Posts filed under ‘Social Commentary’

The Best of the Web

"Works Progress Administration Project 19...

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I thought it was time to brag on some other writers and visionaries for a change. There are a lot of other great blogs out there that are doing creative things, making progressive statements, advocating for women, and featuring more important stories than Jesse James’ tragic breakup from Kat von D. I really thought that would last forever. I’m just devastated!

First off, there’s a great cartoon site that I found through WordPress, mostly because she was kind enough to click the “Like” button on one of my posts. The Adventures of Gyno-Star: Fighting the Forces of Evil & Male Chauvinism is a cartoon gem that gets updated twice weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays. The artist is supremely talented. Her superhero has a sidekick named Little Sappho, and together they fight nemeses like Stay at Home Mommy and Vlad Deferens. Clever fun, and the illustrations are fantastic!

At Rebuild the Dream you can sign a contract for a return to the American dream. Van Jones heads this campaign with the support of many other progressive organizations, most notably MoveOn.org. The idea is pretty simple. Start investing in America again. Update our infrastructure and invest in the future, create jobs to do this and hire Americans to fill the jobs.

What does that sound like? Why, if it weren’t for the green energy component, I think it sounds an awful lot like the Works Progress Administration. The WPA? You don’t say. The brainchild of FDR, a plan to bring us out of the Great Depression, improve our great nation, and feed our families, the WPA is still present in concrete and signs in small and large communities throughout the United States. How do we pay for this? By taxing the rich.

This brings me to another great website. Sometimes people, myself included, like to cast the rich in the role of villain in the deterioration of the American dream and the American economy. But that’s not entirely fair. There are some millionaires out there who are lobbying that their taxes need to be raised.

You can find those millionaires and billionaires on a great website called, Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength. These people are true patriots, and their message reminds me that with great wealth comes great privilege and with great privilege, great responsibility. These people incredibly, selflessly get that. They make me proud to be an American.

Speaking of being proud to be an American, some people make me proud to be a Christian as well. John Shore, whose blog I’ve championed before, had a great article about a woman named Kathy Baldock and how she came to form a non-profit called Canyonwalker Connections. Kathy had t-shirts made, and she attends gay functions like Pride parades and wears her t-shirt, offering an apology to any LGBT who’s been traumatized by the bigotry of churches who reject homosexuals.

Here’s a great video I found:

The video is a commentary on how household cleaning products are always marketed to women, using women almost exclusively to sell the products to women almost exclusively. The only exceptions I can think of to this are Orange Glo and Oxy Clean. Mr. Clean doesn’t count since he’s a fictional character who never actually cleans anything anyway. The Tidy-Bowl Man is a tugboat operator; he doesn’t clean anything.

What is marketed almost exclusively to men? Beer. How is it marketed to men? Using scantily clad beautiful women to imply that if only you drink enough beer women will want to have sex with you. Maybe if only the women drink enough beer they will forget that they have to do all of the cleaning and will want to have sex with you. Or, and here’s a novel concept: maybe if a man did his share of the chores around the house a woman might be inclined to have sex more often. Beer is optional.

I found this website by happy accident. Hugo Schwyzer is a Christian and a gender studies professor. He’s written many, many enlightening blog posts about issues relating to feminism and Christianity, including weighing in on the recent controversy over actor Doug Hutchison’s marriage to a 16-year-old child and SeekingArrangement.com’s pimping out of college girls. He writes about his views on porn and even cites Andrea Dworkin. He’s sharp, and he’s a pleasure to read.

Hugo Schwyzer also blogs on The Good Men Project. The Good Men Project bills itself as “a cerebral, new media alternative” to glossy men’s magazines. In other words, it’s the anti-Maxim. There are great articles on gender issues and relationship advice, and something for everyone. This website renews my good faith in men.

The Women’s Media Center is a non-profit that seeks to make women more visible and women’s voices more audible in all forms of contemporary media. Their website features a Sexism Watch. They sponsor conventions and leadership panels and encourage women to produce films and documentaries that tell women’s stories. They are fighting to see women represented more in the news and on political commentary shows. Check it out.

August 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm Leave a comment

Man Hater!

Sexual equality symbol

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Recently, I’ve been accused of being a man hater. I won’t tell you who did it, but it was hurtful. Apparently, I really hate men. I didn’t know I hated all men, but apparently, I do.

Someone mentioned that in a book she was listening to on tape, one of the characters, in the opening line of the book, discovers that he is a father of a daughter that her mother kept secret from him. She mentioned that it was a frequently used plot device, and I agreed with her. In fact, I think it’s practically a hackneyed cliché.

