Archive for March, 2007

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no, not the George Michael duo

March 30, 2007

Today I’m heading up to Boston/Cambridge for the WAM conference (Women, Action, and the Media) at MIT. I’m looking forward to honing my blogging skills, learning about using media as a tool for social change, and meeting other feminist media folks. Hopefully I’ll manage to blog a bit at the conference.

Bloggers and others: are you going to be there? If you’re not going, you should be jealous, the lineup looks pretty excellent. More soon.

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If she wants to she eats bread today

March 29, 2007

(saltyfemme says: welcome to guest blogger oneluckyfellow, poet and community organizer extraordinaire)

As a community organizer in Jewish communities, I often ask people to draw connections between their social justice activism and their Jewish experience. For some this is obvious, for others not at all clear, for most there are stories of Passover – the holiday when families talk about slavery and liberation, when college kids spend time on alternative Haggadahs* for meaningful seders.

My given family rips through a 20 minute seder – we stick our pinkies into Manishewitz and drip small circles on to our plates to remember plagues brought against a repressive regime; we open the door for Elijah to symbolically open our home to anyone who needs a place to rest. My first Passover away from home, I found myself at a seder in Maine where they did everything differently and yet I could still understand, because it was the same story and the same rituals, in the same order. Right then, I realized that my individual experience was connected to a collective narrative, and that that held power.

It is up to me to claim my heritages (not just Jewish), learn from and challenge texts and traditions and make them live today. Years after that seder in Maine, a friend and I had our own two-person Seder consisting of (Jewish and non-Jewish) stories of oppression, resistance, and vision. I know we weren’t alone.

With that, I would like to share a few Passover resources with you.

­* Members of JFREJ’s Shalom Bayit: Justice for Domestic Workers campaign put together a set of readings on issues relating to domestic workers’ justice for Passover. It’s a great addition to any seder.

* A last night seder event hosted by Jews Against the Occupation (JATO) on April 10th in NYC.

­ * A poem by me:

Passover

If she wants to she eats bread today
If she wants to she doesn’t eat bread
today. But today the name she
was named to love Israel
in cannot love the taste
of clean cupboards nor
the land that lives by the clock
of Jewish words. The one
that shuts down on Friday
night and rests until Saturday
It tells her when to make
borscht and never runs out of
farfel at the supermarket
The buses shut down and
only men can initiate
divorce because that’s what
the men decided. Her
name is Rose

She cannot
love the wall that lets this
clock run. That lets
a Settler shoot into trees,
watch someone fall
to the ground. And leave
without repercussions. She can’t
love the clock
that takes a Palestinian’s time
to wait on thirty different lines
to maybe send this person who
shot his uncle to jail maybe

She bought olive oil stronger
than all others
in old soda bottles
label ripped off
but cannot love the walk
she took
home to make dinner
to celebrate freedom
when she looks in young male eyes
who cannot love anymore

checking IDs, yelling in the face of
her friend Palestinian
blue Palestinian green
American Secular Israeli Queer
and together,
she resists

the clock
wound by black coated prayer,
with pieces made by red, white,
and blue suited prayer
by no prayer she knows

The clock that hides
women beaten by their husbands or
cleaning houses far away from home
The clock that closes
restaurants and roads, so
she can’t eat where and when she wants to
on the one brief day
Israeli workers get to rest
and she can’t march with Pride
while children wait detained
next to tanks that bear the star
she wears with six points

She can’t ever go home
without their smiles
at the soldiers, their return
to half walls of cement
posters pasted up

If she wants to she cannot
love the way she wants to

though she can move back
to a land whose clock
does not remember
her. Does not always
save a box of farfel
for her breakfast
or rest enough for her
to rest too

Back to rapid time and people blind
fixed on sermons at the temple
where she feels at home

Silent at the Seder
she misses land
she cannot love,
curses her mother’s tradition,
defies her father’s hate,
won’t eat bread today cannot
love today
the way she wants to

*Haggadah-the story of the exodus from Egypt, and our guide for the seder.

tags: guest posts

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salty sunday

March 25, 2007
(this bag could be yours for a mere $99)

I’m really loving Jewess. Rebecca Honig Friedman explains, with photo, the commercialization of the JAP. Juicy Couture is capitalizing on everyone’s favorite stereotype with a lovely new line called “Juicy American Princess.”

Did you know that today marks the 96th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire? I didn’t. Thanks, jspot.

