Quasi-daily link, Sunday

Today's link is to a Real Audio file of a song by Atmosphere on the Rhymesayers label. I first heard this song months ago on Julien's In Over Your Head Radio podcast (RSS in the sidebar), and it was one of the most lyrically beautiful songs I've ever heard.

The song, called Woman with the Tattooed Hands is a truly rare item: a strong and positive depiction of female sexuality. The fact that it's sung by a man doesn't bother me, because, unlike that creepy She Comes First guy, the singer isn't holding himself up as an expert on female sexuality. It's a first-person account of an experience with a woman who didn't need any help, and it's beautiful. I mean how can you not love this:

I didn't get turned on I just got turned
I wasn't as aroused as I was concerned
for each one of em I've hurt
and every time I've been burned
I've got a lot to teach but even more to learn
How can you not love that?


Quasi-daily link, Saturday

Today's link was going to be the video to Pink's song "Stupid Girls", via Flea and Amp, but it seems to have disappeared from the internets.

The lyrics don't work quite as well without the video, but here's a link to them.

And some screenshots from the video can be seen here.

Now, this is what I had to say about the video on the comments thread chez Amp:

I'm not sure what I think of the Pink video/song yet. While it's nice that the message is that women can/should do things like play football and be president, I'm bothered by her treatment (in the academic sense) of "stupid girls". I don't like the implication that it's the fault of these women that women in general haven't gotten very far.

This is something I struggle with daily, because I get extremely angry and bitter when I see half-naked, über-sexualised women around the city, because it infuriates me to see people participate actively in their own oppression. But on the other hand I think it's important to remember that these women are not the real enemy; they're not the oppressors; they're just making the best for themselves of a bad situation.

Obviously, most of these women aren't making a conscious choice about making the most of their situation. For the most part they (like most people in general) are just going through life without giving much critical thought to the motivations for and consequences of their decisions, and I can get pissed at them for that, but ultimately I don't know that it's my place to tell them that they're making the wrong decisions. Yes, their decisions harm women in general, but they are not the oppressors.
You really need to look at the screenshots (or better yet watch the video) to see the contempt that the song has for the women it's talking about.

I'd really like to know what my readers think of this.


Quasi-daily link, Friday

I was going to do a daily link, thing, wasn't I? Hrmm.

Well, today's link is a few weeks old, and I've hung on to it because it was forming the foundation of a post I've been wanting to write, but I just haven't been able to get to coalesce. The post was going to be about how I've never known what it's like to not have abortion available to me as an option, and about how my confidence in the option, when I was a teenager, and my lack of having the risk of pregnancy be a paralyzing fear, actually enabled me to make more responsible and intelligent choices about sex than I think I otherwise would have been able to make. But I just can't get the words to come out the way I want them to.

Fortunately, there is this excellent Kos diary by xyz:

I remember the day when... and I'm afraid


Happy Fucking Birthday.

Gee, thanks, Canada. It's the eve of my 24th year and what do you give me? A Prime Minister who's lining up to take Tony Blair's place in Shrub's heart and the balance of power held by a bunch of assholes who don't give two shits about the welfare of the country as a whole.

Fuck you very much, I'm going to bed.


Daily Link, Monday

Well, Julien, Cicatrix, and Dave sat me down last night and informed me that I absolutely had to post more often, even if I didn't have anything to say. I didn't like this idea, but then someone, probably Cicatrix, came up with the idea of doing a daily link feature. So I'll give it a shot. No promises that I'll keep it up, because this feels a little too much like pandering to the traffic numbers, but we'll see. The other reason is that I've been thinking of putting up a donation button, on the grounds that I am doing writing, and it would be nice to get paid for it, but I'm being all democratic about it and letting others decide if it's worth paying for, and if so how much and how often. But I would feel incredibly silly asking people to pay me for putting up links to other people's writings.

Anyway, I'll give the daily link thing a shot. If it ends up encouraging me to write more then it will have been a success. If it doesn't I'll probably stop.

So today's link is an incredibly witty and biting review of a prime example of male entitlement by Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon. Damn, Amanda's funny!

