worthless, I don’t know what will.

May 7, 2008

More on heteronormative familial-economic arrangements

Posted in economics, gender roles, heteronormative, ideology, social justice, U.S. politics at 2:45 pm by LB

This post on income splitting at The Hand Mirror is a darn good read. It’s an analysis of income splitting, which is a “remedy” for the unfairness brought on by this scenario:

Family A, a family with two working adults each earning $40,000, pays less tax than family B, in which one adult earns $80,000 and the other adult stays at home to look after the kids. Each family has the same gross earnings, but the single earner’s larger income places him in a higher tax bracket. This is unfair, Dunne believes: where a parent (usually mum) has given up paid work for childcare, her family should not face a financial penalty.[…] Income splitting seems to recognise the value of women’s unpaid work, and the fact that it supports men to do their paid work. So what’s wrong with this picture?

The critique asserts:

Although families A and B earn the same, things are not equal between them. Family B spends only 40 hours a week in the workforce to make $60,000, whereas Family A spends 80 hours. The extra time available to family B makes a huge difference to its quality of life. Both Mum A and Mum B have domestic work to do, but Mum A begins hers after she knocks off from her paid job each day. Noticeably absent from Dunne’s plan are solo parent families. Solo mums bear lone responsibility for all the paid and unpaid work in their households, but have no one to split incomes with, so cannot receive any tax relief. Income splitting is less about recognising women’s unpaid work than about shoring up traditional nuclear families in the face of increasing solo parent, blended and gay families and whanau.

This is a great critique, as those who stand to benefit the most are those who replicate the ideal, gender-normative and heteronormative family.

(see my two previous posts on this topic).

May 5, 2008

What a concept! Kyriarchy

Posted in feminism, identity, intersectionality, kyriarchy, language politics, power hierarchy, social justice at 1:06 pm by LB

This is great. I think I might start using this term.

Sudy @ A Womyn’s Ecdysis:

Let me break this down for you. When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination — they’re talking about kyriarchy. When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that’s kyriarchy. When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that’s kyriarchy. It’s about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid. At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it’s more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they’re not the ones I find most dangerous. There’s a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down.

Read her whole post. Please.

h/t Feministe

April 28, 2008

The Next Steps for Redressing Unequal Pay

Posted in economics, gender, oppression, patriarchy, social justice, U.S. politics at 9:58 am by LB

I don’t normally blog on equal pay. It is for sure not an area of expertise. I did a short post two weeks ago for Fair Pay Day, because I was so struck by the tangibility of the day in April where men’s and women’s wages would be equal, and how that day is so close to Tax Freedom Day. But it really isn’t an area I’m extremely knowledgeable about (as far as studies go), and I know that the notion of “equal pay” is often contested– studies often come to conflicting conclusions, people often don’t make their terms clear, and there are many different opinions as to who should get equal pay and what counts are equal pay.

These debates are not what this post is about. This is about the Fair Pay Act–the one that on the 23rd a motion to advance it was passed by a majority in the Senate, but didn’t get enough votes to have a debate and vote scheduled on the bill itself. It’s called the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and Suzanne Reissman has an excellent explanation about the history of the bill and what this bill is actually about–check it out here.

Regardless of whether you ‘believe’ that pay discrimination as a result of sexual identity exists or not, there is no reason not to support this bill–because the bill addresses the terms by which pay discrimination can be redressed–and if there is no pay discrimination, then the law won’t need to be utilized!

The next steps for advocating this bill is to contact your Senators. See the National Women’s Law Center for more information on pushing your Senator to get a debate and vote on the bill scheduled.

April 16, 2008

What’s wrong with this article? Marriage and Taxes, part 2

Posted in economics, gender, gender roles, heteronormative, ideology, marriage, patriarchy, social justice, U.S. politics at 2:14 am by LB

Especially in light of my critique of ‘marriage’-centric social organization, check out this article from

Study: Single parents cost taxpayers $112 billion”:

Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing cost U.S. taxpayers more than $112 billion a year, according to a study commissioned by four groups advocating more government action to bolster marriages.

hmm…what’s wrong with this so far? (hint: it’s something to do with the premise of the article)

Ok, I’ll tell you.

