Friday, March 31, 2006

Pushing Round Holes into Square Heads

Thinking about disputes of ideology/world view and the limits of converting the comfortable but narrow into the uncomfortable but 'correct.' It happens with my students all the time--this session I have been in dispute with a handful of students about arguing positions with myths, stereotypes and outright propaganda as 'support' but some persist in 'supporting,' for example, their anti-same-sex marriage claims with homophobic myths about children being more likely to be sexually molested in same-sex homes, that same-sex relationships are inherently unstable and that marriage is 'sacred.' I'm not going to argue them out of their religious beliefs (and do not hide that I do not share any of them) but I will not allow them to make an argument based on shit.

But what about people I know, friends, acquaintances I like?

For example, a colleague in my department I’ve known since grad school when we were the only 2 blacks in the entire English graduate program, a woman I like and respect and have a good time talking to and commiserating with but who, despite her open-mindedness and political leanings, is very conventional and narrow-minded about marriage. It bothers me b/c she is narrow about that in a way that she is not with anything else--women's rights/feminism, gay/lesbian rights, masturbation, etc. It always comes out as a not-so-subtle condemnation of individuals we know and groups as a whole who do not live in heterosexual, state- and church-sanctioned relationships. She seems to think that b/c I am married that I must agree that marriage is the superlative form of relationship available. And the next time it comes up, I will have to tell her--marriage is not superior to other relationships just b/c it is sanctioned by churches or governments. Marriage has been and can be the worst choice, though no choice at all, for women worldwide, marriage as a way to restrain and contain female sexuality for men's purposes (be that political, religious and/or personal), marriage as a way to define a man's personal chattel/property, as a way to keep women bound while men do what the fuck they want. It works for some. Sometimes it works b/c both agree monogamy is the best choice for them separately and as a couple, sometimes it works b/c neither partner can really imagine anything else or attempt anything else with a desired/needed comfort level (part failure of imagination, part need for certainty) but 'sometimes' is not a universal. Monogamy/marriage also fails, often, and often b/c of conflicting views on marriage/monogamy or one (or both) parties giving lip service to marriage/monogamy while not feeling able to be honest with the self and the partner (or partners) about personal needs and views and general dishonesty (or, in some folks' cases, just plain skankiness). Alternatives, ranging from polyamory to celibacy to committed singlehood, are often presented as the evil face of marriage/monogamy so that whatever marriage is said to be, the alternative isn’t. For example, marriage is safe and trusting while alternatives are exploitative and risky/disease-ridden. But it can be turned around—marriage as confining (or my more descriptive typo ‘coffining’) and oppressive, alternatives as accommodating and liberating/liberated. Neither is always true. There are excellent marriages and excellent alternative arrangements and lousy marriages and lousy alternative arrangements. A man or woman is as likely to be miserable in a marriage as when cohabitating as when dating as when single, depending on the individual and his/her needs, or understanding of those needs, which can be thorough and transparent or murky and unexamined. And it is possible to live one way yet be the other. It is possible to be a non-monogamist living with a monogamist. It only works, though, if the non-monogamous one doesn’t feel oppressed, confined, punished, shamed into living the only-you-for-me life. Your sexuality (on any point of the spectrum) may not be your choice but how you express it (or not) is.

a brief bit on marriage throughout Western history

The Marriage Benefit-Revised

Why a bad marriage is worse for women than men

"Marriage Is for White People"
(I have more to say on this later and on marriage-as-panacea)

