Blog Against Theocracy 2013

Its been a long time dear readers. One of my earliest posts took part in the 2007 blog against theocracy. When I saw there was no organized blog against theocracy this year, I felt called to write. There is a great need to address this topic.

This past week has seen a historic awakening – a cultural awareness of the validity and importance of recognizing gay rights. It is a big moment, but underneath it an even bigger moment waits to be discovered: Religious belief alone is not a valid source of law. If your belief in the unity of all beings or the importance of love for they neighbor drives you to do good work – that is a beautiful blessing. But when your beliefs force those who do not share them to act as if they do: you cross a line. We see this play out in the absurd arguments against gay marriage. We see it in the obsessive drive to control and repress female sexuality. Increasingly though, we see it burrowing into harder to reach places. As America becomes less religious, as America pushes back on church incursions into state, we are going to see religious influence look for other ways to retain (and expand) power.

That is at play in this effort to push Bibles into public schools.

The foundations of knowledge of the ancient world—which informs the understanding of the modern world—are biblical in origin.

A statement like that ignores the prolific writings of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian sources. It ignores the musings and discoveries of the Islamic Golden Age. The thoughts of Chinese writers are also missing. It also ignores the more interesting contributions of Christian thinkers like St Augustine and St Anselm. I speak from experience when I say you can understand their wonderful and engaging philosophical musings without having read the bible.

If you really want to expose the underbelly of the effort to bring bibles into the classroom, ask if they think students should study the koran. After all, the koran is foundational to much of modern society (just not in the US). Better yet, see if Roma Downy and Mark Burnett would support including critical views of the bible. Is it to be read as is, without the criticism found in English or History classes? Or do they imagine students free to dissect the many logical errors and contradictions found within? More than likely not, since that would defeat the purpose of their effort, similar in spirit and aim to efforts to install the ten commandments at courthouses.

The highest promise of religious thought is to inspire acts of great compassion and vision. When it is instead used as an aggressive evangelical power grab, its value is demeaned and lessened. The strongest and most vocal ally in the fight against theocracy should always be the religious believer. For religion is worth far more than its current use – as a tool for social control.

Standing Up for Women’s Rights

Let’s put this nonsense to bed forever. If the opportunity comes up to stand up for women’s rights – the only moral reaction is to seize that opportunity and fight to win. Failing to do so is not shrewd, playing to the middle, or anything other than weakness.

Digby:

For the sake of victims of domestic violence, VAWA should be reauthorized as soon as possible, but Democrats need to remember that we all know they’re in the midst of a tough election contest, too. Fight the good fight for women, but please, leave the noble posturing at home.

That’s right, it’s a tough election fight and the last thing Democrats need is to look like all they care about is a bunch of whiny bitches. Let’s not lose our heads here. 

Believe me, this is not an uncommon reaction. How do I know this? Because I’ve been watching this go down for my entire adult life. Any time “women’s issues” start to become prominent, a certain kind of liberal male gets very nervous. The stuff I heard during the 1992 “year of the woman” election was enough to curl my hair. And I see no reason to believe anything’s changed. I’ve already seen plenty of evidence that it hasn’t.

This is a noble fight. Advising Democrats to pretend it isn’t kills your credibility.

Making the Political Personal

crunktastic asks a great question:

Can I feel safe in the softness of your touch if you don’t feel led to question a culture where other men routinely touch other women violently?

Its a great question, and one worth considering beyond gender politics as well.

ps – Note to crunktastic, throwing in a historically inaccurate cheap shot doesn’t bolster your arguments:

In addition to accompanying their men to the polls to monitor their votes, Black women banded together and encouraged each other to withhold sex from any man who voted against the community’s interests. These sisters knew how personal the political was long before white women said it.

Using sex to influence politics has been around as a tool for ages across world cultures.

UPDATE: I totally goofed the ps note due to utterly missing the historical reference!  Oops.  So please disregard the post script above.

Tea Party vs Abortion – The New Fight

The exceptions for the health of the mother, rape, and incest are under attack.  As the anti-abortion movement exposes its true face – a theocratic desire to control women’s reproductive options in all circumstances – they are also removing all pretense at compromise.  The newly invigorated anti-abortion movement is going to oppose contraceptions.  They are going to force children to give birth.  They will fight tooth and claw to not only destroy Roe v Wade, but to go further and actively pass legislation making childbirth mandatory for any woman fertilized during sex.

