Suggested reading — insightful sites that are currently on my reading list

Blogrolls are supposed to be a sort of promotion of other stuff one reads and stuff that’s interesting, but I feel like my reading is never that stable and I’d have to update the blogroll once a month to have it representative. There’s really only maybe 3 sites I visit regularly, and it’s often not for the reading but for the socializing. Maybe instead I should do occasional “what blogs/sites have I recently been reading” posts instead, pointing out interesting blogs I’ve discovered. Today, I’d like to feature the following sites for that purpose:

1)http://tressiemc.com/ written by Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd). From her bio:

Woman. Friend. Daughter. Scholar. Armchair activist. Hell-raiser. Intellectual Catfish.* Not particularly in that order.

I am also a PhD student in sociology at Emory University where I study education, inequality, and organizations. My research has surveyed for-profit students and the organizational mechanisms of the for-profit college sector. . My questions are less who and what and more why and how. Why are so many black students enrolled in for-profit colleges? So many women? How do status competition and stratification processes intersect with labor and economic structural change to produce these patterns?

As of Fall 2013 I am a Graduate Fellow at the Center for Poverty Research at UC-Davis. I am examining poverty policy and credential seeking. I cover highered debates at Slate and write about inequality, race, gender from time to time.

2)http://www.gradientlair.com/ written by Trudy (‏@thetrudz) From her bio:

I’m a 34-year-old Black woman who identifies as Jamaican Black (yes, Black is the noun, H/T to Nikki Giovanni). I am cisgender and identify as an ace; asexual, heteroromantic to be exact. I am a Womanist who includes Black feminism and intersectional feminism in my social justice work and writing, but Womanism most accurately speaks to my collective sociopolitical framework for anti-oppression praxis. (I reject the use of “social justice” as a dismissive label when I happen write about my personal life.) Politically, I identify as neither Republican (barf) nor Democrat (Zzz). My political leanings are very Left, but that includes intersectionality and a plethora of perspectives, not solely raceless conversations about class. I identify as an agnostic atheist but still very connected to Black culture in most ways though zero interest in monotheisms and I try to have nuanced perspective on non-Eurocentric, Afrocentric theisms and deities. Though I am an atheist, I am not interested in White supremacist atheism either.

I am college-educated. I have a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice and I completed 2 years of additional graduate work in Psychology and Mental Health Counseling. I studied race, gender and adolescent mental health/education and I have a lot of interest in how media/culture impact this. I studied Behavioral and Social Sciences at the baccalaureate level. (It’s a NO on pursuing a Ph.D.)

3)http://criticalspontaneity.com/ written by Suey (@suey_park). Short bio: “Freelance Writer. Organizer. Graduate Student.”

4)http://nataliereednewblog.wordpress.com/ newly started by Natalie Reed (@nataliereed84). From her bio:

Natalie Reed is a queer trans grrl, (…)-survivor, former addict, writer and activist currently living in Vancouver, BC. This is a space for thoughts and writing on feminism, gender theory, trans and queer rights, rape/abuse issues, addiction and drug issues, other social justice concerns such as sex worker and prisoners’ rights, and also pop culture, comics and other stuff, as it occurs to her. Intersections of various political and cultural issues are a particular interest.

5)http://colorlines.com/ which is a news site “where race matters, featuring award-winning investigative reporting and news analysis. Colorlines is published by Race Forward, a national organization that advances racial justice through research, media and practice.”

Transgender Day of Remembrance and Transgender Awareness Week

This post really should have happened last Monday, at the beginning of Transgender Awareness Week, which was Nov 11th – 17th. So I massively failed there. OTOH there’s really never such a thing as the wrong time to make people aware of an axis of oppression, the consequences of that oppression, and the way in which it is being fought and the ways in which allies can make themselves useful.

