Random quote of the day

From Liss over at Shakesville:

P.S. Who the fuck uses “reverse racism” anymore? I was under the impression that most thinking people acknowledged quite some time ago that racism is racism, irrespective of whence it emanates, and that “reverse racism” was typically a phrase employed by the sort of ignorant doofuses who don’t get why it’s okay to say George Bush looks like a chimp but not okay to say the same of Barack Obama. Did I miss a memo?

Perhaps this is just a personal “hell yeah!” from me, but the last few lines prompt me to think of a certain fellow and chuckle…

…because, really, what more can you do?


“Moment of silence” mandatory in Illinois schools (news to me!)…but not anymore?

Did you know:  Within the past year, a law was passed in Illinois saying that every school in the state must have a moment of silence in the morning, a time that would be suitable for prayer or contemplating the day’s activities.  I had no idea about this until my brother mentioned it in casual conversation.  Every day now, after second period announcements, he and his fellow classmates have to sit in silence for fifteen seconds.  I thought this was interesting.  My initial response was one of “are you kidding me?” and then I decided “hmm this is interesting and I kind of like the idea of a contemplative moment.”  So much in our society these days is overstimulating, so why not take a moment to just relax and think?  

But then of course there is the popular critique of this ruling:  what about the separation of church and state?  This is obviously a slight nudge to place prayer back in schools.  But while I see that point of view and understand it, I think we have to look at this ruling in actuality and not necessarily in intention.  Perhaps it was a push by religious members in Illinois General Assembly, but in practice, it’s nothing more than a contemplative moment of silence.  It’s hard to argue that as a bad thing.  There are some critics who see this as a “forced silence,” but students are “forced” to be silent in class all the time in order for an organized class lecture to be successful.  I don’t know how this ruling has been carried out in Illinois schools, but in my high school alma mater, it is simply recognized as a moment of silence, not as a moment of prayer.

The law passed by the Illinois General Assembly says every school district in the state must hold a nonreligious moment of silence suitable for prayer or contemplating the day’s activities at the start of the day.

Talk radio host Rob Sherman, an outspoken atheist whose daughter, Dawn, attends Buffalo Grove High School, sued to stop enforcement….

…He said the law was designed to unconstitutionally ”proselytize Christianity to a captive audience” of school children. (emphasis mine)

I guess recently this “moment of silence” was banned in the Buffalo Grove school districts and the ban just yesterday was extended to the entire state.  The happenings are a little sketchy to me, as I don’t know the full history of the case, but that’s the gist of it.

So overall, I guess I personally don’t feel that this “moment of silence” ruling was something to freak out about, but at the same time, I don’t understand what the need would be to make a “moment of silence” mandatory.  Before this ruling last year, schools had the opportunity to choose to have a moment of silence or not.  Its practice wasn’t something that was outlawed.  But all of a sudden, lawmakers decided to devote their time to such a decision, even going against the governor’s veto to do so.  Seems suspicious.  And now, with the recent reactionary rulings, it’s just incredibly complicated and annoying.  Perhaps what it boils down to is just a waste of tax-payers money.  Oyy.

Well, what do you all think about the original ruling and now the attempt to go back on it?  I know some of you will disagree with me, so lemme hear it!

Christian Genes and Gay Genes

Via The Curvature, here is a funny parody of how much emphasis is placed on finding the “cause” of gayness.

This video is not only hi-larious, but it also brings up some interesting questions about how we look at our gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered friends. For example, those of us who are allies or queer tend to use the argument that queerness “is not a choice.” While I agree with that sentiment, I also often think that particular mantra is an oversimplification and when used too thoughtlessly might even be insulting, as this video demonstrates. (For example, I once spoke with an acquaintance of mine who was a lesbian, and she said that, if given a choice, she would choose lesbianism without a doubt. She really did not like the notion that she might be somehow a “prisoner” of her gayness.)

In my humble opinion, biology certainly plays a role in all aspects of our sexuality. And it is clear that we are not usually in control of the type of person we are attracted to. In this way, homosexuality is “not a choice.” But that does not mean that LGBT people are to be pitied, any more than those who are only attracted to red hair, or big shoulders, or Russian accents should be pitied. (I believe GSA’s last Starshak speaker Robyn Ochs (a very cool woman) briefly mentioned this topic several months ago. Go check out her site–she’s great!)

This is why all those actual studies (not, alas, silly parodies) looking for the “gay gene” make me somewhat nervous–although finding such a gene might be politically useful in that we can finally “prove” to heterosexists that “the gays” aren’t simply being “willful” or whatever, it makes it seem as if gayness is a disease to be eradicated. It’s not. It’s based in biology, but the LGBT people I know all have perfectly happy and healthy lives (with the exception of having to deal with senseless hate from certain populations *sigh*). And I bet many of them, if given the choice, would choose to be right where they are. (And they should, ‘cuz they’re awesome.)

I am glad this video popped up. Funny and thought-provoking. (And Oh So British!)