This is the battle we are facing and to win it we need to pull its arguments entirely out of the shadows.  (We also need a new consistent and memorable name for the anti-abortion crowd.  Potentially “forced-birthers?”).  When Republicans argue against contraception they are really saying “Women do not have the right to prevent themselves from being impregnated”.  When they remove or reduce the rape exception they are saying “Women do not have the right to withhold consent from being impregnated”.  A woman who is raped can go to the doctor and get medication to handle any std’s picked up – but will not be able to prevent pregnancy – even if that was the rapists aim.  When conservatives oppose exceptions for the health of the mother they are saying “Women do not have the right to life saving medicine if they are pregnant”.

The right wing’s vicious new hard line on abortion is an assault on more than a woman’s right to choose to give birth or not.  It is an assault on a woman’s right to live and aiding an abetting rapists at inflicting trauma.  If we are going to win we need to tackle this extremism head on and aggressively.

Dear Less Famous Feminists: Language Miss!

Harriet J has a largely brilliant post over at RH Reality Check.  In it she makes a passionate plea for famous feminists to stand up to Naomi Wolf’s execrable defense of Julian Assange.  (Before we get started, I want to make clear that there is a difference between believing the charges against Julian are politically motivated – which I do – and failing to take the issue of rape seriously).  The issue at hand is how we talk about consent, and that is a very important conversation to have.  However on reading her post I was jarred by running into the unfamiliar terms “Zhe” and “Hir”. Had Harriet become a lolcat? No, it turns out she was simply using gender neutral terms.

This is a problem.

The English language badly needs gender neutral pronouns, this is true.  However Harriet’s use of them in her post were counterproductive for a few reasons:

  1. She does not use them consistently.  This is confusing for the reader.
  2. To the uninformed they are obstacles to understanding.

The consistency issue is self explanatory.  If you are going to make use of new pronouns you need to do so consistently, not haphazardly.

It is the obstacle they create that is crucial.  The issues of consent and the Assange case specifically are both hot button issues.  Communicating clearly is essential.  Given the relative obscureness of gender neutral pronouns (and lacking any introduction), they appear as typos and function as the sort of specialized language one might find in a term paper – jargon.  Jargon serves a useful purpose – it can form a mental shortcut of sorts – a method for passing larger amounts of information in a shorter amount of space.  However technically specific language is the domain of the specialist – not the layperson.  The use of such language alienates potential supporters.

As for her point, it is well made.  Naomi Wolf’s comments on rape need to be answered by someone who can concisely convey that there is more to rape than overt physical violence.

Quick Thoughts on Abortion, Choice and Language

I was browsing the America Speaks Out website (created by the Republican party at taxpayer expense).  Its a goldmine of funny.  But it also offers up some rather useful insights.  Take these two quotes:

the sanctity of life should support whatever of woman wishes to do with her body. Without this right freedom is meaningless

vs

Abortion is a complex, difficult moral issue. It is not the proper role of the government to make our moral decisions for us. Let people make up their own minds and take responsibility for their decisions. If we are to be the party of small government, less government intrusion, and personal liberty, we must stop trying to legislate abortion away. It’s not the government’s place to be a nanny that chooses our morality for us.

The first has 2,710 votes, largely against it (but relatively close).  The second has 1,960 votes hugely in favor.  Both are pro-choice statements.  One is effective.

What makes it effective?  It deftly makes use of conservative goals and language to make the case for a supposedly progressive cause.  What it reveals is reproductive choice is not simply a progressive issue.  It is a universal issue, and conservatives not under the thrall of theocratic dictate are allies.

Good Reads July 13 2009

Haven’t been blogging of late, but here’s some good reads to tide over folks who still travel here:

WriteChic: Man Murdered by Health Insurance Companies (Obama should read this EVERY DAY until Health Care Reform passes).
DailyKos: Health Care – If you think you’ll always be insurable, Think Again.
Crooks and Liars: Hard Hitting Advertising on Health Care Works!

Feministing: Pharmacists can’t refuse to offer Plan B!
Orcinus: A Reminder That Sarah Palin is a Liar Unfit for Public Office.
Orcinus: Rush Limbaugh Encouraging a Coup Against Obama.
Orcinus (Seriously this is a MUST READ BLOG): Tea Partiers Stepping Up the Crazy.
Pandagon: Apparently the Love Segregation Movement in DC is just a touch psychotic.
Some Guy With a Website (Freaking AWESOME-PANTS Cartoon): Obama and Reid – Super Problem Solvers.
Majikthise: Is on CNN! (Note to Linux Users, CNN HATES YOU and no you cannot watch).
Majikthise: Apparently the US locked up a Journalist seeking asylum. Niiiiice move us.
HateWatch: Will Congress Investigate Extremists in the Military?
United States of Jamerica: On the Wisdom of Bipartisanship.


