Archive for August, 2006

h1

“blood does not a fetus make!”

August 28, 2006

OK OK, very different from my superserious self-righteous posts, I know. But I felt the need to share this beautiful story.

The NYSun reported on August 25th:

A report that a fetus had been found at a Queens golf course triggered a multi-agency search for the mother yesterday — a search that ended when officials determined that the discovery was in fact a sanitary napkin.

Seriously, how in the world could a pad look like a fetus? Hello? Gothamist writes: “Chalk this one up to watching a little too much Law & Order: Special Victims Unit!” Totally. I love SVU, by the way.

Wait, wait, it gets better. Where was this mysterious “fetus” found? A garbage dump, perhaps? A deserted area?

The discovery was initially reported by a golfer who was suspicious of something she found in the restroom, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department said. “Everyone thought it was a fetus,” a course employee said.

So it was found in a bathroom, by a woman? You’re kidding, right? Priceless and also totally depressing.

Thanks to Gothamist for this nugget of news.

h1

maybe it should’ve been a dye-in?

August 24, 2006

(my fabulous blue-haired friend was confused as I described yesterday’s action to her over the phone. She thought I meant some kind of protest where the participants dye their hair in solidarity with…something. Maybe she’s got a good idea?)

Depending on what circles you run in, you may or may not have heard about the die-in that a group of New York Jews staged in front of Penn Station yesterday to protest Israel’s recent actions in Gaza and Lebanon. It was covered by few media outlets: some blogs (notably: a one-line mention on Gothamist, a bit of snarky criticism from Jewlicious, and a post on Jewschool, which got the requisite annoying comments from both sides of this debate, which is very clearly black and white), on some lefty site I’ve never heard of called World War 4 Report, and on nyc Indymedia (both of which just pasted the original press release). You can see the press release, photos, video, and press clips from a similar event held in Boston last month on JewishConscience. Coordinated events were held yesterday in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The Philly action was banner drops, and the SF folks chained themselves to the front doors of the Federation building, for which they were arrested. (Not sure about what went on in LA). The rest of this post addresses only the New York action.

(Just to put this issue out and then aside, I have begun to focus most of my energy towards local issues and have made a conscious effort not to be involved in Israel-related activities. I do, however, understand that it’s not really possible to simply turn a blind eye to the goings on in the Middle East just because of some ideology of “here-ness.” Israel exists in my name and in the name of every Jew in the world, and with that in mind, I revisit the issue of what it means to be active around Israel/Palestine issues here in the US. I’m a bit of a hypocrite in that I don’t really have any intention of starting to do anything around this issue – action- or organizing-based, but this particular action was so present in my community that I really feel the need to address it.)

Check out both the photos and the video from yesterday’s action in New York. I think that they are both incredibly powerful images, especially the video – there’s some kind of eery silence that you can sense even over the street traffic that is pretty haunting. I think generally silent protests are all pretty intense in that way. I also appreciated that the giant banners took into account the fact that “officially” the war in Lebanon has been declared over (clearly more complicated than that) and that the message of the protest needed to be tailored appropriately.

While the banner was tailored appropriately, the comments of some of the protestors in the video were less so. Those made it seem like the action was more of an apologetic than anything else, like instead of making concrete suggestions for change it was more like “don’t put me in a box with those other US Jews who support this war!” Which is all fine and dandy for when we sit around with our friends and share opinions and frustrations, but doesn’t really jive so well with an action like this, in my opinion. I think that it serves possibly to teach the general public that there are different kinds of Jews (which is an important message on some level but could definitely be achieved in ways that are less inflammatory) but I think it serves mostly to irritate mainstream Jews and further their opinion that the far-left has absolutely nothing to do with them and that they/we are a crazy bunch of fringe lunatics.

