Sotomayor ‘unflappable’? Quelle suprise.

I’ve been feeling for a while that I was going to have to blog about the whole Sotomayor debacle, but I was really hoping I could avoid it. It’s kind of like feeling like you might have to throw up; you know you’ll feel better afterward, but you still would prefer not to. Even thinking about the “She’s not a white man and therefore she can’t be ‘impartial'” line of Republican argument as applied to Sotomayor makes me so furious that I can’t stand to contemplate it for more than about 12 seconds. News flash: white men are still the unchallenged universal, and since they stand for the whole world, there is of course nothing they can do that isn’t “impartial”! Even their most bigoted and wing-nut actions and theories get to stand in as logical assessments for the good of the universe, while Sotomayor’s judgments are the “passionate” acts of a fiery Latina who can only see from her “narrow” perspective (which consists of the desire to punish white men). Coming from money and going to Harvard like your grand-dad apparently gives you unparalleled and uninflected access to all views of all issues–because the view from the projects doesn’t count anyway.

Even the most seemingly positive accounts of Sotomayor’s conduct seem unable to escape falling into this sort of (non)thinking. The New York Times today marveled that Sotomayor left behind her “passion” and remained “unflappable” in the face of small-minded badgering by Republican senators. That she was able to do so seems to be put down to appropriate “coaching”, as if it never would have occurred to her to act this way on her own. Does the NYT seriously think that this is the first time Sotomayor’s had to face this kind of reaction to her accomplishments and ambitions? I would guess that the journey of a Latina from the Bronx to Supreme Court confirmation hearings has been littered with these sorts of slurs–and that she wouldn’t have made it as far as she has had she not found a way not to react “passionately” to everyone who treated her like an undeserving interloper. The audience this time is bigger, but I would bet money that the comments aren’t the worst she’s heard.

If Sotomayor is confirmed, her place on the Court will be celebrated as a sign of the continuing progress of American race, class and gender relations–as if this whole sick drama surrounding her ability to think rather than feel, reason rather than react, didn’t happen. But the real story of American race, class and gender relations is in the drama, the seemingly unavoidable need everyone from the senators to the press has to air their unconscious (or conscious) and abhorrent fantasies about people who deviate from the white-male universal standard and still expect to play a leading role in the government of this country. If anyone ever thought that Obama’s election said anything promising about the decline of that standard–I’m pretty sure I did, for about twenty minutes on election night–this spectacle provides an inescapable corrective.

jke

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HBO’s cliched attempt at making pimping cool

Equal opportunity pimpin'?

Equal opportunity pimpin'?

With women being lured to foreign countries for a life of prostitution, children abducted for both sex & labor, and men trafficked for profit, are we really supposed to be buy into HBO’s new show about a white guy who becomes a gigolo?

This latest attempt to use the unlikely-candidate-for-life-of-crime narrative, to me, signals this particular genre jumping the shark. From Breaking Bad to Weeds to Nurse Jackie (Edie Falco is always worth watching, I must admit), this idea that there are some people we don’t expect to commit crimes, but it’s cool when they do, is seriously played out. Double X reviews: I concur.

But to then ask viewers, or web cruisers, to participate in pimping the main character of the HBO show HUNG merely continues the sad recuperation of pimping (i.e. the exploitation of another person for financial gain) evident in pop culture artefacts, such as Pimp My Ride or the hipster valorization of Iceberg Slim novels.

And don’t try to give me that, “Pimping doesn’t mean pimping. Pimping is a way of life.” I barely buy Katt Williams’ definition of pimping and I like him, so don’t even try it. But enjoy a little edumacation from Katt anyway…

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Note to Liberal Media: STFU about Sarah Palin Already

Joan Walsh has yet another article on Salon today about the many lies Sarah Palin has been telling lately, and Rachel Maddow spent a good part of her broadcast on Tuesday deconstructing the bizarre illogic Palin has used to defend her actions this time around. It’s nice to see someone else express the teeth-grinding frustration I feel when listening to Palin say things that are patently untrue to the applause of her countless fans.

