Friday, March 23, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Congrats! Welcome to the World, Logan!

Something really exciting happened this weekend!!

My good friend Imani went from being really really preggo...

to being a momma!

She gave birth to a BEAUTIFUL baby early on St. Patrick's day, after a pretty damn short labor, that included dancing to dubstep, hanging out with her midwife and doula, and pushing for 15 minutes. She's a goddamn superwoman, basically.

Isn't he the cutest newborn you've ever seen?????

When Tía Liz (me) got the text at 1:30am that Logan had been born and the first picture of him... homegurl cried. Well, I was a little drunk and at a friend's birthday party, but as I told Imani a couple weeks ago:
I was thinking about you giving birth today and I am betting that when I get the text that's like "I just had a baby" I will probably burst out crying, no matter where I am, no matter who is around me. I'm mentally preparing myself for this moment of intense joy.
She has been lucky enough to have gotten strange texts like that from me for the past several months, which only got weirder after I started taking a class called "Human Growth and Development" this semester, which prompted me to send her panicked texts like, "Are you taking folic acid??" and "My bio class is making pregnancy sound terrifying."

A warning to my friends who will someday be pregnant: I am sure that knowing someone who has carried a pregnancy to term will not desensitize me to the weirdness of knowing the various stages of fetal development, and you will definitely get weird texts like those, possibly weirder ones.

Anyway, I am so happy for Imani and I cannot wait to hear more about her journey with freaking MOTHERHOOD, and I also cannot wait to meet my little sobrino and teach him Spanish!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Republicans: an actual danger to my immediate health and well-being

I'm serious. Besides the very real threat to women's reproductive health, I think all the ridiculous bills and statements about restricting women's health are giving me a stress condition.

Do you know how ridiculous things have gotten? Here's a sample... just from the last day or so. But remember, since January 2012, there have been over 400 bills about reproduction proposed.

If you aren't already dead from stress overload now, click on over to Jezebel's "Greatest Moments in Not Knowing Shit About Birth Control" montage.

So... right. If there aren't enough serious assaults against my personal liberty and health going on, the stress of all this is certainly going to cause some serious damage to my person. Republicans, like cigaretts, should be used with extreme caution. Or, perhaps, not at all.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

2012 Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize: Big Girls Don't Cry

Rebecca Traister and Tamala Edwards, at the Women's Way Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize event
Tamala Edwards and Rebecca Traister at the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize event

There is an excellent organization in Philadelphia called Women's Way, which among many of the other excellent things they do, awards an author every year for her contribution to feminist literature. I'm not sure how I found out about this event, because I wasn't familiar with Women's Way before seeing this, but I remember that when I saw the description of the event a couple months ago online I thought to myself, "Oh, shit, I loved Big Girls Don't Cry!" and signed up immediately.

So the day finally came, and I sat through my classes bursting with geeky, feminist excitement to get to this event, and it was well worth the wait.

After being introduced by the director of Women's Way, Rebecca Traister went on stage to be interviewed by Tamala Edwards, host of the morning news on 6abc News here in Philadelphia. Edwards asked Traister about specific parts of the book, how they related to the situation with women and politics now, and some questions about women in politics 4 years after the 2008 election.

What was one of the most striking parts of this conversation for me, was when Edwards asked if Traister thought if there would be a significant female presence in the 2016 election and Traister answered that one of the things that reminds her how much we have progressed even in the face of all this political mess is that there are several female politicians that should could imagine running on both the Republican and Democratic sides. It was historic enough when Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin got so far in 2008, but even though we still face relatively abysmal numbers for women's representation in elected positions, it is really significant that we're at a point when we can imagine several female candidates in a race.

Another high point--Traister said that despite all the attacks on women's reproductive freedom (fun fact: from January 1, 2012-March 14, 2012, there were 430 bills introduced about reproduction. Not all of them demonic freedom-restrictors, but that number is too damn high), she sees this as something that is ultimately bolstering the feminist movement in the US. This is an idea I've seen proposed around the feminist blogosphere, and the Komen-Planned Parenthood debacle is a good example, but it's true. It's a wakeup call. Women need to vote. Women need to be better represented in politics. We can't wait around because crazy people have a surprising amount of power in this country.

I've written about my love of Big Girls Don't Cry before, but I recommend you read it. If you know me, you can probably borrow one of my now two copies. And check out Rebecca Traister's stuff online, it's really important.

"'s important that you know exactly what you're getting:" GAME CHANGE review

God, guys, I don't care how, but you must see HBO's Game Change.

This is 113 minutes of completely riveting stuff. I care about politics and the 2008 election was fascinating, but I think even if you aren't all up on that this movie is just really good.

