Monthly Archives: February 2009

USA-style prisons coming to Britain

barcodeI like to share Britishism with my folks and we did get a chuckle out of the notion of U.K. inmates being euphemistically called , “guests of the Queen.”

Alas, when one considers rising incarceration rates of people of color in the U.K., and Britons in general, it’s not so funny.

  • There are 158 prisons in the U.K. and ten immigration detention centers.
  • Despite being only eight percent of the population, in 2006, people of color make up 26% of the prisoners in England and Wales.
  • While there are a mere 8,000 men of Afro-Caribbean descent in higher education, there are 11,800 in prisons.
  • Though they are assumed to be the liberal party (read: interested in racial justice, though I’ve seen little evidence of that after living here for five years), the Labour Party has enacted 3,600 new criminal offense laws since coming into power in 1997—that’s ONE PER DAY.

In essence, we are seeing the criminalization of Britons and a fast drive toward the U.K.’s own prison industrial complex. And while I am weary of folks in the U.K. attempting to blame every ill on American influence, you got me on this one. My America’s bad. The companies bringing a bit of repressive America to the U.K. are some of the same ones that have colonized communities in the U.S., including Corrections Corporation of America. (I believe CCA is changing their name to do business in the U.K., but it’s still the same exploitative fruitstand selling bad apples.) Continue reading

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Filed under African Americans, feminism, race, Social Justice, Uncategorized, women

Funny feeling…Bristol Palin on Fox

p10bristol19 After reading a Salon write up on the Bristol Palin interview with Greta “WTF has she done to her face?!” Van Susteren, I’m rendered speechless. I think I’m feeling…compassion for Bristol. Could be guilt for dressing up like her for Halloween…and winning the prize for Scariest Costume.

Must. Lie. Down. I’ll look up the actual interview and decide if I can bear to watch it first-hand when I recover…if I recover.

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Parsing Polyamory: anti-Capitalist Feminist Conference, pt. 2

Last week’s anti-Capitalist Feminist Conference took the form of working sessions in the morning and afternoon. Session one included discussions of Reproductive Freedoms, Challenging Domestic Violence, Learning from Feminist History, and Penetrating sex: a queer discussion. I went to the latter discussion because a lot of my past writing’s been on black women’s sexuality and I wanted to see if I could add some dimensionality to my thinking beyond representation, as well as hear others’ views on the meaning of queer.

polyamory1

I’ve been torturing my students with group work for who knows how long, so karma came round and bit me in the ass: in this, and the afternoon session I attended, there was a lot of breaking up into pairs and groups for discussion. Misanthropy aside, it was good to speak to a range of people about their definitions of monogamy, non-monogamy, polyamory, sex, and intimacy. Each group I was in seemed to arrive at a cul-de-sac of imprecise definitions and more questions, which is a good thing when it comes to deconstructing heteronormativity.

I’d say I got two things out of this workshop. Most of the women, in their twenties I’d guess, are trying to live out their sexual and intimate lives differently than the standard heterosexual script. This could be in whom or how many one chooses to be intimate with. Yet, despite this divergence from the usual path, we seem to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to explain it to parents and other people. How to make a queerly lived sexual life translatable seemed to be a big concern. I don’t think it’s condescending to say that this may be a “time of life” issue, when one makes a number of decisions about how to live and how to be accountable for those decisions. Not that women in their thirties and older don’t grapple with similar issues, but this workshop was a good reminder to me that no matter at what age one comes to feminism, you have to figure out how your life meshes with the ideology and that it’s a process that is continuous. Which, in a way, leads to the second insight…

This session was, though it was never called as such, a good old fashioned consciousness-raising session. I kind of pre-empted the workshop leaders’ segue into the question of how our personal decisions are politicized, but don’t feel like we quite got to the concrete ways in which we define our sexuality and what that means politically. When I say politically, I suppose I ended up meaning “legally.” Since the passing of Prop 8 in California—actually, even before then—I continue to question marital privilege and the rights accorded to people because they choose to live as a legally-defined married couple. I actually don’t believe anyone should get special rights just because they choose to co-habitate. So there are two of you in the home? Yea, you! Split the bills and be done with it. Goods and utilities don’t cost less for single people. There seemed like no better place than an anti-capitalist conference to point out the discriminatory nature of legal benefits for coupledom, which are clearly geared toward re/productive families with the assumption that singles (increasingly the norm) don’t contribute to society. The larger point being we don’t contribute off-spring to The Machine.

So, even if we are engaged in non-monogamy or polyamory, it was telling that the words “primary partner” were a reoccurrence that, in many ways, capitaluates to capitalism’s desire for functioning families no matter the gender of those constituting the family. One member of my group discussing polyamory made the observation that the State will often attempt to co-opt difference, so differently defined families will be offered “family” discounts or benefits, depending on geographic/nation-state location.

This has me thinking about the ways in which we’re bought off to ignore our own oppression and perhaps one thing progressive needs to do is some empirical work around the costs of being bought? If my individual queer family is incorporated into, say, a health benefits structure, what do working class and poor people lose out on by my acceptance of this piecemeal bribe that falls short of universal health care?

