September 29, 2007

Blogger Challenge

Six Apart (the company that owns LiveJournal) is currently participating in Blogger Challenge to help raise money for schools and students.

DonorsChoose.com is a website that lets teachers list projects that they would like money for. People like us visit, choose a project, and give money.

The Blogger Challenge is calling on the blogging/blog-reading community to help give. It's easy, fast, and doesn't cost you a thing. Head over to LiveJournal's explanation to learn more, or just send an email off to donorschoose@sixapart.com. They'll send you a gift certificate for $30 that you can use to donate to any project of your choosing. The only catch is that they're only giving out gift certificates until 5pm PDT on Monday.

Send an email! Give free money! Spread the word!

*gets off soapbox*

September 28, 2007

BOOKS ARE HOTTT

I was in Widener today, and for no apparent reason, all I could think about was sex. I wanted to get fucked in philology and sexed up by Sumerian. If anyone had been there, I would have seduced them, but it was a tomb.

So I discovered tonight that all the books I brought home ended up being about sex. I have 15 books about Islam, linguistics, etc. and almost 10 of them are purely about sex. For example, Women and Sexuality in Muslim Societies is not a dry, boring tome (as, in fact, I thought it would be). In fact, it's half porn. I picked it up and found I was reading a short story about a women having lesbian sexual fantasies about her house - and her rivalry with the former female inhabitant, who wants to get back that lovin' feeling. (It's less weird than it sounds - Alifa Rifaat [1930-1996], "My World of the Unknown".) I flipped back and it was a collection of amusing comics from Arab newspapers by a particular artist, and every one of them was about orgasms. The works on Islamic mysticism are downright pornographic... even the hideously scientific Semitic Noun Patterns seems to draw its vocabulary quite heavily from the erotic. Lips, breasts, nipples, navels, pudenda, labia, clitorides; it's chock full o' sex.

I have no particular comment beyond the above. I just thought it was an interesting day and that Quench would appreciate it.

Oh, and I'm usually in 6 East by PJ if you want to text me. We can get it on on Maimonides. *wink* I won't tell no one.

September 27, 2007

ATTN men: don't play a female avatar or we'll kickban your ass to next tuesday

So we've covered gender and sexuality politics in MMORPGs before, and this was too weird to pass up:

In a bizarre move Aurora Technology the owners of the King of the World MMORPG has taken the unusual step of banning men who play women characters but the ban itself does not stretch to women playing men. If you want to play as a woman now in game you have to prove you are a women via web cam. This is something that people ask for in many mmorpgs I myself have seen people say people who play women in EVE online as being some kind of degenerate but how long can a policy of verification by web cam last since its so easy to get around it doesn't seem to solve much and is an insult to many.

What? How do I prove my biological sex via webcam? Long hair? Earrings? Makeup? General chick-ish looks? Or am I going to have to get right in there and hump the webcam: HEY L00K NO PENIS LOLZ!!!1

Via slashdot.

September 26, 2007

Argentine Minor Approved for Sex Change

BBC is reporting:

Interesting article, with from what I can tell on a brief glance to be a fairly proper use of pronouns. And from what I've heard from other quenchistas, that's fairly rare in mainstream news.

It is apparently a landmark situation because Natalie is a minor. I did not realize this, but is it the case that such operations cannot be approved in the U.S. if you are a minor?

Also, how exactly did someone become "president of the Argentine homosexual community"? Just curious. :-P

plea bargaining and a visa ad

Kind of scary but today, a public defender compares the criminal justice system to this visa commercial.

But why the great disparity between rejected plea offers and sentences after trials? If a case was worth 5 years before trial, surely it can’t be worth 35 after? There does seem to be a desire to punish a defendant for going to trial, as opposed to simply including the value of the factors that would have been eliminated. I had a client a few years ago who was charged with 10 counts of a felony. Prior to trial, the offer was a sentence of 20 years, fully suspended. He exercised his right to go to trial, was acquitted on 9 of 10 charges and received a sentence of 20 years suspended after 9. That’s right, 10 cases were worth zero years, but one - after trial - is worth 9.

As a commenter to imbroglio’s post points out, we’re obsessed with judicial efficiency and so the punishment is punitive. It’s like that Visa commercial where everyone is using the card and the one guy with cash holds up the line and creates problems.

