Sunday, December 25, 2005

The International Marriage Broker Act and U Visas

Last week, as many of you know, VAWA was reauthorized (with no time to spare). What many of you may not know, however, is that the International Marriage Broker Act [pdf file] has been attached to VAWA. Some of you may remember that I first wrote about this Act back in 2003, when it was first introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA).

The IMBA will now help foreign brides (aka mail-order brides) gain a bit of control over their future. This law does not ban the existence of these mail-order bride agencies. What it does is help to ensure that such transactions will be somewhat safer for the women involved. In essence, the new law requires (from The National Immigration Project [pdf file]:
  • Requires U.S. citizen filing K petitions to disclose criminal background information. Mandates that U.S. citizens filing K visa petitions disclose criminal background information to international marriage brokers and to DHS/CIS. Relevant crimes include domestic abuse crimes, other violent crimes, and multiple convictions for substance and/or alcohol abuse. DHS will be required to transmit this criminal history information, along with results of any database search, to the foreign fiance or spouse [Section 832(a)].

  • Prevents abusive U.S. citizens from sponsoring multiple foreign fiances and/or spouses. DOS cannot issue a K visa (unless DHS grants a waiver or the domestic violence victim exception applies) if the U.S. citizen has previously filed two K visa petitions, and less than two years have passed since the date of filing of the most recent K visa petition. DHS can waive this bar, but not when the U.S. citizen has a history of committing domestic abuse or other violent crimes [Section 832].

  • Government tracking of serial K visas. Creates government database to track serial K petitions filed by same U.S. citizen petitioner and to notify foreign fiance or spouse of prior K petitions. Notification requirement triggered after petitioner has filed three K petitions within the past 10 years [Section 832].

  • Domestic abuse pamphlet to be distributed to all foreign fiances and spouses. DOS, DHS, and DOJ shall create pamphlet on domestic abuse laws and resources for immigrant victims in the U.S. The pamphlet must be sent to all foreign fiances and spouses. DHS shall also send results from any criminal background checks conducted in the course of adjudicating the K visa petition, along with the petitioner'’s disclosure of any criminal history. U.S. consular officers shall orally inform foreign fiances/spouses of the petitioner's criminal history. DOS and DHS cannot disclose locational or personal information about prior victims of the U.S. citizen petitioner.

  • International Marriage Broker (IMB) Duties. IMBs are prohibited from sharing any information on minors with any person or entity. IMBs cannot give U.S. clients information on a foreign national until the IMBs have searched sex offender registries, collected criminal and family background information, provided background information to the foreign national, given the domestic abuse pamphlet, and received written consent from the foreign national to share her contact information. Violation of these requirements can result in civil penalty up to $25,000.

This law is most definitely a step in the right direction, and will certainly help prevent some of the more serious atrocities some of these foreign brides might otherwise experience. However, as I wrote in my previous post on this subject, it will not prevent or stop all abuse against foreign brides. Many men (and international marriage brokers) will, no doubt, find ways around the law. And, not all abusive men will necessarily have a criminal record. And, or course, some women may still believe his claims that he has changed, or that the charges were due to lies (after all, why should we believe that women from the former Soviet Union or SE Asia are all that different in their desire to believe men who say they love them than American women are?).

Fortunately, there are some other legal recourses that these women can access should the need arise. Immigrant women who are married to an American citizen and experience domestic violence in that marriage can self-petition for legal status through VAWA.

The enactment of VAWA in 1994 has helped thousands of immigrant women (not only mail-order brides) who were experiencing domestic violence. Unfortunately, there were still thousands more women who were not eligible to access these benefits. Women who were not married to their abusers and/or women whose abusers were not US citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) did not qualify for VAWA.

In 2000, it seemed as though there was hope for these women, though. That was the year the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 created two new nonimmigrant visas for noncitizen victims of crimes.

T visas are available to individuals who are victims of "a severe form of trafficking in persons." This includes sex trafficking of persons under 18 years of age, or recruiting or obtaining persons for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion "for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery." Those who qualify for T visas may have nearly all grounds of inadmissibility may be waived, and can adjust to LPR status (Legal Permanent Resident)after three years. The original law stated that an applicant for a T visa willing to assist in every reasonable way in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking perpetrators (although neither actual cooperation nor even the existence of an investigation is required; the victim must merely show willingness to cooperate). However, the latest version of VAWA allows "trafficking victims whose physical or psychological trauma impedes their ability to cooperate with law enforcement to seek a waiver of this requirement." [Section 801(a)(3)].

U visas are available to immigrants who are either victims of or who possess information concerning one of the following forms of criminal activity: rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, hostage holding, peonage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury, or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit one of these offenses. The applicant does not have to be married or related to the person committing or soliciting the crime.

However, in the 5 years since The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act was passed (and U visas were created), the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS, formerly known as INS) has yet to publish regulations governing these visas. Which means that no one can actually apply (let alone receive) a U visa yet. CIS has implemented U visa interim relief, which allows an immigrant crime victim to be granted temporary legal status for one year (applicants can reapply on a yearly basis until the regulations have been published, although, there is no guarantee that their applications will be accepted every year).

In October 2005, lawyers for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law in Los Angeles filed a federal lawsuit in October on behalf of nine illegal immigrants who were victims of violent crimes, demanding that regulations for the U visas be put in place.
"It was filed because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is failing to provide victims of crime and people who are cooperating with law enforcement investigations with the immigration benefits Congress five years ago said they should have," Carlos Holguin, general counsel for the center, said of the lawsuit.

"What they give is deferred action, a work permit which is not the same as a U visa, which leads to permanent status," he said. "We've yet to get an explanation as to why they've failed to implement a law that's 5 years old.

Things are getting better for immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence. But there's still a long way to go.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Lousiana DV Shelters Need Your Help

We have all been hearing about the great number of tragedies going on in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, on-going tragedies like rape and domestic violence do not take a break during natural disasters, and, in fact, can be made worse in some situations. But the natural disaster may make it harder to help those victims. Due to the hurricane, a number of DV shelters and non-residential programs in Louisiana have been closed, and a couple may have been destroyed. The Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LADVC) is asking for your help.

Press Release


AUGUST 31, 2005

Louisiana Domestic Violence Victim's Hurricane Relief Fund

The Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCADV), a private 501c3, not-for-profit organization incorporated in 1982, is establishing a Louisiana Domestic Violence Victim's Hurricane Relief Fund to assist victims of domestic violence and child victimization who are displaced and affected by Hurricane Katrina.

LCADV is a network of 20 domestic violence programs/shelters throughout the state. Four of our shelters and two nonresidential programs are completely closed at the time and two or three may be completely destroyed. Sad to say, domestic violence and child victimization are social problems that do not stop during this natural disaster we are experiencing and with cessation of all direct services in the gulf coast region, the increased need for relocation and basic monetary assistance is essential for these women and children.

LCADV is accepting donations that are specifically earmarked to assist battered survivors and their children who have been directly affected/displaced by the hurricane. The donations will be used to assist battered victims from the following parishes in Louisiana: Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines.

The donations will be used for the following purposes:
    1. Relocation of domestic violence victims.
    2. Purchasing of basic needs, i.e. baby formula, diapers, food, clothing, etc. that could not be met elsewhere.
    3. Deposits on houses, electric bills,
    4. Car repair, gas, public transportation
    5. Medical/prescription needs,
    6. Other basic, life sustaining needs

All donations go directly to victims of domestic violence affected by this hurricane and will not be used for any administrative or other purposes.

The Louisiana Domestic Violence Hurricane Relief Fund Account is setup with AmSouth Bank which is located in the following states: Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. If you live in one of these states you could make a donation at the local AmSouth Bank Branch to the LCADV Domestic Violence Hurricane Relief Fund Account number: 0020085338. Donations from other states can be made through wire transfer to this account.

If you would like to make a donation using MasterCard or Visa, you may contact the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence office at 225-752-1296 with your credit card information. Donations may also be electronically deposited into our account by faxing a voided check with the amount of the donation to (225)751-8927. LCADV will setup an electronic deposit and you will receive confirmation of your donation with the tax-deductible receipt.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Abortion on TV

33 years ago, a strong, determined, and independent female character on TV had an abortion -- with no regrets, no devestating consequences. Maude (and the writers, directors and producers of the show) were definitely ahead of the times -- remember, this episode aired in November 1972, 2 months before the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade (Maude lived in NY, where abortion was already legal).

33 years later, it still seems as though those writers, directors, actors, (and characters) are still "ahead of the times." It took 32 years before another character on network television even had an abortion (all the other "accidental" pregnancies ending in adoption, deciding to keep the baby, or the "lucky break" miscarriage) -- but even then, they had to tack on some corny "confession" scene for the doctor.

