March 23rd, 2004

broccoli quote from SIKOS 2002

trans issues, single-sex institutions, blah blah blah

The panel discussion (and accompanying Q&A) on feminism and transgender was mostly people agreeing with each other, but then again, who’s gonna stand up at Smith and say stuff that could be interpreted as transphobic? Though if that were really true, tomorrow’s debate at Senate wouldn’t be happening.

I liked Stacey-whoselastnameididn’tcatch (and who is possibly the first trans-woman ever to be invited to speak at Smith) the best of the panelists (in large part because she said things i hadn’t already heard before).

In her opening she talked about feminism necessarily being a reaction to patriarchy, since in a world without patriarchy “feminism” would just mean something like “promotion of the feminine.” And patriarchy is all about hierarchy, about one group having control over another (“and not in a safe, sane, consensual, manner” *g*). It’s about purity and boundaries, so if feminism is in opposition to patriarchy, it must be in opposition to hierarchy and boundaries and suchlike.

She said at Camp Trans one year, one very loud and angry MichiganFest woman asked them not to film her, and Stacey asked “Are you not proud of your opinion?” and the woman replied “Well, yes, I think I am. But I don’t know how I’ll feel in 10 years, and I don’t want this in the Lesbian Herstory Archives.” I am all about owning what you say, but i am so impressed that this woman realized that her opinions might well change, and have a lot of respect for her for that.

Stacey said that various trans-women have told her trans-women are less welcome at Smith than non-trans-men. She said it doesn’t matter if that’s true, what matters is that a lot of trans-women feel that way, and that’s something we at Smith really need to think about. (She also pointed out that the term “biological woman” is problematic since what is she, made out of plastic? Certainly she’s biological.)

Talking about just what is “man” or “woman,” Stacey said “I have a piece of paper saying I’m diagnosably confused about this issue” :)

She said that many times the issue is not what is the answer, but why do we ask the question?

“The time you spend worrying about what other people think about you is deducted from your time in Heaven -- and more importantly, from your time on Earth. ... I care about how people treat me. ... I don’t care how sincere you are, just let me in.” -Stacey

Stacey talked a lot about intention. She said discrimination is like fire: it is both good and dangerous, and should be treated with caution. So if you’re making an exclusive space, that can be a very good thing, but think about why you’re doing it, and make sure that it really is a good thing.

The bathroom issue came up (women feeling unsafe with men in the same bathroom with them), and Mitch pointed out that rapists are not gonna stay out just because there’s a Female sign on the bathroom (though it occurred to me later, that it’s much harder to sneak into a public restroom when you look like you don’t belong -- an obvious male, for example -- than when you can pass as belong, so there is some grounds for the fear of rape -- though really, how many trans-women are gonna rape someone in a public restroom? how many male rapists are gonna dress up as women in order to rape someone in a public restroom?). An audience member said that she works with an organization that helps GLBT folk who are recovering from domestic violence, so even in a same-sex environment, you are not necessarily in a “safe space.”

Jennifer Walters talked about the opportunity to be “whole” (as in, the opportunity she finds single-sex institutions provide for many people) and later an audience member pointed out the classism etc. that exists at Smith, and of course that’s true, but being me my immediate thought at Jennifer Walters’ statement was “If you are a conservative at Smith, you do not get to be a whole person, not without struggle anyway.”

Walking with H. afterwards, i mentioned the fact that i’m really not committed to the idea of single-sex education. She said she’s never understood why i’m at Smith if i feel like that. (And it honestly isn’t because i like to be a pain in the ass. I was far less obnoxious in high school than i am now, in fact.) My best friend in high school and i both applied Early Decision to colleges that happened to be single-sex institutions, but we were both rather indifferent to that fact. We loved our colleges of choice for many reasons, and the gender makeup was incidental. So i often forget that it’s anomalous to be at such an institution and not be all gung-ho about that aspect of institutions. Am i really the only Smithie who feels this way? I’m not saying Smith should go co-ed, of course. The single-sex aspect is obviously of great value to many people, and i don’t think i wanna say that their arguments are the suck (though i think that the fact that you aren’t allowed to have all-male institutions is rather unfair, though i understand the arguments -- i need to read the full text of Title IX at some point).

