Typically narcissistic blogging.

Politics

[Guest Post] #notalldrivers

Reading many of the #‎YesAllWomen posts from most of my female friends, one thing comes repeatedly to mind. It’s from a radio interview Marisa did in regard to being a female motorcyclist in the Bay Area.

During the interview a man called in with so much hatred towards motorcyclists, it was terrifying. He even went so far as to promise that any time he sees a rider in his side view mirror he tries to “put them into the guard rail” and that he hoped all motorcyclists died horrible, painful deaths.

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                               #notalldrivers

This is as close as I can come to understanding that feeling of what it’s like to be female in this society. EVERY TIME I RIDE, I think about that guy on the radio and remind myself that he—and many others like him—are behind the wheel of some of those cars I ride past every day. I will never know who those people are until it’s too late, so I always treat every driver like they’re that one guy I heard on the radio that day, vowing to kill us all.

It doesn’t matter to me at all that most drivers don’t think that way. I only care about the 1 in 100,000 who does.

The kicker to my analogy is this:
I can stop riding my motorcycle any time I want.
Women never get to stop being female. (Not that easily, anyway.)

Thanks to all of you who have been brave enough to share your experiences thus far and those that will in the future. It has been enlightening, even for those of us who are trying to be the good guys.

 

Ben Davis is a SF/Bay Area web developer and 12-year veteran motorcyclist. Ben has appeared on ABC News 20/20, The Wayne Brady Show, and in the National Enquirer—for reasons you can’t possibly imagine. 


[Guest Post] OMG MY FRIEND IS TRANS WHAT DO I DO?

Substitute “friend” for: “co-worker”, “schoolmate”, “partner of someone you know”, or someone in the public eye. For example, Chelsea Manning.

If you don’t already know (maybe you live under a rock or are one of those people who reads snarky blogs and not the news), Chelsea Manning went public today regarding her identity, preferred pronoun, and new name (as reported accurately and sensitively by The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and of all places, MSNBC).

It’s pretty sad that other media outlets refuse, even while reporting on this story, to use the correct pronoun. Hint, it’s female pronouns: “she”, “her”, etc.

What’s playing out today in the media is, sadly, the same kind of thing that plays out at parties, work environments, or in social scenes. There’s always a few people who get it instantly, and a lot more who need to be educated, plus a sprinkling of haters who will willfully resist the truth or argue against. Why? Who knows. Maybe they’re angry that this person looks better in a skirt  or a suit than they do.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume most people are in the middle group. You’re a nice person, you want to do the right thing, and suddenly your friend is dating a trans person, or is a trans person, or maybe your kid is trans, or your kid’s friend. What’s the etiquette around what might be (to you) a new name or pronoun?

1. Names have power.

Perhaps you are happy with the name your parents gave you at birth. Perhaps you are happy with the gender and sexual identity presumed for you at birth. Go you. It doesn’t hurt you, your gender, or your sexuality to hold a space where other people can be accepted for who they are.

USE THEIR NEW NAME. ALWAYS.

It can be tough switching someone’s name in your mind. The more you use it, the easier it will become, I promise. A few months in and you won’t remember their old name, which will come in handy in other situations which I will get into a little further down this page.

2. Pronouns have power

USE THEIR NEW PRONOUN. Ignore how the New York Times has a perpetual inability to get this right in any article about a trans person. You should be reading The Guardian anyway. Practice also helps.

3. What if I screw it up?

You’re gonna screw it up. We’ve all screwed this up. Correct yourself and move on. It’s as simple as that. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Know that your trans friend noticed. Yes, we notice every, single time someone does this. The more you bring it up, the worse you look.

If you feel the need to apologize for messing this up, especially if you do it in public, make a private apology to your friend or the person whom you wronged. Own your mistake, don’t tell them it’s their fault because “you’re confusing.” It isn’t their fault, it’s yours. Do the right thing and apologize, in private, and with honesty.

4. How to avoid screwing it up?

If you, for whatever reason, simply cannot get this person’s pronoun correct, then refer to them by their name until your mental reframing of them is more complete. Take a moment and look at this person, really see them, not your impression of them, not your past idea of who they are. At the risk of getting into the land of ‘woo’, look at their essence and be open to being flexible. This person has come a long way; your job is to support them and accept them.

Imagine if every time someone looked at you, they saw you with that horrible haircut you had in Jr. High or High School. No, it’s not the same as gender, but the mental timestamp is just as out of date. Flush your mental browser cache and enjoy your friend’s new look.

Avoid doing that thing where you go out of your way to use their new pronoun more frequently than is necessary. That’s kind of the same as when white people talk about their ‘black friend’.

5. How to be an ally to a trans person?

Do not gossip or share personal information. This means: do not tell other people that this person is trans, their former pronoun, or their former name. To anyone. Even with people you know also share this information. Do you want people talking about your tummy tuck or abortion at a cocktail party to a group of fascinated strangers or co-workers? Didn’t think so.

When someone trusts you (and it is a trust) with their truth, your one response should be to honor that trust by not betraying it.

Before you get angry that I’ve equated a hormonal or surgical transition with something to be ashamed of, know this. Some trans people are very open in regard to discussing their transition. Some trans people use hormones or surgery, others do not. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to transition. Transition is a personal procedure and should be kept private.

People are also comfortable discussing their abortions, the births of their children (in gruesome detail which I like to hear because I like gross stuff), or their colonoscopy. These are highly personal stories and should be shared only by the person who experienced them. That isn’t about being politically correct—that’s just good manners. Don’t be rude and co-opt someone else’s good party story. If other people are gossiping, shut them down. If they gossip about your friend, chances are they’re also gossiping about you.

Do not ask if they are planning to get/have gotten surgery.

Just. Don’t. Think about it. Unless you are their surgeon, it’s none of your business what’s going on down there.

Educate yourself on trans issues.

There are a ton of articles similar to this online, (many of them better written) as well as many, many books on the subject of being trans, partnering with trans people, and the human rights issues faces by trans people. Some of them have contrasting information. Be informed. Read. Use your critical analysis skills and stay compassionate.

Trans teenagers, and adults for that matter, are far more likely to attempt suicide or use drugs/alcohol. This is not because all us trans people are So Messed Up. This is because the world treats trans people unfairly. Transgendered people are more likely to be unemployed or face discrimination on the job. Health insurance companies do their damnedest to deny trans people access to transition-related services, including mental health services, which have been proven time and time again to improve people’s quality of life, personal safety, and economic security. Trans people often lose the support of family and friends and must constantly fight for recognition that their transition is real, necessary, and meaningful.

Never use the word ‘Tranny’

Just. Don’t.