I remember when that episode of Everwood aired. I had never watched Everwood, but even I knew what happened. Everyone seemed to be talking about it.

Which makes it even more surprising that I have seen so little mention of the recent "abortion episode" of Jack and Bobby. In fact, I only found out about it on "accident" -- I was watching a tape, which ended about 10 minutes before Jack & Bobby ended, so I was able to see the last 10 minutes of the episode. I figured out what was going on fairly quickly, and was intrigued. So, I watched the rest of the episode. Sure enough, the girl (who I later found out is named Missy) went to Jack's & Bobby's mom for help (apparently, her parents had kicked her out of the house for getting pregnant). The mom takes Missy to the clinic and waits for her until after the abortion, and they walk out together -- end of episode.

I sat there thinking, huh, wow. But then...(and you knew it couldn't last long, right?) I see the previews for the next week's episode. Seems that a bunch of the characters (high school students) all go out partying after prom, and [dum dum DUUUMMMM] one of them will die.

I knew it, I just knew it, right then and there that the girl who got the abortion was being killed off.

I didn't tune in to witness it, but I kept an eye out on various websites, and sure enough, Missy is killed in a drunk driving accident.

When will these TV characters ever learn -- in this day and age of right-wing conservative thinking, if you do something like get an abortion, you will suffer the consequences -- like being killed off by the writers.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

On Roosters and DV

Sheelzebub and Pseudo-Adrienne have already written about the hullaballoo over the South Carolina Senate's decision to make cockfighting a felony while once again tabeling a bill to protect DV victims (and the resulting altercation between SC State Rep. John Graham Altman III and reporter Kara Gormley). I could go on and on about how horrifying and disgusting I find the whole matter. I could go on and on about how Rep. Altman's views on DV are so distorted and based in mythology that he is a harm to women everywhere. I could, but I won't, because, frankly, Sheelzebub and Pseudo-Adrienne already did that and said everything I would have said.

But perhaps we can look beyond the blatant sexism and victim-blaming that is so evident in this whole issue (after all, Sheelzebub and Pseudo-Adrienne have both covered that ground quite well). Let's examine why the legislature felt it so important to make cockfighting a crime. Is it because they felt the urgent need to protect all these roosters? Somehow I doubt it -- after all, it was specifically targetted at cockfighting, not dog fighting or any of the other brutal-to-animals acts that are going on. So, why cockfighting? My guess? It's not the roosters they're concerned about, and it has nothing to do with "protection" of anyone (or anything).

To see why this law was deemed so important for the legislature to deal with, one only needs to ask, "Who is it that generally participates in cockfighting?" (and I do mean besides the roosters). The answer: Latinos.

I'm sure that has nothing to with the need to change this law, though. Nothing at all. Just as I'm sure that there really is no connection between this and their tabeling of the DV legislation. Uh huh.

I am no longer a wanted woman

It's all done and over with. Finally!

I have to say, despite the fact that I had to go all the way out there to take care of this (something I still find utterly ridiculous), everyone involved (directly and indirectly) was extremely kind and accomodating, and I am very grateful for that.

I arrived in Manchester on Sunday afternoon, and had to take a cab to Salem (because there are no buses or trains going there). After checking into my hotel, I spent a relaxing evening watching TV and reading and preparing for the next day -- while I knew everything was pretty much all set, I was still a bit stressed and a little scared about the whole thing.

It turns out that my hotel was just about a half a block from the restaurant where all this started. I was sorely tempted to treat myself to dinner there -- but I just couldn't bring myself to actually do that.

The next morning, I walked the 1/2 mile to the police station and explained why I was there. Of course, no one had prepared any of the officers for this, so they had no idea what I was talking about. But, they got the paperwork and brought me back to the booking room -- which smelled disgustingly like fish. Now, as just about anyone who has ever gone out to dinner with me knows, the smell of fish is just about the worst smell in the world to me. The smell alone is enough for my gag reflex to go into full operation, and it took nearly all of my willpower just to not throw up all over the officer. I swear, if I had a mind for conspiracy theories, I'd think this was intentional torture.

The booking took about an hour -- I had to get mug shots and have my fingerprints taken and entered into AFIS, which was a pain in the ass in itself -- it took an average of 4 tries for each finger just to get the computer to accept them.

The officer then took me over to the court. He explained that after booking me, he couldn't actually release me without bail (which would have been $500), so he had to take me himself. Frankly, I was fine with that, after all, I didn't have a car so getting a ride was actually helpful. He kept saying to me that while he would have to make me sit in the back, he wouldn't handcuff me. Believe me, I was grateful for this, but he kept pointing it out to me so many times I began to think he wanted some special thanks for this (not that kind of "special thanks"...get your head out of the gutter).

Anyway, so we pull up in front of the court house, and the prosecutors (there were 2 of them) came over to the car. Apparently they had called over to dispatch and told them to tell the officer to stop booking me and bring me over to court (he could finish booking me after court) because the judge was about to hear a long trial. Unfortunately, the message was not passed along to the officer, and we got there after the long trial started. The cop asked him what he should do, and the prosecutor said, "bring her back at 1:30." The cop pointed out that that was 2 1/2 hours away, and what was he supposed to do, "make her sit in a jail cell for that time...that doesn't seem right."

So the prosecutors went inside to check on something, and then came out and said I could wait in the court house (they would wait with me). I had to sit in the back row of the courtroom during the trial that was going on. At first, I thought that all sounded like hell. But, it turned out that it was rather interesting. It turns out that, coincidentally, it was a Domestic Violence case being heard. It was just a procedural hearing, so the victim wasn't there, and we didn't hear from the defendant. But listening to the defense attorney was extremely interesting (in a humorous and infuriating way). I won't go into details about the case here (for the sake of confidentiality -- I know I wasn't sworn to confidentiality, but I still feel the need to do so), but I will say that I have to say, the defendant and his attorney both had gumption -- they tried every trick in the book, and a few I don't think most rational people would ever have thought of. Of course, the tricks didn't work, but it was amazing to watch them try.

The hearing took about an hour, after which I was called up in front of the judge. He read the charges and noted that I was pleading guilty. He confirmed that I was aware of my rights and what I was doing, and asked the prosecutors what they were asking for. They said a $200 fine (which we had agreed to on the phone) and restitution to the restaurant (which we had not agreed to on the phone). I thought (and still think) that it's somewhat unfair that I have to pay the full restitution for the unpaid bill (which came to $73.37) seeing as how there were 4 of us, and why should I have to pay for everyone else. But whatever, I wasn't going to fight it.

So, after that, I had to pay the fine and the court costs and then we agreed that I would go pay restitution to the restaurant and bring the receipt back to the court and then everything would be done. The problem, of course, was that I had no ride to do this. I didn't really think about it at the time, because I figured that I'd just call a cab and have the cab drive me around. It wasn't until I was ready to go that I found out that there aren't actually any cabs in this town.

I went to the security guard, thinking he might know of a cab company in the area that wasn't in the phone book or something. He didn't (although he also tried calling the cabs listed in the phone book, but got the same disconnected numbers I did). He called the cops and told them that they should have someone drive me around on these errands. I thought it was great that he was trying to do this for me, but I could understand the dispatchers point about the cops being rather busy. Then the court clerk overheard and said that if I had the cash for the restitution, she'd just give me a receipt saying I had paid it and would take the cash over there herself when she got off of work. I was amazed at the generosity and concern of these people, but unfortunatley, I didn't have that much cash on me. At that time, a woman asked me if I knew how to drive. I said I did, but I was worried she would offer me her car to do all this stuff -- which is incredibly nice, but I wasn't sure I'd feel comfortable with that. But, it turns out that she just needed me to move her car to the back of the court house, and in exchange she would drive me around. (Another guy standing there also offered, but I decided to take the woman's offer, because she also needed the help). She explained that there were some people outside that she didn't want to see her car.

So, she gave me her keys, described her car and told me to meet her around back. When I went outside, sure enough, there were 2 women sitting right by her car. And, as it happened, I recognized the women as the attorney and the sister of the defendant in the DV case I had just sat through. Now, they were sitting at the only picnic table in the area, so while it does seem strange that they were hanging around for so long (and the defendant wasn't even there), I don't think they were actually staking out this woman's car. Nonetheless, I can understand her concern and her desire not to let them know what her car looks like. She did make sure that I wasn't there for stealing cars before she gave me her keys. :p

After I pulled around to the back and got into the passenger side, she said, "this probably all seems strange, but you see, I work in the Domestic Violence field..." I said, "so do I!" I told her that I had also sat through the hearing, and recognized the women sitting out front and completely understood why she didn't want them to see her car. We had a nice chat about our work and the case that was going on. She dropped me off at the restaurant and said she was going to KMart (in the same plaza) to buy mulch and would meet me out front.