And that wasn‘t even what I wanted to say. What I was thinking about, with my students and my colleague, is how much or little can I expect or demand of people? As someone more sex-positive/open-ended about adult relationship forms, do I have a right to demand that my colleague change her mind by 5 p.m. tomorrow or else? Or apologize to me for offending my alternativeness? I don’t think so b/c if I did, then I would have to allow the same demands to Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to my front door proselytizing. What I think I can do is this: tell what I think, what I believe and feel and why and leave it at that or set parameters. I am the kind of friend who’ll say, Now you know I think totally out of the box on that but I see what you’re saying and you know what I'm going to say. I can confront her about her bias and about the myths (and church teachings) she may be basing her pro-marriage platform on. I can present alternative facts, opinions, examples, anecdotes, statistics. I can make a strong case. I can get totally personal and tell her way too much about myself. But I can’t go in her mind and shift the switch, in actuality or ethically. And there are degrees of harm. Yes, I confront homophobia and racism and sexism b/c they manifest in clearly and objectively harmful ways (and not so objective ways but that’s another whole galaxy of discussions). I confront narrow-mindedness in general b/c most –isms are based on that kind of ignorance + smugness/group-norm-centrism. If my colleague interfered with someone’s career b/c the person in question wasn’t married, I’d call her out just like I would if the person in question were black/Latino/Polynesian/ Roma, gay/lesbian, Muslim or atheist and question the Christian precept that what folks do with their genitals is somehow their business. Could she demand that I agree she is right? No. Could I demand she say I am right? Double no. Should I demand she apologize to and appeal for atonement for being flawed and therefore human? Triple no.

It’s one of the soul-bashing strains of the University for me, the choruses of anti-evolution, homophobia, classism, myths and prejudices, the lockstep thinking I encounter mostly in students but also in the ‘adults.’ And myself. Less and less but there it is. If I’m flawed and/or if I had to journey long and hard to be more enlightened, educated, free and willing to fight for the freedom of others (than I was before, not more than Those Other People With Unwashed Minds), can I expect everyone to take that on and/or like it and/or get the same results?

It’s another yes and no.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

A Truly Western Angst

My laptop is in a coma. I guess I should use this time to grade papers.

Update: It's a $150 problem or a $500+ problem. I hear Monday.

Update of the update: It's a $500+ problem. Sigh.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Margaritas as Coping Strategy: Where I Live at

As grim as it is--the better-employed and -housed returned first and to jobs (most of us/them, anyway) while the less-well-employed and -housed and -funded struggle an even harder struggle states away from home, home climate, family or even familiar faces, smells and tastes:

Evacuees' Lives Still Upended Seven Months After Hurricane


One expert says 17 named storms this coming hurricane season:

A Colorado State University hurricane expert is predicting 17 named storms for the upcoming 2006 hurricane season, higher than the number of storms he predicted at this time last year. ....


Waste Management thinks it's doing just fine:
Orleans council scolds garbage hauler
The council has no power over this contract, of course.


CH2M Hill has backed out of a stanky "deal" to tow and store the approximate 30, 000 flooded and junked cars littering corners and the empty spaces under highways and overpasses:

Firm backs out of flooded car pact

Oh, they want the city to get a better deal? ??


Even 4-year olds scream, "I Hate FEMA!":
Wait for trailers drags on

.... (lick salt, gulp)

Levees get less scrutiny than dams: Critics note disparity in corps' standards

It wasn’t Katrina, it was the levees, stupid.


When The Girl had to list at school what she lost in Katrina, she wrote, “My grandmother’s house, my doctor.” It nearly broke my heart b/c we are/were so damn lucky.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Future WIll Not Occur

Too many things to say and no time to say them. But, inspired by Cranky Epistles and other college teaching horror (read: student) stories, I should offer up 2 of my own:

1. I set up an easy in-class essay in my lower-level composition course, something I never do. I created and distributed an assignment sheet 5 days before to read an essay, practice summarizing at home then come in on Monday, write a 1-paragraph summary and a 2+ paragraph response. Easy. I read the sheet in class, gave them page numbers for the essay, chose an essay we'd already read earlier in the session and emphasized orally what I listed twice on the sheet--no book or notes.