Julianne Moore is fantastic, and a little creepy. I mean, there were multiple parts of the movie where I got chills. The movie's take on Palin's mental stability is a really interesting one, since her performance during the campaign was so erratic, and apparently, this might be an accurate one.

But it's an interesting film to watch because it's hard to think back on Palin during her rise to fame. It is really astonishing how she went from relative anonymity to superstardom and comfort in front of huge crowds. Like, it's just a fascinating look back, and even when it was happening people didn't know what to make of her. Well, we even still are kind of baffled by Palin. In any case, I think Julianne Moore is going to get a freaking Emmy.

What I think is probably one of the more interesting parts of the movie is how it exposes the system of campaign politics. I think you might be hard-pressed to find anyone who's interested in politics who doesn't realize that it's not just about being the best representative you can be for your country, but it's unnerving when you see it in action. It's the the politicking of politics and we voters don't like to think that this is what we're voting for. I had to read Bourdieu this week--I won't get too heady-- but he wrote about how gift exchange is a system that we rely on for a number of reasons, but one of the reasons why the system works is that we don't acknowledge it. Like, that buying a thoughtful gift for a friend or family member "just because" comes with the expectation that that gift will be "repaid" in some way, but this is never something that we can acknowledge without making it awkward. The system of politics is much the same. We know it happens--abstractly--but when the details are pointed out we're uncomfortable.

But definitely see this movie. Make a friend with HBO or ... google... and just see it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Secretary Clinton at the 2012 Women in the World Summit

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks at the 2012 Women in the World Summit in New York City, New York on March 10, 2012.

Click HERE for the transcript.

God, she's fantastic. I wish she had been this engaging in 2007-2008, but I love what she has done as Secretary of State.

On a related note, I'm pretty excited to see Rebecca Traister honored at the 2012 Ernesta Drinker Ballad Book Prize by Women's Way this week for her book, Big Girls Don't Cry, which made me wish I was a Clinton supporter in 2008. But... the past is past. I'm glad Secretary Clinton is here in the present.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I'm All Riled Up

"One of the great things about our nation… is that we’re each entitled to have strong, personal beliefs. And we encourage other people to do the same. But as a nation we recognize the right of all people to believe as they want. And not to impose our beliefs on other people. I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country... I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it and I sustain and support that law and the right of the woman to make that choice. And my personal beliefs, like the personal beliefs of other people should not be brought into a political campaign. "-Mitt Romney, 1994.

Clips like this I think are important. Politicians are certainly allowed to change their opinions, but regarding the issue of women's health, it is a subject that is particularly vulnerable to the political climate. We are now in a period in which Tea Party rhetoric, whether or not it is representative of the opinions of the majority, or of the politicians in (or running for) office. But ultra-conservative Tea Party politics are what has the microphone, so conservative candidates, and even moderate Republicans, feel the need to conform to these values.

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine (holla home state!) announced that she would not be running for a 4th term recently, and in her statement to the Washington Post cited frustration with the growing sectarian politics in Washington DC as one of her reasons for leaving politics. This quote I like a lot:

"The great challenge is to create a system that gives our elected officials reasons to look past their differences and find common ground if their initial party positions fail to garner sufficient support. In a politically diverse nation, only by finding that common ground can we achieve results for the common good."

Right now there's not a lot of incentive for politicians--on either side--to look past their differences. This is bad news for us, their constituents. And especially for women. Women's health is presented as a simple black and white issue (sluts! sex! freedom! health!) of morality, when it's really a strategic tool used by politicians--often conservative politicians--to drum up support. It's a lot easier to make a sound bite about birth control being immoral than one about foreign policy that Middle America will relate to. What this means is that women's health is under attack from politicians who would rather go for soft issues and insert religious beliefs into places they should not be (like uteruses) than do any sort of substancial political work. And so incentives for women's reproductive health are cut and cut and cut under the guise that they are not necessary. That women should be paying for their health care out of pocket.

Know why this is bullshit?? Because health is a basic right! And sexual health is part of health! So if insurance plans will cover viagra for men (even Catholic Church affiliated employers provide viagra on their insurance plans) they should sure as hell cover birth control for women. And furthermore, countries that have high uses of contraceptives (France, UK, Netherlands, Spain) have lower birthrates and lower abortion rates than the US. Babies are an expensive business, and if Republicans want to force women to have children they might not be prepared for, it's some bullshit that they don't care enough about that kid post-womblife to provide sufficient public assistance to needy families. Not to mention neonatal care, that is also expensive. The US has a really high infant mortality rate for a developed country (5.98 per 1000 live births, we clock in right after Croatia, yeah 2012!), which is partly due to the fact that in most developed countries, healthcare for pregnant women is free. If you live in the US, you either need $$ or a good insurance plan for that. This is really unacceptable. If even after knowing all that you think that health care shouldn't be universal, I think there might be something wrong with you.