November 20th specifically is Trans Day of Remembrance, a day to honor the memory of victims of lethal transphobic violence. GLAAD publishes a long but probably non-exhaustive list memorializing trans people who were murdered every year. They are mostly women, and most of them are women of color. Monica at Transgriot wrote two amazing blog posts on this. 238 names is about remembrance being not just passive experience of mourning, but about the active anger, about being “fed up” with all the things that lead up to there being over 200 trans people being murdered and needing this commemoration; Thinking About The Girls Like Us Who Didn’t Get A TDOR Memorial is about memorializing trans women who were killed before there was ever a TDoR. Another amazing post on the Transgender Day of Remembrance was written by Emily at Planting Rainbows. In her post Al Heyt for Transgender Day of Remembrance, she applies a Jewish tradition to the act of remembrance, transforming it from an act of mere listing and memorializing of names to an act of recognition of the sociocultural patterns we all engage in and with that lead to these deaths and to other violent acts against trans people.

What TDoR unfortunately also often is, is the one and only day a year that cis people remember victims of anti-trans violence at all. And I’m not excluding myself from that, since I’ve been extremely neglectful in writing about anti-trans violence and also about the trans-eliminationist sociocultural patterns that make that violence common, invisible, and socially acceptable to the point of being able to walk away from it unpunished.
I have, for one example, not written about the clusterfuck going on in California (and Colorado), in which the passage of a law giving students the right to the use of sex-segregated facilities in accordance with their gender identity, rather than listed gender has caused transphobes (primarily as represented by the ex-gay group Pacific Justice Institute) to start a prolonged and toxic shitfit to attempt to a)stop the law from taking effect in January, and b)put it on the 2014 ballot in an attempt to repeal it by popular vote. Transadvocate has been writing about this for months, documenting the lies and assertions that posit the very presence of trans children as a threat to cis people; the support for the anti-AB1266 campaign by trans-exclusive feminists; the fraud and scaremongering involved in gathering signatures for the repeal; etc. This clusterfuck? Prime example of what trans-eliminationist sociocultural patterns look like: it’s a law protecting small children from discrimination, but the very presence of those children is interpreted as violence against cis people. This isn’t the only example of course; they gay-panic defense is a more well-know version of this. There are many other, subtle as well as extremely blatant patterns that make up our anti-trans culture (some of which are described in the essay from Planting Rainbows linked above). Trans-eliminationism functions in many ways that parallel rape culture: where rape culture creates an environment in which rape is the victim’s fault and rape is minimized or not allowed to be recognized as rape, and consequently rape ends up very common, invisible, and consequence-free for the perpetrator (but double-victimizing for the victims), trans-eliminationism creates an environment in which the trans identity is being seen as an attack, moving victim-blaming further still, to the point where a trans person is definitionally excluded from innocence (thus re-framing all anti-trans aggression as self-defense, but all self-defense by trans people as aggression, as happened for example in CeCE McDonald’s case). And of course, trans people and especially trans women have to live in a culture that’s both a rape culture and a trans-eliminationist culture.

So: let’s remember the victims of anti-trans violence. And let’s also act to distrupt and eventually destroy the toxic patterns that make up trans-eliminationist culture, so that there will be fewer and fewer such victims in the future.

A TERF not-pologizes

The well-known and influential radical feminist Gloria Steinem has written an apology (of sorts) about her past anti-trans writing.

On the one hand, she’s AFAIK the only well-known TERF who’s ever bothered to do even that much; on the other hand, the apology follows a notpology script just a tad too well*: she blames any harm caused on the internet, devotes most of the essay to explaining why she didn’t mean harm, and phrases the apology-line as very close to the standard “I’m sorry you were offended” notpology, saying “I’m sorry and sad if any words floating out there from the past seem to suggest anything other than support, past and present”. And then there’s the problem noted by activist Janet Mock in a tweet earlier today:

[Janet Mock ‏@janetmock
Not once in the op-ed does @GloriaSteinem write “trans women.” Doing so would recognize the fact that trans women are women. #girlslikeus]

Further, Toni D’Orsay points out that Steinem did more than write an essay. She actively contributed to the inclusion of TERFs into a feminism that had until then accepted trans individuals**:

IT wasn’t until Daly and similarly like minded lesbian separatists started getting really loud, really angry, and really offensive that trans people became an issue.
They did that at first from outside the mainstream of radical feminism.
[…]
Steinem was one of the people who helped to bridge that divide. Who worked to secure that change so that lesbian women could be included, and one of the ways she did that was to bring in Daly’s work and Raymond’s work into the awareness of mainstream readers through the vehicle of MS magazine and the New Yorker.