Women of Color blog links to an old song/video from Palestinian hip-hop artist Tamer Nafar called Kan Noladeti (born here) that I had never seen with subtitles (it’s in Hebrew and Arabic). Interestingly enough, this song and video were produced by Israeli nonprofit Shatil’s Mixed Cities project.

Also re: Israel/Palestine, Reuters (and therefore all your mainstream news sites that pick up Reuters) carried an article last week about Machsom Watch, an organization that sends groups of women to checkpoints in the West Bank to observe and document soldier interactions with Palestinians, then publishes the notes from each shift on their website (full disclosure: I volunteered with them for awhile when I was there).

Piny at Feministe explains her absence by describing her painful decision to go off testosterone and to not masculinize her body. Pretty impressive that she’s being so open about something so personal and complicated. And well written, to boot.

Holy crap, I am a speechless feminist. Last week’s challenge on American’s Next Top Model was called Crime Scene Victims (the pictures are awful, consider yourself forewarned) – the would-be models struck those high fashion poses we’ve all come to know and love (death by poison, drowning, electrocution are some of my personal favorites). Also, the quotes of the judges that go along with the photos are just lovely too. What’s great about this is that you can also look beautiful in death.” Commentary here. Via Feministing and Feministe.

Oh, Canada. Sigh. In HPV news, the Canadian government has allocated $258 million for the HPV vaccine. Via Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy.

In food blog news, Heidi at 101 Cookbooks explains how to make pesto like an Italian grandmother and shares beautiful photos of the green gold.

Remember Beyond Same-Sex Marriage? And my little obsession with it? So last week I went to Bluestockings to hear a reading of a new anthology by Mattilda (editor of the fabulous That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation and the new Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity). Mattilda is a blogger, who knew, and on Friday wrote a critique of the BSSM statement. I don’t agree with her completely, but it’s definitely worth a read. I may revisit her words at a later date in a little more depth. For now, I am grateful for the very engaging essay, which brought up a whole series of new questions.

Livejournalers! Add saltyfemme to your friends list so you can be reminded when there’s a new post. Thanks muchly to one of my very lovely Shabbat dinner guests for setting this up.

Coming up this week: Passover-related posts, a new guest poster, and more. Stay tuned. My apologies for being such a delinquent blogger.

tags: salty sunday

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a salty primer on surfing the third wave

March 22, 2007

Salty, why are you so defensive about your femininity? Why must you always be talking identity politics? Just shut up about this femme stuff, alright, and get on with the HPV vaccine and the Jewish feminism and the social justice!

So here’s the deal. I was/am a youngest child, also the only girl. Feeling small, unsure of myself, and defensive feel as natural to me as my own skin. On the flip side, I’ve learned to hone my arguments, to know what I’m talking about. I can’t afford a weak stance.

That’s why I’m defensive. Now if we want to talk about femininity specifically, it’s because I am such a feminist that I follow blogs that, if I didn’t know blogs were a phenomenon of the recent few years, I would have thought came straight out of the 1970’s. IBTP has a great many active readers in comparison to many other feminist blogs. (edited 3/26) Also, essentialize much? Now, if I stopped being so controlling about feminism, I would retract my hand from the mainstream feminist cookie jar and tell myself that those stale cookies are NOT the kind that I bake here in my third-wave queer femme kitchen. I always hope for more. Always, always hoping. And then my hopeful feminist wants to die a sad death. I knew as soon as I saw “I’m asking you to answer the question, “What is femininity?” that I would be disappointed if I read the responses. And posts like that, friends, explain why the salty is so defensive.

Here’s my secret: feminism is where it’s at for me. I really believe that. I also believe that feminism exists at the intersection of about 8 million other “isms” that we also need to pay attention to, without which a discussion of feminism would make absolutely no sense at all. I cannot discuss men, high heels, patriarchy (i.e. the BOOGIEMAN), footbinding, or lesbian identity without a) specificity and b) context. Open-ended questions can only get you someplace bad, and in feminist blogland, to me that means a place where you define yourself in written words, yet you have not used those words to their full potential: to actually describe what you’re really talking about.

If second-wavers are all “Damn the Man!” why and how do they express this by pitting women against one another and simultaneously assuming that somewhere deep down, all women just get each other? I don’t mind women talking about their own horrible and painful experiences with femininity – I think they should, in fact. I’ve had some of those myself. It’s the nonspecific ones that get me. Femininity is learned helplessness. Femininity is pain. Femininity is a pack of lies that the world tells about women. So here’s what I take from all this universalizing.

