Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Whole New Generation of Space Monkeys

What does this remind you of?

Give up?

Ladies and gentlemen, for your midweek enjoyment, I bring you the latest update on what Tyler Durden has been up to.
He's become a scientologist. And apparently he was also very inspired by Barack Obama, because, hey, why else would he have so much hope about the human spirit while writing the script for the scientology commercial?
I must say this is quite a 180 on his outlook on the human population. Apparently, he has decided that everyone is a special and unique snowflake.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Homosexuality Legalized in India

The Times of India posted a great brief about the legalization of homosexuality in India.

"No one can label us as criminals now,’’ said Rohit sporting an ear-to-ear grin. ‘‘The thought that we can’t be harassed on the pretext of law is a big relief,’’ added the gay rights activist in Chandigarh.
The New York Times elaborated on the law that had been overturned. According to their report, the law had been put in place by British colonists during Britain's rule over India. Many gay rights activists saw the law as an "archaic holdover from colonialism". Many people are thrilled with the change. While the courts that overturned the law rule that it is unconstitutional when compared with laws that guarantee individual liberty and protection against discrimination, others say that the law will have a negative effect on the youth in India, New York Times reports.
“This is wrong,” said Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, a vice chancellor of Dar ul-Uloom, the main university for Islamic education in India. The decision to bring Western culture to India, he said, will “corrupt Indian boys and girls.”

"The High Court’s decision should be overturned, said Murli Manohar Joshi, the leader of the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. “The High Court cannot decide all things,” he said.
I am happy for all of the gay men and women who have been liberated from social stigma and harassment. Reports say that the law was not often used to jail practicing or open homosexuals, but rather as another way to dehumanize and embarrass them. From what I've seen in documentaries about the relationship between some middle eastern cultures and homosexuality, there's a conception that homosexuality is a concept that youth can pick up if they become too "westernized". As if homosexuality is a trend that you can pick up like wearing Converse or Adidas. Muslim culture, according to the documentary "I Exist", plays heavily into this.

Anita George, student at the University of Georgia and one of my friends, said Madrasi's objection to the overturn probably stemmed more from his Muslim background rather than Indian culture.
George said despite the fact that there is some social stigma in India against homosexuality, homosexuality in Indian culture is "not a new phenomenon".

"It was a part of society for a very long time. There is even a huge chunk of the Kama Sutra devoted to the practice of homosexuality," said George. "Maybe the fact that Indians are against it is part of the islamic influence or even where the western culture influence comes into play. Because [during the period when] the Kama Sutra [was written] Indians... didn't seem to care about homosexuality either way."

The passages in the Kama Sutra that deal with homosexuality seem to be ambivalent about the morality of the sexuality. Some passages seem to indicate that sexual acts between two men are fine as long as love is involved, or if the custom of the country allows, others insist that fellatio should never be preformed by learned men but do not say if it is correct for two men to be in a relationship. There aren't many verses that deal with relationships between women, but it does say that "some women of the harem, when they are amorous, do the acts of the mouth on the yonis of one another, and some men do the same thing with women. The way of doing this (i.e. of kissing the yoni) should be known from kissing the mouth."

I find it interesting that the objections to homosexuality in India were more based on social stigma, even when the law against homosexuality was in place. That system has a lot in common with the fact that the opposition to homosexual marriage in America generally has more to do with social or religious objections than with a conflict with our national philosophy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Discussions Across the Table

The Daily Show hosted Mike Huckabee last night. Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee had a very lively discussion about reproductive rights. While only the shortened version was shown on television, the full version shown on is very much worth watching. The full interview is a very good representation of the main issues presented by both sides, how they can be presented intelligently, and gives a good example of a lively but polite and open engagement of ideas by people who hold different opinions on hot button issues. I really had a lot of respect for Mike Huckabee during this interview.

There were instances where I disagreed with his opinions, but he was also very respectful of the pro-choice side while sticking to his own thoughts and ideals, and he considered many of the options that were presented to him with grace. I think it is evident, though I will state it, that I have always had respect for Jon Stewart and the way he conducts himself in interviews. At any rate, I leave the links to the videos for any who wish to watch it. I look forward to any who wish to leave their own thoughts and criticisms.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mike Huckabee Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mike Huckabee Exclusive Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mike Huckabee Exclusive Interview Pt. 3
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lessons for Girls: You Can Say No

Historiann has been hosting a great series of posts that contain lessons for women. I've decided to and add my own lesson: it's okay to say no. I know full well that I am hypocrite as I write this. I am the world's worst person at saying no to anyone -- which will lend this lesson a note of authenticity.

This lesson is seemingly simplistic. The idea of turning someone down for something -- a favor, a date, an engagement, a job, etc. -- when out of context has none of the threat or implications that it does in the actual situation. Also, in my personal experience, when I imagine turning someone down for something, it's never someone that I actually like. Performing favors for my friends, family, and teachers -- people who I admire -- is never something I see as burdensome. This is actually where the problem can arise. You can overstretch yourself.

