Category Archives: Emily L. Hauser

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Acceptable alternatives. (Or: Please stop insulting my genitalia). (And yes: Here be curse words).

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:THATCHER_Margaret.pngMargaret Thatcher has died. I have a lot of opinions about Margaret Thatcher (aside from anything else, bear in mind that at the height of the AIDS crisis, I had friends who were sick and dying) but I have a pretty firm rule about not speaking ill of the dead in the immediate aftermath of their deaths. May those who loved Margaret Thatcher be comforted in this time of mourning.

However, lots of other people on my side of the political map will have lots to say, and one of the things they have already started to say is the word “cunt.”

And so I hereunder re-up my piece about using *ahem* certain words as insults (with a small edit or two to make it au courant). It might make you laugh! Who can tell.

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Ok, I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it againandagainandagain. But.

Insulting someone with a word that is meant as a rude descriptor of female genitalia is

NOT OK.

Not.ok.

Not.

Ok.

You know why it’s not ok?

Because it’s misogynist and lazy and unkind and sexist and dehumanizing and fucking wrong.

No, you may not call that right-wing nut-job a cunt just because she is a right-wing nut-job. Not even if you feel that she is an evil right-wing nut-job, not even if you feel that she is beneath all contempt and should be treated as naught but a grease stain on the fabric of life.

Because it is always wrong to insult someone by dehumanizing an entire class of human beings.

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I don’t want to write about #Steubenville.

If reading a discussion of rape culture will trigger you, please respect your own limitations. If you need to talk to someone about any sexual assault or abuse that you or someone you love may have experienced, please call RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

rape stop rape

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I don’t want to write about Steubenville.

I don’t want to write about Steubenville because unless you’re in the relatively small group of people who are directly affected by that particular case, Steubenville is not the problem.

It, and everything surrounding it — that is: not just the rapes, abuse, and humiliation the survivor underwent, but also the unwarranted support her rapists, abusers and their accomplices have received and continued to receive, the efforts to paint her as guilty of her own rape, the efforts to paint her abusers and their accomplices as not-that-bad-really, the entire ugly thing — all of it is a symptom. Not the problem, but a symptom.

Men and boys have always and forever gotten away with raping women and girls, and, it should be noted, men and boys as well. Whoever you rape, as long as your victim doesn’t enjoy significantly more social power than you do, you’re pretty much going to get away with it. We should not be in the least surprised that members of Steubenville’s football team thought they would get away with it, too. Continue reading

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Black History Month – kind of a downer this year, no?

post_racial-name-tagSo, you know. It’s been a bang-up Black History Month for America’s Black community.

Let’s review, shall we? In no particular order, African-Americans have recently had to stomach the following entirely incomplete list of delights:

Yup. The times — they sure are post-racial.

Crossposted from Emily L. Hauser In My Head.

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Why white people can’t use the n-word.

n_wordMuch of my political commentary really boils down to: Don’t be an asshole.

So, honestly, my personal go-to response to the very notion that white people occasionally get wrought up over the fact that they really-but-really should not say the n-word under any circumstances, “friendly” or not, is: Don’t be an asshole. Because seriously, how hard is that? Millions of people are telling you that when you use that word, it’s painful and offensive. That should, in a perfect world, be enough.

I mean, come on! The n-word isn’t even like, I don’t know, “bitch,” about which there is real disagreement among women. Millions upon millions of black folks are pretty clear on the fact that white Americans should never ever put that word in our mouths. Ever. “But they say it to each other,” you say? So the effing eff what. You are not them. The English language is positively chock-a-block with words — words that don’t carry the lash, and centuries of systematic terrorism, and the rending of families, and the continued devaluation of people who happen to be going about the business of Being Human While Black — that you can use with your black friends. I promise! Do.Not.Be.An.Asshole.
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“You must act. Be bold. Be courageous.” – Gabby Giffords on gun violence.