I went in to the restaurant and asked to speak to the manager. When the manager came, I explained the situation and gave him a copy of the court paperwork. Yes, I felt very stupid standing there saying, "Yeah, uh, I have to pay restitution for an unpaid tab from 14 years ago." He was cool about it, though, and after making a phone call (probably trying to figure out how to ring this up), he rang me up and gave me a receipt.

I got out of the restaurant just as the DV woman (for lack of a better name) was pulling up -- good timing! She dropped me off at the court house (the 2 women were still there!). I went in and finalized the paperwork. The court clerk offered to fax the paperwork up to Concord, NH for me, so that I could get the ball rolling on removing the suspension from my NH driving record (still think it's unfair that they can suspend a license that I never had in a state I never lived in -- but, oh well). I then walked back to the police station to drop off the receipt there for the prosecutor. (It wasn't really a long walk -- probably about a mile -- I just hadn't wanted to do that 3 times on a time limit in 80 degree weather.)

I still had plenty of time. In fact, it was still so early that I could easily have made it back up to Manchester for my flight out -- if only I hadn't decided to give myself an extra day in case anything went wrong. Dammit. So now I had well over 24 hours to kill. Since I hadn't eaten all day, I went out for lunch. And yes, I did pay. :p I hung out in Barnes & Noble for a while, and then hung out in my hotel room for a while.

The next morning, I left the hotel at 11:00 (check out time) and lugged all my stuff around with me -- going to breakfast, hanging out at Barnes & Noble until 3:00 when my cab came to take me back to Manchester and the airport. I was still at the airport about 2 hours before my flight time. Of course, I had a long layover in Minneapolis, which was made even longer because the flight was late. Which meant I didn't get into Portland until about 11:30. By the time I got home and unwound and got to sleep, it was about 1:00 am -- which meant I had exactly 4 1/2 hours to sleep before I had to get up for work. (Needless to say, I was way too tired yesterday to even attempt to write this update.)

Now that I have all this stress out of the way, I should be able to get back to more regular blogging -- at least, that's my intent. We'll see.

I will say, though, that I learned a valuable lesson. Don't let your legal cases get dragged out like this. Make damn sure that everything is taken care of -- especially if you ever plan to move to the other side of the country. Not only does it cost way too much money to take care of it all (all in all, after plane tickets, taxis, hotel, fines, etc, I spent about $1,000 getting this taken care of), but you never know the kinds of technological advances that will be made in the intervening years. Had I taken care of this back in 1991, it would not be in the computer -- it would be stuck in the basement archives. Also, back then they didn't have the whole computerized fingerprinting thing -- it was the old-style ink and paper. Now my fingerprints are on file in AFIS. Oh, well, what's done is done.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

An Update

I know it's been a while since I've really done any blogging. I've been sick with a cold for a week, and before that, well, I just wasn't much up for being on the computer. Anyway, I figured I'd at least let you all know what's been going on.

Regarding the mice: We've had an exterminator in, and he laid a bunch of poison out in the walls and crawlspaces. Since then, we haven't seen any (or many) mice, and the exterminator said (just yesterday) that he didn't even see any sign of activity in the crawlspaces off my room. So yay!!

Regarding my legal issues (that I wrote about here): The NH prosecutor finally got back to me after I sent the letter to him. He was actually quite nice and cool about the whole thing (with the exception of making me go all the way out there, he wouldn't budge on that). So, we've set up a date (April 18) for me to turn myself into the police. I'll be going to court that afternoon. The prosecutor is going to ask for a much smaller fine than I was expecting (only $200 instead of the minimum $500 I was expecting).

I will be flying into Manchester on Sunday, taking a cab to Salem (since, as it turns out, there are no busses or trains that go anywhere near Salem -- and the private transportation services are, according to one place I checked out -- more expensive than a cab). I'll be flying back to Portland on Tuesday, a free woman at last.

Monday, April 11, 2005

R.I.P. Andrea Dworkin

Andrea Dworkin died Saturday at the age of 58 in her sleep. A brilliant writer and a passionate feminist. She will be sorely missed.

At her partner John Stoltenberg's request, donations in honor of Andrea Dworkin's life and work can be made to:

The Schlesinger Library
The Andrea Dworkin Fund
Radcliffe Institute
10 Garden Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-3600

or to the domestic-violence shelter or rape-crisis center of your choice.

(Contributions to The Schlesinger Library designated for The Andrea Dworkin Fund will go toward processing the Andrea Dworkin papers and creating an on-line searchable guide.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Dear George W.

Please tell us when you're
going to drop the big one. I'll be tuned
to CNN or MSNBC. I could even buy a second set.
I won't miss a thing. It will be more grand than towers tumbling
to the ground. No people falling, though. Instead, they'll maybe
bounce into the air? Or just be running fast, their hair on fire? Will
we see them screaming? See their body parts? What will we see,
George? Will we hear their wails? What will we hear,
George? Will we feel? I don't know,
George, this will be
a television
I wouldn't
miss it
for the world,
of course,
it's not
prime time,
or it
on me

Sharon E.
citizen in despair

From bush rage: collected verse by Sharon E. Streeter

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Mice are Keeping Me Away

Alas, it seems the severe mouse infestation in our house has migrated to my bedroom. Since that's where my computer is, and since I've been avoiding my room as much as possible (due to my extreme phobia of mice), I have not been able to post much (or sleep, or much of anything else other than have severe anxiety attacks because of the mice).

It looks like until the mouse problem is dealt with, I will not be around much, as the only other chance I have to post is at work -- and frankly, I don't have all that much time while at work to post.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Of Punks and Poseurs

Amanda and Volsunga have both been talking about punk. Really, they're both good reads. But, I have to admit, they made me giggle.

Volsunga said:
What the hell is with teen tribes? It seems like all of a sudden, the past few years, kids have been more and more keen to label themselves as “punk” or “emo” or “goth”


It’s not the little ones that annoy me. It’s the 17 year old+ people who think all there is to life is how well you fit a stereotype. College is full of these kids who identify as “emo” or “goth” or “punk”, with corresponding styles of dress and attitudes; why the fuck do so many people want to be just like everyone else? And when did punk become all about fashion?

I remember wondering this same thing, bemoaning the whole "new generation" of college kids who were so into identifying as punk in order to be cool -- when punk started becoming a semi-popular fashion trend. I remember shaking my head at the new commodification of the punk lifestyle.

But the thing is -- it was the kids who were getting into it via the "trendy" bands like Green Day and Nirvana, Sublime and Rancid who were causing us the problems. It was the popularity of the very bands that introduced Volsunga to punk that distressed us "old school" punks.

Of course, there were those who felt the same way when my cohort joined the ranks of punk rock. My first introduction to punk rock came via Quincy. I was only 11 when I saw this now infamous episode, but instead of being scared away from punk, I was utterly intrigued. I loved the music, and wanted to hear more. But, being only 11, that would have to wait a few more years yet -- IOW, by the time I entered the "scene," even the former "Quincy punks" were "old school." But, by 14 I was thoroughly enthralled with The Violent Femmes, The Smiths, The Cure, and other such bands. I died my hair and started hanging out on "The Ave."

Eventually, I earned my "cred" and became part of the core group of punks who could now whine and kvetch about the new "weekend punks" with the "safety dos" (the hairstyles that looked "normal" during the week and "punked out" during the shows).

Of course, there were those "punks" who came in with me who did it just as a "fad," their dedication to punk petering out eventually, just as there were in Volsunga's cohort, and just as there will be in this next generation.

But, there will also be those who, in 10 years, will be bemoaning the new trend of rebel, the new commodification of punk, and looking back fondly on the old days when punk was "real."

Monday, March 14, 2005

Sick and Stressed

I want to apologize to everyone for not posting in almost a week. Last week was a very bad week for me. I spent most of the week dealing with a stomach bug. It was pretty bad -- but I did get to spend some of that time watching a lot of Freaks and Geeks, so I guess it wasn't all bad.

I don't usually post about personal things, but there's this one thing that's got me so stressed right now, I can barely think of anything else. So, I figured I'd try and write about it -- get it out a little.

In order to explain this, I have to give a bit of background history. This means going back 15 years.

In the summer of 1990, when I was 19, I took a job basically doing telemarketing work (setting up appointments with people for our "salespeople" to do a pitch). It was shitty work -- in fact, while everything was perfectly legal, I knew it was all just barely so. But I was making good money and good friends and I was having a lot of fun. I went out drinking and to concerts with my coworkers and boss (one time we even went to see Danzig, after which I ended up on the tour bus and going to breakfast at Perkins with the band -- and no, I didn't fuck them, get your head out of the gutter).

About 6 months later, the parent company decided to close that office and move us to Massachusetts. Not everyone went, but a small group of my closest friends did go. We moved to a small town on the border of New Hampshire and all lived together in a small one bedroom apartment across the street from the office.