Fait Accompli

I just got back from the polling station, which was conveniently located less than a block from my apartment. I have the same anxiety when voting as I used to have when taking multiple choice tests: I had to unfold the ballot twice after I'd marked it to reassure myself that my mark was actually next to the candidate I intended to vote for. This would always happen to me in exams. As soon as I would move on to the next question, or start to contemplate handing the exam in, I would become gripped with the fear that the answer I had marked was not the answer I intended to mark, and that I would lose marks despite knowing the answers. It all started when I was in about the third grade and I started having metaphysical thoughts. I realized that I had NO WAY OF KNOWING if my memory of the past (even the recent past) was at all correlated with what had actually happened, indeed if such a usage of actually is even meaningful. This has nothing to do with the psychological fact that memory is imperfect. It's my extreme discomfort with the idea of divine intervention and all that that means for our capacity to know anything. As a youngster I managed to work out (with the help of sympathetic parents) that in the final analysis it didn't matter whether I could trust my version of reality, because whether my experiences were real, or were the result of divine implantation of memory, as long as they're internally consistent my behaviour should remain the same. But I still get moments of anxiety when I have to commit myself to something without seeing myself commit (because, for example, the ballot gets folded) because I remain nervous that once outside of my senses, reality is going to shift itself around. It's a low-grade and manageable nervousness, but it's there nonetheless.

Hmmm. Got a little distracted there. I meant for this to be a post on voting. Here, I'll start again:

I just got back from the polling station, which was conveniently located less than a block from my apartment. Unlike Rand, I won'd be casting aspersions on those who vote differently from how I do, but I will say this:

If you are a Canadian citizen and you haven't already, PLEASE VOTE. This democracy of ours only works if we participate in it. If you're feeling disenfranchised by the system, you do yourself no favours by refusing to participate in it. If you worry that your party won't win, not voting (or not voting for them) only makes that a self-fullfilling prophecy. If none of the mainstream parties are in line with your views, vote for an independent. Vote Rhinocerous. Hell, vote Natural Law. But VOTE.

And please, if there is one, vote for a candidate you believe in. If you vote for a party you don't like, out of fear that a worse party will win, you bring us one step closer to a two-party system. Can you imagine what it would look like if three years from now every American voter who was feeling disillusioned by the Republicans or the Democrats voted for an independent who *did* represent their views? Canada is on the road to a two-pronged-one-party system just like the US has and the *only* way to avert it is to vote for the party you believe in. So please, please, before the polls close tonight, go and vote.

Yesterday was Blog for Choice Day

So isn't it a good thing I did? Well, sort of.

Hey, since we're here why don't we make this a choice reference post? I like that idea.



That's it. I give up all pretense that this blog isn't just a link farm where I can bask in the brilliance of other bloggers.

At the moment there are three posts in particular that I would like to point out. The first two are by Dr. Bitch and the third is a piece by Joyce Arthur from the Pro-Choice Action Network.

Dr. B. first displays her brilliance in an idea for public child care that would be similar to public parking. A publicly funded, low price, pay-as-you-go drop in center in shopping districts where parents who need to run errands can leave their kids for a couple of hours. Sheer fucking genius.

She then goes on to expound on the virtues of public transit. This is, I think, a much more realistic version of my plan to make all selfish right-wing dumsnuts live on kibbutzim until they learn that no human accomplishment or activity is possible without the support of an entire community. Go Professor!

The third post I'm linking to I actually have a little more to say about. This extremely well-written article is called Personhood: Is a Fetus a Human Being? and, while I think much of it is excellent, there is also a fair bit I disagree with. So, here goes:

First off, I'd like to say that Ms. Arthur makes an excellent point about the distinction between words human(adj) and human(noun). A blastocyst is human in the same way that dandruff and fingernail clippings are human, but there is no argument that a blastocyst is a human that really holds up under scrutiny.