Roman Catholic Church to excommunicate female priests

Excommunication has been the standard punishment for the ordination of women, but this decree by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith establishes the punishment as mandatory.

Boston takes steps to stop sexual assault on the subway

(yay alliteration!)

via feministing and NPR:

This is good stuff.  The Boston transit officials are cracking down on subway sexual assault (touching, groping, flashing, etc.) through a massive poster campaign and increased arrests of perpetrators.  The campaign is aimed at aggressively attacking this widespread problem that often goes unreported. 

Transit officials say women usually don’t report groping incidents because they’re embarrassed and don’t believe it will have any effect. So officials have plastered subway cars with nearly a thousand signs urging victims to speak out — and warning potential predators that they are being watched by cameras and by “the grope patrol” of undercover police officers.

I love this campaign!  Empowerment to the people!  

The NPR article goes on to describe a situation with a decoy and plainclothes officers looking to arrest perps.  The only thing I didn’t like about the article was the fact that they felt the need to describe what the decoy was wearing, as if that made any difference in men sexually assaulting her.  Other than that, this campaign leaves me with a lot of hope.

After more than a month undercover, officials say the grope patrol has made a difference. The number of reported groping incidents — from the relatively minor to the really lewd — has doubled. Some women have even preserved clothing, which police officers need for evidence, while others are sending in pictures of guys they snap on their cell phones.

Way to go Boston. 🙂


Hypothetical technologies and choice

            I found this on Andrew Sullivan’s blockbuster The Daily Dish, but I doubt there’s much overlap in our readerships. A pair (I, II) of articles discusses the yet far-off possibility of artificial wombs, which could potentially end pregnancies of early-term fetuses while bearing them to term. From Conor Friedersdorf:


“I think that technology is going to make fetuses viable outside the womb earlier and earlier. In fact that is already happening. And eventually there will be artificial wombs, enabling doctors to extract a fetus from a pregnant woman during the first trimester with a procedure no more invasive or dangerous than abortion, and to keep that baby alive in an incubator. Today we are used to thinking about a woman’s right to end a pregnancy as the functional equivalent of ending the fetuses’ life. In the future, however, that need not be so. A woman could be afforded the right to end her pregnancy, but be denied the right to end the life of the fetus. Although I am not an expert in abortion jurisprudence, it is at least conceivable that this could happen without any need to overturn Roe vs. Wade…”

“…It is possible that society’s views about killing fetuses would change in the pro-life direction once that change didn’t entail forcing women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term…”

I really don’t see the second proposition happening. If anything, both sides would play reactionary, and dig deeper into the trenches of culture warring.

One imagines the cost of reserving and maintaining a hypothetical artificial womb would grossly outweigh the cost of an abortion—and probably even the hospital stay for a natural live birth. This does not even take into account for the child-support Friedersdorf suggests mothers might have to pay to support the overburdened adoption infrastructure. Seeing as most terminations are initiated by lower-income women, these costs would not be able to be incurred by many carriers of unwanted pregnancies. For them, reproductive rights advocates would assert the continued necessity of safe and legal abortion.

            Equally unlikely as pro-choicer’s concession is the acceptance of the technology by conservative bioethicists to the hypothetical technology. As reported by Steven Pinker (if you can get past the gratuitous title), Neothomist-derivative natural law paradigms form the intellectual backbone of conservative bioethics.

Natural legislators argue methods of conception using assisted means, i.e. artificial insemination, are immoral. Such bioethicists argue any conception not resultant from vaginal intercourse between a consenting married couple to be an aberration. Technological intercession abuses of natural (or sometimes explicitly God-given) biological capacities. Intercession or third parties into the process of conception supposedly robs conception of spiritual significance, reducing the procreation into a wholly mechanical act, harming the dignity of all parties involved.

            If assisted conception can be denounced along these lines, it is easy to imagine conservative bioethicists likewise condemning assisted pregnancy. One imagines them claiming any woman who made use of an artificial womb would be violating her own maternal obligations and the natural order for convenience sake, and degrading her own dignity and that of her fetus.

            This discussion, of course, assumes such technology could be feasible. We speak in hypotheticals now, but I’m reluctant to tempt Clarke’s Second Law. It also assumes the procedure would be legalized.

When this feminist can be humorful…(and also confused)

Check out these new Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) ads to “buckle up.”  Can you guess what they are using to sell their case?  Why, nothing other than sex!  And okay. Most ads like these I’m going to approach pretty humorlessly, but when the IDOT uses sex…to increase seat belt usage…I gotta chuckle at least a little bit.  Imagine hearing this on the radio like I first did, thinking it’s just something sleazy and sexist…and then bam!, the punchline?–  “I want YOU to buckle up.”  This is some odd usage of society’s heteronormativity and strict gender roles, I must say.  It actually really confuses me and I’m struggling to come up with something substantive to say (if you can’t tell…)  So anyways, let me know what you think.

Also, below the fold is the two other videos in the series–a Black version and a Latino one, which brings up a whole other host of critiques, which I haven’t sorted out yet either. Continue reading