70 posts categorized "terror"

October 30, 2014

Street Harassment Dudebro F.A.Q.

 

I'm sick right now, but the kerfuffle around this video has driven me back to blogging.

I'm so exercised over some of the comments I've been seeing that I've actually been commenting on YouTube, oG help me, so I've created an F.A.Q. to respond to the comments, apologia, and excuses most frequently made by dudebros on this topic. (Btw, a lot of these are drawn from comments I've already made elsewhere.)

 

But the so-called "harassment" in the video is mostly just guys being nice and saying "Hello" or complimenting her! Why are you feminazis so opposed to mere human interaction?

You think that because you've never been the recipient of said "niceness" or "compliments" so you don't know where they're headed.

Street harassers do not expect women to respond, much less to actually develop relationships (*extreme eye roll*) with them. What they expect, and want, is for women to feel vulnerable and powerless before them. Why else would a man follow a woman who is totally ignoring him for five minutes? Why else would a man stand on the street and call out to women who all totally ignore him, for hours? If he wants an interaction, he's failing and being humiliated, but if he wants her to feel scared and creeped out, and gets off on the power of that, then calling out to her and following her makes total sense. That's why he does it.

Most or all of us women and girls have started out our public adult lives by being greeted and "complimented" by such men and taking the interaction at face value. Most or all of us have responded with a pleased or confident "hello" or a "thank you" back as we've walked past. And what happens then? Please note again what I wrote directly above. The catcall is not intended to create friendliness or confidence in the woman, so a friendly or confident response does not get the guy what he wants.

So what happens then is that he immediately becomes aggressively sexual, asking the woman out, plastering her with increasingly sexual and intimate "compliments", making sexual suggestions, even sometimes crowding her or touching her. He does this until she is forced to start ignoring him or responding negatively -- either one will do, because both mean that she has started to feel vulnerable. Then he either lets her go, having made his point, or he caps it off by calling insults after her in a purely angry and aggressive tone of voice. Nothing makes a woman feel more vulnerable than a man angrily yelling "bitch! cunt!" at her in front of a bunch of other men who do nothing.

All women in cities have experienced this (unless they've never gone out alone). And all women who have had this experience a few times know that the only way to deal with it is to ignore it. Any response only escalates the situation. A guy who will stand on a street corner and yell at women who pass is a guy prepared to escalate until he gets what he wants. Women know subconsciously, in our guts, what is meant by a catcall, and we respond appropriately. You men, who have never had to deal with this type of situation, have absolutely no idea what catcalls are about, and have no right to try to tell us that we're wrong.

 

I agree that the dudes following her are creepy (what's that about?) but everything else is just people being friendly! (Add in "you fascist cunt" or dudebro insult of your choosing here.)

Again, it's not one thing or the other; it's not a nice interaction or a gross imposition. It's a continuum. Some guys will only say "nice" sounding things, if aggressively. Some guys will say really gross and aggressive things. Some guys will threaten, some guys will touch, some guys will follow, some guys will hit. You never know until the incident is over how bad it will get.

I've been grabbed, groped, butt-slapped, followed for blocks, had disgusting sexual practices suggested to me, had my body examined and described in great detail, been told I was beautiful, been told I was ugly, often by the same person in the same incident, been called a bitch, whore, cunt, sweetheart, baby, girl, had my biraciality praised, then insulted, and my racial makeup broken down and praised, then insulted piece by piece, been pursued around a subway car by someone taking upskirt photos, been rubbed up against in public transportation, been flashed, masturbated at, crotch-grabbed at, lurched at from out a darkened doorway (to no purpose except the entertainment of the lurcher), etc. etc. It all feels the same. The only difference is in how threatened you feel; but you feel threatened no matter what, because they are all threats.

The problem is not that we're too stupid to understand the difference between a real interaction and harassment. The problem is that there is just so. damn. much. harassment.

 

This video is so stupid! 10 hours and THAT'S all that happened? What a whiner!

I actually agree that the video, as it is edited, is not effective. The point of the video is not, and should not be, the type of harassment she's receiving, but rather the sheer volume of it. The video says that in 10 hours she had over 100 incidents of street harassment. Unfortunately, the video doesn't show it, and I think that's a huge missed opportunity.

Because there are really two points here: the first is what I detailed above: a "hello" or a "compliment" are not what you think they are. But the second point is the sheer volume of such encounters. Over 100 incidents in 10 hours? That's 10 incidents per hour, or more than one incident every ten minutes. Try to imagine that, dudebros. Try to imagine having to field "hellos" and "compliments" and demands for your attention from aggressive men every ten minutes of your life. (And it's not just on the street, but we won't get into workplace harassment here.) I know you guys have your own street interaction issues: check-ins and body checks and dominance play. But at the frequency of more than one every ten minutes, every time you leave the house, every day, for the rest of your life? I don't think so. Try to imagine it. Just try.

 

Aw, that's just New York. They're all assholes there. I'm from a small town and nobody behaves like this. We're all friendly to each other. 

I would imagine in a small town, where everyone knows each other and reputations really matter, there would be repercussions for harassment, but also for unfriendliness. Cities are different. There's no penalty for being unfriendly, and none for harassment, as evidenced by the reactions of men to the video, and even to this post. 

And also, men's and women's experiences are different. Most men simply don't know the type and amount of harassment that women experience every day -- because we don't tell them (because of the way that men typically react when we do tell them) and because it usually doesn't happen when we're *with* other men. It's not just "Hellos" or fake compliments.  The last time I counted, I rarely went a week without an incident, and often didn't go a day without at least one incident. I haven't set foot outside my door without headphones on and blaring since 1999. And my experiences are not unusual

I'm sick of men telling me what to think about the behavior of men they don't know and have never seen in action. You will never experience the street the way a woman does. You will never know what it's like to spend all day, every day, for your entire adult (and teenaged, and tweenaged) life braced for a verbal assault that inevitably comes. I don't know what it's like in small towns; I've never lived in one. But I know what it's like for a woman in a city. And I can tell you uncategorically: the quality of life for women in cities would be improved at least 1000% if no strange men EVER talked to us except if they had legitimate business. Once again, there are thousands of places and situations to meet people and socialize, and street harassers do not harass to socialize or meet people.

 

#notallmen

Believe me, we are all of us women aware of that. Not all men harass. Not even most men harass. Not even a majority of men harass. Not even a large minority of men harass. We know. We know better than you do, because we're the ones who see the harassment. We're the ones who walk past 100 men who don't even notice us, before encountering the daily asshole who harasses.

But #allwomen are harassed on the street, unless they don't walk alone, or don't live in a city. I challenge you to find a single living woman who has ever lived in a city and walked in the city alone and never been harassed. All. Women.

If you do not harass, good for you, I guess (or rather, good for us; you shouldn't be praised for behaving the way you're supposed to), but that doesn't change the fact that the relatively small minority of men who harass manage to do it to all women. And this conversation is not about how horrible you are. This conversation is about how to stop the harassment that you are not committing but other people are. So stop making this all about you.

If you would like it to be about you, maybe make it about how from now on you're going to be more aware of what is happening to women in front of you in public and how you're going to take action to stop it.

 

I have to (be the fifty thousandth person to) point out the elephant in the room here: all the guys harassing her are black. It must be part of their culture (or replace with racist insult of your choosing.) But the rest of us aren't like that (stated baldly or by implication.)

In case you were wondering, what you just said was racist. *Gasp!* How dare I?

It doesn't matter if your comment was "All n****rs!" as I saw several times on YouTube or "I noticed that all of the harassers are African American. I think it's part of the masculinity-building in their culture " (or, as some people called it, "hip hop culture.") Doesn't matter. Either way, what you're saying is that it's racially inherent for black men to be misogynist, and that is not true.

What is true is that:

  1. this is a huge can of worms and deserves its own post, which I might write later;
  2. there are a lot of folks who've written (probably way better than I could) about the topic so you should read them; 
  3. race doesn't just affect who harasses, but who is harassed and how severely; and
  4. the race argument is just a racist version of #notallmen.

 

But wait! Am I not allowed to talk to women AT ALL? How am I supposed to meet women?"

Yes, if walking up to a total stranger in the street is the only way you can meet women, then there is something seriously wrong with the way you're living your life. Street harassment is not about meeting people! It's about expressing power on total strangers, so that you can feel powerful at someone else's expense, without there being any repercussions for you.

If you are idiotic enough to believe that men harass women on the street to try to find girlfriends and you've been trying to emulate them, that might explain your lack of success with women. So, YES, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TALK TO WOMEN YOU DON'T KNOW ON THE STREET ANYMORE. If you can't meet women at school, work, church (if you swing that way), volunteering, through your friends, through your interests and hobbies, at shows, on the internet (like everyone else), or even, as a last resort, in bars, then you are a huge loser, and women trying not to be harrassed in the street has nothing to do with your problem. Jeezus.

February 15, 2013

CFS Info Gathering

I've been trying to read what I can about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome online but when I google the words, I get a lot of Mayo Clinic and WebMD stuff. Unfortunately, those medical sites only post what can be substantiated by studies, so the nuance is missing. Also, they only use scientific language, so you might not be able to recognize your symptoms.

It wasn't until I googled one symptom "post-exertional malaise" for my last post that I found a series of articles on About.com by a woman with CFS and Fybromyalgia (they often go together, although I only have the one), which is well-written, easy to understand, and describes what I have in a way I recognize. Finally!

Here's the finale from her article "Understanding Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Simple Explanation."

Chronic fatigue syndrome can take someone who is educated, ambitious, hardworking and tireless, and rob them of their ability to work, clean house, exercise, think clearly and ever feel awake or healthy.

  • It's NOT psychological "burn out" or depression.
  • It's NOT laziness.
  • It's NOT whining or malingering.
  • It IS the result of widespread dysfunction in the body and the brain that's hard to understand, difficult to treat, and, so far, impossible to cure.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a serious, life-altering, frustrating, often misunderstood illness. What people with ME/CFS need most of all from those around them is emotional support and understanding.

Exactly. That's what I keep trying to tell the new folks at KSW (where I worked/work on the board). I think they get it, but it's really hard to be getting to know new people when I'm like this. I feel like I'm coming across as moody, whiny, difficult, flaky, etc.

I was always "difficult," but I used to be more energetic than everyone else, passionate, dedicated, able, profoundly competent. I used to be the one who picked up everyone else's slack.

It's possible now that no one new will ever see me this way again.

January 20, 2013

Dizzy Broad

So I promised to post at least weekly and today's the day or I'll have failed in my resolution while still in January.

And I was really feeling better this month, for a whole three weeks or so, but then I got dizzy a couple of days ago. Sigh. That's what my life has been for the past three years: a few good days, followed by weirdness and scaryness. Or scariness.

I've been dizzy before: three times in fact. The dizziness is one of the things that really made me completely consciously aware of how doctors work: according to protocols mostly, and not by really paying attention to patients and taking cases each one at a time. I had the same kind of dizziness (mosty "lightheadedness" not spinning) three times, and each time I got a different diagnosis. Well, the first time it was a virus, and the second time BPPV. The third time I self-diagnosed it as allergies when the BPPV exercises didn't work.

This time, it's spinning, as well as lightheadedness. And it's worse all around. I have the lightheadedness a lot more, PLUS spinning when I tilt my head in particular ways. It might even be allergies, since my nose is a little bit, a tiny bit, runny. But that's it.

