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Bitch Issue 53

Bitch Issue 53: The Underground Issue

Looking for thought-provoking feminist perspectives, recommendations, and reflections on pop culture? Bitch magazine, a project of Bitch Media (they have an active online presence with blogs, podcasts, and more) is exactly what you’re looking for. I devour each new issue on my commute to work (don’t worry, I take the T), wondering how many people will notice I’m reading a magazine entitled Bitch, how many strange looks might be cast my way, and how many approving, conspiratorial nods I might be getting. I wonder this because I’m too wrapped up in reading to notice. From in-depth analyses of current pop-culture trends and politics to recommendations on the latest awesome music, movies, and books, they offer such a range of compelling fodder for feminists—and everyone else, too!

I love the frame that Bitch Media uses to look at our modern world and the ways they creates such rich dialogue. That’s why I was especially excited to open the new issue (53) and see a letter to the editor I wrote! After reading an article in the last issue that posited the word “victim” is a powerful tool for people who’ve survived sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of violence, I sent the following response:

I appreciated Carrie A. Rentschler’s desire for powerful language that can describe “the harms, injuries, and experiences of oppression and domination” (“Waking Wounded,” no. 52), but I find it curious and worrisome that she doesn’t mention using “survivor” language as a way to do that (for cases in which the person is alive, of course, such as with survivors of sexual assault that were mentioned). Using “survivor” acknowledges the negative power of oppression and domination while also highlighting the strength of the person who has endured them. In work that I’ve done as an advocate and volunteer for organizations supporting survivors of domestic violence, I’ve found such language important and empowering.

Language is so important and powerful—we use it to shape our worlds, our lives, our experiences. That’s one reason I think “survivor” is such an vital word when we’re talking about domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of oppression. And that power of language is also one reason I am so glad that Bitch Media is out there, empowering people with their contributors’ compelling words, cultivating discussion, and just generally totally rocking.

If you are still making last-minute decisions re: end-of-year donations, definitely consider donating to Bitch Media—or if you’re looking for a perfect gift for your favorite feminist friend (or maybe someone who might not think of themselves as a feminist), a subscription is an awesome way to go!

PS. Goal for 2012: submit a piece to Bitch!

This past weekend, I was on a super-short visit in the Shire to spend some time with my parents. After my mom and I went to Whitney’s Farm to pick out carving pumpkins, we were driving back to her house when we passed this billboard:

Billboard for M. Edward Jewelers in Berkshire County

It reads: “Hardware Store for Women,” with a photo of a big, huge diamond and the name of the business: M. Edward Jewelers. “Wow, that’s a sexist ad,” I said. “That’s exactly what I was just thinking!” my mom responded.

The implication that women have no place or interest in actual hardware stores — you know, the ones with hammers and nails and duct tape — is preposterous, of course. I was just in a real hardware store the other day, picking up flashlights and screws for Occupy Boston.

When I think of hardware stores and women, I think of my mom buying canning supplies, gardening tools, and chicken wire. I think of Mimine, a 30-year-old woman who is the lead construction engineer at the building site of the eco-village the Papaye Peasant Movement is creating in rural Haiti.

It makes me sad — and, yes, angry too — to see a local business using old, tired gender stereotypes to try to sell its products. Even if I were interested in buying a diamond, I’d choose another place to do so after seeing this ad. But really, I much more need a hammer than a diamond, thank you.

I’ll be posting more about Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston soon, but quickly, here’s the letter I just e-mailed to Mayor Menino. Voice your support! You can call him at 617-635-4500, or e-mail him at mayor@cityofboston.gov or via the city’s website.

Dear Mayor Menino,

I’m writing to vocalize my support for Occupy Boston and to strongly urge you to respect the protesters’ constitutional right to peaceful assembly. They are using nonviolent action to call attention to corporate greed, to undue influence of corporations on the political process, and to the sickening gap between the wealthiest 1 percent and the 99 percent that have been disenfranchised by this country’s broken systems. Occupy Boston is what democracy looks like. This is nonviolent collective action at its best.

Thank you,

[Insert your name here]

I’ve been down an online rabbit hole this morning—articles, links, videos, all sorts of inspiration. Which is great for a Saturday morning when you’re up at 7:00 a.m. for no discernible reason. I’ve been stocking up on things I have to share and say over the past two months of not posting, which I’ll slowly get around to, but for now, I must share these two videos that totally rock.

First: Dan Savage and his husband, Terry

I think Dan Savage is pretty cool; his willingness to talk about sex and sexuality in an open and honest way and encourage dialogue on the topic is refreshing. This video totally just upped his cool quotient. His encouragement to young LGBTQ people facing really hard times is not only heartwarming but truly important. “It gets better.