At first, it was pretty hard. We were just starting the office, so we had no money. But I didn't care -- I was happy. You have to understand, these people I was living and working with had become my family. Most of my life has been spent seeking a place to "belong" -- a place I felt was "home," where I belonged and was valued and needed and, most important, wanted. I had only really had this feeling one other time in my life, and believe me, that (in retrospect) was a much worse group of people (very long story). To this day, I have yet to find that sort of closeness again. Perhaps it's something that just never really happens, at least, not in healthy relationships. Perhaps it's just something I haven't been able to find. But I felt all of that with this group of people. I loved them, and they loved me (or so I believed).

Well, as I said, it was a hard time at the beginning. And one night, about 3 weeks after moving up there and after not having eaten in several days, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner. Of course, with no money, that meant planning to do a "dine and dash." Well, we did that, but it didn't work out as planned. Instead, we ended up spending the night in jail in a small New Hampshire town.

When the day came for us to appear in court, only 2 of the 4 of us originally arrested were in town. So, the 2 of us showed up, and the judge postponed the court date for a time when all 4 of us would be there. But during that court date, the judge made mention of the possibility of paying back the restaurant and seeing if they'd drop the charges.

A week later, my boss told me that's exactly what happened. And I believed him. Now, you may be wondering why the hell I'd believe him, and not, at the very least, check up on that. But, you have to understand, this guy was my best friend, I loved him dearly. And, keep in mind, I was young and naive -- after all, this is the same guy who talked me into buying a car in my name, promising me that the company would make all the payments, only to have to do a "voluntary reposession" of that car 4 months later (not one payment was made) and then help a P.I. find said boss when he disappeared with the car. But I didn't know all this then. I still thought this was a great guy. And yeah, in retrospect, I should have checked up on all this after the whole car thing, but by that time I had moved back to New York and forgotten all about it.

Over the next several years, I completely forgot about the entire incident in New Hampshire. About 7 years after all this happened, I discovered that there was a possibility my name was not cleared. I found out when talking to one of the men I had been arrested with (not the boss-guy, a different one who I had stayed friends with over the years). He had moved to Nevada and tried to transfer his license. That's when he discovered that there was still an open warrant out for him in New Hampshire.

At the time, I was a (very) poor college student, I couldn't afford to go to New Hampshire and try to fix any of this. Besides, I had never had any problems. And I did one of those internet "background checks" on myself and it came back with a clean record. I thought that maybe when M had taken care of his thing, it took care of it all. Or maybe, because it was because M hadn't shown up at the first court date, that was what was causing his problems. Since I had shown up, I was OK. Yeah, stupid, naive, but I really wanted to believe that.

But, I suppose a part of me always thought that this was possibly all still hanging over my head. But I didn't know for sure until last summer. Last summer, I tried to transfer my license to Oregon and discovered that I was having the same problems M did in Nevada. I had a friend of mine call the Salem, NH police department and, sure enough, there is a bench warrant for me. It's so old, it's not even on the computer -- they had to go to the basement and check the card files, but sure enough, it was there. My friend was told that I would have to return to NH to take care of it -- which I couldn't afford to do. The clerk told my friend that perhaps I could talk to an attorney here and see if it could be worked out.

So, I did that. I talked to a friend of mine here who is an attorney (although, does not usually handle these sorts of cases). He wasn't able to find out anything, and was unable to talk to the prosecuter (who simply told him that he refused to talk to anyone about the matter until I showed up in NH).

Well, my NY state driver's license was about to expire, and I knew I had to do something. So, I called the NH Department of Transportation (which turns out to be quite difficult in itself -- as it's just one woman answering 2 lines -- what kind of backwards state is this?!). I got the "docket number" and the number for the Salem District Court. Sure enough, there it is. And the only way to take care of this is to turn myself into the Salem police and go to court and pay the fine (minimum $530) and hope that they won't give me any jail time.

She suggested writing to the prosecuter and try to work out a deal where I agree to turn myself in, plead guilty, and pay the fine in return for setting a court date on the same day and not being sentenced to any jail time.

I have done that, and I am waiting for a response. This is not something that's going to be easy, in anyway. I will have to come up with plane fare, and then figure out how to get to Salem (I'll have to fly to Manchester or Boston -- and I can't rent a car, as my driver's license is now expired, so I guess I'll have to take a bus). Then I'll have to come up with the fine -- which is, as I said, a minimum of $530 (the prosecuter could decide to fine me more). I will also have to take time off of work to do all this.

I really want to take care of all this -- but I'm freaking right the fuck out about all of it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Bill to allow DV victims to collect unemployment

Oregon Rep. Paul Hovey (D-Eugene) has introduced a bill that would designate safety concerns due to domestic violence as a "good cause" reason for quitting, allowing them to collect unemployment benefits.

SALEM — Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) introduced a bill Thursday that would help victims of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. The bill, HB 2662, would expand current laws to allow such victims to collect unemployment benefits if they leave work to protect their safety or the safety of their families.

Presently, the law provides that unemployment benefits are available only to people who must quit for “good cause.” Holvey’s bill would provide a legal framework to ensure that only victims can decide what steps to take to protect themselves from physical harm.

“Though threats of violence are not always specific to the workplace, they may be so insidious that a victim’s only safe alternative is to quit work and physically relocate,” Holvey said. “These victims are already under terrible emotional stress. We should not force them to choose between employment and safety.”

Without the legal protections offered by HB 2662, victims are less likely to leave work to seek safety, Holvey added. The availability of benefits enables victims to take the steps they need to protect themselves and their families without risking homelessness or bankruptcy, he said.

Violence between intimate partners is pervasive in Oregon, Holvey said. The Eugene Democrat referred to the findings of a current study conducted by in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Human Services. The study concluded that one in 10 women between the ages of 20 and 55 in Oregon had been physically or sexually assaulted by their current or most recent partner in the five years preceding the study.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Notice for Alas Readers

Anyone who regularly reads Alas may have noticed that it's down. Turns out that they've been kicked off their server (again). Amp has asked that I put up a notice here, so any cross-over readers will know what's going on, and to reassure you that Alas will be back soon. More details about the tech side of things can be found here.

Friday, March 04, 2005

But women do it, too

In one of the links provided by Sarahlynn (see previous post), I came across an incredibly powerful and persuasive essay on the subject of the "best interests for children" in custody cases that involve domestic violence. The entire article is incredible, but I wanted to point out one part in particular -- one of the best responses to the "but women do it too" diversions I've ever read.

From What is Fair for Children of Abusive Men? by Jack C. Straton, Ph.D.
In the process, I am going to talk today about the effects of male power and control over children, not about parental power and control. I know that it is popular these days to de-gender family conflict, to talk about "spouse abuse" and "family violence" rather than "wife beating" and "rape." I know that we want a society in which men nurture children to the same extent that women do.

I know that fathers and mothers should both be capable parents. But if you ask "What about the kids?" I want to give you a serious answer. I cannot seriously entertain the myth that our society really is gender neutral, so to consider "What about the kids?" while pretending such neutrality is to engage in denial and cognitive dissonance. I cannot hope to arrive at an answer that will positively affect reality if my underlying assumptions are based on fantasy.

So I am going to talk today about the effects of male power and control over children, not about parental power and control. As I cite examples, some of you may hear your internal voice saying, "But women do that, too." As this happens I would ask you to be aware that such voices are often the voice of guilt that try to distract us from what we really know about men's violence so that we need not take responsibility for this violence.

It is true, for example, that some women do batter men. But the number of severe cases of this type is so low when compared with the virtual war of men's violence against women, that they cannot be seen above the statistical noise. This voice that says "But women do that, too" has as its purpose, not compassion for battered men or lesbians, but a distraction from the noble goal of ending battering of women.

So as you hear this voice today, become consciously aware of it. Let it into your conscious mind for a moment, and then let it drift on. It is just a tape recording that you can always come back to in an hour or two if there is a need. If you find that you just can't contain this voice, that others must hear this tape recording, please do not hesitate to raise a hand or even to shout it out. We will pause to give it some space.

Why doesn't she just leave?

Sarahlynn at Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips has an excellent series (is 2 a series?) of posts on Domestic Violence and answering the question, "Why didn't she just leave?"

Sarahlynn's posts are moving and powerful, and there's not much I can add to them. But that's never stopped me before.

Her first reason why an abused woman might not leave her abuser is, IMO, one of the most powerful and important ones, and the one that most people understand the least:

Abusers are often very smart, very talented, very convincing. They might seem like wonderful men to family and friends. They might seem very honestly apologetic after the fact. And many of us took Psych 101. We know that we respond very well to inconsistent systems of reward and punishment. We love gambling. We prefer stocks to bonds.