Upon watching that commercial again, it’s scary how similar it is to the criminal justice system. People filing in, one after the other, the deli representing the well-oiled criminal justice system, the repeat offenders whose orders are known to the chefs, people swiping in and being sent on their way, the “now serving” number ticking rapidly and then the protagonist, whipping out his wallet and offering cash, causing a meltdown - food going flying, things not landing in their place, people bumping into each other. I bet he’s not welcome back in that deli and our defendant is not welcome back in the criminal justice system, which is accomplished by locking him away for a long time.


I wanted to alert folks to an issue I care a lot about and to a great blog that I haven't seen plugged around here much. Drop by apublicdefender and say hi to Gideon for me.

September 25, 2007

"The New College Try."

In today's New York Times, there is this op-ed about admission to elite colleges. Professor Jerome Karabel writes:

Despite their image as meritocratic beacons of opportunity, the selective colleges serve less as vehicles of upward mobility than as transmitters of privilege from generation to generation.

He adds:

Just how skewed the system is toward the already advantaged is illustrated by the findings of a recent study of 146 selective colleges and universities, which concluded that students from the top quartile of the socioeconomic hierarchy (based on parental income, education and occupation) are 25 times more likely to attend a “top tier” college than students from the bottom quartile.

What do you think about the piece? What do you think about his proposal of a partial "lottery" for admissions spots? What kind of solutions exist for balancing a desire for high academic standards while taking into account advantages conferred by class privilege? Other thoughts/comments?

See a previous Quench post about college admissions here.

September 23, 2007

Some Random Thoughts on Maryland and Gay Marriage

I don't usually write often enough for Quench, but I figure I should post once this year.

Came across this article in WaPo.

It points out this wonderful gem from the Maryland court decision overturning a lower court which found the state's ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional:

"The State has a legitimate interest in encouraging . . . a union that is uniquely capable of producing offspring within the marital unit."

Lots of interesting pointers. Like since when is a male/female couple "uniquely" capable of producing offspring? Last I checked, reproductive organs' functionality was not tied to sexual orientation. And since when was producing offspring a legitimate interest in today's world of overpopulation? And why must there be a "union" to have children? And why must it be within the "marital unit"?

Why does America spend so much time glorifying the "marital unit" as the answer to all our problems only to decide, in the end, that only a few people are allowed to benefit from it?

And why does this editorial writer end with a ridiculous statement like:

"While we see no reason that committed same-sex couples should not enjoy all the benefits of marriage, we worry that the refusal to discuss civil unions could be shortsighted. Now that the Maryland high court has spoken and the matter has returned to the political arena where it belongs, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who favors civil unions, should take up the cause. He would be ensuring nothing more and nothing less than that all Marylanders have the possibility of equal treatment under the law."

I mean, if they are interested in "nothing less than...equal treatment under the law", then why make such a huge push for civil unions which, as a whole, do not provide equal treatment? If you treat two people equally, saying one may have "marriage" and one may not doesn't seem too equal.


Blah blah blah, you've heard this all before. Gay marriage is almost old news these days. But I just bring these all up because it makes me wonder about society's contradictions. Why do we glorify marriage then say it's only for special people? Why do we say we're a free country but then wiretap everyone? Why do we say sex is bad, then struggle to understand asexuality? Why do we say that gender doesn't matter anymore, then say gender is everything when confronted with transgender issues? Why is society so hypocritical?

Maybe it's just that everything looks good on paper until it becomes "too real." I don't know..... Just makes me wonder sometimes.

September 22, 2007

Weberotica

So I was frightened of masturbating for a while due to guilty experiences with cybersex upon turning the big double digit. I turned to my best friend and asked for help. "Help!" I cried over AOL Instant Messenger, begging the girl I took pictures of flipflops with in middle school to give me tips on where the clitoris was. She gave me a time-line - 20 minutes (although a recent study reported in Cosmo that I read today on my way to buy conditioner and pepto bismol said that men take 11 minutes, women 12, not statistically different I guess?) and some tips about variation and etc. She also recommended this fabulous website: www.asstr.org/~Kristen

This guide is fantastic. Use it well. I've found that I skip over most of them, but about 70% of the ones I've clicked I've found really wonderful.

