Monday, January 29, 2007

Pssst!

Brownback! The President of the United States doesn't sit on the Supreme Court!

"Dry" sauna my foot

At the University of Idaho, saunas are to be operated as "dry" saunas, with no steam, no water on rocks, just a hot little wooden box for naked people to sweat in. It always pissed me off - wtf is a dry sauna? They cite safety reasons for the rule, but you'd think that keeping a little wooden room hot and dry would present its own safety concerns. You'd be right.
A fire in the sauna of a women’s locker room caused an estimated $100,000 in damage to the University of Idaho’s Physical Education Building over the weekend.

(Via Huckleberries Online)

Sometimes things actually do change

Good news:

Pork processor Smithfield Foods Inc. said Thursday it will phase out gestation stalls or crates at all 187 sow farms it owns in eight states and replace them with "more animal-friendly" group housing pens over the next decade.
Smithfield's sows, which the company says grow to an average of 400 to 450 pounds during gestation, are kept in 2-by-7-foot metal crates in order to monitor their pogress during their four-month pregnancies.
Animal-rights groups argue that confining pigs in crates is inhumane because the sows don't have room to turn around, they develop leg problems and they suffer from boredom and frustration. Group pens give sows some room to move and the ability to socialize.

It's worth noting that Smithfield Foods is the pork supplier to McDonald's. I'm actually happier to see this than I am to buy locally-raised pork for my own table. If a small improvement in a large sector of the meat-producing industry is going to cause a greater net reduction in animal suffering than pampering the maybe 6 or 7 pigs I could possibly manage to eat in my lifetime, I'll go for the small improvement. That doesn't mean I can't buy locally-raised products too - it's just a good idea to keep these changes in perspective.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Girls Gone Home

Via Twisty, check out this story of an activist group that got a Girls Gone Wild event canceled in their town. How did they achieve this feat? By...
threatening to acquire the video taped the night of the event and show it at the board meeting at which the bar’s liquor license would be up for renewal. No manager wants to go to the trouble of making sure that everything stays legal that night, and he summarily did the “right thing” and canceled the event.
Pretty elegant, eh? I'm not opposed to topless drunk chicks making out for cameras, but I am very opposed to facilitating Joe Francis' harassment and exploitation of women. If you never got all the details, be sure to check out this LA Times piece that actually includes him assaulting the (female) reporter.

The group that managed this has a myspace page, with information about DIY Joe Francis exile.

And, in other Joe Francis-related news, he's none too happy* that his sex tape (and prescription information) with Paris Hilton has been exposed to the media. The poor dear must feel so exposed and taken advantage of. (Thanks for the info, liza.)

*Oh Hell. Of course, on the day of the most blog traffic I've ever gotten, I screw up the link. It's fixed now.

What we're really talking about

Exhibit A: Freepers consider the story of Mukhtar Mai, rape-victim's rights activist from Pakistan.

Exhibit B: Freepers discuss the infamous Duke rape case, and its impact on the accused.

It's quite interesting typical that no one questions Mai's claim of being raped by Arab Muslim men, but when we have a high-profile case where white men have been alleged to have sexually assaulted a black woman, it's clearly a case of he-said-she-lied. Not that this phenomenon is confined to freepers. The Daily Kos thread regarding Ashley Cross' rape-apology NYT article is filled with existential questions about whether we can ever really truly know if rape occurred - but no one bothers to question Mai's story when it comes up there, either. This is exactly why I roll my eyes when I hear about the "plight*" of Muslim women from American-Taliban types. And frankly, I can sympathize with the prejudice being displayed here because of my own prejudicial demons, but clearly it's about time I work them out.

To be sure, fundamentalist Muslim governments and societies tend to have a violently patriarchal streak that's indefensible. That's not the point here, though. What we see in this contrast is a major problem with taking sexual assault seriously as it affects women's lives. Especially at freep, Mai is not the subject - she is the object that proves that Arab men are monstrous. ** The accusations against the Duke players leave freepers worried about their hold on their racist, patriarchal birthright.*** A woman's violation is being used as a prop in an argument about men's economic and racial power structures. It's a revealing and disturbing show of hypocrisy - one that liberals, feminists, and anyone else concerned with justice would do well to be aware of when discussing cross-cultural values and human rights.