I told her that was a popular male fantasy, the child you didn’t know about that would carry on your family’s genes and, perhaps, even, your name, with no effort or responsibility on your part. The child, usually a son, is one you had no idea existed. It was raised with no money or responsibility on your part, and shows up magically at your doorstep, either finding you on its own or with the help of its mother, usually when it’s grown or very nearly so.

A son to have a beer with and carry on the family genes and name with no contribution of yours apart from sperm is so popular a notion that it carried some of the plot of the most recent Indiana Jones film, with Shia La Barf in the role of the grown son that Indy never knew about.

She mentioned that there were also popular female fantasies, such as the one with the Princess who’s rescued by a Prince who showers her with gifts and affection. This is dramatized most recently in the movies Maid in Manhattan and Pretty Woman. There’s also the ever popular frog who turns into a prince, modernized as the man who is in need of reforming, a la As Good As It Gets, where a single mother waitress takes on a bigoted OCD victim and makes him into a loveable curmudgeon.

She said I was trying to make men into villains by making my observation about popular male fantasies while making females into victims with theirs. Here’s my official take on all of this. We’re all victims here. The men lose out on their possibilities of being loving parents. The females settle for men who are less than they’re worth by taking on losers with the hope that they will reform. Jesse James, anyone?

Feminists often get cast in the role of “man hater,” simply because they won’t tow the line and, instead,  continue to work toward gender equality. What I didn’t expect is that someone who had professed to be my sister in feminism would taint me with the label of man hater simply because I continue to bring up obvious inequities and myths that perpetuate the sicknesses of our culture?

She actually dared to say that I should be glad that I don’t live in China or the Middle East and ease up because of that. You shouldn’t speak out about sexism; look at our sisters in developing countries. They have it so much worse in comparison. It is BECAUSE those sisters have it so much worse that we have a duty to carry on toward greater equality on our own homefront.

The feminist backlash has run virtually unabated since the early 1980s when the Reagan administration virtually ignored the needs of women and pushed all women back into the role of barefoot and pregnant. Whether through a systematic media campaign or legislation and court rulings, feminism was virtually eradicated. The 1950s returned in the 1980s. We were even betrayed by our own sex, with the efforts of Phyllis Schlafly and Beverly LaHaye, amongst other women. These were women who made a career out of encouraging women to return to the Dark Ages and failed to see the hypocrisy in their own actions.

And here I am, betrayed by someone that I thought was a sister in the battle for gender equality. Just yesterday I mentioned that divorce rates for stay-at-home dads are much higher than that of the general population, with about half of the divorces initiated by the wife and half by the husband. I said that was a travesty, and that if these men were contributing to child rearing and the maintenance of the household that they should be given the same respect that we would give to a female homemaker. Men shouldn’t feel like they are less than men because they aren’t the primary breadwinner in a household. And that somehow makes me a man hater!

I should mention what this same woman said about my recent article on slavery in the U.S. military that wasn’t covered in the mainstream media: I hate the military. That’s right. I hate the U.S. military. That’s why I want our boys brought home so they won’t continue to die so some soccer mom can fill the gas tank on her S.U.V. It’s because I hate the military. Really, I do.

She never thought that maybe, just maybe, the post was written because I HATE SLAVERY. I love our men in the military. I want them brought home safe and sound.

So, to all the people who call me a man hater or a feminazi, or whatever Rush Limbaugh is using as a misnomer for feminism nowadays, I say: Fuck you! I will continue to fight for what’s right. And what’s right is equal rights for both men and women. Men should get custody of children if they are fit parents. Females should pay child support. Men shouldn’t be ashamed of being stay-at-home dads. Parental leave for all. Both men and women should have equal rights to an education and a rewarding career. And we should stop having such rigid societal views of just what it means to be a man…or a woman, either. But frankly, men have much less freedom with that definition. It these views are what makes me a man hater, then so be it!

July 13, 2011 at 2:59 am 4 comments

The 99%

Classic General Electric neon sign, in Willaco...

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An article in Vanity Fair from the May edition (the one with Rob Lowe on the cover) talks about income disparity in America. I’m sure it’s nothing that people in America don’t already intrinsically sense, but just in case you missed it: 1% of the people in America make 25% of the income, and the same 1% own 40% of its assets.

Instead of being the land of opportunity it dreamily advertises, America is on par with Russia and Iran in terms of the disparity between its haves and its have nots. This only addresses the top 1%: the wealthiest of the wealthy. Income and wealth distribution in America is much more unfair when you factor in divisions amongst the remaining 99%.