Monday, half of the 8 who still bother to come took the paper provided and got to work. I told one young man to put his book away, no books. He whined that he 'thought' he'd be able to use his book. Two young women near him chimed in. I said, No, I said it in class, it was on the sheet twice (thinking to myself and wanting to say, You should've read the fucking sheet I gave you instead of speculating--I give the damn sheets so you know what the fuck is up). He immediately says, Well, can I use my book since I thought I could? Wanting to totally flip out, already so mad by now I’m shaking, I told him, Absolutely not, it was on the sheet, I said it in class, it was an essay we'd read before and that you should've read almost 4 weeks ago. Young woman #2 begins, Well, I never read it in the first-- I cut her off (why would you tell a person in charge of giving you a final grade in a core requirement you must pass that you don't bother to do the homework?), repeated my Absolutely-not sentence then, so infuriated i was afraid I’d burst into tears and wondering if I really did put on the sheet that no books or notes would be allowed, I put my head down and graded homework. (I checked the sheet. I said it twice. Plus, the other 4 who showed up had no problem understanding.)

2. Later that day in the other composition course, one student (out of 23) questioned her assignment grade--on a 50-point assignment, she scored in the high 20s. She wanted to talk to me about it before class Wednesday so I agreed, said to meet me at 2:15 (class starts at 2:30) and we’d go over it. Wednesday morning, I re-read the paper and made extensive notes and realized I was GENEROUS. She didn’t follow the assignment (just like the last assignment which called for an annotated bibliography; she turned in a stack of notecards stapled together), didn't elaborate and though the assignment said to summarize and paraphrase and use at most ONE direct quote, every paragraph of her assignment was one sometimes-comprehensible sentence of her own (I thought) and a 3-5 line direct quote from the essay she was allegedly analyzing. I reviewed the paper and typed in comments boiling. (With 60 or so papers coming in in less than 2 weeks and only 4 days to grade them all and calculate and submit final grades AND write 4 syllabi for the next session... 'bitch' is not the word for how I feel at times and this will escalate until final grades are submitted.)

Wednesday I get to class early (very--my watch, I found out later, was 5 minutes fast) but no student. She finally arrives, sits next to me at the front of the room. While I sort out some assignments, I tell her to look over the comments I made. About 15 seconds later, when I am finished, she starts again with her bewilderment why she got the grade she did (she didn't bother to read what I gave her, didn't look at any of my comments). I start with the first paragraph--2 of the 5 sentences are wordy, irrelevant and make no sense. She hears me but doesn't listen and jumps to the next paragraph and we spend a few minutes, arriving students agog and tiptoeing to their places, over the 2d half of the first sentence of her second paragraph: the claim is stated in the statement of claim. She insists the textbook says that and I say it couldn't possibly say something so nonsensical and stupid (and it doesn't; I checked). I point out that she doesn't explain what the assignment told her to, that a single sentence and then a long quote is not elaboration, doesn’t show me she understands the argumentative model used but mostly she just didn't follow the assignment. I look at the grading sheet, still feel I was justified and point out that she lost points because of the lack of analysis and elaboration. She tells me the assignment said multiple quotes could be used--I cut her off with No, it did not, I checked when I graded this and I checked again this morning, it says to paraphrase and summarize ONLY and that one single direct quote may be used. She tells me the assignment did not say that. I tell her to go look at the assignment. She also insists she can show me where in the textbook she found this ridiculous statement but naturally doesn’t have the book with her. She still wants to insist the book said that and take more of my time and I tell her, No, bring the book to your conference. Her answer? I will. Oooh, I’m scared. Then the whole class she kept giving me the evil eye.

And she is an education major.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Choice

Every Wednesday and Friday, I get lunch at the same mall food court sushi place. The sushi is freshly made with lots of wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce on the side. I get the vegetable roll (rice, seaweed, asparagus, avocado and, if the owner's wife is there, a sprinkling of sesame seeds) and edamame (they are DIVine, you must try them--get them frozen, boil until the pods are no longer bright green, sprinkle with salt, pop the beans out of the pods, yum!) every time. It's the only vegan meal in the mall near the hotel campoos. She finally asked last week if I "ate no meat at all." My usual riff is that I had a low-paying job and couldn't afford what I thought of as "enough" meat, investigated vegetarian eating, got repulsed by the meat industry and transitioned over 3 years to ovo-lacto and now am a barely-lactose-tolerant almost vegan who knows mearly every vegan meal (all 10 of them) in town.

