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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Twitter!

25 08 2010

FYI, I know some of you were already following me under my old Twitter name, but if not, I’m @queerscholar now and the Twitter is going to be more for the same sort of stuff I blog about here, as opposed to personal updates.  (If you know me personally, there’s always Facebook.)





Competency Kinks, Violence, and Imperialism

22 08 2010

A couple of months ago, I had a thought.  I was brainstorming an idea for an urban fantasy novel, one that would feature a strong androgynous superhero whose jurisdiction was over things like stopping rapists, confronting misogynists, and making vulnerable populations feel safe.  But as I was brainstorming this hero, who not only saves your life but has a penchant for cuddling and physical affection, I realized that one of the traits I was using was still “could kill you with hir little finger.”

That got me thinking about competency kinks and how they align with violence.

“Competency kink” basically just means that someone being really good at whatever zie does is a turn-on.  Movies certainly capitalize on this.  Sometimes it’s intellectual competence, or psychic ability, or something else unrelated to violence, but very often the protagonist is competent at killing, injuring, and/or self defense.  Whether it’s competence with weaponry, martial arts, magic, or some other violence-related skill, filmmakers are very good at combining destructive prowess with sexiness.  Think Christian Bale in Equilibrium.  Think Keanu Reeves in the Matrix.  Think of all the bad-ass chicks in films that are unexpectedly very skilled at physical combat.  Kill Bill, anyone?

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Scary Thoughts of Actual Success

15 08 2010

Everyone who’s ever done Artist’s Way knows that when you start to get creative, good things will come to you, and it’s important to be open and accept them.

Well, I’ve been having thoughts about a career shift, about possibly trying to develop my online presence in a way that could lead to a career as a writer/speaker/freelancer. There are so many doubts about this: it’s not a steady stream of income, which is terrifying; I’m already 25 and I feel like I’ve wasted that stage where you do things and people say indulgently “wow, you’re so young, okay, we’ll take a look at your book proposal.” My friends on Facebook who went to high school with me are now heads of departments and I’m an administrative assistant.

But I want to nurture my little seed, because maybe it will grow, and I like writing. I like free speech. I like being able to say whatever I want, and not the message of the organization.





Gender and the Potential of Children

9 08 2010

There’s been a lot about children and gender identity on my radar screen lately, from stores with gender-neutral children’s clothing to the media ridiculousness surrounding little Shiloh to the tragic murder of a 16-month-old little boy whose mother’s boyfriend didn’t think the infant was “man” enough.  I’ve also been tapping into my own inner-child potential as I try to resolve issues with depression and finding my gender identity.

Childhood, ideally, is all about play.  Children who are given safe spaces to exercise their curiosity and explore their surroundings as they grow up are more likely to be well-adjusted adults.  Adults, in fact, could learn something from children.  It’s amazing how a problem changes shape and how solutions present themselves when you take a step back and approach the problem with your imagination guns a blazin’.

And that’s the thing about childhood.  Imagination doesn’t do well with boxes.  It’s about exploring possibilities, playing, learning.  As we get older, society draws lines and we all learn where those lines lie.  We learn that boys do this and girls do this, and we learn behaviors that society considers “appropriate” to our gender.  And for those of us who don’t feel 100% comfortable with our gender, it may take years to unwrap those neat little packages we’ve been dressed up in and try to find who we are, independent of this thing called “gender.”  It may take a lot of play.





Why Is Same-Sex Marriage a Priority?

8 08 2010

I know I’ve mentioned here before that I get frustrated by the emphasis on marriage and the military in the gay rights movement, two issues that don’t really matter to me personally and in some ways seem less important than other issues (like decriminalization of sodomy around the world, like HIV prevention, like hate crimes prevention, like non-discrimination laws). But aside from that, I was just wondering, why marriage? Obviously it’s an important institution in our society, but I find it interesting that it happens to be the marker of how the gay rights movement is progressing around the world. A lot of countries in Latin America, for example, have really impressive laws about hate crimes and non-discrimination, but that doesn’t get emphasized in the news at all, while a new country getting same-sex marriage is automatically a big deal.





Prop 8 Overturned, Sort Of

5 08 2010

Your blogger’s inner cynicism rears its ugly head, I’m afraid.  I haven’t had time to read the decision or anything else, so I’m operating on what I know from the news, which is that a California District Court ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional on Due Process and Equal Protection grounds and that a stay has been issued, though it’s not a very long one and so it’ll expire before an appeal and another stay will have to be issued.

Assuming that’s correct, this is definitely something of a victory, but it doesn’t mean people can get married again, and it doesn’t mean that Prop 8 was really “overturned,” at least, in the sense I use the word.  I sort of feel like you can’t overturn something if the next guy can turn it right back.  But despite that, I’ll feel some cautious sense of victory, and eagerly anticipate the result of the appeals process.