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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Presidential Campaigns and GOP WTFery

By: Liberate Zealot

Content Warning: Romney Campaign, so racist/sexist/classist

As a US citizen and resident, especially one who lives near DC, I've been in election over drive since the conventions. But this last week (and a half) has really racked it up.

Romney and the GOP's racism, imperialism, and Christian Supremacy,  in regards to the riots in the Middle East (and other heavily Muslim countries).  Also the general media reaction with portraying these riots and protests are simply in response to some movie as opposed to nearly 100 years of US intervention and wars in the Middle East.

Mitt Romney's comments in an interview with George Stephanopoulos about how $100,000 a year isn't middle income, $250,000 a year or less is.  He then went on to discuss how the debates will be challenging because "the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren't true.”  This from a man whom fact checkers have caught in lies 36 times in the last week alone

The leaked tapes from Romney's May fundraiser and the comments about the 47% and people not being entitled to food, health care, housing, and other basic Maslowvian needs. I mean the misrepresentation of tax codes and people who pay taxes (never mind the racist dog whistles) is staggering (through rather unsurprising since lies about taxes has been GOP policy the last several years).  But the complete lack of empathy and understanding of the role of government (to provide services and laws for the benefit of the people) was rather surprising. Or at least it was surprising to see it spelled out so plainly.

Then there was the Brown-face at Univision.  Also he reportedly threw a temper tantrum over the original introduction (which mentioned that President Obama would appear for longer the next day) and refused to come out until it had been re-taped.  Also he stacked the audience by bussing in supporters.

There's been Ann Romney's rather bizarre responses to critics.  Apparently they need to "just stop" and that we're "lucky" to have someone of Mitt's experience and wealth running for president since he obviously doesn't need the job for the money.    Which really brings home all the Mitt Romney/Bobby Newport comparisons.

Then on Friday Paul Ryan speaks before the AARP (American Assosiation of Retired Persons) and is booed a lot, but especially for the part of his speech about destroying "Obamacare". (Maybe Ryan should have tried bussing in people too).

From a comedy/political point of view this past week has been epic.  And I've enjoyed the lolz, but it's important to remember that these are people running for the highest office in the country.  And they don't think the government should provide the needy with food.  They don't see health care as a right. They lack understanding on what wealth and income actually looks like in the country. They're racist and misogynistic.  And they have a substantial amount of supporters. There's a chance they could win the Presidential seat.

This is what the US is like in 2012.  

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Lies and Logic of "Pro-Life"

By: Liberate Zealot

I'm often amazed at the cognitive dissonance (or so it seems to me) of the Republican/conservative relation of sex, abortion, and women.  It's not so much their view or motivation, which is firmly rooted in misogyny and the false dream of the Kyriarchal 50s, but the language they use that boggles my mind.

Now not everyone who is anti-choice is also anti sex ed or welfare programs, but so many people are against all these things that it's safe to assume that if you're talking to someone that wants to legalize abortion than they're also against making abortion less necessary.

So here's a run down of the seemingly conflicting thoughts:

  • Don't teach people comprehensive sex ed, specifically about how to avoid unwanted pregnancies or STDs.  Because this apparently will cause them to have more sex and (somehow) more unwanted pregnancies and STDs.
  • Don't make contraceptives readily available. Don't give out condoms at schools (colleges included), don't make contraceptives more affordable under health insurance.  Because then people will have more sex and (somehow) there will be more unwanted pregnancies and STDs.  Also they can get them from Planned Parenthood.  And lies about taxes going to BC pills.
  • Defund Planned Parenthood at the state and federal level and provide the funding to organizations that don't provide STD testing and treatment, inexpensive contraceptives, don't have out condoms, are unlikely to provide well women visits or breast cancer screenings.  What they will do is give you a sonogram and talk you out of an abortion.  Because PP is 99% abortion (it isn't) and the government shouldn't fun abortion because objection to MY taxes going to something I don't support (gov't money cannot in any way be related to PP's abortion services). 
  • Allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense the Planned B birth control option because freedom of religion.
  • Allow employers to refuse to cover BC pills AT ALL because freedom of religion. 
  • Cut state and federal programs that aid poor people, especially poor mothers and children (Welfare, Medicaid, VIC, Head Start to name a few) because personal responsibility and boot straps. 
  • Work against laws that seek to raise the minimum wage. 
  • Work against laws that seek to decrease the pay gap that women face. 