Anyway, I just wrote a paper about this for a class and a pamphlet for the DSA, compounded with the fact that this is all over the news and this kind of stuff makes my blood boil, so I've got to talk about this. Don't let politics take a crap on our basic rights to health.

And if you want something to do RIGHT NOW, Planned Parenthood has a message for dear ole Rick Perry that you can add your signature to.

When you mess with Texas women, you mess with ME. Shame on Rick Perry for putting politics before health care by cutting funding to tens of thousands of women: Join me -- sign the letter to Texas Governor Rick Perry!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why Should Men Care?

Watch Matt Damon: Why Should Men Care? on PBS. See more from Women War and Peace.

Also in the Women War and Peace series is I Came to Testify, which is about the 16 Bosnian women who testified at the war tribunals and got rape prosecuted as a crime against humanity--the first time that has ever occurred. As the film points out, the tribunals are largely symbolic, and those 16 women helped prosecute three of the Serbian organizers, while in their hometown many other rape victims have never confronted their rapists, and it is likely that they never will. It's a rough watch, but I recommend it.

Check out this clip of Matt Damon, the narrator of I Came to Testify, talking about why men need to be concerned with the plight of women.

"We Did the Unimaginable." Review: Pray the Devil Back to Hell (From the Women War and Peace Series)

Watch Pray the Devil Back To Hell on PBS. See more from Women War and Peace.

In 1989 Charles Taylor began the Civil War in Liberia. He served as President of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, when he resigned amid accusations of war crimes, and from international and internal pressure. Much of this was due to the efforts of Leymah Gbowee and the Liberian women's peace movement, which brought Christian and Muslim women together. They had pray-ins and sex strikes and created international pressure that could not be ignored.

Liberia was the first African nation to elect a woman president--Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Without the women's peace movement, her election would not have been possible.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a segment from the PBS mini-series Women War and Peace, and has the same name as the feature-length documentary about the Liberian women's peace movement.

Leymah Gbowee and the women of the Liberian women's peace movement are inspiring. With International Women's Day coming up (Tomorrow, March 8!) it's hard to believe that even with their international fame and acclaim (Gbowee won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize), many people don't know about the women's movement's success in creating peace in Liberia.

One of the issues in studying international politics is that a lot of the focus goes to studies of war. This is, of course, important. Understanding war can help prevent war. However, there needs to be more attention given to the examples of successful peace. Gbowee is an inspiration not only for her impact in Liberia, but that she helped end a war peacefully. Why can't more leaders think about conflicts in these terms?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kony 2012

Do you know the name of the man who has kidnapped over 30,000 children?


Joseph Kony began his reign of terror in Uganda in 1987. While he's out of Uganda, he's still out there. Join Invisible Children in their #Kony2012 campaign to let the world know who Kony is, that we demand he be captured and stopped, and that aid to Ugandan troops be continued until this transpires.

Watch the video, it's a half-hour long but well-worth the watch. Then sign the pledge to help bring Kony to justice and learn about what you can do to help bring down a warlord.

International pressure is the only way we can help the children of Uganda and do what is right!

Edit 3/7/12: I think I posted this a little to quickly. Yes, I still think you should watch the film, but with a critical eye, and I wish I had done a little research into this because it's not so simple, and that's kind of what I felt when I watched it and checked out their website, but I went ahead and shared this anyway. I should have done a simple freaking wikipedia search, which has a whole little section on criticisms... but whatever, I think this is a good topic to talk about anyway.

Please check out the Visible Children tumblr, which is taking a well-placed critical stance on the Kony 2012 film. Please do read it yourself, but essentially what Visible Children says is that Invisible Children has had kind of wonky practices for years. Their support of military intervention is questionable, and their finances seem to support a lot of travel and filmmaking, instead of what probably a lot of people who are donating hope their money is going to. Invisible Children has good intentions, but good intentions are sometimes really bad (I recommend the film Good Fortune, it's on Netflix instant). Critiques about Invisible Children's top-down, great-white-hope tactics have been around for awhile, but it's much easier to publicize a trendy march or funds drive than to publicize a complex critique of a complex issue.

My problems with the film I let slide for this post, and I shouldn't have. It's a compelling film if you're into watching blonde Americans coax children into telling tearful stories for a video camera. Or if you're into heavy voice-over narration. Or into gimmicky child bits-- the filmmaker explains the war in Uganda to his 3 year old son with pictures of Joseph Kony and simplistic "he's a bad man" type descriptions. Or if you really like to watch montages of white college students holding their fists in the air and sprinting around putting up posters. Yeah, these things will affect you. But please read the Visible Children tumblr post, and there are several other posts as well that are helpful in decoding the complex issue of international relations, aid, and actually being helpful. What I say is... do watch the Kony 2012 film, but as the Visible Children tumblr says, "If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012."