Anyway, this isn't very interesting, even to me, but it also does kind of fill my attention and leave room for nothing else. I think I'm gonna go do something. Maybe if I get outside I'll feel better.

January 12, 2013

Nothin' To Do No One To Do It With

There's a funny interaction between having nothing to do and having no energy to do it with. It's Saturday night and I have nothing to do and nowhere to go because I've had chronic fatigue syndrome for three years and can't reliably go out and be with people. So I've stopped looking for things to do, staying on mailing lists, exporting evites and checking my FB events, and making dates with friends and dates.

There's a feeling of relief when I survey the night and realize it's Saturday and I have nothing to do and no one to do it with. I'm not sure if the relief is that I have nothing to do because I wouldn't have the energy to do it if I did and then I'd feel like I was missing out ... or if I'm relieved that I don't have the energy or desire to do anything because I wouldn't have anything to do or anyone to do it with if I did. Not sure it matters.

How do you maintain friendships when you can't do anything social?

I'm thinking about this because I'm feeling better and actually have a little bit of energy right now. I could:

  • MAYBE go to the gym for 25 min.
  • do some yoga at home
  • go out for something specific: a movie or theater show, if it was nearby or somebody picked me up
  • spend 30-60 min at a party if I could get home again right away afterwards

But just thinking about doing any of this (except the yoga) makes me tired. It would have had to be planned ahead of time. And I don't need to do anything. There's a kind of satisfactory balance to this, that's the only kind of satisfaction you can get from this illness.

Part of me dreads getting better, because when my will and desires come back with my energy (if they ever do), having nothing to do on a Saturday night will drive me crazy.

March 23, 2011

Why You Still Need to be a Feminist

Here they are, in black and white (or red and blue, actually): the breakdown of male/female representation in the most elite publications in the country in 2010 from Vida. Here's the speculative fiction version from Strange Horizons, along with links to discussion of the above.

Spoiler alert: men review more books and get more books reviewed than women -- and by a factor of two to three, depending on the publication.

But then, there's a good reason why; more men are being published:

We looked at fall 2010 catalogs from 13 publishing houses, big and small. ... Only one of the houses we investigated—the boutique Penguin imprint Riverhead—came close to parity, with 55 percent of its books by men and 45 percent by women. Random House came in second, with 37 percent by women. It was downhill from there, with three publishers scoring around 30 percent—Norton, Little Brown, and Harper—and the rest 25 percent and below, including the elite literary houses Knopf (23 percent) and FSG (21 percent). Harvard University Press, the sole academic press we considered, came in at just 15 percent.

I speculated that independents ... would turn out to be more equitable than the big commercial houses. Boy, was I wrong. ... Graywolf, with 25 percent female authors, was our highest-scoring independent. The cutting-edge Brooklyn publisher Melville House came in at 20 percent. The doggedly leftist house Verso was second-to-last at 11 percent. Our lowest scorer? ... Dalkey Archive Press ... it would be nice if more than 10 percent of [their books] were by women. (In the 2011 edition of Dalkey’s much-lauded Best European Fiction series, edited by Aleksandar Hemon, 30 percent of the stories are by women.)

... these numbers we found show that the magazines are reviewing female authors in something close to the proportion of books by women published each year.

So now you know.

Of course, this plays out across all elite and desirable fields:

According to a fact sheet published last year by the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees, in 2008, women constituted 32.4 percent of all lawyers and 32.2 percent of physicians and surgeons. (We’re 68.8 percent of psychologists, 92 percent of nurses, and 50.4 percent of technical writers, the only type of writer included in the report.)

We've evened out in law school and med school ... but then we outnumber men in MFA creative writing programs, and look at the publication and review numbers. So there are actually several moments of concern.

And, of course, Jessa Crispin at Bookslut uncovers further isshoes:

After talking with editor after editor, a pattern started to emerge. "We don't get enough submissions by women." At each publication I talked to, women were submitting an average of 35% of manuscripts, poems, articles, and pitches.

Which, of course, leads us to (part of the reason) why:

There's something about the culture at some of these places listed at Vida that make me think I would never in a million years be accepted there, and after taking a sampling of some female writer friends, I'm not the only one. Take the Atlantic, for example. Their rates of publishing women were not as devastatingly horrible as, say, The New York Review of Books. (What the fuck, NYRB?) But the women they are perhaps best known for publishing are Caitlin Flanagan, who writes about how abortion is bad, sex is bad, staying at home with the kids is awesome, doing her husband's laundry gives her purpose. Also Sandra Tsing Loh, who writes about her infidelity, the breakup of her marriage, being a bad mother. There is absolutely nothing about The Atlantic that screams out to me: We are totally respectful of women and their various viewpoints, and we'd be interested in publishing the work of a single, globetrotting, pro-choice feminist who does not under any circumstance want to write about her relationships, her femininity, or her sex life.

Hm. That's starting to sound strangely familiar.

So here we are again, folks. And, as usual, my response to all of this is to want people to do something about it. Only this time, instead of giving advice to others, I'm doing something myself.

If women aren't submitting at all in the proportions in which they are actually writing (and I've made that contention myself before) then let's get women submitting their work. I'm working on a way and will have more to say about that later. But here's a beginning.

November 19, 2009

Writing Update

My NaNoFiMo is back! I did an entire mailbag (mailbag 6) today (that's, like, four short chapters to you.) But tomorrow, when I do the next mailbag, I'm going to get into some serious cutting out of things. And some serious rewriting of things. I think the hardest rewriting of things will start in mailbag 8 or 9. (Can't remember.) So I'll have a little space to run up to it.

Also, because I got stalled, my Mo is going until Dec 11th. I don't know why I chose that. Random, I guess.

October 31, 2009

NaNoFiMo

I almost missed the beginning of NaNoWriMo, as I do every year, but I caught it in time, thanks to Justine's blog.

I've never succeeded at a NaNoWriMo-type project, but a few years ago, when I tried to write a No in a Mo (not exactly the Mo of November) I did get more than half of it written.

So I'm going to try (again) to use NaNoWriMo as an inspiration to Get Stuff Done. As in, Get My Novel Done. So this year's November is my National Novel Finishing Month, or NaNoFiMo.

Actually, I'm not going to finish finish Da Nobble; that's not even in my plan. I just want to finish the third draft. Once that's done revision should get easier. Here's how it's going to work:

  • Da Nobble is epistolary (written in letters) and is organized by mailbags. Each correspondant contributes one letter to each mailbag, of which there are 15. There are five correspondants, which gives us a grand total of 75 letters. I'm currently in the middle of the fifth mailbag.
  • Of course, some of the letters are short and some are long; some of the letters require hefty rewriting and some do not.
  • I intend to complete planned revisions on 3 letters per day--that is, three letters that require revisions--until I hit the difficult ones. The difficult ones are the ones that don't just need revision, but the actual incident described in the letters needs to be thrown out and rethought. For each one of these, I will simply work three hours per day on them until they're done.
  • I'll check in daily here.
That is all. Wish me luck!

July 24, 2009

Check In

Haven't posted in a while. Was thrown off course by having to track down a NEW health problem (because I didn't have enough already.) But have probably cornered the sucker (doing the test tomorrow.)

Then there will be a week of diminishing fear, a week of understanding the treatment, a few weeks of getting used to it, all coupled with getting back on track with my exercise program.

So maybe in a month's time I'll be myself again. Or I'll be something, anyway.

July 06, 2009

Iz Finish

Phase One of Draft Three Iz Finish.

That was the easy part: editing a printout of the MS, and noting the places where I need to rewrite. Now comes Phase Two, otherwise known as THE HARD PART, i.e. actually rewriting.

Onward!

June 22, 2009

Write-A-Thong

I'm not participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon because I do other fundraising among my friends and family throughout the year and need to choose where I spend that energy.

But I think it's a great idea, both as a fundraiser, and as a writing initiative. So I made a private commitment to write every day during Clarion West-time. Today was my first day. Officially it started yesterday, but Clarion West officially starts the night before classtime starts when the first instructor is introduced, and NOT when your writing needs to start. So I took advantage.

Anyhoo, I'm going through a printed out MS of da nobble right now, editing. And by "editing," I mean both line-editing and hefty, more structural stuff. When I'm done with this phase, I'm taking the heavily marked up MS back to Scrivener and doing the rewrites there. After this rewrite, I think I'll actually be ready to show it to some first readers.

I'm hoping this phase will be done by the end of the Write-A-Thong. But I'm not holding my breath. Will make an effort to post daily about my progress but, again, no breath-holding.

June 16, 2009

Breakin' Up Iz Hard 2 Do, Part II

So what I wanted to do -- about a month ago now, in the weeks leading up to WisCon, when I was considering "breaking up" with the antiracist blogosphere as a result of RaceFail and MammothFail -- was write a series of posts about how antiracist action online actually works, and why I have problems with it.

But a number of things intervened.

*****First, right before WisCon, Al Robles, an elder in my Bay Area Asian American activist community, died suddenly. His family organized a memorial event and I was asked to help, so I took over volunteer coordination for the six-hour event. The event took place at the venue where we had staged the Asian American arts festival I ran for its first few years; being there as a coordinator reminded me of that work and of the atmosphere of common purpose and mutual help that can arise out of creating a "real world" racial community. It also reminded me that I had a real world community in the first place, that I had been neglecting, partly in favor of my online stuff.

Also, being at Manong Al's memorial really made me think a lot about Al. The sort of elder whose memorial event draws thousands of people, requires ten tables to hold all the food, and has trouble restricting the stories, poems, and testimonials to six hours, is a very particular person. Al was a leader, not in that he put himself and his agenda first, nor in that he had great managerial skills he used to organize people. Al was a leader by example. He was everywhere he needed to be to get the work done. He was physically there; he put his hand on your arm when he saw you. He knew everyone in the community because he talked to them, partied with them, and remembered them whenever he saw them next. He never lost his interest in individuals, never lost his excitement about the new (and old) things people were doing, never failed to connect the creative life (he was a poet) with the activist life, and the activist life with the good life.

The consideration that makes my eyes well up, both in love for Al and in shame for my own failures, is the memory of Al as someone who always gave respect, gave face, to everyone, from the most snot-nosed, fist-pumping teenager, to the oldest, out-of-commission elder.  He made you want to earn the respect that he gave you unconditionally. He loved whatever it was that you did. Thousands of people turned out to say goodbye to him because people like that are so rare.

It makes me really think about who is going to take over for Al. Less than two years ago we lost another elder, Manong Bill Sorro, who had a similar role in the community as Al Robles, had a similar way with people, although the two were very different. As I said, these people are rare. Manong Al and Manong Bill were my touchstones in the community and now that they're both gone, I'm all out of touchstones. They were it for their generation. Who will be it for my generation?

I'm not that kind of person, but I can try to be more of that kind of person. I don't have to be the Manong Al or Manong Bill of my generation, but I think we can split up those duties a little more evenly, especially if we believe in community and continuation. But to do that, I have to get off the fucking internet and get my butt down to where the community is.

***** Second, I went to WisCon. Given the atmosphere surrounding RaceFail and then MammothFail, I was expecting WisCon to be emotionally fraught, stress-filled, and conflict-ridden. Instead, what I found was that there were more POC there than ever before, and that the POC there were organizing, coming together, and also connecting outside the POC community with a confidence and interest and even joy that I hadn't seen at WisCon before.