And after doing everything they can to make it impossible for women to prevent an unwanted pregnancy or to afford to be pregnant or have children we need to BAN ABORTION because all life is sacred.

If we follow that logic than it doesn't make sense.  The view points cannot exist all together if the motivation is that all life is sacred.

And of course the motivation isn't about saving lives. It's about controlling the lives of women. About keeping women barefoot and pregnant.  It's about the dream of the 1950s where people married their high school sweethearts, saved sex for the wedding night, every family was nuclear, every woman a happy housewife, every man gainfully employed, and the US was the super-power.

It's about a world that didn't exist for anyone.  A world that in reality was horrible, torturous, and stifling for the majority of people.   It's a world of legal racism, lynchings, back alley abortions, jailing of queer people, and legal spousal rape. It's the world before Civil Rights and feminism.

Getting this world back is the pro-life movements true motivation.

And the extra people to full the military, prison, and non-union corporation jobs, doesn't hurt either.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Nerd culture; you need to chill.

By: g33k and d3stroy

This post is more of a personal rant from my experiences as a girl in nerd culture. Let me preface this by saying (because it obviously needs to be stated over and over again), this does not apply to all dudes. I have quite a few male friends who are just awesome and I love them. But sadly, they are the minority in comparison to the those with problematic attitudes towards women, especially outspoken women, in nerd culture.

Now, I have been a nerd for a really long time at this point. I watched X-Men, Spider-Man, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball growing up. I started reading comics/manga around the age of 8 and I haven't stopped yet. I started attending comic conventions at around 11. I made my own fan characters, drew comics and did all sorts of embarrassing stuff. I started to read about feminism in my late teens. Funnily enough, I don't think I would have had any of these problems if I didn't read those few feminist texts.

I used to work in comic book retail. It was always a dream of mine; surrounding yourself with comic books, meeting fellow readers and recommending excellent titles. AND earning money? Uh, heck yes! So I managed to get myself a job at a small comic book store at the age of 21. Part internet cafe, part comic shop, part hobby store, I was very excited. Until I actually started working there.

I worked at a convention with my boss and a few co-workers at the end of August. It was fun while simultaneously being stressful and exhausting. At the end of the convention, a customer returned and began making awkward conversation with me. At one point, he asked me out. Flattered and not wanting to be mean, I told him that I was unable to leave as I had to pack up and help move merchandise back to the store. The customer decided to ask my boss if I could leave so he could take me out. My boss asked him how much he would pay to let me leave. The customer offered $50. My boss wanted more. The customer began to back off and leave, while my boss screamed after him, "$100! $75! OKAY, $50!" Thank you for assuming the role as my pimp! After that, I was quickly laid off. My co-workers said the boss said I had too much, 'attitude'. (I've since learned that the word attitude is code for, 'you called me on my bullshit and that hurts my feefees.)

Anyways, jump forward. I got hired at another comic book store, a big one. SURELY this one will be better and I won't be subjected to my employer trying to pimp me while also expecting me to deal with countless strange men masturbating on computers around me! Right??

Well, those things didn't happen. But lots of other stuff did. I was always relegated to the cash register. Every time I tried to work in the various other departments, I was sent back. 'We need pretty girls at the register to bring in male customers.' Barf. A co-worker of mine got regular harassment from male customers because she chose not to wear a bra. Our manager responded by telling her she was asking for it. Classy.