The Girl has never eaten meat. As a toddler, she called meat "dead animal" (to the chagrin of adults) and called McDonald's, Burger King, etc. "dead animal stores." Once, a mom during a play date offered her a hot dog. The Girl got it near her mouth and smelled the difference. Her favorite fast meal is Amy's Soy Cheeze Pizza. She peels and trims her own carrots. She is rediscovering edamame. She loves animals and talks about them as if they are as rich in personality, feeling and sensation as her classmates. (More, at times.) I was determined to raise her vegetarian. Her first post-breast milk foods were vegetables and grains, then protein foods (soft silken tofu was the perfect baby food--bland and impossible to choke on) and grains and lastly fruits. She despises carbonated drinks and calls Sunny D and Capri Sun "sugar water."

We are not totally vegan, though; we have pizza every 2 months or so and still have leather shoes and eat honey. I imagine, though, that The Girl will surpass us one day and take the next step.
edited 3/23/06, pic changed 3/25/06

My Post-Kat New Orleans

Where You Said You Live at? OR Margaritas as Coping Strategy

Why no NO news, commentary, rants, pleas? Because it rankles enough to live it, much less reiterate it for the consumption of others. Each front page of the Times-Pic is demoralizing, infuriating—early pundits bashing New Orleanian stupidity in not getting flood insurance when a large percentage HAD flood insurance; every senator and representative bitching and moaning over the Gulf Coast being OK (and needing no more money) since they see clips of the French Quarter up and running on national news then being agog at their first superficial glance of Lakeview (where WHITE people and PROFESSIONAL people lived, not welfare queens and drug dealing pimps specializing in crack whores of all hues) and then the Ninth Ward, not even taking a look at the chaos of half-repaired and completely ignored traffic lights, piles of debris, refrigerators and 3+ weeks’ worth of garbage and a coming election that is plagued by chaos, in-fighting, racial contempt and deep-seated conflict, federal neglect and unprocessed hurt and anger; and the bullshitting cockamamie half-assed amateurish job being done by all decision-makers and –influencers on the local, state and federal level; and then there’s the particular chaos and neglect and fraud and graft that is FEMA.

I’m shattered and nothing happened to my house.

No one is being decisive or honest. Much of the money directed our way in the early days has been wasted. Entergy and LSUHC saw the post-Katrina atmosphere as one in which they could get concessions and privileges no one would give them before—LSUHC closed Charity and University, “furloughed” most of the employees (all while LSU hospital staff were retained and many helped with housing), and claimed the Charity hospital building was unusable and the federal government needed to build a brand new hospital for them; and contractors ran loose and wild with money, squishing the huge amounts they got through more and more subcontractors and therefore smaller funnels until those who actually did the work got paid shit. It offends all my sensibilities, fuels all my social resentments (one, that Entergy, a private for-profit company, owns a utility at all; none of this would’ve happened if we still had NOPSI b/c there would’ve been no incentive/profit in delaying repairs or service or paperwork gimmicks). Shaw made a shitload of money, too. Meanwhile, no one knows what to do while FEMA drags its barrely-competent feet on new flood maps and SBA loan requirements and amounts change at random and Burger King pays better than most of the non-construction jobs in town. I feel like my chest is weighed down, and also feel forsaken. Again.

OK, let’s go denser as a city but let’s GO. People need places to live last October. No one in charge of making a decision seems to care. This time could be sent printing truckloads of absentee ballots and getting addresses from FEMA (another court fight) instead of squabbling over hidden agendas, racist and otherwise.

It all makes me tired. And, like many women my age, I already have 3 full-time jobs (paying job, mothering/domestics, what little intellectual life I have been able to spare from the black hole of the other 2 jobs).

The revolution needs shared domestic work, not just a good beat.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pregnancy Revealed, OR If It's So @#$%! 'Beautiful,' YOU @#$%! Do It!