  1. It implies that divorcees and parents who are unmarried are not ‘taxpayers.’
  2. Thus, it positions those not divorced or single parents–married people, single people (aka not-yet married), and married parents–as the ‘ideal taxpayer-citizen’

And that’s just the first paragraph.


Sponsors say the study is the first of its kind and hope it will prompt lawmakers to invest more money in programs aimed at strengthening marriages.

Could it possibly be that our social and economic structures heavily favor married parenting, and that’s what needs to be investigated, rather than ‘strengthening marriage’??

Two experts not connected to the study said such programs are of dubious merit and suggested that other investments — notably job creation — would be more effective in aiding all types of needy families.

…which is good, especially since I heard on NPR recently (I can’t find the show reference! aah!) that divorce and income are correlated (and ya know, ‘the sanctity of marriage’ etc. is of utmost important to preserving ‘traditional’ –read: patriarchal capitalist –values).

There’s more:

Scafidi’s calculations were based on the assumption that households headed by a single female have relatively high poverty rates, leading to higher spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice and education for those raised in the disadvantaged homes.

Right, because there’s a natural connection between single mothering and poverty, apparently, so we need to fix the ‘single mothering’ rather than, say, the ‘feminization of poverty’ or the socio-economic structure that perpetuates single-parent (mother) poverty.

See, there’s two problems here with our socio-economic structure:

  1. The assumption of two parents present and sharing a home. The model used to be male breadwinner/female domestic servant. Now, women are ‘allowed’ to have economic independence but continue to bear the homemaking burden.
  2. Women are paid less money, plain and simple.

So in a single-parent family where that single parent is a woman, she’s doubly screwed economically.

At the end of the day, the article–along with the study and those who commissioned it–assumes the natural and neutral center of American life (ought) to be marriage and specifically, married-parenting. Further, they conclude that we should tell people how they should structure their networks of association in their life because it would cost less in government expenditures and because they are deviating from some sort of arbitrary ‘normal’. Sure marriage is the norm in American society; that doesn’t make it natural. It’s still an arbitrary primary structure of social relations.

Sure sounds like life, liberty, and all that jazz to me!

cross-posted to The Reaction

see my part 1 here

April 15, 2008

Thoughts on the Tyrrany of Marriage at Tax Time

Posted in economics, heteronormative, marriage, queer, social justice, U.S. politics at 8:50 am by LB

I’ve seen a few articles over the last few days about taxes and inequality for lesbian and gay couples, due to the inability to get married, as well as straight couples who aren’t married. Mostly, they are addressing the economic inequality faced by cohabitating queer couples who are legally unable to marry (in 49/50 states). Also, any tax allowances made for couples in civil unions at the state level don’t apply to federal taxation.

I thought I would take this opportunity, then, to give a mention to what many times is overlooked in the Andrew Sullivan version of same-sex marriage advocacy (see his Virtually Normal): that economic dependencies and living arrangements are not internal to intimate relationships. In other words, just because the majority of economic relationships are intimate ones as well does not mean they have to be, and does not mean they are necessarily correlated conceptually. The way our social, economic, and legal policies have shaped the meaning of intimate and economic life informs the way that we think about structuring life. Take away those institutional expectations and rewards, and new possibilities are opened up for organizing the fulfillment of a variety of needs– and perhaps in more productive ways.

In full disclosure, my Master’s thesis involves gender norms as they are produced in marriage and through the interconnection of marriage, economics, legal decisions, liberal political theory of the founders, and citizenship, so my thoughts are referring to a body of research that cannot in any way be meaningfully replicated here.