Don't even get me started on the treatment of nerd girls. A guy can say he's a nerd and that's cool. I say I'm a nerd and it automatically raises an eyebrow. And the second I slip up, CRED GONE. I got Electro and the Shocker confused? NOT A REAL NERD. I've never played Halo? NOT A NERD. I haven't read any Green Lantern? NOT A REAL NERD. Perhaps it is this constant judgment of nerd girls that keeps them hesitant to participate in such a culture? And maybe it's this culture that makes us angry and has brought up so much of this discussion up lately? No? We're posers and we're PMSing? Okay. Oh right, and you're only worthwhile as a nerd-girl if you're HOT and a nerd. Yeah, you gotta be typically attractive and a nerd. Otherwise, gtfo.

We got our shipments in the evening mid-week. It was me, another female employee, and a mess of dudes. I learned that they went out for drinks and food afterwards and I was invited. I was told all they did was talk about comics and sex. And hey, I love comics! I like sex! Sign me up. These evenings were just horrible. There was essentially no talk of comics, but the unrelenting bashing of every single female employee at the store, with crude and awful drawings to boot. From their attitude to their looks, it was merciless. And being the token female, I enjoyed endless sexual propositions and harassment, which I tolerated. I even joined in mocking the other female employees. I quickly discovered I was only accepted in this group if I didn't speak up. The irony of the situation is this is the typical situation you imagine for female friendships; friendships built around drama and hating each other. But I haven't found one of those that even compared to this yet. Eventually, I realised what a massive dickbag I was being and I stopped attending those nights. I also started to realise my male co-workers were awful. I made an effort to befriend the other female employees rather than see them as my competition. I become friendly with every female co-worker at the store and remained on good terms with the few male employees who acted like adults. Things became tense as I became more and more irritated with the state of the store and less tolerant of their bullshit, until I quit. I discovered that a male co-worker was paid more than me, and he was there for 2 months while I was there for nearly 2 years. I confronted the owner of the store and he didn't believe me. I brought in proof, he listened. He agreed to pay me the same amount. Although why aren't I being paid MORE than a newbie? After all, I've been one of the head cashiers for a while. I managed the float, went to the bank, cleaned the store, helped with shipments and generally did 100x more than our new employee. I was told no and the owner acted like a passive-aggressive child towards me for the next week. I quit and was written off for having a bad 'attitude'.

Now jump forward past that. I have a lovely boyfriend whom I live with who is very supportive and has become quite feminist. He has a group of male friends who are basically huge super film nerds. I meet them a few times, they seem alright. They regularly gather at our apartment to watch movies. (I am not a movie nerd in any sense - I love movies, but they aren't my passion.) This has been going on for about a year now. There used to be another girl who attended but has stopped for the past 8 months, so I am once again the token girl. Due to my inability to discuss film, I am pretty quiet. I am a naturally shy person. But I have tried to become more than 'the girlfriend.' Podcasts take place and I try to participate, but I am often skipped over. Embarrassingly, my boyfriend has to butt in to ask me questions to remind them to involve me. That feels GREAT. My short answers are usually met with sarcasm, making me feel even worse for even attempting to talk about movies.

I have a reputation for being opinionated and feminist. This apparently makes me terrifying. I will tear the face off anyone who even dares speak a word to me. Or at least that is the general idea. Despite the fact I have been nothing but nice, have offered up my apartment for countless gatherings, have baked cookies and paid for pizzas, I can tell I am still viewed as an angry, unfun feminist. When they ask my boyfriend if they can come over, I can tell they are really asking him to ask me. Because I'm the domineering girlfriend who won't let my boyfriend have any fun, he has to get approval for fun from me first. My poor boyfriend, dating someone like me. Such a ruthless, domineering woman! Having opinions and the like, tsk tsk. I can't even count how many jokes have been made about me being a violent maniac who regularly beats my boyfriend.