I tried writing erotica after this, but found that I used all of my good adjectives in the first two sentences.

Hi. I'm Highland! I joined this so I could share with you a top ten weberotica post, but I really know just that one. So here are some suggestions by friends:

http://www.asstr.org/~Kristen
http://www.literotica.com
http://www.nifty.org
........write your own! GO!

September 21, 2007

MORE AWKWARDNESS

... having your ex ring you while a hawt doctor is giving you a breast exam.

September 20, 2007

San Diego mayor has change of heart, supports gay marriage

I'm proud of my former mayor.

http://cbs5.com/video/?id=26888@kpix.dayport.com


With me this afternoon is my wife Rona. I'm here to announce -- I'm here this afternoon to announce that I will sign a resolution that the city council passed yesterday directing the city attorney to file a brief in support of gay marriage. My plan that has been reported publicly was to veto the resolution. So I feel like I owe all San Diegans right now an explanation for this change of heart.

During the campaign two years ago, I announced that I did not support gay marriage, and instead supported civil unions and domestic partnerships. I have personally wrestled with that position ever since.

My opinions on this issue have evolved significantly, as I think the opinions of millions of Americans from all walks of life have. In order to be consistent with the position that I took during the mayoral resolution, I intended to veto the council resolution. As late as yesterday afternoon, that was my position. The arrival of the resolution to sign or veto late last night...please excuse us...forced me to reflect and search my soul for the right thing to do.

I've decided to lead with my heart -- which is probably obvious at the moment --, to do what I think is right, and to take a stand on behalf of equality and social justice. The right thing for me to do is to sign this resolution.

For three decades, I've worked to bring enlightenment, justice, and equality to all parts of our community. As I reflected on the choices I had before me last night, I just could not bring myself to tell an entire group of people in our community they were less important, less worthy, or less deserving of the rights and responsibilities of marriage than anyone else simply because of their sexual orientation. A decision to veto this resolution would have been inconsistent with the values I've embraced over the past thirty years.

I do believe that times have changed, and with changing time and new life experiences come different opinions. I think that's a natural [unclear] that's certainly true in my case. Two years ago, I believed that civil unions were a fair alternative. Those beliefs in my case have changed. The concept of separate but equal -- the concept of a separate but equal institution is not something I can support.

I acknowledge that not all members of our community will agree, or perhaps even understand my decision today. All I can offer them is, I'm trying to do what I believe is right.

I have close family members and friends who are members of the gay and lesbian community. Those folks include my daughter Lisa, as well as members of my personal staff. I want for them the same thing that we all want for our loved ones: for each of them to find a mate whom they love deeply and who loves them back, someone with whom they grow old together, and share life's experiences. And I want their relationships to be protected equally under the law.

In the end, I couldn't look anyone in the face and tell them that their relationship, their very lives, were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife Rona.

September 19, 2007

Asexuality

What is Asexuality?

Asexuality is lack of interest in sex; asexuals do not experience sexual attraction. Beyond that commonality, things vary widely. Some asexuals have a physical sex drive, others do not, some desire romantic relationships (minus sex), others do not. All asexuals need friends; being asexual is not the same thing as being a hermit.

Unlike celibacy, asexuality is not a choice. I'm not denying myself anything by not having sex. I scoff at True Love Revolution right along with everyone else.

Most asexuals have been so their entire lives, and report no traumatic sexual experiences. That's the most common reaction to asexuality, "You must have been abused as a child." You don't recall any such abuse? "You've repressed it."

Thing about that is, if I'm repressing something, then it's really, really, repressed. And since I don't have any other mental difficulties, and consider myself relatively well-adjusted all-round, I don't reckon that I'm trying to bury a bad memory.

The next reaction is, "You're a gay man/woman, and you're in denial." Maybe some people declare themselves asexual for that reason, but most of the people on asexuality.org (which is the nexus of the group at this point) are not victim to the kind of sexual repression that results in Larry Craig-style self-loathing. In fact, many asexuals are romantically attracted to or involved with members of the same sex, and may identify as a gay, bi, or lesbian asexuals.