Monica Roberts at TransGriot similarly expands on Steinem’s actual contributions to cissexism:

Because you referred to SRS surgeries multiple times as ‘mutilation’, it gave credibility to the 1980 paper that Raymond wrote to Congress that led to SRS being eliminated from Medicare and Medicaid coverage and the insurance company medical exclusions on trans related health care.
It co-signed the anti-trans attitudes in feminist circles that have led to the suffering and deaths of far too many trans people. It led to trans people being cut out of desperately needed LGBT human rights legislation in the 80s, 90’s and early 2k’s.

Still, she said something that wouldn’t come out of the mouth of a dedicated trans-exclusive feminist; she said that “transgender people, including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned. Their health care decisions should be theirs and theirs alone to make.” That is a big admission. An admission that she will, however, have to follow up with real deeds to undo the damage she’s caused and use her influence in feminism and in society as a whole to fight for the rights and acceptance of trans people; including trans women. Probably the simplest thing to do right now (for example) would be to sign the Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism. And Monica Roberts provides another (non-exhaustive) list of actions for Steinem to take:

Lobby with the trans community in Washington DC for a trans inclusive ENDA. Call out the trans exclusionary radical feminists and help us get the Southern Poverty Law Center to declare them as a hate group. Declare there is no room in feminism for anti-trans hatred and bigotry. As a Smith alum you can help us ensure that your alma mater puts admissions policies in place that allow qualified trans feminine students to enroll there.

Then, of course, there’s the other toxic effects of her paricular flavor of feminism. She’s yet to even do this kind of acknowledgment in the context of her anti-sex-work activism. She’s still promoting the Rescue Industry, and just today she tweeted support for a petition to get the UN to alter its stand (which is based on research and on listening to sex workers) on the decriminalization of sex work:

[Gloria Steinem ‏@GloriaSteinem
United Nations: #ListenToSurvivors — don’t jeopardize efforts to prevent #sextrafficking http://tinyurl.com/m8chxo5 ]

Overall, I’d say this is a babystep in the right direction. Not something she should be given any ally-cookies for, since it still fails to acknowledge the entirety of the harm done as a result of her anti-SRS work and her promotion of TERFs in feminism, and doesn’t so much as acknowledge that there’s anything wrong with any of her sex-work-prohibitionism. At this speed***, she’ll likely be dead before she arrives at a genuine apology for all of it; and even if not, many trans people and sex workers are going to suffer and die before she ever gets around to undoing the damage she helped/helps cause to them.

***Trigger Warning: TERF reactions to Steinem’s op-ed***

However, even this microscopic step forward has pissed off other TERFS. Maybe if they’ll now spend their time sniping more at each other, and less at trans women and trans rights activists, that would be an improvement [/wishful thinking]. Examples:

[Incendiary Lover ‏@incendiarylover
absolutely devastated & pissed that @GloriaSteinem has opted to erase women & lesbians w/transjacktivist sell out #radfem #cottonceiling]
[Actual Dykes ‏@ActualDykez
As Lesbians, we feel @GloriaSteinem has no idea what is happening to Lesbians under Transgenderism #cottonceiling http://fb.me/6CR6zgeZT ]
[E. Hungerford ‏@ehungerford
Gloria Steinem adopts #neolib identity politics as a means to end oppression against women. WHAT? GENDER hurts women http://goo.gl/XkcFTO ]

– – – – – – – – –
*also, I’m thinking “twin-spirited” is a mangling of “two-spirit”, the term adopted by North American tribes to describe gender minorities. It bugs me that she didn’t bother to even do a google-search to get this right (I did, to make sure “twin-spirited” isn’t an accepted alternative, or some other concept I hadn’t heard of).