*This term is an especially strong indicator of hypocritical spouting off about human rights. I'm not sure why.
**D'oh. People from Pakistan aren't actually Arabs, which I guess I knew, but I got wrong anyway.
***Notice I'm not actually saying that the Duke rape happened - I'm looking at the scrutiny the story was under from the beginning - scritiny that Mai's story didn't face in our media.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Pledge

I was checking out the dregs of wingnuttia and noticed a lot of talk about "the pledge." I had to check it out to see what it was all about.
If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.
Except that whole "encouragement to the enemy" thing, I felt that I could really get behind this thing. Those lousy resolution-signing Republicans won't get a single dime from this voter! See how they like that! For a deeper understanding of the pledge, see this poem.

And don't forget to sign up, like I did.

Refusing to listen

Watch this. It's long, but it's worth it.

Then tell me how this is even a possible response.

More later. In the meantime, visit the video's maker, ballastexistenz.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dear 71.57.91.#

You asked Google, "can women feel men ejaculate in them." The answer is no.

I answer this because, as a virgin, I thought that the answer was yes. I was wrong.

But thanks for sticking around f-words.

Sincerely,
Sara Anderson

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New contraceptives languishing

Yesterday's NYT Science section featured an interview with Dr. David E. Clapham, a research scientist at Harvard Medical School whose work on ion channels (pores in the cell membrane that regulate chemical uptake and output) has revealed a promising new approach to birth control. Clapham's lab has identified a gene called CatSper that encodes for a set of proteins that make up a specific type of ion channel necessary for sperm to fertilize an egg. Clapham explains:
As you know, a human sperm needs to swim through the female reproductive tract for something like 15 minutes to get to the egg. They have a kind of built-in motor that permits them to do that. When sperm get to the egg, they need to crash through the ovum’s membrane to deposit their DNA there.

The way that happens is that at the end of its run, this ion channel brings the sperm calcium, which changes the shape of its tail and turns it into a kind of whip. The sperm is then propelled into hyper drive — pushing it into the egg with 20 times the force of normal swimming. Now, if this ion channel is blocked, there can be no fertilization.
Finding a compound capable of blocking this ion channel could lead to a new, nonhormonal contraceptive that could be taken by women and men. If you're thinking that this would be great news to women and men for whom current contraceptives aren't cutting it, you'd be right. Unfortunately, if you're thinking that there must be drug companies beating down Clapham's lab door, you'd be wrong. Clapham says:
There’s a general feeling throughout the industry that reproduction is just too risky in terms of potential liability and in terms of controversy. They feel that the estrogen-based birth control pill works fine. As far as they are concerned, the problem is solved.
If there's one thing I trust drug companies to do, it's accurately assess the moneymaking prospects of a drug. Drug companies are businesses with a responsibility to their bottom line, but they're not the only game in town. Federal funding of contraceptive research can help in the pursuit if new and better contraceptive methods. Given the Bush administration's abysmal record on contraception, we could to be waiting a while before we see a CatSper-blocking contraceptive on the market, but with new and familiar allies of choice representing us in the 2007 Democratic-majority congress, there may be potential for progress.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Happy National Pie Day!

According to Slashfood, today is National Pie Day! Yay! I'm pretty busy tonight with a SoTU watch party and Drinking Liberally later, but I'm sure I'll be able to squeeze a slice in somewhere.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I really couldn't

Could you even make this stuff up if you tried?
"These are women that have wanted to be a part of it because they feel that it is empowering to get up there and dress up like a doll. "
Riiiight. The Pussycat Dolls just scream empowerment.

Reproductive rights are human rights

I am pro-choice because women are human beings, endowed with the right to self-determination. My pro-choice stance comes from the recognition that the unreserved right to autonomy is the right to be fully human, and that the fight for human rights necessarily includes the fight for reproductive freedom. Respecting human rights means respecting human autonomy regardless of circumstances such as disability, economic class, race, gender, or reproductive status. The real human potential contained in an embryo is special, but it is not sacred. For any body - state, church, or otherwise - to assert that its presence in a woman's body, or any other circumstance, creates conditions under which unconditional rights can be taken away, is for humanity to be demeaned.

This post is a part of NARAL Pro-Choice America's blog for choice day. To find out why hundreds of other bloggers are pro-choice*, visit Blog for Choice 2007.

