A Lesbian & A Scholar Has Moved

8 01 2011

Just a reminder, because it looks like a lot of people are still following here, or perhaps followed links to this blog and then subscribed without noticing the most recent post.  A Lesbian & A Scholar is no more–you can still look at old posts, but they’ve all been moved to Radically Queer, where all my current blogging happens.  So if you’re new, or didn’t get the message, please update your RSS readers to get all the new posts!  You can also follow the Radically Queer Twitter Feed and Radically Queer Facebook Page for timely updates.





Announcement: Blog Move

19 10 2010

For the past few months, I’ve had some difficulty blogging at A Lesbian & A Scholar, because I felt like the name didn’t really represent me anymore. I no longer identify as a lesbian, I prefer “queer” because I am myself genderqueer and lesbian is thus a little awkward of a fit. I also feel that the “scholar” part isn’t entirely appropriate, because I’m moving away from an academic perspective after finishing my schooling and more to an activist/journalistic perspective.

For those reasons, today I am unveiling the new blog name: Radically Queer.  From now on, all updates will take place there.  I am importing this blog over there, but leaving it here as well, so links will not be broken.  If you’re showing up to this blog from a blogroll or other link, please head on over to Radically Queer instead.  If you have linked to me in your blogroll or are reading on RSS, please update accordingly.  Thanks for your understanding in this transition and I hope to see you at the new digs!





Why Women Should Be Allowed to Use the Term Birth Rape

18 09 2010

There’s been a lot of talk about birth rape lately.  I first picked up the thread of the discussion with Cara’s post On Birth Rape, Definitions, and Language Policing, a post which incidentally got a big fucking “Amen” from me.

But even questions of technical definitions and what exactly it is that we wish to eradicate in fighting this thing called “rape” aside, I do know one thing for sure. When women come forward and start saying “I was raped,” when they find the power to use that word to describe their own experiences and open up to share their trauma with the world, responding with “no you weren’t” — with whole blog posts about the subject, in fact — is about the worst possible way that a person can do feminism.

Cara’s writing here in response to a slew of recent posts that challenge a woman’s right to use the term “rape” to describe traumatic birth experiences.  These include What Is “Birth Rape?” on Jezebel, Amanda Marcotte’s Bad Birth Experiences Aren’t Rape, and The Push to Recognize “Birth Rape” on Salon.  Scare quotes.  How to know something really good’s coming.

Joking aside, I wholeheartedly agree with Cara when it comes to the problems with feminists policing language in the way these bloggers do.  You kind of have to step back and ask why those fighting against the term birth rape are so adamant about claiming the word “rape” as this one specific, identifiable thing, when last I checked, third wave feminism’s stance toward rape focused on highlighting the blurriness of language in this area.

Rape, as I understand it, is about violation.  It’s about, most importantly, lack of consent.  And I feel that those who are saying that doctors aren’t sadists, that poking and prodding and restraining and cutting women is medically necessary for childbirth, are missing the point.  I feel that those who say “but this isn’t like rape in the Congo!” are missing the point.  It doesn’t matter whether x experience and y experience are the same, what matters is how a woman experiences x or y.  What matters is that a woman is tied down and screaming “no!” and she’s ignored because birth is supposed to be painful and difficult, because we have this cultural understanding that pregnant women are supposed to go to a hospital and lie down and take whatever’s dished out.

This is a cultural problem.  And whether x, y, or z act have the same cause or effect, they’re all tied up in this culture.  This is a culture that restricts a woman’s right to give birth in whatever way she chooses, and tells her to hurry up because the obstetrician has somewhere to be.  This is a culture that views rape in wartime as unfortunate but an acceptable consequence of a kind of violent conflict that is accepted as “normal.”  This is a culture that constantly questions the power of women and trans and gender queer people to use language in the ways we see fit.  This is a violent, power-wielding, out-of-control, rape culture.

It’s our right to tell it like we see it.





Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Rape in the United States

14 09 2010

I’ve been watching the webcast of a Senate subcommittee hearing on rape in the United States, and though I’m not able to watch the last panel, I wanted to note a couple of things.  One is that I’m actually encouraged by what I’ve heard, especially about the need to have better definitions of sexual crimes and the need for better reporting and police support.  Then again, the Senators present were Specter, Cardin, and Franken, so maybe that’s to be expected.

One thing, though, that bothered me, was that Specter seemed surprised that a public education and awareness campaign would be needed–what is to me one of the most important elements of eradicating rape culture.  He stated that “people are aware of what rape means [...] that it is violent and anti-social.”  Seems to be missing the point a bit.  There was some back-and-forth in this hearing between recognizing and seeming to gloss over acquaintance rape.  The problem isn’t that people don’t know what rape is, but that sexual crimes aren’t culturally stigmatized and survivors don’t get social support.  So yes, a public education campaign is vitally important, to change the way people think about sex and to prevent rape before it happens.

