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Blog for Choice Day 2008

someone left a comment on my blog for Choice post from last year, and so I thought, perhaps I’ll write one for this year as well. since leaving blogging several months ago, life has been swell, and busy. I hope you are all quite well.

to my american friends: Happy Roe Day! 35 years since Roe was decided, and jsut look at how far you’ve come! White middle class to upper class women can still sometimes get abortions in some places in the US! AWESOME.

my message today is very simple: there are alternative funding groups out there who are able to help women who cannot afford to pay for abortion services.  Access to abortion is a huge problem for women, and I want to make sure people out there know that there are options available to help defray some of the costs of obtaining abortion services. they are mostly grassroots groups who are committed to reproductive rights for women, and they can help. perhaps you can’t afford to travel out of your town or city to get to an abortion provider, or to take the time off work, or to make sure your kids have a sitter while you go out of town for a couple of days to obtain the services you need. Abortions are expensive, but the cost of service is not the only cost associated with access to abortion. it’s important to know that there are some options out there.

please, go to this website: National Network of Abortion Funds. They have a list there of alternative funding for abortion, you can search by city so it’s really easy. There is help available.

peace!

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I figured I should write a bit about what it is that I mean when I use the words woman/women. It seems kind of weird that I should have to do this, and I’m sure I’ll be accused of trying to redefine words again. But, as you may know, I don’t abide by definitions that the dominant oppressor class forces upon me, particularly as it relates to my identity and my politics. There is, as I have pointed out before, power in language. Recognizing that is very important in terms of resistance. Besides, our language is not a dead one – it is very much alive, and undergoing construction and change all the time.

The power structure under which we live is a white heterosexual capitalist male supremacy, and identity is socially constructed under its directives, which assigns hierarchical value to groups that are defined in opposition or binary to one another. Man/woman, white/non-white, hetero/queer, rich/poor, and so on. The purpose/result is to create a stratification of classes within society. Power goes to some more than others.

The terms we use to describe ourselves and others have undergone a homogenization process, an attempt to weed out problematic anomalies and hide them away, silence them, make them disappear. I want you to understand that this is a political move, a power play. Homogenizing people under group identity allows power structures to remain in place. And some people benefit – a lot- from those power structures. So of course those people who benefit from power structures want to maintain them. Not all do, of course, but those with the most power have the most invested in structures that give them power – and the most to lose if they dissolve or change. So when people are identified under the common identity of a group, their differences are often forgotten, silenced, hidden, and ultimately denied. Power relations also exist within groups, along the lines of other group identities, which complicates matters even further. And this, my friends, is the common denominator: what individuals within groups share is not their oppression per se (although some groups will share some commonality of experience of oppression), but that their oppression stems from the same source, the same culture of white hetero capitalist male supremacy. What is shared is a common context of struggle.

So. When I talk about “woman/women”, I’m referring to the socially constructed sex class that experiences sexism (often among other forms of oppression) under the current culture of white hetero capitalist male supremacy.

For the record, this is the approach I take to all group identity.

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yep. So I’m sitting here watching the TV show “Identity,” in which a contestant has a group of people in front of him and a list of identities and he has to match ’em up based entirely on their appearance. I know, right? I mean, all the stuff we talk about here, about identity, not wanting to be boxed into socially constructed qualifiers on identity, and here is this whole TV show based on judging a book by its cover.

what does it say that I TOTALLY ROCK AT GUESSING THESE IDENTITIES??!?

I mean, I AM NEVER WRONG!!!!

I feel guilty.

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I’ve been taking a course this term on environmental justice. It’s been interesting for me, because I’m not very eco-savvy. Despite that my best friend is an environmental goddess. I’ve never been all that concerned about these matters, but it seems like the time is well afoot to be concerned, so yeah. Why not take a class about it? Also very interesting for me has been the intersection between environmentalism and gender, class, and race issues. That’s where the “justice” part comes in.

One of the things I’ve noticed in this class, both in the readings and in the discussion among my fellow students, is how common it is to appropriate rape as an analogy to describe environmental destruction: “raping the earth” is a phrase that has come up a number of times.