And then, "You just haven't found the right person yet." To this I would just reiterate: most asexuals have never experienced any sexual attraction or arousal. There are sexually idealized images all over the place. It seems to me that if I were going to find the 'right person' to awaken some latent sexuality, I would've had ample chance within the roughly 8 years since puberty.

"You can't know if you've never tried."

Harking back to middle school, I recall that all of my peers were going absolutely mad about the prospect of sex. I was not. I didn't see what the big deal was. Of course I understood sex in clinical terms, but I had no idea why it would be a particularly interesting or enjoyable activity. If I understand correctly, for most people sex is something that there is a powerful urge to do, not something that can be taken or left.

The other answer to this objection is, "Did you have to sleep with a partner of the same sex to know that that wasn't for you?"--or the inverse for gay people. Gay people don't -have- to sleep with the opposite sex to know that they prefer the same sex.

That aside, many asexuals (not me) have engaged in sex, usually to satisfy the needs of a romantic partner, but sometimes to see if they really do like it after all. And they report that the experience wasn't mind-blowing. Most are somewhat bored.

And finally...

"You're just a late bloomer."

Hmm. Really late, then. I say early 20s is late enough. I mean, it's not as though I haven't had puberty (I am a male). And our members are as old as 50 or 60. Of course, a few asexuals do later discover that they simply have very low libido (rather than no libido).

My Personal Experience

As I said, I first noticed a difference when I was in middle school, and everyone else went girl or guy crazy. At that point, I figured that I really was just a late bloomer. My voice broke and nothing changed, but I didn't think much of it. When I was a freshman in high school, I began to wonder about it a bit more, but high school was a busy time for me. I didn't really think about sex (or lack of sex), because it didn't (and doesn't) really seem much more interesting than say, bridge, to me.

So my friends dated, I didn't date. They joke about sex, I laughed. Because I was the class nerd, no one thought it all that surprising that I didn't go on dates.

I won't say I didn't start to think along the lines of, "I'm the only one in the world" and, "Maybe I should go see a doctor."

It was around junior year that I stumbled across a Salon article titled 'Asexual and Proud.' That was kind of an ah-hah moment. It was nice to get reassurance that I wasn't the only one, and that I probably didn't need to go to a shrink. I also found out about a disorder called Hypoactive Sexual Desire, but the disorder is only diagnosed if it causes the patient to feel badly. I didn't want sex, I didn't want to want sex. So I decided that I didn't have that.

Coming Out

I haven't come out, except to a sibling and a few very close friends. Asexuals don't need to come out, in the same way that gay people do, because we don't need to seek out sex partners. But there are certainly benefits to being out as an asexual. People don't try and hit on you (usually), and it's more possible to engage in deep friendships where both parties will have an equal expectation that the relationship will not become sexual.

The reason that I'm not out is, number one, I'm not as brave as the people who go on television to talk about it, and number two:

I'm afraid that the reaction I'll get will be, "That doesn't exist." My parents are fairly socially conservative, but if I'd been gay, I would've just told them. They know that gay people exist, that gayness is a real phenomenon, and there would've been an initial flip-out, but they aren't the sort that would disown me (And my heart goes out to the queer people whose parents are not so understanding).

Actually my parents -did- find out, by snooping through my computer, and they -did- flip out (no grandchildren, woe is me!--they do have two other kids...), but I would say that I'm really out to them, because they said that they didn't believe me, and I was happy enough to just nod in acquiescence and let the subject drop.

The same applies to college campuses: I imagine I could get people to believe me, but I don't want to spend all my time explaining my sexual identity to people. There are other things that are more important to me. Gay people can just say, "I'm gay." They don't have to give a lecture (and of course gay people have problems that are different and probably more serious than the asexual ones).

Visibility

So what asexuals need more than anything is knowledge and visibility. The primary organization has it right in the title: Asexual Visibility and Education Network.

The AVEN group has been active in getting media and academic coverage of the orientation, and as a result, the size of AVEN has ballooned. I understand that a feature length documentary on the subject is in the works.

Campus queer groups need to know about the orientation as well. I contacted one of the leaders of Harvard's BGLTSA, and initially he hadn't heard of asexuality (he got with the program quickly, of course). Other asexuals at colleges have tried to become involved in queer groups and have been met with hostility, and, somewhat unbelievably, with queer students who disbelieved the asexuals and recommended that they seek psychiatric treatment.