Yet in the present case we have a man who, though he beats his wife, is often very charismatic to the rest of the world, and perhaps to his kids. And even if he beats his kids as well, it is known that intermittent affection can be a stronger binding agent than consistent affection. We also have a man who has demonstrated his power over another human being through brutality.

I have a personal philosophy (learned through years of experience): The more charming a man is, the farther away a woman should stay. Because here's the thing -- an abuser does not start using abusive behavior at the beginning of a relationship -- it can take months, often even years, before he starts abusing. Abusers often have a history of being abusive. In some cases, they may genuinely feel that they are not going to be abusive this time. Regardless, they know the possibility of abuse is there, so they overcompensate by being overwhelmingly charming -- to the woman in a new relationship and to outsiders.

In addition, no abuser is abusive all of the time. Even after abuse has happened, there are often times when an abuser is quite apologetic, caring, and loving. In the cycle of abuse, this is referred to as the "honeymoon period." During this stage, and abuser is often remorseful, making promises that the abuse will not happen again, often volunteering to get help in changing, making heartfelt declarations of love.

During these times, a woman genuinely feels that she is loved (and, truth be told, she probably is -- although it's not a healthy love). She genuinely wants to believe his promises, because she doesn't want to have to leave the man she loves. And when he's in this stage, he really can show her how much he loves her.

And, she doesn't want to be alone: all people in our society, but especially women, are socialized to believe that there is something wrong with being alone. People (especially women) fear that if they leave, they may never find another person to be with; that this is as good as it gets. The bad times may be bad, but at least she has the good times to go along with it; at least she's not alone.

When talking with the women staying in the shelter I work in, I strongly discourage them from calling their abusers. Part of that is the whole confidentiality thing; but frankly, the main reason is because it is one of the primary reasons a woman will return to her abuser. After a couple of weeks, the memory of the abuse has faded somewhat (just as the memory of the pain of childbirth fades). The abuser is often desperate to regain control of her, and will do anything to get her back. The promises of change and the declarations of love combined with the faded memories of abuse, the love she feels for him, and her fear of being alone are oftentimes too powerful and undermine her resolve to leave him. This is one of the main reasons that it takes a woman, on average, 4 - 7 times to leave her abuser for good.

Related to this issue is guilt. The guilt women feel due to their being socialized to take on the burdens of all of their loved ones. Last week, I spent a good portion of my week encouraging a woman not to go back to her abuser, of letting her know that the contract she was going to make him sign making him go to batterer intervention and "really working on the issue" was not going to be enforceable when he's choking her the next time. When he tried to apologize, she was able (after talking to me and other staff people) to see through it. When he tried to diminish the harm he had done, she was able to see through it. But what she couldn't get past was her own guilt. He was having to take time off of work (as a bank manager) because of "this situation." He was feeling "bad" about being a "wife beater." They had just moved here not too long ago, and he was struggling with pressure from work, and this was making everything so much worse for him. She couldn't undo that socialization that she was the one who needed to take care of him, despite the fact that he was the one who put himself into this situation.

Love is a powerful emotion. And it can be used as a powerful weapon. Until we, as a society and as individuals, recognize this, we will not be able to stop the cycle of abuse.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Location Meme

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

via Lab Kat

Congrats to blue lily

Thanks to some helpful prodding by Alsis, blue lily has been more active on her blog, The Gimp Parade. I've been a long-time admirer of lily's, and I'm pleased as punch to see her writing on her blog more. I've always had immense respect for her writing and her insights on disability politics.

And now, I'm not the only one. The online disability magazine, Ragged Edge, has taken notice and is going to be publishing some of her writing.

The Invisibility of Feminism

Antigone at XX, Lauren at feministe, and Rox Populi have all encouraged -- to put it nicely ;) -- women bloggers to take this survey. So, I did it, and I'll encourage other women to do the same.

When I got to the question 9 (magazines you subscribe to) I noticed that out of 92 magazines to coose from, there was not one single feminist magazine listed.

Maxim and Men's Health are both listed (of course). American Rifleman and NRA Rifleman, Aviation Week, 2 magazines for Mac users, to name just a few of the "hobby" magazines; several mainstream and leftist political/news mags, TV Guide, People, Cosmo. But not one single feminist magazine.

And yes, feminist magazines exist:
This is not even close to a comprehensive list of all the feminist magazines and journals in print, and I didn't include any on-line magazines. (For a more comprehensive list, you can check out the University of Wisconsin-Madison's list of Magazines and Newsletters on the Web (Women Focused).)

Yes, some of these are "journals" rather than magazines, but then so is JAMA, and that made it on the list. And they can include Aviation Week, why not Woman Pilot?

This is yet another example of how feminism is made invisible in our society. Feminism is here, and it's about time people started acknowledging it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


  • Have you ever had a secret that you really wanted to get off your chest, but couldn't dare tell anyone you know? Or maybe you're one of those people who likes to read other people's secrets. Either way, you should check out PostSecret. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of people have contributed so far to this on-going art project, wherein people are invited to creatively use a postcard to reveal a secret that they have never shared with anyone else. via Worshipping at the Altar of Mediocrity

  • Media Girl takes a look the irony of the U.S. Government condemning human rights abuses in Iraq:
    Who the fuck is the Bush Administration to condemn Iraq for acts of turture and human rights abuses that the Bush Administration itself advocated and administered in the very same country at the very same time?
  • Black Looks takes a look at the effectiveness of judicial intervention in foreign affairs. Also be sure to check out her synopsis of the 19th FESPACO (Pan African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou) which opened this week in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa.

  • Jessica at feministing gives us a sneak peek of a publication she's been working on that is coming out tomorrow: Beijing Betrayed: Women Worldwide Report that Governments Have Failed to Turn the Platform into Action. I'm intrigued.

  • Romance novel covers don't really need to be parodied -- they're pretty silly to begin with. But that didn't stop someone from doing just that anyway. via (...Paranthetically Speaking)

Monday, February 28, 2005

A note on the comments

As you can see, I have added a "recent comments" list to the sidebar. Yay!

I also wanted to mention that no one has to post as "anonymous" anymore. Blogger recently updated it's comments software so you can post as "anonymous," "blogger" (where you have to enter your blogger id & password) or "other." If you choose "other" you can type in your name & either a website address or an email address.

Perhaps people just like posting as "anonymous" -- that's cool. But, personally, I like it better when people use their names (real or screen).

Fatphobia on TV

After watching the most recent episode of CSI I mentioned to several people that I had now officially seen one of the most fatphobic depictions of fat women I've ever seen on TV (and that's saying something). Sure, the writers tried to make the main characters come off as more "open-minded" and "accepting" than most people, but frankly, I felt it was a half-assed attempt and couldn't override the fatphobic premise of the storyline (fat woman smothers thin man by passing out on top of him).

Paul from Big Fat Blog didn't see the episode, so he quotes BFBer Natalie's take on the show.
In a nutshell, a man was found dead and it was determined thta something heavy basically smothered him. It did turn out to be a fat woman; she'd passed out on top of him. (The actress was really quite good--she was a real fat woman and not what passes for fat in Hollywood.)

Lots of shots of fabulous fat women, comments that people can be pigs and that it's difficult being a fat person, and only *one* hint that fat is unhealthy--the woman who'd passed out had type 2 diabetes and hypertension and she shouldn't have been drinking in the first place.

There *were* some problems with the show--there was a bit of a freak show ambience about it, but I've noticed that on other episodes, so I'm liable to chalk that up to being a quirk of the show and not anything specific. I was also irritated that the way the guy died was due to the woman passing out on top of him and smothering him with her fat (le sigh)--I would have been much happier if she did kill him because she was pissed at him for wanting to have sex with fat women but not wanting to be seen with them in the elevator, if she'd killed him for being ashamed of his desires.

Overall, it was much much much better than I was expecting. The lone fat joke (something about a stampede) was promptly shot down as totally inappropriate and discriminatory and wrong--and the women were apologized to for the statements. Definitely wasn't perfect, but it could have been much, much, much worse.

After having read this, I'd have to say that I'll stick with my original opinion. The problems with the episode (some of which Natalie covered) outweigh the positives about the episode.

Some of the other commenters summed up my objections better than I could:
from 2dayis4me:

Carolyn, you are not the only one who doubts whether that cause of death is actully possible. Yeah, I know, its fiction.

It _is_ what thin folks (especially men) fear though.

What is that observation about the more power women get (through various feminist movements) the smaller women are supposed to be (physically) in order to be deemed "fashionable?"

Which goes into a lot deeper cultural analysis of why there is so much fear of women actually taking up space, having body mass, etc.

