there and back again


Rare? Yes. Legal? Definitely.
August 12, 2008, 6:15 pm
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The Democratic Party has presented its new platform language on choice, dropping the famous Clinton-era approach of “safe, legal, and rare.”  

I like the new section.  Something about “safe, legal, and rare” always got to me.  It seemed slightly cagey about the whole matter of abortion, as though in order to convince those who were uneasy about Roe v. Wade, you should just rattle off this list as fast as you could until you got to “rare,” to something everyone could agree upon.  It seemed like the kicker.  Yes, abortions should be rare.  But rare as a word choice seemed purposefully ambiguous in order to allow for a sort of wink in the direction of Roe v. Wade opponents.  Rare seemed to say, why don’t we just promise you that the number of abortions will drop to zero and we can forget about whether the act itself is right or wrong, okay?  

That shouldn’t be the approach of the Democratic Party.  They needed to say that abortion is legal.  We should give everyone better sex education, better access to contraception, better medical care for pregnant mothers and their children, and better funding and aid for mothers who are considering alternatives to abortions.  But we must never stop declaring that abortion must be legal.  I think that the new language is very successful.  It’s not perfect, but it’s direct and simple.  This is a policy that makes sense. 

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empowers people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.

The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

The 2008 Democratic National Platform can be found here; the section on choice is found on page forty-five.

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The truly unpopular opinions.
August 6, 2008, 3:47 pm
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I had two important realizations today.  Firstly.  If I live for another fifteen years without ever seeing another Monet, I would be quite happy.  I am sick to death of Monet.  His paintings don’t have any movement for me, any life—they’re just a pleasing arrangement of colors and shapes.  Earlier in my course here at Cambridge, all of us went to London for the day and many of us ended up at the Tate Modern.  Most people who went to the Tate came back raving about the large Water-Lilies painting that was on display.  I sat in front of this particular painting for about five minutes and almost fell asleep.  I don’t want to see any more art that lulls me into a stupor!  I want art that’s attempting to do something or provoke something.  No more Monet.

Secondly!  I am sick to death of reading about the phenomenon of the muse.  These lovely women (usually women, not always) who exist simply to provoke men to greater artistic, philosophical, literary heights.  Usually I think these women are regarded as fairly revolutionary.  Involved in the male dominated world, interacting with famous movers and shakers.  That’s all very nice, but from now on, I only want to learn about women who did things.  No more poetic and tragically beautiful empty vessels.  I want to learn about women with opinions, who were mean maybe, or rude, and definitely deeply uninterested in allowing anyone to project anything onto them.  This was the exact reason why I started to cool off on Haruki Murakami, former love of my literary life.  Write a real woman, dude.  A woman who has goals and journeys of her own and doesn’t conveniently disappear after providing our everyman hero with a night of poignant and rather passive sex.  No more beautiful, deep, charmingly quirky, willing to change your life, dances in the rain barefoot, wellspring of inspiration type women.  Guess what?  If you can project whatever you want onto her, if everyone can look at that woman and see what they truly love—she’s not real.

Also!  If you wanted another reason to hate Garden State, other than the fact that it’s a shallow, emotional manipulative piece of shit, Natalie Portman’s character is the classic quirky yet acceptably beautiful girl who dances funny and changes your life.  You know who thinks lying all the time is charming?  Crazy people!  The brilliant people over at The Onion’s A.V. Club have got this shit figured right out.



Midterms are over! I have a blog again!
July 25, 2008, 4:04 am
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To me, Judith Warner’s op-ed column for The New York Times has always come up just a bit short.  She’s a good writer who can get way too verbose but I think she’s writing for a very limited group of readers—feminists yes, but also overwhelming white and belonging to the upper middle class.  Just like the readership of The New York Times, I can hear people say, and yet I think there’s something pretty weak about constantly preaching to the choir.

But she’s on point in her latest column where she very skillfully breaks down the myth of the so-called “opt-out revolution”.  Aside from upper middle class women in their 30s, women really aren’t opting out of the workforce.  They’re being forced out.  Warner notes that the employment rates of non-mothers and mothers are very close.  And moreover, up until 2004, the likelihood that a woman with children would leave the workforce had been dropping dramatically and steadily since 1984.

…[W]hen men in their prime working years drop out of the workforce we don’t say they’ve gone home to be with their kids.

We say they’re unemployed.

The distinction is truly meaningful beyond the neat way it encapsulates our inability to separate ideology from fact when it comes to thinking about mothers and their much-vaunted “choices.” Unemployed people, after all, are entitled to benefits. As a society, we tend to think it’s incumbent upon us to get them working again — for their own good, individually, for the good of their families, and for our collective welfare. Politicians promise to retrain them. Devise policies to retain them. The unemployed still fall under the ever-retracting umbrella of people we consider, to some extent, to be worthy of our care.

Mothers, with their glorious array of post-feminist lifestyle options, have long been seen as something else. They’re individuals, making choices, responsible for the fallout of those choices even if, in point of fact, those choices were made for them by a weak economy, the unaffordability of child care or an inflexible workplace. They don’t need “government handouts” like quality child care, flextime, sick days, family leave and top-notch afterschool programs, because they’ve made their proud choices and, by golly (unless they’re whiners), they’re going to go it alone.