6. As a final note: 

Since the default standard mainstream dialogue around trans people is to treat them like the punchline to a joke, I can see why uninformed people might interpret it that way. This is a good opportunity for people surprised by the news to consider how their mental awareness of trans issues is shaped by representations in the media. Compare the coverage, consider how respectful writers and reporters are of names and pronouns. 

[Whiskeynote: Don't run from your confusion, your curiosity, your ignorance and your discomfort. Embrace it. Ask questions—mindfully. Read up. Think critically. It can only make the world better for our trans friends, family members, lovers, and even people we have never met.]

Guest blogger T is trans and queer identified, currently owned by two cats, lives in San Francisco, and will occasionally write blog posts if nagged by close friends.

Freedom from/of Religion

whiskeypants:

This is something that happened. And it’s not cool. Please, if you are in the Bay Area, consider taking voice lessons from my amazing friend. And/or pass this along to your friends.

Originally posted on No Inside Voice:

As my heart is reeling from news of being laid off from my regular church today, I go back to a story. These all start with a story, all rife with feeling and promise. This one’s about a church.

In August 1999 I returned from New York. My mother had been dead a year, I was recovering in turmoil from a recently broken relationship that I had thought would last forever (I was 23. Of course I thought that.), I had been put through the wringer. It was January of 2000 before I licked my wounds enough to get back in the game. I needed more money than my DayJob provided, and I wanted to earn it by singing. But where to start? Where any tenacious, operatically-trained career rebel starts – the yellow pages. (For the younger folks in the audience, this was a book of businesses listed by type…

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What Did Trayvon Know?

Last night, one of my dearest friends called me with some of her thoughts on Trayvon Martin. I asked her to turn it into a blog post; you can find it here. It was sometime later in the conversation that she said, “What can I do? I am one person in the Bay Area. What can I do? Write a blog post?”

I said, “Yeah, write a blog post. And you have to help raise Alex in this world.”

She was quiet for a long time.

Alex is her beautiful 2.5-year-old nephew. He’s lovely, he’s smart, he’s inquisitive. He’s Black. He’s Black in a world where a dead teenager can be put on trial for his own murder because he was a Black kid in a hoodie.

He’s Black in a world where racism is rampant (whatever the old white people on Drunk!SCOTUS seem to think), where people can be killed, imprisoned, pulled over, and denied employment or even so much as the benefit of the doubt upon walking into a store because of the color of their skin. He’s a Black boy being raised by a White mother who is acutely aware of what the outcome of the Zimmerman trial means for her son. [Note: the link is not about her and her family specifically.]

In fact, we live in a world where a man who grabbed a gun, stalked a Black kid, and then killed him was able to claim self defense. Because Black people are so scary that apparently we are always defending ourselves against them, even if all they have to fight with is a package of Skittles and a soft drink.

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I am a queer Jewish person of color (with a largely invisible physical disability, because I needed a complete set). I grew up being told that the world didn’t want me here for just about every part of who and what I am. My mother apologized more than once for the fight I didn’t fully realize, as a kid, that I had ahead of me.  My girlfriend and I plan to adopt and/or foster one day, and there is a very real possibility that some of our kids will be PoC. I turned to her last night and said, “What will we do?”

She said, in typical White-person-who-has-never-dealt-with-race-issues fashion, “We will just have to make the world better.” And I felt so powerless. Powerless to explain how two people in the Bay Area and their friends will not be able  to “fix” racism for our kids. Powerless to even begin to explain the history of racism and how scores of people, organizations, campaigns, politicians, religious figures, celebrities, etc. have been trying to fight racism for so long. About how we still need laws and explicitly stated policies to protect people of color. About how privilege is still rampant and a major issue of contention, especially for those who have it.

Later, she told me she was glad I would be there to help our kids with the “race stuff”, which I found heartbreaking. Because in that moment I became the token go-to. Thank DOG she has a brown person to explain brown things (this is also a major issue wrt the discussion of race and racism–white people still seem to need brown people to explain the issues when the issues, the resources, the information is all right there for the reading [see re: Google searches]). And yet I loved the fact that she recognized that there would be “race stuff”, and that our children would need resources. I love the fact that she wants them to have those resources.

And that’s true whether our kids are female, queer, trans, and/or people of color. These kids have to learn about how they can best navigate in a world that is still unfriendly and dangerous to them. We (as a planet full of people) aren’t teaching boys not to rape*, we are still teaching women and girls not to get raped. We aren’t teaching people not to be racist, we are teaching people not to dress threateningly on top of being Black. We aren’t teaching people not to be homophobic, we focus on places where queers should worry about coming out. We need to teach our children to navigate through that and come out stronger, to support each other even when it is scary, to know when they need help.

What did Trayvon know that night when he left the house to get some candy? Did he know that the world was a dangerous place for him? Did he know what image he needed to present as a visual apology for the color of his skin? Did he know that some deeply racist vigilante nutjob might shoot him to death because of a general distrust of Black people, a distrust that is neither limited to Zimmerman, nor Florida? Would knowing that have saved his life? Where do we find the balance between wishing desperately that Trayvon had been wearing khakis and a preppy button-down shirt and indulging in victim blaming?

What are you teaching your kids? What pieces of wisdom do you have to offer your female, queer, alternative, PoC children? Did you even know that you needed to? If your children are straight, White, and male, what do you tell them about racism, misogyny, rape, homophobia? Do you see a need to discuss these things with them? Are you letting them learn about these things on Facebook?

If so, WHY?

*I don’t mean that boys are born rapists and must be taught otherwise. I mean that boys are not given the skills they need to handle sexual situations appropriately. In fact, society puts a level of pressure on boys and men to be sexually active and dominant that can be pretty unbearable (and ensures that instances of male rape go woefully underreported).


Look At This Fucking Cat

Well, SCOTUS is drunk.

No, really. Obviously drunk.

Those of us who are not just keeping track of the Prop 8 decisions may have noticed the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the funny idea that racism just isn’t an issue anymore. I guess nobody has stopped and frisked Clarence Thomas recently.

SCOTUS

So, folks are dismayed and disappointed all over the internet, in my office, and probably in Dolores Park, too. But that’s probably because it’s raining, and Dolores Park in the rain is dismaying and disappointing. And of course everybody is worried about Prop 8–regardless of what the preferred outcome might be.

So, to everybody who is bummed out about bad SCOTUS decisions, look at this fucking cat.

This fucking cat is the cutest. He just wants to take his fucking giant, fluffy, polydactyl paw and rub it all over his fucking adorable face for you. This fucking cat is working it so hard to make you feel better about today. And today’s a fucking bummer. I mean, the fucking VRA isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Seriously, go fucking print that shit out. THERE. You just wasted some fucking paper.