And in this episodes absolute must read brilliant screed of no uncertain power, the Unapologetic Mexican rings in with this: The Power of Truth and the Weakness of Tough Talk.

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The Compelled Birth Movement

I get email! A reader (Liz) took issue with my post “The Problem With Calling Abortion Murder“.

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The Problem With Calling Abortion Murder

Let’s say I said administrators at a school were routinely picking out high school students teachers didn’t like, and killing them.  Let’s say in addition, they had the full complicity of our legal system.  Would you be in the streets protesting?  Would you be writing articles or blog posts?  Or would you be in that school trying to rescue the kids, and shooting the administrators?

The problem with lying and calling abortion murder is that it leads directly to shit like this: An abortion provider was shot to death in Kansas.

Make no mistake about it, calling abortion murder is a lie.  One that anti-choice activists do not believe:
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Brief Update and Two Recommended Posts

Shortly (I hope) I’ll be announcing a new education blog related to my nonprofit.  In the meantime I’d like to recommend two exceptionally insightful posts…

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Movie Idea! A Proposal

Movie idea!  A man is about to be deported to Canada, and to keep his high powered job, orders his assistant to marry him, or he’ll fire her.  Afraid of losing her job, she complies, and through a series of endearing mishaps falls in love with her boss.

Switch the roles and its an instant romantic comedy staring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

There’s no way a movie where a man forces a woman into marriage would sail through the sea of public opinion unscathed.  Strangely I doubt that  “The Proposal” is going to offer a revealing deconstruction of gender stereotypes and the role power in social and professional relationships.  Its become vaguely acceptable in mainstream culture to write in jokes about rape, assault, and harrasment as long as the its a woman doing it to a man.

What do you think of this?  I wonder to what degree it forms an overton window.  If female on male abuse of power/sexual crime moves past acceptable discourse into mainstream culture, does male on female abuse/crime tag along into acceptable discourse?

Fox, The Simpons, Family Guy and Rape: WTF?

Being a fan of Family Guy, I read this piece from Jessica @ feministing back in October:

The most recent episode, I Dream of Jesus, featured this conversation with Peter and a waiter (Peter is trying to get the waiter to give him a jukebox record he likes):

Peter: Can I have that record? I love that song. I’ll let you have sex with my daughter…

Waiter: I don’t know…let’s see what your daughter looks like.

P: She’s…uhh…(pans past Meg to “hot” girl)…right there!

W: Ok, I’ll do her. But can you tell her to cry and beg me to stop?

P: I think that can be arranged.

And this isn’t the first time the show has made light of violence against women. Usually, I’d consider Family Guy one of my (Un)Feminist guilty pleasures, but I think I have to cut the show off completely. Sigh.

More below the fold (warning, possibly triggering):

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Time to Put the PUMA Out For the Night

sm77 at PUMA blog the Confluence sums up their irrelevance in a goodbye post (emphasis mine):

To think we waited 8 years PRAYING for a Democratic President.  Well now we have one and I still feel the same.   But as a true, firebrand, loud and hellacious liberal who endured the Dubya years, my job is to dislike the president and critique anything and everything the president does.   So it’s not like things have changed much.  Instead of a “W” now we have an “O.”   Instead of obsessively myopic Evangelicals, we have obsessively myopic Obamacrats.  Meet the new boss, same as the old.

PUMA power couldn’t resist going out with one last bang of ironic detachment from reality.  McCain, affectionally dubbed McSame, was cast out in enthusiastic favor of Obama.  The sense I got, reflecting on the vitriol sent our way by McCain/Palin supporters with those who supported Obama, Edwards, and Clinton during the primary season, was that we all had won.  The 18 million strong turned out to be a couple hundred vocal pundits and bloggers after all.

Meanwhile the candidates who stood for the same principals and policies as Hillary Clinton carried the day, defeating the heir to Bush’s self styled throne and the Cheney loving anti-feminist he picked as a “fuck you nod” to disaffected Clinton supporters.

Now is the time to recognize what Obama stands for, and to take up the banner he shares with Clinton and help bring progress to this great nation of ours.  Now is the time to leave PUMA behind, and follow Hillary Clinton’s lead and support our new President.

