Archive for June, 2007

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fems take over the blogosphere

June 25, 2007

Joan Nestle has a blog! Rejoice! The first entry is about her first trip to Israel/Palestine and in true Joan Nestle fashion, it is a complicated and well-written piece. I can’t wait to see what’s to come. A snippet:

What finally pushed me to blog was my reading on my computer my daily New York Times–I now live in Melbourne, Australia with my lover–my reading of Thomas Friedman and David Brooks, these men of power who make huge pronouncements about how things should be in the world. I am not in their league, but I have stood with the Women in Black peace demonstrators in Haifa and Jerusalem, I have visited with women who run the Nazareth Women’s Center and its sister, the Haifa Women’s Center, I have met the women who founded ASWAT, the first human rights organization for Palestinian lesbians. I have seen Palestinian, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi Jewish, Christian and Ethiopian women meeting together in the same building. I have sat late into a Jerusalem night talking with a young butch-fem community, most of whom are peace activists, about how the body and its desires live in such a place at such a time. That night, our last in Jerusalem, one young woman said, “Come back to us when the occupation is over.”

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I can figure out a better use for this bomb

June 12, 2007

I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry, or check to see if it’s April Fool’s Day. Apparently, in an attempt to develop non-lethal weapons, the Pentagon developed a bomb that would turn enemy combatants into insatiable homos!

“The Ohio Air Force lab proposed that a bomb be developed that contained a chemical that would cause enemy soldiers to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistibly attractive to one another,” [Edward] Hammond [a rep from a Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending] said after reviewing the documents. (source)

Um, how about we try dropping this bomb on Washington? Or on a few of our more homophobic states. How great would it be if President “defense of marriage” turned into a big gaywad? Seriously though, this is totally weird. I could go into a whole diatribe about the irony of dealing the most serious consequence of our hypermasculine culture (war) with the most emasculating activity for our hypermasculine culture (gay sex). I could also go into the offensiveness of the Pentagon’s use of the oversexed gay man stereotype. I could also get into the whole assumption that gay men are incapable of violence because they’re too busy having sex. I don’t really feel like going into any of those things. Because this is just funny and ridiculous. Damn.

via a fantastic listserv.

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salty sunday (domestic workers’ justice edition)

June 10, 2007

Salty Sunday is back after a brief hiatus. Hopefully the blogging will now resume to its somewhat-normal frequency.

This week’s Salty Sunday will be a roundup of links from last week’s successful Blog For Domestic Workers’ Justice day, which seemed to be kind of a bust by the end of the 5th but, to my delight, received a lot more writers as the week progressed.

The ever-eloquent Sylvia perused a HRW report and reports back in her Blog for DW post. A snip of her words on her personal connection with DW:

I think my respect for domestic workers comes from my history. It’s a history where I know women like me would not have had many jobs to seek, and we would have to work in someone’s home and raise someone else’s children to get by feeding our own. It’s a history where, through lots of pain and heartache, people were dragged here and raped and subordinated and beaten so someone could tend to another’s fields, clean another’s homes, shine another’s shoes, eat another’s scraps, and forget their humanity in the midst of all that work. It’s with luck that those workers’ descendants have maintained their fight to realize the value within us, the love within us, and the pride in our energies, our efforts. We’re still mired in a society that doesn’t recognize our worth unless we’re serving its flagrant abuses of power and wealth.

More beautiful personal words, more like a manifesto, over at Blackamazon. It’s hard to blockquote her words, I hate to chop them up because they can only be fully appreciated in context. Go read them, not a long piece. Carmen at All About Race writes about her mother and grandmother, who were both domestic workers.

KC connects the DW BoR in New York to California legislation that would protect DWs in that state. Sanne at New York Nannies discusses the legislation and domestic work not being valued as real work. Over at Jewschool, the fantastic Kol Ra’ash Gadol tells a story about a 19th century rabbi with a heightened sensitivity and appreciation for the hard work of his domestic worker and moves into the importance of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (BoR). She stresses that according to Jewish law, we are all subject to the same regulations and should be treated the same, regardless of immigration status. Rebecca Honig Friedman at Jewess writes about the importance of being conscious employers of domestic workers and of recognizing domestic work as real work. JR at JWABlog expresses her personal ambivalence and discomfort in being an employer, concluding with pushing for the BoR as a key step in DWs not depending on the “benevolence of their employer” for good working conditions.

For some high-traffic DW blogging, there was some linkage over at Feministing and also a lengthy and thought-out (not to mention researched!) post at Pandagon, which sparked an interesting discussion in the comments.

A short critique of some points of the bill can be read here – though I should say that this person asks why we don’t amend labor laws so that DWs can unionize, to which I respond that the fact that DWs can’t unionize is more because of the nature of their employment than because of what some law dictates. Meaning, each domestic worker has a different employer. How could DWs actually have a union with any power if this is the case? Also, this writer seems confused by my name. Saltyfemme. Saltyfemme?

Following the Blog for DW Justice Day and the successful Town Hall meeting held this past Thursday evening, Belledame writes about Betty Friedan and the DW BoR (OK OK I wrote about Friedan and she followed up). Belle also wrote this fantastic piece about feminism and the DW legislation, bringing in the BoR text as well as text from the executive summary handed out at the Town Hall.

Added June 15th: thoughts on DW Justice from Elle, PhD.

Quick hits also came in from JSpot and Appletreeblog.

Also, not related to Blog for DW day but mentionable nonetheless, following the NY Daily News and NYTimes pieces (!!) from May 31st and June 1st, respectively, this wonderful piece written by Labor Research Association ED Jonathan Tasini appeared at HuffPo and Daily Kos. NYTimes NY-metro area blog Empire Zone discussed the proposed legislation and annoying liberal NYTimes readers respond with skepticism. Following Thursday’s Town Hall, Daniel Millstone at the Daily Gotham urges readers to join Domestic Workers United (DWU) and their allies for a march down Fifth Avenue (which occurred yesterday and was moving and inspiring, by the way).

