morgan_dhu: (Default)

I want to talk about something that troubles me greatly.

Why do so many white Western people keep insisting that all Muslims actively disavow the actions of a small number of religious fanatics who want to see the world in flames, when we don't ask the same thing of all Christians? Is it because we believe that Muslims are somehow different from us, that they are inherently more likely to choose and approve of violence? That they need to prove they are not bloodthirsty savages who delight in killing and creating chaos? Because that's what this demand looks like to me.

I have heard people say that Islam is a religion of misogyny and violence, but you know something? I've read both the Bible and the Qu'ran (admittedly, both in translation) and they really aren't much different on those counts. Both have passages that speak to love and peace and compassion, both have passages that seem to counsel violence and intolerance and revenge. Yes, in recent years we have seen much violence done in the name of Islam, but we are also living in a world in which much violence was, and continues to be, done in the name of Christianity.

I've heard people say that Muslims are barbaric and uncivilised, but I've studied history and I know that based on every measure of culture and enlightenment that I know of, by art and law and government and the creation of civil, caring societies, Muslim peoples have not been any less civilised, less cultured, less humane, than other groups of people.

Are we saying, then, that Muslims as a whole are not quite like the rest of us, that they do not feel empathy, compassion, horror and love they way we do? That they lack the breadth of emotions that we have? That they are not quite as human as we are, and hence we expect them not to feel as we do when a tragedy occurs?

What does it say about us, that it is so easy for us to think of others as not just different, but inferior? Perhaps it is we white Western people who lack empathy, compassion, breadth of feeling. We certainly have a long history of being unable to feel empathy toward those who are not white and Western. Maybe it's time for us to become more civilised, more humane, more human.

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In the comments on the post in which Patricia Wrede's book, The Thirteenth Child, is being discussed, Tor user Alo, in comment 196, quotes from a rec.arts.sf.composition post by Ms Wrede, discussion her own (then) work-in-progress:
The *plan* is for it to be a "settling the frontier" book, only without Indians (because I really hate both the older Indians-as-savages viewpoint that was common in that sort of book, *and* the modern Indians-as-gentle-ecologists viewpoint that seems to be so popular lately, and this seems the best way of eliminating the problem, plus it'll let me play with all sorts of cool megafauna). I'm not looking for wildly divergent history, because if it goes too far afield I won't get the right feel. Not that it'll be all that similar anyway; no writing plan survives contact with the characters, and it's already starting to morph.

I repeat my subject line:

She said WHAT?

::head explodes::

It seems that, according to Ms. Wrede, at least on the occasion of the quote:

1. The best way to eliminate sterotypes of marginalised people in writing is to eliminate the marginalised people from one's writing?

2. Eliminating whole nations of people with thousands of years of history and rich, diverse cultures when writing alternative history isn't "widely divergent history"?

I know something about being erased from cultural representations of both history and modern society, and about people who are in certain ways like me being presented as often profoundly insulting and disturbing stereotypes when they do appear in cultural narratives - after all, I'm a woman, a queer person, a person with multiple disabilities, both visible and invisible.

And this just makes me sick at heart.

This isn't even a case of someone not thinking about the implications of making such a decision in developing her created world. No, she actually thought about ways in which the indigenous peoples of North America have been portrayed in settler literature, identified what she saw as problems, and deliberately decided to make the indigneous people vanish so she wouldn't have to apply herself to trying to do a better job of representing indigenous peoples that the problematic literature she identifies as the genre she's working in.

I say again:

She said WHAT?

::head explodes::

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Does it really need to be said that one valid response to reading something that you find profoundly angering in exactly the same way as the last fifty, or a hundred, or a thousand times you read it somewhere else, is throwing the book against the wall and writing about why that thing you read, in the book you threw against the wall, and in all the other books that you didn't throw against the wall because you hadn't reached your limit yet, made you so profoundly angry?

