Saturday, December 26, 2009

Well, Virginia, about this "Santa Claus"...

Back in the days when I taught elementary school, I taught sixth grade for one year. Sixth grade -- eleven- and twelve-year-olds.

In language arts, we were studying persuasive writing. At the time, my sister, a Montessori teacher, was blogging about the whole Santa thing: do you, essentially, lie to your kids about him? Tell him he's real when, *SPOILER ALERT*, he's not, and then deal with the consequences of lying to your children like this. Do they still trust you? How do they feel when they find out?

So, in class, the kids were talking about finding out where their parents hid the Christmas presents. To me, this meant I was talking to a group that already knew parents bought the presents, not Santa, because in my house, Santa brought all the presents (none of the tags said "From: Mom and Dad," they all said "From: Santa" or they were from friends or other family members). See how often privilege rears it limiting head? "In my experience, it's LIKE THIS. Therefore it must be LIKE THIS for everyone else, RIGHT?"

Turns out, in many of my students' houses, Santa brought SOME of the gifts, and parents bought the rest. So, when I said, "Alright, so, we all know Santa's not real, right?" a mild sort of chaos erupted.

I had had the best intentions. I was going to have these kids, who were close to the age where they found out Santa was a lie, write persuasive essays saying whether parents should lie to their children or just be honest about the Santa myth. What a great lesson, right? Too bad half of my class was not yet at that age where they found out Santa was a lie.

Backpedaling, I came up with something else. I blogged about it, here. Go read what some of my kids wrote. They are surprisingly adult about the whole Santa thing.

What brought all this to mind this year was this link, tweeted by @MariaMontessori.

So, what do you think? Especially those of you with little ones? How do you approach the whole Santa thing?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Response to @bekahferguson: Abortion and the Bible, part 1

This post is way past overdue. But I got my nails done today, which means I can type again, so here it is.

The anti-choicers on Twitter are, for the most part, laughable. They cannot string two coherent tweets together without resorting to name-calling or worse. Logic fails them, and basic science is Greek to them. And, most of the time, Greek (and Hebrew, and Aramaic, and whatever other languages were spoken in Bible times) are also Greek to them, since they know as much about the Bible as I do about skinning cats.

However, @bekahferguson doesn't fit that description. She can discuss without name-calling, and when you bring up a point she actually addresses it. And when I asked her for Bible verses that condemned abortion, she actually was able to provide them (something no other anti who's told me the Bible condemns abortion has been able to do).

She emailed me a list of verses, and while I didn't compare each and every one, it seems many of them are also addressed by Joyce Arthur here, a link that was posted on Twitter last night.

This morning, @bekahferguson replied to my RT of the Joyce Arthur article with this article, which takes Joyce Arthur's same verses and says how they are pro-life.

The funny thing is that the author of the second article begins by saying (emphasis mine):
When reading the text, one should keep in mind her approach to textual interpretation. As any informed Christian knows, Bible verses can be manipulated to make a case for almost any kind of theological belief. Verses that seem to contradict that argument can be easily reconciled through a number of tactics, in order to maintain one's stance. The assumption that many theological hucksters try to foist on an unsuspecting public is that texts, like the Bible, interpret themselves. No research on anything outside the text is necessary in order to understand it. Although the Bible has many passages that can be plainly understood by any literate individual, if one is to grasp what the Bible says in-depth, it is simply impossible to do without being familiar with history, theology or what other parts of the Bible say. Blind proof-texting is not a sound approach to scriptural interpretation. But this is precisely the approach Ms. Arthur has taken. She isolates from their contexts whatever verses she produces, even to the point of contradicting herself.

True, to be sure, but as easily applied to Ms. Arthur's analysis as to "Suzanne's" (even though she seems to think that by dividing the article into sections with roman-numeraled titles, she has made her article sound much more scholarly and therefore "right"). Ms. Arthur has a list of references at the end of her article; Suzane just uses her humongous brain and unequivocal interpretation of the Bible to make her points.

And, um, all that stuff about contradicting yourself? Well, dude, you just proved you don't know your Bible too well... because the Bible itself contradicts itself. Stop and think about what the Bible is, how it was written. It's a huge text, written over a span of hundreds of years, by many different humans. It's not "the Word of God," it's the Word of God as interpreted by the flawed humans who wrote it down and transcribed it and translated it and rewrote it for hundreds and hundreds of years. So, when you read the Bible, you gotta take a deep breath and grab the saltshaker. You have to interpret, because the words you are reading have been interpreted, since before they were written down for the first time.

While Joyce Arthur's article does contain an amount of snark, and towards the end it sort of unravels into God-hate (though, given the snark, one wonders how much of it is honest, how much is tongue-in-cheek), Suzanne's article does everything she accuses Ms. Arthur of doing. Suzanne keep saying that Ms. Arthur is missing the context... but then Suzie doesn't really bother to fill us in. And her entire article is spent saying how Ms. Arthur is wrong and how mean she is because she's a bully and stuff. Wouldn't Suzanne have written a much more useful and compelling article telling us how the Bible is pro-life, instead of telling us it's not not-pro-life?

But I digress...

In college, I took a course called "The Search For Extraterrestrial Life." Yes, for serious. I thought the class would be fun; we walked in the first day and the first thing we saw what a formula as long as the blackboard was wide (and these are the wide college-classroom blackboards), which we would study and get to know intimately throughout the course of the class. The formula consisted of all the elements and stuff needed to create life on a planet, and the variables dealing with the probability of these things being found on other planets in or out of our solar system.

At one point in the class, the professor took a moment to soapbox on the beauty of science, and how "it's like clockwork": this element combined with that element make this thing, and this thing combined with that one leads to that other thing, and so on and so forth. If you recreate the conditions on Earth way back when (after the Big Bang), you will see life be born in the same way it happened all those billions of years ago, because that's the way the system is set up to work, like clockwork. One thing leads to another, which leads to another, and evolution is beautiful.

Which, you gotta admit, is pretty cool.