In that sense, I don’t know that personally I would put my name or my weight behind an action like this. If I/we were doing some sustainable activism around this issue, I’d be way more OK with an action like this, because I feel like once we’re organizing and we have smart and nuanced public opinions about it that we express through our work, we “earn the right” to protest in this simple, one-messaged way once in awhile. A lot of US Jews (specifically NY Jews) are opposed to a lot of the policies of the state of Israel, and the way we should deal with that is to harness our power is to organize, work with, and educate mainstream US Jews around this issue, not just be angry and make a lot of noise and ostracize ourselves and our opinions further. I refuse to believe that we have so little in common with mainstream Jews that we can’t organize and educate around this issue. As I look at photos of a meticulously planned action, I wonder what concrete changes on the ground we could all be working on and not just how many protests we have attended.

I’m told that this action was directed specifically at the US government and not at mainstream Jews. I’m also told that this action may serve as a jumping off point to start some sustainable organizing around this issue. My perspective is one of an outsider, a member of the public who read about the action and watched the video. Obviously, participants in such a public protest may always have motives or goals that are less public than the actual action. I’m interested to see what might come as a result of this action.

To put this whole debate of direct action vs. organizing (if I can use that binary for just a moment) into perspective: I’m thinking of groups like Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (The Jewish Alliance for Peace and Justice), whose mission is to “to educate and mobilize American Jews in support of a negotiated two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” (from their website), as opposed to groups like Jews Against the Occupation who describe themselves as “an organization of progressive, secular and religious Jews of all ages throughout the New York City area advocating peace through justice for Palestine and Israel” (from their website) and whose mission, far longer and more detailed than that of Brit Tzedek, contains high hopes and dreams, many of which I share, but are, in many ways, completely unrealistic. Their long mission statement is more of a presentation of political opinions than a description of what they actually do. I think it takes a lot more guts to tailor one’s message to meet mainstream Jews in the middle and try to make changes that are within reach than to wax poetic and dream way bigger than reality will allow. I don’t mean this to be a jab at JATO – I just wonder if their mission might be furthered by more long-term organizing and education and fewer protests and actions. Who knows, perhaps the somberness and the shock value of the image of a die-in that the participants were trying to convey may spark some sustainable movement or activities (or perhaps, if it doesn’t mobilize the public, it can mobilize the participants themselves and their supporters, which would also be great). So far, the response that I’ve seen has been less than positive.

h1

the trouble with identity politics

August 21, 2006

Yesterday’s NYTimes had an article about the political intricacies of the lives (well, transitions) of transgendered men, particularly in their thorny relationship with a lesbian community of which they may have once been a part. The article (the title’s a little kitschy for my taste: “The Trouble When Jack Becomes Jane”) made me sort of wistful and remember those good ole’ days of being in a queer community at a women’s college, when heated discussions on this topic could be overheard pretty frequently and when talking identity politics was a very important part of my academic and social life.

Annoyingly but predictably, the L Word’s Max gets major play in this article. I haven’t watched the show since the first season, but from what I understand, one of the characters is an FTM, and according to the article, many fans are not happy. Whatever. Judith Halberstam, ever the identity policewoman, continues to battle those pesky FTM’s*:

“It’s as if the category of lesbian is just emptying out,” said Judith Halberstam, a gender theorist and professor of literature at the University of Southern California, San Diego, whose books include “Female Masculinity.”

Thanks, Judith, for erasing that category for the rest of us. I think it’s really complicated and I don’t always use the term lesbian, but there are certainly parts of it that I really embrace and I don’t need Judith Halberstam telling me that because some people who once identified as lesbians are transitioning, the category ‘lesbian’ is emptying out. Maybe she was misquoted – because if the category ‘lesbian’ is disappearing, it’s not because of FTM’s, it’s because lesbians are identifying more as queer. At least it’s so in the circles in which I run.

The article quotes Koen Baum, a family therapist in San Francisco, on one possible source of this fear:

Mr. Baum said the anxiety also stems from fear over the loss of an ally in the struggle against sexism. “The question in the minds of many lesbian women is, ‘Is it still going to be you and me against sexism, you and me against the world?’ ” he said.

To this I respond, there are many non-trans men I know who are fighting sexism, and there are many transmen I know who could care less! I don’t know that we can hold people to such expectations based on their gender presentation/identity.