Now I just wish that The New York Times editorial page would own up to the fact that it’s been the most prominent publication pushing for the recognition of the fictional “opt-out revolution” from the very beginning.

P.S. For a laugh, hop over here and read about this poor guy who’s been possessed by Judith Warner.  Heh.



More political musings. (Written by other people.)
June 14, 2008, 11:59 pm
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A lot of the time I rely on other people to write eloquently on subjects which I care about and interest me.  I feel like I’ve always got this tangled mush of thoughts in my head that I’m totally unable to express in the way that I want.  I can start to tell people what I believe, but so rarely is what I’m saying the same as what I’m thinking.  There’s a horrible disconnect that I can’t overcome.  I’m hoping that it’s the sort of gap that closes with maturity and practice. 

Thankfully, I’ve got Frank Rich to say exactly what I think, in the sort of stunningly elegant language that I’m incapable of producing.  Thanks for the help, Frankie. 

Angry Clinton Women ♥ McCain?  Nope, it’s just that the media is really fucking dumb



Wednesday rant.
June 4, 2008, 11:55 pm
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So today is the 89th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote.  Huzzah!  Sadly, I didn’t get to exercise my right to suffrage in the primaries this year since the lovely people at the New York State Board of Elections fucked up my absentee primary ballot.  

I was actually not as broken up over not voting in the primaries as I might have been for a simple, if slightly embarrassing reason: I had no idea who to vote for back in February.  As the campaigns wore on, I become a pretty firm Obama supporter, but I have never really been anti-Hillary.  I’m glad the primaries are over; I do truly believe that Obama is the right choice for the nomination and I’m getting pretty excited for the general election race.  It’s going to be groundbreaking and I’m going to enjoy seeing McCain realize exactly how ass-backwards his ideas really are.  

But I’m a little sad.  I didn’t want Hillary to be the nominee at the end of the day.  I can think of a bunch of fairly pragmatic reasons why, as well.  Reasons that have to do with the interpretation of executive power, or her stance on Iran, or her generally more hawk-like tendencies.  She’s not the person I really want in the White House.  But the way she was treated in the campaign, the absolute shit that people allowed themselves to say about Hillary that they would never in a million years say about Obama—all of it made me sick.  Because I truly do believe that this race was revealed a lot of unpleasant truths about sexism in America.  Racism is a huge problem still, and I think in some ways a more serious one than sexism; it cuts deeper and runs uglier.  But sexism is insidious.  It pops up in places you wouldn’t expect, from people you wouldn’t expect.  And Americans, in huge numbers, are generally okay with that.  Racism remains a real problem in our national psyche, one that isn’t going to go away without work.  Most people accept this; it’s a burden that they are willing to bear, to shoulder until things can be made right.  At the very least, those who are racist sure as hell won’t advertise that fact anymore.  But for so many people, sexism is old news.  Crazy feminists (who all look like men anyway) are the only people who still think sexism is a problem in America, they say.  And it’s not just old, almost dead white men who think this.  I’m sick of Obama supporters and fellow democrats who allow themselves to naively ignore sexism; who have convinced themselves that sexism is a relic of the past. 

I’m sick of the media, fellow democrats, fellow women, men, republicans, young people, and old people, all telling me I’ve got nothing to be upset about. If there’s one thing that this primary race showed, it’s that sexism is fast becoming one of the last acceptable forms of bigotry in America.  Well, fuck that. 



Coming in under the wire.
May 22, 2008, 11:54 pm
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I was going to write something today about this article in The New Yorker.  It’s about how no real cure for a hangover yet exists, and proceeded to detail the various cultural variations on the hangover cure.  But the first paragraph of the article was what really intrigued me.

If scientists do not have a cure for cancer, that makes sense. But the common cold, the menstrual cramp? The hangover is another condition of this kind.

Okay, I think.  I really hate being hungover.  Waking up and walking around for five hours wondering aloud if I should really eat something is both annoying to my roommates and sad for my stomach.  But seriously.  Why is there no cure for menstrual cramps?  For that matter, why has science lagged so far behind when it comes to medicine related to female reproductive health?  Questions to ponder for the future.  For now, I post a poem. 

Sometimes I Wish I were Frank O’Hara

or rather that I could see my city in the same way
      that he saw it when it was dirty and grimy with excitement
flowing right down Broadway in plain daylight.

It would be nice to have someone like Frank O’Hara show you
      around all the things in New York that you would never see
for yourself because it’s hard to find the time to see something
      that you’ve seen a million times in a new way.

Once I walked through Central Park past the statue of
      the Polish King and noticed how he looked truly medieval
with features hewn from stone one block of granite bashing up
      against another until a human face emerged that knew all
of history and I realized that there were balloons all around me.

Someone was having a picnic and she or he or perhaps another friend
      had put balloons and photocopies of Renaissance paintings on all the
signposts between Fifth Avenue and here in order to lead the guests
      like birds following breadcrumbs to the right location

and I turned to you and even though you weren’t wearing an
      orange shirt it seemed that this was the sort of scene we’d
come up with when we’re sitting in Columbus Circle at four in the morning
      and looking at the bums and insomniacs and couples drift in
and out of the twenty-four hour Starbucks.

Having a coke with you in the confusing hours of night we’d
      Stare at the fountain lights and imagine how far
a balloon might get if it started in Central Park and headed for the stars.