Once upon a time in America, this was a land of opportunity. Our founding fathers and subsequent leaders wanted to ensure an equality of opportunity (or at least as much of one as possible) and fought to keep America from becoming like a feudal European state. Part of the point of having a graduated income tax and estate and capital gains taxes and anti-trust laws was to keep the wealthy from, in effect, owning the country and then having those wealthy pass it on to their children. And so on and so on and so on, in perpetuity.

Now the rich get around these laws with special tax breaks for big corporations and the wealthy. I’m not anti-business. I’m not even anti-big business. The problem is when I hear that multi-billion dollar behemoths like General Electric paid no federal taxes last year. That’s something I take issue with.

The problem is when I see executives that make millions of dollars a year go unscathed after they make unethical decisions that cost “regular” people their jobs and their homes. That they haven’t been prosecuted is something I intend to remember in the next Presidential election.

The 1% elect other members of the 1% to represent the 1% and the interests of big business (not surprisingly, how much of the 1% makes its money). The 1% funds the campaigns of the 1% it elects. They fund the lobbyists who barrage the lawmakers with their requests on behalf of the 1%.

But there will be a day of reckoning. Make no mistake about it. I hope that day of reckoning will just be a day at the polls. One day the 99% will wake up and see what’s going on, and I only hope that the 1% make adjustments towards greater equality before that happens. I hate to think about what else could happen. Read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Ask Anistasia. Ask Marie Antoinette.

Now, since I sometimes criticize certain conservative politicians for bitching about problems without solving them, I would like to propose some prospective solutions. For one thing, we have laws in place to protect consumers in this country. It’s time we started enforcing them. Let Elizabeth Warren head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and give her the power and influence necessary to carry out her job instead of being a mere figurehead.

Take away all the special tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy. Who are the wealthy, you might ask? Well, that probably depends on the size of a person’s family and the number of his dependents. However, I think most people in America would consider themselves very fortunate to make a six-figure income. Certainly, if you are making $250,000 a year, then I don’t care if you’re the Duggards or the Browns of The Sister Wives, you couldn’t possibly have enough children to be hurting on a quarter of a million dollars a year. No “special” tax credits for you.

With 401(k) plans, the government makes employers conduct something called nondiscrimination testing on an annual basis. If the rank and file workers in a company are making a disproportionate percentage of income compared with a company’s officers and upper management, then the upper management doesn’t get to sock away as much money on a tax free basis. These people received distributions from their 401(k) plans, and they are taxed on them at the normal rate…or they have to find other tax loopholes created for the wealthy. I have no doubt that there are some.

How about doing nondiscrimination testing on salaries as well. Establish a percentage that seems reasonable, and then for every dollar they make above what’s considered a fair amount, tax the hell out of it at a higher percentage rate. It’s unconscionable that executives, officers, and managers at a corporation should make well over 10, 20, or 30 times the salaries of the typical worker.

It’s immoral when these executives take all of the credit for a company’s success and none of the risk or the blame when it fails. A company’s success or failure depends on all of its workforce. I’m not advocating equal pay for everyone regardless of risk, stress, education, experience, and competence level. What I am saying is that it’s wrong for a few men to make billions of dollars while the men who work hard to keep his company afloat have to apply for food stamps and Medicaid when the company flourishes and get pink slips when it doesn’t.

I don’t expect that this post will get much traffic or inspire much thought or change. I expect things to remain in the status quo, right where they have been for the most part since Ronald Reagan was elected. I had hoped that Obama might accomplish change, but apart from his health care plan, I see little that has changed. And the health care plan hasn’t taken effect yet. If the Republicans and Tea Party revelers have their way, it never will.

http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105

July 1, 2011 at 1:44 am 1 comment

Slavery: Not Just in Egypt Anymore

President Barack Obama views the Emancipation ...

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Remember the old bible stories about Joseph and his coat of many colors? Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. Then he rose to become the right hand man of the Pharaoh himself. Several generations later, his ancestors and the descendants of his brothers were slaves. Moses led them out of the land of Egypt, parting the red sea with his staff.

Then, remember how several years later a bunch of immoral white men in Europe and the United States kidnapped, mutilated, tortured and killed many Africans on big seafaring vessels? Remember how the ones who survived were later sold off to plantation owners in the South who then treated them abysmally? Maybe you don’t. Do yourself a favor and read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Roots. Remember how Abraham Lincoln set those slaves free with a little document we like to call the Emancipation Proclamation?