He concluded his speech with, "And this is why there is no God. There is no need for a God, because science makes it happen, and it all happens by itself, without the need of a deity to help it happen."

And that's when I almost stood up in that 300-plus-seat lecture hall* and said, "Now wait just a minute, genius!"

Yes, it's all set up to work like clockwork. WHO DO YOU THINK SET IT UP LIKE THAT??

Of course it is set up to work without God sticking His hand in it all day long to fix it. He's a busy guy! He's got stuff to DO! Do you think that "perfect" system just happened by chance? Seriously?

The professor and I took the exact same fact, and drew opposite conclusions from it. He did not want to consider the existence of a God, so he saw this fact as proof that God was not necessary, therefore He was not real.

I, on the other hand, do believe there is a God. I saw this same fact and took it as "proof" that God must have created the system to work without His help.

Same thing happens with the Bible. Many times, you will get out of it what you were looking to get out of it. And I admit this is true of myself, too. Yes, when I read the Bible I am reading the verses with my own bias, tainted by my previous understanding of what the Bible tells me.

Everybody takes verses out of context from the Bible. How can we not? The verses are numbered sentence by sentence! It's like they wanted us to take each sentence by itself, out of context.

Some people will look for more context than others. To some, "context" merely means reading the sentences before or after the one verse, or even reading the full chapter. To others, "context" means reading the chapter and reading different translations. To those who can read ancient Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic and whatever other languages the Bible was originally written in, "context"means going back to those original words (if you have access to the original scrolls) and reading those words, then researching what connotations those words had back in that era, and what the historical and sociological context was, what meaning those words and actions had in those days.

Context is complicated, and hard to get to. Some of the context is completely lost to us, because we do not know what those words meant in that day. Even if we could all access the original words (and we all learned those ancient languages), we cannot understand what those words meant to the people writing and using them. There is too much context we do not have.

So, if you want to read the genius that is my interpretation of a bunch of Bible verses, tune in tomorrow.**

*Not that all the seats were occupied, but still.
** Um... or whenever I get around to writing part 2 of this. Which, honestly, will probably be Wednesday or so.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ode to Mom

"Who is the birthday girl today? Laurie is the birthday girl, they say!
Laurie is the birthday girl today, happy birthday to you!"

"We had a very lovely time, at your party, your birthday party.

The cake and ice-cream were just fine, at your party, your birthday party.

We hope next year, you'll ask us back -- we'll be here, you can count on that!

So thank you for a lovely time, I'll invite you to a party of mine!"

Both of these songs, preceded by the traditional "Happy Birthday" (which you already know, I'll wager, so I didn't feel the need to transcribe it for you), are sung at every birthday at my mom's house. This is part of the Donovan legacy; my grandparents sang these songs with their kids, and my mom taught them to us. When I've celebrated a birthday with Freddy's family, and these songs are not sung (because they don't know them), I feel something is missing.

Growing up in Chile, my mom always sang these songs with us. Even though they were in English. Now, we went to an English immersion school, so our classmates spoke English as a second language, and most of my dad's family also spoke English, but the songs still would have made some parents feel out-of-place... not my mom. She sang them to us at every birthday.

I bring all of this up today, because today, December 4th, is my mom's 60th birthday. Not that she looks it, mind you, but I swear to you it is.

Back in 1973, when Salvador Allende was elected President in Chile -- the first democratically elected socialist president -- my mom was packing her bags for a Fullbright Scholarship study abroad program. She had three countries she could go to: Chile, Argentina, and a third one I can't recall at the moment. She picked Chile because they had just elected a socialist President. (When she told me this, and my jaw dropped all the way to the floor and rolled down the hall and around the corner, she said something else about how Chile had great psychology programs and lots of great studies had been/were being done there, or some other malarkey, but she's let the real reason out of the bag already).

That's how my mom ended up in Chile, where she met my dad and decided to stay after her one-year study abroad program ended, causing much rage from my grandparents.

I guess that tidbit (that my grandparents flipped out when she said she was staying, but she stayed anyway) should have clued me in, but it didn't. I knew that part of the story growing up, but it still didn't hit me how strong and awesome my mom was and is until just the last few years.

My mom is the oldest of seven. SEVEN. And of those SEVEN, five are boys. Men. And, in my grandparents' poisoned-by-sexist-society-and-strict-gender-roles eyes, "better."

So, it's my mom, then four boys, then one more girl, then another boy. My mom was, essentially, a Mini-Mom. She was a live-in nanny. When I spent Spring Break with my aunt and uncle, the second-born, my aunt (who had dated my uncle since high school) told me Mom was, indeed, the Mini-Mom. When she and my uncle came home from school, it was my mom who asked them if they wanted a snack, and made it for them. (There is less than 2 years between my mom and uncle, in case you were wondering.)

This is why Mom-as-a-revolutionary-socialist was so shocking to me. She was the Goody-Goody-Two-Shoes. She couldn't be a socialist!

But then again, she's a social worker. She works way too hard for way too little money. Sometimes she works for free, because the families need her and she's not going to turn them away because the insurance company is slimeballing its way out of paying, again.

So, really, is it any wonder she raised a bleeding-heart liberal pro-choice Christian? I guess not. Apple, tree, not falling far from, and all that.

Speaking of being a pro-choice Christian (which I always type as "Christina." Egocentric much?), I owe my faith to my mom. She was the one who was there, always, when the Catholic Church, or the self-righteous priest or religion teacher, said something stupid that, essentially, went along with the Pope's teachings but not with Jesus's. She talked to me about it, and answered my questions, and told me God loves me, full stop. Like when the priest gave an entire sermon on how to pray: that you have to pray kneeling by your bed, elbows on the mattress, or God doesn't hear your prayer. Mom told me that was ridiculous, God doesn't care how you pray. "You can be sitting on the toilet and God will hear your prayer," she said. Which of course immediately gave me the visual of the priest, in his black robe, sitting on the potty.