And even if someone comes to you and says, "that book you threw against the wall, it's written by someone who wanted to explore those issues that make you angry and try to expose them as what they are," it's perfectly reasonable to say "Just seeing it makes me angry and I don't want to see it, even in the context of trying to expose it for what it is, BECAUSE I ALREADY KNOW WHAT IT IS."

And I say this even though this particular book is one that I enjoyed, and that made me think about some of these things, because I am one of the people who doesn't know enough about those issues and hasn't been hurt by them and I wanted to see how they were dealt with and I had the privilege of knowing that anything that writer wrote about that issue could not hurt me. Plus, it had a lot of other stuff in it that was really interesting to me. So thanks to my privilege on this issue, I could read this book and not want to throw it against the wall.

But, you know, there was once this TV show that I loved. It said some wonderful things about female power, and it was lots of fun to watch. And then this TV show did something that made me profoundly angry in exactly the same way as the last fifty, or a hundred, or a thousand times I read/saw it in other places, and I didn't want to watch that show anymore. Because a lot of people seem to think that rape is such a wonderful dramatic vehicle, and getting raped by a god is even more dramatic, and they can give me all sorts of reasons why this rape was exactly the right thing to have in this TV show. But just because everyone and his metaphorical dog has used rape as a dramatic device, and sometimes they do it to show how nasty rape is and how surviving it can make a woman so strong, that doesn't mean that as a woman who has been raped, I'm not entitled to be profoundly angry and just say no to rape as a character development McGuffin.

And then there was this other TV show that I loved. It said some wonderful things about female power, and it was lots of fun to watch. And then this TV show also did something that made me profoundly angry in exactly the same way as the last fifty, or a hundred, or a thousand times I read/saw it in other places, and I didn't want to watch that show anymore either. Because there's only so many times a queer girl can read/watch things that written by people who think that it's the height of great drama to kill off the lesbians or turn them into insane and evil murderers, until she just doesn't want to see that anymore. Even if some people assure her that it's just because that writer never lets anyone be happy in a relationship, it's not like he's picking on the lesbians. Because lots of stories let straight people have happy endings, but they always kill the lesbians, or drive them mad.

So, yeah, I know something about lacking some kinds of privilege and getting so angry when privileged people use me and people like me in hurtful ways in books and movies and TV shows and cultural stuff in general. And I know that it's the right of anyone in that situation to throw the book against the wall, and write about why it hurt, and be as loud and angry as they want to be, because it is valid to get hurt and angry when someone is standing on your foot and not only won't get off, but tells you that they're standing on your foot so that people will see how bad it is to stand on someone's foot.

And it's the right of anyone in that situation to get even more profoundly angry when people tell you that you can't see that there's a good reason for that person to stand on your foot so people can see what it's like and learn from it because you're too emotional and not a good reader and haven't the critical tools to properly analyse what's happening in this brilliant piece of performance art in which someone is STANDING ON YOUR FOOT AND WON'T GET OFF. Or that you're being manipulative and abusive when you use strong and angry language to tell people that you're tired of people STANDING ON YOUR FOOT AND NOT GETTING OFF and you aren't going to smile, and take it, or maybe ask them politely if they wouldn't mind moving a little further away any more.

And I say this knowing that I may well be standing on someone's foot all unknowing myself, and can only ask that please, if I am, and am so stupid that I don't see it, then I would be grateful if you would tell me so I can try to do better at not standing on people's feet, because I know I don't like having my foot stood on, and I so don't want to stand on anyone else's foot either.

(If you need it, you can find context for this post here.)

morgan_dhu: (Default)

I am getting so bloody sick of mainstream North American entertainment deciding that I, as a white person, am so empathy-challenged that I can't possibly identify with a person who is not white.

I assure you it's not true. I've watched dozens of movies (I'd watch more, but they're not all that easy to find) where the characters aren't white, and you know what - I've understood the characters' motivations, I've felt that I could identify with their struggles and their triumphs - in fact, I've enjoyed all those movies just as much as - and sometimes even more than - movies with all-white casts that are supposed to - what? reassure me? make me think "my people" run the universe? protect me from seeing difference?