I realized that the online fights that had stressed me out so much, make my stomach tie up in knots and feel like all was sick with the world, had energized a lot of other folks. I was forcibly reminded of how I felt eleven years ago, when I first joined battle -- in a very limited and constrained way -- with folks online on the multiracial list-serv and the Asian American writers list-serv I joined. It was energizing; it did make me want to do stuff. And, because I was in San Francisco, I just went right out and did stuff: joined orgs, started programs, etc. It was a wonderful cycle of discussion and action: I discussed ideas online, and then took those ideas out into the real world and acted on them.

Of course, the energizing aspect of the arguments and sometimes fights had a limited efficacy. They were only energizing as long as they were still new to me, and still had something to teach me about that particular way of viewing the issues. Once I had been through the cycle of argument once or twice (and had experienced intelligent, articulate opponents who just plain didn't listen to you) the argument stopped energizing me and started to stress me out. Eventually, I had to quit the two list-servs, and I didn't miss them much when I had. That was mainly because the people I "knew" on the list-servs were just usernames. I was also spending time with folks in meatspace and many of those folks are still my friends; I'm not still friends with a single person I interacted intensely with online at that time, even the people I met in person and tried to work with there. But what I got out of those discussions didn't go away. The results -- the ideas and ability to articulate arguments -- stayed with me.

***** Third, I went back to Berlin, where I spent much of my twenties, and saw a lot of my friends, ten and fifteen years later. I saw that my friends had taken one of three tracks: folks who hadn't quite gotten started on a career and were still struggling to figure out where to go and what to do; folks who had started a career, then started a family and were now negotiating the limitation on their career that a young family imposes; and folks who were well into a creative career, some simply moving forward and others wondering if they wanted to stay on this track or make an adjustment.

I'm with the last group. I've spent the last decade plowing ahead full steam in ethnic-specific arts and culture, and I've accomplished much that I'm proud of. But I've definitely reached a point where I'm trying to make an adjustment in my direction, and that's a difficult thing to do. While in Berlin, I got a rare perspective on where I am in life, by seeing my peers dealing with being in that same place. And I think I can take this adjustment more quietly -- be less manic and bewildered about it -- and focus in. I think that's the key: letting some options go, and focusing in on what's most important to me.

*

I came back to online antiracism a few years ago with my interest in speculative fiction, and with working with POC SF communities that I had connected with through Clarion West and WisCon. And the community here is wonderful, and vibrant, and full of energy and purpose. I've learned a lot from reading blogs, and getting into discussions ... and even from some of the less pleasant fights I've gotten into. Some things I've learned couldn't have been gotten at another way.

But there are also problems with it ... and it was my intention to tease out those problems in a series of posts, as I said above. But after Al's memorial, and after WisCon, and after my visit back to the site of my young adulthood, I think I'm realizing that I don't need to do that right now. What I'm feeling is particular to me and my situation. Maybe down the road I'll have some perspectives that will be useful to someone else, but I don't think I do right now.

I've been upset and angry at an argument that I've heard too many times before that doesn't have the power to inspire me anymore, but that doesn't mean that this discussion isn't inspiring anyone else to new and great things. I think I'm probably best off shutting up and getting out of the way.

*

One thing I do want to clarify: when I said in an earlier post that the best thing that came out of RaceFail was the smart posts published early in the incident, a few outraged people pointed to Verb Noire (which has just announced its first publication, which makes me want to pee with excitement) as a direct result of RaceFail. I was surprised by that perception. Having been involved in so many start-ups (APAture, Hyphen, the San Francisco Hapa Issues Forum chapter, the now-defunct Digital Horizon afterschool program) and seen so many from a peripheral viewpoint, it's second nature to me to assume that any start-up or initiative has its roots in longstanding dreams and long planning processes ... that then come together around a particular opportunity.

Yes, I believe that RaceFail brought on a convergence of a number of things that led to Verb Noire being launched right then, but I don't believe that without RaceFail there would have been no Verb Noire. (Please tell me if I'm completely wrong here; I have no telepathic connection to the publishers, and no idea what specifically got them going.) Furthermore, I'd be worried if I really thought that RaceFail was the only or main impulse to starting Verb Noire. Last straw, yes; main thrust, no. It's a terrific project, coming at the right time, but it's larger than just RaceFail. The language and direction of the project already seems larger -- seems to fill up a space that has to do with more than just a failure of the general SF community to understand cultural difference and appropriation.

Basically, until it was pointed out to me, I didn't connect Verb Noire directly with RaceFail. RaceFail to me is just an incident: an incident that got drawn out way too long and produced some good writing, some bad writing, and a lot of bad feeling ... but still just an incident. Verb Noire is ... an organization, a long-term program, an institution of new perspective in the making. The two are bound up together, certainly: all good organizations, programs, institutions have their roots in unacceptable circumstances, or ongoing failures, and series of incidents that demonstrate these circumstances and failures.

But the two are distinct. One is discussion; the other, activism. For me, there does come a time when the discussion that inspires activism starts to get in the way of activism, and I have to opt out of direct discussion for a while.

*

I don't know what this means for me on a practical level. I have an online presence that takes some work to maintain and that brings me a lot of pleasure, aside from other things. But it also, I have to admit, sucks too much time away from my writing and my working in my community. I might have to cut back on being present online for a while, but I'm not sure how or how much. I'm not making any quick decisions.

I have no conclusions yet, no declarations to make. I think I'm going to be reading less from blogs, and participating less in any sort of online discussions in this area for a while. But at this point, I'm just thinking out loud.

May 16, 2009

Outrage, Pullback, Punishment: The Structure of One Common Antiracist Post

ETA: Please note! This is my personal blog and, although I draw on my experience with the organizations I work for, I write on this blog as a private citizen, and not as a representative of any organization! In these posts it's especially important to remember that I'm not speaking for the Carl Brandon Society, but only for myself.

So, to kick off my out-loud consideration of if and how to "break up" with the antiracist blogosphere ...

I'm going to start with organizing some observations about how racism is talked about on the POC antiracist blogs I've been reading for the past six years and laying out the basic structure of one type of typical antiracist post.

First, most POC A/R blogs rarely take the bull by the horns, that is to say, they rarely take the initiative in introducing topics of discussion and setting the terms for the discussion. Instead, most POC A/R blogs are reactive, that is, they keep watch on what is happening in the world and especially in the media, and respond to incidents or discussions initiated by people out in the world, or by the media.

The way this works is what I call "Outrage, Pullback, Punishment" (and yes, it is a plus that it compresses to "OPP"). How it works is as follows:

Outrage: something racist happens in the world. A blogger or group of bloggers pick up on it. They note it in their blogs and express outrage at it. The item gets passed on from blog to blog.

Pullback: of the bloggers who post on this topic, less than half will express anything other than outrage. But a subset of these bloggers will spend a little time pulling back from the outrage to contextualize this incident of racism and explain why it's a problem. They will go into the history of these types of incidents, they'll go into academic theories of X, they'll give talking points on why this sort of thing is bad for people of color, bad for justice, and bad for the world in general.

Punishment: of the bloggers who pull back and contextualize, an even smaller subset will propose or initiate action. This action is dual: it proposes advocacy of a particular view, action (usually apology and some sort of remediation), and threatens punishment if this action isn't taken up immediately. I call this step "punishment" because punishment is advocated at two places: often the remedial action is punishment of the original offender (as in asking a radio station to fire a racist DJ), and the action threatened if this remedy isn't taken up is usually a punishment as well (official complaint up the chain of command, formal boycott, or bad publicity, and the hanging of the "racist" label on the totality of the offenders.) The action is then picked up by the other bloggers and passed around.

Lest anyone think I'm trying to hurl accusations from a glass house, I'll give an example from my own oeuvre. (I'm actually critiquing all of POC antiracist blogging, including my own, which is part of the whole and speaks the same language.) The recent example is the Avatar casting controversy:

You'll notice here that the structure not only makes the information easy to understand and assimilate, but it also makes the basic conveyance of the information easy to adapt to each blog. Each new blogger who picks the story up simply gives a spin to the same blog post and passes it on.

This structure of communication has been effective in the past for specific purposes. The best example would be the Jena 6 controversy in 2007 where a group of black teenagers were unfairly prosecuted for an assault on a white teenager that was provoked by a series of racist incidents. Originally ignored by the mainstream media, outrage in the POC blogosphere contributed heavily to the story being picked up nationally. Additionally, the "punishment" phase of this story advocated action that was less punitive and more justice-oriented, and resulted in large demonstrations in Jena and all over the country, that have succeeded in bringing about a more just resolution for many of the defendants than would have happened otherwise. Here's a post from the Angry Black Woman which demonstrates OPP and links to other posts you can check out as well.

An earlier example was the Abercrombie and Fitch controversy (2002/2004), which involved first a series of t-shirts with racist images of Asians on them, then a lawsuit (later settled) that alleged that A&F gave visible jobs to white employees and restricted POC to the stock rooms. The online campaign against the t-shirts -- organized with a speed that surprised even participants -- led to real-world protest outside the stores, which in turn caused the company to withdraw the shirt and issue an apology. The t-shirt protest was actually organized via email, list-servs, and discussion boards, more than via blogs. But if you look at the discussion boards link, you'll see one of the origins of OPP structure. The continuing online scrutiny of A&F's racial attitude helped keep pressure on them that contributed to the favorable settlement of the lawsuit.

As has been rightly said since the Jena 6 protests, online social networking has created a world in which effective protest can be organized quickly and nationally to address even local injustices. OPP is a great launching point for these kinds of effective protests: OPP informs and arouses a sense of outrage very quickly, and creates a sort of information tree or hierarchy which people can follow back to a source of organization if they wish to get involved. People are no longer dependent on being reached by recruiters, they can recruit themselves to act. And POC communities, if they know how to leverage the hinges of the Tipping Point, can control to a great extent the spread of their mobilization effort.

This structure of communication also makes it easy for the mainstream media to pick up on POC responses to national incidents. Reporters don't have to dig through a lot of discussion and process its implications to know what POC bloggers are thinking. They just aggregate the most popular bloggers and do a keyword search for the controversy du jour, and bingo, insta-quote. So in this way, POC can come closer to the mainstream media.

All this is great. But.

The negative result of this is that POC A/R blogs tend to accept, without thought or discussion, that the white-dominated media and mainstream culture gets to initiate action and discussion, and the POC A/R online media's role is merely to respond to this discourse, and not to control it or be a partner in shaping it.

This is fine when an injustice happens -- as in Jena -- and must be addressed quickly. These sorts of things happen all the time, so having a structure in place to deal with these things -- to remedy actual injustices as they happen -- is important. But it does not move the discourse on race forward. It unconsciously takes for granted that POC have no initiative in the world. In the call and response of the mainstream media discourse, POC have only a response, not a call. And as we all know, whoever calls, rules.

I say _________, you say "racist"

Mr. Patel!
Racist!
Airbender!
Racist!