I simply pose a few questions to chew on:

  • Why do we assume intimate relationships must also involve economic dependencies and domesticity? Or rather, that if they don’t, they are less socially valuable, are less fundamental to society than those who do.
  • Why do we assume that the skills and qualities of an intimate couple are what makes the best or proper parents? This is especially relevant when oftentimes it is friendships, not intimate relationships, that end up being the life-long ones.
  • What is marriage a (presumed) life-long relationship, characterized by economic dependency/support, cohabitation, emotional reliance, sexual fulfillment, and potential parenting partnership? Why do we assume that one person should be responsible to fulfill all these needs? And that we should assign civic identities and rights based on the collapse of these relationships into one?
  • In what ways does the emphasis on marriage and coupling, especially in the same-sex marriage rights movement, neglect and further marginalize those who espouse other arrangements than the life relationships collapsed into one?
  • Does the emphasis on same-sex marriage in LGBTQ advocacy render even more invisible and produce second-class citizens of queer folks who do not replicate heterosexual relationship norms of marriage/domestic partnerships?
  • Finally, what is the function of marriage as a civic identity?

This last one is actually the question my thesis addresses, and it is a complex one. But thinking about it, and the other questions I pose, should make us question why our society rewards structuring both “private” and “public” spheres of life in terms of marriage and coupling and their affiliated expectations.

Sure, same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples. That’s not where my argument is centered. I’m just not convinced that so many rights should be allocated based on intimate coupling, and the assumptions that go along with it (see bullet #3). I personally advocate that civic identity should not be premised on intimate relationships or on the way one structures one’s relational life. I see a value in affording certain benefits for those who are in economic dependencies, but that those dependencies should be unrelated to intimate life.

Further, we can begin to think about the other possibilities for living than the only one provided to us when we shake the assumption that marital coupling is and should be the center of social organization. Hell, it may even allow us to think of ways to resist consumerism, financial strains, the emotional stresses of work-family balances. Sustainable living and embracing the Slow Movement become more practical and plausible ways to live. The dirty commie idea of communal living or intentional communities as a shared approach to solving certain daily needs can be more commonplace. But this is a threat to aggressive capitalism by solving problems and meeting needs outside of the capitalist marketplace and reducing consumption. This too, of course, threatens the tax base by creating fewer discreet households by redefining ‘household’. Shaking the emphasis on the individualistic and atomistic ideal of marriage and coupling as the ultimate conflation of relationship needs can indeed challenge ‘rugged individualism’ that has harmed values of community and shared responsibility. Indeed, for me, challenging the place of marriage as the civic identity par excellance is deeply politically progressive.

Thus, I argue that aggressively advocating (same-sex) marriage (or alternatively offering rights to “marriage like” relationships) tends to imply that the marriage-based structure of rights and privileges is just fine “as is” (and I’m not even going to broach the gender normativity still (re)produced in marriage). Instead, I’d like to advocate for different solutions, beyond marriage.

recommended reading: Michael Warner’s Trouble With Normal (on my amazon recommendations)

cross-posted to The Reaction

see my part 2 here

April 10, 2008

To Check Out: Shapely Prose

Posted in body politics, cool feminist stuff, Fat Acceptance, social justice at 10:34 pm by LB

Just wanted to encourage you to check out Kate Harding’s blog Shapely Prose that I just recently added to my blogroll. It’s a very smart blog about “Fat Acceptance” and our general unhealthy relationship with our body, including the cultural disconnect between body size and health.

Of particular interest are these two features:

  1. “Don’t you realize fat is unhealthy?” tab at the top, where Kate smartly and wittingly lays “out ten principles that underlie pretty much everything I write about fat and health.”
  2. Illustrated “BMI Project”–also on a top tab– is a must see. It is a slideshow with images of women labeled with their BMI category (i.e. ‘obese,’ ‘underweight’). It is proof of the absurdity of the BMI standard and how its application has pathologized bodies through the medicalization of ‘fat’.

