Sunday, April 30, 2006

Only in Idaho

...and I mean that in a good way. I'm going to leave in a few minutes to go watch the goings-on at Boomershoot. What is Boomershoot? It's an event where people build explosives, then walk far away from them, and shoot them, causing them to explode. I'd never heard of it until this year - even though it goes on about an hour from my house. I'll return with video and pictures. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 28, 2006

If this were a livejournal



The Latah County Democrats' central committee meeting last night was really fantastic. There was a pretty big crowd, a great panel of speakers, and it made me feel really positive about the negative prospects of the anti-gay marriage amendment that is due to be on the Idaho ballot this November. Yes, there are Democrats in Idaho! Yes, we're going to stand up for what we believe in! It's funny how often I have to remind myself that the way to get things done is to do them. Want to meet local liberals? Start a Drinking Liberally chapter. Want to be involved in local politics? Go to a meeting. Voila! You're part of the political process.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sad, sad

This is kind of the financial equivalent of the Darwin Awards.
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- A financial planner who lost more than $250,000 in a Nigerian scam and helped pay for part of it by stealing from his company and its pension plan has been sentenced to three years in federal prison.

Gotta pay closer attention

Last Thursday night, former FDA women's health director spoke at the Univeristy of Idaho about the FDA and its stonewalling the approval of over-the-counter access to emergency contraception. And what was I doing on Thursday night? Sitting at home, wasting time.

On the emergency contraception subject, check out this interesting tidbit Jessica at Feministing picked up about the FDA's fear of emergency contraception being the center of teenage "sex-based cults." Yes, that is a direct quote from the agency that says its decision to keep emergency contraception behind the counter is based in science.

Misleading headline of the day


CNN.com's miserable headline here makes it sound as though uninsured Americans are simply opting out of insurance, instead of unable to afford it. Right, just like Somalis in the middle of a famine "skip" breakfast.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Visible Idahoan Alert

A University of Idaho professor has a poem featured today on Slate. One consequence of living in flyover country is a rush of unreasonable excitement when anything you're somewhat familiar with is featured in national media. The thoughts in my head go, "They said University of Idaho! I went to University of Idaho! I never met this guy, but I might have! I'm famous!"

Monday, April 24, 2006

Opposition to equality is appalling

An appalled commenter took issue with my pro-gay-marriage stance in the recent past, and I have to assure her that her appalled feelings are mutual. This fall, a constitutional amendment that would doubly-forbid gay marriage in Idaho, along with civil unions or any kind of domestic partnerships whether they be gay or straight, will be voted on by Idahoans. I couldn't be more strongly opposed to this amendment, and I'm not the only one.

Locally, The Latah County Democrats' central committee meeting is this Thursday night at 7:30, on the subject of this amendment. Fellow Moscow blogger and Liberal Drinker Josh Studor is going to be part of a panel of speakers who will discuss reasons to oppose to this amendment.

If that doesn't get you fired up enough about those pushing heteronormativity, check out the entries in this weekend's Blog Against Heteronormativity Day, hosted by Blac(k)ademic.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Evolution at work

The ever-disingenuous Will Saletan in his Human Nature column today says:
Sexual images subvert young men's ability to think. In a money game, men who were shown pictures of lingerie or sexy women accepted disadvantageous deals more often than did men who were shown non-sexual pictures. Men with higher testosterone levels, inferred from ring fingers that were long relative to their index fingers, did worse on the test. Interpretations: 1) Duh. 2) This is what evolution designed men to do. 3) Nevertheless, we can struggle to overcome it. 4) Researchers are having trouble finding images that mess up women the same way. What does that tell you?
Obviously, since human males have evolved to mate with panties and bustiers, this is a hard-wired biological reaction to stimuli in the environment. It could have nothing to do with the importance and myriad issues in our culture regarding sex. So please disregard men's misbehavior in the arena of sex - they can't help it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Human sacrifice

Louisiana is considering a statewide, no-exceptions abortion ban. "No exceptions" means no exceptions - not in the case of incest, not in the case of rape, and not in the case of a life-threatening pregnancy. I find this to be so repugnant I hardly know what to say. Especially grating is that this happens days after the publication of the truly horrifying NYT Magazine article about El Salvador's no-exceptions abortion ban. These legislators can't have missed the stories about physicians being forced to wait for ectopic pregnancies to burst, and botched home-cure abortions, and the fact that those with the money still have no trouble getting their abortions "on-demand."