Whew. Quite a roundup. Congrats if you’ve made it this far. Thank you to all who participated in this great blogswarm. It was really wonderful to see all this great writing about an issue I have been organizing around on the ground for the last year and a half. I look forward to continuing my work with the Shalom Bayit: Justice for Domestic Workers campaign with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). If you’re interested, check back here for more on the progress of the campaign.

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redefining the settler movement

June 6, 2007

In my mind, Jews moving to the West Bank because of religious fervor were the lowest of the low. During the time I spent in Israel, I learned to despise settlers. Where do they get off thinking that this is what God wants them to do? How can they justify this behavior with religious rhetoric?

But then, I find out that there are many American Jews who are moving to the West Bank to cities that are commuting distance from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for purely economic reasons. And then I throw up a little bit in my mouth. I am disgusted by American Jews who make sense of this unethical decision by citing how cheap it is and how they can have an even more lavish home than they had in the US.

Settlements near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have become a suburban paradise for North American religious Jews. They offer large homes with yards, lawns and swimming pools, and prices are low compared with those of the cramped apartments not only of Israel’s main population centers but also of such smaller cities as Beit Shemesh and Modi’in.

For the record, there is a water shortage in Israel. Israelis, settlers specifically, consume far more water than their Palestinian neighbors and Palestinians are frequently denied access to water that falls in the West Bank. (google ‘palestinian water crisis’ and you will find an endless number of hits). This new generation of settlers define their personal happiness not by God’s commandment to settle the land but by how many valuable public resources they can waste and how short their commute is. In a way, it is even more disgusting to me than religious settlers – at least the latter think they have God on their side.

Beyond that, I cannot even get into the rest of the ironies of this trend – the fact that these communities are “safer” than the ones they left in the US; that they have more security than cities in Israel proper; that the Israeli government cannot offer US olim (immigrants) economically comparable options within Israel proper; that these new communities are popular because they are “gated” communities, giving the olim a feeling of being part of an exclusive community for much less money than gated communities in the US.

Thank you, olim from Teaneck, for making it so clear that this occupation goes beyond religious rhetoric. At its core, this 40-year old occupation is about economic opportunities and natural resources.

““The take-home message is that whatever living standard you could imagine or dream is possible here.”

Right. As long as you’re Jewish and come from an upper-middle class community in the US and therefore feel entitled to all the land, space, and resources you like.

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Why I support the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights

June 5, 2007

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In the 1960’s and 70’s, the women’s movement empowered (mostly) middle-class, white women to recognize “the problem that has no name.” The problem, of course, was that domestic work had no intrinsic value. These women did work, hard work, for no recognition and certainly for no pay. It was and continues to be considered unskilled labor. I’d like to revisit Friedan for a minute. Feminist historical context seems key in this discussion, and text always helps me.

Just what was this problem that has no name? What were the words women used when they tried to express it? Sometimes a woman would say “I feel empty somehow . . . incomplete.” Or she would say, “I feel as if I don’t exist.” Sometimes she blotted out the feeling with a tranquilizer. Sometimes she thought the problem was with her husband or her children, or that what she really needed was to redecorate her house, or move to a better neighborhood, or have an affair, or another baby. Sometimes, she went to a doctor with symptoms she could hardly describe: “A tired feeling. . . I get so angry with the children it scares me . . . I feel like crying without any reason.” (A Cleveland doctor called it “the housewife’s syndrome.”) A number of women told me about great bleeding blisters that break out on their hands and arms. “I call it the house wife’s blight” said a family doctor in Pennsylvania. “I see it so often lately in these young women with four, five and six children who bury themselves in their dishpans. But it isn’t caused by detergent and it isn’t cured by cortisone.” (Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique).

Many argue that Friedan’s book sparked the American second-wave feminist movement. The Feminine Mystique urged middle-class white women to get out of the house, to find fulfillment the way that their husbands do. Instead of critiquing a culture that has devalued traditional women’s work,” Friedan put all the value on men’s work, outside of the home and in an office, where training and skill is required and where the boundary between work life and personal life is clearly drawn. I realize I am being harsh on Friedan, but go with me for a second. Perhaps these women felt unfulfilled by their work because our culture is fraught with sexism and does not have the tools with which to understand the importance and weight of domestic work in both our day-to-day lives and in the long-term.

Fast-forward 30 years. Where are we now? The 1970’s into the 80’s saw a dramatic shift in the professional world. Middle-class women were leaving home to work in offices; feminism has won out! But who inherited the burden of the domestic work these women left behind? Children were still being born; homes still needed to be cleaned; dinner still needed to be cooked. And while second-wave feminism certainly left its mark, we continue to have a second-shift phenomenon. Families struggle with day care, cleaning on the weekends, etc. 200,000 households in the New York-metro area rely on outside help from nannies, housecleaners, and elderly care givers. The domestic burden did not disappear after the 1970’s. It merely shifted from middle-class white women to working-class immigrant women of color. And as Americans, we continue to not understand how to value and respect domestic work.

I’ve written about this before extensively so I don’t want to repeat myself. The Domestic Worker Bill of Rights is the only sensible next step in teaching ourselves and each other how to value traditional women’s work. The “problem that has no name” is not bored housewives. It is the continued devaluation of work essential to the functioning and success of New York City and everyone who works here. This city would simply not run without them, it is just that simple. Support the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. If you are in New York, join Domestic Workers United (DWU) this Thursday, June 7th at 6:30 PM at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, for what promises to be an amazing Town Hall event.