This post first appeared on Shakesville. [Trigger warning for sexual assault, homophobia, and suicide.] By now, you've probably heard the details of the terrible incident at Rutgers University, in which 18-year-old freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate and a friend secretly filmed and live-streamed Clementi making out with another young man. Naturally, a lot of people have reasonably concluded that the "merry pranksters" who broadcast Clementi's private sexual acts, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, were homophobic. But a longtime friend of Ravi's says this is not true:
[Michael Zhuang told ABC News] the media portrayals of Ravi as possibly homophobic or a serious prankster are not true. "I'm in shock, I didn't expect this to happen and I am just speechless. He's normally very nice and I don't think that this is a representation of him," said Zhuang. "He's very very open minded and he, like if it had been a girl in the room it wouldn't have been any different," he said.
See that? Ravi isn't homophobic; he's an equal opportunity sexual assaulter. Oh, pardon me: An equal opportunity privacy-invader. Ravi and Wei "have been charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy." You know you're living in a rape culture when the proffered evidence of someone's decency and open-mindedness is that he'd have callously violated his roommate's privacy if he'd been intimate with a girl, too. Naturally, the phrase "if it had been a girl in the room it wouldn't have been any different" is absurd for another reason: It might not have been any different for Ravi (a dubious claim in the first place, frankly), but it certainly made a world of difference to his victim, by virtue of the fact that we live in an institutionally homophobic culture where straight people generally needn't worry about violent retribution or familial ostracization or any of the other potential consequences many gay/bi men and women might face after evidence of their sexuality is broadcast to the world. The things Clementi evidently feared enough to take his own life.
This post first appeared on Shakesville. After telling disillusioned progressives to "stop whining," Vice President Joe Biden doubled-down on the scold-your-base strategy last night:
"And so those who — didn't get everything they wanted, it's time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better, continue to move forward," Biden said during an appearance on MSNBC, "but not yield the playing field to those folks who are against everything that we stand for in terms of the initiatives we put forward." Biden was asked by MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell, in the debut of the host's new program, "The Last Word," whether he'd like to retract his admonition to liberals to stop complaining. "There are some on the Democratic base, not the core of it, that are angry because we didn't get every single thing they want," the vice president said. "They should stop that," Biden explained. "These guys, if they win, the other team, they're going to repeal healthcare [reform] and I want them to tell me why what we did wasn't an incredibly significant move that's progressive and helping people."
The Obama voter who's "angry because we didn't get every single thing they want" is a damnable strawperson. Joe Biden is mistaking ideological purity for what, in reality, is consistent principles—and the expectation that the administration have them, too. This is getting really old. The Press Secretary, the Deputy Director of Public Engagement (har), top advisors, the Vice President, and the President have all gone on the offensive against their own base, and then they wonder why the fuck the base isn't on their side. OMGLOLWTF. And, as Maud pointed out in comments, the hyperbole is ridiculous:
This reminds me of the tired line, recently used by Biden in his interview with Rachel Maddow, but trotted out frequently by the usual suspects, "As much as I wish we had a magic wand..." Yes, that's right. People expect magic. The only two possibilities are selling-out completely, and the magic wand. Expecting anything but the first is the equivalent of demanding the second.
Which reminded me of this comment Obama made at a fundraiser last week:
Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get -- to see the glass as half empty. If we get an historic health care bill passed -- oh, well, the public option wasn't there. If you get the financial reform bill passed -- then, well, I don't know about this particular derivatives rule; I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven't yet brought about world peace and -- I thought that was going to happen quicker.
Yes, that's right. Because expecting a healthcare reform bill in the richest nation on the planet to guarantee healthcare to all its citizens is the same as expecting world peace. Jesus. This is so infuriating. Forget legislative failures or policy disagreements for a moment: I just want my Democratic president to be better at politics than this.
This post first appeared on Shakesville. There's a lot of interesting and/or infuriating stuff in this article about the gender gap on Wall Street, but this particularly jumped out at me:
The figures suggest that women bore the brunt of the layoffs in the recent recession. But other forces are at play. Across the economy, computers have replaced junior, back-office workers, jobs that were largely filled by women.
There are all kinds of studies that have been done finding how women who graduate from business school tend to start out in lower (administrative) positions than their male peers. As those admin functions have been being automated, it should have created parity for entry-level positions, but it isn't working out that way: Instead, it's simply cutting off the primary route into corporate work for many young women. Something tells me that's not going to get the same level of attention as when factory automation started putting men out of work.