Second: Chimamanda Adichie in her 2009 TED talk.

Articulate and engaging, Adichie highlights why it’s so vital that we each tell our stories, seek out the many stories of others, and do what we can to make it possible for all those stories to be heard. One story is not only boring, it’s dangerous.

Feminist Hulk

"HULK SAYS FUCK PATRIARCHY. HULK HERE TO SMASH GENDER BINARY."

If you haven’t met the delightful genius that is Feminist Hulk on Twitter, you are truly missing out. Feminist Hulk self-identifies as a cisgendered male that totally digs feminism and taking down all sorts of oppression. His motto? “HULK SAYS FUCK PATRIARCHY. HULK HERE TO SMASH GENDER BINARY.” Feminist Hulk even extends his desire to end oppression to language (with an exception for bell hooks): “HULK USE ALL-CAPS. HULK CHOOSE NOT TO IMPOSE HIERARCHY ON LANGUAGE. PLUS, BIG HULK FINGERS MAKE SHIFT-KEY PROBLEMATIC.” Feminist Hulk’s hero is Judith Butler (who I haven’t read, but it’s about time). He says things like, “HULK VALUE THE RISK IT TAKE TO SHARE DELICATE HULK FEELINGS.” He likes to smash things that need smashing. Plus there’s the tiny purple shorts. What’s not to love?

I highly recommend reading Feminist Hulk’s tweets from the very beginning. And once you do, if you want more, check out the Ms. interview and Salon highlight. Then enjoy the daily musings of Feminist Hulk from here on out.

Democracy Day

Support real democracy this Wednesday!

When I was watching Rachel Maddow’s coverage of California’s gubernatorial (awesome word, by the way) primary several weeks ago, I heard a number that I still haven’t been able to get out of my head: $70 million. Meg Whitman, one of the Republican candidates running for her party’s nomination, had spent  more than $70 million of her own money on her campaign. Let me say it again: more than $70 million of her own money. Add donations to that for a grand total of more than $81 million spent during her primary campaign. I can’t even imagine how much she’s going to spend now that she won the Republican nomination.

What does it say about our country, about our electoral system, about our campaign-finance system that a candidate for governor can spend that much money—a number that defies true comprehension—to get elected? And what kind of chance does that give candidates without seemingly unlimited funds at their disposal?

From what I can tell, progressive people don’t usually have that kind of money. They’re too busy trying to make a real difference in people’s lives to accumulate that kind of bank. What does that mean? I think that, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court decision blocking a ban on corporate spending in elections, the danger of money corrupting the political process and drowning out progressive voices that are calling for real change is greater than ever before.

Here in Massachusetts, Jill Stein—Green-Rainbow candidate for governor—is the progressive voice the big-money candidates are trying to drown out. I know what a lot of you will say: she won’t win; what’s the point? It’s about so much more than winning. It’s about changing the conversation. How are we ever going to get the change that we want to see in our government if our views on the issues that we care about don’t even get a chance to be heard and discussed?

So, it’s time to help change the conversation here in Massachusetts. Add your voice to those calling for real democracy. Democracy Days, an offshoot of Jill Stein’s campaign, is gearing up for their second Democracy Day: Wednesday, June 30. Pledge just $10 to start changing the conversation and taking back our elections from special interests. I’m not even telling you to vote for her in November. Just pack your lunch one day and give the money you would have spent on lunch out to Jill Stein instead—so her voice can be heard, so your voice can be heard.

A few compelling articles I’ve come across in the past couple days:

What If the Tea Party Were Black?” by Tim Wise
Don’t think about white privilege? Well, read this article and you will. Tim Wise’s astute questions and role-reversal scenarios spell it out clear as day.

“Free Speech. Hate Speech.” by Shira Tarrant
I’m a big proponent of free speech. Which makes the questions this piece raises especially engaging. Who benefits from the right to free speech in the United States? Where is the line between free speech and hate speech? What about when free speech contributes so much to a culture of hate and violence that it overwhelmingly inhibits marginalized populations’ right to free speech—and consequently the very concept of free speech for everyone?

“The Surprising Reason Why Americans Are So Lonely, and Why Future Prosperity Means Socializing with Your Neighbors,” by Bill McKibben
In this excerpt from his new book, Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet, McKibben explores how the price communities have paid for cheap energy goes beyond environmental degradation, depletion, and destruction—it has torn the very fabric of our social relationships. Also, he uses the Farmers Diner in Quechee, Vermont, to illustrate one of his points—never been there? Next time you’re passing through, I highly recommend the chocolate milkshake. I would even recommend a pilgrimage if only that didn’t defeat the purpose of eating and buying local (though I may admit that I did that myself once). P.S. No, the extra “a” in the book title is not a typo; the book blurb explains it: “We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.”