Those queer students have forgotten, I guess, that it was only 33 years ago that homosexuals were also referred to psychiatric treatment.

Ideally campus queer groups would explicitly include asexuals in their titles or mandates (even if they currently have no openly asexual members), and help to increase awareness instead of acting as another awareness hurdle for asexuals to overcome.

Thank you to all of you who've made it this far. If you'd like further information, or think that you yourself might be an asexual (current studies have us at about 1% of the population), you can visit asexuality.org, which has all the goods.

If you want to pay more, that's OUR business.

Taking notes in class may be encouraged, but apparently it can get you kicked out of the Coop.

Jarret A. Zafran ’09 said he was asked to leave the Coop after writing down the prices of six books required for a junior Social Studies tutorial he hopes to take.

It seems that the Coop is trying to keep students from spending less on textbooks. For students looking to cut costs (and support charity), check out Crimson Reading.

Update: Here's a Boston Globe article detailing the Coop's refusal to cooperate with students.

September 18, 2007

white and/or middle/upper class people - why do you pay for racism and sexism?

Earlier this month, a white writer named Justin Ross wrote an editorial in The Washington Post calling out white people who buy CDs and basically invest in rap music that is both sexist and racist, and often particularly demeaning toward black women. His argument is not new but it is well-articulated. Here's the beginning of the piece:

When it comes to sexism and racism in hip-hop, I'm part of the problem.

Let me explain. I love hip-hop -- have ever since it first came on the scene when I was in elementary school. Over the years, I've bought hundreds of tapes, CDs and downloads, gone to countless rap concerts, even worn my favorite artists' clothing lines. We used to think of hip-hop as just a black thing, but it's not. The largest share of rap music sales in America goes to white listeners. That would be me.

So I'm not just sounding off when I say this: It's time for a boycott of all rap music that stereotypes African Americans or insults and degrades women. And in particular, the people who need to be doing the boycotting are white fans like myself.

In the current debate over whether hip-hop has become degrading to women and harmful to race relations, I've heard quite a bit from black activists, some of whom have fought for years against the sort of lyrics I'm writing about, and I've gotten several earfuls from black rap artists. But I haven't heard a peep from the white fans who essentially underwrite the industry by purchasing more than 70 percent of the rap music in this country, according to Mediamark Research Inc. I don't presume to tell any artist, studio executive or record label what to record or not record. But I will presume to ask young white customers: Why are we buying this stuff?

Ross notes that the white audience is comfortable listening to stories about "crime against black people, drugs being sold in black neighborhoods, black people being killed."

I also wonder what would happen if rap artists started talking about selling dope in the suburbs, or shooting white people or beating down white men. Would rap's comfortable white fans continue to consume it? I suspect the record companies wouldn't even sell it. Like the majority of people who buy rap music, the majority of people who get rich off it are white. That sort of thing might hit a little too close to home for hip-hop's fans and profiteers.

Much of this argument also extends to middle and upper class people of color in addition to white people. Together, we are all funding degrading music. Are you buying the big new CDs that came out this month? Why or why not? What influenced your decision? If not, what are you listening to right now? If you are listening to the new Kanye or 50 CD, what do you think of it?

Get the whole editorial here. Of course, if you don't want to log in, you can always go to Bugmenot and put in www.washingtonpost.com. Thanks to Racialicious for bringing the editorial to my attention. Stop by there to read some thoughtful comments.

Maryland High Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Some days, it's easy to forget that we're damn lucky up here in Massachusetts.

What makes this decision particularly disappointing was that it wasn't a foregone conclusion -- a lower court had ruled in favor of gay marriage, and Maryland isn't exactly Alabama.

September 17, 2007

Still don't believe finals clubs are bad?

Harvard senior seeking female companion - 22
Reply to: pers-424875291@craigslist.org
Date: 2007-09-17, 3:37PM EDT

My final club has a reunion this fall, and my relationship of two years ended disastrously earlier this summer. I have an invitation for myself plus one, and am willing to show you a great time. It is a private party, in an extremely classy setting. There is no real way to describe how ornate the club is, but I guarantee that it will be the most upscale experience of your life. Think back to your high school prom, take away the terrible music, and multiply the experience by ten.