This post first appeared on Shakesville. Shirley Sherrod has turned down a job offer from the Agriculture Department, after being forced to resign in July on the basis of Andrew Breitbart's doctored video.
[Sherrod] declined an offer Tuesday to serve as the agency's deputy director of the Office of Advocacy and Outreach. The newly created position was designed to improve the department's civil rights efforts and image nationwide. Sherrod said she also turned down an offer to return to her previous position as the department's director of rural development for Georgia. Sherrod met Tuesday morning with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to discuss the offers. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two since a controversial sequence of events last month culminated in Sherrod's stepping down. ...Sherrod said Vilsack pushed "really, really hard" for her to stay at the USDA during their roughly 90-minute meeting, but that she just didn't "think at this point with all that has happened" that it would be possible to continue working there. She needed to "take a break" from the furor surrounding her dismissal, she said. But "it doesn't mean I'm not interested in that work, because I am," Sherrod told reporters at the Agriculture Department. Sherrod said she enjoyed her work at the USDA and "would want to see (it) continue." "We need to work on issues (of) discrimination and racism in this country, and I'd certainly like to play my role," Sherrod said. She praised "new processes in place" to prevent discrimination and inappropriate firings at the department, but said she doesn't "want to be the one to test it."
To be perfectly frank, I find it the height of patronizing bullshit that Sherrod was asked to be the director of the newly-created Office of Advocacy and Outreach. "Sorry we shit all over you; we don't know how to be reasonable or sensitive, but we sure want to look like we do to the public. So, um, can you do the very difficult task of building and leading a new department for us, so that we don't do the same shitty thing to someone else that we did to you? We totes swear that this isn't just a public relations stunt, and you won't be abandoned to bureaucratic hell, tasked with an objective we won't fund, as soon as the cameras look the other way. WE SWEARS IT!" Typical. As much as I want people just like Shirley Sherrod working for my government, I'm glad she didn't take the job, just on the principle of the thing. It isn't the obligation of people this (or any other) administration unfairly slights to fix the mess by letting themselves be used in a cynical public ploy. I hope the Department nonetheless creates its Office of Advocacy and Outreach, and hires someone great to lead it, even and especially if the administration stands to gain nothing from hir employment.
This post first appeared on Shakesville. Tom Colicchio already had me at kitchen feminism, and now he's just spoiling me:
More recently, my wife [filmmaker Lori Silverbush] started mentoring a young girl from Brooklyn and she would come to the house and she would eat and then she'd say "Oh, I'm full. Can I bring this home?" And we realized what she was doing; she was bringing it home for her siblings. When food stamps run out halfway through the month, these kids are hungry. And they're fed sweetened juice water, just to put something in their stomach; it's not nice. …We had a Major General who testified that forty percent of new recruits going into the service fail out because they're obese. It's not from overfeeding. This is what people don't understand: obesity is a symptom of poverty. It's not a lifestyle choice where people are just eating and not exercising. It's because kids - and this is the problem with school lunch right now - are getting sugar, fat, empty calories - lots of calories - but no nutrition. …And they're hungry, they're eating more cheap food.
They're hungry. In 2005, 12% of USians, 35 million people, were unable to put food on their tables for at least part of the year, and 11 million of them reported going hungry at times. It's only gotten worse, as joblessness has become more widespread and unemployment benefits run out. Access to nutrient-rich food is a class issue even in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. The "war on obesity" is largely a class war, and the more we uncritically repeat narratives about laziness and lifestyle and pretend the primary solution to all childhood obesity in particular is increased activity, the more profoundly obscured is this simple fact: They're hungry. (Which is to say nothing of the other issues we may be obscuring.) Thanks to Chef Tom for the ray of light.
This post first appeared on Shakesville. In what is one of the most deplorable examples of "What About the Menz" I've ever seen, Milwaukee County's chief mental health official, John Chianelli, decided to placate violent male psychiatric patients by housing female patients in the previously sex-segregated locked ward. When the integrated ward resulted in a surge of sexual assaults against the female patients, Chianelli then defended the decision as a "trade-off."