If you look back on any effective movement of the 20th century (suffrage, civil rights, Vietnam) their communication structure all had these things in common:

  1. A clear, articulated overall goal towards which all participants were willing to work for years.
  2. A set, but evolving discourse and vocabulary, which the movement controlled.
  3. Media: alternative media organs (papers and magazines) dedicated to promoting this message and discourse; and, over time, allies in the mainstream media dedicated to promoting this message and discourse.
  4. The necessity of responding deliberately and thoughtfully, owing to the lack of instantaneous communications technology. Because everything written was printed and had to be edited and proofread, everything broadcast had to be accepted by media corporations and could be heavily controlled, the message and discourse were very polished, thoughtful, respectful, and carefully tailored to appeal to listeners who may have held a differing opinion.

If you think about it, OPP simply cannot exist in a movement in which the above conditions obtain. Chaos and Freedom are the twin faces of the same internet beast. The viral responsiveness and speed of protests like Jena 6 and A&F owes to the Freedom face. The lack of a goal, a message, a discourse, and deliberate or thoughtful response owes to the Chaos face. Although there's more than one argument to be made here, I would contend that the POC Antiracist blogosphere is not a movement, it is merely a community.

As such, it can facilitate the creation of temporary movements (like the Jena 6 protest movement), but it cannot change, or even affect, the national discourse on race. All it can do is respond to it.

In my next post, I'm going to talk about initiatives that do shape, or attempt to shape, national discourse on race, and how these work together with online OPP.

May 15, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: How To Handle Antiracist POC Communities

ETA: Please note! This is my personal blog and, although I draw on my experience with the organizations I work for, I write on this blog as a private citizen, and not as a representative of any organization! In these posts it's especially important to remember that I'm not speaking for the Carl Brandon Society, but only for myself.

WisCon starts in a week, and, as a result of RaceFail and the more recent resurgence of controversy around race, I've been thinking a lot about the issue of how antiracist action is handled on the internet. I'm going to spend the next week on a series of posts about my thoughts on this topic. I need to clear my head and -- not knowing what to expect from WisCon this year -- prepare my thoughts for whatever comes.

(One quick caveat here: I despaired years ago of getting through to ignorant, privileged whites on the internet through argument, and haven't engaged in that sort of argument for a long time: because it kills me, and because it doesn't seem to do much good. The only thing that works, in my experience, is providing copious resources that someone, who wants to seek and understand, can find and use in his/her own way, so that they can choose to prepare themselves to join a discourse, rather than argue their way into knowledge.

So if I seem to be only criticizing the antiracist POC side here, it's because I am. No amount of tantrums, unprofessionalism, and bad behavior from the privileged side surprises me anymore, and I find it pointless to even criticize it. At the latest, after last year's Rachel-Moss-WisConFail, and the conscious delight privileged white males (and females) took in baiting feminists, people of color, differently abled, and transgendered people, I have refused to engage with such perspectives, which I consider a continuum. I only now engage with "our" responses to such perspectives, or more accurately, with a broader-based strategy to combat ignorance and prejudice in our media and in our society. Doubtless RaceFail blame falls much more heavily on the side of baiters and privileged idiots. But they can't bait those who won't be baited. They can't enrage those who won't be enraged.)

Back in February, around the time I thought that RaceFail was going to die down, I started writing a series of posts on this topic. But RaceFail didn't die down then, nor for another couple of months. The residue of a contentious and conflict-soaked election campaign, and of a devastating economic collapse, the impact of which we'll be unraveling for years, was like jetfuel to the usual flame. Whereas internet blowups usually only last a couple of weeks -- a flash flood -- the almost palpable panic and fear and weariness cracked open the levees we'd been ignoring for so long, and our little corner of the blogosphere was overwhelmed. What started as an initially salutary repeat of a discussion that had never quite been put to rest, soon turned into a community eating itself.

Not coincidentally, February was the time the Carl Brandon Society's Heritage Month book advocacy campaign kicked off. We'd chosen one recommended reading list in January -- immediately before RaceFail had started -- and were trying to put together a second list in February as the tone of the discussion got ugly. The difference was dramatic. In January our members were joyfully and actively participating, just like last year. By mid-February, our list-serv had fallen silent: everyone was too busy at work or in their lives to participate. For the first time since I joined the Carl Brandon Society Steering Committee, our members actually ignored direct requests for participation. And I have to say: I don't blame them one little bit.

Heartsick and anxiety-ridden over the tone the public discourse began to take on, I bowed out of the discussion and abandoned the posts I had started. I did save them, though, and, although I'm even more heart-sick and anxiety-ridden now, I have to talk this out, if only with myself. Essentially, I have to decide, in the next couple of weeks, if I'm going to "break up" with the antiracist blogosphere.

This is not the first time I've had to make such a decision. In the year 2000, I had to "break up" with the discussion list-servs I was on in 1998/99, that helped me learn and understand so much about my own identity and community, and that helped me formulate my own thinking about race and organizing and why these are important. Without those list-servs and those discussions, I could not have become an effective community organizer, teacher, and advocate. I would not have been able to articulate to myself or anyone else why building a community voice is essential to racial justice.

But the discussions on those list-servs stayed in one place and cycled around that place over and over again, like a ferris wheel. Staying in that discourse after I had completed a few cycles was not merely annoying, it actually militated against progressive action. It made me anxious and sick to my stomach, it made me angry, and -- whereas initially it had brought me closer to my fellow community members -- it began to drive a wedge between us, emphasizing small differences in opinion, and sucking energy and air away from broader-based action.

I thought I would miss it too much. I said I'd "take a break" for three months and then see if I could go back and take part in a more rational manner. What happened instead was that, within a few weeks, I had nearly forgotten about the list-servs, and had discovered a pocket of free hours that I could now dedicate to more real-world action.

But those were purely discussion list-servs; not only were they not intended for action, but calls for action and event announcements weren't allowed on those lists. Breaking up with the antracist POC blogosphere is a much more complex proposition, because it exists not just for discussion, but also for discourse, not just for expression of outrage, but also for action and organizing. And there are people in this community who are so geographically far away, I can't access them any other way.

So this consideration is not just a "in or out" proposition. Being on the CBS Steering Committee requires me to use online organizing and keep up with what's going on in the communities. Writing for Hyphen blog requires me to participate in POC bloggery. I'm not quitting these organizations, so the question is: how to tailor my participation in online POC antiracist action so as to curtail the negative influence of discussion loops, while keeping me in the loop?

This is what I'll be considering over the next few posts. I probably won't respond to comments until I'm through, since this is a longer thought process than usual, and I don't want to break it off or argue until I've gotten through it. Be advised that anything that smacks to me of attack (in comments) may well be deleted. (That's another tactic I'm going to be considering.)

May 11, 2009

Can We NOT Do Racefail Again, Please?

I'm sticking my head out of its hole here (please note: my head is NOT wearing its CBS hat) to make a plea ... and realizing that I'll probably either get ignored, or get my head bitten off. This plea goes out to my fellow active and activist PoC and white antiracist SF/F fans. Anyone who doesn't fit this description, please refrain from commenting below (I will probably delete you.)

Apparently, Patricia Wrede has written an alternate history YA in which American Indians/Native Americans simply never existed, replaced by magical mammoths. If you don't immediately see what's wrong with this, read this list of links. (I also surfed through from this post and found a buncha stuff that wasn't on the links post above.) The posts linked often link to further reading, so go knock yourself out surfing.

Okay. I, for one, think this list of posts offers a perfect summation of what the problem with Wrede's premise is. What I'm asking for now is for PoC and white antiracists to take a REALLY DEEP BREATH ... and to fail to have a massive, collective, monthslong comment thread freakout like the one that happened this January/February/March/April (a.k.a. RaceFail '09.)

I know you guys are tired of it. We all are. I know the ignorant and vicious attempts to block and derail discussion are making you crazy. But responding to them in comments didn't do much good a few months ago ... and I think it'll do even less good now that the clueless are still smarting from the pileups at various whitepeople blogs which caused everyone to freak out and f-lock and delete their blogs and out each other's real identities and and and ...

What good did any of that do? What good will it do to go there again? The best thing that came out of RaceFail was a list of good, thoughtful posts about cultural appropriation that we can point out to people who want to be educated. Unfortunately, as much as people during RaceFail were linking to these great posts, they were ALSO engaging in increasingly angry comment threads with flamers and trolls who weren't interested in learning anything, and wouldn't have learned anything even if they were BECAUSE THEY WERE ON THE DEFENSIVE, AS EVERYONE IS IN A COMMENTS THREAD BATTLE.

So my suggestion -- my plea -- is to avoid engaging in comment threads as much as possible. You can't argue someone out of their ignorance. You can only lead them to water and WALK AWAY, hoping they'll drink after you've gone. There are some links pileups starting already. Let's contribute to them, and then make some private pledges to simply link to the links posts in comments and NOT COMMENT FURTHER.

WisCon is a week and a half away. I DO NOT want to walk into WisCon wondering who has put themselves in the wrong now. I DO NOT want to have to navigate sudden, new schisms having to do with random ignorant comments-thread comments. We DO NOT have to use this opportunity to excavate every ignorant corner of our fellow SF/F fans' racial consciousness. Let's put the info out there and let them do what they want to with it.

(A suggestion: those of you planning your own blogpost about this, please consider closing comments, so that anyone who wants to respond cannot do so anonymously, but MUST respond by posting something on their own blog. This will cut down on a lot of opportunities for people to enrage you from the safety of anonymity. I'm leaving comments on this post open because I'm hoping we can discuss ways and means of NOT engaging in a RaceFail 1.5.)

*****

In other news, (putting my CBS hat on): the Carl Brandon Society is sponsoring a "Cultural Appropriation 101" class at Wiscon (Friday afternoon during The Gathering -- it will only take up part of the Gathering time, so you can still attend.) The class will be taught by Nisi Shawl, Victor Raymond (both CBS Steering Committee members) and Cabell Gathman.

This will be a SAFE SPACE for anyone who suspects they may be missing some of the basics to come to and learn and discuss, and ask the questions you're afraid to ask for fear of being jumped on. We strongly recommend that anyone who feels a little shaky in the basics, or who doesn't agree with what a lot of PoC are saying about cultural appropriation, come and attend this class BEFORE going into any panels on race or cultural appropriation. Forearmed is forewarned.

April 17, 2009

On Bullying

While I appreciate efforts like this one to bring attention to bullying, particularly bullying that happens around homophobia and other prejudices, I think the organizers are still missing some essential points about bullying, how/why it happens, and how to stop it. (Not surprising: many very smart commentators are missing the point.)

"-Isms" like racism and homophobia are one issue, and bullying is an entirely separate issue. You can address an "-ism" effectively and still have terrible, soul-shattering bullying. (Likewise, you can stop bullying and still drive people to suicide with your prejudice.) The "day of silence" and similar efforts are doomed to only partial success, or outright failure, because they conflate homophobia (or prejudice) with bullying behavior, and assume that addressing prejudice among school-age kids will stop the bullying behavior.

It will not.

***
I was always an unpopular kid in school--precocious (put in school a year early), nerdy, outspoken, uncontrolled ... and multiracial. I was occasionally bullied in grade school, but I went to a small parochial school where everyone knew everyone. I was a nerd, but I was their nerd, and god help anyone from outside the school if they wanted to talk down to me.

So it wasn't until we moved to Ohio when I was ten that I encountered really bad bullying. The school was public, and bigger--30 kids per homeroom and two homerooms--and the neighborhood was all white except for us, one other Chinese family, and one other multiracial white/Japanese family. All the Asian kids were considered nerds. The boys started calling me names and harrassing me physically, and no one stopped them. So they kept doing it. Every day. All day long. For a whole year.

