Category Archives: activism

“Killing in the Name of…”

Sujal and I were just watching bits from Rachel Maddow’s show where she shows some O’Reilly clips and his incendiary sputum about Dr. Tiller and then his “clarification” that he said nothing that advocated violence.

I told Sujal, I wasn’t really writing about this murder, because I didn’t have a lot to say other than I’m disgusted, saddened, and disappointed. It makes me feel a little bit more hopeless. It is coersion at its worst.

I went on to say that I don’t know that I really feel O’Reilly is culpable. He is culpable only in the way that he is part of a society that purveys this kind of hatred. I really see culpability in a greater, more pervasive misogyny that exists in our culture. It manifests itself in all sorts of forums, and this is one. Anyone who knows me well knows that this is an issue that is deeply important to me, as are all women’s rights. So I write to say I don’t know what to say. It’s like reading a Jhumpa Lahiri story or some Faulkner pieces — I’m just left feeling like I just got kicked in the stomach.

The book Absolute Convictions by Eyal Press details the anti-choice movement and events in Buffalo, New York (my hometown) that culminated in the murder of Dr. Slepian, who happened to by my best friend’s gynecologist. Check it out, because it reads less biasedly than anything else I have read. It closely examines the chaos and high emotions surrounding the issue.

I wrote a little bit more about it here and here.


Gender Identity: NPR, Zucker, and Ehrensaft

As I was driving on Wednesday, I heard this piece on All Things Considered. I heard most of it then, but I looked it up today after work. It’s part of a two-part series, and I listened to the second part today, as well.

The first part deals with small children (2, 3, 4) who strongly identify with the gender that is opposite of their genetic make-up. It details two boys, one on the east coast, one on the west — both who strongly identify with being a girl and with “girl-things.” The set of each boy’s parents goes to see a doctor about their son. The east coast set goes to Ken Zucker, and the west coast set goes to Diane Ehrensaft.

After listening to this piece, I began to read up a bit on Zucker and Ehrensaft. This article called “Drop the Barbie! If You Bend Gender Far Enough, Does It Break?” reveals how “behaviorist” and rigid Zucker is. As part of his therapy, he has parents take away all of the “girl” (in this case) toys. He has the parents disallow him to play with girls or pretend he is a girl character is his play. In the ATC piece, he brings up that if one were to bring a black child to a therapist, and that child says, “I’m white,” then should the therapist have that child live as white? or should the therapist try to make that child comfortable with whom s/he is? He says one would do the latter. He claims that both “confusions” stem from surrounding dysfunction.

This is not an apt comparison. At the very least, racial identity has more to do with cultural identity, since race is a social construct. Whereas gender is obviously cross-cultural, and it is biological to at least some degree. [Honestly, there is a lot more to this — I can intuit it. It is not an apt comparison, yet at the moment I do not have the words to fully articulate it. One one hand, a) a black child identifying as white — what does that even mean? White culture? The whole question of a black child claiming to be white relies on an idea that there is a limited way to be black and a limited way to be white. b) Does this happen? If anyone has thoughts on this — I’d love to hear them!]

In terms of Zucker’s idea that gender “switching” in small children is caused by dysfunction (thus nurture), he, of course, seeks to find the cause (from the article “Drop the Barbie!”):

Zucker and his colleagues try to uncover the psychodynamics in the family that might be at the root of the child’s gender distress. Girls may develop GID, he believes, because they’ve formed the perception that being a girl is weak or dangerous. One little girl he saw recently, for example, had witnessed her mother being assaulted by the mother’s boyfriend. A boy, on the other hand, in a family where the mother is suffering from depression and is emotionally unavailable, might make an effort to act like a girl to get closer to her.

He goes on to say:

Parents are encouraged to set limits on the cross-gender behavior of the child. “We urge them to say, ‘Let’s figure out what other things you can do besides play with that doll,'” Zucker says. “In some situations, we have to work hard with parents’ own issues about gender. Could be a mother who’s had difficulty with the men in her life and has a lot of mixed feelings toward men. That gets translated to the boy, and her fear that he’ll grow up to be like those men causes him to reject being a boy.”

Hmmmm. This smacks to me of the ol’ “Let’s blame it on the mother…” “Gay son — he was mothered too much!” Here, mom is the cause of both disorders. I can’t say I see sound logic here, either.