The cultural fear is that if women actually occupy more than a minimal amount of space it will result in the death of men. Y'know, men'll be smothered, crushed, killed, etc. You see this fear articulated in men's (hate) speech about fat (women) and airline seats too... (note, you don't see hate speech about NFL linebackers "taking up too much space on, or 'crashing' aircraft" due to their body mass...)

Now THAT would be a cultural fear worth exploring in a plot line. Maybe. If done well.

All I can say is yes! exactly!

From pani113:

Well, I would have to respectfully disagree. To me, I saw very little improvement over the same old stereotypes. The perpuation of the fat woman is dangerous myth - she can kill you if you sleep with her. Enchanced of course by the fat she was diabetic, seen by our culture as a punishment for being fat, and then she got drunk on top of it.

And you are right, the whole thing is improbable. Posters on other SA boards have made the point that they failed to take weight distribution into account in their lame test. She would have to be standing on his chest for that premise to work. Someone else also asked how come we never see plots where the 280lb linebackers never crush their 110lb dates? (Cause we don't irrationally fear large unless it is associated with women.) Most of my partners have been ample (at least the ones worth remembering), some at least 260lbs and I haven't come close to being suficated.

Another stereotype that always makes me cringe is the desparate fat women which was also present in the episode. This stereotype is very dangerous. I internalized it as a young girl and have always acted in exactly the other direction. It had a very detrimental effect on my career because I was perceived as being almost rude to men in general. Well, this is a huge factor in where my attitudes came from.

True, there was some modest progress but not enough for me to outweight the damage.

Skeptyk said:

Ambivalent. I mostly did not like it, since the fat women were presented as caricatures, or, as in the case of the one "whodunit", as a tragic, lonely loser.

Though I think a lot of folks had hopes that Grissom would be a more active advocate, with his usual nerdy philosopher lines, he only had a couple, and he did some doubletakes which seemed out of character for the "respect-all-beings" attitude the character usuallytakes. As for Greg, I can only hope they were setting him up to have a fat girlfriend soon.

I wish there were some social/political activism evident at the conference, but it was presented as a place to buy pretty things in X-sizes or get laid by guys who wouldn't be caught alive with you.

I would have liked to see someone reading a flyer with names of workshops like "Gastric Bypass: the Mutilation Market".

There were some minor characters who looked like they were going to be solid SA-types, but then displayed some fatalistic "better-get-laid-where-I-can" stereotype,presented as icky pathetic, not as women in charge of some sexual fun. And the one woman who dissed this activity in her sisters looked on THEM as pathetic, and broke ranks with the other purple lingerie buyers at the police station.

If a TV story line has typical hardbody android types shtupping everything in sight, that is treated as normal, healthy, minor sluttiness, but if a some of the folks are fat, doing essentially the same scene, they, and anyone who sleeps with them, are seen as mockingly pathetic or sick.

I'm so sick of the disgusting display of fatphobia that exists on TV. I'm not going to happy about a few crumbs of "good" treatment enmeshed in a horrible premise. What we need is better television.

Hell, even Television Without Pity had problems with this episode.

The Power of Words

Last fall, des femmes began highlighting the use of sexist language by progressive male bloggers. She pointed out the inherent harm in oppressive language, and refused to just sit by and "take it" because these men were otherwise progressive, liberal men. Many women and a few men avidly supported her and her conclusions.

But sexism isn't the only problem that otherwise progressive and liberal (and even feminist) bloggers have when it comes to words they choose to use. There are many times when reading over an otherwise excellent feminist dialogue I come across offensive and oppressive language. I've seen feminist women insulting those they don't like (or agree with) by calling them "fat," for example.

The most common example, however, is using the word "retarded" to describe a person, opinion or behavior. I just don't get it. How can the same people who will condemn the use of sexist language (because the understand the inherent harm in using such language) then turn around and use oppressive language themselves?

I know that back in the 80's, "retarded" (or some version of the word) came into fashion to describe something (or someone) that somone found to be "stupid." I was fortunate (for lack of a better word) in that I never picked up that habit. For one thing, my mother was a Special Ed. teacher, and anyone who dared utter that word in my house got a very long lecture on the subject. It was easier to just avoid getting into the habit. But the other reason is that I, myself, worked with people with disabilities (both mentally and physically). When I was 15 or 16 I took a training course to be a "Special Sitter," wherein I was specially trained to "babysit" people with mental and/or physical disabilities -- not on a long-term basis, just for a night here and there when the parents wanted to have an evening out for themselves, that sort of thing. I was given the opportunity to get to know a wide variety of adults and children with various disabilities. Through my experiences, I learned that these adults and children weren't much different than me or my friends (although, some of them were a hell of a lot nicer, quite frankly). The thought of using a word like "retarded" as an insult was abhorant to me.

There are generally three types of people who use the word "retarded" (for something other than referring to a mentally retarded person):
  • The person who uses the word out of habit, but then catches him/herself and apologizes. This person makes an effort to not use the word and genuinely feels bad when s/he slips. I can completely understand this type of person. I still find myself doing this with words like "gyp" or "lame," although much less often as time goes on. I have no hard feelings toward this person, because I do think they are genuinely trying to make a change in their language.
  • The person who uses the word out of habit, but then makes some comment about knowing it's not "PC" (oftentimes rolling their eyes while they say this). This person generally has no intention of ever changing their habits, regardless of the fact that they know it's offensive. I probably have the least amount of respect for this person. This person knows it's offensive, they just don't care. Really, why even bother with the half-assed apology? Just admit that you don't give a shit about using oppressive language and be done with it.
  • The person who simply refuses to acknowledge or recognize the oppressive nature of the term. OK, sure, better than recognizing the oppressive nauture of the word and still using it anyway. But, come on... How is this any better than using the word "pussy" or "girl" as an insult?
When you use a word that describes a person or group of people (like fat, girl, pussy, gay, and yes, retarded) as an insult, you are making a judgement about that person (or group of people). You are declaring them "lesser than." Being an otherwise decent progressive, liberal, feminist, what have you, doesn't change that. As the saying goes, "No One is Truly Free While Others Are Oppressed."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Women in Blogging Week

The ridiculously assinine assumptions that there aren't any women bloggers has reared it's ugly head again. And in response, women around the blogoverse have declared this Women in Blogging Week. I've been somewhat bombarded with other stuff, so I'm jumping in a bit late.

So, today I'll start with Worshipping at the Altar of Mediocrity. And not just because she started off with a link to me. ;) Actually, it's because she has a great, comprehensive list of list of women bloggers responding to the "ridiculosity" that started all of this.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Book Meme

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

The only way my father could think of to instill in me a sense of my heritage was to take me to dubbed Italian versions of the ancient Greek myths.
--Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides

via Media Girl

This is why Canada is so great

This is a bit old (a few weeks). I don't care. It's too good not to post.

Back on January 26th, CBC's news show The Fifth Estate (which I have not seen, but my SO says is excellent) broadcast a one-hour special on the hijacking of the American media by conservative bullies. As would be necessary for any show on this subject, Ann Coulter was interviewed.

As Laura (from Is There a Blogger in the House) pointed out: "And the smake, it is laid down upon thee, and in all thy obnoxious glory, I say to you: HA!"

Coulter: "Canada used to be one of our most loyal friends and vice-versa. I mean Canada sent troops to Vietnam - was Vietnam less containable and more of a threat than Saddam Hussein?"

McKeown interrupts: "Canada didn't send troops to Vietnam."

Coulter: "I don't think that's right."

McKeown: "Canada did not send troops to Vietnam."

Coulter (looking desperate): "Indochina?"

McKeown: "Uh no. Canada ...second World War of course. Korea. Yes. Vietnam No."

Coulter: "I think you're wrong."

McKeown: "No, took a pass on Vietnam."

Coulter: "I think you're wrong."

McKeown: "No, Australia was there, not Canada."

Coulter: "I think Canada sent troops."

McKeown: "No."

Coulter: "Well. I'll get back to you on that."

McKeown tags out in script:

"Coulter never got back to us -- but for the record, like Iraq, Canada sent no troops to Vietnam."

via This is Rumor Control

Friday, February 18, 2005

Civility in Congress

There has been a lot of interest in the civility discussion in the blogoverse lately. (Definitely check out all of the posts, if you haven't already. Quite good reading.)

And what good timing. As it turns out, the issue of "civility" has also become an important topic in Congress.

Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Ill., is fed up with the name-calling and nastiness that he sees between Republicans and Democrats. He says it's getting in the way of House members doing their jobs.

He's joined with Democrat Steve Israel of New York to create a bipartisan caucus aimed at promoting greater civility among House members.

"I've seen an exponential increase in the level of rancor, in the level of acrimony, in the level of politicizing everything ... which we believe disserves the Congress, disserves the country, and disserves our constituents," Johnson told reporters Wednesday.

The new caucus will meet regularly to promote mutual respect and discourage personal attacks. They want lawmakers "to disagree agreeably," Johnson said.