Slavery is alive and well in America and throughout the world. Only now slavery is not defined by your religion or the color of your skin. It’s dependent upon your gender and your social status. Women, girls, and the poor are slaves, not just in the rest of the world but here in this country. Undocumented workers are smuggled into this country at the mercy of unscrupulous traders.  Then they are either sold into slavery outright or dropped across the border with a debt owed to their smugglers that they will never repay in their lifetimes: the new indentured servitude.

It’s happening to our young girls, as young as 13, courted sweetly by men whose future plans are to sell them in prostitution. The same sweet guy who treated these young women like princesses later rapes, beats, and drugs them. And rap music sanctifies and glorifies such behavior for whole new generations of young men, with its tales of pimps working hard to manage their bitches and hos. Yeah, it’s hard out there for a pimp. So hard, in fact, that we gave the men their own Academy Award winning anthem.

Our own military, in its efforts to reduce military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, have contracted the work of its non-essential personnel to civilians. These civilians are recruited by firms who contract with companies that contract directly with the Pentagon. Who knows just how many channels the money is laundered through until it gets to the hands of the slave traders? But if you’re an American, your tax dollars are paying to buy slaves.

Poor men and women are promised big money in exotic locations only to find out that they will be forced to Iraq and Afghanistan against their will, kept in sub-human conditions, abused and sometimes sexually battered. They will dodge bombs, shells, missiles and bullets on a daily basis. They will be hungry. They will not be allowed to leave. Almost all of them will not receive the pay they are promised. Some will not be paid at all.

Yes, slavery is alive and well and living in America. The new slave is poor and foreign or female and young. And America is buying.

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2011/05/sex-trafficking-201105?printable=true

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/06/06/110606fa_fact_stillman

June 29, 2011 at 11:44 pm 3 comments

Some Things Never Change

A young girl kisses a baby on the cheek.

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A recent Gallup poll surveyed Americans about their preference in the sex of their children. Just as in 1941, Americans prefer boys.  Perhaps the only change since 1941 is that it’s the men who are causing our preferences. Women basically have no statistically significant preference either way. They are split pretty evenly with about a third preferring a girl, a third preferring a boy, and another third having no preference whatsoever.

Men want boys. Just why is that? Is it because they hate girls? I like to think not, but you have to wonder with nearly 50% of American men having a clear preference for boys. Maybe they just wish the best life for their children and prefer to have boys so that their children will have more opportunities and have a better chance for a happier life. That argument makes sense. Men still make more money, hold more positions of power, and do far less work around the house. It’s pretty cool to be a man, or a husband, at least.

Maybe they just think boys are easier to raise. You don’t have to worry as much about them being molested or raped or getting pregnant. No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” perfectly illustrates the difference between growing up a daughter versus growing up a son in America. Boys cause trouble; they don’t get into it. Or at least, that’s the prevailing myth.

I was on a manosphere website once where one of the participants commented that women were using abortion in order to practice sex selection as a form of gender genocide. I kid you not. However, this article sounds like, if anything, the opposite is happening. Couples are using technology to ensure the selection of boys. If this is a significant trend, it will have disastrous consequences in years to come.

There is another possibility besides plain old misogyny or wanting a better life for your child…there is the possibility that American men prefer boys because they will carry on the family name. Maybe their reason for wanting to procreate is to perpetuate the family name, carry on the family line.

This brings me to another example of sexism in our culture. Women get married and take on their husband’s names. They willingly do so. But why is it that no one ever asks why the family name has to be the husband’s name? I wonder how many men would still prefer boys if their sons didn’t carry their names but their daughters did.

Follow me here. What if two people get married and instead of the wife taking the husband’s name and the kids taking the husband’s name we did something different? What if a man named Smith marries a woman named Johnson. They become the Smith-Johnson family. Any female children get the last name Smith. Any male children get the last name Johnson. Maybe they go by Smith-Johnson until they strike out on their own or until they get married when the boys drop the Smith, and the girls drop the Johnson to include a spouse’s name.

It’s much more equitable. I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime, anymore than I would expect to see the Equal Rights Amendment passed. The fact is that women have shot themselves in the foot. Right now we’re a little over half the population of America. If we wanted to mobilize and get to the polls and vote we could have passed that law a long time ago, or any other law you care to name. We could have formed our very own political party. But we traded all that for the dangling carrot of a princess wedding and a diamond ring.

http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/23/gallup-americans-prefer-boys-to-girls-just-as-they-did-in-1941/

June 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm 8 comments

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Supreme Court of the United States. Washin...

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Two stories have made the news lately that involve women’s rights. The one step forward is Saudi Arabian women driving despite that country’s ban on women drivers. Despite the fact that there is not one civil, written law prohibiting women from driving, Saudi women who drive are jailed because of the ruling of conservative Muslim clerics. Some 40 women with international driver’s licenses took to the streets. Some were accompanied by their husbands and families. Some men even drove around in women’s headdress as “decoys.” The women took video and posted it on YouTube.