Anti-choicers also use the phrase "humanity of the fetus," by which they may mean its physical human qualities, but it’s ambiguous, maybe purposely so. In this context, the word "humanity" implies compassionate human feelings and virtues, such as pathos or love. The term seems cleverly designed to elicit sympathy for a fetus, and assign it human-like qualities it simply does not have. The ability to feel joy, sadness, anger, and hatred are an integral part of our "human beingness," and we do not learn to develop such sophisticated emotions until we start socially interacting with others.
Fetuses are uniquely different from born human beings in major ways, which casts doubt on the claim that they can be classified as human beings. The most fundamental difference is that a fetus is totally dependent on a woman's body to survive. Anti-choicers might argue that born human beings can be entirely dependent on other people too, but the crucial difference is that they are not dependent on one, specific person to the exclusion of all others. Anybody can take care of a newborn infant (or disabled person), but only that pregnant woman can nurture her fetus. She can’t hire someone else to do it.

Another key difference is that a fetus doesn't just depend on a woman's body for survival, it actually resides inside her body. Human beings must, by definition, be separate individuals. They do not gain the status of human being by virtue of living inside the body of another human being—the very thought is inherently ridiculous, even offensive.
Ms. Arthur also takes time to point out that even among most anti-choicers, a fetus's "right-to-life" is negotiable, depending on the manner of its conception, as many anti-choicers would defend the right to abortion in the case or rape or incest.

One key paragraph points out that even if we were to give a fetus the same rights as a born human being, no one's right to life is entirely unimpeachable:
Even if a fetus can be said to have a right to life, this does not include the right to use the body of another human being. For example, the state cannot force people to donate organs or blood, even to save someone's life. We are not obligated by law to risk our lives jumping into a river to save a drowning victim, noble as that might be. Therefore, even if a fetus has a right to life, a pregnant woman is not required to save it by loaning out her body for nine months against her will.
Unfortunately, this paragraph goes on the make what I think is a considerably weaker statement:
In response, anti-choicers say that being pregnant is not the same as being a Good Samaritan, because the woman chose to have sex, voluntarily accepting the risk of pregnancy. But sex is not a contract for pregnancy—people have a right to non-procreative sex.
I don't like the last sentence there. Since when do people have a right to sex of any sort? Her bare assertion of this right, without anything to back it up, is every bit as weak as the bare assertion that a fetus is a human being.

I think this is salvageable, though. Firstly, as we'll get to later, I don't think that the entitlement to having sex is at all necessary for her argument to work, and secondly, I think that there is a reasonable answer to the anti-choice you-made-your-bed-now-lie-in-it argument. Even if we do accept that fucking someone of the opposite sex is a contract for pregnancy, I think that it would be ethically untenable to refuse to allow a person to back out of any contract that allows another person use of their body. The right to bodily integrety is an absolute necessity in a society that cares a whit about its members. That's always been the crux of my pro-choice argument, and I think that that is the best answer to this anti-choice argument. Like I said, though, this sentence isn't a fatal flaw in the article. Ms. Arthur's argument has a different crux, (well, three, actually) and I think they're great. We'll get to them in a second. First, I want to address another problematic piece of this article:
If fetuses did have a right to live, one could make an equal case for the right of unwanted fetuses not to live. This is alien to the anti-choice assumption that all life is precious and should be encouraged and preserved at any cost. In the real world, however, some people commit suicide because they no longer want to live, and others wish they’d never been born. Life is not a picnic for all, especially unwanted children who are at high risk for leading dysfunctional lives[10]. Many people believe that being forced to live is a violation of human dignity and conscience. To be truly meaningful, the right to live must include the flip side, the right to die.
Now don't get me wrong. I am a strong supporter of a right to die. I think that it's a vital part of that bodily integrety I talked about. But essential to the right to die is the right of the dying person to make that decision. Now, the exercising of that right can take many forms, from the active expression of the wish to die, to a living will, even including, if the person is unable to express their own wishes, a reasonable conviction on the part of those who know them best that dying is what they would want. But a fetus is not just incapable of expressing that it wants to die. A fetus is incapable of wanting. With this essential piece missing, I just don't see how the right to die can possibly apply in this case. I think the article would have been stronger without this paragraph.