Adrienne Rich said "The child I carry for nine months can be defined neither as me or as not-me" and now science finally has started to understand what pro-lifers cannot conceptualize (for sociopolitical-religious reasons)--that pregnancy is about 2 individuals, one incomplete, one at risk as the incomplete individual feeds upon her. It is a "Silent Struggle," with the fetus wanting all it can get and the mother's body trying to place limits (sorry for the long quote but it is fascinating):

As a biologist fresh out of graduate school in the late 1980's, Dr. Haig decided to look at pregnancy from an evolutionary point of view. As his guide, he used the work of Robert Trivers, an evolutionary biologist at Rutgers University.

In the 1970's, Dr. Trivers argued that families create an evolutionary conflict. Natural selection should favor parents who can successfully raise the most offspring. For that strategy to work, they can't put too many resources into any one child. But the child's chances for reproductive success will increase as its care and feeding increase. Theoretically, Dr. Trivers argued, natural selection could favor genes that help children get more resources from their parents than the parents want to give.

As Dr. Haig considered the case of pregnancy, it seemed like the perfect arena for this sort of conflict. A child develops in intimate contact with its mother. Its development in the womb is crucial to its long-term health. So it was plausible that nature would favor genes that allowed fetuses to draw more resources from their mothers.

A fetus does not sit passively in its mother's womb and wait to be fed. Its placenta aggressively sprouts blood vessels that invade its mother's tissues to extract nutrients.

Meanwhile, Dr. Haig argued, natural selection should favor mothers who could restrain these incursions, and manage to have several surviving offspring carrying on their genes. He envisioned pregnancy as a tug of war. Each side pulls hard, and yet a flag tied to the middle of the rope barely moves.


In a 1993 paper, Dr. Haig first predicted that many complications of pregnancy would turn out to be produced by this conflict. ...

Dr. Haig proposed that pre-eclampsia was just an extreme form of a strategy used by all fetuses. The fetuses somehow raised the blood pressure of their mothers so as to drive more blood into the relatively low-pressure placenta. Dr. Haig suggested that pre-eclampsia would be associated with some substance that fetuses injected into their mothers' bloodstreams. Pre-eclampsia happened when fetuses injected too much of the stuff, perhaps if they were having trouble getting enough nourishment.

Subsequent studies seem to bear out his hypothesis.

So what Mexico had to do makes a whole lot of sense. "Carrying to term" is not like insisting someone wear a raincoat on a sunny day, an inconvenience, a trifle. There is no equivalent for men so pro-life men argue their belief from a tenuous position. Like me mandating what kind of underwear men should wear never having had a dick of my own.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why We Should All Be Anti-Stalinist/Totalitarian

Kind of speechless about this but at NPR you can read and hear (Real Player or Windows Media Player) the news story (I almost said "full" but this is NPR) on Yodok Story, a new musical opening in Seoul, South Korea about a North Korean prison camp. The director and choreographer both survived prison camps in N. Korea. (What little they have to say is chilling.) The following is something only a person who has lived through a North Korean prison camp would say/do/accept as the price of living:

One of the companies funding Yodok Story backed out in November 2005 because it was afraid of the South Korean government. Jung took out a loan, using his kidney as collateral. "If I can pay them back by April, my kidney will not be removed," he [director Jung Sung-san] says.

...say what?

Also read: Guy DeLisle's Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Drawn and Quarterly Books, Montreal, 2003, 2005.

and recommend anything else i should read.........

Good News, Bad Triage

The good news--after 3 weeks (no matter what Promise was garbage, residents say says), Waste Management has finally managed to pick up residential garbage. We haven't had garbage pickup since before Mardi Gras. Good thing it took them THREE weeks to decide on "efficient" pickup routes.


Three weeks left in the semester and it's triage time--assignments dropped left and right, an entire set of papers I'm thinking of not grading at all and the day after grades are due (Sunday, mind y'all), the next session begins, bright and early 8 a.m.

I am already addled from grading and this is after I've stopped making comments and half the time forget to record grades.

I'm working on new posts but it's by drip method.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Do We Really Need a South Dakota?