So check it out. This cat’s name is fucking Thumper. He has a fucking RABBIT’S name. How fucking cute is that? He has fucking thumbs on his great big mitteny fuckng paws. His feet are practially fucking snowshoes. I have a fucking SNOWCAT. Thumper just wants to love you. When he rolls over and shows you his fluffy white belly, he wants you to fucking pet it. That fucking belly is not a fucking trap, and it’s so fucking soft you won’t be able to stop petting it. You would feel so much fucking better right now if you just cuddled up and listened to his fucking amazing purr, which gets louder and louder the more you pet him.

This fucking video has music, so if you are at work, wear some fucking headphones. And when you are feeling all pissed off about SCOTUS? Look at this fucking cat.


Why So Quiet, Son?

At some point, the word “feminism” took on ugly connotations. So ugly, in fact, that women will distance themselves from the term, claim not to be feminists. While that seems incredibly problematic to me, so is the fact that “feminism” somehow no longer means “advocating equality for women and men” but somehow means becoming stridently obnoxious about women’s rights, or requiring cheesy hippie approaches to womanhood, or that women hate men (something I’d like to generally avoid, as men can be quite charming and really rather awesome).

feminist

This is unfortunate on a number of levels, and I think there needs to be a general redefinition of “feminism” as something that both women and men should want to take part in. Definitions aside, I’ve noticed something about how things get shared and handled on both Twitter and Facebook that I find incredibly shitty.

  1. When I share or tweet an article about rape, the only people who share, retweet, or comment? Women.
  2. I wrote a post about misogyny. 1 guy ‘liked’ it. 2 guys commented, to make jokes.
  3. The post about misogyny was in response to a guy I called out for comparing his irrationally bad mood to PMS in women (thus perpetuating the stereotype that women are irrational and continuing to give license to men who, when they don’t like a woman’s behavior, would like to complain about “that time of the month”). I had my say and his response was, “ok.” Maybe he thought I was being irrational—just like a woman? All I figured was that dude was too cowardly to admit that he’d fucked up.

Well, fuck that. Fuck all of that.

Dudes, bros, come on. Where is your feminism? I am not asking, by the way, where your love for women is. Saying you’re a feminist because you love women is like saying you are Jewish because you love hamantaschen.

Okay. For the sake of this post, let’s create a loose definition of “feminism” with some very basic concepts:

  • Recognizing that women are just as capable as men are.
  • Recognizing that women deserve equal pay to men.
  • Recognizing that stereotypes about women are bullshit and should be avoided: let each woman define herself; don’t define women.
  • Recognizing that women don’t exist for others to desire/use/fuck—even if being desirable or fuckable is something they do and enjoy.
  • Recognizing that double standards with regard to sexuality and enjoyment of sex are ridiculous.
  • Recognizing that rape is an issue (and yes, I know that women can also rape, but the majority of rapes are committed by men, and that majority is gigantic. I also realize that men can rape other men and do regularly, so just standing up against rape in general is a Good Thing—all right?)
  • Using your voice to emphasize all of these things, to help pass on the message, to share, to do something as simple as retweet.

feminist1

Why are men leaving the discussion about feminism, about rape and rape culture, up to women? Why is it only their job to fight for their rights, to stand up to rapists and abusers? Why, when men send rape threats to women who have stood up for themselves, don’t their friends say, “Dude. Not cool.”? Why, when a girl is sexually assaulted and her assaulters share the photograph of the assault, don’t people rally around the girl, why don’t they support her, why aren’t we teaching teenagers that bullying is bullshit? We have had two suicides in rapid succession of young women who experienced such intense bullying after being sexually assaulted that one of them couldn’t even move schools without it following her. Why are teen boys not telling their friends, “No way, dude. Leave her alone.”?

I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why people are still sharing posts about how women can avoid being raped, about the times they can walk alone outside, about how they should wear their hair and their clothes—thus leaving the victim-blaming discussions wide open (I mean, really, did you see what she was wearing?) and making it so easy to blame women for not being careful enough. I don’t understand why there aren’t more discussions about teaching youth about rape—discussion about sex is so taboo in schools that it’s left up to parents who are apparently in denial about the situation or think their kids are too young to learn about it. Well, guess what? They are old enough to rape, they are old enough to learn why rape is unacceptable. I don’t understand why we aren’t teaching young men to love and respect young women.

And learning it from only women is also unacceptable. Men, you need to add your voices to the arguments for equality. It’s easy to say that women should obviously vote, because that’s a right they already have. It’s more difficult to stand up for equal pay, for removing double standards, for cutting out casual misogyny (like unnecessary comments linking irrationality and women). It’s more difficult to let go of your privilege when a woman points out the rampant misogyny in gaming and at conventions, and support her. It’s more difficult to stand up to your friends when they misbehave. It’s difficult for teenagers to go against the social flow—high school is a breeding ground for cruelty and insensitivity—and it’s difficult for us to teach them that standing up for women and taking a stand against rape is necessary. But if you really genuinely believe that women have just as much a place in the world as you do, then you have got to. It is fucking necessary.

And if you don’t believe that, I don’t want to know you. And don’t get me started on the so-called Men’s Rights movements, which are nothing short of delusional.

So men, where are your voices? Why so quiet, son?

goslingfem


Body Modification Does Not Entitle You To Equal Opportunity Employment Protection

I just came across this petition requesting that people with tattoos and piercings be given equal opportunity protection, making ink and metal equal to gender, sexuality, race, religion, disability, national origin, etc.

Um, no.

No. Just no. Please take this ridiculous claim to EEOC and shove it.

Equal opportunity employment exists to protect people from discrimination against choices they could not make. Let me repeat that, in all caps, because maybe those of you who think this petition is the one for you are a little too self-involved, privileged, and entitled to have missed it when it was just in italics. EEOC exists to protect people from discrimination against choices THEY COULD NOT MAKE.

I will never argue that employers should be able to discriminate against tattooed and pierced candidates. I have many, many tattoos and prefer to be able to show them off whenever possible. I am proud of my body art, and I love it. I would like to be able to walk into any office and not have to worry about them being a factor in the hiring decision.

But I also recognize that every bit of ink in my skin was my choice, unlike my gender, race, sexuality, and national origin.

If you want to be recognized as a viable candidate despite the ink and holes you have put in your flesh, then lobby for a separate law, one that forces employers to turn a blind eye to your body modifications and just look at your on-paper qualifications. SCOTUS is not going to turn people with body modification into a suspect class any time soon (see: “immutable“), so stop pretending you are one. Take your ridiculous entitlement and privilege and do something valuable with it.