*If you'd like to find out why one particular blogger whose name didn't get on the official list on time is pro-choice, see Josh at States of the Union.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Anyone hanging around rocks that much

...is going to end up stoned*, and what comes next but the munchies? From fellow Idahoan Bubblehead at The Stupid Shall Be Punished:
Check out this paragraph in the "Obesity Reduction and Health Promotion Act of 2007":

(7) The combination of caloric intake, busy schedule, sedimentary profession, and lack of exercise combine to result in an increase in weight in many Americans, including Members of Congress, expanding waistlines and bulges of various sizes and shapes.

Emphasis mine. Now, what evidence does Congressman Sali have that those in sedimentary professions are more subject to weight gain than other Americans? Don't rock-hunters spend more time outdoors than many others? Why does he pick on geologists, instead of lawyers or some other profession?
Nicely done, Bubblehead.

*I take full responsibility for this pun.

Steve's got a point

This is a question worth asking of Bill Richardson:
Have you behaved inappropriately or not in public settings with female members of your government administration, jokingly or not? Have you gestured to female public servants and political appointees -- who work as colleagues with you -- and made lewd gestures, specifically pointing to them and then pointing at your crotch with a room full of media and other politicos there in the room?

In case you hadn't heard


Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

Tomorrow is blog for choice day, 2007! There's a huge list of people participating this year, with the theme being "Why I am pro-choice." If you can't wait for my (and the hundreds of others') entry tomorrow, check out my entry from last year.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A set of links

After reading this New York Times Magazine article about the fictional "post-abortion" syndrome, see also the blog abortion clinic days, written by a counselor at an abortion clinic.

Pommes de terre de mes rêves

Last night I dreamt that I cooked leeks and potatoes in bacon fat and served them mixed with the bacon bits and a dollop of sour cream on top. I've had good results before when deriving recipes from my dreams, so I decided to make these with dinner tonight. They really just turned out kind of like frenchified potato skins, but still, who can argue with potato skins?

Here's a better way to spend your money than donating it to the Clinton campaign

Kiva.org is a non-profit microfinance outfit that allows internet users to make loans as small as $25 to individual small businesses in low-income areas around the world. When the funds for a particular loan are met, they are then used to start up a business, and the amount (usually between $500 and $3000) is paid back to kiva.org - and the internet users who provided the loans - over time. To date, kiva.org's loan-repayment rate is 100%.

I'll say it now

She's doomed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Female rape apologists

I was really interested to see the discussion that developed at Pandagon around the recent NYT glorification of rape-apology. I happened to leave the first comment (frist!), and said:
Ech. I think this brings up the thing that people ignore when they go off on “only rapists can stop rape” rants: women enforce rape culture too - she’s still pushing it, even if her ex-boyfriend at least has an understanding of what he did wrong.
To which Amanda Marcotte replied:
It’s a very good example of how women can be in denial, for sure. In fact, some prosecuters I’ve heard of have experiences of women on juries being a lot more eager than any of the men to let the rapist off, because they simply can’t allow themselves to believe rape is as common as it is.
This same idea of the columnist's "denial" and "delusion" kept coming up in the comments (here and at Pandagon), and it began to rub me the wrong way. Ashley Cross, the columnist in question, surely is indulging in self-deception so as to hold on to the picture of her innocent boyfriend, but I really can't work up a lot of sympathy for her. The way she's holding onto and propagating these rape myths doesn't just serve to protect her fragile hold on a doomed relationship with a rapist, but much more importantly, serves to enforce rape culture.

Further on in the Pandagon conversation, things turned toward whether or not a rapist can be rehabilitated, and whether or not you, personally, could ever date somoene who had been convicted of rape. For complicated reasons, people were tripping over themselves to be sure to emphasize that rape is not okay, but still there was good discussion about the lies rapists tell themselves to excuse their behavior, and whether combatting these lies can help combat rape. (I think it can.)

In all of this, there's a sort of double-standard lurking, and I think it would be instructive to sort out. On the one hand, we have Cross, who's hiding behind victim-blaming and slut-shaming and male entitlement to women's bodies. On the other hand, we have the attacker - Drew Douglas - who is indulging in the same hand-waving. Cross may be in denial, but so is (was?) Douglas.