Talking about my applying to Smith, H. said “You weren’t queer then,” and of course that’s a deeply offensive statement, but i didn’t even realize that until she said “Wow, that was offensive” because of course i knew what she meant. And in a sense she was right, since while in retrospect i can trace self-queerness back to at least 7th grade, i didn’t realize i was queer until midway through my senior year of high school.

I actually can’t remember if i knew Smith was Home of The Gay when i applied. (I have an amazing ability to live under a rock.) I remember that it seemed like every adult i mentioned Smith to either had never heard of it or had some friend or relation who had graduated from it and loved it, but i don’t think anyone mentioned teh gay, even Mrs. Flemer (whose daughter was Smith ‘03 and who talked a lot about Smith to me my last year in high school). I don’t remember being surprised by teh gay when i got here, either, though.
i fight fire with words

in which Elizabeth talks a variety of politics (and brattily decides she doesn't feel like cut-taggi

Recently i was thinking yet again about how i’ve changed since i was in high school, and i realized that my politics haven’t changed all that much.

I’m still a vegetarian. I still believe abortion is morally wrong (though i reluctantly support its legalization, which i don’t think i did in high school) and i still oppose the death penalty. Mostly since i’ve been at college i’ve actually actively engaged with political issues (something i didn’t do in high school) so i actually have opinions on a lot of things i didn’t before, and my inclinations are sometimes surprising.

I’m troubled by this portion from a NYTimes article on the lesbian Methodist decision:
The prosecutor, a minister, argued that the Book of Discipline, the church law, barred gays from the ministry. But the jury concluded that while the Book of Discipline said homosexuality was "incompatible with Christian teaching," it offered no clear declaration on whether gay men or lesbians could join the clergy. In a statement that accompanied the verdict, the jury also said the Book of Discipline encouraged inclusiveness in the church.
If a clergy member actively participates in something that is incompatible with that denomination’s teaching, how can that person be a clergy member? If adultery (for example) is contrary, wouldn’t a clergy member participating in adultery be defrocked, or at least told to stop? I don’t think homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity, so maybe it was just a case of a jury using bad reasoning to give a good verdict. Of course it’s deeply painful when you know what the “right” call is, but you have to say something else given the way the rules are. (This, of course, is when you work to change the rules.)

Although there is this:
"In my considered opinion and judgment, the United Methodist Church has never declared the practice of homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching," said Jack Tuell, a retired bishop viewed by many as a top authority on the church's rulebook, the Book of Discipline.
-Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter
Will Baude interviewed Eugene Volokh and asked "Most (hopefully all) scholars of Constitutional Law can name some laws that they think are constitutional but undesirable-- things that the government legally can do, but shouldn't anyway. What about the reverse? Are there any laws or policies that you think would be on-the-whole good policies to have, if only the Constitution permitted them?" I was pleased to see Eugene say "I'm not an expert on this, but my sense is that the privilege against self-incrimination is a bad idea. I don't see why the prosecutors shouldn't be able to subpoena the defendant and ask him to explain just where he was the night of this-and-such. [...]" as i’ve never understood why you were allowed to not answer questions based on the fact that they might help prove your guilt, since the whole point of a trial is to establish guilt or innocence. (And of course it’s almost self-defeating, since pleading the 5th means you have something to hide, so while they may not have proof, the jury will be prejudiced against you.)

I liked this NYTimes article on the Pledge of Allegiance case.
According to another group of religious individuals, 32 Christian and Jewish clergy members who take the opposite side in the case, reciting the pledge with "under God" invites a troubling kind of civic blasphemy. If children are supposed to utter the phrase without meaning it as an affirmation of personal faith, the group's brief asserts, "then every day, government asks millions of schoolchildren to take the name of the Lord in vain."
I had never thought of it that way. It makes a lot of sense, though. If the words don’t mean anything, why are they there? If they do mean something, then it’s religiously discriminatory.