Of course you should know who Joseph Kony is. And it is true, if people care that he's still at large, there's a greater chance that he'll get taken down. But there are thousands of druglords and warlords, mobsters, gangsters and crime syndicates across the globe that are doing similarly destructive things that we as the public just don't know about. So educate yourself on the ones you can. Joseph Kony is a bad guy, but be critical of trendy organizations who say they have the answers.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Some Things... Just Aren't Funny.

I was reading Sociological Images this morning and came across their post on Rape as a Device in Pop Culture and it said exactly what I've been wanting to post about for a while.

Gwen Sharp, the post's author, actually capitulates from Margaret Lyons at The Vulture posting about how prevalent rape jokes are on TV. Lyons sums it up for me by saying that rape jokes, "are by and large just shorthand for outrageousness, a go-to vocabulary to create a patina of audacity without actually saying anything important, or even funny."


A few weeks ago I was at my friends' improv show, and there were a lot of rape jokes. Rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and child molestation jokes actually were all heavily featured throughout the night. I've never done improv, but I understand the basic concept, and I know about comedy from a writer's and audience member's perspective. You have a finite amount of time to create a situation that will make the audience laugh. There are some jokes (in my opinion, better ones) that depend on building on each other, which is why I think Arrested Development is so goddamn genius. Sitcoms and improv tend to rely more on immediate comedy like one-liners and physical comedy, which can be great. However, there are some things that are just cheap shots. Rape as a punchline is one of them. I don't think it's funny, I will never think it's funny, and it only creates animosity between me and the performer I'm watching when there is a rape joke being made.

I feel like I shouldn't even have to say this, but I have a sense of humor. I am very funny. I think I've really only been seriously accused once or twice of being a humorless feminist, and one time it was because a creepy dude I knew was making inappropriate comments about my body and I called him out on it, and when he tried to play it off as a joke and I said it wasn't funny, he said that I wasn't funny. Specifically something like, "you used to have a sense of humor."

Oh, sir. I am funny. Whenever I hear shit like that I think back to a professor I had freshman year who said, "If you don't laugh at my jokes, fine. It's not because they're not funny. I'm funny. It's because you don't get them." I generally take this attitude in my own life. But also the reverse is true. If I'm not laughing at something, it's not because I'm humorless, it's because it's probably stupid and not funny.

Anyway, using rape as a punchline is a cheap way to get laugh. Mostly I think it makes people uncomfortable, as it should, because rape is bad, and people laugh because they don't know how else to react. This kind of "outrageousness" in comedy is so so so stupid. It can work! Some people do it right! Kristen Wiig is perfect at it. The woman is insane, and it's so good. She's also really smart, and that's part of it. But jokes based purely on shock value are like literally the lamest things ever because it says that the performer (or writer) isn't creative enough to do something actually funny and smarter. There were many uncomfortable moments in the improv show I went to a couple weeks ago and the friends I was sitting with and I were over it about halfway through because it was so bizarre. There was one moment in particular, when a visiting performer was doing something like reading off a list or from an instructional booklet or something and one of the things listed was "Rape." There were some uncomfortable laughs in the audience, but he lost all rapport with me. I didn't think he was very good before, but now I had some proof that he was a lazy performer. Alright, over it.

So check out the posts on the Vulture and Sociological Images and see the video compilation the Vulture put together of clips from rape jokes from the past season of sitcoms. Unless you're really over it, in which case, watch something actually funny.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Quotable: Reese Witherspoon

"We talk about domestic violence and what that means. Although the concept is somewhat foreign to them, they're starting to understand that this happens to families in our country and all throughout the world. My daughter knows what happened [with Chris Brown and Rihanna]. My son knows as well. We talk about what is abuse. I think it's important to talk to our daughters – and our sons – in order to educate them at an early age about what's appropriate and what is absolutely not acceptable."

-Reese Witherspoon, winning hearts and best mom awards everywhere during a speech at the 2nd World Conference of Women's Shelters

I wish my vagina could have a laugh

Check out Funny Or Die's take on "Women's Health Experts."

I appreciate the hardy-har-hars, especially since this is a depressingly serious issue.

Why are dudes SO CONCERNED with the vagina politic?

I recommend that you also check out this video, which explains that the Blunt Amendment, being voted on today, is a piece of crap.

Feeling vindictive? Vote for the Worst! Planned Parenthood has chosen some of the most ridiculous recent statements about women's reproductive health, so vote for the worst of the Top 5. Because sometimes, things are so depressingly bad, you have to be able to laugh about them either, otherwise everything is just too awful.