Is everyone in South Dakota a fucking asshole? First, the ban on abortion and the enlightened comments of a congressman and now, SD's main newspaper refuses to get involved.

South Dakota's Top Paper Refuses to Editorialize on Abortion Ban

What Really Goes on in South Dakota thanks to Susie Bright; also a video of Napoli putting his evangelical-tinged dick in his mouth

It's so vile I hate to copy it but it is so disgusting, so filled with woman-hate, it has to be exposed:

A real-life description [of a woman who deserves an exception to the total ban] to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.
from PBS Online News Hour

And Susie Bright has a link to Napoli's info page and an address to write a civil but scathing letter to the newspaper.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Girl, girl, girl!

When my father heard that my mother had had a girl, his first words were, "A girl?" as if the obstetrician had said she'd given birth to an ostrich.

First I heard that girls weren't supposed to be smart. Then that they can't throw properly. That they are no good at math. A girl whistling in a house is bad luck. Smart girls are an oxymoron and/or a perversion of nature. Girls can't serve at the altar. Girls can't __, are __, should only __ and must never __. I never understood how sex was anathema for girls but not for boys--were the boys fucking each other? What's so inferior about a clitoris and vagina? I also never understood how boys and men could shit all over women when they wouldn't exist without at least one.

The warrants behind the pro-life movement essentially demonize women, assuming they make callous choices blithely and that as givers of life they really despise life. The idea is to keep us quiet, pregnant, at home, beholden and intimidated. Fuck that. I see no reason why sexism (and racism) aren't in the DSM-IV. Both involve delusions and psychological distortions. If I talked about and treated dogs the way some men talk about (and treat) women, I'd have the ASPCA on my ass.

If you have a problem with me b/c I'm a woman, that's your damn problem.

OK, OK, not much of a post against sexism but shit--I'm at a conference in a this-side-of-shitty motel room and just got Internet today, I'm in pain and tired. As a woman, I always have too damn much to do anyway. Sexism 101.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Can You Take It?

This is just so damn funny. Beware if you are sex-squeamish, easily offended or humorless about taboos. I first saw this on Susie Bright's Journal. I viewed other Goodie Bag clips and this one is the only one you need to see.

Do You Take It

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Tell 'em, sista!

I just discovered My Private Casbah and found another New Orleans sista telling what Mardi Gras is about. My favorite paragraphs:

If someone out there in the world feels that the children here need beans, then by all means let them send us some. We'll make a gourmet meal out of them. However, if someone chooses to use their own time and money to go out and buy beads, toys, and other trinkets to give New Orleanian children the opportunity to see that life goes on even after the hurricanes, then God bless 'em for understanding southerners. And if you happen to be one of those people who understand how to mix activism with fun, you can come down and see the parades and also participate in the home-buildings sponsored by Habitat for Humanity, Home Clean-Outs sponsored by ACORN, volunteering at the public hospitals, and all sorts of other activities the city has planned to make use of all the willing extra hands that will be in town.
Now, to answer the question: "Shouldn't the city dedicate every iota of energy, target every appeal and pour every dollar into New Orleans, the hometown, moreso than New Orleans, the tourist trap?"

The city should work intently towards making New Orleans the hometown of a lot more people than are currently residing here. At the same time, it should devote its energy to all that the people here find important and that includes Mardi Gras. It was this culture that produced the first original music form in this country and it is this culture that has kept it alive all the while. It is this culture that continues to churn out the best Jazz and Blues musicians in the world. It's one of the only places in the world where, on any given day, you can just walk down the street without a dime in your pocket and go see free, live music so sweet you'd remember the experience for the rest of your life. It's celebrations like Mardi Gras that keep international visitors coming and spending their Pesos, Rupees, Euros, and Yen despite how unpopular this country is these days. So, if we want to take two weeks out of our year and celebrate the fact that we are still alive, then I think we've earned the right to do so.

Check her out! Hey Sister, Go Sister, Soul Sister, Go Sister, Hey Sister, Go Sister, Soul Sister, Go Sister....!