Now, when I say "no one stopped them," I don't mean that my parents didn't try anything. From what I understand now, they were on the phone to the principal almost weekly. At one point the school arranged to have one of those theater groups sent to our class to do a role-playing workshop around bullying. It was embarrassingly bad and actually helped me out only because for a week afterward we all spent our bullying time making fun of the theater group. No one (including me) connected the theater group to what was happening to me because their program was so divorced from reality that it didn't get any hooks into our actual behavior (the roleplay centered around taking someone's lunch money.)

At another point, the homeroom teachers suddenly introduced a new item into our curriculum: a family biography, in which we were to get our parents' help in writing a paper on where our families came from. Then a handful of us were asked to do a presentation in front of the class. Guess who was picked to do a presentation? And my family history is really very interesting, so everyone was interested and had a lot of questions for me afterwards. But it didn't stop the bullying because, guess what? The bullying had nothing to do with why I was different and everything to do with how my difference made me less socially powerful. Explaining why I was different was interesting for everyone, but didn't change the fact that I was less socially powerful.

In desperation, the school had me sent out of class while the assistant principal went up there and told the class point blank to stop harrassing me. That lasted about a week. Guess what happened then? When they started, tentatively, poking me again, and no consequences were forthcoming, we were soon back to a full-blown bullying schedule.

Early on in the year, the boys started calling me a "chink." That lasted for maybe two weeks and then stopped. I wasn't there when it was stopped, but in retrospect, I think some adult heard the boys calling me that, was horrified, and put an immediate stop to it. After all, racism was not tolerated at my school. At all. You really never heard any racial epithets at my school, very few racial jokes. Everyone revered them some MLK and Rosa Parks, which was made easier by the utter lack of any black people in a 10 mile radius of our neighborhood. So the "racist bullying" lasted for only two weeks and was effectively stopped. But the non-racist bullying lasted a year (until my parents pulled me out of the school) and intensified throughout.

No, they didn't need to call me a "chink" to make my life hell. They called me "dogie" when we sang cowboy songs in music class. They called me "Nebuchadnezzar" when we studied the ancient world. They'd just say my name in a really nasty voice. They didn't need to know why I was socially weak, they just needed to know that they could get away with tripping me, calling me names, spitting on me, pointing at me whenever somebody said the insult of the week. They just needed to know that the teachers and administrators didn't value my daily presence enough to punish, or even notice, the daily harrassment. They didn't need racism. They didn't need homophobia (early on, someone tried to call me a lesbo, but for some reason it didn't stick. I'm not sure if they were heard by a teacher, or if I was just so not bothered by that that it wasn't worth it. In either case, they didn't need it.) All they needed was to not be stopped. And they weren't.
***

Bullying is no more or less than a person or group of people with social power, expressing their social power over a person or smaller group of people with less social power. Bullying requires two conditions only:

  1. A social hierarchy in which varying degrees of social power are delineated;
  2. An immediate community in which bullying is considered acceptable.

If you have a situation in which both of these conditions exist, you WILL have bullying, regardless of the prejudices or social enlightenment of the group. A group of all white, straight boys, for example, who have been raised to tolerate racial and sexual difference will still bully within their group if the two conditions exist. Bullies do not need an "-ism" as an excuse.

The first condition is impossible to combat. Human beings of all ages will find ways to create social hierarchies. If you make kids wear uniforms to prevent them from using wealth as a measure, then they will structure the hierarchy not around what clothes you wear, but how you wear your clothes or how you behave. The socially powerful will set trends in how to color on your shoes with magic marker, or how high to roll up your pants cuffs, or which lunch dishes to eat and which to treat with disdain.

It is utterly pointless to try to dismantle hierarchies of social power. But you can change the way the hierarchies work, to make them livable. There are two things you can do: one is to create smaller social units (smaller homerooms, or mandatory club membership) so that every individual belongs to a unit small enough that their participation is necessary, and therefore valued. The other is to make sure that every member of each social unit has a role in the social unit that both suits them and is recognized as valuable by the whole unit. (For me, it was art. When my class discovered that I could draw well, suddenly I had my place and a small amount of respect. A couple of classmates actually commissioned me to paint portraits of their pets.) The powerless will still be low on the hierarchy, but they will not be considered expendable, and they will have a small measure of social power that they can leverage to negotiate better treatment.

The second condition is what really needs to be addressed, though. It is both mutable and extremely difficult to change. When a community decides that a certain type of behavior is unacceptable, and imposes consequences for that behavior, the behavior stops immediately. Look at how quickly the racist bullying was stopped in my case. My community had a huge stake in not seeing itself as racist, and would go to great lengths to stop the appearance of racism.

They didn't have any stake in stopping bullying, though. In fact, I think they relied on bullying, as most American communities do. Because societies rely on their members buying into conventional behavior to maintain stability. There aren't enough police in ANY society to patrol all unconventional behavior. Stability is achieved by getting people to police themselves. This can be difficult if you have to convince individuals to adhere to convention with good arguments and rewards. Punishing unconventional behavior is much easier. Bullying is the quick 'n' dirty version of policing the borders of conventions. The bullying punishes the worst offenders, and serves as an example for those who might consider straying. It's easy to do: just step back and let the bullies do their work.

And they will, because the socially powerful have many ways to express their power, and will use them all if left to their own devices, exercising power by:

  • using their social connections to connect disparate groups to each other (networking) or make resources available unilaterally (thereby making themselves indispensible to everyone);
  • selecting an elect group and rewarding that group with privileges;
  • offering their friendship as a favor to those of lesser status, and
  • withdrawing that friendship at their own whim to show that they can;
  • occasionally offering privileges to the whole community as an exercise of noblesse oblige;
  • setting activities and agendas for the whole community, particularly if they're fun or rewarding;
  • selecting an ostracized group and forcing the whole community to ostracize them;
  • squashing challenges to their authority on an individual basis, or empowering proxies to do so;
  • etc.

Only some of these exercises of power lead to bullying. There's no way to stop the socially powerful from being powerful or from exercising their power. But a community CAN get together and stop the bullying that results; i.e. certain exercises of power can be made unacceptable. This requires that the entire community be able to see the advantage to them of stopping bullying, and that the entire community participate in imposing consequences on bullies.

I don't recommend addressing bullying as a whole phenomenon, because it is so misunderstood. The simple fact that people still call bullying "teasing" is a testament to how misunderstood bullying is.

"Teasing" is to "bullying" as "sex" is to "rape."

Teasing is a general term for a method of communication -- a type of mockery that people use in social situations. Sex is a type of intercourse between people ... essentially a way of communicating or being together, or an activity that people share socially. Bullying is abuse that often leverages a kind of mockery that is similar in form to teasing. Rape is a violent crime that leverages sex as a method of coercion and humiliation. Just as rape uses sex to commit violence, bullying uses mockery to commit abuse. The point of both is an expression of power by the bully or rapist over the victim.

I think if you'd asked my bullies why they bullied me they couldn't have given you a terribly articulate answer. It wouldn't have had anything to do with race in their minds, although, of course, race is always a factor, especially in a neighborhood where the only people of color just happen to be the outcast nerds. No, they would have told you that I was a nerd, or a geek, or stupid, or didn't know how to behave. They would have a thousand ways to say it: I was was beyond the pale. What pale, they probably still don't know. But they could zero in on my, and everyone else's, relative power in our shared community. And I had the least power.

And if you ask kids at one of these homophobic schools where kids are bullied for their sexual orientation--or their perceived sexual orientation--you'll get a hundred variations on "he's a fag!" as a reason. But listen to the tone, watch the body language. The problem is not that "he's a fag!" What they're really saying is: "Because he's weak! Because I can!" And because no one has stopped them. Put a really effective gay-straight alliance in place and people will stop calling people "fags" and "lesbos." But the bullying won't stop.

I think, rather, that bullying has to be addressed piecemeal: by breaking up bullying into component parts and addressing each individually. Break it up into a set of rules that don't mention bullying, for example:

  • No name calling: of any kind. This includes making fun of people's names. Online or off.
  • No mockery of your peers. Online or off.
  • No ganging up on people. Online or off.
  • No practical jokes. Online or off.
  • No poking, pinching, hitting, kicking, punching, tripping or any kind of physical violence.
  • No spitting, squirting, or otherwise throwing anything on anyone.

If this sounds overly restrictive: it is, in a way. But it's very clear: these are the things you don't get to do. Find another way to be social with your peers. And it's very clear for the adults who monitor kids, too: you see one of these behaviors, you cut the kid from the herd immediately and put them in timeout. In two weeks, all those behaviors will stop. Most people can't imagine kids socializing without these behaviors because they've never seen kids (or sometimes, adults) socializing without these behaviors. But I have.

When my parents took me out of the bullying school and put me into an (expensive, private, all-girls) school, I found myself for the first time in a community where bullying was utterly unacceptable. No one called me names. No one mocked me. No one ganged up on me. No one played nasty practical jokes on me. No one poked, pinched, hit, kicked, tripped, spit on, or threw things at me. And I was still unpopular, I was still an outcast. People still had plenty to do and plenty to say to each other, and were still very clear on the fact that I was beyond the pale; weird; ridiculous, nerdy. No one said anything about it. They didn't have to. When I said something nerdy, people nearest me would roll their eyes and then move quickly on to the next topic, excluding me. If I tried to join a more popular group by standing or sitting near them, they'd ignore me. If I got too close, someone would glare at me or ask me directly what I wanted until I went away. My position hadn't changed. The only thing that had changed was that I wasn't being abused.

It took me two years to recover from that awful year of bullying; two years to not wince when someone asked me what my name was, two years to stop cowering away when someone approached me; two years to start trusting my teachers enough to do the work they asked me to do; two years to feel like life was worth living again. And during those two years, I had no friends. But what I had was peace. I had quiet. I had a chance to recover. And two years later I started making friends and collecting social power, and a few years after that I had put myself beyond the power of bullies forever.

I hadn't put the racism behind me, though, or the sexism. I still had to deal with that ... in fact, the more social power I had, the more people wanted to be around me because I was cool now, the more I had to deal with their prejudices and misconceptions and fears. But I was able to manage the -isms myself -- find a group of people like me, study and understand the phenomenon, advocate for my racial group (or for women) -- because I had social power and personal confidence as a result of being taken out from under bullying behavior.

****

Now, none if this is by way of saying that prejudice shouldn't be addressed early and often. You can stop bullying without addressing prejudice, but then you'll still have an active prejudice that will come out in other ways. Even if a gay teen isn't being actively bullied, that teen can still be ostracized, ignored, earnestly told that he is immoral, wrong, or bad, told that his very being disappoints his parents and embarrasses his family, and generally put into such extremes of cognitive dissonance that can cause depression, suicidal tendencies, and the like. Bullying isn't the only social behavior that kills.

I'm just saying: recognize the difference. Prejudice is one thing, bullying is another. Address them separately if you want to get rid of both.

February 19, 2009

Nobble Update

Things looking up!

I printed draft 2 out and am reading it through and put it down because I was so bored. Yes, BORED!