I feel like the term "denial" is a little too lenient, but it's still interesting to apply it to Douglas - or any rapist, for that matter. Part of the difficulty in helping people understand that rape is so common is convincing people that rapists are so common, and that there simply have to be a large number of guys who don't seem like rapists until they're actually in the act. softdog puts it well in the Pandagon thread:
I think prevention involves making people realize the act is always monsterous and that anyone can become a monster by buying into the thinking and attitudes which lead to rape, that you don’t have to be a psycho serial rapist to act like one.

To those giving Cross wiggle room when it comes to her excusing rape, I'd also add that you don't have to be a psycho serial rapist - or even a man - to help rape go unpunished. Indeed, with the way men often assume women have some sort of secret communication device in their uteruses ("You're a woman - why is my girlfriend doing x?"), any woman's excusing rape might be used as proof of what's going on inside a victim's head. Female rape apologists play an important role in enforcing rape culture, and as far as cultural influences go, they exist for the same reasons that rapists exist.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Is Judith Regan on the NYT editorial board or what?

Just great. The NYT has decided to run an editorial by a woman who dated a date rapist, basically telling her story of why she stopped believing drunk sluts. It is chock-full of date-rape myths, isn't weighted with any facts, and displays an alarming dismissal of the seriousness of rape by the author. See this Daily Kos diary and Lawyers, Guns and Money for some detailed discussion of what goes wrong in the article.

I don't see much of a difference between publishing this and publishing the now-aborted If I Did It by OJ Simpson. The NYT has given up a whole article's-worth of space (in the style section - wtf is up with that?) to glorify the defense's arguments in an already-settled case, with no anchors in reality, or even corroboration of the editorialist's arguments. The article is simple rape-apologist propaganda, and it was completely irresponsible for the NYT to run it.

Check it out

The Carnival Against Sexual Violence 15 is up at abyss2hope. My date rape story is included, as well as lots of other personal stories and informative articles about different aspects of sexual violence.

Patience

My youngest sister is a freshman in college and living in her first apartment, so she's just beginning to cook for herself and learn the little, stupid lessons that you just don't have to until you're faced with them. I remember going through that, and remember the minor revelations about the fact that you don't have to cook everything on high heat, or that salt is really important for bringing out the flavors in food, or that you just have to be patient when you're reducing a sauce or waiting for meat to brown.

I made french onion soup last night, which is an excellent example of how patience is rewarded. It's one of the few things I cook that takes hours of sitting on the stove, stirring occasionally, and waiting until a little past the point where I think things have gotten overcooked. I took some pictures of the caramelization process of my onions, which took at least an hour and a half for a small batch (two large onions, a teaspoon and a half of salt, and one crushed clove of garlic) at medium-low heat.

By picture three, it was getting tempting to add the beef broth and thyme and white wine, but I ate a hunk of pepper jack to quiet my stomach, and gave it the time it needed. The finished soup was the perfect compliment to a fried egg sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mayo and mustard.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Weather

The temperature's been hanging out between 0 and 15 degrees around here lately, and it's gotten so cold and dry that the snow is all light and sparkly. The sky has been blue and sunny and clear, and the smallest breezes have been sending glittery snow flying around in the sun. It's just beautiful.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Marking the poor

Via Feministe, Jane Galt has a story about a small encounter that abruptly and uncomfortably brought up the issue of her privilege as a middle-class white woman:
Stamp of shame

This post on food stamps, about which I will not comment, made me think of an incident the other day. Since I moved to Silver Spring, I have been exploring the local streets and shopping. This put me in a curious mood the other day, when I was at the market checking out my groceries. I started to wonder: what is this "EBT" thing that's on all the supermarket checkout card machines? So I asked the checkout woman. She stared at me.

"That's for food stamps," she said, finally. She was black. I am so white that sometimes, in the early morning, I blind myself in the bathroom mirror. I have never felt like such a dumb, privileged middle class white girl in my life. Ever.

And yet, the thing is, in New York I shop in a housing project. Indeed, I have lived in marginal or transitional neighbourhoods pretty much all my life. I know what food stamps (now cards) look like; indeed, when I was younger, thanks to friends whose families were on them, I had a pretty good working knowlege of what could and could not be purchased with them, and even what grocery stores in the neighbourhood would let you buy soap with your food stamps. (Don't call me, USDA! I'll never tell.) I am a privileged white woman, but not a totally clueless one. Unless you'd actually used food stamps, how would you know what the code on the checkout machine was?