You must be white, 5'6" - 5'9", young, blonde, attractive, and intelligent. You must be in school, preferably Tufts or Wellesley but BU and BC are acceptable (definitely not MIT).

You should be able to hold a conversation, know when to be quiet, and polite in all your behavior. I have seen unruly guests embarrass members before, and I hope this won't be a problem. This event is black-tie, and I am willing to procure an evening gown for you.

I hate to sound so harsh, but I have expectations to live up to. No Black, Asian, overweight, or unattractive women please. Ages 18-22 only.

Picture required.

Racist, sexist, classist, elitist... and if it's a "bad joke," i have no idea what part is supposed to be funny.

September 15, 2007

Thing What is Awkward.

Ok, so there's thing what is awkward and we laugh about it but... I really hate it. So it's time to share.

NO TRANS FAT!!1!1!!!1!

Hate that. GAHHHH. Stop saying that! I hate that!

September 14, 2007

Hi! My gender identity doesn't match my biological sex!

A tip of the hat to Marti at Trans Group Blog (and, by extension, Bil at Bilerico) for calling our attention to the Traditional Values Coalition's new anti-ENDA cartoons. This one, for example, inspired the title of this post:

Don't get me wrong, I like me a sassy trans woman in a boa and opera gloves just as much as the next girl - but I guess I'm old-fashioned. I like my cartoons to be funny. Or, well, at least clever. Not like this drivel:

I mean, please. Yawn. (Also, Simon Aronoff is a hottie. Just sayin'.)

In all seriousness, though - the TVC is getting pretty hot around the collar about ENDA. And while Trans Group Blog is right to rejoice in polls saying that most Americans are pro-ENDA (which is to say, anti-workplace-discrimination), I can't help but feel antsy. We're not there yet, and if the omnipresent looming threat of gender-neutral bathrooms (I know, right?) was enough to derail something as straightforward as the Equal Rights Amendment, I'm not going to celebrate as long as there are still cartoons like this floating around and ENDA still hasn't been passed:Actually, with a few small modifications, I don't see what's so bad about some of the TVC's dystopian scenario here. But, hey, I'm a morally-bankrupt pervert.

But more importantly, I'm also a voter. And I called my Congressman today to politely urge him to support HR 2015, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. He's a good guy, and I think I talked to the same staffer this afternoon as I did when I called to thank him for voting against the Federal Marriage Amendment last year.

If you, like me, remain worried about whether ENDA will pass, there are things you can do to help:

- Go to http://mygov.governmentguide.com/mygov/dbq/officials/ and enter your zip code. (Results are more precise if you enter your zip+4, which you can find out at http://zip4.usps.com/zip4/welcome.jsp .)

- Call or write your Representative. Writing a letter is generally more persuasive, but takes longer to arrive; it's up to you. In your communication, make it clear that you are a constituent of the Representative, and that you are counting on him or her to support HR 2015, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Make it short, simple, and positive - you have faith that the person you have elected will do the right thing, and you're just dropping a reminder.

- If you're short on inspiration, check out http://www.passendanow.org , a project of the HRC which offers sample letters and video clips to get you in the spirit. Maybe you have a personal story like Policeman Mike's - consider whether you might want to add it to your letter (if you're writing).

- Consider writing a letter to the editor. http://www.hrcactioncenter.org/campaign/enda_lte features an online tool which will locate your local media outlets and and provide you with some talking points to help get your letter rolling.

- Report back! Everyone loves to hear success stories (or get fired-up when people they know and love are mistreated), so drop a comment here to let us know what you've done and how you think it went. And, for pity's sake, if you have any art skills, will you please design a pro-ENDA cartoon with a little pizazz? I promise to post it if you do.

September 13, 2007

White Excuses



A word from the "artist," a cartoonist at UVA.
“I was not trying to trivialize famine,” the 22-year-old said. “When you have a food fight, you fight with food. This cartoon brings you to the realization that there’s a famine . . . and in general, people give very little thought to starving people in other countries. But I will admit that I really lacked the foresight in anticipating the reaction. I should have thought that they were going to think I was portraying Africans as savage and misshapen.”
I'm not sure I've heard the "raising awareness" excuse in quite this way before. Keep following what goes on with this story here.