Mom was the one who took me, kicking and screaming, to the youth group meeting at the Lutheran church we'd started attending. I was too shy* to go, but she made me, and three years later I was president of the youth group. So there. (I'm actively over-involved in my current church, as well. All because of Mom making me go to that Sunday afternoon meeting.)

Because of my mom's work with abused children I always considered myself pro-choice. I've known from an early age there are way too many unwanted and unloved children in the world to force women to bring in more. I used to say, back in my high school days, that I would not personally have an abortion, but the procedure should be legal for any woman that wanted it.

In college, when I got pregnant, I found out that, indeed, I would have an abortion. My mom raised me to be strong and assertive enough to make that choice, and thanks to her teachings on what God's love was all about, and the Lutheran church's teachings -- as opposed to the Pope's -- I knew that God left that choice up to me, and that He put certain people and events and circumstances in my life to help me make that choice.

You see, my mom does her work quietly. (She doesn't post it on a blog, for the world to see, like *ahem* some people I know...)

But when the claws need to come out, they do.

When we first moved to the US (from Chile), we showed up in the middle of the school semester, even though we had just finished a full school year in Chile.** I had just finished 8th grade, and my mom wanted me to go into high school. The high school counselor wanted me to do 8th grade again (because, really, how could a girl who'd been going to school "south of the border," in what had to be a third-world country because it wasn't the US or western Europe, ever be able to compete with our super-duper USian students???)

Mom was not going to have any of it. She quietly, calmly sat in the counselor's office, explaining to him that I was capable of doing high-school-level work, and that I should be put in 9th grade (even though it we were two weeks away from fall semester exams). She didn't leave until he agreed.

By second semester (i.e., three weeks later) I was in honors English. So take that, stuffy ignorant counselor man!!!

I got a special treat a few weeks ago, when Mom had to have a chat with her littlest brother, who had been harassing my sisters and me via Facebook. I wish you had seen her pwn his sorry self. In the dynamic in which they grew up, she is female and therefore less than. He is male and therefore superior. Yet she proved him wrong, on so many levels, during that phone conversation. Because you don't mess with her cubs, and because she rocks. (I wish I could elaborate, but not only is this blog post eternal as is, but I should take the high road and not divulge details of the jerkitude of said uncle. Plus, the point is my mom rocks.)

My mom's mom is a product of her time. There are strict rules for what women should and shouldn't do, how they should behave, and how they should treat their husbands. (Even though my grandma was a bit of a rebel -- she went to college even though her mother wanted her to come home, since she'd already met my grandfather and therefore already had a husband. So the rebellion and outspokenness does come from somewhere...)

I can imagine how my mom was raised, what expectations were put on her as she grew up. Especially as the oldest, and a girl to boot, when there were six other children in the house. As I was growing up I did more than my fair share of whining and complaining and saying mean things against, and to, my mom... pretty much every single one of which I regret now. Not just because I'm a grown up (arguably) and know better, but also because I have gotten to know my grandmother and have an idea of what my mom experienced as she was growing up. Looking back, knowing all I know now (why is it always that way?) I cannot believe my mom was as "free" with me as she was, considering where she had come from. (And please note I'm not trying to bash my grandma, she was a product of her generation and her parents' generation and upbringing as well.)

So this is a tiny insight for you, Blogosphere, in to the Mom of Criss***. I could write a series all week long about her, but I don't want to bore you. (And there's some stuff she might not appreciate me putting on the blogosphere...)

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you and admire you more than I've ever let you know. Thanks for making me who I am, and putting up with me during the teen and college years. I know that was not easy, to phrase it as an understatement.

(Also, sorry none of us can make you a cake as cool as all the cakes you've made for us. Like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one, or any of the bazillion others you've made for us over the years... Strawberry Shortcake cakes, and Hello Kitty cakes, and Darth Vader cakes, and Belle cakes, and...)

I have found more cakes!
Belle's dress
Racketball racket for my step-dad
Combo birthday-anniversary cake for my grandparents
50th birthday
Pony and Ariel
Cats (because, really, how could we not?)
You can also check out all the wonderful Mom-love she put into her confections here, on Marcy's special birthday cake Flickr set.

*Yes, I know. Believe it -- High School Criss looked nothing like Post-Divorce Criss.

**Seasons are opposite on the other hemisphere, so our school years went from March to December. We had Christmas over summer vacation.

***Um, and others. Lots of others, actually. And Grandmother of three more. She's a busy woman.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"It's beginning to look a lot like... deforestation"

In the last two weeks, I have received more catalogs in the mail than I received all year long. Some are repeats of stuff I'd already gotten, and pretty much EVERY SINGLE ONE is unsolicited.

(Now that I think about it, can I put a "No Soliciting" sign on my mailbox? Will that make the evil catalogs go away?? Please???)

Between all the trees being chopped down to make all these catalogs, and all the tress that will be chopped down to make wrapping paper, are we going to have any left to chop down to decorate?

If you're looking for gift ideas, here are a few:

Plant a Billion Trees (click on Act Now)
Or, if you're more the DIY type, here's an instruction manual.

Looking for a card to go along with those gifts? Check out some of these.

You get the gist. Get creative. (Google it.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

I am a WINNER #nanowrimo #dfwrhinos

Last night, or rather this morning, at about half past the midnight hour, I validated my NaNoWriMo novel, SHOWMANCES: ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE AND THEATER. All 50,134 words of it.

Sadly, at around 49,000 words, I realized that was the point when my novel should have started.

And here I was, looking forward to a month of editing my 2004 NaNovel and reading books and the like, thinking I was done with SHOWMANCES for the time being.

Do I write out the rest of it, at least a slim skeleton of what the rest should be?

Do I put it aside, and finish edits and rewrites and newrites (it needs a lot of work) on the novel I was working on before November?

Do I try to do it all at once? (Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 2004 NaNo. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: 2009 NaNo. Sunday: collapse?)

You know what would be cool?

If I didn't have a pesky day job, and could write full-time.