**please do read the entire essay, it’s eyeopening if you’re not familiar with the history of and current actions by TERFs in feminism! the linky again. And also read the TransGriot piece in its entirety: linky again

***the text in question**** was written over 36 years ago, and supposedly she only now realizes that it’s criticism of SRS might get interpreted as being anti-SRS, even though it was part of the discourse that led to SRS (and other even vaguely transitiony medical treatments) being dropped from public aid and private insurance, as Monica mentions in her piece. Snails and glaciers would be insulted by a comparison.

****which also describes mutilation of intersex babies as “rescue”. Jesus Fucking Christ. Has she apologized for that yet?!

A supreme court decisions roundup

an oddly large number of important supreme court decisions happened in the last few weeks. Instead of commenting on them individually and separately, I decided to put them all together; I don’t think it’s possible to get a decent idea of where the U.S. is heading, legally speaking.

1)United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry — These are the DOMA and Prop8 cases, respectively. The most important positive bit here is that in states where gay marriage is legal, gay married couples will now be treated the same as straight married couples at the federal level. The major bad part is that the way these two cases were handled, state-level bans on gay marriage are still perfectly legal, and states don’t need to acknowledge other states’ marriage laws. Basically, they turned gay marriage into a “states rights” issue. Still, this is at least 2 steps in the right direction: end to federal-level discrimination of already legal gay marriages, and the death of Prop * (and therefore restoration of gay marriage in California), but int he case of Prop 8, at a very high price, because the whole “standing” thing is arbitrary and can be used in really shitty ways to deny people access to courts.

2)Shelby County v. Holder and Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona — These are the decisions that (at least for now) defanged the Voting Rights Act and are very likely going to lead to massive voter disenfranchisement: while the court didn’t strike down the pre-clearance provisions(i.e. the requirement that certain states must submit to federal oversight and can’t change shit about their voting rules w/o the federal “go ahead”) themselves, it killed the Section that defined which states/counties/whatever the pre-clearance provisions apply to. So right now, they don’t apply anywhere, until Congress gets their act together (lol) to create a new formula “justified by current needs”. On the one hand, that sounds reasonable, because there’s many places in the US right now that are threatening voters’ rights that are not covered by the original formula, so the formula seems insufficient for modern needs. On the other, it only sounds reasonable to claim that the formula is “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day” if you believe the BS about how “things have changed dramatically” in the South, meaning that the states who had Jim Crow laws then wouldn’t happily revert to whites-only voting if given the chance.
Which brings us to the second case noted above, which on the surface looks like a win because it invalidated one part of Arizona’s ID law; but if you look deeper, you’ll note that it pretty much describes a method of getting around the ruling. Plus, apparently, the supreme court just decided that the constitution only allows Congress “to regulate how federal elections are held, but not who may vote in them”. So discriminatory restrictions are A-OK, as long as you’re not on the currently non-existent list of entities subject to pre-clearance. :-/
Definitely a GIANT step back; wouldn’t be so bad if the US had a reasonable and functional Congress that could quickly provide a more updated formula. But then if that’s how the US Congress worked, this problem wouldn’t have occurred in the first place, since the formula would already have been adapted to modern needs (which would still include most of the South, but now with added “OMG teh illegalz are voting!!!” ID-issuing states.