What's the stupidest excuse for something offensive you've heard?

(For more examples of things that are awkward, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

"I'm not a racist, but ..."

I did spend a good part of the summer watching the Game Show Network. (It started with a Jeopardy marathon, ok? And by then I was hooked.)

Anyway, there's a new show that I found absolutely riveting, so much so that I can only find time to write about it now that I no longer have access to cable TV. It's called Without Prejudice, and the basic premise is this: five panelists are supposed to decided which of five contestants to give $25,000 to, with very little substantive information beyond stuff that's likely to trigger the panelists' prejudices and reveal them for the viewing pleasure of the at-home audience. Of course, the real fun is playing along at home and seeing who you would eliminate at the end of every round (and why).

Case in point, Episode 2 features a pretty young mother from Utah; a black teenager; a racecar enthusiast/recovering alcoholic; a preternaturally perky thirtysomething white guy in a tie; and a sixty-something old lady with a lot of makeup.

Makeup Lady was gone by the end of the introductions; although there was some speculation that the kid would fritter the money away ("Hey, I was a teenager once," said one of the panelists), ultimately they decided there was just something off-putting about her.

Well, it turns out in the next round that Utah woman was a polygamous child bride whose children had been taken away from her by Social Services; the black kid had a white girlfriend (and, by the way, was from an upper-middle-class family and had a habit of constantly referring to himself as "spoiled"); the racecar enthusiast broke his spine in an accident twenty years ago and was now a paraplegic and an artist; and the white-bread tie guy was an evangelical Christian who had converted over 200 of his classmates by the end of high school.

All of a sudden, The Contestant Formerly Known As Irresponsible Drunk NASCAR Hick was transformed into The Most Courageous Man In The History Of Ever, Mr. Evangelical was the new darling of half the panel (with the notable exception of the two vehemently secular panelists), and That Poor Sweet Young Girl from Utah became Brainwashed Icky Person and was summarily voted off lest her husband siphon off her winnings. (She said, once she was gone, that the money would have gone into college funds for her remaining children.)

Anyway, there are full episodes on the GSN website - although this is not one of them, and you can watch teasers and excerpts from other episodes on YouTube. Here's a teaser about Evangelical Guy.

Oh, by the way? In the next round, he came out as both gay and HIV+ . . . and, well, all hellfire-and-damnation broke loose. The pot-smoking teenager ended up with the cash, which he said he'd use to buy his nineteen-year-old girlfriend an engagement ring. So it goes.

Other episodes have featured queer parents, a trans woman (who was booted off partly for being trans, and mostly for being an illegal immigrant), an intersex person (who seemed to severely piss off a gay panelist), and other highly interesting people. But as usual with this type of show, the most interesting people seem to be the panelists themselves - and the people in the room watching with you.

September 12, 2007

We're famous!

[click on the thumbnail]


















According to Americans for Truth, we are officially a "Pro-Homosexuality Blog." Good work, everybody.

yay!

Thanks to aurora, our Quench template is back in shape, which means our sidebar and links are working again! If your blog or site isn't listed here and it should be, email us.

class, alternative cultures, and alienation

I read something interesting online on Class Matters (which is awesome) and I wanted to share it and see what you all thought. A link to the whole article is here.

The article is about the ways in which alternative subcultures of professional-middle-class progressives can prove alienating for working-class folks. Frankly, I can think of other groups of folks who might be just as alienated by the same situations.

A few years ago, I listened to week-by-week reports from a radical working-class friend who tried to join a corporate globalization group. He told me of snide comments about his fast food; elaborate group process that took hours and hours; insistence that everyone "perform" by answering a certain question at the beginning of the meeting; uniformly scruffy clothes that made his pressed shirts stand out; potlucks that were all tofu and whole grains; long ideological debates over side issues; and an impenetrable fog of acronyms and jargon. He soon quit in disgust. I wonder if the group members understood why he left.

For professional-middle-class progressives activists like myself, it's easy to understand why working-class people would be alienated by the mainstream culture of well-off people. After all, we tend to be alienated by it ourselves, because it represents values we've rejected, like greed and materialism. But the idea that working-class people would have any negative reactions to our own subculture, in particular our values-based "alternative" norms, tends not to occur to us.


