Archive for June, 2009


Article about Homosexuality FAIL

The latest TIME magazine has an article on homosexuality in the animal kingdom, titled, appropriately enough,
Why Some Animals (and People) Are Gay
. I am all for articles like this, if only because they inherently refute the “Homosexuality is unnatural!” argument, and because gay penguins are completely adorable.



But there were a couple sections in this that made me wonder, exactly, why John Cloud was chosen to write the article. Surely they could have found someone who could make science accessible without resorting to cheap and insulting gay jokes? Please?

I mean, there’s got to be a way to inform people that “One particularly charged finding is that in most species besides humans, same-gender pairings rarely lead to lifelong relationships” without following it with “In other words, when one attractive bonobo male eyes another in a lovely patch of Congo swamp forest, they occasionally kiss and then move on to other oral pleasures, but they don’t bother anyone afterward about trying to legalize their right to an open-banana-bar ceremony.” (emphasis mine)

Translation: “okay, sometimes animals are gay, but it’s a phase they go through, and thus it’s just a phase for humans and I’m also going to mock gay marriage, because it’s not found in nature.”

Later, in the same article: “Last year, researchers studying a Hawaiian colony of albatrosses found that nearly a third of all the couples involved two females who courted and then shared parenting responsibilities. (Albatrosses don’t have U-Hauls, so no lesbian jokes, please.)”

Dude, you’re the one adding in U-Haul Lesbian jokes. In a science article, which pretty much by definition doesn’t need cheap jokes. Especially cheap homophobic ones. Were you so uncomfortable writing about homosexuality in any form you had to “defuse” your article with these bits? Because I really can’t make sense of them otherwise.


Pelham 123

Sometimes the most revealing statements about gender come when people don’t think they’re talking about gender.

Witness this quote from a NYTimes review of the Denzel Washington/John Travolta movie “The Taking of Pelham 123”

Women are decidedly marginal in this urban gallery. Garber’s wife (Aunjanue Ellis) answers the phone every now and then back home in Queens, and the girlfriend of a hostage appears by online video chat. But romance and domesticity have never figured very prominently in Mr. [Tony] Scott’s imagination.

So apparently (as is well known by Tony Scott), women do not actually exist in New York City. And the ones that do are apparently all wives/girlfriends of Real New Yorkers (who are inherently male).

Okay, clearly the director has some issues, though he’s not exactly the only one confused on the people=men issue. But look again at what the reviewer, A.O. Scott (probably no relation) says: But romance and domesticity have never figured very prominently in Mr. Scott’s imagination.


Okay, I get that this is not a romance. But surely you can have a female character or three without it being a romance? Do women not exist apart from romance or domesticity?

Sure, the reviewer seems to be saying, if this were some sort of film dealing with the home, there would be girls in it.  But they’re not needed here.  This film is set outside, where women do not go.   Also, this film is not about romantic relationships, so there is no need for females.  Because females only exist in the context of romance.  They do not have jobs or hopes and dreams or, y’know, commute to frikkin’ work.  On the subway.

This is the power of careless, invisible sexism.   If you asked A.O. Scott, they would probably say they are not a sexist.  They are probably a nice, average person who writes reviews for the NYTimes.  But in the above statement… those lines, and those ideas… those are sexist ideas.  They are reducing women to a very small, small place where we can exist.

And they’re a couple of casual lines in an unrelated review in a big paper on an average day.


Today, the terrorists won…

Dr. Tiller’s clinic, one of the few in the US providing late-term abortion services (and the only one within a three hour area providing any abortion services) will be closing permanently, following the late Dr. Tiller’s murder by a domestic terrorist.

Murdered Doctor’s Abortion Clinic Shuttered

Terrorism is defined as the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes. If abortion providers are unable to do their jobs because of threats to their safety or life, that is terrorism. If you murder someone not because of who they are, but what they are, and your purpose is further inflicting fear upon others who are similar so that they live in fear, that is terrorism. (Also potentially a hate crime.)