It's like a national one-upsmanship contest to see who can ruin the most lives and trample on the most rights and maim the most women in the name of a zygote. How noble - let's sentence a woman to death for committing the crime of having a life-threatening pregnancy. It is a true coward who will martyr another for their own cause. This is a blood sacrifice offered to a cruel God in which most Americans do not believe. It's disgusting, un-American, inhuman, and entirely contemptible. When your belief system demands my flesh and pain and misery and subjugation, there is not something wrong with me for refusing to give it - there's something wrong with your belief system.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hello?

Hi, this is The Patriarchy, and I was wondering if I could have a few moments of your time tonight...

Idaho drinks more and more liberally

A new chapter of Drinking Liberally has opened up shop this week, this one in Idaho Falls. That makes a total of four Drinking Liberally groups in Idaho, with Moscow, Gooding and Boise. That's more than exist in Oregon, and brings us to a tie with Colorado for tipsiest liberals in the Intermountain West.

In Moscow Drinking Liberally news, we've opened up a blog that can be found at http://moscow.drinkingliberally.org . I'm still fiddling with things, but plan to keep it updated and full of news about local liberalish events and pictures of special guests. Speaking of special guests, next week Idaho District 6 Representative Shirley Ringo has agreed to appear at the CDA Brewery. After this latest eventful-but-not legislative session, I'm sure she could use a drink. I know I'd need one - or ten.

Cheers!

Never underestimate the nuttiness of your fellow constituents

Randy Stapilus at the Ridenbaugh Press has the numbers on the Republican 1st Congressional Distric Primary candidates' fundraising, and I have to say I'm surprised. Bill Sali, the guy who wouldn't know "constitutional" if it bit him in the ass, is the clear frontrunner when it comes to fundraising. Sheila Sorenson, the most moderate of the bunch, is second. I know that I've seen her campaign material all over Moscow, which makes me feel a lot better about the consciences of the Republican voters around here. She upsets loonies like the Idaho Values Alliance by often being functionally pro-choice and not tearing at the jugulars of any Democrat in sight. I have to say, if Democrat Larry Grant doesn't win the election, I would be absolutely mortified if Bill Sali were to be representing my district at a federal level. Sheila Sorenson, I could probably live with. Maybe.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Eating on the cheap

Being that I've recently paid out and arm and a leg to the government, I've been doing my best to eat cheaply. If there's one thing I can't control, it's my spending on food, so it's been difficult. After cycling through my oldies but goodies, and eating leftovers from Easter dinner at my parents', I am finding myself in need of a few more good, cheap recipes.

I thought about posting a request for good cheap eats on my food blog, but since I update it so infrequently, I instead wrote up a submission for a Plastic story, and there's now a growing discussion of how to eat richly when you're poor. Head on over to contribute, or just snag a few good recipes.

Moscow Drinking Liberally article available online

Alan at Idablue caught that the Idaho Statesman has republished the Moscow-Pullman Daily News' article about Drinking Liberally. If you missed it the first time around (the DN requires you to subscribe to read its articles) you can check it out here. An exccerpt:
"We are open to a variety of perspectives. We may or may not agree, but we still get the back and forth," Anderson said.

Van Zeipel said the rules of the Drinking Liberally don't allow anyone to make a presentation at the meetings.

"This is a neutral meeting place for liberals, and we never endorse anything," he said. "The point of Drinking Liberally is seriously to drink and hang out," van Zeipel said. "Who drinks conservatively?"
Also, here's one of the photos by Roger Ames of the Daily News that ran with the article - but somehow was omitted by the Idaho Statesman. So the world doesn't have to suffer missing out on my beautiful face, here it is. It's me, my husband, and Vander of Thoughts from Idaho's ear.

Image hosting by Photobucket

To quote Molly Ivins, “It’s a little known fact that defending civil liberties can be a whale of a lot of fun, requiring only beer, imagination, and a mild disrespect for authority.” If you want more info about the Moscow chapter of Drinking Liberally, you can see the myspace group or the forum.