Hee Hee.

An Exploration of Deaf Culture

Recently, Talk of the Nation on NPR had an interesting discussion on the Exploration of Deaf Culture. Neal Conan (of TotN) talked to Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, authors of the new book Inside Deaf Culture, and King Jordan, President of Gallaudet University (who, btw, became the first deaf President of Gallaudet in 1988 after a student-led protest demanding a deaf President).

For those who missed the show, NPR has provided the transcript, free of charge. I highly recommend taking a look at it. It's a fascinating interview about a fascinating subject. I don't think most people are aware of the richness, diversity, and the long history of deaf culture, and I think that's a shame.
The millions of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing form a unique community, a culture, they say, shaped by their shared experience and their shared language. ASL, American Sign Language, is currently the second most taught language on college campuses. A major Broadway play using deaf and hearing actors is touring the country. At the same time, deaf culture is both changed and challenged by technology. There are plenty of divisions and arguments within deaf culture, but the deaf and hard of hearing share another universal trait--the incomprehension of the hearing world around them that sees their condition as a disability, as a handicap. For those who live without sound, that absence is the starting point of an identity.
For a while, back when I lived in Rochester, NY, I was somewhat involved (although, as an outsider, it was more of a peripheral involvement) in the very strong deaf culture that exists in that city. The knowledge that I gained has greatly benefitted my life, and I truly value all of the experiences and friendships I gained through that involvement.
While not everyone will be able to get involved with the deaf culture, I do believe it would be highly valuable to everyone to learn at least a bit about it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Feminism and Civility and Communication (Oh My!)

Over on Alas, there has been an on-going discussion about "civility." Since the thread has been closed before I could make a few comments of my own, I figured I'd go ahead and re-open the discussion here.

Over the years, a number of studies have pointed out that, in the "real world," men tend to interrupt women more often than other men, and far more often than women interrupt either men or other women.

Theoretically, in the world of the internet, this will happen much less frequently. On a blog or discussion board, there's simply no way to interrupt a person, right? No one can even read what they've had to say until they've written it out entirely, proofread it, and so on.

In practice, however, it seems that men have simply found a new way to interrupt -- the all too common "thread drift" (or "derailment"). Now, I'm not saying that thread drift, to one extent or another, isn't natural (in many cases it is). Nor am I saying that women never engage in it (directly or indirectly). But, in my experience, the most egregious offenses have been done by men. In fact, I pretty much gave up posting any threads about a month back (and then went on to create this new blog) because I was so sick of the flagrant disregard for what I was saying, and the constant need to dramatically drift the thread onto an entirely different subject within the first couple of posts. Admittedly, this was due to a particular man at the time, but it made me take a closer look at other instances where it had happened, and sure enough, it was primarily men. Some of the men were self-proclaimed anti-feminists, others were self-proclaimed [pro-]feminists.

As I said, there are definitely times when thread drift just naturally occurs during the course of a conversation. And I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about total thread derailment. What I see happening, more often than not, is a few men who suddenly feel that they are not a part of the conversation -- either because they don't have enough knowledge about the subject matter, or it is simply of no interest to them. Rather than simply sitting back and listening for a change, they attempt to change the subject entirely. Their feelings of entitlement allow them to do this without nary a shred of remorse. Hell, in most cases, I'd suppose, it allows them to do this without nary a shred of recognition of what they are doing.

In the "civility" thread (ironically), this happened again -- with Rad Geek and Foolish Owl leading the way. It started out pretty typical -- men, unable to join the conversation as it is, change the subject in order to be able to engage in some conversation. This time, however, they were asked (politely) to stop their derailment, and even given an alternative thread in which to discuss their obviously important discussion. (Yes, this polite request was made by a man -- credit where credit is due.) Yet, that still didn't seem to be enough. Foolish Owl had to continue on with his oh-so-important response, ending it with a suggestion that they take Amp's advice (thereby acknowledging that he did, in fact, see the request, and simply chose to ignore it).

Funnie responded:

Jesus Christ this is so fucking classic.

Either the thread drift is distracting or it isn’t. How very goddamned male to go ahead and DO WHAT YOU WERE JUST ASKED NOT TO DO in order to get a word in and then SUGGEST THAT YOUR OPPONENT BE THE FIRST TO PLAY BY THE RULES.

So civil! So polite! No personal attacks in Owl’s posts, nosirree! Just the classic war of attrition against women, in which space is taken up by “reasonable” men who say things like I don’t think it makes sense to argue that civility or debate are inherently patriarchal, or otherwise inherently oppressive and then politely continue doing whatever the fuck they feel like doing, wherever and however they feel like doing it.

Hostile? Yeah, but I can understand. It is "fucking classic." Some men (Owl and Jake Squid) have gone on to say that they don't understand where the hostility is coming from -- that they honestly don't understand what the serious offense is, and therefore the hostility is unwarranted and instead, Funnie (or women, in general, perhaps) should have spent more of her/our energy on even more handholding and explaining.

Frankly, I cannot understand why this isn't as plain as day -- but then, I don't have the male entitlement that would allow me not to see what is so incredibly rude about Owl's actions. And, even more importantly, I'm sick to death of spending more time and energy on handholding and educating than anything else. Funnie did explain what was wrong -- what pissed her off. Maybe men should spend more of their time and energy really listening to what is being said. It's really not a different language.

This is but one example (among many) of the double standards of "civility" enforced by men; of a civility that by and large benefits the oppressor and keeps the oppressed silent.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Male Guards / Female Inmates

In another thread, the topic of sexual abuse of female prisoners by male guards came up. There is one particularly ill-informed particpant in that conversation who seems to be under the incredibly misguided notion that male guards are not allowed to work in female prisons. This could not be further from the truth (at least, not in the US). In fact, in the US, 70% of guards in female prisons are male. Not only are men allowed to be guards in female prisons, but the majority of the guards are male.

Further, there are very few states that limit male guards' access in these prisons. According to the Amnesty International report, Abuse of Women in Custody: Sexual Misconduct and Shackling of Pregnant Women (A State-by-State Survey of Policies and Practices in the U.S.), the only states that have limitations on access for male guards are:
  • Arizona: As the result of a settlement with the DOJ, the Arizona DOC must provide privacy screens for shower and toilet areas in the Tuscon-Manzanita Unit or alternatively schedule two daily 15 minute time periods for inmates to shower and/or dress under the supervision of only female guards. Additionally, male guards must announce their presence in areas where female inmates could be in a state of undress.
  • Connecticut: DOC Directive 6.7 states, "Reasonable accomodations shall be made to provide for same gender strip searches."
  • Georgia: Gender specific posts have been created; for example, transport officers posts in female prisons are reserved for female. All men entering female units must announce themselves. All pat searches and strip searches are governed by the DOC same-sex regulations.
  • Michigan: Due to a settlement with the DOJ, male guards must "knock and announce" their presence when entering areas where female inmates could normally be in a state of undress. The DOC Director recently (as of this report) announced a new policy of not assigning male guards to female housing units.
  • North Carolina: According to the written response from the NC DOC, some duties are gender specific.
  • South Dakota: No cross-sex pat-down searches or strip searches allowed.
  • Wisconsin: According to the written response from the Wisconsin DOC, the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) places restrictions on pat-down searches, strip searches, and unannounced bathroom/shower entries; it also covers when a medical condition is likely to require disrobing.
  • Wyoming: According to the written response from the Wyoming DOC, male guards are not permitted to perform strip searches on incarcerated women.
While we are on the subject, here are some other interesting findings regarding sexual assault of women in prison. For a simplified chart of the various laws, you can go to this table. But, for those who cannot open or who do not want to bother with a .pdf file, the info is summarized below.