Everyone seems really concerned that this term called lesbian is becoming obsolete – well how about this brilliant idea, maybe we need some new terms? For so many people, FTM or not, lesbian just doesn’t cover it. I completely get the idea that lesbians might feel abandoned or betrayed by FTM’s for political reasons. I, for one, relate to some FTM’s not because of our shared gender/sexual identity but because of shared political views or ideologies. If we stopped categorizing people according to gender gender gender, we might be able to concentrate less on identity politics and more on some more important issues happening in the world.

(p.s. The article has some great photos. Do check those out.)

*I should say that have some beef with Halberstam that came way before I read this article, mostly connected with the way that dealt with butch/FTM identity in Female Masculinity. To be brief, she seems to think that those on the trans/masculine spectrum must identify either as butch or FTM or both and that other types of female masculinity are simply some variation of butch, which they definitely are not. I found her habit of equating “masculine” with “butch” pretty irritating, and I am not even the least bit masculine (meaning, my irritation was based on the fact that I thought it was bad scholarship, not on personal offense). Her quote in this article reeks of the same kind of overgeneralizing, specifically on the topic of gender identity, towards which she gravitated in parts of Female Masculinity. I did find most of the book to be interesting and well-written and I certainly learned a lot from it. Maybe this will turn into a longer post at some point.

h1

femme puppet!

August 21, 2006

Abby Cadabby should make the femmes proud. I think so, anyway. Abby is the newest, girliest addition to the Sesame Street cast. And a fairy, to boot! I know, I know, I should stop seeing everything with a queer lens. But this is a really good one. She could never replace Miss Piggy (the ultimate high femme) but she seems fabulous in her own right.

The pink and sparkly Abby, who flutters around with dragonfly wings and a magic wand, is decidedly more girlie than her peers… “Abby, being a fairy, allows us to teach diversity and accepting of other’s differences, because we don’t have a fairy on ‘Sesame Street,'” (executive producer Carol-Lynn) Parente said. “She’s able to show everyone what it’s like to be a fairy and what it’s like to be magical.”

Contrary to expectations, I won’t go into a long and detailed rant about why Abby is queer. Suffice it to say that she sounds like a sparkly femme to me. And she’s so effing cute! Go Abby. More here and here.

Thanks again to Feministing for the linkage. (An excellent site to add to your rss reader, IMO)

h1

reason #456 to love HBO

August 21, 2006

I started a post about Spike Lee’s new documentary about Hurricane Katrina, When the Levees Broke, but then realized how ridiculous it is to blog about a movie I haven’t seen yet. The first two parts premiere tonight on HBO; the second two tomorrow night (both at 9 PM). All four parts (one hour apiece) will be aired on August 29th, the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Interesting reviews/opinions:

N.O. Better Blues (from Salon.com, brief summary and then description of the New Orleans premiere of the film)
‘When the Levees Broke’: Spike Lee’s Tales From a Broken City (NYTimes review)
Spike Lee Films the New Orleans Disaster His Way (NYTimes opinion piece, not exactly my opinion but an interesting read)

See the full airing schedule here.

h1

linking not thinking

August 11, 2006

Too much happening right now. Life seems to get in the way of blogging.

Jew-types: check out this little queer d’var torah on Parashat Ekev, written by a queer San Franciscan who is friends with all my besties. Divrei torah on brachot over binding are always hot. Check it out. Thanks to D for the linkage.

Feminist-types: I want to purchase this rockin’ t-shirt, courtesy of the California chapter of NOW. Own those waves. All of ’em. Thanks to Feministing for digging this up.

Pop-culture types: Madonna rocked this little narcissistic t-shirt last week. If you’re lazy, it says “In Madonna We Trust” with a huge cross in the middle. Ya. Way to do your part in giving the proverbial finger to the God-types who run this country. Or maybe that’s just my own interpretation. I don’t know why she ever surprises me.

All-types: do buy yourself Ani Difranco‘s new album called Reprieve, which came out on Tuesday. It’s helped me through tough times already. It’s sad and mellow and more political than her last few albums. Songs that are already stuck in my head: hypnotize, decree, reprieve, shroud.

Lastly, saltyfemme is famous. Rock.

Love and kisses from far away from home (literally and figuratively). This post is for my queen with blue hair.