Cheers!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bill Owens: Governor, Doctor, Pharmacist, Priest, Everywoman

Governor Bill Owens of Colorado has recently vetoed two bills that would make emergency contraception (aka Plan B) more easily obtained by women who need it. One would have required all hospitals - including private and religiously-funded ones - to either provide EC or provide information about where to get it to victims of rape. The other would have made EC available over the counter, therefore delivering this time-dependent medication to patients faster.

These sound like pretty reasonable pieces of legislation, right? Getting medical care to women who need it, and preventing unwanted pregnancies in the meantime.

However, looking to his expertise in the field of medicine, Owens is not so sure about over-the-counter distribution of EC.
"I believe this strays radically from the accepted norms of medicine and is not in the best interests of Coloradans," he wrote.
Oh, thanks Dr. Owens! He's also concerned about the professional ethics of pharmacists.
He said he believes the drug should be prescribed by a doctor, that it doesn't offer enough safeguards for pharmacists who don't want to dispense it and he fear it would be used as a form of birth control by young women.
God forbid we have young women using contraception as contraception. Thanks for giving this issue the moral clarity it deserves.

Now, there's also the issue of providing information about EC, if a hospital does not wish to provide the actual drug to rape victims. Please, Msgr. Owens, enlighten us with an explanation of the issues surrounding this subject.
It is one of central tenets of a free society that individuals and institutions should not be coerced by government to engage in activities that violate their moral or religious beliefs. While this bill did offer health care professionals the right to decline to offer emergency contraception due to religious or moral beliefs, it did not offer those same protections to health care institutions. This is wrong. And it is unconstitutional.

This bill would violate fundamental constitutional principles by forcing an institution to say things to patients that it explicitly does not believe to be morally or ethically valid. Allowing such a provision to become law would cross a constitutional line that we must not cross.
Oh yes? And how about the science?
My first concern is a technical but essential difference in the forms of emergency contraception that are offered. One method that is covered by this legislation would prevent a fertilized egg from imbedding in the uterine wall. This raises serious concerns for those whose conscience tells them that a fertilized egg is a human life.

Yet the Legislature, regrettably, voted down an amendment that would have informed the victim fully about the effect of this form of contraception. Without informed consent, a woman could innocently violate her personal, moral and religious beliefs about when life begins. The provision of information is not a denial of treatment. Yet House Bill 1042 will not trust a woman with this extremely significant information.
It's all so clear now! Thank you, Governor, for disspelling the myths being propagated by people who actually went to medical school, actually deal with the ethics of pharmacy, and actually have to be the ones who carry pregnancies. Your background in trade policy has surely readied you to face down these so-called experts and tell them how things really are.

More on post-Katrina

Kos rescued a diary today that shows pictures of houses FEMA considers habitable, and therefore their residents ineligible for funding to repair or relocate. Look at the pictures and ask yourself - could you live in these places?

A commenter pointed to another diary that describes the obstructionist policies that Katrina survivors are faced with when they try to actually get their lives back in order.

Katrina was an enormous wound to this country, and it's disgusting to see how the US government is allowing it to fester. Even if I were to believe that no one "could have anticipated the breach of the levees," there's absolutely no excuse for this kind of neglect.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Decriminalizing homelessness

The 9th Circuit has ruled that the city of LA cannot arrest a homeless person for sleeping in the street until they have proven that there is a bed available for every homeless person in the city.
The Eighth Amendment, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments," bars punishment of "involuntary sitting, lying or sleeping on public sidewalks that is an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter in the City of Los Angeles," said a divided panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
...

The decision was based on 1960s-vintage U.S. Supreme Court decisions barring punishment of alcoholics and drug addicts on the basis of their addiction.

In a dissent, 9th Circuit Judge Pamela Rymer, also of Pasadena, said the high court's decisions were applicable only to crimes of status and not crimes of conduct.

Los Angeles doesn't punish people "simply because they are homeless" but because they sit, lie or sleep on city sidewalks, conduct "that can be committed by those with homes as well as those without," Rymer wrote.