3)Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin — this is a case dealing with affirmative action. It basically says that a university cannot simply declare that it needs affirmative action in its admission process to increase diversity; rather, it needs to show, in the court of law, that it doesn’t have other, non-race-based, means of achieving greater diversity. Since that didn’t happen, the case was kicked back to a lower court so that the lower court could make that determination. That decision does two good things: one, it reaffirms the importance of diversity and its validity as a rationale for how to weigh admission applications; two, it reaffirms that the constitution doesn’t demand colorblindness at all costs, i.e. that an exception for remedying racial injustices embedded in society does exist. Given the make-up of the current Supreme Court (see: Scalia and “racial entitlements”), that alone is surprising and counts as a victory. Still, it may make the continued use of affirmative action a lot more difficult in the future. For now, I’m counting this one as not moving us either direction.

4) University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar and Vance v. Ball State University — these are both workers’ rights cases, specifically worker protection and rights in relation to the Civil Rights Act. The first case is about workers being protected from retaliation by the employer after complaining about discrimination; the second case is about when an employer is liable for discrimination. The ruling in the former says that a worker has to prove that the sole reason for being discriminated was retaliation (good fucking luck with that; an employer needs to come up with only one other plausible reason, and they’re off the hook). The ruling in the latter states that an employer is only automatically liable for a case of discrimination when the person doing the discriminating has the direct ability to hire, fire, or promote the discriminated against person (e.g. racially motivated negative performance reviews don’t count; harassment doesn’t count; always being assigned to be the person who makes the coffee in meetings doesn’t count). Both decisions are massive losses of workers’ rights against discrimination and harassment.

5)Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International — This case was about a foreign aid rule that stated that organizations receiving money from the US to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria had to be strictly against prostitution; meaning that sex worker’s rights groups and those dealing with HIV/AIDS prevention for sex workers weren’t given a penny even though they are one of the most at-risk populations. The Supreme Court ruled against the constitutionality of that rule. This is good. It’s narrow, because it only applies to broad issues not directly subject to the funding, meaning (in more familiar terms) that not allowing abortion as part of family planning when using federal family planning funds is still ok, but demanding a wholesale anti-abortion position from recipients wouldn’t be; so demanding an anti-prostitution position from recipients has been declared a violation of the 1st Amendment. Still, this is a good step forward, and a HUGE one in terms of actually helping marginalized people.

6)American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant — this one is about arbitration agreements (about one between corporations, but according to the Supreme Court, corporations are people, so…); basically it concluded that a contract that precludes class-action arbitration or lawsuits is valid and therefore class action suits are forbidden if you signed one. Specifically, the argument that you can’t defend your claim b/c it’s too expensive for an individual is not a legally acceptable reason to void a contract.
And I’m willing to bet you’ve signed at least one contract forbidding either class action suits or forcing arbitration (e.g.: paypal has one).
Giant step backwards for worker rights and also for consumer rights.

7)Salinas v. Texas — 5th Amendment case, specifically about the “right to remain silent” and not have that taken as evidence of guilt. The Supreme Court decided that you can’t just clam up and assume that this will protect you. Apparently, you need to state, for the record, that the reason you’re shutting up is that you’re pleading the 5th, because apparently intent is what matters, not the right not to be forced to incriminate yourself (and now, that rule even applies when you’ve not been informed of this fact i.e. when you haven’t been read your Miranda rights cuz you’re not being arrested); therefore, officially, the dude in this case didn’t even use the 5th Amendment. And we still lucked out with this horrible result, because if the court had actually decided to consider the actual constitutionality of the case, we’d be discussing whether your silence can be used against you even if you do plead the 5th as long as you’ve not been arrested; and at least Scalia and Thomas very much think that you can only remain silent and not have that used against you is if you’ve been officially arrested and therefore didn’t “volunteer” to talk to cops nor can leave whenever you want to (how one could leave or not-volunteer to talk to cops when that behavior could now be used against you is a mystery to me).
Bad result, and definitely a step backward, but I don’t actually know much about the standard M.O. of cops to know how much of one. If it has until now not been the case that simple refusal to voluntarily talk to people (or leave, or say “i won’t say anything more without a lawyer, or whateverthefuck) could be used as evidence for guilt in court, then this permission to do so will have horrible effects on people and people’s rights; if cops and courts have already been doing this anyway, and the court case was an attempt at a novel defense from that behavior, then this changes nothing but “merely” enshrines a certain behavior in law; that would be a much smaller step back.