It's great to do favors for your friends -- to be there for them, support them, and try to make them happy. Performing favors and tasks for your friends can also be a reward in itself. It can make you feel more accomplished and strengthen the bond between you and the other person. But that reward will be missing from the equation if favors are done out of necessity -- a kind of "I have to do it" mentality.

That's not to say that you still don't have your friend's best interest at heart. There's this kind of mentality that if you turn them down for this favor it will in some way damage the strength of the relationship. And this kind of fear can persist through any relationship. The same fear of not being a good friend/lover/student/whatever can come through in any situation: whether you want to turn your friend down for help with a science paper because you have to read 300 pages that night, or whether you hold your tongue while you make your lover's dinner, even though you have a terrible headache and really just want to go sleep.

Girls are often raised to be caretakers. It's that mother/wife/daughter/homemaker role at work again. It reminds me of the beginning of a poem by Maya de Angelou titled "Woman Work":

I’ve got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I’ve got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The cane to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Men are raised with responsibility as well, but in my house it's always been the woman who has to "make it work" -- as far as the household running smoothly goes, that is. The man is held responsible for how sucessful his son is, and for religious/moral upbringing, but a woman is judged by how smooth her household runs.

There was unbelieveable pressure on my mother to get the kids to school, take us to sports practice, music lessons, clubs, events, parties, cook dinner, keep the house clean, and still accept invitations from her friends. She often couldn't keep up with the demand, or didn't. My father often berated her for being lazy, and my sister and I would pick up the slack where we could. The more the demand grew, and the more pressure she felt, the more she froze up. My grandmothers juggled the same hectic schedules -- some of them more crowded and chaotic. And I've absorbed some of those lessons.

Now I'm nineteen and in college, and I've always been fairly certain that the only way I can get everything done is if I stop sleeping. What further complicates matters is that I feel guilty if, after I've become worn from going non stop for days, I want some time to myself and have to turn my friends down for dinner or for help on something. Sometimes I simply insist on doing more for them just to alleviate the guilt.

If, finally, I ask for some time to myself or turn down a favor, after I have put it off forever and feel like I will explode, a miraculous thing happens -- nothing. My friends normally comply with my request. They find it completely normal. They weren't even aware, most of the time, that I was feeling overworked, stressed, or like a lot was being demanded of me.

The hard part was not obtaining whatever it was that I needed, or opting out of whatever it was that they wanted -- it was simply getting to the point where I could tell them no. For some reason, that idea that turning people down is wrong is so deeply engrained in me that it feels hard to even get the words out. I feel traitorous.

We have to get to the point where we can tell people no -- no matter what it is that we're declining. It is unhealthy for both the person who wants to decline and the person who is asking for that favor to be in a state where the favor being fulfilled feels oblagatory. Every person on this planet has enough pressure on them without feeling like their are going to be consequences for their not wanting to do whatever task happens to be at hand.

We have been brought up to be caretakers, but that doesn't mean we are solely responsible for making sure that the world runs smoothly and that everyone gets exactly what they want.

So you can't go that art exhibit on Tuesday because you have to study, or you can't help with that paper because your sick. Maybe you can't do whatever it is because you just don't feel like it. You're not slacking off. You're not a terrible friend. They'll understand, the explanation isn't owed, and there will be other times.

And if they don't understand, maybe that's a reflection that the relationship wasn't so strong to begin with, not that you dealt the crushing blow by turning them down.

Tuesday Movie Review: Live Nude Girls, Unite!

Julia Query's documentary on the unionization of San Francisco's peep show strip club, The Lusty Lady. The documentary chronicles not only the amazing struggle of the dancers to win rights such as sick days, equal hours for women of color, and guaranteed wage rights, but also the personal development of Julia Query.

Query went to San Francisco, as she stated in the documentary, to be a writer and a stand up comic. She is the daughter of Dr. Joyce Wallace, activist for prostitution rights. Query unflaggingly documents her fear of informing her mother that she stripped for a living -- through clips of her stand up show, by integrating the struggle into her account of the union struggle, and finally through a confrontation with her mother at the end of the documentary.

The documentary is an eye opener. It gives a realistic and understanding account of the problems that plague strip clubs and sex work, without either demonizing the employees of the strip clubs, or making them seem heroic in some way -- both lights seem to a problem that plague feminist interpretations of sex work. By focusing the documentary on what it set out to examine -- the working conditions and internal working problems of The Lusty Lady -- and by not making the employers and owners seem demonic or the workers seem idiotic or victims, the documentary ends up feeling more authentic.