Update: Chicago high school student Hadiya Pendleton, a 15 year old who performed at last week’s inauguration events and was planning to go to Paris, was fatally shot in the back on Tuesday, while hanging out with friends in a park. Please call Congress.

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The Senate Judiciary Hearing on gun control was held this morning; Gabby Giffords opened the hearing, saying:

Thank you for inviting me here today. This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you.

The video is below, and it’s incredibly moving – when Gabby Giffords tells you that you have to be courageous, it carries quite a punch.

Here’s what we can do, now, today, to help protect boys and girls, men and women in all of our communities: We can call our elected representatives and tell them that we support the President and Vice President in their efforts.

In a democracy, that’s our job, our sacred duty. And if Gabby Giffords can go to the Senate, we can damn sure call Congress.

Sample script:

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Silence breaking: Please tell a story about your experience with abortion.

reproductive-choice-button-0580Yesterday I posted an op/ed that once ran in several newspapers around the country about my own abortion. I believe, very strongly, that our stories are collectively the single most powerful tool we have in the battle for women’s reproductive rights, and that if we are to push back on the dehumanization inherent to so much of the anti-choice rhetoric, we have to claim those stories.

We are continuously shamed and cowed, frightened and belittled into silencing ourselves and denying our reality. If you have terminated a pregnancy or struggled with the idea of doing so, for any reason, and would like to tell your story, you can do so by clicking here, at whatever level of anonymity that you would like to maintain. We did this once before, on the issues of sexual harassment and assault, and I think many people found it a useful, helpful thing.

One note: If you’ve never commented at my personal blog before, or will be choosing to comment under a different name in order to preserve your anonymity, your comment will immediately go into moderation — I promise to fish out all moderated comments as soon as I can.

And finally, let me stress: There will be no shaming. There will be no shaming, no doubt, no name-calling, no trolling. It’s a space in which you can tell your story safely. I promise.

***I’m closing comments here. Please comment at Emily’s blog. – ABLxx

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What feminism isn’t about: Cabinet headcounts.

20130110-091939.jpgFeminism is the radical notion that women are people and as such, have an innate right to the same human and civil rights enjoyed by other people.

To the extent that we have mostly failed to incorporate that fact into the norms, mores, culture and laws of humanity over the vast sweep of our shared history, it’s good to practice a kind of affirmative action that seeks out and advances women of skill. When conditions beyond your control mean that you start the race a mile behind everyone else, at a certain point, it’s only fair that you be given help in making up the difference.

But that help is not, unto itself, the realization of feminism, nor is it the only thing necessary to realize feminism in human society.

I say this because there is a flap being made about the fact that President Obama’s second Cabinet is shaping up to be a very male (and very white, it should be noted) group.

Some Democrats are behaving as if the President has betrayed us, and some Republicans are suggesting that the whole “Obama is better for women” thing was so much mendacious diversion, because look! It’s a sausage fest up in the Oval Office! Joe Scarborough went so far this morning as to yell the following at his Democratic co-host Mika Brzezinski (and then later snap his fingers at her! [Yes, really! Video below]):

For Barack Obama and his team to savage Mitt Romney for a month off of an offhanded comment that really meant nothing, and here we are on something that matters. And you’re forgiving him, while you lit into Romney for a month, and the media lit into Romney for a month, and now you all are hypocritically, and I will say it, hypocritically giving this man a pass because he’s a Democrat that you’re cheering for.

Scarborough’s reference was, of course, to Romney’s “binders full of women” comment, which, had it been an isolated moment of poor phrasing would, in fact have been “an offhanded comment that really meant nothing.”

But here’s the damn thing, aggrieved progressives and conservatives alike: That comment was neither offhanded nor meaningless, because it reflected the Republican Party’s oft-expressed and acted-upon attitude toward the rights of Americans who happen to be women, and feminism is more than a headcount.