The article goes on to pose some solutions. First, the author distinguishes between what she calls essential and inessential weirdness.

"An essential weirdness is one that couldn't be eliminated without doing a deep injustice to someone." An inessential weirdness is one that could be eliminated without causing this injustice. What do you think about this distinction between essential and inessential weirdness?

The article is full of good examples and specific ideas for solutions.

Are you part of a counter-culture like this? Have you ever thought of joining a group but been turned off by something like this? What turned you off? Do you think it was class related? How do you see class fitting into this issue?

In a related page on Class Matters there is a pretty good quote about a similar example that I find to be fairly common.

It used to make me laugh to see the clothing at these Boston coalition meetings. The low-income women on welfare would turn out dressed as if they were going to the Sunday social, and all these middle-class activists from Harvard and Boston College would turn out in Salvation Army clothes, having invested very little in personal hygiene products. That's something that used to annoy me about middle-class folks, who dressed down because they didn't want anybody to think they were rich, while the poor folks dressed up because they wanted to be taken seriously.

—John Anner, author of Beyond Identity Politics: Emerging Social Justice Movements in Communities of Color

September 11, 2007

Is this real?

I thought this was a joke but then as I looked around it seemed more real.

[warning: may be triggering. involves selling girls.]

Edit: It is apparently a joke. But definitely worth checking out! Read the testimonials.

the big picture

I have been having one of those weeks where I think hard about the big picture, about what's going on in my community, and about what I have energy for.

I was hoping we could have one of those big picture conversations together. I would love to hear what's going on in everyone's neck of the woods as I know different things are going on for different folks.

Here are three questions I hope everyone has time to answer:

  1. What are three major issues you see facing people in your communities? (however you define "your communities") I was going to ask what are the top three issues but I realized I couldn't even begin to address that myself, so just tell me three major issues.
  2. What are effective ways you have seen community leaders address each of these issues.
  3. What ways are you or could you be involved in working on these issues?
  4. Are there any obstacles you have faced to getting involved? What were they? Do you have plans to continue your involvement?
Answer some or all of these if you can and have time.

I will start by answering these myself in the comments but I hope this can start an ongoing conversation.

Coming Out in College

Hi everyone!

Recently, someone asked me for advice about coming out in college.

I wanted to ask you guys for suggestions, both for the person coming out (as gay, queer, bi, trans, or whatever), and also for their friends. When you were coming out, what was the process like for you? Who did you talk to first? Why? What was most helpful to you? What was most difficult? If you're an ally, what are some experiences or suggestions you can give to other people wanting to support their friends?

Please leave comments (and any suggestions for books or other helpful resources). Thanks so much!

September 10, 2007

Gender and Philosophy

I have a question that may not easily be answered, and more than likely requires someone with a serious background in Buddhism to do so. I've been reading a book by the Dalai Lama, and one of the central themes in the book is the Buddhist conception of 'emptiness' or the lack of inherent existence in all things (Note: This is not the lack of existence at all, but the lack of a specific type of perceived fundamental existence--confusing, I know) including one's own conception of 'self'. Because the 'self' does not exist in the way that it appears to exist to the everyday mind, it would seem to imply that there is no such thing as gender, or at least that the trained mind can function outside of gender's conceptions and limitations. At the same time, this may or may not be complicated by the inevitable changes in the conceptions of gender and sexuality that have occurred since the time of Buddha. Most of the stuff in this book makes a tremendous amount of sense, so I'm just trying to wrap my mind around the true ramifications of this notion of 'emptiness'. I would really appreciate it if anyone could provide some insight into this issue.
Much love,
garcon-fille

September 07, 2007

Sexism 101

Here's a super sexist article, "Stripper poles: New feminism?" from the Philadelphia Inquirer today. My favorite part is where he claims "Post-feminists argue that the pole is empowering. If a young woman chooses to use it, they say, she is telling the world that she is in charge of her sexuality," while failing to quote even one "post-feminist" in the article. In addition to the complete lack of academic research, he throws around tired sex stereotypes and words like "slut."

If you're pissed, contact the paper or email Mr. Lubrano directly.

(via Feministing.)