Personally, i think “under God” should be taken out of the Pledge and “In God We Trust” taken off of the money. Being hardcore about the power of words, and about honesty (i am mostly silent in church, because i refuse to sing/speak that which would, from my mouth, be an untruth) i am more concerned about the Pledge because that is something people (are encouraged to) say, while few people actually pay attention to any of the appearance of money. I have also long been troubled by the fact that witnesses pledge (on a Bible no less) to tell the truth “So help you God.” I think not so much because it felt like forcible establishment of religion or whatever, but because, what about those who don’t believe in (the Christian) God?

A lot of this Lileks piece reminds me why i don’t read Lileks daily anymore, but the opener is rather perfect:
Imagine if you woke from an operation and discovered that your tumor was gone. You’d think: I suppose that’s a good thing. But. You learned that the hospital might profit from the operation. You learned that the doctor who made the diagnosis had decided to ignore all the other doctors who believed the tumor could be discouraged if everyone protested the tumor in the strongest possible terms, and urged the tumor to relent. How would you feel? You’d be mad. You’d look up at the ceiling of your room and nurse your fury until you came to truly hate that butcher. And when he came by to see how you were doing, you’d have only one logical, sensible thing to say: YOU TOOK IT OUT FOR THE WRONG REASONS. PUT IT BACK!
"Some of us may not sympathize, for example, with American policy toward Cuba, but when Fidel Castro imprisons dozens of peaceful dissidents and executes people for hijacking a ferry in order to reach freedom, we must call the wrath of heaven down on his repression."
--from Tainted Legacy: 9/11 and the Ruin of Human Rights by William Schulz, as quoted by Nat Hentoff


I boggled (at AI, not at Hentoff or Schulz) as he continued:
I remain deeply puzzled at those who pride themselves as being on the left who regard the prisoners I have named as the victims of a United States policy of aggression against Cuba that keeps "provoking" Castro to lock up these threats to national security.

This is how Amnesty International speaks to these admirers of Castro's revolutionary socialism: "While Amnesty International believes that nothing can justify the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience or other violations of fundamental human rights and continues to condemn Cuba for these violations, it also recognizes the negative effect of the U.S. embargo on the full range of human rights in Cuba, and therefore calls on the United States to review its policy."

I am opposed to the embargo, but I have followed Castro's contempt for human rights throughout his regime, starting long before the U.S. embargo. He didn't need provocation to act like the dictator he is. So, I thoroughly agree with Amnesty that nothing can justify his Mugabe-like brutishness.
Honestly, i’m interested in issues, not in people. Okay, that sounds wrong. I mean i’m not interested in bitching about people who are creating policy but rather i’m interested in discussing the policy itself.

Should Kerry win in November, anyone who has been spouting “Anyone But Bush” forfeits all rights to complain about Kerry during his term. Anyone who has said “Problematic as Kerry is, I think he’s better than Bush” retains their rights to complain about Kerry during his term.

Hmm, various sign language signs are offensive stereotypes. One learns new things everyday. The fact that "in China, the sign for a Westerner is a hand depicting a round eye" gives me pause when thinking about changing the sign for “Chinese” in Western cultures, but while i can’t speak for any Asian cultures, i know slant-eyes were/are a term of derision in many Western cultures, so that gives me pause. Generally the changes look good to me (though there needs to be a better one for “gay” -- and does sign language have a sign for “lesbian”? gay’s so short that maybe we should just fingerspell it). I know i would personally be uncomfortable making signs that mimicked insults, because i would feel like i were thus speaking the insults. Damn me and my insistence on the power of words. The change should, of course, come from within the deaf community, shouldn’t be imposed from outside. But won’t this operate like spoken languages do? People point out that things are offensive and suggest alternatives and many people adopt the alternatives and some people don’t and life goes on? Or am i just being too sensible here?
hermione by oatmilk

(no subject)

AIM hates me tonight, but i am in fact here, in front of my computer, doing work.

I'm not sure if LJ is done being wonky with the comment-delivering, but i have my e-mail client open, so if you wanna talk to me tonight, just e-mail esweeny[at]smith[dot]edu