The Muppets do Bohemian Rhapsody

Because it's Monday after a holiday weekend and we all need this:

Thanks to @mightymur and @syntheticjesso for the link.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The ELCA and abortion, courtesy of @justsnapd8

Last night I posted a link to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's Social Statement on Abortion, since @KushielsMoon had asked me for it. I had heard a while back that the ELCA (Lutheran denomination of which I am a member) was pro-choice, but I had never looked much into it. Until last night.

Reading the statement, I was quite proud of my church. The wording, though cautious to make sure it doesn't tick off the antis, shows great respect for the woman, and an understanding of what pregnancy means for her. Every time the fetus is mentioned, the woman and her life and rights are also mentioned.

So I posted this:

@justsnapd8 decided to RT my Tweet, changing it to this:

As you can imagine, this yanked my chain. First of all, READ THE DOCUMENT. Second of all, READ THE DOCUMENT AND DON'T LIE. My church deplores the circumstances that lead a woman to be faced with an unwanted pregnancy, but it understands that abortion is a morally justifiable choice.

We went back and forth on this, but she wasn't able to follow the conversation. It was too taxing to be asked to back up her claims with, you know, accurate statements and facts (those silly things we pro-choicers always go on and on about).

So, I guess after she got some sleep, she wrote this blog post. Where she spent most of her time copying and pasting Tweets between @ProChoiceGal and me, instead of talking about the ELCA's statement.

The following is my response (which I copied and pasted here because I doubted it would survive comment moderation on her blog. Alas, it did, but I was going to write about the ELCA's statement anyway, and after writing my response I realized it said most of the stuff I was going to blog. So here it is):

The ELCA's statement is a 12-page document, and you quote three paragraphs? Don't you think you're missing something?

I know you're used to taking things out of context, but the second part of my Tweet to @ProChoiceGal, where we're talking about our church choices, is kind of relevant and important. If you're interested in truth and honesty, then post the second half of my sentence.

But since you like to deal in isolated quotations, let me give you a few more from the ELCA's statement (emphasis mine):

"The language used in discussing abortion should ignore neither the value of unborn life NOR THE VALUE OF THE WOMAN AND HER OTHER RELATIONSHIPS."

"A developing life in the womb does not have an absolute right to be born..." "The concern for both the life of the woman and the developing life in her womb express a common commitment to life. This requires that we move beyond the usual 'pro-life' versus 'pro-choice' language in discussing abortion."

The ELCA is NOT part of your "pro-life"/anti-choice camp. Even if you only read the quotes you cherry-picked, the church clearly accepts a woman making a choice to terminate a pregnancy. It does not say abortion should be avoided or outlawed, it says "Abortion ought to be an option only of last resort." It says abortion should be an option available to women! Does that sound like an anti-choice organization to you?

Now, to clarify, if you take the time to look at your Twitter stream, you will see that you are the only who told me to look at Section III. That section says (emphasis mine):

"We also deplore the circumstances that lead a woman to consider abortion as the best option available to her. We are moved particularly by the anguish of women who face unintended pregnancies alone. The panic and isolation of such pregnancies, even in the best of circumstances, can be traumatic. Poverty, lack of supportive relationships, immaturity, oppressive social realities, sexism, and racism can intensify her sense of powerlessness. The prospect of having and caring for a child can seem overwhelming.

"We confess our sin as a community of faith. We often have fallen short in respecting God's gift of life and IN PROVIDING CONDITIONS MORE CONDUCIVE FOR BRINGING NEW LIFE INTO THE WORLD."

Regarding sex, it does say, "Marriage is the appropriate context for sexual intercourse." Notice it says "appropriate," not "only." And it follows that with (emphasis mine): "We affirm that the goodness of sexual intercourse GOES BEYOND ITS PROCREATIVE PURPOSE." Alas! Sex JUST FOR FUN without the intent of conceiving IS ALLOWED!

"Whenever sexual intercourse occurs apart from the intent to conceive, the use of contraceptives is the responsibility of the man and of the woman." These statements go against your "pro-life"/anti-choice beliefs in several ways:

-sex outside of marriage is acknowledged and not condemned.
-sex for fun, too; it's not solely for procreation.
-birth control is encouraged.
-the use of birth control rests on BOTH parties' shoulders (i.e., the "blame" is not placed solely on the woman, like most anti-choicers like to do).

But there's more! If we turn the page, we find this:

"Our congregations and church schools ought to provide sex education in the context of the Christian faith." Wow! Sex ed! Look at that!

"It is especially important that young men and young women be taught to exercise their sexuality responsibly." Notice it doesn't say they should be "taught abstinence-only" -- it says they would EXERCISE their sexuality. They are allowed to be sexually active, but we must teach them how to do so RESPONSIBLY.

"It is important that those who counsel persons faced with unintended pregnancies respect how deeply the woman's pregnancy involves her whole person -- body, mind and spirit -- in relation to all the commitments that comprise her stewardship of life."

"This church recognizes that there can be sound reasons for ending a pregnancy through induces abortion." Doesn't this go against the "pro-life"/anti-choice core beliefs???

"What is determined to be a morally responsible decision in one situation may not be in another... We also need to consider the conditions under which the pregnancy occurred and THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE PREGNANCY FOR THE WOMAN'S LIFE." (emphasis mine)

Regarding politics and law (emphasis mine): "What is legal is not necessarily moral, and WHAT IS MORAL SHOULD NOT NECESSARILY BE ENACTED INTO LAW. LAWS CANNOT ENFORCE CHRISTIAN LOVE, but in principle and application they should be just."

"In our attempts to influence the shaping of public policy, WE SHOULD NOT DISREGARD THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS, but work faithfully through the public process by which justice is sought for all."


Again, doesn't that sound like the OPPOSITE of what the "pro-life"/anti-choice side fights for??

"Because of our conviction that BOTH the life of the woman and the life in her womb must be respectd by law, this church opposes:
-the total lack of regulation of abortion;
-mandatory or coerced abortion or sterilization; -laws that prevent couples from practicing contraception;

Again, I have a hard time hearing the "pro-life"/anti-choice argument there... because IT IS PRO-CHOICE.