Republican Confluence Doesn’t Get Palin

The Confluence has become a hotspot for closet Republicans looking to slash Democrats from within.  But their latest bit of chicanery is inexecusable.  They are defending Sarah Palin!

Do you see the problem with the way the Democrats are arguing this time? Sarah Palin and her husband are NOT SCARY to swing voters. Neither is Barack Obama, Joe Biden, or John McCain. They see all the candidates as politicians, neither inherently good nor inherently evil. Wrap your partisan brain around THAT one!

Actually, independents and bitter Hillary Supporters are concerned by Palin:

“And that ticks me off because I do not want Obama,” said Democrat Annette Kocsis, 68, a former Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter from Clearwater, scoffing at “the pit bull in lipstick,” as Palin has called herself.

Palin, who makes her first Florida campaign stop Sunday in a Republican stronghold in north-central Florida, has generated enthusiasm among conservatives. But at least with this randomly selected group of swing voters, she appears to be an obstacle to McCain’s winning over disillusioned Democrats or moderates.

“That was almost insulting,” Democrat Rhonda Laris of Temple Terrace, another strong Clinton backer skeptical of Obama, said of the Palin pick. “Do they think we’re really stupid? … I’m definitely leaning toward the Democratic side now. Sarah Palin scares … me.”

madamab at the Confluence takes Democrats to task for believing:

She will take possession of every female uterus in the United States and force it to become pregnant, then return it to its previous owner with a little something extra inside;

She will force every school to teach abstinence-only education and creationism;

Sarah Palin is virulently anti-choice.  A McCain/Palin administration is the best shot the conservatives have at overturning roe vs wade.  Dismissing that concern with a quip about taking “possession of every female uterus in the United States” is nakedly dishonest.  Swing voters who value reproductive choice are quite concerned.  Democratic Hillary supporters just are not buying the steaming piles of bull coming from the Confluence.

The fact is the Confluence just doesn’t get Sarah Palin.  Not when they think a candidate with ties to a militant apocalyptic cult isn’t scary.

I’d post a comment, but the Confluence has a nasty habit of censoring and editing comments.

Obama and the Anti-Choice Whisper Campaign

Most of America doesn’t like what Sarah Palin represents.  She’s so extreme on abortion she’d favor mandatory birth even if her own daughter were raped.  That simply isn’t in line with the American public.

The Republicans know this, and they’ve begun an urgent whisper campaign to paint Obama as a baby-killer to try and push Obama’s perceived positions out of the mainstream and into the fringe with their own.  This goes beyond the standard “Every Fertilized Egg is Sacred” line the most radical of the anti-choice movement parrot.  They’ve dug up a vote and deliberately and maliciously warped it into a rumor designed to feed into the worst fears of people on the reproductive rights fence.

I logged onto facebook today to notice a conservative Catholic friend had promoted a website shamelessly flaunting the irony in its name.  A cursory look at conservative blogs sees a frenzy of eager-to-slander bloggers jumping on this chance to regurgitate the rumor (Read this for an insight into the kind of person behind these attacks).  Seeing this come from a friend was unsettling, so I figured I’d take some time and break down why Obama opposed the bill.

First of all, and I’m going out on a real limb here, I’m pretty sure actual infants are already protected by law.  Now, onto fetuses (Dana Goldstein via Feministing):

But BAIPA isn’t really about protecting infants; it is anti-abortion rights legislation crafted by the hard right. BAIPA targets the abortion procedure known as dilation and extraction, which anti-choicers have so successfully re-branded as “partial birth abortion.”

Wait, its a misnamed piece of legislation crafted by the hard right?  Haven’t we seen that somewhere before?  Back to the bill, it was a crafty attempt by the anti-choice movement to mask their intentions (they seem to have a lot of trouble when they are upfront and honest):

The antis want to redefine these fetuses as “born alive” and require that doctors provide “resuscitation.” As a state senator, Obama saw BAIPA for what it was: an ideologically-motivated ploy to vilify women and doctors who choose abortion. On the state Senate floor on April 4, 2002, he explained, “This issue ultimately is about abortion and not live births. Because if there are children being born alive, I, at least, have confidence that a doctor who is in that room is going to make sure that they’re looked after.”

The horribly misnamed pro-life movement tried to pull a fast one on reproductive choice, and Barack Obama saw clear through it.  The “Born Alive” act wasn’t about protecting babies.  It was about using lies to force a religious viewpoint on a secular nation.  Obama stood up to it.

And in the fall we’re going to stand up to Palin and McCain.