This is good news because Orwell said that:

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

Which I feel to be true in my case to a certain extent (minus a little hyperbole.) I've been working on da nobble for 6.5 years now and I've felt actually possessed by a demon which is essentially the spirit of the nobble. The "horrible" part was the year I spent NOT working on it ... but still being possessed by it, and stung, and taunted, and told I was worthless by it because I wasn't paying it its due attention.

The possession feels like infatuation or love, and very easily turns into hatred, contempt, loathing. So my boredom with the (boring parts of the) MS is like a light at the end of the tunnel. My infatuation wanes! I see a way out! All I have to do is cut away the chaff and preen up the rest and I'll be free of this ... thing.

And free to be possessed by the next thing. Sigh.

January 15, 2009

Life in Oakland Today

I just got my voter registration card from Oakland's voter registration office. Today. January 14th. Well, yesterday now. It told me that I was officially a voter as of November 2, 2008, even though I registered two years ago.

Oakland is broken.

In other news, BART stations in downtown Oakland were closed briefly tonight as I was coming home because of a protest against the new year's day police shooting which turned violent near the end. I don't get behind the violence tonight at all -- it seems clear that a few people went downtown just to start some shit -- but the riot last week is something else.

I heard a lot of people saying things about how the riot didn't solve anything and people shouldn't have done it and they were mostly attacking downtown small businesses that are members of their own community and they're right, of course. But it seems pretty clear that riots happen only after too much shit has gone down and been swept under the rug. Then a really blatant incident happens and people just explode. It's not a good choice, but neither is letting police brutality against young black men go on and on, year after year, without consequences. Last week's riot was a consequence and, sadly, it may be what makes something happen in this case.

Even more sad is the fact that this protest is around an incident caused by the BART police, when the anger is really against the Oakland police. It may turn out that the murder was a terrible mistake caused by an inexperienced officer, whereas the city police commit brutal acts year after year as a matter of policy, and the attention may not be turned on them. The last time the BART police killed someone was in 2001, but the Oakland police had six fatalities last year.

The worst part about this is the misdirected anger, but I have a hard time feeling anything more than sad about it.

September 22, 2008

Vote on Sarah Palin Poll!

I just got an email saying that PBS has a poll on Sarah Palin's qualifications that the Repugs have organized a yes vote for.

So be sure to vote yourself!

September 04, 2008

*Triumphant Screech!*

I have finished Draft Two of da nobble!

\o/

I did it by employing a little trick. I was in phase two of three phases of Draft Two. Phase one was a major revision of a problematic area of the book and fixing the outward ripples of this revision. Phase two was then going back and writing in all the peripheral material I had always wanted to include but didn't in the first draft (which was about creating a coherent novel, without necessarily the richness of a complete thing.)

Phase three was going to be going back in and fixing all the fixes I had noted throughout draft two.

BUT. Draft Two has now taken a year all told (although that year was spread out over two calendar years). And the list of fixes now comprises about ten pages in Word. This is not a Phase. It is its own draft. So the list of fixes is now Draft Three, which shall commence next week.

Woot!

Also, Draft Four will be me going back in and doing chiropractic work. (Structure and deep character fix.) Then there will be a spit and polish and we're done. I have until August 2009.

Deep breath.

ETA: oh, ... uh ... and actually, there's that little matter of cutting out 50 or 80 thousand words. The MS at this moment is 203,036 words. I shit you knot. I'm gonna hafta rethink the whole draft numbering system. Maybe I'm back to Phase three of Draft Two. Sigh.

August 13, 2008

200K

Yikes. Draft Two of da Nobble has reached 200,000 words. That's around 800 pages.

Don't worry, it will be cut. In Draft Three.

Onword.

June 18, 2008

Wow

Da Nobble is about to hit the 200k word mark.

That's a lot. In traditional pages it's between 670 and 800 pages. That's a lot.

Wow, that's a lot. And I still have more to add.

June 03, 2008

Shut Up, Gerry

Oh. My. God.

I swear to you, I swear, Geraldine Ferraro is on either the McCain payroll, or crack. Observe (emphases all mine):

Here we are at the end of the primary season, and the effects of racism and sexism on the campaign have resulted in a split within the Democratic Party that will not be easy to heal before election day. Perhaps it's because neither the Barack Obama campaign nor the media seem to understand what is at the heart of the anger on the part of women who feel that Hillary Clinton was treated unfairly because she is a woman or what is fueling the concern of Reagan Democrats for whom sexism isn't an issue, but reverse racism is.

Note the lack of scarequotes around "reverse racism." Yes, she's using the term seriously. It gets worse:

As for Reagan Democrats, how Clinton was treated is not their issue. They are more concerned with how they have been treated. Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama's historic campaign, people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment: If you're white you can't open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama's playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They're not upset with Obama because he's black; they're upset because they don't expect to be treated fairly because they're white. It's not racism that is driving them, it's racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don't believe he understands them an their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory "Our Time Has Come" they believe he is telling them that their time has passed.

Wow. Just ... wow. I almost wanted to write that she doesn't get it, but she does get it ... or would be getting it if she were writing those words on behalf of blacks instead of random, unnamed whites. But wait, there's more:

Whom he chooses for his vice president makes no difference to them. That he is pro-choice means little. Learning more about his bio doesn't do it. They don't identify with someone who has gone to Columbia and Harvard Law School and is married to a Princeton-Harvard Law graduate. His experience with an educated single mother and being raised by middle class grandparents is not something they can empathize with. They may lack a formal higher education, but they're not stupid. What they're waiting for is assurance that an Obama administration won't leave them behind.

Seriously? What does she think she's doing here? Telling people what to think? Fortunately, as we discovered during Hillary's campaign, nobody's listening. Will somebody please shut her up before anyone starts?

And to think, I voted for her. Well, no I didn't, really, only in my high school fake election. But still.

May 05, 2008

Mishima and Bodybuilding

You're welcome.

May 02, 2008

A Note

I just realized that, as I've been reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities for a month now, it's been a month since I read a novel.

And I haven't missed it.

Something's wrong here.

April 30, 2008

Pass It On

Take it and pass it on, folks!

April 10, 2008

Martian Territory Law Updated

Of course it would be in the National Review, in Bush's early years, that some idiot would write an article calling on the US to opt out of the 1967 international treaty agreeing to no national sovereignity claims in space.

The post argues that article II of the treaty does American interests "harm," although it never specifies what that harm is. Apparently, because article II was intended to restrict funding to NASA (and succeeded), that means we should repudiate it now.

Now we find ourselves in an entirely different world. The Soviet Union is no more. Mars, it         turns out, has far more water than we previously suspected: enough to support colonies, and even programs aimed at giving it a climate more hospitable to humans. The reward for going to Mars has increased dramatically.

Um, okay ... and what was that reward again? I mean, aside from learning how to keep people who leave Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field for extended periods from dying of radiation sickness? Or maybe giving science fiction writers more jazz? Or maybe sheer excitement?

People, people, we're not looking at a viable alternative living space here. To terraform Mars would require more Earth resources than it would produce or maintain ... probably ever. The potential mineral resources might be attractive ... assuming the iron and nickel are even there in a useful form ... if we needed iron and nickel that badly ... which we don't. But we don't know how to power spaceships without fossil fuels--something that we may well run out of in the next century--and transportation of any resources from Mars would far outcost the resources themselves.

How can conservatives NOT understand the liberal tendency to see them as crazy, greedy, and pathologically nationalistic, when a typical conservative response to a renewal of funding in space exploration is a call to claim sovereignity over unviable and as-yet unreachable territories in contravention of law, common sense, and even imagination?

I want to hit my head against a wall repeatedly, but this attitude is exactly what I need to understand for da nobble, which of course takes place on a Mars already claimed as a territory by the US.

***** UPDATE

oo. Missed this is in the first sweep. Here's an actual PIRG guy (albeit from Texas) advocating the creation of an International Agency for the Development of Mars to enable the selling of Martian territory to private individuals to spur the development and settling of human colonies on Mars.

Again, why? I dunno, but this guy gives more of an answer than the previous dudes:

The IADM should be structured so as to allow ordinary citizens to purchase land shares and prevent all of the shares from being gobbled up by governments and corporations. If this is successfully done, I think it’s possible that we will see a rebirth of a social drive which has been largely extinct for the last century: the push for the frontier. In an increasingly bland, stratified, and commercialized world, the desire to strike out on one’s own, to build a new home even in a harsh and unforgiving environment, will again come to the fore. By mid-century, I wouldn’t be surprised to see restless and adventurous people, the spiritual descendents of the American pioneers, buying Martian land with the full intention of settling it themselves.

Why now? Well, because our world is  "increasingly bland, stratified, and commercialized," and the best solution to this is to create a new frontier and get our manifest destiny flowing again, not, you know, to use our imaginations or to fix our problems or anything.

I say "Mars!" You say "Dumbass!"

Mars!

Dumbass!

Mars!

Dumbass!

March 31, 2008

Today

was my last day at my formal job. Tomorrow I begin working for myself. Woo hoo!

March 23, 2008

I'm Dying

February 23, 2008

Birthday

Sigh. My birthday today and it's RAINING and GREY.

Nothing to do but be naughty.

My present to myself today will be to get some writing done, even if it's crappy.

January 18, 2008

666 Comments

A Dangerous Time, people. I have exactly 666 comments on this blog. Somebody break the tension!

January 16, 2008

It Must Be A Fake

Photo

'Cause if it's real I'll just diiiiieeeeee!

Hybridity is never this neat ... is it?


via Cute Overload, of course.

Theme for 2008

As my boss said on the work blog I edit:

A wise colleague told me this week that she doesn’t make resolutions, she creates a theme for the year. So here is our theme for the year; GET THE MESSAGE OUT!

Which gave me to think. I've made my goals/resolutions for the year, but what is my theme?

Well, it'll have to be something about enjoyment, about working hard and achieving goals, about realistic expectations but high ambitions, and about building home and family (further). That's complicated. I don't know if I can fit that into a single slogan.

So maybe not a slogan so much as an exhortation: ... be present? Build community? Work hard? Live happily?

No, there's too much going on for me to balance this year (and every year) for me to reduce it to any one single thing. I suppose that at the moment I'm incapable of a simple life. I don't even want a simple life, although I'd like one that doesn't defeat me with its endless, crying minutiae.

So, no theme for 2008, unless it is: Get It Together! But that's the theme of my LIFE.

January 03, 2008

Other Writahs

It's funny, but I get along best with other writers, particularly fiction writers, on the internet.

I have writers among my friends but most of those are poets, or writer/artists/performers, or playwrights, or whatever. And most of my friends are visual artists or performers or whatever---not writers. And it's not that I don't like the fiction writers I know ... I really tend to like them, even the ones who aren't such good writers :P

Problem is, they don't seem to like me.

Small wonder, given the last sentence of the previous paragraph. I don't pull punches when I evaluate work in public--this very blog is a veritable grave of potential friendships, no doubt. And writers are, in my sincere opinion, more touchy about their work than any other kind of artist. So that could be it.

But I'm not so sure that that's it.

Does anyone else have the paranoid impression that they can't get along with other writers of their genre or discipline? I seem to do best with y'all when having blogversations, which are necessarily distancing. What sayest thou?

November 26, 2007

An Admission

I am not ready to commit to a blog post at this time.