It even addresses laws about spousal or parental notification or consent: "While we strongly affirm family communication and support, the law should recognize that in some cases husband or partner involvement in the decision could be unwise or dangerous (e.g., if the relationship is broken or violent). If the law requires parental consent when the woman is a minor, it should specify other trusted adults as alternatives if parental involvement is inappropriate or unsafe."

I recommend that anyone wanting to know the full story read the actual document, all of it; it can be found here. After reading the full document, can you honestly tell me the ELCA is not pro-choice?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Feminists Give Thanks

So... Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I was supposed to write about what I'm Thankful for and submit it to Danine yesterday so she could add it to this post... but I completely forgot. I knew I had to do it, I forgot that yesterday was when I had to do it.

So, please hop on over to Danine's blog to read for what Feminists Give Thanks, then come back here and read my two cents.

I give thanks for my sisters, all of them -- blood and otherwise. Each one has a strength that has surprised me, and that I envy. I'm thankful they have put up with my pig-headed ways and words, and, when necessary, have proven me wrong.

I'm thankful for my mom, who has taken so much cr@p from me I don't know how she put up with me. Even though her habit of playing Devil's Advocate used to royally get on my nerves, I know she's always been on my side, because every time I needed her to -- even when I didn't know I needed her to -- she bared the bear claws and fought for her cub(ettes) without apology.

I'm thankful for teh Internetz, because it keeps me connected to my family and lets me see photos and video of my precious nephew (and I'm thankful that his mom is so camera-happy). But I'm also thankful for the world it has opened up for me -- it has introduced me to other feminists, and let me realize that, by gum, I am a feminist.

It has also shown me some very serious problems with feminism, but it's given me the voice and resources to do something about it.

It has introduced me to people I would never have met otherwise, people like @nueva_voz and @genderbitch and others, and helped me see worlds, their worlds, which I never would have seen otherwise. I have been quick to call out others on their privilege and the limits of their white picket fences, and yet here I was, reveling in my cis privilege and oblivious to their worlds, because my picket fence, though it covers some nice ground, didn't include their experiences.

(Sometimes it all gets a little overwhelming, but I get by with a little help from my Twitter Lists.)

I'm thankful for all my connections. All these people I now know, or know of, and what I'm learning from them.

I'm thankful that I've lived in upper-middle-class neighborhoods in countries where I had access to education and books and computers and Internet, that I've always had enough food and water and clothing and a place to live and a way to pay for medical (and dental) care. And I'm thankful for the people who are helping me find ways to make sure that others have access to all these things as well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Read about the International Transgender Day of Remembrace. Stats and other info here.

Some blogs to read:
genderbitch's I Will Not Forget Them
Chally at Zero at the Bone
meloukhia at this ain't living
kaninchenzero at FWD/Forward

Also, Queen Emily's post from 2008 on how to mourn

If you want to know who is being mourned, here's a list. Please note it is by no means a comprehensive list.

Arwyn says lots of good things here, especially for us cis folk. Read, learn, remember, act.

If you are on Twitter, you need to follow the ladies I linked above, as well as nueva_voz (when I checked her blog she didn't have a TDOR post, but if she posts one I'll update the links).

This article is also a good read (any day of the year).

And now, I'm going to sit my white(-looking) cis a$$ down and let these women mourn in peace.


From Transgender Day of Remembrace 2009: The Exclusion Question Answered

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Women's Day of Action for Health Care Reform: The Choice Movement and [Trans] Women's Health

The choice movement is not about babies or fetuses. It's about women* and their bodies.

It's about a woman's right to medication and medical care.

For the majority of women, meaning hetero cis women, "medication" translates into birth control and "medical care" translates into pregnancy care: how to have a healthy one, how to terminate one if needed, and how to avoid one in the first place.

When we talk about "women's health" we are, sadly, talking about hetero cis women, and we usually end up talking about birth control and pregnancy, even though hetero cis women do have other medical needs, not related to their reproductive organs.

Now here's the newsflash: not all women are hetero cis women. And guess what? They have medical needs too.

I am pro-choice because I have a right to tell my body what to do, not the other way around. I have a right to use birth control to make my periods regular, to reduce my cramps and other PMS symptoms, and to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

Now, for me personally, I'm lucky that my periods are pretty regular, and I don't really suffer from cramps. (I did have that one issue with the unwanted pregnancy, though.)

For me personally, I'm also lucky that what's between my legs (i.e., my sex) matches what's between my ears (i.e., my gender). That's another medical need I personally do not have. But millions of trans people do.

Just as I have a right to tell my body what to do and what not to do (by using birth control to regulate my periods or keep me from getting pregnant), a trans woman has the same right to control her body and tell it what to do and not do. And, if anything, I'd say a trans woman's needs trump my own; if worse came to worst I could control my body by not having sex or trusting the rhythm method. But a trans woman doesn't have another choice.

Disclaimer: I am new at this. I am probably going to screw up language and I know I am talking with little knowledge of trans medical needs and care. If I do screw up, please let me know, and I will correct myself.

A trans woman's body tries to act like a man's body. It tries to grow hair on her face and have a deep voice and not grow breasts or have the proper curves. Her body betrays her. The only way she can control this is with medication and/or(?) hormone therapy. She needs this medication just as much as, if not more than, I need birth control.

When we talk about women's rights and women's basic health care we need to make sure we also talk about trans women's rights and trans women's basic health care.

They may not need access to birth control, but they need access to hormone therapy (and/or other medical treatment of which I'm ignorant) if they choose to do that.