Who DO you think you are, or, "Gee, bitch, I didn't know you had a blog!" PART DEUX

So my anonymity is only partial--I identify strongly with race, gender, location (esp. post-Katrina) but do not use my real name, have not outed myself to anyone (on purpose) and plan to keep my real name, job, exact life details out of the blogosphere. I think that the trap of essentialism is harder in person than online. In person, faced with someone who looks female or who “looks black,” it is a knee-jerk reaction, wanted, followed, resisted or not, to make assumptions. Does she like Missy Elliot? I can’t believe she listens to Blue Oyster Cult! Or, as a professor who called herself a black feminist said to me, “Why study Samuel Beckett?” as if I were proposing to study the taste of praying mantis penis.

Not identifying race or gender can, though, help contribute to a better conversation, reaching those who might otherwise not listen to a woman/African American/Muslim/Roma/American Indian/transgendered persyn/etc. It needs to remain an option. It is also a radical position. The disadvantage is you cannot organize online with any of the groups you claim not to belong to. The sour in the sweet.

The anonymity questions I want to answer from the anonymity/pseudonymity meme:

Is your blogging persona more serious than your real life persona?
Ironically, I think I display more of my “true inner nature” on the blog than in real life as I switch between my daily personas of non-tenured professor and colleague, writer, mother, spouse, daughter, neighbor, citizen. I use more of my sarcastic humor and wild analogies on the blog, to my great satisfaction. In real life, I must be serious (most of the time, anyway) to be taken seriously.

Do you think that your blog could ruin your career?
Absolutely, hence my answer to number 4. (I am admittedly a touch paranoid.) I am sure that my true opinions, feelings and way of living could easily become an issue. I have talked to and dealt with enough of my colleagues at the University to know:
1. they are very smart and dedicated people-educators
2. they are dedicated to the Black Diaspora
3. they can be as swayed by dogma, ideology, rumor and blind belief as an illiterate sorghum farmer
Even though I identify openly and defiantly in the blogosphere as black and female, I do feel that the initial fortifying effect of labels like African American and Mexican American and Korean American, in SOME spheres, are now reaching a stage of ghettoization and contributing to a slowdown of understanding between ethnic groups in the US. Though I am happy to see an African American Authors section in the bookstore, I bristle that the same authors are not in the general fiction or literature sections and feel that it sends the message that that “black stuff” over there is of a completely separate sphere, almost species, than the rest of the fiction/literature, that there is something so essentialist about blackness that white people couldn’t understand even a page of African American literature, as if we process pain, disappointment, love, emotions and needs and survival so differently there is no point in trying to bridge the gap. Yes, there are some differences but they are differences that need to be shared and thereby understood, I think, for any progress to happen. Part of what perpetuates racism (and many –isms) is ignorance, seeing someone else or some other group as Other rather than simply a different hue and texture than your particular square of the human fabric. I bleed and give birth like any other woman alive, present or past. I may get less prenatal care b/c of my race, socioeconomic level or religious belief but I am not somehow extra- or subhuman. I want my differences, I want my full humanity.

I have colleagues I respect and deeply like who would turn cold to me and, unintentionally, unconsciously, block my progress b/c my husband is A White Man, The Enemy. My commitment to the ideals of the University would be called into question. I would be scrutinized and spoken of with somewhat-veiled contempt as I have heard colleagues speak of others with white partners. So my slip to the blogger worries me.

The disadvantage is if this blogging could contribute to my tenure portfolio, perhaps counting as publication, THEN what the fuck do I do? If this is the only publishing I’ve done in the past 3 years or more…sometimes your needs bite you in the ass.

What would happen if an administrator at my college discovered my blog?
It is entirely possible not a thing would happen publicly. I might find myself left out of things. Or suddenly not have my contract renewed. The University still hasn’t worked out its transparency and fairness kinks.