The feminist movement (to the extent that there is one thing that can be called that) is about bringing women’s humanity to bear on every aspect of life, and as I have noted on several occasions, President Obama has spent his Presidency expressing his dedication to feminist values. Over and over and over (and over and over) again, he has done the work and forwarded the ideas necessary to actually change the reality in which women and girls live, to not pay lip service to our humanity but to acknowledge and act on it.

Here’s another radical notion: Part of why this President has so many more men than women to choose from when filling any post rests in the sexism which continues to mark and harm our society, at each and every level, not least the professional level where women continue to suffer systematic discrimination. And for all that, 43% of Obama appointees have been women (and hey now! Valerie Jarrett’s leg is just visible in this by-now infamous but somewhat misleading photograph). Not to mention that if the GOP had not successfully hounded Susan Rice out of the nomination process last month, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now — because the optics of a single woman of color would have been magically enough.

I want to see more women in leadership positions. I want to see more women getting better jobs and better pay and better benefits. And (note to the Republican Party) I want to see women treated as human beings, rather than vessels for the next generation and/or lying sluts who spread our legs and cry rape. I want my daughter and son to see these things, and believe me, I’m hoping that the President surprises us over the next week or two with a couple of women. Press Secretary Jay Carney has suggested that we wait until Obama has actually made all of his appointments before we pass judgement, and given the President’s record, I’m inclined to take the suggestion to heart. If I’m disappointed in the end, I will not hesitate to join those holding Obama’s feet to the fire on the issue. That’s my job as an American citizen, and I take it seriously.

But not a feminist? Not good for women? Somehow pulled the wool over our eyes and tricked all us silly, slow-witted, eyelash-batting wimminz? Just stop it.

We are, as I have said before, in the process of actually recreating humanity right now, and there is simply no way in which any such process could ever be easy or smooth.

In word and deed, in promise and in policy, my President has demonstrated his feminism time and again, making the country in which I live and in which my daughter is coming of age a better, more perfect union. And that is much, much more important to me than an Oval Office headcount.

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Hereunder you can watch Joe Scarborough at like a damn fool:

Crossposted from Emily L. Hauser In My Head.

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A few quick thoughts on the Newtown shooting & violence in cities. [updated]

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The news is still unfolding, the horror and the numbers still unclear, but this much we know: Some 27 people, 18 of them children, have been killed in an elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT.

Before we go deeper into the day and our grief, I want to quickly say something about the coverage of violent events in America.

It is true – it is unavoidably, abundantly, obviously true – that the violent deaths of white people get much more play than those of brown people in the American media. A few blocks from where I sit, the African-American and Latino residents of Chicago face an ebb and flow of violence that scars the city afresh on a nearly daily basis, many of the victims children who got in the way or young people just trying to get to school or get back home. These are Americans who live with fear, who shape their days and are in turn shaped by fear, Americans who we, more often than not, ignore.

We ignore this violence because the people who die are poor, or we suspect they might have been involved in the violence themselves, or we just don’t care very much about the lives of people who don’t look like us, and racism can warp our own shared humanity, and we also ignore it to no small degree because it has become a daily drip — not news, far from news, just a depressing, daily reality to which most American consumers of news can’t relate. Much as we’ve learned to ignore the daily drip-drip-drip of traffic deaths, we ignore the daily violence among the disadvantaged.

When the malaise reaches the majority and touches our lives, that’s when we notice. Heroin is only a problem, they say, when it reaches the suburbs.

But it is also true that even though far more people die in traffic accidents annually, we become obsessed with plane crashes and their death tolls. All of these terrifying deaths in one place at the same time draws the eye and the heartbreak — and in this case, it was a school. An elementary school. An elementary school covering grades K-4. Not just a large number of deaths at one time, not just all in one place, not even just at a school, for God’s sake — but at a school for really, really little kids.

All of our kids need and deserve to be able to walk to and from school in safety. All of our kids need and deserve to be able to take a seat in social studies or reading and know that they will emerge unscathed. All of them: Black, white, brown, poor, rich, city, country, all.of.them.