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Filed under anti-consumerism, economy, feminism, marriage, sexuality

Anti-Capitalist Feminist Conference, report back

Valentine’s Day was the perfect day for an anti-capitalist feminist conference held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). The theme was Gender, Race and Class and there were workshop sessions that addressed these themes with varying degrees of success and abject failure.

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Filed under anti-consumerism, economy, feminism, financial crisis, race, sexism, Social Justice, work

Giddy with Excitement: Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse

dollhouse1I’ve been having some “whither feminism?” blues lately. An anti-Capitalist, feminist conference left me heartened to see young women embracing a resurgence in feminist politics across a range of issues , but witnessing and hearing the same ol’ white privilege claptrap was tiresome (post forthcoming).

So, perhaps I’m drinkin’ the Kool-Aid, but am psyched to see the first episode of Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse.

The basic set up: irrationally attractive, young women and men are “Actives” who take on the persona and characteristics required by the clients who hire them. Very much like the geishas alluded to in the first episode, they become what their clients need them to be, but as one character commented, their success is dependent on their flaws. I suspect we’re in for losts of crossed wires and all the malfunctioning that comes along with that pesky thing called human consciousness.  All of the Actives reside in the Dollhouse (think residence hall for Angel’s Wolfram & Hart) and, in addition to a standard British ice-woman, are overseen by Handlers/Watchers. The show features a number of TV faves: Eliza Dushku (Buffy), Harry Lennix (in a lotta stuff all the time), Amy Acker (Angel), Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica).

Will Whedon’s new creation bring back some degree of feminism to primetime television? I miss Buffy something fierce and have faith that Joss’ women’s studies background will turn, seemingly, Stepford Wives Revisited into some kickass feminist commentary on human subjectivity, trafficking, consciousness, and destiny to name a few topics that jump out on first viewing. The Dollhouse promo…

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Filed under TV, Uncategorized, women, work

Charge for the Internet, Please!

I would like to add my voice to the current chorus suggesting that news organizations like the New York Times, currently in danger of bankruptcy, begin to charge for accessing their online content.

Don’t get me wrong: I love getting the Times for free, and I think their website is amazing, an invaluable source of information for recent history. Check out this page on the history of same-sex marriage, for example. You can type any number of topics into the Times search engine and come out with a summary and links to 20 years worth of articles, and current web resources, which have been researched and vetted by Times staffers.

In a perfect world, all information would be free. Unfortunately, we live in this world, where free access means killing off the institutions we need to remain an informed citizenry, and I can’t afford a vacation in Hawaii. It stinks, but that’s how it is. We need to understand when we have to suck it up and accept our choices as they are today. If I recall correctly, refusing to understand such choices is what saddled us with George W. Bush as president (and yes, I am still bitterly angry an almost-decade later at everyone who voted for Nader. You know who you are, asshats.).

True, the Times, and other newspapers have dropped the ball on major stories. Some of their columnists are Iraq-war supporting right-wing nut jobs. But papers like the Times, and the Washington Post and the LA Times, remain the best sources of information. Despite shortfalls, they’ve done some stellar work.

We can’t live without the mainstream media in the United States, despite its flaws.  So join me in encouraging the Times to start charging us. The vast majority of people who read these papers can afford to pay a minimal amount for an online subscription.

I don’t want their Baghdad bureau to close, and neither do you.

htg03

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Obama’s Rookie Mistake

Note to President Obama: everyone will not like you, and the pursuit of popularity above all else– call it bi-partisanship if you want, but you’re not fooling this feminist– is a losing game. And when the nation’s very future rests in your administration’s hands, this particular fool’s errand is not funny.

You’d think someone who’s been a professor would understand the peculiar machinations of power dynamics. People like you when you give them what they want. But if you give them too much of what they want too quickly, and too freely, they have little respect for you, and managing them becomes unpleasant. Obama should have learned this lesson about likebility long ago; it’s management 101.

Rachel Maddow makes a similar point using an apt comparison between Obama’s behavior and that of women bemused by power dynamics in relationships, explaining that the Republicans Obama seeks to court are “just not that into him”:

In the name of his own likability, Obama is wasting billions of dollars, creating tax cuts with monies that could instead be used to fund infrastructure projects, in the name of courting Republican votes. We live in a crumbling superpower, a testament to the short-sighted stupidity of our previous Republican leaders. Yet Obama is willing to lend them a ready ear in fixing the very problem their ideology created in an absurd bid for a supermajority approval of his stimulus package.

And the Republicans are laughing at him. If zero Republican votes in the House for the stimulus package doesn’t teach Obama that the basic rules of power dynamics cannot be ignored, particularly in a context nakedly ruled by power grabs, then what will?

Who is going to pay the price for Obama’s newbie fumbles? Already, family planning for poor people has been tossed aside in the name of bi-partisanship. And imagine what these wasteful tax cuts might have done for people in need, and states like mine, ground zero for the housing crisis, paying bills with IOUs as the need for social services increases dramatically.

htg03

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Filed under economy, financial crisis, Social Justice, work