But I don't think that I am imagining the words "Stupid, rich white suburban idiot" running through the checker's head as I gathered my groceries and left the store.
I can see not actually knowing what EBT is. Grocery stores around here treat it like a dirty little secret, keeping it so quiet that when someone is using it, the employee is likely to have to ask questions and slow down the progress of the line and in the process embarass the hell out of their customer. At one grocery store around town, they used to not take debit or credit (and thus I hardly ever went there, even if they had the best prices in town), so if someone did use their EBT card, it was really obvious and it's not the most common form of payment so it usually took a few times telling the checkout person, by then making your financial status obvious to the ten or twelve people standing in line around you.

They take debit now so it's not such a big deal, but I do notice that at other grocery stores when I pull out my debit card, they say "Is that credit or debit?" making anyone using EBT say "Oh no, I use the Shame Card." There is one checker who casually says "Debit, credit, or EBT?" which I think every employee should emulate.

But they don't, and as far as I know there's no store policy that they should, so Rosauers (the grocery store closest to the homeless shelter in town, by the way) is participating in the time-honored game of making poor people jump through hoops just so they can get some food in their cupboards.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Happy birthday Jessie


My little sister is 22, and probably dying of chocolate poisoning right now. What a way to go!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Can tragedy and hurt be cliched?

Reading this catalog of stories about bad body image is so amazingly depressing. It's a shame and it's a waste.

What have you done (successfully) to feel better about your body? There's got to be some kind of light at the end of this tunnel.

How to tell a rape victim

jen at her blog where's the revolution gonna begin posted (quite a while ago) some of her feelings about using the term "survivor" to describe someone who has been a victim of rape.
There are lots and lots of reasons that I know I will never reach that place of calling myself or being a "survivor," which I won't go into here. Some of them are entrenched in the rape culture that makes me blame myself for my abuse and my rape(s), but some of them are simply because I don't have that capacity to "heal." You might be thinking, "Oh, don't be silly, you're only 20 years old, you don't know what you can heal from yet," and maybe, just maybe, you're right. But you're probably not. But that's exactly the problem I have with this fight against sexual violence. There's always the assumption that everyone can heal. That someday, if you just work hard enough at it, you, too, will be able to be a "survivor."
What's interesting is that I have had sort of the opposite problem with this rhetoric, though I think both her reaction and mine stem from the same root problem.

jen's experience was nightmarish, and she has every right to express her emotional response to it and the emotional damage it dealt her. She doesn't have to "get over" anything - this is something that happened to her, and the aftermath is something over which she also exercises very little control. What is important is that she be allowed to heal in any way she can.

As someone who has experienced a very different kind of rape, however, I find that holding jen's experience up as the typical one, or the emotionally obliterated response as the typical one to be really counterproductive. When I was a teenager, I was a victim of date rape of probably the most typical kind - a guy took me out, got me blind drunk, and from what I hear had sex with me while I was blacked out. I count myself as fortunate for not remembering it, but nonetheless I was drug through the blame-the-victim mud and had a terrible few weeks in the city where I was living at the time. I left town after those miserable weeks, and am glad that it's a place I'll never have to go back to again. However, I was far from emotionally broken, and it took me several months and conversations with friends to cconnect the dots and realize that the term "date rape" is an accurate one to describe the experience I had.

Why would someone not consider this rape? How could I, a person who's called herself a feminist since grade school, not recognize the classic date rape scenario? I'm not the only one who has had this problem in the aftermath of rape. Consider this discussion of a survey of college students at Alas. The survey says that of college-aged women who had been forced to have sex, only 23% said that it was "definitely rape."

A while back, Happy Feminist had a great post on this subject, and it actually spurred me to tell the details of my own rape experience, though I didn't feel comfortable tacking my name onto it. I still don't, and I've been sitting on this post since April of 2006 because of my ambivalence. I can tell myself there's no shame in it, and that exposing the reality of rape is important work, but I still am going to have a hard time clicking "submit" after I've said all I want to say.

A lot of this is related back to the common conception of rape as worse than dying, of rape killing the soul. Above, jen is tired of being told how to respond to her experience, or what her experience should have done to her, and I am too. Rape did not kill my soul. It didn't make me fear sex or fall into a deep depression. I didn't consider what happened to me rape because it didn't break me.