Do you use a pseudonym out of fear?
Hell fucking yes. Not b/c I am afraid or ashamed of my opinions or fear offending someone, not b/c I think what I do here is obscene or of shoddy quality (I try to get all the typos out) but…I do not feel safe in my work environment. There are too many variables, too little faculty power, too much administrative opaqueness and randomness. If it weren’t for that job, yeah, I’d reveal my real name somewhere along the line. But I need the money from that job. That said, I may not have the job past July anyway…..

What is the biggest drawback to writing pseudonymously?
Drawback? I’d have more identities if I had time.

Has your blog allowed you to experiment with writing?
Yes. I am less “structured,” more spontaneous than I am in anything else. I hope it transfers to my other writings.

Why do you use a pseudonym?
To hide, to make an initial statement/impression, to signify, to screen readers. With the combination of “bitch,” “g” and “spot,” not everyone who stumbles along will stay. I use “bitch” in honor of 2 of my first favorite bloggers, Bitch Ph.D. and Angry Black Bitch and to counter (for myself as much as anyone else) the desire to be a “good” girl, to be nice, nurturing, comforting, encouraging, considerate, temperate. It is still a world in which an honest, open, brash woman is a bitch. Also, in high school, I quickly learned that when a boy called you a bitch, it meant you weren’t doing what he wanted and the word was meant to shame you into submission or silence or ceding him the spotlight. “Bitch” meant you were acting like a full human rather than Other.

Whew! Do I need to write anymore? Did I leave anything out?

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Who DO you think you are, or, "Gee, bitch, I didn't know you had a blog!"

Nobody asked me to do this meme but I’ve seen it around and it in combination with this post at Woman of Color make me feel like I need discuss some things. (Though neither is any of my business, just me snooping around) Another exigence—posting around on prof-authored blogs, I offered some advice and got a request to share material. Teaching is often about finding the right thing to steal and modify so I diligently removed my real name and The University’s from my materials and dutifully emailed them off. Once I got the reply, I realized that in all my diligence, I sent the email with my University signature: full name, rank, department, division, address AND University email address. I felt some horror for about 15-20 minutes. and realized that I needed to address this not in the coy way I have (coyness usually indicates a hidden-almost-from-self discomfort) but honestly and in context. Grading-addled as I am (nothing like when first started teaching but the mechanical grading ability wears out after a semester), I will cobble together what struck me and set me to thinking in both, with proper linkage of course.

On a different note, I would also like to bring up an issue that has been bothering me a bit lately.

The radical women of color blog ring states that to join the ring, a blogger must identify as a woman of color on her blog. This seems to be quite a simple requirement, but as I am learning more of the various reasons that many of us are blogging, I am beginning to think that this simple requirement is actually very loaded with serious issues for women of color.

First, many of us are blogging specifically because blogging allows a gender/race neutral space. …

Textaisle at Arbusto uses the "nuetral-ness" of the blogosphere as an act of resistance:

Through conscientious omissions of any of several other identities, I feel I, as a blogger, can better highlight the contradictions, strains, and overlappings entre las identidades that I play with as known quantities.

Thus, it is clear that many radical women of color who are blogging are choosing to not "come out" about their identity. …

posted by brownfemipower at 2/25/2006 09:38:00 PM

It had never occurred to me to not identify myself by race or gender b/c both are critical aspects of how I interpret the world and why I felt I had something to add to the blogosphere. When younger, in high school and perhaps my first few months in college, I would’ve believed in the gender-/race-neutral possibilities and potentials of the virtual spaces of the Internet in general, and clung fiercely to them. But I was not raised, didn’t grow up, didn’t get through decades of life race- or gender-neutral but highly identified and rewarded and restricted by and for both.

Is my refusal to be neutral radical? Is my insistence upon being in this space, shouting, ranting, being “unladylike” radical? Is it my dueling impulses of non-neutrality and non-nationalism? (Bad writing seeps in from the grading.) To be blatantly, defiantly race- and gender-identified but also say that neither race nor gender are essentialist, that I am fueled by yet not constrained by either/both?


will continue………….

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Zimbabwean women want Dignity.Period!

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