Whenever this term has been tossed out into the classroom, a common space shared by all of us as students as well as our instructor, I’d say about 60% of whom are female, it has hit me like a ton of bricks. I can only describe the emotional reaction I have had as one of shutting down. I can’t concentrate on what is being said beyond that point; it’s like there’s been a wall erected in my learning environment. I hear that phrase, and I can’t hear anything else. I am paralyzed by it. I can no longer participate, not even to register my disappointment and distress at the use of this analogy. This creates a hostile learning environment for me.
I am very disappointed that people choose to use this analogy in talking about environmental degradation. By saying that destroying the earth is like rape, two things are done. First, rape survivors feel it. In a room with 20 females, statistically speaking, 5 of them are survivors of sexual violence. They don’t need this reminder. They also don’t need their experiences appropriated in order to make a rhetorical point. It is not appropriate in any way to compare something done to the earth to something that real women have experienced and continue to experience everyday on a widespread scale as part of their gendered oppression. It is not at all appropriate to discuss the violation of a person’s body and psyche with the extraction of resources from the earth, or the destruction of an ecosystem. The earth is not a living being in the same way that humans are living beings, and it is not a valid analogy to draw. If these people using this analogy are so concerned with exploitation, they should consider the exploitation of women and rape survivors to be a high priority.

Secondly, comparing environmental destruction to rape positions women as something like the earth: not really thinking, feeling beings, but irrational, passive resources to be used and exploited for gain. It places women on par with nature, and further from humanity. It “others” women, making women more “natural”, more impulsive, more essentialized. It makes women no more than our sex, our bodies, the most “natural” thing about us, and makes women’s sexuality and reproduction in particular a point of departure for exploitation.

And as this rhetorical device serves to make women more like the earth and nature, at the same time it feminizes the earth. The earth isn’t made strong, independent, masculine – it is made to submit to the desires and whims of humans. We can even tear apart mountains if we want to, cut into diamonds to create multifaceted jewelry, plunge the depths of the ocean floors. There isn’t a single inch of this earth that can’t be bent to humans’ will, forced to behave, to become tame, to be destroyed to build our “civilizations.” Conceptually, “Mother Earth” is just a woman after all, something that has been dominated for many centuries. Anytime we want to dominate something, our best bet is to begin by feminizing it, making it womanly, making it submissive.

The last time this happened in class, I posted a note on the class online discussion board, explaining how this phrase makes me feel and some of the ideological ramifications, and asking that my colleagues refrain from using this inappropriate analogy any more. My request has been supported thus far, for which I am grateful. I’m also glad to sneak in a bit of feminist theory in a non-feminist class any chance I can!

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interview meme

The Rules: Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”I respond by asking you five personal questions so I can get to know you better. If I already know you well, expect the questions may be a little more intimate!You WILL update your journal/bloggy thing/whatever with the answers to the questions.You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the post.When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

My quesitons come from Sage:

1. How do you reconcile the fact that non-thinkers seem so happy? Does their happiness in life have less value because they’re unaware of or unconcerned with strife in this world? Or are they the truly brilliant?

Oh, I didn’t realize the non-thinkers were so happy! 🙂

I do sort of follow the philosophy “the unexamined life is not worth living,” so I wouldn’t classify the non-thinkers of the world as brilliant, but I don’t think that their happiness in and of itself has less value; it might be easier to come by, perhaps, but I think that in general terms, happiness is happiness, none more valuable than another. I do worry, however, that their happiness comes at the expense of others, which might make the happiness of the unaware less ethical.

2. What do you make of de Beauvoir’s question to Sartre (to paraphrase): “If we’re all so free, then why are women so oppressed, dammit?”

I do love de Beauvoir. And Sartre, while a great philosopher and serious genius, just didn’t seem to fully get it about gender oppression.  Too much of a focus on individual existential angst. While I personally adore his line, “Hell is other people,” I feel like Sartre was way too isolationist with his philosophical work, and didn’t see the full complexity of how interwoven and relational we humans are. de Beauvoir, I think, understood this in a fuller way.

3. Who’s your favourite philosopher and why?

Nietzsche. I just love the cutting nature of his brilliance. No mincing of words, but a deep understanding of human nature. I love his genealogical approach to history and philosophy. And I also love his atheism. He’s just in a class all his own.

I also, for the record, love Camus, Foucault, Butler and Derrida. I’m into existentialism and post-modernism/post-structuralism primarily. And I’m a Kantian.

4. What did you used to do in your blogging time before you started blogging?

Well, I used to watch a lot more TV. But, truth be told, I am a world-class master procrastinator, so blogging is my new method. Also, I used to talk to my best friend on the phone every night, but now she lives in another country.

5. If I came out east and we went out on a night on the town, would we be more likely to keep each other from drinking too much, or egg one another on to tequila shooters at dawn? Explain.

Yeah, I’m gonna go with tequila. Tequila is just… well… tequila is awesome. And, after all, it would be such a treat to have you come to visit, I’d definitely feel obliged to show you a good time! And there are simply so many places to drink tequila. The spot I think you’d like best closes a bit early, but lots of other spots stay open quite late and can be lots of fun. Once they close, then it’s on to the favourite all-night greasy spoon! I’d also probably drag your ass out of bed bright and early the next day for some fresh sea-side air to chase the hangover away! Ions, don’t ya know. 😉

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