The beauty of consciousness-raising groups in the 1970’s was that (mostly white, mostly middle class) women who experienced their lives in isolation began to learn that others shared their experiences, and that power came from finding commonalities. I think there’s a lot to learn from that, I think we form our human relationships and communities based on this same notion. The danger, though, is in talking in categories like “women” and “Americans” – depending on the context, I can be talking “queer femmes this” or “progressive Jewish Brooklynites in our mid-20’s that” and then continue with my sentence. After all, if you’re sitting in CR group, chances are that the women around you are from your community and likely live in your neighborhood, putting you in the same social class and probably race as you – also in the same age bracket. Suddenly you have more in common than just being women. So let’s back off the universalizing for just a little bit. And forget about defining yourself according to this mystery man called “patriarchy.” I hear he has bad taste.

(this post, BTW, was inspired by Ren’s personal words on femininity. So thanks.).

tags: feminism, femme

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salty sunday

March 18, 2007
So much for springtime. I can’t believe it snowed this much.

Well, on with the Sunday roundup.

In New York City news, the city has awarded $600,000 to Columbia University-Harlem Health Center for reproductive health services. The NYC fundies (yes, they’re here too) have their conservative panties in a twist with shouts of the looming end of the world caused by our valueless society. Via Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy.

Speaking of women’s health, I had an amazing website discovery this week. In my quick research for this post, I found the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks HPV vaccine-related legislation (among others), state by state – and it seems that it’s updated pretty often.

Jerusalem homos gear up for Jerusalem Pride 2007. Via JVoices.

Naomi Chazan writes a thorough and nuanced piece on the status of women/feminism in Israel in the JPost. Snip: “it is not that discrimination has been erased; it is that it now appears in more subtle and nuanced presentations so different from the virulent strains of yesteryear.” Via my mom.

In Passover preparations: the Jew and the Carrot on bitter alternatives to horseradish, including a delicious-looking recipe for a bitter greens salad with pears.

ColorLines magazine on racism in the blogosphere – not too detailed but a good primer for newbies in the blogging world. Via DMF.

Exploitation of domestic workers in the SF bay area (and beyond) in the New Standard. Also via DMF.

Definitely check out this short piece in Queer Sighted about queer homeless youth and what “gay shame” really means.

New to the salty blogroll: Jewess (a new Jewish women’s group blog, only about a month old and already fantastic), Women of Color blog, The Jew and the Carrot, and Queer Sighted.

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Mission: make the HPV vaccine as useless as possible

March 16, 2007

Last week I wrote this piece over at jspot, basically arguing that mandating the HPV vaccine will be totally meaningless if there’s no money to pay for it. Only one state (my home state of NJ, I am proud to say) has included a discussion of funding alongside their proposed mandate.

So I was less than shocked to read that republican senator Phil Gingrey has proposed a bill that would prohibit the use of federal funds for the HPV vaccine (as reported by the Washington Times). Wonderful. The bill, if passed, would not prevent states from mandating the vaccine, it would just prevent Medicaid or regular school vaccination coverage of the vaccine. Props to Kaiser Daily Health updates for linking to the actual text of the bill, which says the following:

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons states that there is no public health purpose for mandating HPV vaccine for schoolchildren. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. (emphasis mine)

You get HPV from sex, ergo, it is not a public health issue? I can’t even get into how twisted that is. This is not about 12-year olds having sex, it’s about the fact that the vaccine is most effective when given at this early age! I don’t really want to rehash what I said at jspot, but basically anyone who can afford to pay for this vaccine out-of-pocket is probably someone who gets regular pap smears, which would detect any abnormal HPV/cervical cancer cells early enough to treat it. Those who would really need the vaccine, therefore (women who do not have health insurance and therefore do not have regular checkups at the gynecologist) are the very women whom Gingrey is trying to prevent from accessing this vaccine! Truly disgusting.

According to the Times, the bill won’t pass as a stand-alone but Gingrey can and likely will try getting this issue into the 2008 appropriations bill for the Health and Human Services Department. Gingrey, by the way, is an ob-gyn and is anti-choice (surprise!).

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in the words of Audre Lorde

March 13, 2007

I must do a quick shoutout (and link) to the Women of Color blog – today they posted excerpts from one of the most amazing Audre Lorde essays/speeches, the Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. Upon rereading, I had one of those moments of remembering one of the roots of my politics.

As women, we have been taught to either ignore our differences or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community, there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor that pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.

For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.

Isn’t it weird, it was written in 1979 and still rings true 30 years later?

If you haven’t read Sister Outsider, do it NOW. Seriously. Thank you, thank you, BFP.