The lives of high schoolers just hoping to live to graduation on Chicago’s West Side are intimately bound up with the lives of second graders in Newtown, CT. They all need our attention, and they all need our protection.

And they need real, workable gun laws. It’s far from all they need, but it’s a damn good place to start. Because all of their lives matter, and none of them should live in fear.

America’s adults owe at least that to our children — all of them.

UPDATE: Here are the phone numbers that we need to call – today – to tell our representatives that we need sane gun laws.

White House: 202-456-1111

US Representatives & Senators: 202-224-3121

I’ve gotten through to everyone, and was just told by the staffer of my conservative Republican Senator (Mark Kirk) that they’ve gotten “a lot of calls on this today.”

Cross-posted from Emily L. Hauser — In My Head.

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I have one question about Israel and Gaza.

I am beside myself over the upsurge in violence between Israel and Gaza.

Israel says its strikes have been surgical and that it’s targeting terrorists — which is to say: Legitimate military targets, not civilians.

Given that the Kirya, one of Israel’s largest military bases, is located in the heart of Tel Aviv — literally downtown, surrounded by offices and businesses and schools and parks and vital roadways and apartment buildings and cultural institutions and falafel stands and kiosks and kids on bikes — I have one question:

If a Palestinian whose family has been killed in an Israeli airstrike bombs the Kirya — we’ll be cool with that, right?

Because, I mean, after all, what is Israel doing, hiding all those grunt soldiers and high ranking commanders and intelligence gathering infrastructure and so on among a civilian population? Why is Israel using Israeli civilians as a human shield?

Ok, my one question is really this: What happens if we switch the nouns around today?

What if this showed a “surgical strike” on an Israeli target?

What if this were on a street in Tel Aviv?

What if the place names were reversed in this snippet from the New York Times?

Health officials in Gaza quoted by news agencies said the Israeli attacks had killed at least nine people and wounded at least 40.

What if the toddler pictured here [graphic] were Israeli?

What if the shoe were on the other foot?

If Palestinians had somehow managed to get past one of the world’s mightiest military institutions and set off this kind of mayhem in Israel, killing (among, it should be noted, other children) an 11 month old — the world would be up in arms. Israel and America’s Jews would be rending their clothes. Fury and heartbreak and statements of support would be flooding the airwaves — and rightfully so.

But no. It’s just the Palestinians. Just the Palestinians in Gaza, no less. So the targeted assassination of (yes) a pretty awful person in the heart of a residential neighborhood, the deaths of civilians, the deaths of children, the relentless and endless pounding by air and sea of 1.7 million people who literally cannot even flee because Israel has them physically penned in on all sides (save for one small crossing into Egypt) — we’re really not terribly fussed about that. Because some of 1.7 million people have fired rockets into civilians areas of Israel.

Those rockets are horrifying, and living with that sort of fear (something I remember from the first Iraq War and from years of suicide bombings) is genuinely terrible. I ache for the people hiding in shelters now, told by their government that there will be no school or work in the days to come, because their government knows perfectly well what the consequences of bombing the hell out of Gaza will be.

But as Larry Derfner wrote yesterday (before it had gotten this hellish, back when it was merely really bad) in a piece entitled “The lesson Israel refuses to learn on Gaza”:

There is a proven road to security for the people of the Negev [Israel's south] – a total end to Israeli rule over the people who are shooting at them. But nobody of influence in this country will suggest taking that road for fear of being derided as a pacifist, if not an anti-Semite, by the public, politicians and media. Most Israelis, especially in the government and army, are talking very hawkishly. They seem to think they’re keeping faith with the residents of the south who are under fire. In fact, by closing ranks on this continual march of folly, they are dooming the residents of the south, and not just them.

If you want to know more about what’s going on, I would recommend either the Palestinian Maan News Agency or the Israeli HaAretz. Both will be flawed, as all human endeavors are, but both do a pretty good job of reporting the facts from within a particular society.