States with no custodial sexual miscoduct law:
  • Oregon
  • Minnesota
  • Alabama
  • Wisconsin
  • Vermont
States where custodial sexual misconduct is not considered a felony (only a misdemeanor):
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • US Bureau of Prisons
States that do not cover all forms of sexual abuse (for example, threats or oral sex, among other things):
  • Arkansas: The law only covers sexual contact. It does not cover acts involving penetration.
  • Delaware: The law only covers sexual intercourse and deviate sexual intercourse.
  • Florida: Limited to penetration.
  • Idaho: The law is limited to specific specific sexual acts involving penetration, and does not cover all sexual contact.
  • Indiana: The law covers only specific sexual acts involving penetration.
  • Iowa: The sexual acts prohibited are limited to penetration.
  • Maine: The law specifies that sexual contact is not included in the prohibited acts.
  • Maryland: The law specifically does not cover sexual contact.
  • Mississippi: The law is limited to sexual penetration.
  • Missouri: The law requires that the person "knowingly injures" the inmate by sexual contact in order for it to be covered.
  • Nevada: The law covers sexual contact with the genital area only.
  • North Carolina: The law does not prohibit sexual contact.
  • Ohio: The law only covers sexual penetration.
  • Rhode Island: The law is specific to sexual penetration.
  • South Carolina: The law is limited to sexual intercourse only. All other acts, including other acts of penetration, are not prohibited.
  • South Dakota: For prison employees, the only prohibited act is penetration. Jail employees are also prohibited from sexual contact.
  • Texas: The law does not prohibit sexual contact.
  • West Virginia: The law is limited to sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion, and does not include contact.
States with cutodial sexual misconduct laws in place that allow "consent" as a defense:
  • Nevada (consent is presumed)
  • Wyoming: The law requires proving the custodian "used" their position of authority in order to get the victim to submit. Consent if a valid defense.
  • Colorado: Penal codes 403 (Sexual Assault in the Third Degree) and 404 (Unlawful Sexual Contact) allow consent as a defense. Penal code 701 (Sexual Conduct in Penal Institutions), however, does not.
  • Missouri: The law requires that the officer "knowingly injures the physical well-being" of the inmate, which allows the defense of consent.
  • New Hampshire: The law does not allow the defense of consent for cases involving penetration. The law does not specify as to whether consent can be raised as a defense to other sexual contact.
States Where the current custodial sexual misconduct law imposes a criminal penalty on an inmate:
  • California (in the case of oral copulation)
  • Nevada: the inmate is considered guilty of the same offense. The law presumes the sexual contact was voluntary and consensual.
  • Arizona: In order for an inmate to complain about alleged abuse, she would have to admit to committing the same offense. Arizona makes no issue of the inmate's lack of consent, so even an inmate who was raped could be charged under this law.
  • Delaware: An inmate would be guilty of the same offense.
States where cross-gender pat-downs are routine:
  • Kansas
  • Michigan: Scheduled searches are same-sex. Random searches can be cross-gender.
  • Pennsylvania: Practice is managed at individual institutions. At Muncy, cross-gender pat-downs are routine. At Cambridge, pat-searches are predominately same-gender.
  • New York: a class-action suit was filed in 1998.
  • Connecticut
  • New Hampshire
Only Florida, Michigan, and South Dakota disallow cross-gender pat-down searches. All other states say that the majority of searches are done by someone of the same gender, but allow cross-gender pat-down searches in emergencies (but "emergenies" is never defined).

States where the law covers all staff and custodians (e.g. vendors, medical or kitchen staff)
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
States where the statute does not cover all correctional facilities and locations:
  • Arkansas: While the law protects state prisoners, it requires that the custodial sexual misconduct within a city or county jail for non-state inmates
  • Colorado: 701 applies only to employees of the correctional facility or jail. 403 and 404 apply to hospitals and other institutions, but require the actor to have "supervisory or disciplinary authority" over the inmate.
  • Delaware: The law does not cover employees of private prisons, contractors, or non-employee staff.
  • Florida: The law only covers employees of the Florida DOC. Does not currently cover employees of jails, private facilities, or others.
  • Hawaii: The law is specific to state employees, and adds "law enforcement officers" for penetration only
  • Idaho: The law prohibits employees, officers, and agents from sexual acts, but does not include persons such as service providers who are affiliated with contractors.
  • Louisiana: The law specifies public employees; it does not include private contractors or ancilliary service providers.
  • Maryland: The law specifies who is covered. It does not cover jailors, service providers, or others who are not correctional employees.
  • Michigan: The law does not cover municipal or local jail employees, nor does it protect those convicted who are detained in local or munipal institutions, unless they are juveniles convicted as adults.
  • Missouri: The law is specific to employees of the Missouri DOC.
  • Montana: The offender must have supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim. The law provides different standards of who is covered for each offense.
  • Nebraska: The law is limited to employees of the DOC or Office of Parole Administration and contract employees and agents.
  • New Hampshire: The only protects against a person "supervisory disciplinary authority" and that offender has to use this authority.
  • New Mexico: The law requires that the person has to be in a supervisory position over the inmate.
  • North Dakota: The law only covers those who have "supervisory or disciplinary authority" over the inmate.
  • Pennsylvania: The law only applies to state and county employees and specified agents.
  • Rhode Island: The law is specific to state employees or state contractors.
  • South Carolina: The law only covers employees of the state or local correctional facility.
  • South Dakota: Both laws require the person to have custodial, supervisory, or disciplinary authority over the victim.
  • Tennessee: The law only covers law enforcement or corrections officers.
  • Virginia: The laws require the actor to be in a position of authority over the person in custody.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

DV and men

Over the years, I have heard a number of arguments (usually by men's rights and father's rights activists) that those of us who work in the domestic violence field are "sexist" because we are not offering equal shelter for men escaping domestic violence situations. While I have not seen this explicit argument stated in the recent comments on this blog, I have seen what could be the very beginnings of, I thought I'd go ahead and comment on it now.

I will state upfront that while the vast majority of DV victims are women, I do recognize and acknowledge that male victims exist. The majority of those male victims are in same sex relationships, but there is a small minority who are in heterosexual relationships as well. I do believe that these men deserve help and support. But I also recognize the very real difficulties in providing this help through the already existing support system.

As many of you know, I currently work at a DV shelter in my area. At this one shelter, we get approximately 5,000 calls a year from women seeking shelter because they are escaping DV. We have to turn away 85% of these women due to a lack of space. There are 6 other shelters in my city, and they all have about the same rates.

In my time at the shelter, I have never received a call from a man seeking help. My coworkers have received calls from men seeking help -- but sadly, all but a very few turned out to be "sex calls" (quite frankly, probably one of the most disturbing "fetishes" or "perversions" I have ever witnessed). But I cannot say that our shelter, or the other shelters in the area do not receive legitimate calls for help from men. We cannot provide help for them, but we try to put them in contact with a number of agencies in the area that work with men.

A shelter designed to house women simply cannot also house men. These shelters are supposed to be safe places -- and sheltering a man in there would be problematic for 2 reasons:
  • the mere presence of a man living in such close quarters to women in crisis makes it feel much less safe. That may be hurtful for men in crisis to hear, but it's a fact.

  • These shelters are confidential. Abusers often try everything they can to find out the location of the shelter. In the few cases where a shelter has taken in men, there have been instances where it turned out that the man was actually an abuser, simply trying to track down his victim. It's simply not a safe thing to do.
Now, some shelters have enough funding where they can provide temporary hotel vouchers for men fleeing domestic violence, thereby helping the man without risking the safety of the women in shelter. Many shelters have begun to do this. At this point, the shelter I work for cannot do this -- keep in mind, though, we cannot offer hotel vouchers for women, either. We simply do not have the funding.

Along with the argument that we are "sexist" for not taking men into our shelters, it has also often been argued that NOW and/or other feminist organizations have tried to block funding for research or for shelters for men. This is an out and out lie. Many have blocked (or attempted to block) forcing women's shelters that are already in existence to start accepting men, or to turn one or more of them into a shelter exclusively for men. And hell yeah, they're going to this. When 85% of women seeking shelter are being turned away, the last thing in the world we need to be doing is diminishing the limited resources we already have.

Neither NOW nor any other feminist group has tried blocking men from starting their own shelters. They have fought losing their funding for this cause, but have not -- EVER -- fought men from getting their own funding.

And here's the important part -- one of the reasons that men's shelters have not been successful (in addition to the fact that so many men's rights activists would rather bitch and moan than actually do anything, and would rather take away from women than actually do anything for themselves) is that men simply don't seek out the help. Part of this is because fewer men actually need this sort of help. Even if one was to accept the 30% rate of abused men (that I have seen argued by men's rights activists; although, I've yet to see the proof for this number), not all of those men need shelter; therefore it is not correct that 30% of the shelters should be for men. The vast majority of abused men are abused by men (that is, they are gay men who are being abused by their male partners). The majority of these men do not have children. That, in itself, lessens the barriers to leaving (although does not eliminate them), and therefore lessens the need for shelter. Also, these men tend to have more financial security, and are therefore in less need of shelter.

The other part is that abused men are simply not as likely to seek shelter -- perhaps out of shame. I'm not saying, in any way, that this is OK. Certainly, something should be done about it. But the fact remains, it's harder to get funding for something that is simply not used as often.

Men's rights groups -- if they were really interested in helping abused men -- would do better to actually get off their complaining asses and start doing something. Do some outreach to abused men. Start more programs addressing abuse of men (without taking the hard-earned resources from women). Start their own shelters (want some hints on doing so? -- look at the damned hard work of the feminists who started women's shelters in the 70s and 80s, feminists who didn't have public support or public funding, but did it anyway). And most important of all -- work with men who are doing the abusing. Because regardless of the gender of the abused, the vast, vast majority of abusers are men.