November 10, 2007

Diabulimia

I was horrified to read this article in Salon about Diabulimia, a new eating disorder that affects only Type 1 diabetics like myself.

As I wrote in the previous post, when you have full blown diabetes, you'll eat carbs but not be able to use them, so you'll be essentially starving to death. And yes, you'll lose a lot of weight. The four big symptoms of diabetes are: excessive thirst, excessive urination, extreme weight loss, and blurred vision.

This article talks about young girls and women who are Type 1 diabetics who use diabetes to lose weight. Yep, that's right, they starve themselves while eating tons of food. As long as they don' t eat fat or protein, they'll lose weight quickly.

The thing the article doesn't mention in much detail, presumably because the writer isn't diabetic, is how awful hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) feels. When you don't take your insulin but still eat, you have tons of unused sugar running around your system. It doesn't just run innocently around, though. It collects where it shouldn't.

Like in your eyes, for example. The blurred vision? That's you going blind. It takes a few years, but unchecked hyperglycemia deposits destructive sugar in the blood vessels in your eyes, which then burst from the pressure, damaging your retina.

Or in your kidneys, putting pressure on them. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. Why? Because your body tries to flush out this destructive loose sugar and you have to pee, literally, every fifteen minutes, and are thirsty all the time. Processing all that sugar destroys your kidneys.

Your eyes feel swollen and you can't see properly, even with glasses. You're thirsty and can't quench your thirst no matter how much you drink. It's like a Greek version of Hell. You can't move far away from a bathroom or you'll pee your pants. Your joints feel like they're swollen, your head feels like it's swollen, and gravity is stronger. You're so tired you can't walk very far without having to sit down and rest. Your heart races all the time and you're breathless with any exertion. You just feel sick. Constantly, so that, although you're tired all the time, you can't sleep.

It's horrible.

And that's just the direct effects. Secondarily, yeast and fungi loooove sugar, remember? So you get yeast infections. Yes, even the guys. Guys, did you know you could get yeast infections in any warm, moist body crease? Ladies, imagine a yeast infection that just. won't. go. away. Also, itchy skin infections.

Cuts don't heal and get infected easily. Tattoos are clearly out. And you're more susceptible to other diseases, especially bacterial ones.

It's gross, it feels terrible, and your quality of life is shit.

This is why it horrifies me that girls can hate their bodies so much that they'd put themselves through this hell just to look thin.

What is this world coming to?

November 04, 2007

Frozen in Mild Terror

Can't write. Trying to Unlock.

October 08, 2007

Come See Me Read!

Hey there, all! Yes, it's Litquake time again! Yes, I'm reading again during the very cool Lit Crawl. I'll be in Phase III from 8 to 8:45:

Mission Laundromat, 3282 22nd Street Lit Journals: Authors from On the Page and Tea Party Magazines Blair Campbell, Deborah Crooks, John Dylan Keith, Clara Hsu, Claire Light, Craig Santos Perez

Hope to see some of you out and about that night! I might even ... we'll see ... do a "blog reading," an as yet undefined type of performance which I might not have time to experiment with. We'll see ...

September 23, 2007

Today

Genuinely despairing of people's ability to actually communicate with each other. This week I've had several severe episodes of miscommunication and failure to engage. I really just want to turn the noise off for a while and go off to a desert island somewhere.

It'll be better tomorrow.

September 12, 2007

Road Rape

Well, I didn't have much to say about McCarthy's The Road at first. It packs such an emotional wallop that it's hard to (hard to want to) analyze or even think about. But as time went by, I was more and more bugged by the tremendous (if par for the course) misogyny of the book.

I mean, it's a father and son, for the whole book. and all they encounter--to speak to, to act with or against--are men. As the book progresses, the absence of the boy's mother grows heavier and heavier until her absence is finally explained: she gives up, and wanders off out of camp to die alone.

And what is her argument? Well, that she fears being raped, of course--and her son being raped, naturally.

Naturally. In Cormac McCarthy's world, rape is still a Fate Worse Than Death. The whole world has died, cannibals are roaming the Earth, there's no hope, and she's worried about being raped.

As if her husband wouldn't be just as raped in such a world.

My ogd, can McCarthy simply not conceive of women strong enough to survive a holocaust the way the men here have? Can he somehow not imagine women banding together, or even together with men, to form less predatory groups?

Arg. That's it. I'm not reading any more McCarthy. I was feeling emotionally devastated by the book at first, but as time goes by it just makes me feel dirtier and dirtier, and more and more tired of it, and less and less inclined to think about it. It's apocalypse porn, looking for the most horrific thrills: keeping people alive to eat them slowly, or bringing a pregnant woman with you so you can eat her baby when its born (and what happened to the pregger woman once her baby was born, anyway? She just disappears.)

Argh! I'm done! McCarthy can go hate women off in his little southerly corner and leave me alone!

September 11, 2007

Peeg 'n' Patrick

Dude, me neither.

August 31, 2007

Munny, or Our Fucked Up Society Part 5673

I'm a professional fundraiser for a nonprofit organization.

How fucked up is that?

It just hit me. I'm sitting here in a cafe, killing an hour before I go to a meeting at another nonprofit organization (where I will be giving my work for free), and I pulled out a book to read, one I'm reading to be better able to raise funds for yet another nonprofit organization where I also give my work for free.

I was just at the Craigslist Nonprofit Bootcamp in the Bay Area two weekends ago and the keynote speaker pointed out that nonprofit people are more obsessed with money than businesspeople. Yeah, even the ones who deal with money.

And it's true. Our society is so centered around money, that any endeavor that doesn't have money-making at its heart has to spend more time proving its money-worthiness than for-profit endeavors. This includes academia, social service (both government and private), arts and culture at all levels, etc.

How fucked up is that?

How fucked up is it that someone at my organization spent money buying a book that teaches us how to convince people to give us money so that we don't have to be concerned about earning it? How fucked up is it that convincing people to be generous for a good cause is an industry? How fucked up is it that all of my friends--all of them--that I met doing nonprofit work, who have stayed in nonprofit work, have all ended up going into some aspect of nonprofit development or funding, because that's the logical step when you get good at what you do?

Of course, it makes sense that money is at the center of everything because, although it behaves erratically, money is the only measurable quantity of any importance in our lives. The moment you point out anything else measurable--the amount of a harvest, the loss of polar ice, the progress of a student ... or of a disease--its meaning--or meaningfulness--can be directly translated into a currency amount.

Which means the obvious, of course: that money has many layers and regions of meaning, and its behavior and idiom are bigger than we give it credit for on a day-to-day basis. (Sidetrack: note the use of "credit" in the previous sentence, i.e. a promissory monetary value.) Money is neither simply a strange and arbitrary evil at the root of all social ills, nor simply a way--the way--we assess and assign value to objects, labor, and processes.

There are a number of layers of meaning even within the simple process of raising funds for a nonprofit. For example, my current place of work has an extremely healthy system of funding streams, because they are diverse, and because the org keeps a good staff around to continually expand on existing streams and look for and establish new ones. Also, within each stream (say: individual giving, or private foundations) we have a very diverse population of donors and funders, from the very small and limited to the very wealthy and large.

This is because our mission and programs appeal to a very diverse set of people, yes, but it also means that we are able to articulate a vision of our mission and programs that appeals to a diversity of folks. And it also means that the need to appeal to a diverse set of people causes us to articulate an appealing and layered vision of our mission and program. And it also means that the need to articulate an appealing and layered vision of our mission and program forces us to have an appealing and layered mission and program, as well.

Do you like the palindrome nature of that argument? Which came first: the programmatic value or the healthy funding streams?

Ask that question of businesses as well. Which came first: the great business plan or the venture capital? Any dilettante will tell you that you can't get capital without a great biz plan, but can you create a great biz plan without knowing who it is that might fund you?

Ask that of great art. The masterpieces of 500 years ago were all commissioned. Think about that for a second. "Here's some money. Paint something on that wall that will brighten up the room and make me look wealthy." Why can't that be the straw that builds the camel's headdress? Or the new grant the Moneybags Foundation created for a specific purpose: why can't that grant be the thing that causes today's artist to take a simple step out of the comfort zone and into something great?

(Who am I arguing with? Myself?)

It's also not a simple bilateral assignment of value: good/bad; yes/no. Proclaiming an endeavor can start the money flowing, but only fulfilling the promise can keep it coming or increase it. So you shape a mission/program that will appeal to a diversity and then you have to start spinning plates. It's the desire of the diverse funding sources that you be this, that and the other thing ... plus, that thing over there, too. So you say you will. And if you're successful in being those things, very often what you've proven is not your essential virtue, but rather your ability to balance competing demands.

And this is one of the aspects of a healthy organization: the ability to balance a variety of equally urgent demands and satisfy them all. In this way, funding can both stimulate the development of an essential success skill that can be applied to all aspects of the org, and also measure and reward the development of that skill.

A bad org--or artist--or researcher--will create a program based on the stated desires of funders, so you don't want to do that. In that way, money corrupts--and it does so easily and thoroughly. And as time goes on and the corruption (otherwise known as "mission drift") works its black magic, the org's mission and programs become less coherent and successful and the funders leave the building. So an organization unable to maintain its essential purpose against the temptation of easy money is found out. No matter what people may think of their own judgment, hardened bullshit can be very hard to detect. But money simply will not flow towards the corrupted mission ... and will flow toward the tended mission, no matter how personally corrupt its gardeners are.

This is story of George W. Bush. He is criticized for staying a course that won't work, but look at his administration from the standpoint of mission, vision, and program. No president since FDR can be said to have evidenced so little mission drift as Dubya. He articulated a vision of his mission and programs which appealed to a diversity of people, and the money flowed toward it and kept flowing. It still hasn't stopped. And has he kept his promises? Fuck yeah. Has he followed his mission? Fuck yeah! Has he established and stabilized the programs he said he would? Fuck yeah! We need more nonprofit E.D.s like him.

Prob is, of course, our society is neither a special interest, nor a business. And running it like one is killing us. But that's a bit too much of a digression now. What was my point?

Oh yeah, money senses both purity and corruption, not of human morality, but rather of stated purpose. Money can't tell you if someone is good or bad, but it can tell you to a nicety if someone is successful and consistent in their goodness or badness.

Money is incredibly sensitive to variations in that value. It's the ultimate liquid, flowing into every possible crevice. And it's the people who deal the most with it--the financiers and appropriaters and uber-comptrollers--who understand this the best. It's also they who fall most easily prey to the idea that money is the only measurement of value. We all know this.

What's difficult to realize is that, although even the smallest child has a grasp of the concept that money isn't the only measurement of value, even the most sophisticated, well-educated adults often don't have a grasp of the simple fact that money is one of the best measurements of social value we've come up with so far.

Not the only one. And certainly not one you would ever want to use in isolation. But one of the best ones? Definitely.

I can't tell you how uncomfortable this train of thought makes me.

August 03, 2007

One Party System

Seriously, dewds, what do we need two parties for?

May 19, 2007

I Have Not Stopped Blogging ...

Just slowed down.

Seriously. I'm going to be starting to blog again more regularly later in the summer because I rearranging my life slightly. Will post about it as it happens.

Satisfied, Wendy?

April 17, 2007

Oh God

... the shooter was Asian, and a foreign national. I really don't wanna see the fallout from this one.

****update*****

Even worse: He's a 1.5. Here we go ...