I regularly deal with the 'girlfriend' syndrome amongst male mutual friends. Despite the fact that me and my boyfriend live in an apartment decorated top to bottom with nerdy memorabilia, it is always written off that my boyfriend is a nerd and that I am tolerant. A friend will start discussing a comic or video game with my boyfriend without bothering to include me in the conversation, despite the fact that we have a shared interest. Sometimes I try to insert myself into the conversation, but there is rarely an attempt made to keep me involved.

I used to play on xbox live obsessively. Left 4 Dead is one of my favourite games. Having other players with microphones is preferable so you can co-ordinate attacks and know when your team needs help. Having a microphone and being a girl is quite a different story. Most of the time, as soon as they learn I'm a girl, I'm a terrible player. But just 2 minutes ago, I was fine. Go figure. Or then there's the, "WOW, A GIRL PLAYING A VIDEO GAME!" Yes, stop the presses. I am amazing. Then there's just inappropriate comments and straight up misogynistic jabs, those are fun. I never use a mic anymore.

So, really. What have I learned by being a nerd? Well, I've learned that the best way to fit in with a culture that is so ridiculously sexist is to keep your mouth shut. Ladies, don't have opinions. And if you do, you are over-sensitive and on your period. Or just a big evil feminist that is probably a lesbian. Make sure a dude agrees with your opinions because only then will it have validity, as men aren't subject to our WILD hormones and ever changing moods. Be ready to deal with harassment and inappropriate comments and to take them with a smile.

Nerd culture, why can't you just step up your game? Why is it so scary that I have opinions and that I don't want you making insulting jokes/comments? Why is it so hard that I wanted to be included and treated as a person rather than the subject of tokenism? I have met MANY male nerds in my day who always complain, 'There are no nerd girls! Where are they?!' Maybe they've taken their business elsewhere as to avoid the gross alienation and harassment that is so common, as I have. And yes, I know, all nerds aren't like that. But most nerds don't bother to call it out. I've seen a lot of defense of this behaviour and that is just as much of a problem as the behaviour itself.

I've had many suggestions thrown my way. 'You should try harder,' 'Don't take it so personally,'. Believe me, I do try. I know how to try and how to make it work. I know that the formula for generally dealing with this shit is to be quiet, smile, laugh, don't have an opinion, agree and be tolerant of copious amounts of bullshit. I just don't think it's worthwhile anymore.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Feminism and Children

By: Liberate Zealot

Part II of Feminism and Children : Feminism and Children MasterPost

As I've mentioned in the past, my daily feminism in the physical world (meat space) is primarily involved in working with children and helping them become conscientious and aware people.

There's combating the seeds of rape culture.
Fighting gender roles and stereotypes.
Raising awareness about the diversity of humanity and ensuring respect and empathy.

And with it being the start of the year I've been going all over buying new activities and planning lessons that reflect these goals.  I've been very excited about some awesome finds, and considering how Kyriarchal many mainstream stores and toys are I wanted to share the good, diverse toys and activities I've found.

Lakeshore Learning is a store for Pre-K and elementary school teachers.  They have a lot of toys for younger children that, unlike toy stores like Toys R Us and the toy departments of Target and Walmart, isn't    gendered. Instead they're sorted by the skills/type of play they support.
Specifically I adore their Block Play People.  The dolls are based on more realistic body types than many other play dolls.  The have sets of families with various ethnicities (White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian) that are multi-generational.  They have a doll set of dolls with differing abilities and Community dolls that reflect different jobs held by people of various ethnicities and genders (some of which directly go against stereotypes).  While they don't have any queer/gender variant options you can mix and match the families or create your own stories through imaginative play with the dolls.

For babies and toddlers there are the Diversity Baby Bottom Dolls which are intended to help with potty training and made by a company that works on creating green bathroom supplies for children under three.

The Multicultural Toy Box might not be active any more, but there is some great information in their archives if you have the time to search.  Information of toys and books about people of color, with differing abilities and various religions.  The writer also reviewed and analyzed various programs and offers advice on child rearing.

2 to 26, a currently inactive literacy/education blog, has a collection of Book Lists geared towards women, people of color, queer people, and people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.