Then there's the day-to-day medical care. For me, it's things like my yearly well-woman exam, breast exams, so on and so forth. And those other things that come up randomly, like yeast infections, UTIs, etc. When any of those things comes up, I have the right and the ability to go to a doctor to get the care I need to fix the problem. Even if I don't have health insurance to help me pay for it, I know I can go to a clinic, such as Planned Parenthood, and get the care I need.
A trans woman also has the right to this, but at the moment, she does not have the ability to go to a doctor or a clinic to get the medical care she needs. Mainly her medical needs don't "match," according to cis standards, with her gender.
It's been decades now since we cis women have had to resort to the coathanger in a back alley. But for trans people, a back alley butcher with homemade tools is the only medical care they have access to. Part of the reason, I'm sure, is that insurance companies don't approve claims for Pap smears for men, or testicular cancer screenings for women. Part of the reason is doctors' offices don't know how to file paperwork for someone who was born a "man" but is now a woman. (This is a damn stupid reason, but it happens, and it's a barrier to medical care.) Part of the reason is probably that your average doctor or even your average OB/GYN doesn't know how to treat a trans person's needs.
Cis women have a specialist they can go to who knows all the details of their bodies. Why can't trans people have a specialist, a trans doctor, who specializes in treating their medical needs?
Do they even teach this stuff in medical school? I know a while back we pro-choice feminists got all up in arms about an anti-choice bill that wanted to remove the "abortion" pages from medical textbooks. Do those textbooks have any "trans" pages in them to begin with? Is this part of a med student's training? My very uninformed guess is NO.
I know it's easy for us cis women to say we're not qualified to speak up on trans issues because we don't know enough about it. We don't know what their needs are, we don't know what it's like to go through a gender transition. If we don't know what their needs are, how can we campaign for their needs? How can we advocate for their rights, when we don't know that much about the issue?
Do we allow cis men to get away with that cop-out when we're talking about cis women's reproductive rights?
So, guess what. If you don't know, learn. Find out. Ask. Engage trans women in the conversation. They're out there, and I bet they have a lot to say.
Ask your doctors and other medical professionals. They should be the experts, right? Find out if they are.
Does your primary care physician serve trans people? Are they welcome in your PCP's office?

Does your OB/GYN know how to serve the needs of trans women seeking hormone therapy? Does your OB/GYN treat trans men?

Does your local clinic offer services to trans people? Are they made to feel welcome there?

All women have a right to basic health care. This includes access to medication and medical treatment. This includes yearly exams, regular checkups, and any other specific diseases, infections, maladies, or concerns that pop up in-between. This includes birth control, pre- and post-natal care, labor, and abortions. And it also damn better include trans people's needs.
Even if the details of the execution (birth control v. hormone therapy) are different, the moral principle is the same. If you are pro-choice, as I like to proudly call myself, and fight for your right to basic medical care specific to your body and reproductive organs, then you need to also fight for a trans person's right to do the same.
We are feminists. We fight because the patriarchy has oppressed us for years, and we're not going to take it anymore. But we need to be aware that we are not the only group who has been and is oppressed, and I for one want to make sure that I am not oppressing anyone else. I don't want to do to others what has been done unto me.

If we leave trans women out of the discussions of and demands for women's health, then we are oppressing that group of people. And that goes against everything feminists fight for.

The health care reform debate has been hijacked by talk of abortion, which is sad because women's health care is so much more than that, even if we're only looking at the limited cis woman's definition of health care. But in all these talks, in all these calls and letters and petitions, can wen please include trans women? Can we let their voices be heard? They need health care reform more than any of us.
*See fourth paragraph from the end. But first, read all the paragraphs between the asterisk and the fourth paragraph from the end. And then read the last three paragraphs. All that to say, "women" means different things to different people; we need to be inclusive of all women.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dear Biblethumpers: You're doing it wrong. And making the rest of us look bad.

Dear Biblethumpers:
Stop. Please STOP.
You don't get it. You're doing it wrong, and you're making the rest of us look bad.
You're making those of us who were already on (what you claim to be) your side want to jump ship.
So quit it. Stop the hate, stop the intolerance, stop the stupidity.

So, apparently, today on Twitter someone started a #nogod hashtag. I saw it this morning; didn't like some of the stuff I saw tweeted, because, since I do believe in God, those insults included me as well.

But then this afternoon I saw this. And, really, how can you argue with that?

When I see stuff like the #nogod hashtag/trending topic, or people defending atheism by condemning Christianity, part of me has to agree with them. I mean, look at what those people were saying? Really?

I know when people attack God and religion and Christianity they are not attacking me, they are not really saying I'm stupid because I believe in a higher power and go to church. They are attacking those who blindly follow a leader who tells them pretty things. And they are attacking those leaders who twist the words they read in the Bible for their own twisted, hateful, small-minded bigotry; those who use the Bible and religion to control.

And so many of the people on Twitter who claim to be "Christians" spew so much hate against anyone who might perhaps think just a little differently than they, and they do it "in God's name." It's hard not to hate them back. I can't blame the people who were using the #nogod hashtag.

I know I'm not the nicest person in the world. I know I have a huge issue with forgiveness -- I don't give it. I spew hate on my blog. But I don't do it "in God's name." I don't condemn you to Hell because God says so. I don't tell you God's going to send you to Hell.

I also have enough faith in my faith, and I believe what I believe strongly enough that some stupid hashtag isn't going to threaten my faith or my beliefs. Do you think God cares about that stupid #nogod hashtag? Puh-leeez! There are several hashtags that probably hurt God, but #nogod wasn't one of them. #lame, #retarded, #gay... I bet God feels a stab or two when he reads those. (And I'd give you more, but frankly I don't look at the trending topics and don't follow hashtags other than #prochoice, #NaNoWriMo... and that's about it.)

Yesterday, one of the students in my tutoring group asked me if it was true that the Bible says piercings are bad.

Dude, I really don't think they had body piercing parlours in Nazareth. Or am I missing something? Did Judas have an eyebrow ring? Was the reason Sara had such a hard time conceiving because she had a belly-button ring? Didn't take it out until she was, like, eighty, and that's when she finally got pregnant?

No, the kid was talking about the Bible saying your body is a temple. So you shouldn't get a piercing or a tattoo.

I tried to explain to the kid that he should be much more worried about what kind of food he eats -- puts in his temple -- than about an earring. But he wasn't paying attention.