She said "neither the Supreme Court nor any other circuit court of appeals has ever held that conduct derivative of a status may not be criminalized."

The 9th Circuit majority, however, found conduct and status inseparable in the Los Angeles case, "given that human beings are biologically compelled to rest."

The most wonderful time of the year

I am not going to drop my tax check in the mail until Monday. This is the second year of my having a grownup's job and therefore paying a grownup's taxes. The learning curve has been steep. What's even better is thinking about what my taxes are funding, and what they are not.

First, we have the "have mores."
  • It is estimated that for every US taxpayer, $20,000 is being spent on the Iraq war.
  • $61 million of what has been spent on the war has been found to be overcharges by the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root.
  • It is estimated that over $1 billion of government funds have been wasted in the hurricane Katrina recovery effort, while many still are without jobs or homes.
  • About $1 billion of federal funds have been poured into abstinence-only sex "education" since 1996.
Even with all this reckless spending, Congress is looking at making Bush's tax cut that primarily benefits the very wealthy permanent. So what government programs have seen their funding dry up and sometimes blow away?
  • New work requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families will disappear $23 million from funds that feed and house poor families.
  • The continuing "global gag rule" will deny funding to global NGOs that would provide critical reproductive healthcare to women in third-world countries.
  • The 2006 federal budget shifts $60 billion over the next 10 years in Medicaid costs to the already squeezed states, ends Community Service Block Grants, and cuts $1 billion in food stamp funding over the next ten years. You can check out more "highlights" of the budget here.
I wouldn't mind paying taxes so much if they actually were put to good use. This is unconscionable, and it has to be stopped. The only thing that gives me the strength to write this check is that it's an election year. It's time for the government to get with the program, and spend money on things that actually work.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

FYI

Did you know that Carlos Mencia is actually half Honduran and half German? I was kind of grossed out to learn that, but this commenter on a Snopes.com messageboard has the most reasonable response:
In a way, it's comforting to know that no matter what cultural background you come from, you can still be about as funny as a beige room.

Totally acceptable

I caught a little snarky exchange on feministing recently that I thought was interesting. The subject matter was breast implants.
I'm not sure where Feministing.com stands on this issue. Are they for women getting implants or not?

Posted by: Tom | April 10, 2006 09:43 PM

I'm not sure how you can really be "for" or "against" women getting breast implants. I think it's insanely fucked up that women are taught to hate their bodies so much that they feel the need to cut their breasts open and shove foreign objects in them. But that's not my choice...I think there are more important things than bashing other women for their choices (no matter how misguided I think they may be.) Hope that answers your question. But I just speak for myself, not all of feministing.

Posted by: Jessica | April 10, 2006 09:57 PM

I think it's insanely fucked up that women (and men) are taught to value their own selfish needs to the point that they would allow the fruit of their loins to be cut out of a womens wombs and tossed in the garbage. But that's just me, Who am I to judge anyone elses actions, right? I think there's other things more important than bashing women for their choices no matter how misguided I think they may be. I don't represent anyone but myself.

Posted by: Tom | April 10, 2006 10:30 PM

How lovely. Because clearly plastic surgery and abortion are so similar.

Posted by: Jessica | April 10, 2006 10:36 PM
Departing from Jessica's opinion here, I think that the outlook Tom is displaying here is perfectly acceptable. He might think it's selfish for a woman to choose not to carry a pregnancy to term, but I don't really care what he thinks. The right to choose is not the right to make everyone respect your decision, and that's fine by me. Not everyone has to like me, and not everyone has to like what I do. All I'm asking for is that my autonomy be respected, and if that's all Tom is willing to give at the voting booth, that's fine by me.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Idaho legislators: useless, insulting and intrusive

Idaho's legislators passed the so-called "informed consent" aka "Woman's Right to Know" bill that requires doctors providing abortions to foist anti-choice propaganda on women who go in for the procedure. As in other states, some of the information presented to patients is questionable or misleading.