On the other hand, I was encouraged that particularly vulnerable populations were at least mentioned: indigenous people, immigrants, people with disabilities, people in institutions, LGBT people, the homeless, etc.  I don’t know how much hope I have for things improving, but this hearing has shown that journalism, and just talking about it, does mean something.





September 11th: Defining the Terrorized and the Terrorist

11 09 2010

Here we are, nine years out from September 11, 2001.  Obviously, the acts that took place on that day were terrible acts of violence committed by desperate men carrying out a perverted form of religious belief.  But the terrible acts that get carried out in the name of patriotism are also deserving of some questioning.

Apparently, the burning of Qu’arans isn’t going to happen after all, but that doesn’t mean that things like that don’t happen everyday, in America and elsewhere.  The thing we have to realize is that we’re dealing with structural issues.  Imperialism, colonialism, war, corporate greed, capitalism… it’s a very thick net that many have woven, and it’s strangling us.

My mom is a very talented musician, and she put out an album years before September 11  was more than just a random date on the calendar, with a song called “Terrorist.”  There’s a line in that song that I think sums this point up very well: “Powerless gain power, and the power stays the same.”  And the song, as a whole, makes another important point: it’s not about good and evil people, and when we think of the world in good and evil sides, well, we miss that choking net entirely.

You can listen to “Terrorist,” by Mean Mad Momma, here.  The lyrics are below the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »





Appropriation vs. Creative Activism

6 09 2010

I’ve been thinking lately about cultural appropriation and how to avoid it.  My principle concern comes from the fact that I am fascinated by indigenous cultures and indigenous activism.  I’ve read some really interesting accounts in my study of human rights on indigenous movements and creative solutions to common activist problems. But I’ve wondered if identifying with and being interested in these movements is a bad thing, especially when I’m thinking about how to apply indigenous ideas to activist movements in the United States as a white, middle class individual.

There was a post on cultural appropriation at Bitch Magazine that presented a really helpful guiding line for this problem.  Basically, it’s about attribution.  White people tend to appropriate the ideas of nonwhite people and of marginalized groups in general, whether queer, disabled, indigenous, or something else, and then claim them as their own–directly or through silence.  What this says to me (and correct me if I’m wrong), is that it’s good to recognize the creativity of solutions presented by marginalized people, and to incorporate them into, or use them as the basis for, an activist movement.  But it is essential to attribute those ideas to that group, and to the individuals that have expressed them.  It is not okay to take the ideas out of context, to strip away their origins, and to exclude those who presented the ideas in the first place.

Thoughts?





Women’s Equality Day: What Is Suffrage, Anyway?

26 08 2010

I think most of us who grew up in the United States in the late 20th century have a limited understanding of what the right to vote actually means.  As we celebrate 90 years of women’s suffrage this year, it’s interesting to look back to the founding of the US and consider what voting, and democracy, meant to early Americans.

I’ve been reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States this week, and its chapters do a great job of putting democracy in perspective.  The Founders, lauded in our classrooms as almost omnipotent men, benevolent providers of justice and equality, were actually concerned at the founding of our country about making the Constitution too democratic.  The Founders didn’t want to risk the United States becoming a nation where rich and poor people alike had a share in the workings of state, and they certainly didn’t see blacks, women, Indians, or recent immigrants getting involved.  Property qualifications varied from state to state, but everywhere the voting population was a definite minority of the general populous.

Now, of course, people can vote without owning any property.  Blacks, women, naturalized citizens, American Indians, and the poor make up a large part of the total voting population.  But capitalism is still firmly entrenched in our ideas of government and society.  Children still sneer at “commies,” and those in power are ingenious at turning different groups against one another and stigmatizing any desire for socialism or communal living.  Our system of property ownership, our “rags to riches myth,” the institution of marriage–all these things perpetuate a capitalist ideal that focuses on the individual, not the group.  And who’s in power?  Well, the business interests still aren’t doing too badly.  Rich white men may be joined by women and people of color in the corridors of power, but classism in the United States is alive and well, along with racism and sexism.

So let’s continue fighting for equality, rather than resting on our laurels.  Let’s take this occasion to reflect on how we can use our activism, our writing, our entrepreneurship, our leadership, our coalitions, and yes, our vote, creatively to increase access to political life and economic well-being for more and more people in the United States.  And let’s think about how we define “well-being,” exactly, and consider how our hallowed institutions do and don’t meet our needs as individuals and a community.








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