Privilege

Okay, I have been observing an incredibly frustrating pattern in conversations relating to privilege, which is that, in short, people who have privilege loathe being told they have it and will bend over backward to try to invalidate any claim they might have to it, as if being sensitive to various issues, or at least not outright misogynist/racist/antisemitic/homophobic/transphobic/etc. somehow removes any inherent privilege, like fancy stain remover.

People will point to some action they have taken in the past to support the rights of some group of people—be it women, minorities, GLBTQ, the socially awkward, whatever—and say, “But I did this thing. So I’m totally not acting privileged, so you should totally shut up and stop attacking me (because criticism totally = attack).” Worse, I’ve seen people say, “Whatever, I don’t know why you are whining. Get over it.” This response is extremely common in discussions about misogyny in comic books and the video game industry, and pretty much always comes from men. Go figure.

So I am going to boil privilege down for you, and for very easy reference. Because privilege is not something you got on you, like dirt. Privilege is not an accessory you can discard when it seems inconvenient. Privilege is not something you can whittle down with actions, like it’s just below your health bar in a video game.

You need to stop thinking about privilege in terms of attitude (although, that’s part of it), action, inaction. Privilege is, if we condense it down to its most fundamental aspect, the ability to walk away from a given struggle and know that your rights will not be affected in the slightest bit by the outcome of that struggle. Privilege is the ability to throw up your hands and say, “I’m done arguing about this,” or, “this can wait for the next election,” or, “Why are we still discussing this— isn’t this settled/aren’t there more important issues in the world?” It’s the ability to say, “I don’t like the criticism I have gotten over my part in this discussion, so I am leaving the discussion entirely.”

I’m going to repeat the primary point, here, just to be as clear as possible: Privilege is the ability to walk away from a given struggle and know that your rights will not be affected in the slightest bit by the outcome of that struggle.

So, folks: stop being bitches about being called out about your privilege. Recognize it for what it is. Make damn sure you understand what it means—about your approach to the world around you, about the issues you have never had to study and fully understand, about the opportunities you take for granted—and own it.


Lions and Tigers and Bears…and Legislation

SOPA and PIPA and NDAA (Oh, my).

So, while we know they will be back in some form or another, we have, for the moment, defeated SOPA and PIPA. The President signed the NDAA, which was adjusted so that American citizens could not be indefinitely detained, but now we have HR 3166/S. 1698, also known as the Enemy Expatriation Act (EEA), which allows the government to strip Americans of their citizenship if they are suspected of being hostile to the United States—without conviction. I’ve seen virtually nothing about EEA, anywhere, and the only people who seem to be fighting it are Anonymous (and people who follow Anonymous) and, God help us all, everybody’s favorite racist, homophobic, fundamentalists-are-too-liberal, pro-integration-of-church-and-state libertarian Ron Paul.

I have learned a couple of lessons from this whole experience in the fight against such legislation.

1. We have to work a lot harder at getting the word out about dangerous and damaging legislation.

I mean, a lot. A LOT. We internet denizens have got to stop bemoaning the fact that important news is no longer being featured in the news, stop trying to augment what isn’t there, and simply do our damnedest to replace it. Lots of people know this and have already acted on it, but we need more. It seems like a great number of people know this on at least a subconscious level right now. It’s time to make it conscious.

This includes:

  • Educating our friends, families, kids.
    My friend Rachel noticed a trend on the 18th, where informed adults trolled kids for not knowing what SOPA was. Give me a break, folks. They didn’t know what SOPA was because they are kids, and the adults around them were either uninformed or didn’t bother to inform them. Conversely, I heard of an entire class of 11-yr-olds that was deeply concerned. But it’s not just about letting them know that they need to be concerned. We need to make it clear to the people around us that the news being reported by the big news corporations is incomplete, that just because it isn’t being reported DOES NOT MEAN that it isn’t important, and that it’s time to pay some real attention to the other voices around them. And you may be reading this and thinking, “Well, I knew that.” Great! But what in the world makes you think the people around you, and the people around them also know it?
  • Following up.
    Posting links on Facebook is a great way of getting news out to the masses, but you don’t know who is reading, sharing, really paying attention. Follow up. I had to post about SOPA many, many times before I was able to galvanize even a handful of my friends into acting. Don’t confuse posting the occasional link with actually getting the information out there.
  • Making it personal, if you can.
    People were galvanized into action over SOPA/PIPA because the internet is precious to them. Because everybody, with the possible exception of the people making rulings and laws about it, uses the internet. Getting people to take action over an issue that doesn’t directly concern them is nearly impossible; when it comes to such political issues, people are happy to be lazy. “Don’t worry,” I have heard said far too many times, “If it’s really bad the Supreme Court will take care of it.” Right. Because SCOTUS just waves its nine wands and makes everything constitutional again. Yeah, well SCOTUS just ruled that creative works in the public domain can now be copyrighted again. Reminder: this is your SCOTUS right now.

I get that people are, politically, narcissists. If it isn’t obviously our fight, we don’t want to fight it. Hell, even if it is, we’d rather play video games and watch reality television than work to improve the world around us. I get that; honestly most days so would I. But a lot of what I am seeing is obviously our fight. And so…

2. We can’t stop fighting.

Yeah, we are all exhausted. We thought we’d have a break from all of this desperate fighting for our rights, and for legislation that is not based in fear and corporate interests when George W. Bush was replaced with Barack Obama. We thought we had won the battle, that we could rest on our laurels for a while. But much in the way soldiers who ought to have been allowed to come safely home from Iraq were sent back again and again to fight for their country, we don’t get a break. (And now that I have written that sentence I feel I should apologize; Occupy aside, most of us are fighting from the comforts of our homes. No less for the safety and sanctity of what we believe and for our country, but with—even in Oakland—fewer bullets, bombs, and breaking of bodies, spirits, and hearts.)

We are weary. I get it. Every time I see some new piece of legislation that scares the piss out of me, all I want to do is run to my bed and bury myself in the covers and pillows and never come out. But I don’t, because I love my country. I don’t love the way it is governed. I don’t love the all choices it makes. But I love my country, and I’m not ready to run from the challenge of trying to keep it from falling totally into fascist, corporate, or scary fundamentalist hands.

3. We can’t lose our sense of humor.

When times are dark, and we feel like our leadership is letting us down hard, and we are wondering what is going to become of this country, we cannot lose the light of humor. The more dour and unhappy we become, the more we need to laugh (and the less we will be heard, because nobody will want to listen). Quinn Norton pointed this out with regard to the protest against SOPA/PIPA. Humor is a fantastic tool in hooking interest and concern.