Three Milwaukee County supervisors turned up the heat Monday on the county's top mental health official, calling for the firing of John Chianelli over mishandling of patient assaults. Their remarks follow a report Sunday in the Journal Sentinel in which Chianelli defended housing female patients with dangerous male patients to quell male-on-male violence, according to written account by Supervisor Lynne De Bruin. Chianelli called it a trade-off that resulted in more sexual assaults of female patients, according to De Bruin and two other supervisors. …Chianelli described the rationale for the county's mixed-gender wards as a "trade-off" that avoided more fights common to all-male wards but increased the chance of sexual attacks in mixed-sex wards, according to De Bruin's letter. "Going to gender-based units trades violence for sexual assaults," based on his review of psychiatric literature, Chianelli told the panel, according to the letter.
A "trade-off." Sure. Spoken like a true believer in the idea that no one gives a fuck about female psychiatric patients, anyway—so might as well hand them over to the male patients who will be less inclined to be aggressive toward one another if they've got vulnerable, unprotected women to rape. Heaven knows we wouldn't want those men hurting themselves, or each other, or one of the facility staff. You know, people who matter. The profundity of my contempt is bottomless.
This post originally appeared on Shakesville. "In the underclass (black, white and Hispanic alike), intact families are now an endangered species."—Ideologically moribund dipshit Ross Douthat, using his New York Times column to wring his hands about how the times they are a-changing. Note to Ross Douthat: These days, lots of families fail by design to fit your definition of "intact," i.e. "the ideal of the two-parent family," wherein those two parents are married and of the opposite sex. But that doesn't mean they're broken. Yeesh. But I guess I oughtn't expect to be reasonable someone who spends a good portion of his column wrestling with the idea that it's somehow cheating, some sort of smug chicanery, that the East Coast liberals whose families look most like his ideal only achieve that model via their tricksy immoral reliance on abortion. Yeah, well, Mr. Conservative Genius, call me when you're ready to try our idea: A robust network of social services to service all Americans equally, including those shattered riffraff in the underclass.
This story originally appeared on Shakesville. Senior SEC Officials were spending their days surfing porn sites while the economy collapsed:
The Securities and Exchange Commission is the sheriff of the financial industry, looking for crimes such as Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, but a new government report obtained by ABC News has concluded that some senior employees spent hours on the agency's computers looking at sites such as naughty.com, skankwire and youporn as the financial crisis was unfolding. "These guys in the middle of a financial crisis are spending their time looking at prurient material on the Internet," said Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland and former director of the Office of Economics at the U.S. International Trade Commission. "It's reckless, and indicates a contempt for the taxpayer and the taxpayer's interest in monitoring financial markets," Morici said. The investigation, which was conducted by the SEC's internal watchdog at the request of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, found 31 serious offenders during the past two and a half years. That's less than 1 percent of the agency's 3,500 employees but 17 of the alleged offenders were senior SEC officers whose salaries ranged from $100,000 to $222,000 per year. ...One senior attorney at SEC headquarters in Washington spent up to eight hours a day accessing Internet porn, according to the report, which has yet to be released. When he filled all the space on his government computer with pornographic images, he downloaded more to CDs and DVDs that accumulated in boxes in his offices.
Other findings included an SEC account who used his work computer "to upload his own sexually explicit videos onto porn websites" and another who "attempted to access porn sites 16,000 times in a single month." I feel like I'm saying this a lot lately, but I just don't know what to say anymore.
This post originally appeared on Shakesville. Have I mentioned in the last three seconds that we're in the middle of a Big Fucking Backlash? Because we're in the middle of a big fucking backlash. The following are excerpts from Eleanor Mills' article for the Times titled (I shit you not) "Learning to be left on the shelf" (emphasis mine), in which feminism is blamed for women who were bred not to breed, or something:
This isn't just about me. One in five females of my generation will never have children; and the Office for National Statistics reports that the more successful you are professionally, the less likely you are to breed. ...What has gone wrong? Last week Joanna Trollope, the novelist, blamed modern women's "absurd" expectations for their lack of husbands. She said women are looking for a man who "has to earn £100,000 a year, has to be able to cut down a tree, play the Spanish guitar, make love all night and cook me a cheese soufflé". I don't think my single friends are on their own because they are too picky. I think it is because as a generation we were bred not to prioritise finding a husband and having a family. Unlike generations of females before us, we were bred to work. I was born in 1970, in the middle of women's lib. My mother and her peers were conscious-raising and feminist. ...At dinner with girlfriends the other night, the feeling was we'd been let down. That society, by leaving us to fend for ourselves and offering no guidance or advice on the crucial subject of finding a mate, had failed us. After all, throughout history, pairing off the next generation has been a key function of most societies, from Jane Austen's balls to Indian arranged marriages.