It’s somewhat disheartening that in a country that is so clearly guilty of misogyny on every conceivable level, the right to drive is where they are focusing their energies. However, every civil rights movement has to start somewhere. Rosa Parks began her people’s fight over the same issue: transportation.

The two steps back is the Supreme Court’s ruling on a class action suit against Walmart for sexual discrimination in its hiring practices. I’m not a big fan of class action lawsuits or of litigation in general. Our society is ruining itself and doing nothing but lining the pockets of lawyers in most of these cases. By the time the lawyers get their share the plaintiffs usually get a pittance. About the only good thing about them is that the perpetrators usually have to pay heavy, heavy fines. So, they think twice about doing that again.

In the Walmart case the plaintiffs point out specific instances of sexual discrimination and cite statistics. Only 33% of Walmart managers are women, while 70% of its employees are women. The court ruled that because Walmart has a policy against sexual discrimination and because hiring decisions are made on the local level, that, therefore, Walmart as a corporation isn’t guilty of sexism.

Wow! That’s interesting. So, apparently, Walmart has no responsibility for looking at these skewed numbers and wondering just why, exactly, that far more men than women are “qualified” to be managers. No one in their human resources department ever once questioned these statistics? Are we really saying as a country that we believe that men are innately more “qualified” to management 67% of the time? That’s not sexist. Of course not.

Not surprisingly, all 3 female justices were in the minority on the ruling. They get it. These blatant prejudices don’t suddenly cease to happen because we have a policy to address them. Sexism is pervasive across our society, and I’m sure that many men and many women, as well, are only subconsciously guilty. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held accountable just the same. The only way that change is going to happen is if people in powerful positions factor in for their own cultural biases.

Just because a company or a country has a law against discrimination doesn’t mean that discrimination doesn’t still happen. Just because a corporation leaves its hiring practices to individual managers doesn’t mean that they aren’t responsible for making sure those hiring decisions adhere to the official company line. In this case, Walmart failed in its responsibility to ensure that its hiring practices are fair.

June 24, 2011 at 1:14 am 2 comments

Castle Waiting

In a more appropriate context, Rulah Jungle Go...

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Princess Celestia is a big fan of comic books and video games, especially role-playing video games. Literature is something that, like most people of her generation, as well as, hell, most of mine, doesn’t inspire her. She thinks of Shakespeare as archaic, and I dare say she resented having to read him in school. I do not like comic books or video games, so at times I have to pinch myself to stay in the conversation.

I have about as much interest in video games as I do in the fact that the New Kids on the Block is joining Back Street Boys for a concert tour. That is to say that it does not interest me. I only know about the concert because they ran ad space on a website that I visited. I feel like my mind was raped.

Comic books and “graphic novels” I see as the further dumbing down of America, anaesthetizing eye candy for the kiddos, something to enforce the good ol’ American values of sexism that we hold so dear. A whole book of men who put on tights and capes and become action heroes while women who look like the mirror image on a trucker’s mud flap display cleavage and gratitude, accordingly! Sounds like just my thing.

The comic books I remember from when I was young were lame. My brother had a bunch of them about Richie Rich. I hate fuckin’ Richie Rich.

In the interest of friendship, Princess Celestia had made a request that I explore alternative forms of entertainment, and, I guess, stop behaving like a little old lady. I draw the line at video games. Well, that’s not really true. I’ve played the Mr. Brewsters’ Wii. I’m just not any good at video games. My hand-eye coordination sucks, and I only win with games that require you to know voluminous amounts of useless information…and Scrabble. I’m not playing video games, especially not role playing games.

So, I said I’d read a comic book and be open minded about it. The book I was given was called Castle Waiting. For a comic book, it’s rather clever. It’s packaged just like a “real” book, hardcover with a ribbon for a bookmark. It’s bound really nicely. The art is appealing, and the story is sort of a send-up of fairy tales. There’s some clever word play and inside jokes. There’s even a nice, long subplot about an “order” of nuns entirely composed of bearded ladies. It has a not so subtle feminist angle.

I still do not like comic books, really. I think much gets lost in the art form, as compared to that of traditional literature. However, comic books have been around since my father was a kid. Maybe before that. There’s no reason why it has to be a case of either or. The two can co-exist. It’s both and. Maybe there’s another comic book out there just waiting to prove me wrong. Maybe there’s a video game…nah!

June 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm 4 comments

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