But at this point, I wonder if we’re playing a losing game when we subject Palin’s nonsense to the sort of rigorous analysis one might use on genuine political discourse. I’m not suggesting that if we ignore her, she’ll go away. But I am starting to think that picking apart her language as if anyone expected it to actually make sense raises her statements to the level of thoughtful contributions to an informed discussion, when that’s neither what they are nor what they are intended to be–nor why they have the power to move her constituency. It’s not they’re stooping to her level, more that they’re raising her to the level liberals tend to associate with democratic discourse. The more the policy wonks dissect the minutiae of her statements, the more weight is given to the idea that she is making a reasoned or thoughtful contribution to political debate.

Perhaps more crucially, not one of these critiques will make a bit of difference to her many supporters, since any attack on her untruthfulness or illogic will simply be put down as ‘elitism’ anyway. Of course, this view of her as an ignoramus is part of how she presents herself as a victim: ‘Poor me, the liberal media will never give me any credit.’ But the fact is, she doesn’t need the media to give her credit, just airtime, and that’s exactly what even the most disparaging accounts of her behavior continue to do.

If liberals must discuss and deconstruct Palin–and given that she apparently garners viewers/readers at the moment, the media is probably not going to stop following her every move–they would do better to show up as propaganda the things that Palin actually depends on for her support, which seem to have nothing to do with logic and everything to do with identification. What I have heard from Palin supporters is mostly celebrations of her likeness to them, particularly those class, region and religion markers that made her so ‘different’ and ‘surprising’ as a candidate to the mainstream: her folksy accent, her motherhood of a giant brood, her supposed Christian sense of service, her state-college degree, her waders. (And to be fair, progressive supporters of Obama did the same thing, announcing that he was ‘one of us’ even as his centrist tendencies and compulsive need to compromise were always evident to anyone looking closely.)

Part of the reason this persona is so powerful is that it isn’t one we see on the national stage very often–despite W’s attempts to seem like just one of the born-again folks rather than a silver-spooned Yalie whose daddy got him a job. And metropolitan and class elitism does play a foundational and highly problematic role in our government. So if it’s Palin’s persona rather than her plans or promises that is the major draw, the best attack is not on the persona–which would simply underscore the very elitist assumptions she relies on for her victim status–but the fact that she sullies and travesties that persona, using regional, rural, working-class associations cynically for her own advancement, in a way that does a disservice to everyone who identifies with her.

jke

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Filed under mainstream media, Sarah Palin

Being cute at trans-expense

Siriano: rebuked and repentant for tranny mess

Siriano: rebuked and repentant for "tranny mess"

We all make excuses for our behavior, particularly if we know we’re being just plain wrong. Whether under the guise of being ironic or sassy, I’ll cop to some jokes that I’d rather not be known as part of my public repertoire (except for anything to do with Sarah Palin because I really do hate that skank). I call it “political backsliding.”

In the church tradition I grew up in and have since renounced, backsliders were those who’d been baptized in the blood of the lamb, but were not being vigilant about how they trod the path to heaven. I think backsliders can always return prodigal-like to the fold. I’ve appropriated the concept and applied it to the discriminatory things I think (often) and say outloud (sometimes and in select company). Initially, I chalked it up to feeling confined by feminism: women, not girls! People of color, not minorities! Oriental is a style of home furnishings, not people! I felt like I was in a straightjacket of propriety, but unwilling to blame political correctness (which I think it an utterly bullshit way people try to continue with foul behavior).

However, it wasn’t feminism that was confining me, but that I was confining feminism and any other political struggle that tried to transform our social and political landscapes. Sure, there are some annoying doctrinaire edicts around language, but I voluntarily signed on to feminist ideology. What I was rebelling against was my own interpretation of feminism and what it should mean for my life.

So, I’m coming back to the fold language-wise and trying to get myself in check.  Sorry to be all “everything I need to know I learned in kindergardten,” but rather than constricting my free speech, I’m actually valuing the fact that my words have power to hurt other people even if “I really don’t mean it” or think I’m being hipster-cool and in-the-know.

This article from Feministe on trans-phobia and non-transpeople using the word “tranny” made me re-think some things. Lengthy for a blog post, but a good reality check. Can I get an amen?