If nothing else, at least check out those two features.
(NOTE: nothing more after the jump)

April 1, 2008

Check This Out: Economic Inequality @ The G-Spot blog

Posted in economics, social justice at 12:58 pm by LB

The G-Spot has had some really great posts over the last couple days about economic inequality, including the correlation between who does better economically under Democratic vs. Republican leadership that has nothing to do with who comes into power under what economic circumstance. Great reading.

Check them out!

(NOTE: nothing after the jump)

March 28, 2008

GOOD READ: Marginalized groups don’t have the same experiences, but that doesn’t make their fights invalid

Posted in Fat Acceptance, oppression, social justice at 6:18 pm by LB

Excellent post at Alas, A Blog about why comparing fat activism (or any other “lesser” discrimination) to anti-racism (or any other more “legitimate” discrimination) is misguided-that the fact that oppressions are different doesn’t make any fights against oppression invalid.

But so what? Being Black is not like being fat is not like being female is not like being queer is not like being disabled is not like being Asian is not like being trans is not like being poor is not like being…

No marginalized group’s experience is exactly like any other’s. No one’s experiences are interchangeable. But the legitimacy of fat activists’ complaints doesn’t depend on us showing our experiences are exactly like the black experience, or the lesbian experience, etc..

Read the whole post here.

(NOTE: Nothing more after the jump)

January 14, 2008

Sicko and the Guerilla Girls

Posted in social justice, U.S. politics at 3:40 am by LB

I ran across this Guerilla Girls poster, and I was reminded how the social welfare policies in the U.S. run counter to our rhetoric regarding POW’s/”enemy combatants”…we defend ourselves as humane because we “take good care of” our “foreign” prisoners, providing them with food, shelter, and health care (as is so poignantly addressed in Michael Moore’s recent Sicko), but how humane can we really be when we don’t extend those same provisions to our own citizens? Some thoughts…

image credit: Guerilla Girls

From the post title you may think this is going to be a rant on advocating “national” or “government-run” heathcare for the U.S.: it’s not. Discussions about private vs. government care tend to frustrate me to no end because arguments are often caught up in the specifics. I am not by any means an expert in Health Management. What I am interested in is social justice. And one scene from Sicko (below) and the Guerilla Girls poster I recently saw (above) both discuss social issues in terms of social justice, not policy specifics. Propose a policy, and I’ll form an opinion on it and ask for yours. But please, don’t make arguments “for” or “against” specifics of non-existent policies when we need to come to an understand about the concept at hand.

Namely, there is a problem in the U.S. with:

a) the incredible number of uninsured (and mostly middle-class!) people;

b) the denial of health services in order to maximize profit;

c) U.S. officials are quick to defend the treatment of prisoners, etc. (and rightly so, with all the scandal over torture and unjust treatment-they outta be defensive right about now!), yet what does it mean when the treatment they claim they are not giving to prisoners is what we inflict on our own citizens in the name of “free enterprise”!

What does it mean when we give more rights to “life” to criminals than we do our citizens? Whether we’re talking about health care, food, or shelter…

So, I don’t know if we should have “government-run” health care. But I’ll say this: health care, in the U.S., as a for-profit system, has screwed the American public royally to the benefit of shareholders and campaign warchests-typically wealthier people who couldn’t give more of a damn. Heath care should be a right of citizenship-not of employment, not of class, and not of marriage.

And we need to start talking to each other in this fashion when we talk about social welfare of any kind-not in terms of how it’s abused and therefore inherently a bad idea. We need to start agreeing on the problems, and committing to their solutions, instead of denying the problems based on inadequate solutions.

(shameless plug for Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Democratic nominee hopeful who advocates universal health care. Oh, and did I mention he doesn’t accept lobbyists’ money?)

OK, so check this trailer from Michael Moore’s Sicko, since I couldn’t get the movie clip to work (the scene that was so moving for me was the one where he determined that the only place in America where you are guaranteed quality health care is….Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and took the 9/11 volunteers who weren’t getting their medical needs me to Guantanamo Bay, to ask for the same care the “terrorist” detainees were getting. Made. me. cry.)