    I just got back from an AmeriCorps reunion, during which my friend Angela told me about this fascinating Kotex ad she had seen on TV the week before. Check it out:

    So, my first reaction was: this ad is genius and refreshing in the meta way that it blatantly calls out all of the stock ways that big-time advertisers (in this case, for feminine products) try to sell to women. Rock on for pointing out that advertisers so often use lame mainstream tactics of playing on standard definitions of beauty and trying to convince viewers that this or that product will make you and your life “better” and more like what you see in the commercial—and for pointing out that such appeals are boring and obnoxious.

    But my second reaction: but, wait, they’re still selling something. Only now they’re just marketing themselves as a “cool” and “alternative.” Even though their product, from what I can tell, is pretty standard (and I’m not even going to start thinking about what they’re made of, the environmental impact of their production and use, etc.). So basically they’re just co-opting “subversive” to sell a product? Ugh.

    So, I’m torn. What do you think?

    I’ve been horribly remiss in posting! There’s just so much awesome stuff to do and so many cool people to hang out with in Boston. But, I swear, I have at least 14 draft posts already started. In particular, I’ve been totally soaking up the convenient access to any number of compelling lectures—social justice, human rights, identity, women’s history, and more.

    Bill Fletcher, Jr.

    Bill Fletcher, Jr., advocates strategic collaboration for effective change.

    A few weeks ago, I heard Bill Fletcher, Jr.—a dedicated labor, racial-justice, and international-solidarity activist—speak at an event put on by the Simmons Institute for Leadership and Change in collaboration with the Majority Agenda Project. Described in the introduction as “a clarion voice in the progressive movement for solidarity and movements working together,” he analyzed the current situation progressives find themselves in, pointed up the challenges, and put forth concrete suggestions for how to move forward.

    First, he identified the triple crises of the current situation: (1) There’s an economic crisis, that’s not about mismanagement by certain institutions, but about the system of capitalism itself. (2) There’s an environmental crisis, marked by climate change and the pervasive degradation of our natural world. (3) There’s a crisis of state legitimacy, featuring a declining ability of the state to serve as an adequate force of distributing wealth.

    Fletcher offered an analysis of not only the Obama administration but the progressive reaction to the Obama administration. In his view, the liberal disappointment with Obama is a function of magical, wishful thinking during the election and an unwillingness, in the midst of our excitement for change, to acknowledge his actual politics. Fletcher identifies the Obama administration as marked by corporate influence and representing the center-right, while also acknowledging that Obama offers hope and the possibility of a transformative political process. I think that it’s key that Fletcher believes that we must not fall prey to cynicism and the inaction that often goes with it. In the face of the right-wing populism that Fletcher outlined, it’s essential that we reenergize to make change at this critical time.

    How do we do it? We strategically organize. Fletcher talked about what he called the “Tecumseh paradigm”—assuming a new identity in confederation with others in order to stave off invaders. In other words, different social movements need to look for overlap and band together strategically in order to move this country in a just direction. Here are some of the things that Fletcher put out there:

    • We need an anti-capitalist political party.
    • We need to learn how to talk about what we believe in a way that uses vision and narrative to greatest effect.
    • We need to talk through the truth of U.S. history, which many people don’t want to hear or accept, and articulate the collective struggle for justice.
    • We need to end our reluctance to criticize the Obama administration.
    • We need to pose these questions in person, not just on Facebook and e-mail (ummm, or on our blogs); effective organizing is made up of direct, individual personal encounters reinforced by electronic communications.
    • We need to identify what we want to change, how we want it to change, and demand that the change. (“Power concedes nothing without a demand.”)
    • We need to actively challenge the right (when they mobilize, we must also mobilize).
    • We need to actively mobilize right now.

    To close, in the spirit of building effective social movements, I offer you this video inspiration a friend sent to me:

    Reverend Billy and the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir

    Reverend Billy and the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir

    Do you feel like the addiction to stuff—buying stuff, owning stuff, wanting stuff—is too much? Sick of being a customer, a consumer, and want to just connect like a simple human being? Feel like ever-creeping consumerism is going to bring on the shopocalypse? Well, Reverend Billy and the Life After Shopping gospel choir—a group of creative and enthusiastic performance artist-activists—are right there with you. Back in December, a friend and I attended a Shopocalypse Revival performance at the always awesome Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, New York. Check out two video pieces from the service: Shopocalypse and Beatitudes of Buylessness. These people are fun, they’re talented, they’re hilarious, and they’ve got a really serious point or two. If you can’t catch them live, you can find out more about them and what they’ve got to say in the documentary What Would Jesus Buy?—one of my favorite lines: “Are you people or are you sheeple?” In the words of Reverend Billy, “Peaceallujah!”

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