Most enlightening were the accounts of the employment habits of strip club owners. Julia Query shows that many owners do not schedule women of color for as many shifts. In the case of her club, which is a peep show club, women of color were not scheduled at all for the private show booth. The employers said it was because women of color were not as marketable. Women with darker hair, darker skin, or anyone else who was not blond or light skin was labeled as "dark and exotic". Being labeled "dark and exotic" meant fewer scheduling hours. This makes sense, because something that is exotic won't be exotic for long if you put a large number of exotics in the same place. Another problem plaguing workers was stage fees. A stripper would be charged by the owners a certain amount to work the floor, and was made to account for their tips as they left. Women who did not make the quota of tips were in danger of losing their jobs.

Working conditions became worse and worse, and violence became more frequent in clubs. Dancers were blamed for violent acts that the customers were preforming, and management did nothing to ensure the safety of the dancers.

The documentary shows how more and more dancers are unionizing their strip clubs, mirroring the efforts made by The Lusty Lady. Rights are being won such as better hours, better wages, and sick days. But the widespread corruption and harsh treatment of the dancers chronicled in Julia Query's documentary is heartbreaking. It is a reminder that workers in the sex industry are often forgotten or written off.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yes You CAN!!!

Yes you can buy these shoes! Carry this purse! Tshirts, jackets, buttons, pins, we got 'em! Line on up, join the patriarchal, democratic, hope laden consumerism!
Just buy the Obama sweatshirt (nevermind that it's summer), the Obama blanket, the Obama posters! Yes you can wall paper your entire living room with our fearless leader's face. He'll look on, hopeful and triumphant, handsome as Adonis, as you watch reruns of "Murder She Wrote".

Yes You CAN! buy these shoes for your toddler. Because your toddler is old enough to read, write, and vote. Your toddler is old enough to understand economic and wartime issues. Your toddler was an intellectual contributor to the grassroots campaign.

YES YOU CAN! buy these shoes that are promoting change! We're going to end the recession with dollars thrown at merchandise capitalizing off of our President's face, eyes, mouth, words, and of course, hope. We're going to change everything by doing something that's never been done before: marketing something or someone that is currently popular.

You can, my good people, you can. Because you are true supporters of the cause. The moment that you saw the commercial on your satellite TV advertising these shoes, you knew you had to have them. These shoes would show everyone how politically aware you are. And every time you bent to tie your shoes, Barack Obama's canvas face would shoot an invisible, powerful beacon of hope straight into your spinal cord, straightening your back so that you can march proudly forward.

Yes you can.

As one of my friends pointed out, it's good that people are proud of their president. And I know this same thing has been going on for a while -- just look at all the anti-Bush merchandise that was and is still available. I just wish that politically aware didn't necessarily mean having to keep up with the latest fashion trend.

Broun vs. Board

Rep Paul Broun (R-GA) is campaigning to make 2010 the Year of the Bible. Politico reports that Broun has introduced the bill to the House of Representatives for history's sake. A commemoration, if you will.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with Christianity,” he said in an interview with POLITICO. Rather, he says, it seeks to recognize that the Bible played an integral role in the building of the United States, including providing the basis for our freedom of religion that allows Muslims, Hindus and even atheists to vocalize their own beliefs.

Well, if you want to get technical, the Bible itself didn't have anything to do with providing that freedom of religion. The way that people were interpreting the Bible did. People were discriminating, killing, and marginalizing other people who had different beliefs about Christianity. That's just counting the Christian conflicts over religion in Europe. I'm sure there were other sects of religion that made the journey over to America.

I am not arguing the Bible does not provide solid doctrine for tolerance of other people, and brotherly love, ect., ect., because if I did argue that, I would be an idiot. I am saying that the way this argument is formulated, it makes one think that the Christians who came over here from England to escape persecution weren't running from people using basically the same Bible.

But the point is, most of our founding fathers were Christian. It was the dominant founding religion. So if Broun wants to argue that the Bible had influence over their thought process, lives, ect., and therefore had influence over how they started the country and made laws, fine. It probably did.

This whole "Year of the Bible" thing sounds a bit fluffy to me though, and doesn't seem like it's going to serve any particular purpose.

Is it going to be like Black History Month? Are Universities going to host seminars on the different sects of Christianity that developed or migrated to America? Are they going offer lecture series about Irish-Americans who were discriminated against for their Catholic beliefs? Will there be History Channel documentaries on The Faith of Our Fathers, discussing how Thomas Jefferson chopped up the Bible to remove any reference to Jesus' divinity and how George Washington stopped going to church on communion days?

Probably there will be all of these things, and then some, but those events would have taken place anyways without the help of the Year of the Bible.

While the bill probably won't ever pass (currently it finds only 15 co-sponsers), it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, and in the end probably won't be much more than a laugh, it still seems like it's being pushed forward only as a bone to Christian supporters of Broun. But I can't blame him. He is a representative of Georgia, and we do reside in prime Bible-belt real estate. Perhaps the reason the bill doesn't sound so monumental to me is, if you go to the right areas where I live, every year is the Year of the Bible.