And I'm not the only one who's made this mistake. In 2005, Shakespeare's Sister was watching the case of an alleged gang rape, which came to this astounding end:
A 17-year-old girl went to police at the urging of her friends after she was allegedly gang-raped by three men, including her boyfriend. The men testified that the act was consensual. After reviewing all the information and statements, prosecutors decided they didn’t think they could prove a rape allegation, and so declined to prosecute the case.

Instead, they prosecuted the victim for filing a false police report. Yesterday, she was found guilty.

The victim has never recanted her story. Instead, the decision was based on the judge’s opinion that the three men were more credible, in part because a police detective and the victim’s friends testified she did not “act traumatized” in the days after the incident.
And here you have exactly why I've been hesitant to relate my experience. I'm not interested in putting my experience under the microscope, or dealing with victim-blaming, because my rape experience doesn't fit the popular "fate worse than death" narrative.

My point here is that it doesn't have to - and if you're raped, yours probably won't either. You don't have to be violated to an extent approved by Bill Napoli to have been raped. It's still illegal - and unethical - to have sex with someone without their consent, even if you leave them somewhere short of completely shattered. What happened to me was wrong, it was illegal, and anyone else who's had such an experience deserves to know it. Even worse is that when rape is presented as a "fate worse than death," there are echoes of old notions of women as sexual property that can be ruined by someone else's tampering.

To reemphasize: I don't mean to downplay the trauma and violence and evil of rape. I do want to question exactly how we decide what is "bad enough" to be considered rape, and why people think of rape on Bill Napoli's terms instead of mine.

What can we do to help people think about rape realistically?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Would you look at that

Looks like someone's brushing up on his presidenting skills. Go Bill!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sexy Nurses

Amongst the sexy archetpes, the sexy nurse always seemed odd to me - what about intensive medical care would make so many people think "do me?"

I recently read Nightingales, Gillian Gill's biography of Florence Nightingale, and got my answer:
Florence's inspection and research confirmed that female nurses came from the humblest classes of society and were employed mainly to watch patients and keep them clean. Most were drunken, callous, and, willingly or not, accustomed to prividing sexual services for the doctors, dressers, and patients. (Page 277)
Silly me, I thought it was society's impulse to make everything that women pursue out to be a sexual game, a heterosexual male fantasy where the ultimate goal of every female pursuit is to get on him, personally. Little did I know that the classist and sexist forces in Western society ensured that this was not a game or a fantasy in Victorian England, but reality.

Also, the book was fascinating (and the author's writing style very witty and sometimes hilariously bitchy) and I highly recommend it. Anyone interested in a feminist bookswap should write me an email.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Ashley

I've started several posts about the story of a girl named Ashley with severe mental and physical disabilities, whose parents are electing to have her reproductive organs removed and her hormones modulated so that she will never progress to puberty. I've started posts, but really articulating my feelings has been difficult. The best post I've seen so far has been by Wheelchair Dancer, so check it out.

Still, I am so viscerally appalled, I'd like to get my feelings out there. Wheelchair Dancer titles her post simply "human rights," because that's exactly what is being denied of this girl. A commenter at brownfemipower's place (where I first found out about this) dug up this message board quote by a medical ethicist regarding Ashley's impending procedures:
If the concern has something to do with the girl’s dignity being violated, then I have to protest by arguing that the girl lacks the cognitive capacity to experience any sense of indignity. Nor do I believe this is somehow demeaning or undignified to humanity in general; the treatments will endow her with a body that more closely matches her cognitive state – both in terms of her physical size and bodily functioning. The estrogen treatment is not what is grotesque here. Rather, it is the prospect of having a full-grown and fertile woman endowed with the mind of a baby.
The guy has really laid his cards on the table here: he doesn't think she's human. If there is anything that defines being human, it is dignity. This commenter doesn't even think she has the capability for dignity. She is "grotesque" in her disabled - different - state, and some ambiguous squicky feeling entitles someone to pick up a scalpel?!

Then, there's the women-as-fucktoy aspect, where they will take from her body perfectly healthy organs because she isn't going to use them for reproduction - because they won't be of any (healthy) use to anyone other than herself. The lame excuses about removing her breasts for her own comfort are mind-bogglingly stupid: why not just remove her arms and legs too? Why not just murder her?

