YES! Another victory!

29 04 2009

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (also known as the Matthew Shepherd Act) was just passed, despite resistance from conservatives.  This is what the bill does:

Authorizes the Attorney General to provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that:
(1) constitutes a crime of violence under federal law or a felony under state, local, or Indian tribal law; and
(2) is motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim, or is a violation of the state, local, or tribal hate crime laws.

Directs the Attorney General to give priority for assistance to crimes committed by offenders who have committed crimes in more than one state and to rural jurisdictions that have difficulty covering the extraordinary investigation or prosecution expenses. Authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to assist state, local, and Indian law enforcement agencies with such extraordinary expenses. Directs the Office of Justice Programs to:
(1) work closely with funded jurisdictions to ensure that the concerns and needs of all affected parties are addressed; and
(2) award grants to state and local programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

Amends the federal criminal code to prohibit willfully causing bodily injury to any person because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of such person. Amends the Hate Crimes Statistics Act to expand data collection and reporting requirements under such Act to include:
(1) crimes manifesting prejudice based on gender and gender identity; and
(2) hate crimes committed by and against juveniles. Declares that nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit the exercise of constitutionally-protected free speech.

Obama’s been in office for 100 days now!

29 04 2009

Obama’s been in office for 100 days now and different critics have been weighing in on how he’s been doing.  Here are some highlights of his first 100 days:

– On January 23rd, Obama overturned the global gag rule, “which prevented US foreign aid recipients from counseling women about the availability of safe abortion services and from advocating for the liberalization of abortion laws.”

– On January 29th, Obama signed The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was also the first bill he signed into law.  The Act restores a woman’s ability to bring pay discrimination complaints up to 180 days after each discriminatory paycheck and to sue for pay discrimination.

– On February 4th, Obama  expanded government health insurance to provide critical support to low-income children and families and extending coverage to 11 million children.

– On March 6th, Obama appointed Melanne Verveer to fill the newly created position of the ambassador at large for global women’s issues.

– On March 11th, Obama established the White House Council on Women and Girls.

– On March 19th, Obama pledged to sign the UN Declaration to decriminalize homosexuality.

For more, check out the Huffington Post’s LGBT Report Card for Obama’s first 100 days, and RHReality Check’s evaluation.

Look at the future soldier!

29 04 2009

I saw these images of baby clothing on Sociological Images:



While these may appear as innocent, even cute,  it is important to read the subtext.  The military is a bastion of patriarchy and these clothes, designed for babies, bear witness to the fact that children are so immediately ushered and inducted into normalized violence (as well as an oppressive binary gender system) in which violence is acceptable and ubiquitous.  The first picture of the onesie with the baby (the future soldier) crawling is very infantiles the military and frames it in a very cutesy way.  It detracts attention away from the reality that soldiers face an immense amount of physical and emotional harm.

The second picture that says “future soldier in training” masculinizes the military and insinuates that being a soldier is a very respectable and masculine thing to be.  The image also reproduces the autonomous man ideal and the conception of the male citizen as a warrior-patriot.  Traditional accounts of autonomy have patriarchal undertones and equate autonomy with individualism, thus creating the paradigm of the autonomous man.  Think the rugged, lone, isolationist, self-serving Marlboro man.  Or the American cowboy.  The autonomous man is inherently masculinist and falls right in line with western culture’s obsession with “making the most of oneself”.

Continuing along this thread, the conception of the (male) citizen as a warrior-patriot is militarist because it suggests that aggression is necessary and it conjures an image of a strong, aggressive male fighter full of national pride and willing to put his life on the line for his country.  This image of the warrior-patriot is linked to traditional definitions of power as domination and control, having power over another.  Thus power is a means of coercion and creates hierarchies and justifies violence and subordination.

These shirts are disturbing and show how heavily institutionalized violence, violent masculinity and the military is in our society.  The autonomous man ideal and the image of the warrior-patriot help to reinforce and perpetuate violent masculinity as the norm.  From cultural icons like Rambo, Rocky, and James Bond – all strong, muscular men who are ruggedly individualist and invincible – to the action figures that boys play with and the video games that they play in which war and killing are mere games, it is evident that boys are socialized to be aggressors.

We live in a violent and militarist society in which violence is normalized, seemingly justified, and so ubiquitous that we don’t see it because we see it everywhere.  Many people have become desensitized to violence.  These shirts are disturbing because they suggest that babies and children are not just babies and children, but they are born and bred to fulfill their “patriotic duty” by serving in the military.

A truly touching story

29 04 2009

I just read a piece from the New York Times in which a trans-parent writes about her experience raising her sons.  It is a moving piece that really highlights the fact that it’s not family structure that’s most important, but rather the values that your family instills upon you and maintains.  The author, Jennifer Finley Boylan, writes:

But even though we had now crossed that wide, strange ocean of gender together, and come to rest at last, an unsettling question still haunted me, usually at night when I found myself awake in the wee hours: What kind of men would my boys become having been raised by a father who became a woman?

Because patriarchy dictates that families are comprised of a male head of the household (a father) and a nurturing female (a mother), alternative families may feel pressured to compensate for something.  Boylan then goes on to share an essay that her son had to write for school about an experience that changed him:

An experience that changed me is that my dad is transgender, and became my ‘Maddy.’ A person who is transgender has a lifelong sense of being born into the wrong body.

I was about 4 when Maddy began the ‘transition.’ I don’t really remember the experience well because it was over nine years ago. Once the transition had taken place, I was comfortable with it. But I was worried what my friends would think. I kept it secret for a little bit, but eventually they found out. They all accepted it a lot better than I thought they would.

Maddy is funny and wise. We go fishing and biking. We talk a lot, about anything that is on our minds. One night this spring, Maddy and I had a fancy dinner at a restaurant in Waterville. It was a special night. I wore a jacket and a tie. I had a steak. It made me feel like Maddy and I were really close. Maddy said that she thought I was growing up and that she was proud of me.

Sometimes it’s true that I wish I had a regular father, but only because I don’t remember what it was like to have a normal family. Sometimes it’s hard to have a family that is different. But most of the time I think I am the luckiest kid on earth. Even though my family is different, I can’t think of any way that life could be better.

I know people from lots of different kinds of families. Some families are divorced, so some of my friends only live with one parent at a time. Other families have someone who is mentally challenged in their family. But no matter how different they are, they are all people. My goal is that some day everybody will be treated with love.

The last two lines of this essay really resonate with me – “But no matter how different they are, they are all people.  My goal is that some day everybody will be treated with love.”