Crossposted from Emily L. Hauser – In My Head.

What is white privilege, Tagg Romney edition

As you likely know already, Tagg Romney (son of Mitt and an increasingly high-profile surrogate for his father on the campaign trail) said yesterday that he would “like to take a swing at” President Obama for saying that his dad had lied.

Ok then. Let’s assume that the candidate’s son/surrogate is not going to own the fact that his dad has, in fact, peddled in inaccuracies and untruths for the entire campaign — I mean, that would be nice? But yeah. And let’s put aside the fact that Tagg went on to say that he didn’t act on his impulse because the Secret Service stood between him and the President and “that’s the process” — I believe he was joking, so “I didn’t hit the President because Secret Service woulda clocked me” is all just part of the joke. And let’s even put aside the fact that the man is 42 years old and the father of six children — he should know better than to sound like an aggrieved adolescent, but apparently he doesn’t, so there’s not a lot we can do about that.

But is he a racist? And is it inherently racist to jokingly threaten violence against this country’s first African American President?

As to the first question: I have no idea. I don’t know what’s in Tagg Romney’s heart, but I suspect that his motivation was less racist (“I think it’s funny to suggest that I’d like to beat that black man down”) and more entitled (“No one talks like that about my dad, raggle-snaggle”).

As to the second question, my personal opinion is that: No. It is not inherently racist to jokingly threaten violence against this country’s first African American President. Indeed, I’m sure there are all kinds of reasons to hate Obama that have nothing to do with his skin color, and all kinds of reasons to want to clean his clock. The itch to clean the clock of a man who happens to be black is not, by definition and unto itself, racist.

However.

As some folks have been doing around the web today, let’s flip it: Let’s imagine that President Obama had a grown son who said in 2008 that he’d like to “take a swing at” John McCain.

Or wait. I can’t imagine that. Because it wouldn’t have happened. In no small part because if it had happened, Barack Obama would not be President today.

It seems to me that an American black man grows up learning, at every turn, to control himself and the image he presents to the world: Don’t walk out of the store without a store bag and receipt — someone might accuse you of stealing your gum. Don’t wander aimlessly outside your crush’s house — someone might arrest you. Don’t argue with an authority figure who has it all wrong — someone might shoot you. And don’t ever play to all the worst stereotypes that white people have of you — even in jest — because if you do, someone, somewhere will use it to run you into the ground. And all of this goes double if you have academic, professional, or political aspirations.

Barack Obama’s imaginary son would have learned all of this just as his father, his uncle and his friends did. He would have learned to keep his hands out of his pockets when talking to the police, and he would have learned to never use the language of violence in a radio interview. And if he were serving on his dad’s campaign, he would have come to look not unlike Theo Huxtable, in all his nonthreatening cuteness.

So I do believe that there is racism here: It’s in the society in which a 42 year old father of six with familial political aspirations on the national stage can mouth off about the Commander in Chief without thinking about it because he’s white and has never in his life had to give that sort of behavior so much as a second’s thought. And have it brushed aside by the (white) national press.

It’s a complicated kind of racism, one that involves the way I’m raising my own white son as much as it involves Tagg Romney, and thus it is the kind of racism that is most difficult to discuss. You can’t point at it, and you can’t legislate it away. It’s in the air we breathe and the water we drink.

As an exercise, stop for a minute and try to imagine any prominent African American or prominent African American’s adult child saying anything even remotely like what Tagg Romney said in a frustrated moment: Colin Powell, Cory Booker, Keith Ellison, Condoleeza Rice, Allen West, Maxine Waters. Or, God help her, Michelle Obama (of course, she’s already proven that she knows how to be careful).

Not having to think like that? That’s white privilege.

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Earlier:

What is white privilege.

Not getting peanuts thrown at you — white privilege, part the many.

John Lennon, Rick Perry and words that are not ours.

White Americans really need to shut up and listen.

Crossposted at Emily L. Hauser In My Head.

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