And how do they know she's not "using" her sexual organs? She cannot move, and she cannot consent to sexual contact, but as Wheelchair Dancer says:
Sexual pleasure is natural. Kids don't have and don't need the full intellectual apparatus of sexuality to know that if you touch here, the feeling is good. Why shouldn't Ashley have that feeling? I am not suggesting that anyone touch her in that way -- explicitly sexual touch without full and free consent is not acceptable. But if Ashley can feel pleasure in the way her clothes fit her or in the movement of her clothes or her body, why shouldn't she? To take both her, at this point in her life, healthy breasts and uterus to avoid the possible pain of cramping and other menstruation related difficulties or disabled life-related difficulties is incomprehensible to me.

I can understand freely-chosen body modification as an expression of oneself, or even for simple comfort or pleasure. What I cannot comprehend is the severe and painful modification of someone who cannot consent to it. I realize that her family does not intend to be selfish here, and that the lack of clear communication means that they must make inferences and even guesses as to what will best fulfill her needs and wants. How those serious considerations lead to cutting open her body and taking her apart piece by piece is what I can't begin to understand.

For some better-informed (and, all-around better) perspective on the dignity and integrity of the disabled body, see also this post by ballastexistenz, an autistic woman with a hell of an axe to grind. Good conversations are shaping up at Alas, A Blog and Woman of Color Blog.

Fuck yeah!

What an excellent picture on CNN today (it was on the front page, the article had the expected weeping impoverished woman of color photo):

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Let yourself go"

This discussion at Big Fat Blog about the phrase "let herself go" was really refreshing. The main article notes the way a woman claims to support fat acceptance but doesn't want to see people "let themselves go," but commenter bootness says this:
On the other hand, I personally have embraced that phrase “Let yourself go.” My mom used that one on me on the day of my wedding, when she displayed photos of me when I was bulimic in high school (I guess to prove to my husband’s family that at least I USED to be thin and pretty.) She said I had “let myself go,”, but that if I worked at it I could look that way again if I wanted to. I laughed at her and said, “I have let myself go, and now I’m free!” Free to eat what and when and how much I like, and not feel shame and fear and while I purge my meager salad after lunch. Free to be me. I should print up a t-shirt, "Let yourelf go" with a bird flying out of its cage.
I like that. Also check out the thread for some cute song lyrics fellow Palouse blogger JeanC was reminded of by the talk of liberation and letting oneself go.

Apathy

In case it's not clear, I haven't been all that enthusiastic about blogging lately (due probably to my computer being out of service), so I thought I'd at least seize the moment and write about some other things that really don't get me excited

Pink is for girls and blue is for boys.
Meh. It's arbitrary and meaningless, and I have a strong feeling that people who make a big fuss about hating pink are more buying into devaluing women than they are raging against restrictive gender norms.

Childbearing as the ultimate expression of womanhood.
Well, yeah, it kind of is. If there's anything that's womanly, it's having a baby. It's certainly not manly or girlish. There's nothing wrong with not reaching maximal womanliness - it's really just an expression of your physicality, after all. It's by the things that all people do to express their humanity - loving, learning, teaching, etc. - that we should be measured, not by competing for the title of Most Gendered Person Ever.

Cell phones. This one almost crosses through to antipathy, since even though I don't think of cell phones as a modern inconvenience, I do think of listening to people complain about them as one. I don't mind hearing people talk around me. For people who do, you'd think they'd be glad to only have to hear one end of the conversation.

The "problem solved" t-shirt. I think it's about as harmful as that Planned Parenthood cartoon that depicted a superhero blowing up a group of harassing abortion protesters. It's not a proposal, it's a silly exaggeration.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

My first meatballs


They're nothing special, but it's always fun to do something new. I'd never eaten spaghetti and meatballs until about a year ago, and the craving hit me hard this morning. I spent all day salivating over the idea, and was glad I had the patience to go through making the sauce, concocting and browning the meatballs and simmering them in the sauce. Also, it gave me a chance to use a product I've been lusting after in the produce section for a while: tubed herb paste. I don't get enough sun in my house in the winter to grow herbs, and I hate buying the spendy fresh herbs that I won't get to using all of before they go bad. I was pretty satisfied with the results, and if it tastes just as good in a week or so, I'll be a true convert.