Dr. Tiller’s murderer was also a terrorist, and now women already in the midst of horrible, tragic, life and death events will have even fewer places to turn for help.


A quick WTF note to Disney


When I went to see Up this past weekend, I was subjected to a trailer for a Jerry Bruckheimer-directed Disney film called G-Force, featuring special ops hamsters and (one suspects) rather a lot of explosions.

Certainly there is probably a great deal to complain about in the film, especially for any devotees of storytelling or good taste, but that’s not what really caught my attention.

There is a token female character (the one on the far left). Voiced by Penelope Cruz, I am guessing she is also supposed to be Latina. And you’ve named her Juarez.


Were you perhaps not aware that one of the things that Ciudad Juarez is best known for is the horrific unsolved rape-and-torture murders of hundreds of women since 1993?

These unsolved femicides are not a secret, nor are they even obscure. They are the fifth thing to come up in Google search if you enter “Juarez.” Several movies have been made about them, the FBI has investigated them, books have been written about them, Amnesty International has gotten involved…. this killing spree has gained worldwide attention.

And yet no one at Disney either did enough research or, if they did discover this, thought that it was pertinent to the naming of a Latina character in a kid’s film.

What, exactly, were you thinking?



Rest in Peace, Dr. Tiller

You may have already heard by now, but on Sunday, Dr. George Tiller of Kansas was shot dead while serving as an usher at his church. The killer as of this writing remains unidentified and uncaught.

Dr. Tiller was one of a handful of doctors (there may actually be only one or two others) in this country willing to perform late-term abortions, which are, contrary to anti-choice propoganda, almost always performed for medically necessary reasons.

You can read about some of the women he helped (and their heartbreaking stories) here

The reality is that abortion in the late second and third trimesters is extremely rare. The reality is that finding a doctor to do this procedure in the late second or third trimester is almost impossible. For me, the reality was that at the most painful time of my life I had to travel out of state, stay in a hotel room and face hostile protesters in order to carry out this most personal of choices.

If you’re like me, you had no idea that this happened to people. I thought that I would go through this under the care of my regular doctor, in my local hospital, with the support of family and friends nearby. I remember a few weeks before getting our baby’s final, lethal prognosis, I heard on the news about a doctor being shot. “Isn’t that terrible,” I thought, having no inkling just how relevant this would be to me just a few weeks later.

Up until the moment I sat across the desk from my OB, I held out hope that he would give my son some chance to beat the odds. I couldn’t believe it when he said that there was no chance that he would live very long after he was born. Since I had not even entertained that idea, I was even less prepared for the next thing he had to say, but those words are burned into my memory forever.

Dr. Tiller was a hero; though his clinic was protested and vandalized, though there was an ongoing campaign of harassment against him and the other workers, though he was shot in both arms in 1993, he kept working, putting the lives of women ahead of his own. To read about some of the harassment tactics that the non-violent protesters used against his workers, go here.

Operation Rescue’s smear campaign against Phares [a worker at Dr. Tiller’s clinic] is part of a new strategy to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting. Banned by law from blockading clinics as it did in its early days, Operation Rescue has taken its offensive to the front lawns and mailboxes of clinic workers. In Wichita, members of the group rummage through employees’ garbage in search of incriminating information. They tail them around town as they run errands. They picket clinic staffers at restaurants while they’re inside having dinner and castigate them while they’re standing in line at Starbucks. Operation Rescue is also visiting companies that do business with the clinic and threatening them with a boycott if they don’t sever their ties with the facility. This is America’s new abortion war, and the objective, in military terms, is to cut off the supply lines to abortion clinics and demoralize their troops.

What happened to Dr. Tiller was both a horrific tragedy and an act of domestic terrorism. If you’d like some information on some of the nonviolent ways we can support his work and react to this tragedy (groups to donate to, vigils to attend) check out feministing’s list..