The thing is, taking action isn’t the most difficult thing any of you will ever do in this world, which is why I am so fascinated by people who refuse to do anything at all and let others do their fighting for them. In fact, it’s one of the easiest. It’s a phone call, an email, hitting “Share” on Facebook. It’s talking to your friends, informing your kids (so that they can inform their friends). Information has never stopped being power, and the internet is the most powerful tool we have to spread information right now. Since we have, for the time being, saved it from being broken, let’s enjoy it and remember, between videos of cats in boxes and porn o’clock, to hit the “Share” button.


The Supreme Court: Why I Will Still Probably Vote For Obama

Back when Obama was running against Clinton, and a group of deeply misguided people decided that if they didn’t like the outcome of that they would vote for McCain, I endeavored to make clear the one result I knew for sure would come from that: McCain would be able to nominate justices to the Supreme Court of the United States (henceforth, “SCOTUS”).

Let me make something clear: SCOTUS interprets the Constitution. These Justices don’t take these cases and plug them into a Constitutional or Not? program that gives them an answer. And if it’s gotten all the way up to SCOTUS, it’s an issue that is not easily resolved. Each Justice is theoretically interpreting from a neutral, law- and policy-based perspective. However, each Justice comes to the bench with assumptions, with biases, and with different angles of interpretation, and all of those things figure into the decisions they make.

Americans love to believe that the Constitution guarantees them their rights, and that it guarantees them those rights as they think they have always had them. It helps us sleep at night, I suppose. But many of the rights we have (or don’t have) were decided by Supreme Court Justices. SCOTUS is the final arbiter of what is constitutional (see Marbury v. Madison and judicial review), and that means that the question of what is constitutional could have a different answer with even a slight change in the political leanings of the court.

With that in mind, let’s look at the Justices of SCOTUS. If you read their takes on the issues, and don’t worry about how they might vote on issues that are close to your heart, and don’t worry about how Ginsburg retiring in the next presidential term will affect the balance, then you are no doubt sleeping better than I am. I can only imagine the kind of replacement Paul or Santorum would nominate.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
Born 1/27/55
Appointed by G.W. Bush

Conservative. Has written some opinions I disagree with, but I can’t complain about his diligence in applying the law and his willingness to accept precedent he disagrees with if he does not see the law as actually bad. However, he often votes with the more conservative Justices. Completely anti-abortion rights and anti-family planning. Not a fan of federal funding for healthcare. Not wild about alternative energy resources, but digs mining. (Heh. Get it? Digs?) Is not entirely cool with the Patriot act. Would like the separation between church and state to be much thinner.

Side note: Obama voted against his confirmation.

 

 

Justice Antonin Scalia
Born 3/11/36
Appointed by Reagan

Very conservative. Applies both textualism and originalism to his interpretations of the Constitution, which in effect makes him a constitutional fundamentalist. Scalia claims this makes him more objective. Others have argued that this means he can interpret the Constitution any way he wants to, including according to his personal beliefs. Has repeatedly asked his fellow Justices to strike down Roe v. Wade. Dissented the Romer v. EvansLawrence v. Texas and  Hamdi v. Rumsfeld decisions. Concurred in Gonzales v. Raich. Voted with Thomas to strike down Miranda v. Arizona. Just a couple of examples.
Additionally, gay rights are out the window. Religion in schools is totally great, immigrants kinda suck, and go coal, all the way.

 

 

Anthony Kennedy
Born 7/23/36
Appointed by Reagan

Kennedy is an interesting Justice, as his ideologies are mixed, thus often making him the unpredictable swing vote in a given case. Has shown no intention of overturning Roe v. Wade, but appears to have joined with O’Connor on Planned Parenthood v. Casey because he felt it added restrictions to Roe. Authored both Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas, but voted to uphold the Boy Scouts of America’s right to ban homosexuals in Boy Scouts v. Dale. Wrote Boumediene v. Bush.

 

 

 

 

Justice Clarence Thomas
Born 6/23/48
Appointed by winged monkeys

Thomas is mostly known for the Anita Hill scandal that surrounded his confirmation and the current questions about whose corporate pockets he is in. Like Scalia, both a textualist and originalist, and the two vote together the majority of the time. His originalism might even be more extreme than Scalia’s, though, and he tends to cite not just the so-called original intent of the framers, but social mores at the time of the framing. Thomas went from claiming during his confirmation hearings that he’d never thought about or discussed Roe v. Wade while in law school (lost Senator Leahy’s confirmation vote over it, too) to eventually saying it was wrongly decided and should be overturned. Was lone dissenter on the  Safford Unified School District v. Redding decision, because he thinks it’s cool for kids to be strip searched.

 

 

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Born 3/15/33
Appointed by Clinton

Got confirmed by a huge majority despite practically stonewalling the confirmation committee on major issues. Fierce advocate of abortion rights, although she’s criticized Roe in the past—not for legalizing abortion, but for how it did it, and the weaknesses inherent in the decision. She’s not wrong. She intends to retire in 2015: that’s the next presidential term, folks.

<== Would you fuck with this woman? Oh hells, no. We need more Justices like her. Too bad Evelyn Baker Lang is a fictional character.

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen G. Breyer
Born 8/15/38
Appointed by Clinton

Disagrees with originalism, tends to vote more liberally. Believes that the Constitution was intended to maximize the liberty experienced by citizens, and prefers to interpret it thus. Often described as a pragmatist. Staunch supporter of abortion rights. Believes that the GLBT community is a constitutionally protected class. Not besties with the corporations. Not crazy about the Patriot Act. Loves the idea of limits on political campaign donations.

Side note: may also be a unicorn.

 

 

 

Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.
Born 4/1/50
Appointed by G.W. Bush

Has a conservative voting record, but doesn’t always vote along with Scalia and Thomas. Has not requested that SCOTUS overturn Roe, but has stated that he would like the opportunity to see whether it could  and should be overturned. Tends to be pro-corporation. Political asylum for immigrants is only okay if they are facing forced abortion or birth control. Fan of 3 Strikes sentencing laws. Fine with religious expression in schools. Opposes limits on political campaign donations.

Note: McCain wanted to see more SCOTUS Justices like this guy.  Yay!

 

 

Sonia Sotomayor
Born 6/25/54
Appointed by Obama

Fairly moderate. Doesn’t favor abortion rights, necessarily, but will work with the precedent set by Roe. While not necessarily anti-GLBT, comes down strongly on the side of First Amendment protection of homophobic and offensive speech and picketing of funerals. Fan of federally funded healthcare. Strongly for immigration rights (personal issue to her). Dislikes Patriot Act. Has a less awkward smile than Alito.

Side note: has only been a Justice since 2009. Hard to tell what kind of Justice she will be.