My take on these laws is that they're pretty useless - I don't think many women go in for an abortion having no idea that they're going to be terminating their pregnancy, and pictures of developing fetuses probably aren't news to them either. In that regard, I also find them to be insulting. Women who darken the door of an abortion clinic aren't morons, even if pro-life activists would have you believe that they are too emotional or scared to know what they're doing. Along with being useless and insulting, they're intrusive on the doctor-patient relationship, with legislators (who probably haven't been to med school) deciding what medical information is relevant to a woman seeking an abortion.
Oh, and did I mention that this passed 50-14? Heckuva job there, Republican supermajority.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Contingency plan

Missed the Rapture and not so keen on going to the Hell you never thought existed? Check out this cheat sheet and rest easy - there's a loophole.

(Link via Majkthise)

Bizarro! I love you! Bizarro! I love you!

If you ask me, the point at which Adult Swim jumped the shark was when Perfect Hair Forever first aired. You may quibble with where I place the jump, but you cannot deny that it has occurred. It still airs, however, and is viewed by millions of stoned fourteen-year-olds every night it is on. If you want to get in on that market, Something Awful has a fantastic guide to help you craft the caliber of entertainment that adult swim strives for. An excerpt:
1. The uglier the art and the shittier the animation, the funnier the show will be. Even if you somehow screw up everything else on this list, the sight of a poorly drawn guy moving jerkily will make your viewers laugh nonstop and also respect you for being too talented and ironic to waste your time and money on actual art.
Read the rest for your ticket to fame and fortune.

Oh wait, I meant shame and fortune. But without the fortune.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Seeing rape culture

Shakespeare's Sister has a very good analysis of the homosocialized dynamics of gang rape and other ways that women are dehumanized by men, as a reaction to the horrifying e-mail that one of the Duke lacrosse team members sent out within a few hours after an alleged rape of an exotic dancer committed by his team. (If you have not been following this case, check out this victim's advocacy blog or Ampersand's recent roundup of links.)

The email described some truly despicable violent/sexual fantasies involving strippers that the author apparently thought he needed to share with the rest of the world. Here's a quote from Shakes' reaction:
I’ve never been accused of anything but unabashedly wearing my politics on my sleeve, but because I have a filthy mouth, a dirty sense of humor, an aesthetic lack of girliness (as in no make-up, no skirts, and perpetually untidy hair), and a collection of attributes which men and women alike deem “boyish”—namely, a fondness for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, video game junkitude, the ability to correctly distinguish between DC and Marvel superheroes, and a pathological aversion to shopping—I have often found myself in the position of having been given a “pass” by a group of straight guys. Some women will immediately know what I’m describing—a group of male coworkers, perhaps, who let down their guard in your presence, after one of them, invariably, anoints you a “cool chick,” as if differentiating you from the rest of womankind is some kind of praise. It doesn’t matter whether these guys are conservatives or liberals; they are, however, always the kind of guy who thinks the highest compliment one could give a girl is treating her like a man with tits.

This is always a weird situation, especially since I have never coveted an entrè into such a group, but let a couple of dirty jokes fly in your presence sans objection, and you’ll find yourself being led behind the curtain in no time.

And among this particular kind of guy, it’s pretty damn ugly back there.

Back there is where “jokes” like the one above get told. And if you ever laughed at a blowjob joke, they expect you to laugh at that kind of “joke,” too.

I, of course, being me, tell them that violence against women isn’t funny, and ask them why they think it is.

“Oh, come on,” they say, and that’s when the eye-rolling begins. “It was a joke.”

“How so?” I ask. “What’s funny about it?”

Of course, there’s nothing funny about “jokes” like that, so they do the only thing they can. Attack.

“Dude, I thought you were different. You’re just a feminazi like every other chick. No sense of humor.”
About a year ago, I was in an ice cream shop with my spouse deciding over cookies and cream or orange sherbert when a group of about six or seven late high school or early college-aged guys came in, with a blonde girl of the same age in tow. These guys were of the jocky type, with basketball shorts and expensive cell phones, tanned and lean. The group quickly overtook the small shop while my husband and I sat back to eat our ice cream, eventually just quietly taking in the show that these kids were putting on for us. The one female in the group seemed a little nervous but eager - like she was finally getting to play with the big boys. The joking and teasing began to turn sexual and slightly obscene, with the majority of the teasing and joking being directed at the girl. She smiled along with it, feigning ignorance as to what they were talking about when they asked her if she enjoyed certain euphemistic sexual acts, and even giggled nervously when one guy grabbed her and pulled her into his lap. You could see that she was embarassed but not sure what to do about it without jeapordizing her newfound social status.