That said, there is plenty of strength in this article. Here are its three, in my opinion, strongest arguments. The first speaks to the real and potential social status of a fetus:
Declaring fetuses to be legal persons with rights would generate countless legal and social dilemmas.
Anti-choicers might argue that special laws or legal exceptions could be written for fetuses to accommodate their unique characteristics, but the very fact that exceptional laws for fetuses would have to be created proves that they are incapable of having the same legal status as real persons.
In earlier times, even infants may not have been valued members of the society yet. Infanticide has been a common practice throughout history as a way to select for healthy, wanted babies, and conserve scarce resources for the rest of the tribe. The human species is estimated to have killed 10 to 15 percent of its born children[13]. Plus, infant mortality rates from natural causes were so high that babies were often not officially welcomed into the community until months or even years after birth, when their survival was more assured[14]. Of course, this is not an advocacy of infanticide. I'm simply saying that personhood, or the point at which one becomes an "official" human being, is a value judgment made by society according to social custom and necessity. It is a social construction incapable of empirical proof.
The second speaks to the biological reality of the difference between a human being and potential human being:
Embryonic existence is very precarious. Zygotes, blastocysts, and embryos have a high failure rate, which throws cold water on the anti-choice claim that every fertilized egg is sacred. Scientists estimate that 55 to 65% of all conceptions are spontaneously aborted in the first few days or weeks of a pregnancy, usually without the woman ever knowing she was pregnant. [...] This shows that eggs and embryos do not yet qualify as human beings according to Nature herself—at best, they represent tryouts for the human race.
[...]life is a crap shoot. If your parents had decided not to have sex the night you were conceived, you wouldn't have existed. If your father had worn a condom, you wouldn’t have existed. Or, you could have been conceived, then miscarried.
And this leads quite nicely into the third argument, which centers on the pure metaphysical silliness that arises from considering a fetus a human being:
[Anti-choicers] identify with a fertilized egg (it's where we all came from, after all) and feel horror and anxiety at the thought that they themselves might have been aborted. [...] Ultimately, if you hadn't been born, it wouldn't matter to you, the same way it can’t matter to aborted fetuses that they weren't born. The non-existent don’t regret their non-existence, and when the living start worrying about the non-existent, they descend into irrational nonsense.

Moreover, the difference between a fertilized egg, and a sperm and an unfertilized egg, is relatively minor. The sperm and ovum each represent the potential for a human being. But men release billions of doomed sperm over a lifetime, and virtually all of women's thousands of eggs go to waste. The number of potential, unique human beings forever lost to the world is astronomical, and although our sheer luck at being alive seems miraculous,
[And here Ms. Arthur hammers the final nail into the anti-choice argument's coffin] it is pointless to lose sleep over such matters—and even more pointless to oppress half the world's population just so a few more of these gazillion potential human beings can exist.
Bingo. We can all go home now, I think. The best arguments in favor of safe, legal abortion have been made.

Utterly Inappropriate

Last week it rained and was above freezing. It went all the way up to 10 degrees. This week it's at least snowing, but it's still above freezing and the slush and puddles are much more Toronto-esque than what one would expect to find in Montreal.

My birthday is in two days. I have had a nose-bitingly cold birthday every year of my life and if I don't have one this year I will hold Reagan, Bush, OPEC, the automotive and aeronautical industries, and every single SUV driving, air-conditioning-cranking, meat-eating, suburbanite asshole responsible, and though I have neither the time nor the resources to kick all their asses personally, I will be sending them some VERY BAD VIBES.

I had better have proper winter weather on my birthday. That's all I'm saying.


Write your Big Fat Blog Posts

Ampersand over at Alas, A Blog has put out a call for submissions for the first edition of the brand new, bi-monthly Big Fat Carnival, which is happening on Tuesday, February 7th.

From the submissions call, the guidelines are as follows:

The Big Fat Carnival is a carnival for collecting some of the best blog posts regarding fat pride; fat acceptance; critiques of anti-fat bigotry, attitudes and research; celebration of images of fat people; practical difficulties of being fat; fat love (queer and otherwise); feminist views of fat and fat acceptance; the health at every size movement (HAES); and whatever else each edition's editor feels fits into the theme.

(But please note, The Big Fat Carnival is not a place to advocate weight-loss diets, weight loss surgery (WLS), or feederism.)

If I can get my ass together to write something, I'll be contributing. I have some ideas, but the muse has not been with me lately (in case you couldn't tell from the dearth of posts).