 

 

 

 

Elena Kagan
Born 4/28/60
Appointed by Obama

Kagan was appointed in 2010. As with Sotomayor, not a lot to work with. Kagan is interesting—wanted to ban the military from campus because of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but defended DOMA because it was made into law. Conservatives believe she will be a guaranteed vote for gay rights. That remains to be seen. Advocates campaign finance reform. Fan of alternative energy, seems to think breathing is a good thing. Generally pretty cool with the Patriot Act. Overall, on the liberal side of moderate, or possibly vice versa.


2012

The very first thing I did in 2011 was wake up, shower, and go to the grocery store to buy the ingredients to make Raspberry Crack for Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman.

At the time, I thought: holy crap. I am leaving a year filled with pain, anxiety, emotional abuse, misery and more pain. And I am leaping into a year that begins with one of my favorite authors and one of my most beloved musical artists, as well as some of my best friends in the world (Hi Whitney and Alexei!). Around a kitchen table. At which I will be sitting. Wow.

What could possibly go wrong?

Ultimately, very little. Very little had to go wrong. 2011 was a year of trying to convince myself that I could survive the status quo. Little secret between me, you, and the rest of the internet? Almost didn’t happen. Survival, I mean. 2011 brought me the closest to suicide I have been in a decade.

Sounds dramatic, right? I guess suicide is dramatic, but I don’t intend to make a splash with the idea.

I mostly mention it to give you some context, Gentle Reader, for my mindset coming into 2012. I have spent 2011 trying to put my head and my heart back together. I have been questioning and trying to come to terms with who I am and the choices I have made. I have been wondering what my place is in this world, and if I even have one. I have been lost, personally and professionally. And with regard to 2012, I am not as optimistic as I might like to be. I see SOPA and NDAA and the economy. I see my empty bed and my empty wallet. I see my grad school loans only overshadowed by my law school loans. I see an election year that is terrifying in its lack of viable candidates and a surplus of terrifying candidates. I see rage waxing and worry that my strength is waning.

But.

I have found strength in myself that I didn’t know I had. I have friends who are so phenomenal that it’s a little overwhelming. This blog has a nonzero number of readers (that nonzero? That’s you. You are not zero—not The Zeppo [that's Xander]. Mazel tov). I have things to work toward in 2012 that aren’t just about trying to find reasons to keep living. I’m still funny. My cat remains adorable.

So my resolutions for 2012 are:

  • To remember that I am loved by amazing people.
  • To come to terms with the decisions I have made to this point.
  • To consciously and carefully let go of as much of the baggage I’ve been lugging around with me as I can.
  • To stop carrying the world on my shoulders.
  • To practice guitar more often.
  • To try at least five Scotches I have never tried before.
  • To find a hottie or two to hang out with/hook up with.

What, you thought they would all be emotionally intense and interesting?

My biggest resolution, and one I hope to keep more than anything is this, though: I want to live. 2011 was about survival and subsistence—emotional, physical, and economical. It’s time to find ways to live. I wish that were as easy as it sounds, but it’s without a doubt worth working and fighting for. So I guess 2012 is going to be less about just trying to hang on, and more about climbing.

Happy new year, Gentle Reader. I hope your resolutions are wonderfully easy (or nonexistent). I hope 2011 has been amazing for you, and that 2012 will be even better. I hope there is no climb for you. I hope when you look around at the world in the new year, that it’s either a world you know you can live with, or a world you know you can change for the better (or both). I don’t yet know what the world has in store for me. I guess…let’s all hope for the best.

Raspberry Crack is something I make, that my friends named, and that appears to be fairly addictive. The look on Neil Gaiman’s face when he first tasted it will be something I hope to use to get some incredibly nerdy and hot girl into bed some day.


Third Party Voting

Right now, liberally-minded people are in a bit of a bind, because we are stuck between a weak and a crazy place. Seems to me, the political picture looks a bit like this:

I ripped this off of a church web site, I hope God doesn't sue.Step on a crack, break the Constitution’s back

Part of the issue, of course, is that right now the two primary parties in this country have largely forgotten themselves—who they are and why they even exist. They’ve become lost in the mire that is politics, and right now the viable candidates for both have failed to impress. The Republicans are stronger, because they have no problem breaking the rules and salting the earth to get what they want out of political negotiations, and the Democrats are less terrifying, but seem to accomplish virtually nothing in comparison. Also, right now the candidates for the parties fall somewhere on these respective spectra:

(Click on them if the blurring is as irritating to you as it is to me) 

Wondering where “Douchey” is? It’s the entire line.

.

Sorry, I don’t have a little Obama figure for you to put somewhere on the line.

So, what to do? 

I’ve seen three solutions to the problem:

1. Vote for Obama anyway.
2. Vote for Ron Paul. 
3. Vote some other third party and stick it to the 2-party system.

If I leave the first option alone, since I already discussed Obama here, and pretend that people aren’t seriously considering the racist, homophobic, anti-EPA, pro-religion in schools, anti-separation of church and state wingnut that is Ron Paul (discussed beautifully and thoroughly, with sources, here), I still have to consider the third.

If a third party were to come up with a strong candidate—one with actual political experience, one who knows how the system works and can be strong within it, and one with enough charisma to carry a country, now would be the time. This country is filled with people who are disgruntled, angry, depressed, and disappointed. If ever there were a time to vote outside the two-party system, it’s now.

But here is why I don’t buy the third party argument, and I am plagiarizingexpanding on a reply I gave to thoughtful commenter Dana:

Let’s pretend we have a viable third-party candidate (we don’t). I still seriously doubt the option, because everybody who is disgruntled with the current situation would have to do it. The only way to make that statement is to get everybody (or at least a majority) to sign onto it and proudly and publicly so that other people won’t worry about being castigated or ridiculed for throwing votes away. Unless they vote for Nader, because, duh.

Every time somebody brings up a third party option, it’s like we are daring each other to break the mold, but ultimately we all know that not enough people will take up the dare and go with it, and that if not enough people take the dare, everybody will get hurt.

I would love for my country to prove me wrong on this, but my pessimism is getting the better of me.

So, people who insist that voting for a third party is the answer to all of our problems: How about finding a viable third-party candidate who is strong enough to make people consider voting outside of the two party system, and if you think you have such a candidate, do you know a feasible solution to getting enough people to vote for them without simply handing the election to a party that appears to be actively trying to destroy our country?

.
.
By “feasible” I mean, “will actually work.”

ETA: There’s no good answer for the 2012 elections forthcoming, so I am putting forth my own third-party candidate:

Note: Beyonce + “Knock Knock, Motherfucker” belong to The Bloggess (if you haven’t read the relevant blog post, because you live under a rock in a barn in a cave in TibeChinAfrica, it’s here). The godawful Photoshop job is all me. Yeah, baby.