It was at that point that I understood exactly how gang rape occurs. These guys were competing with each other, showing off their virile desire to sleep with the young blonde thing. Not only that, they were competing to see who could humiliate her the most - this girl doesn't even know what a "pearl necklace" is, what a prude. It was a game where the winner was the one who could extract the most sexual power from humiliating her.

By the time they left, I was really quite scared. I knew I'd been in situations like this before - one particularly bad one where I was in high school, drunk, and all of the sudden the only girl at a party full of college students - and did just as much this time as I had the last time. I wish so deeply that I'd had the presence of mind and courage to pull her aside and ask her if she wanted a ride home or to call a friend or for me to give these guys a piece of my mind. It still haunts me, and the only thing I'm glad about is that it affected me enough to make me vow to never stand by and let that happen again.

A society that rewards men who treat women like this - as sexual objects that men collect and trade and own - promotes a culture of rape. The competitive team dynamic, like the Duke lacross team's, synergizes poisonously with ambient misogyny to create groups of men who band together with the goal of proving their supremacy over other men.

I don't mean to imply that team sports turn men (or women) into power-hungry rapists, or that if you are into sports that you hate women. There are plenty of perfectly nice athletes out there. What I am saying is that the competitive pack mentality makes for a particularly rich breeding ground for the kind of scene I described above, and for what likely occurred at Duke. It's hard to stand up for people who aren't immediately around, but in these examples, it's easy to see how things wind up ugly if you don't.

Good point

Alan at Idablue is rightfully ticked off:
I'll tell you, I am so sick of people speaking for "the soldiers" in Iraq. It's just stupid on its face. "The soldiers" are just like Americans everywhere. They differ and have different experiences and opinions.

Sure, some soldiers may get bummed out that the folks back home don't support the war. Others will probably get excited that there is a chance they'll get out of there early, or not have to go back. I just returned from an 18 month deployment, 11 of which were in Iraq, and I'm still a member of the National Guard. I think most soldiers, being educated and on the whole pretty intelligent, will realize the votes are just politics and not likely to translate to anything meaningful in their lives.
Head on over to his place if you want to thank him for his service and also his candid blogging.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Finally

The suspense was killing me. When were we going to find out that Hurley is hoarding food, pigging out, and hated himself for being fat? It was only a matter of time, right? God forbid there be a fat character on a popular TV show that's not just a stock character that reinforces negative stereotypes about fat people.

If I'm going to be famous for something

...I'm glad that it's drinking beer.

(Note: this link will expire in about 24 hours, so don't get confused if you read this after, say, 3:00 on April 6.)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hey, wait a minute

At Hugo Schwyzer's blog, I posted a comment about exciting things like sex and fantasy and libido and masturbation, but I later was thinking about what I'd said, and I think I fell for some problematic terminology in my comment. I'm not sure what it says about me that I came away from this subject thinking about semantics, but I'll not dwell on that. Here are the relevant passages from his post and my reply - see if you can spot the problem.

Hugo:
I'm not denying that sexual fantasy is a powerful part of most of our lives, and a part of our lives that most secular voices insist we ought not even try and control. In the secular world, ethics is about our actions, not the substance of our thoughts. Fantasy, therefore, is nearly universally regarded as harmless; as long as we don't act on all of our fantasies (particularly when they involve boundary violations of one sort or another), we're told to enjoy our private reveries (with or without masturbation.)

Me:
Hugo, when you say that secularists (of which I am one, to the core) don't believe in bad thoughts, I think that's a misperception. If I find my mind wandering to some unkind or violent or otherwise objectionable thoughts, I do try and stop them. It's the conviction behind the thoughts that make them objectionable, and if I'm feeling something I know is hurtful or wrong, I'll do my best to stop feeling it.
I'm not sure how I let it slip so completely under my radar, but shouldn't we all in this country be secularists? Don't we have a secular government and believe it can rightully exist in a separate sphere - a secular sphere - from our religious beliefs? A secularist is not the opposite of a Christian or a Muslim. A secularist is the opposite of a theocrat, and I don't think that Hugo is advocating for theocracy here. I can understand wanting to simplify your writing and using the term as a catch-all for atheists and agnostics, but with the way the term "secularist" is used as a dirty word by a lot of would-be theocrats, and the general antipathy in this country toward atheists, I think it's a good idea to speak about these things correctly and avoid any more false dichotomizing.