When Ehrensaft was interviewed, she said something that I thought was pretty profound (from ATC):

Ehrensaft, however, does not use that label. She describes children like Bradley and Jonah as transgender. And, unlike Zucker, she does not think parents should try to modify their child’s behavior. In fact, when Pam and Joel came to see her, she discouraged them from putting Jonah into any kind of therapy at all. Pam says because Ehrensaft does not see transgenderism itself as a dysfunction, the therapist didn’t think Pam and Joel should try to cure Jonah.

“She made it really clear that, you know, if Jonah’s not depressed, or anxious, or having anything go on that she would need to really be in therapy for, then don’t put a kid in therapy until they need it,” Pam says.

If it’s not a dysfunction, then don’t make it one. Human nature is such an odd beast, and I wonder if I’d take that approach if it were some behavior that seemed truly wrong from my perspective. I guess the difference is that in order for something to be truly wrong, I would think it would need a component of causing harm — causing harm to the self or to others. Part of what is difficult for me is that this feels like an automatic response for me, to use a phrase I don’t really like, a “no-brainer.” Yet, I am having a very difficult time articulating why. Anyway, check the series out and let me know what you think.

Sural In Pisco

My sister-in-law, Sural, is in Peru doing a fellowship for ten months. She was in Lima when the recent earthquake shook Pisco and surrounding areas. We were quite worried about her, but she is fine. She felt the quake, and we later talked to her via Skype, and she described the situation in Lima. Shortly after, she and some fellow students went down to Pisco to help out. She normally has a blog on her travels, but the recent posts about being in Pisco are particularly powerful. Check out the rest of her blog, too. It is called Sirens and Lights. Not only does she provide a detailed description, but she uses vivid writing to do so. The opening of “Earth, Wind, Water, Fire” provides a visceral description of the dust, giving us not only sensual description of the place, but also a literal and figurative atmospheric description. Just read it and see for yourself.

I Got to Thinking about Confrontation

The weekend in DC was a great weekend away. We both enjoyed the quality time together, but it was not a weekend free from confrontation. As I mentioned above, Sujal and I had a mini-confrontation over what I’d said about the US not really being “victorious” in WWII.

On our walk to the mall, I had the trip’s first confrontation. We were enjoying our walk, seeing lots of buildings of “interest” groups and lobbyists. Then we were walking by a series of offices in what looked like row houses. In from of one stood some people holding pamphlets and some other people wearing bright orange t-shirts. My first thougt was something having to do with orange t-shirt wearing weirdos. Then I read the t-shirts and looked at the office. It was a Saturday morning and we were passing by Planned Parenthood. The pamphlet bearers where right-to-life protesters. The people in orange were Planned Parenthood volunteer escorts. Something tugged at me, and I had to go back and say something. Because this is an issue that is near and dear to me, I went back to thank the escorts for the very important work they are doing. They make it much easier for women who have made the choice to terminate a pregnancy. I am fervently pro-choice, so I really respect what they do. Of course, they would not have to do what they do if the pamphlet bearers were not there. As I turned around, the pamphlet bearers were closing in on me, telling me that it is a child, that God wants me to keep it. They thought I was going in for an abortion.

I firmly believe these pamphlet bearers have the right to protest and the right to free speech, but in the moment, I became filled with anger — anger because they make it so difficult for women to make up their minds; anger because if one believes in God, the christian God, then whatever sin he or she commits (if that is the case) is between the sinner and God; anger because they assumed something about me; anger because they want to take away my rights; anger because this is misogyny. On my way over to the escorts, I merely waived one pamphlet bearer off. When he began to preach to me after I turned to walk away, after he assumed I was terminating a pregnancy, I stooped to a low blow. I flipped him off. As a few more pamphlet bearers began addressing me, I flipped them off, too. As I walked away and they continued, growing louder, I continued to flip them off behind me. I knew Sujal was not too pleased that I made this gesture, and I was still angry. Later, I thought about it, and not that I would have ever planned to deal with a confrontation that way, I realized just how dismissive it is — and what I mean by this is that flipping them off makes them dismiss me — it invalidates my points. Granted, I was not about to get into an intellectual debate with them, but I weakened my position on the moral high ground.