Civil Liberties on the Internet: Why You Should Care

Americans are taught from childhood the importance of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Just in case you haven’t glanced at it, lately, here it is:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is a pretty magical amendment, and something on which we have relied since it was adopted in 1791 (in Oakland terms, “a hella long time ago”).

But—this may seem like I am stating the obvious—the internet did not exist when the First Amendment was ratified. You may think I am being a condescending jackass by mentioning that, but there is a point to it:

  • First: People assume that the Bill of Rights is automatically mapped onto new technological developments.
  • Second: People assume that, just because they have established rights, those rights are secure.
  • Third: The first assumption couldn’t be more incorrect. The second is flawed.

Every time new technology is developed, every time new methods of communication are created, people decide whether and how our Constitutional rights are going to function within and relating to that technology. This can take decades to even begin to sort out.

This means that people cannot assume that their Constitutional rights are secure. First of all, it is incredibly unwise. I mean, really—if you are paying even the tiniest bit of attention to some of the latest bits of legislation, you have to know this is true. Take a look at SOPA or the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

It also means that people need to be proactive and aware of the ways in which their rights are endangered, so that when something like SOPA does become an issue, they are able to fight back. Now, I am not asking you to become law and tech mavens, and I am not suggesting that you run out and become activists. That path is not for everybody.

What I do suggest is that you do a little bit of homework, and then keep up with organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (@EFF on Twitter) and the American Civil Liberties Union (@aclu on Twitter). The EFF is part of the reason that the 4th Amendment applies to your electronic mail, for example, and the ACLU has been on the front lines protecting our civil liberties since 1920. These are people who are fighting daily to make sure that your rights are, in fact, your rights, and that the Constitution remains a foundation on which we can rely.

These organizations, and others, make it easy for you to make your voice heard, but you have got to realize that your voice matters and it might be more important than you realize to use it.


A Helpful Diagram For Congress

Vegetables. Pizza.

Clicking on the image will make it less blurry,
and give you a deep sense of personal satisfaction:1

In other news, if I ever have kids, they are totally getting a bag lunch, or at least a carrot or something.

1 I lied about the deep sense of personal satisfaction.


A Critical Response To “We Are All Scott Olsen”

On Tuesday night in Oakland, in the midst of the shameful actions of the police force against peaceful protesters, a veteran by the name of Scott Olsen was critically injured. I am not writing to describe the event; it’s all over the news, and it’s awful. I’m writing because of the new solidarity battlecry: “We Are All Scott Olsen.”

I’m writing because I have got to call bullshit.

Because, NO. We are not all Scott Olsen. We are not all war veterans. We have not all put our lives on the line multiple times and fought for our country. We are not all in an induced coma, potentially about to make the ultimate sacrifice in patriotic love for our country. What we all are (and all ought to be) is proud of Scott Olsen. We are all proud to have stood with Scott Olsen, no matter what city we may have been occupying—I was fortunate enough to be in Oakland with him, and may even have stood beside him at some point that evening before things really went to hell.

And we must all pray for Scott Olsen, in any way your religion or lack thereof will allow.

But to create propaganda like this is lazy at best. It’s reminiscent of the mindless, meaningless Fight Club chant, “His name is Robert Paulson,” honoring a man without honoring him, recognizing that there was some kind of loss, some kind of meaning, but not fully understanding what that meaning is.

Occupiers, you don’t honor Scott Olsen when you say this. This isn’t solidarity, it’s convenience and it’s hubris.

Yes, we are all fighting the good fight together. Yes, we can all be potentially injured or killed if the authorities once again abuse their power. We are all in this, together. But we are not all Scott Olsen.

EDIT: The good news is, Scott Olsen is now awake and improving.


Occupy R’lyeh


Homo-/Biphobic BINGO

In honor of National Coming Out Day, and all of the individuals coming out today (and who have already come out, and who aren’t quite ready to come out)—I sincerely hope you lose this game of BINGO:

Click Image For MoBiggification:


A Quick Followup

When I wrote When Privacy Law Backfires, it was out of fear and disgust with the way in which the law is being woefully mishandled. Thankfully I am not the only one. Read John DeFeo’s opinion, here:

Americans will not recover economically if they live in fear of their government. Our success as a nation comes from the free-thinking and creativity that our constitutional rights afford.

I know y’all are all up in arms about BART’s ridiculous cell phone shutdown—and I do not deny that you should be. I just want to make sure you guys are paying attention to the other ways in which our rights and the law are being slapped around. The importance of this can’t possibly escape you.

ETA: YAY! That link is to the decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which states:

Ensuring the public’s right to gather information about their officials not only aids in the uncovering of abuses…but also may have a salutary effect on the functioning of government more generally[.]

If you don’t feel like reading the opinion, here’s an article.


The New Art Critics

Hey all you art critics! Guess what? All that time you spent learning about art, art history, artists and their movements, ideologies, styles, media, etc.? Totally fucking wasted.

It turns out that in Long Beach, CA all you need to be an art critic is a badge.

[T]he police in Long Beach, California, have a policy that says if a police officer determines that a photographer is taking photos of something with “no apparent esthetic value,” they can detain them.

What could this policy possibly be based on? Are Long Beach cops afraid that there might be photographic evidence that not every part of Long Beach is picturesque and perfect? Are they afraid of spies, have they watched too many Bond flicks? Maybe it’s Communists. Maybe it’s Maybelline.

Maybe it doesn’t matter.

Now, in my last post I discussed something much more worrisome than this in the long term. However, this deserves awareness, discussion and the statement:

Dear Long Beach, I can smell the bullshit from here. Love, Waiting For The Inevitable Lawsuit (aka Whiskeypants).


When Privacy Law Backfires

Today I caught wind of the trend toward criminalizing the act of recording law enforcement at work. If you don’t feel like hittin’ up that article, people are being arrested for taking video of police officers on the basis of two-way consent laws.

The legal justification for arresting the “shooter” rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where “no expectation of privacy exists” (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.

If you will allow me to take all of my writing skill, creativity and legal education and put my reaction into words: shit on that.

Now, before I go any further into this issue, let me say this: I am not anti-cop. I am not anti-law enforcement. I believe strongly that, if the police force were to get the funding, staffing, and resources necessary to do their jobs, we’d have fewer problems with officers going off the reservation and fucking up. This is not a cop-bashing post, nor should it be construed as one.

That being said, this is bullshit. We as citizens should, whenever possible, be able to police our police force in this way so long as we do not obstruct. Using technology to record their actions, regardless of whether they consent (and I do not believe that privacy and consent laws apply even in the tiniest way in situations like these, especially when arrests occur in public places) should not only be legal, at this point it ought to be expected.