An authority figure, his parents, or a priest/preacher, told him the Bible says this and this is what it means. Period, end of story.

"You can't get a piercing or a tattoo, because the Bible says that's bad. God will hate you. And you will go to Hell."

"Oh. Okay."

What about respecting your body? Taking care of yourself? Eating right? Exercising? Loving your body as it is, instead of telling yourself you are too fat? Too tall? Too short? Your body is a gift from God, God made you just the way He/She wanted you to be. Love your body, it was custom-made for you.

No? That part's not important?

Nope, just the "no-piercings" part.

Eat all the high-fructose corn syrup you want, and stay on the couch all day playing your stupid XBox. That's what the Bible says.

What most people tell you the Bible says is rarely ever what it does say. Too many people take one line, one verse, and tell you the Bible says THIS. They ignore the pages upon pages of Jesus telling them to "love one another, as I have loved you."

That's what the Bible says. That's what religion faith is. That's what I believe in.

And I wish others would stop ruining it for me, dammit.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How To Tell People They SOUND Racist (or Sexist, or Homophobic, or Ableist, or

@HappyFeminist tweeted this video just now. I'm saving it, though, and post-dating this post. Because I'm RTing her tomorrow morning, and I'll schedule this post for sometime maybe even next week, to kind of spread the video's visibility.

I stole the video from here, but it's Jay Smooth's video.

Although it might seem pretty obvious, I had never thought about this before. Very important distinction when having the racist/sexist/ableist/etcist conversation...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meet Violet, and Second Story Press

Apparently, it's Book Week at Criss's blog.

Looknig through my apparently long-forgotten Google Reader subscriptions, I came across this book trailer on Literanista's blog, and I wanted to share it with you because I thought it was cute (and very clever):

The book is published by Second Story Press, which has this to say about itself:
Second Story Press was co-founded in 1988 by Margie Wolfe and three other women dedicated to publishing feminist-inspired books for adults and young readers. We are proud to be marking our 20th year of publishing award-winning books that entertain, educate, and empower.
(The only bad part is they're in Canada, and focus primarily on Canadian authors. Which I totally dig, but leaves me out. *pout* Unless I move there. Which is not necessarily out of the question...)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman

I had another post planned for tonight. But then I found out Rosalind Wiseman is giving away copies of the revised edition of Queen Bees & Wannabes (yes, the book Mean Girls was based on), and I had to write this post to let you know, and to give myself another chance to win a signed copy of the book.

I loved the movie, and wanted to get the book, but my to-be-read pile is a monster that grows faster than Gremlins caught in a Texas thunderstorm, while my finances, on the other hand... do the opposite. So I never got the book, even though I know it would be an awesome read.

Then I heard about this giveaway, and went on Rosalind's webpage, and saw some of her videos, answering girls' questions. Videos like this one, where she answers a letter from a girl whose twin sister is hooking up with guys, which not only bugs the sister but is also starting to affect her own life:

I love it all: the advice on how to deal with those guys coming on to her; the way sisterly relationships go, and how easily and quickly they can go south because of the familiarity, and how to avoid this; and how to address the issue with her sister, in a way that will not lead to an angry argument where neither listens to the other.

Then there's this video, where a girl asks about her angry feelings toward her father, who is, in my opinion, a worthless piece of sh!te abusive parent:

I should stop watching these videos, or I'm going to want to post them all... but allow me ONE more. Is it demeaning to ask a girl, "Are you PMSing?" anytime she doesn't immediately fall to her knees and do your bidding?

So, yeah. Who DOESN'T want to read a book written by this woman???


Oops! Forgot to add (from Rosalind's website):
Also, don’t forget to catch Rosalind talking about the brand new version ofQueen Bees & Wannabes on the Today Show on Wednesday, October 14 in the 8 o’clock hour!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

My Cis Priviledge & the #ProChoice Movement

One of the pro-choice movement's favorite phrases, which we repeat often on Twitter in the "I am #prochoice because" meme*, is "Men can't get pregnant."

Sometimes we qualify the statement a little, prefacing it with "100% of the men who are anti-choice will never be pregnant." In those cases, we're saying we're referring specifically to men who identify with the anti-choice movement, and it is likely (in my uninformed opinion) that those men are cis men, who will, indeed, never be pregnant.

For those of you who don't know what "cis" means, just like I didn't until a few weeks ago, here's a definition of it courtesy of Arwyn at Raising My Boychick's glossary:

Cis is a Latin prefix meaning “on this side” or “on the same side”; it was purportedly first used in the form “cisgender” by Carl Buijs in 1995 (or 1994). Writer and professor of biology Julia Serano uses all three terms in her book Whipping Girl; she credits first learning of them from Emi at Cisgender and cissexual are adjectives for those who are not transgender or transsexual. Much like we refer to trans persons, we might also refer to cis persons.

These terms mean, simply, that one’s intrinsic or subconscious sex (or gender) is in accord/agreement with one’s external, physical sex/gender, and always has been. Much like the term “heterosexual” (or “straight”) when it was first introduced, some cis individuals are offended by the term; this is a nonsensical, privileged position, however: as Monica Roberts puts it so well, Cisgender is not an insult.

So, cis men will never be pregnant. We need to qualify our statement, because trans men can get pregnant. When we say, "Men can never get pregnant," we are lying, and we are excluding and oppressing trans men.

First, we cannot exclude trans men and their reality from our language and our activism, but we also need to realize that, hello, they deserve the same reproductive rights and protections that we cis women are asking for. We need to include trans men in our language and in the fight itself.

I didn't follow the story when it was breaking and I still don't know much about it now, but remember the pregnant man on Oprah? The headline on this ABC News story pretty much says it all: "It's My Right To Have A Kid, Pregnant Man Tells Oprah." D@mn straight it's your right! That's what the pro-choice movement is about: nobody has a right to tell you what you can and cannot do with your uterus. No matter what your gender is -- if you have the equipment and want to use it, go for it.