8)Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl — this is a very complicated adoption case, so I’m gonna actually talk about it in its own blog-post. ATM, I’m just going to note that
a)the kid is NOT actually going back to the people who were trying to adopt her, even if it sided with their interpretation of which NDN children the ICWA applies to. That’s because the people who wanted to adopt “baby Veronica” hadn’t yet done so, and tribes have priority rights in placing children who are (eligible to be) members of their tribe, and baby Veronica is definitely a member of the Cherokee Nation (you can ignore the BS about how she’s “1% Cherokee”, because that’s not how it works; the Cherokee Nation don’t consider themselves a race but a nation, and the kid qualifies for citizenship).
b)The court ruled that the IWCA didn’t apply in the original case so the bio-father didn’t have overriding rights to custody, but now there is an established residence with the tribe, so NOW it might apply, and a new case will likely be required to sort this shit out.
c)Regardless of the details, choosing the narrowest definition of the IWCA is definitely a step back for tribal rights at least; and could set a horrible precedent in which NDN kids taken away at birth wouldn’t be considered eligible for the protection under the IWCA.

Overall judgment: recent Supreme Court cases have set back the rights of marginalized people massively: the exceptions were DOMA and the sex worker case, but these exceptions can’t and shouldn’t overshadow the regressive and oppressive trend.

Day of Solidarity with Black Atheists/Nonbelievers

Day of Solidarity
As Naima Washington’s blog-post on Black Skeptics noted, these sort of events tend to be decried as “balkanization”, “dividing the Movement”, or similar crap:

when we ask everyone in the secular community to celebrate along with us, and we set aside one day out of the entire year to do so, there’s a problem! Last year, some very intelligent and insightful atheists declared efforts to organize a Day of Solidarity for Black Non-believers as segregation! Those same people are otherwise dead silent about the segregation, hostility, and alienation directed towards black atheists within the secular community year-round.

This is bullshit.

What events like the Day of Solidarity, the Women in Secularism conference, the African Americans for Humanism conference, etc. do is a)discuss issues not given much space or weight in the “general” (rea:, male, white, straight, cis dominated) conferences, groups, or writings; and b)highlight speakers and activists not given much space in the same “general” venues. To complain about them because we “shouldn’t have to” have such separate events is a lousy, blinkered argument for not having such events, or not supporting them. After all, we “shouldn’t have to” have skeptics or atheist conferences either, since that’s how all people ideally should deal with the world anyway, right?

So on that note, here’s my (admittedly measily) list of black atheists, skeptics, and nonbelievers that write stuff everyone should read:

Bridget R. Gaudette, contributor to Black Nones, blogger at Freethoughtify and Emily Has Books; she also currently has a kickstarter going for her next book: Grieving for the Living, so go contribute!!
Ian Cromwell, also a contributor to Black Nones, blogger at The Crommunist Manifesto
Anthony Pinn, author of African American Humanist Principles and The End of God Talk
Sikivu Hutchinson, author of Moral Combat and the forthcoming Godless Americana, contributing blogger at Black Skeptics
G. Andrews AKA Flexx, blogger at Human2O

I want your money

This time, the link roundup is going to be tiny, and about good, current causes to donate to. That’s because I’m broke until my January payments finally deign to come in, and therefore this is the best I can do just now.

1)Black Skeptics Los Angeles have created scholarships for “college-bound Los Angeles Unified School District students in South Los Angeles. Preference will be given to students who are in foster care, homeless, undocumented and/or LGBTQ”: link

2)This trans woman is asking for donations to fund her SRS because she needs some form of reconstructive genital reconstruction, one way or the other, because she assaulted, which resulted in permanent and painful damage to her genitals; and of course the SRS route isn’t covered by insurance: link