This reads to me like willful misinterpretation of the law. It is damaging to the ability of the civilian to have a voice and a verifiable complaint about police abuse (and while this may not be about cop bashing, let’s not pretend such abuses do not happen with frightening regularity). Administratively, this doesn’t make sense: if the police are on the level, they shouldn’t have to worry about the results of such public recordings. And if they are not, such recordings (properly handled) aid the legal process.

We should not be living in a state where citizens have to fear reprisals for keeping an eye on the police.


Support World Domination

Alexei: Whiskeypants, why aren’t you a supervillain?
WP: No funding.
Charlie: Sounds like a Kickstarter effort needs to be mounted.

Sounded like a good idea to me.
Click to make with embiggening:

 


A Medieval Twist to Tech Law?

Back in the Middle Ages—*floppy handwave in the direction of the past*—, there was a presumption that the only acceptable financial or personal gain came from actual labor: work that you did with your hands. Gains that came from the lack of such good, honest labor were immediately suspect, definitely a sign of sinful behavior, and possibly—GASP!—witchcraft.

I bring this up because former EFF attorney Jennifer Granick has made an interesting and pertinent observation with regard to the accusations of data theft brought against Aaron Swartz. In a recent post, Granick observes:

But the sum and substance of the case is that he defrauded JSTOR by accessing the JSTOR archive without authorization and making copies of articles that students at MIT (and at Harvard, where Swartz was a Fellow) could obtain for free.

Swartz could have downloaded the articles one by one without violating the law.  Is it a crime, therefore, that he used an automated process to do so? … I find the theory that individual access is allowed, but automated access is not extremely interesting.

Now, we might have a number of reasons, legal or otherwise (Read: any Bond villain. Or Skynet.), to fear what somebody with a powerful enough computer and the ability to automate actions might be able to do.

But at the same time, it’s difficult not to see the distinction being made between evil automation and the tedious but apparently honest work of downloading each paper individually as a fear of witchcraft.


Accountability

So. Justin Bieber said something stupid with regard to rape and abortion. That’s not surprising. I’m not sure that kid has two brain cells to rub together. What really, really bothers me is the reactions of the adults around me to this, all of which amounts to: He’s 16, who cares what he thinks?

Well, for one thing all of his crazy rabid fans. That’s a huge audience, so asking for some forethought and accountability shouldn’t be too much.

For another, he’s 16. Soon he will be old enough to vote. He’s already old enough to have sex. Why don’t we expect him to be thinking critically about rape and abortion? Why are we so eager to say that what a teenager says doesn’t matter, when it is our job to teach the young ones around us, to give them the building blocks of education, integrity, and moral foundation (and by “moral” I do not necessarily mean “religious”, for those who may be reacting to the more fundamentalist version of the word)?

Why are our expectations so low for 16-year-old boys? They should be absurdly high. They should be high for all the young people around us. Let’s give them something to aspire to, rather than telling them that who they are, what they say, how they act doesn’t matter because they aren’t technically adults yet.

When my brother was 16 he was able to discuss politics, religion, ethics, rape, and abortion as easily as he was able to discuss video games. Why? Because he’s smart, but also because my mother and I had high standards for him. And he met them. My sister was similarly adept at that age.

I guess in many ways this ties into this post, about thinking before you speak. This goes for teenagers as much as it goes for us. The difference is, we—as parents, siblings, friends, relatives—have a responsibility to them as well as to ourselves to teach them these skills and these values. When they say stupid shit for the world to see, readers, that’s on us as much as anybody else.

Time to raise our standards, people. Not toss them out the window.


Rape

Lately there has been a lot of uproar over the GOP’s attempt to redefine rape, ostensibly in the name of budget cuts but really in a sneaky definition-based attempt to attack reproductive rights, especially in teenagers. This has been discussed and argued ad nauseum by everybody, including yours truly. That’s not what I want to discuss today, however.

I’ve been avoiding this discussion here, simply because rape is a subject that cannot be truly well discussed in a sound-nuggety blog like this one. In my criminal law class, we broke out into smaller sections and spent extra time and effort reading up on and discussing rape.  This was the only subject in the entire class for which we did this. During this time, it was made truly and abundantly clear how difficult it is to prosecute a rape case.

Nota bene: I am very well aware that not all rape is heterosexual, that not all rapists are men and not all victims are women. But I cannot say what I want to say if I am tripping over terms. Please forgive the simplification.

Rape is very nearly impossible to prove, especially given the number of ways in which it can occur. In many cases, a woman will have to put herself in extreme danger before a judge and jury will take her claims seriously—actions not in keeping with the common advice given to women: that if they find themselves being sexually assaulted, not to fight and thus be potentially seriously injured or murdered in the process. And yet, if a woman does succumb to unwanted sexual attention, then it’s altogether too easy for a defense attorney to cast doubt over whether she really meant “no.” According to a number of court cases, “no” only means “no” if it is accompanied by the bruises, cuts, and other injuries that indicated a struggle.

And those are the much clearer cases. Let’s not forget Rohypnol and other similarly used drugs, date rape (which is particularly insidious and difficult to prove), spousal rape, and forms of coercion that are not merely physical.

I mention all of this, because Bobby Franklin, a GA state representative, wants to make it even more difficult. He is introducing this bill, which will change the terminology for the purpose of legal proceedings: victims of rape can now only be called “accusers” when they bring their cases to court. Now, before we get into what this does or does not mean to the legal process, let’s take a look at the word “accuser”.

Who the hell wants to be an “accuser”? Could that word have any more negative connotation? This immediately puts a woman in the position of being that person who is pointing the finger, who is blaming, who is rocking the boat. We live in a society where making accusations is not really okay. The number of times I have said, and other people have said, “I’m not accusing you of anything…” in order to mollify somebody who feels put on the spot is pretty high.

Now let’s look at how difficult it already is to get women to come forward after they have been sexually assaulted (it’s even more difficult to get men to come forward for obvious reasons). It is estimated that 1 in 6 women have or will be sexually assaulted (1 in 33 men). Only about 40% of sexual assaults are reported to the police, and a smaller fraction of that make it to court.

Now let’s take a woman who has been sexually assaulted and who is suffering from all the physical, emotional, mental and social injuries she has just experienced and say, “I’m sorry, legally you aren’t a victim of anything until you can really prove it. This system doesn’t take you seriously enough, accuser.” You think she’s gonna make her court date?

Now, if you read the bill, you will see that the language is not limited to rape victims, but also to victims of stalking, domestic violence, and inappropriate behavior around children. Which leads me to wonder, frankly, about Bobby Franklin’s proclivities outside of the House.

Gentle reader, I don’t have the answer to rape, apart from don’t fucking do it. But apart from that, I don’t want to live in a society where we keep tightening up on the definition and the ability to prosecute effectively. Do you?


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