Although I have done no research on this, I would wager the majority of trans men is on the other side of the issue. Not looking forward to a wanted pregnancy, but being the victims of rape and staring at an unwanted one, needing to terminate it.

I don't want to say much on this issue because I am so wholly ignorant on it, and I don't want to talk out of my @$$ about stuff I don't know. But this realization has made me ask myself several questions... when we (cis women in the pro-choice movement) raise a ruckus about access to birth control, including emergency contraception, to teens and availability of EC for rape victims at hospitals, are we asking for that same access and availability for trans men? How are trans men treated at the ER after a sexual assault? Do they even seek medical assistance, or do they know how they will be treated by doctors, hospitals, domestic violence shelters, and therefore never get the help they desperately need?

How are we fighting for their rights?

What about trans women? Now, they can't get pregnant, but that doesn't mean they don't have reproductive health needs. The pro-choice movement is about granting women access to basic health care, about giving women control of their bodies. But so far the only issues we have addressed are cis women's reproductive needs and health care. What do trans women need? How can we include them in the fight?

When we talk about domestic violence, and helping women who are victims of DV, are we helping trans women? Or are we, again, looking only at cis women's needs, and only providing help and care to cis women?

How do we fix this?

All this was much simpler when I only looked up. I looked above me, at those that are oppressing me, and boy was I good at pointing fingers at others and pointing out their privilege. The other day, I royally shoved my cissexist foot into my privileged mouth. And for the first time I looked down, at those below me, those I was oppressing.

No, I didn't mean to oppress them. I didn't mean to exclude them. But that doesn't mean I wasn't doing it, and that doesn't mean its effects were not just as damaging as if I had been doing it on purpose.

I'm going to stop doing it. Because it was not a pretty feeling when I realized I was doing to others what others were doing to me. It was not a pretty feeling when I realized I, too, was part of the kyriarchy. And I don't want to be part of a movement that supports it, either.

*please tell me I'm using "meme" correctly. I don't really know what it means and I'm too lazy to look it up, so I'm hoping I've seen it enough times that I've correctly guessed the meaning from context. If I didn't, please don't make fun of me.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

George Carlin on Abortion

I think I love this man.

EDIT: As much as I love almost everything you say here, Geroge, I do have to point one thing out. I know you're doing it for funnies and that clarifying your statement would kind of kill the joke, but lesbians can also be in need of an abortion. Sadly, they can get raped too, and probably do as a result of homophobic hate crimes.

Also, abortion is not always an elective procedure. A lesbian couple, or a homosexual couple, using a surrogate, can suffer complications during a pregnancy and need to terminate it. Let's not exclude homosexuals or deny their realities.

That said, I have to applaud your genius:
"When ... some of these other cardinals and bishops have experiences their
first pregnancies, and their first labor pains, and they've raised a couple of
children on minimum wage, then I'll be glad to hear what they have to say about


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Special Link Appearance by Criss!

Did you see me???

And guess what? I also made it into the Fifth Carnival of Feminists, hosted by Chally at Zero at the Bone!

I feel all famous and stuff.

Watch out, soon I'll be asking for hand-picked monochrome M&Ms in my dressing room.

(Or blogging room.)


Did you see all the wonderful bloggers I'm among in both those lists?

It's like I'm Helen Hunt at the 1997 Oscars, nominated along with Dame Judi Dench and Julie Christie and Helena Bonham Carter and Kate Winslet... it's an honor to be nominated, and to be nominated alongside those iconic actresses kicks the honor up a notch or two. Or seven.

(Let me take this moment to point out the above statement is in no way intended to diminish Ms. Hunt's amazing body of work previous to As Good As It Gets. Let us not forget her unrivaled performance in Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, otherwise known as THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER PERIOD END OF STORY SO SHUT YOUR FACE.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's Banned Books Week! What are you reading?

Did you know it's Banned Books Week? Well, if you didn't now you do. (You're welcome.)

This morning I started Lois Lowry's THE GIVER. This is one of those YA classics that's always been at the bottom of the To-Read list, but for some reason it never drew me to it. The cover was not particularly fascinating (an old man's face), and if I did read the back-cover description it was vague enough that it didn't grab me. But as I was loading up my MP3 player with audio books, I saw this title, and added it to the list.

I have a nice 30-minute commute to work, which is good, but this morning it still wasn't long enough. I didn't want to get out of the car, even though I was already late for work (I had to drop Indy off at the vet again this morning. Yes, AGAIN. That cat will be the death bankruptcy of me).

(WARNING: potential spoilers ahead)

The story takes place in a world where people live in communities and if they do something bad, or get too old, or don't fit in, they are "released." (At first I took that literally, that they were banned from the community and had to fend for themselves out in the probably post-apocalyptic wild, but then the penny dropped and I realized "released" was a euphemism.)

Spouses and children are assigned; one male and one female child per family unit. Regardless of when you are born, you "graduate" to the next age in December, with everyone else born in your same year. The Rules dictate at what age you can learn to ride a bike (when you become "a nine"), and, when you become "a twelve," the Elders decide what your job will be.

One of these jobs is "nurturer." These are the people who take care of the children from birth until that December, when they are assigned to a family. Of course I wondered where the babies came from... Were they all conceived in vitro? Did they have slave women, trapped in a dungeon somewhere, who were constantly artificially inseminated to populate the community?

What made it so hard to get out of the car this morning was that just as I turned into the campus's parking lot, Jonas's little sister Lilly mentions that the baby Father has brought home from his nurturer job (the baby's having trouble sleeping through the night, and he wants to take care of the baby at home overnight to see if that helps -- otherwise the baby will have to be "released") has light eyes, just like Jonas. Jonas only knows one other person, besides this new baby, who has light-colored eyes like him; Lilly says, "Maybe he has your same birth mother."

Aha! So it's not in vitro grown in test tubes, like Brave New World babies were. Who are these birth mothers? Where are they? Do they live in the community, or are they hidden from view, because pregnancy is dirty (the result of Cardinal Sin)?

I have to wait until 5:00 to find out...