Monday, April 03, 2006

It doesn't have to be an eating disorder to be bad

The recent hair-raising article in the NYT about young women starving themselves for bikini-perfect bodies in anticipation of Spring Break has brought out some good commentary on the connections between eating disorders, feminism, and American consumer culture. I've written about the apparent biological influences on eating disorders, and my own problems with body image, food and weight, and I think that there is a less sensational but more prevalent issue that tends to skirt under the radar - after all, there are people dying out there.

Eating disorders get a two-pronged treatment by the media, where women affected are either victims of a culture that demands too much of them, or they are vindictive bitches starving themselves to make everyone else jealous. Either is a problematic way to look at eating disorders, especially with the complicated nature (and nurture) of how they arise. These attitudes, I think, crop up when we lump the very large number of truly self-hating, weight-obsessed women with the much smaller number of women who are actually suffering eating disorders. These two populations certainly have women who cross from one side to the other, but the differences often get lost in the rush to expose the very real damage that a beauty-obsessed, sexist culture does to women. It's like people pull out the dead anorexic girl as their trump card - even when she is not simply a product of her culture.

Myself, I don't think I have ever lost a pound on purpose. I've never fit the definition of obesity or unhealthy thinness, generally eat three meals a day, and am in no danger of overexercising, but I've still suffered with huge amounts of shame, self-hatred and misery. And we all know I'm not the only one.

What especially bothers me about the anorexia-media-feminism conversation is that we have to say "Look! These women are dying!" to get people to pay attention to the endemic body image and self-hatred problems amongst women. I was never about to die or be physically harmed by my misery, but I certainly was miserable. We need to help women love - or at least not hate - their bodies not just so they can survive, but so that they can live.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Smelling blood in the ID-01 water

With the major thrust of my blog being feminist issues and Western liberal politics, you'd think I'd be the first to pick up on an Idaho Press-Tribune editorial written by an Idaho Republican 1st congressional district contender on the issue of abortion. (F-words: feminism, food, fact, fiction and fabortion?) I've been out cavorting and carousing lately, though, so it's a good thing there's Randy Stapilus of the Ridenbaugh Press (a stellar NW news site) to pick up on these things.

As primary season heats up, the race for the Republican nomination is becoming tighter, and candidates in the comparatively crowded Republican race are looking to distinguish themselves from one another. Keith Johnson has decided to wedge himself a spot in the race over the issue of abortion. From his editorial:
Voters have a clear choice in this election. On one extreme, candidate’s zealousness for his personal views resulted in his removal from the chairmanship of the legislative committee that hears abortion bills. His 15 years in the legislature have yet to result in meaningful pro-life legislation. We still have abortion on demand in Idaho, proving his ineffectiveness on the issue. On the other extreme, candidates have consistently voted pro-choice in the Idaho legislature. One thing I know is if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re going to get the same results. It is time for new leadership on these issues.
Check out the Ridenbaugh Press' treatment of this piece for some background and who's-who.

Myself, I don't much care about the pro-life infighting (really, what else do they plan on doing while we still have Roe?), but the remaining sore feelings after a nasty primary certainly aren't going to help whoever gets the nomination when they go up against presumptive Democratic nominee Larry Grant. I'm guessing that the issue of choice isn't going to be very helpful for getting voters to cross party lines, but with the wide spectrum of anti-choice sentiment in this state, it might be enough to cause fissures in their base. I know that I've seen Sheila Sorensen billboards around Moscow, and she's had some criticism on this issue from some Idaho conservatives for a while now.

Call me a glass-half-empty kind of girl, but I am not ashamed of relishing the smell of blood in the water.

Oh, and Stapilus: congratulations on out F-wording F-words.