****update 2*****

"1.5" is between first and second generation. Among European Americans, there's the immigrant generation, and then "first generation" means the first generation to be born in the U.S. Among Asians and Latinos, it's counted differently. First generation is the immigrants. Second generation is the first generation born in the States.

So 1.5's are kids born abroad, but raised mostly or partly in the U.S. I.e., not foreigners, but not born in the U.S.A., either.

This guy is gonna get the "foreigner" treatment for sure, even though he's culturally American--at least to great extent.

****update 3*****

Rebecca at Hyphen magazine rounds up the Asian American freak-out.

April 11, 2007

Comments On Don Imus Debacle

  1. I take back what I've been saying about "at least blacks are no longer treated with as open contempt in the media as Asians are" blah blah. I guess it was said more in wishfulness than in truth.
  2. After an hour on Google News, I still haven't found a white commenter who thinks anything other than blacks are overreacting. They're all male. I haven't found any random white women commenting. Is every white male on the internet a privileged cracker? Is every white woman on the internet a fucking ostrich?
  3. Oh My God. Why did it take me half an hour on Google to find out about the "Jigaboo" comment? Why did that not merit attention?
  4. The white (male) commentary ranges from "You're all reverse racists this is free speech fuck you lynching Don Imus Free speech fuck you!" to (sadly, wryly) "Yeah, he shouldn'ta said it, but it's teh blacks overreacting that gives his comments meaning" (no shit. somebody actually made that argument.)
  5. Not a single white male in my search has been found to have the imagination to wonder what the Rutger's women's basketball team members feel about all this ... like maybe are they feeling hurt or insulted. It's all about Don Imus and what he does and doesn't deserve. Can it be that this all comes down to a lack of empathy? Talk about identity politics! Look who's identifying now!
  6. It took me all of five minutes to find commentary by "a black man" who thinks teh blacks are overreacting. I don't know which is worse: the possibility that the writer isn't really black, or the possibility that s/he is.
  7. I've found every possible breakdown of Imus' comments, saying that this element was offensive and the other wasn't. There was one that said that "ho" was offensive, but "nappy-headed" wasn't. There was one that said that "nappy-headed" was the offending remark. There was one that said that if the comment had been made about, say, that nappy-headed ho Foxy Brown, instead of those fine, upstanding Rutgers wimmin, then no one would have said anything because, let's be honest, she is a nappy-headed ho. There was one that said that the use of "Jigaboo", which the commenter apparently only knew from Do The Right Thing, made the whole radio exchange a grand allusion to Spike Lee, and not a racist insult at all. All of these comments tried to do away with the offensiveness of the whole by placing it "into context" as if there was any context in which two white men talking about a largely black women's basketball team's looks using the terms "nappy-headed ho's" and "Jigaboos vs. Wannabes" might not be offensive.
  8. Let me break it down for you again:
    • "nappy-headed": no, whites don't get to use it. It's insulting: it's too familiar, it's too racist. And no, you don't get to be arbiter of what teh blacks get to say to each other. Buleeve me, if you bothered to read anything that black people write, you'd already know there's a long-standing and lively discussion of this issue. Your input is not needed.
    • "ho's": no, you don't get to say this about any women, black, white, or ignored. "Ho" is short for "whore", which is insulting slang for "prostitute" and an insult commonly used to deride women, in the belief that a woman's chastity is still important. Once again, black rappers may well be using it. Doesn't mean Don Imus gets to. See above. Plus, who says black rappers get to use it with impunity?
    • "jigaboo": also not okay. No, it's not from Spike Lee. It's an old school racist term on par with the "n-word", only never used as much. There is no universe in which it is not offensive.
    • "context": here's the context, folks. The Rutgers women's basketball team was news because they had just lost a championship game. Imus and pal decided it was appropriate to discuss both the Rutgers players' and their opponents' looks, because they are womenz. They pronounced the Rutgers team "rough-looking" (i.e. not good looking) and backed it up by saying they had tatoos and were "nappy-headed ho's" and "jigaboos". Spot the "ism"! This is racist, sexist, and entirely off topic. There is no way you can tweak this context to make it okay.
  9. How long, sweet Jesus, must we sing this song?

(cross-posted at Other Magazine staff blog.)

April 07, 2007

Modern Day Indentured Servitude

Shailja brought up an issue when she commented on my post about redeploying injured servicemen and women:

Well, as we all know, military recruitment is at an all-time low. The army is beating the bushes for bodies to throw into the Gulf. There have been several articles exposing how army recruiters are signing up kids who don't meet physical and health requirements, telling them to lie about conditions that would disqualify them, encouraging them to throw away their meds.....

Once they've gone to all that trouble to capture them, you don't think they're gonna relinquish them to a few itty-bitty injuries, do you?

The closest analogy I can think of to military service is indentured, or bonded, labor. Which, as I'm hardly the first to point out, is actually modern-day slavery. Slaves don't get to quit when they get injured either.

This is one of those class issues that is impossibly complex. I remember back in 2003 or so I went to a gala for Youth Speaks. As is the custom, they had invited community folks at the last minute to fill up still-empty seats.

I was sitting with a friend during their program when one of the instructors talked about a client of the org, a kid who had just signed up in the army and was going to Iraq. The instructor asked for a hand for the kid and the applause was sparse and extremely unenthusiastic.

I looked around and the audience members who were refusing to clap were mostly white men, middle aged or so, and dressed and held like people of means. I.e.: middle, upper-middle, and upper class. It was really a toss-up whether or not they understood how much their liberal anti-war stance was in tension with the number of opportunities available to low-income teens to rise in the world--or merely to become self-sufficient.

I saw all this, but I also was uncomfortable making a public show of support for a kid who chose to go abroad and kill civilians. Later, during our event post-mortem, my friend, who is from a working class background, thought that I should be more supportive. On his side, he was only thinking about the individual kid and how the kid's best option--in the absence of any colleges beating down his door with full-ride scholarships--might well be the military.

I pointed out that all the upper-middle class protesting in the world wasn't going to do any good if the working class were willing to fight the wars. The "protest class" always gets ignored until they start taking the military class's dinner away. It's easy for someone from privilege, like me, to assign sacrifice to someone from no privilege. But the fact remains that, for this war to end, someone is going to have to sacrifice the advantages the military offers. And, as unfair as it is, that someone will never be me.

So the way the situation is worsening, and the way the Bush administration keeps making politically suicidal decisions about military personnel benefits and treatment, basically they've rendered this impossibly complex issue much less complex, or impossible. For those who have a chance to think about it, the military is no longer an attractive or beneficial option: a near certainty of being deployed to Iraq, a near-certainty of sustaining severe injury and/or severe mental health issues if deployed to Iraq, a very high incidence of rape and sexual harrassment for servicewomen, a near certainty of being redeployed beyond one's term of service, a strong possibility of being redeployed even if injured, a serious reduction of benefits and pay while in service and almost no benefits or healthcare for veterans ... seriously, what the hell does Bush think is going to attract people to sign up?

And now they're recruiting prisoners? That'll make the military more popular.

Of course, recruits and potential recruits are still the losers. Potential recruits are losing possibly their only "way out" of poverty into a skills-building job. And recruits ... well gods help 'em. Maybe after the next election we can do something about what's happening to the military. But for now, two more years of Hell awaits servicemen and women, and maybe a lifetime of Hell afterwards, for their traumatized selves, and for their families, who are at a radically increased risk of domestic abuse.

I'm not (entirely) ashamed to admit that in the past I've accepted the fact that the security we enjoy at home and abroad is owing to the power of our military. But we crossed the line into unacceptable territory years ago. When even our own soldiers are getting no real benefits from being proxy bullies and thugs, even conservative hawks have to admit it's time to dial down the war machine a little bit.

March 20, 2007

Checklist for Originality in Ethnic Writing

A moving portrait (check) of three generations (check) of the Chan(check) family (check) living (check) in Vancouver’s Chinatown (check)

Sammy (check) Chan was sure she’d escaped her family obligations(check) when she fled Vancouver(check) six years ago, but with her sister’s upcoming marriage(check) , her turn has come to care for their aging mother(check) (check) (check) . Abandoned by all four of her older sisters(check) , jobless (check) and stuck in a city she resents(check) , Sammy finds herself cobbling together a makeshift family history(check) (check) (check) (check) (check) and delving (check) into stories (check) that began in 1913(check) (check) , when her grandfather(check) (check) (check) , Seid Quan(check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) , then eighteen years old, first stepped on Canadian soil.(check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check)

The End of East (check) weaves in and out of the past (check) (check) and the present(check) , picking up the threads (check) f the Chan family’s stories(check) (check) : Seid Quan, whose loneliness (check) in this foreign country(check) is profound (check) (check) even as he joins the Chinatown(check) community(check) ; Shew Lin, whose hopes(check) for (check) her (check) family (check) (check) are threatened by her own misguided actions(check) ; Pon Man, who struggles with obligation and desire(check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) ; and Siu Sang, who tries to be the caregiver (check) everyone expects(check) (check) , even as she feels herself unravelling(check) (check) . And in the background, five little girls (check) (check) grow up (check) (check) (check) under the weight of family expectations(check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) . As the past unfolds around her(check) , Sammy finds herself embroiled(check) in a volatile (check) mixture (check) of a dangerous love affair(check) , a difficult and duty-filled relationship with her mother(check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) (check) , and the still-fresh memories of her father’s (check) long illness.(check) (check) (check)

An exquisite (check) and evocative(check) debut (check) from one of Canada’s bright (check) new(check) literary (check) stars(check) The End (check) of East (check) sets family (check) conflicts (check) against (check) the backdrop (check) of Vancouver’s Chinatown(check) – a city(check) within a city(check) where dreams are shattered a(check) s quickly as t(check) hey’r(check) e bu(check) ilt(check) , (check) an(check) d wher(check) history repeats itself(check) (check) (check) through(check) the generations(check) (check) (check) .

No, I did NOT make this up.

March 11, 2007

Disgusting

This has to stop.

February 05, 2007

Wherein I Am Again Appalled

Okay, I'm happily, merrily, writing this on my brand spankin' neue wireless internet service. Yes.

However, I'm ever so slightly disturbed by the fact that the nice, entirely American young man who helped me set up over the phone, called me "Mrs. Light", and then, when I said, "That's 'Ms.'!" came back with "Miss?"

I had to repeat it three times and spell it for him. He'd never heard of it. What the fuck?

Then I called back later with another question and got another nice young man who called me "Miss Light". I let it go.

But seriously, what the fuck?

I got into a shouting match last summer with an Arab immigrant motel manager who insisted on calling me "Miss" and then thought that I was correcting his English when I told him to use "Ms." He'd never heard of it. What. The. Fuck.

At Safeway, where I use my club card, I am invariably thanked as "Miss Light" by everyone, furriner and Amerkin. What the hell is going on? Did I get off at the wrong dimension the last time I woke up from a dream? Has "Ms." not been standard for all business practice for, like, twenty-five years? When did we start rolling back?

And dude, let me remind you, I'm in San Francisco.

What the hell is going on?

November 28, 2006

Catvacuuming

The honeymoon is over. I've been in this cafe for nearly an hour, reading crap on the internet, in an attempt to avoid getting to my 2K words today. Yep. Writin' a nobble.

Now, for something completely different ...

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