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Hen Fights at the XX Corral

I tried to like Slate’s new Double X site. For one thing, they got some genuine feminists to write for their inaugural postings, including Latoya Peterson and Linda Hirschmann, and they seemed poised to acknowledge a difference between the sorts of issues that fill up the pages of Ladies’ Home Journal and actual feminist content, a distinction frequently overlooked by those responsible for Salon’s Broadsheet. But alas, this was not to be, and actually the signs were there from the first. The same inaugural post roundup, which asked a group of women writers what is the new ‘problem that has no name’ for feminism, also included the noxious avowed anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and the increasingly inexplicable Terry Castle. (Who is listening to her? Why are they doing so??) Under the guise of earnest debate (What do you really think of late term abortions?), the site strives to stir up cheap controversy, trying to up its hit rates through the spectacle of supposed feminists excoriating each other.

Yes, debate over feminist issues is necessary, particularly among those committed to the cause. But the point of such debate is to locate and/or generate points of consensus around which to organize and plan actions that will meet shared goals. As five minutes spent at Double X makes clear, the site has absolutely no investment in creating that sort of consensus–quite the opposite. If women didn’t get furious with each other and post vengeful screeds in the comments section, there would be no drama, and hence no clicking. A bunch of women agreeing with each other and getting down to business doesn’t sell ad space. Don’t get me wrong–I think the commentators on the site whining ‘Why can’t we all get along?’ are living in a dream world. A feminism worth anything is going to piss people off, even other feminists. But when we get to the point where debates about the status of race politics in feminism are being used to make money for the media giant that owns Newsweek, we’ve definitely made a wrong turn somewhere.

jke, with props to htg for insights about capitalism and the third wave (shared off line).

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An Odd Week for Gay Rights

To be sure it was an odd week for me: I got a sunburn taking pictures in San Francisco the day the Prop 8 ruling dropped—I don’t know why awful things happen so often on atypically beautiful days.

A Woman Holds her Wedding Photo

A Woman Holds her Wedding Photo

I spent the night in Fresno Saturday, after the Meet in the Middle March, to spend money at the gay friendly businesses there, and because I was so so hot after hours at the rally. The body of my camera was melting it was so hot.

Thousands attended the Meet in the Middle Rally in Fresno

Thousands attended the Meet in the Middle Rally in Fresno

At the March I apparently stood quite close to Charlize Theron, who I think is really neat, in the crowd of thousands, but did not realize it until I saw photos of her in the newspaper the next day.

A very happy child at the Meet in the Middle rally

A very happy child at the Meet in the Middle rally

It’s been an odder week for marriage rights: the lawyers who fought Bush v Gore on opposite sides are taking the case for same sex marriage to federal court, much to the chagrin of lawyers who have been fighting the case on a state-by-state basis to avoid a gay marriage decision from the Supreme Court.  Though hopefuls note that an equally conservative court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Texas v. Lawrence in 2003, other observers point to Scalia and Kennedy with an “enough said” kind of resignation.

Also, Dick Cheney reiterated his support for gay marriage before continuing on his neverending Go-oh-Torture! tour.

An odd week all around.

htg

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Prop 8 ruling and Supreme Court Nominee on Same Day?

I was happy to hear that Obama has nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, but I find it difficult to believe that his announcement of his choice today, the day that the California Supreme Court issued their Prop 8 ruling, was a coincidence.  Californians remember Obama’s tepid lack of endorsement for Prop 8 with bitterness, as it was so thin his position was used to encourage yes on 8 voters, and continues to be trotted out by homophobes, such as Miss California, as justification for their hateful views.  I didn’t see Obama field any questions about Prop 8 today, and presidential media attention seemed focused distinctly on Sotomayor, and her great story of uplift, Obama and his own wonderful story polished once again in Sotomayor’s reflected glow.  (Ah, how wonderfully just and democratic America is, if you work hard, and marry the oppoiste sex!).  But then again, I did spend most of the day taking pictures of same-sex couples weeping over their marriage licenses and interfaith clregy being arrested for civil disobedience, so I may have missed the questions about why Obama is such a PAMF on gay rights.

A Pro-Gay Rights Minister Offers Married Couple Comfort

A Pro-Gay Rights Minister Offers Married Couple Comfort

Interfaith Clergy Arrested at Prop 8 Protest

Interfaith Clergy Arrested at Prop 8 Protest

So I”l say it myself: I know you know better than to think that this is right, Barack Obama, and today I am ashamed that you are my president.

htg03

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