So I began to think about conflict in those terms. Compassion is important, and so is respect. I may not respect someone’s viewpoint or opinion, but I can respect him or her as a fellow human being. This is, of course, not entirely new to me, but this confrontation clarified this thought for me.

NYT Article on Family Leave

I am so digging Eyal Press! It seems when I begin reading an interesting, well-researched and well-written article, it is often by Eyal Press. I have previously posted about his book Absolute Convictions. Today I was reading his NYT article on family leave discrimination. Check it out.


A Night at the Movies

While I wanted to see Sicko on opening night, we went to see Ratatouille instead. So tonight, we finally went to see Sicko, even though I pledged on MoveOn.Org that I would see it Saturday evening — Sorry, MoveOn. My first reaction when I left the theater was — I really want to feel empowered and inspired, yet I feel a sense of despair and powerlessness. It seems the lobbies in this country are magnanimously strong. But I’d like to try to get beyond an initial feeling of powerlessness.

Ironically — or not ironically, I suppose — the movie was not playing at one of the major cinemas in our area. We saw Fahrenheit 911 at the cinema in Plainville, and I was going to get tickets to see Sicko there on Friday afternoon, yet it was only playing at one of the Hartford “arts” cinemas (and a mall cinema that is fairly far from us). I was surprised it wasn’t at Plainville, and Sujal told me his theory that it might have something to do with the fact that Hartford is the insurance capital. Makes sense…

Take the time to look at Michael Moore’s website, as it has lots of info and resources.

Here’s an interesting YouTube link in which Moore responds to potential attacks on 911 rescue workers.

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Finally, at the end of the film, it lists this site, Hook-A-Canuck, a dating site for Americans to find a Canadian mate so the American can get free healthcare — though it is not serious, of course.

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I truly hope this does open a national healthcare debate and movement. It is high time!


Check this out! Lefties, unite!

Voting — Democracy in Action in West Hartford

Yesterday the citizens of West Hartford voted on accepting the proposed budget, and they voted a resounding, “No.”

I have not yet read any reaction to last night’s election, but I wanted to share my immediate thoughts.  They may change as I later reflect (I’m a commit-ophobe), but right now I am pretty pleased with the fact that I live in a place that has referendums decent voter turnout in the middle of June.  I guess when you come down to it, almost 30% isn’t great voter turnout, but considering what turnouts are often like, it’s not too bad. I cannot say I am pleased with the outcome of the vote, as I believe the West Hartford Taxpayers Association has been less than up front — though more importantly — they have vilified teachers and unions, as well as anyone who opposes them.  I am happy, however, that the town of West Hartford had the opportunity to raise a voice. While I may not always be completely caught up on what is happening in my town, (my country, or my world, for that matter) I believe it is important to read up and know what you are voting for or against.  I’d like to think that many people who voted no were wooed by the idea of lower taxes — a skewing of the actual WHTA’s issue with the budget.  I’d like to think that — not because I want us to all be blind voters, but because I do not want to believe that people can think so harshly of teachers, unions, and education.   Of course I don’t want to believe that people vote without a good understanding of an issue, but for some reason it seems worse to believe that citizens think teachers are greedy and self-serving.

The West hartford Blog has provided an invaluable place to discuss the issue, though I wish there had been a public debate forum.

All in all, while I may not agree with the outcome, I am glad that we had the election.  I’m getting satisfaction out of being linked in to local politics — having a firm understanding of what is going on in my town.  West Hartford does have a lot of great services, and I hope that those services don’t get cut. 

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I saw the New York Times headline, Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Abortion Procedure, and I thought to myself, What a grim day. It has been a series of grim days — the rain, shooting tragedies, long hours at school, husband in LA — it’s been grim. So I began to read the article, and I began to think that I may not agree with this procedure. Yes, I, the abortion rights believer, began to doubt. Perhaps it is because I am in my 30’s and beginning to think about having a family. Then I realized — I wouldn’t have this procedure, but I believe others should have the right to choose. That’s what this all comes down to — the right to choose. It has been a grim week.

NYT article on Iraq High School Play

I wanted to write this articled a while ago, but here are some interesting links about a play that a high school tried to put up about the Iraq War. It was even in a Connecticut high school. I think it’s an interesting story.

NYT article

text of the play