Et cetera. Leaving aside the evident cis- and heterocentrism, and Mills' evident disbelief that there are a lot of women who are (or will be) happily childless and/or unpartnered in their 40s and beyond, and the reeking classism and entitlement that makes the piece nearly unreadable, I just have to ask on what planet, exactly, did she and her friends grow up where
No one, not my family or my teachers, ever said, "Oh yes, and by the way you might want to be a wife and mother too."
—because NO. I have lived in Britain, and the claim that little girls are not bombarded with images and narratives that they are to seek out wifedom and motherhood is absurd. Mills is only four years older than I am, and even from 4,000 miles away, I knew as a child that Margaret Thatcher was a WIFE! and a MOTHER! goddammit, not just a prime minister. Buried somewhere beneath all the gender essentialist fairy-tale ending bullshit, Mills does have a legitimate complaint. Our culture's not really set up for optimal biological parenting in particular. It's easiest to parent financially if you've got a white-collar career, but a professional woman has to wait to have kids until she's established in her career, which usually means mid-thirties at least. We need better family leave laws (Scandinavia is much better in this area, especially Sweden) that facilitate genuine co-parenting (not the fake-ass lipservice to co-parenting we give while it's still women who do the vast majority of the child care) and allow people to have children at an earlier age without fucking their careers. (Or their shitty jobs.) But. It's feminists who advocate for better family leave laws. It's feminists who routinely point out how easy it is for a man to become a parent in his 20s without missing a beat in his career, and how not easy it is for women to do the same. And it isn't feminists who would recommend searching for "an exotic man who would open up a whole new kind of life for me" at the expense of being interested in "a nice man who wanted kids" if you are a woman who wants kids. Feminists tend to be the ones who suggest using romantic comedy plots as a blueprint for one's own life isn't, perhaps, the wisest idea. Don't find someone to complete you; find someone to complement you is the romance section of the feminist didactic. But I digress. This is yet another in a long string of similar "Feminism told me I could have it all, but I got snookered!" articles—although this one is an even more self-indulgent reach than the usual twaddle, given that Mills did essentially get everything she ever wanted, but is apparently miffed she had to work for it—in which the author blames feminism for not delivering on its promises, with not a single shred of ire reserved for the institutional biases that serve as roadblocks to material progress. And when I read of privileged women who have great careers, but are struggling to navigate the integration of career and partnerdom/motherhood, and blame feminism for that struggle, I can't help but wonder if they don't understand that even the existence of that imbalance is evidence of feminism's successes, even as it is muse for feminism's continued necessity. There was a time when work/life balance wasn't an issue, because work (outside the home) wasn't an option. Except for those un-privileged women for whom it was a necessity to survive. Who, I trust it goes without saying, didn't have their pick of careers. Mills doesn't even realize she has feminism to thank for the luxury of her disdain. But the biggest problem with this piece, and the others (so many others!) just like it is this: Mills says "This isn't just about me," but...it kind of is. The idea that partnership/kids is some kind of mystery to modern women thanks to feminism is patently silly. There are plenty of feminist women who have well-developed internal selves and successful careers and great partners and/or kids, and manage to integrate it all into one big messy life, if imperfectly and with occasional sacrifices they wish they didn't have to make, sometimes small and sometimes almost inconceivably huge. And there are plenty of feminist women who don't have everything they want, and maybe never will. And, in either case, those feminist women look at the ways in which their lives have been limited, their goals made elusive, the balance of their interests made infinitely more difficult than it needs be, and they don't advocate for less feminism, but more. Shut Up!
This post originally appeared on Shakesville. [Trigger warning.] A few times recently, I've seen adverts, usually in print media, using one of my most loathed turns of phrase: "Your mouth says no, but your eyes say yes." There are a few variations, e.g. "Your lips say no, but your eyes say yes" or "Your mind says no, but your body says yes." Often this yes/no concept is used in advertising to women, to sell something decadent, frequently a food, often chocolate or some rich dessert. You're saying you don't want it, but you know you really want it. If that sounds suspiciously like rape apologia, it's no coincidence. "She said no, but she obviously wanted it" has been used in rape defenses as long as there have been trials for rape. What is victim-blaming based on an accuser's appearance or behavior if not a variation on this very concept? "Her mouth said no, but her short skirt said yes." I could probably write an entire book about the inherent problems in using rape apologia to sell luxury items to women, and the nefariousness of that strategy given what it sells by proxy, but at the moment, I'll just observe, simply: That shit is fucked up.