And I bet you have, too. Even those of you who are also white like me.

So why do things like this keep happening? Who decides that if the source material, which is popular enough that you want to make a movie out of it in the first place, happens to have most or all of the characters be people of colour, that has to be changed for a North American audience?

When are we going to start having real-life casting? When will the people doing their thing in the movies and television shows I watch look like the streets of the city I live on, where there's more than just one black person, one Asian person, and maybe one Aboriginal person at a time?

I've got an idea.

Why don't we decide that for just one year, no movies or TV shows will be made that have white actors in them unless you can "justify" why the person playing the character is white. Let's have people of colour as the default, and only cast white people because it's a major plot point and there's no way to avoid it without making the piece meaningless, or because, well, you have to have one token white person. Who is, of course, either the sidekick or the mentor, and who of course sacrifices hirself heroically to save the non-white hero. Oh, maybe we'll allow two or three big-name white actors to make a movie, just to prove we aren't racist.

Let's see what our most popular forms of entertainment look like to those of us who are white, once we're the ones you hardly ever see. It might actually, you know, teach us something about being the person who's defined as the Other.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was up late at night reading and sort of listening to/watching the news in the background, as I often do, and because I live in Canada, the channel I was watching was a Canadian 24-hour news channel.

And one of the big stories that night was about the release of the Council of Europe's report confirming that the US has used extraordinary rendition to transfer prisoners captured Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries to secret prison camps in Europe, including in Romania and Poland, where they were held and tortured. The World Socialist Web Site quotes the report as follows:
“What was previously just a set of allegations is now proven,” the report began. Providing a portrait of lawlessness on an international scale, it noted, “Large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice. Others have been held in arbitrary detention, without any precise charges leveled against them and without any judicial oversight—denied the possibility of defending themselves. Still others have simply disappeared for indefinite periods and have been held in secret prisons, including in member states of the Council of Europe, the existence and operations of which have been concealed ever since.”
Now you might think that what I'm about to rant about would be the secret prisons, but I'm not. I've already done that elsewhere.

No, I'm going to talk about what I saw when, just out of curiosity, I turned the channel to look at the seven or eight other 24-hour news channels I get via my superduper cable package. Now surprisingly, the European channels including the Beeb, were giving appropriate coverage to the report. Even though, because it was about three in the morning when I was doing this, it was already, quite literally, yesterday's news on that side of the Atlantic.

But what do you think I found on all but one of the US 24-hour news channels?

If you guessed Paris Hilton and her emotional, medical, personal and legal woes, you are 100 percent correct. (Incidentally, I forget what the other US "news" channel was covering, but it wasn't news, not even American news.)

Just to be fair, I switched back a couple of times during the night, looking for anything - even a crawl at the bottom of the screen - that suggested this story was getting any significant degree of coverage.

Didn't find a thing. The whole night long, there was nothing on the US news but Paris Hilton and a few other pseudo-news stories about celebrities, sensationalised crimes, or both.

Interestingly enough, a few days later, [ profile] glaurung_quena pointed me here to Making Light, the blog of Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and a comment made there by PNH about Paris Hilton as news distraction. And that blog (going, oddly, full circle) refers to an article here at the World Socialist Web Site about "why Paris Hilton."

Now, I really do wonder, why Paris Hilton? Or any of the rest of what all too often seems to pass a journalism, particularly on the US media that I can access on cable (which also includes all the main US broadcast networks and their newsmagazines, plus local news from the actual affiliate stations I'm getting the network news on).

I'm not saying that Canadian news, or what little international news based in Europe that I can access, doesn't have its share of sensationalism, puffery, silliness, and plain crap. But I do not believe I'm being biased when I say that there's less of it. And that the slant is different - for instance, many of the Canadian news stories I've seen about Paris Hilton were framed as stories about the nature of the coverage that the story was receiving, so that there was at least some attempt at social commentary in among the pointless tripe. But it does seem to me that, at least via the medium of television, the American people are not getting nearly as much news content as seems to be available through Canadian and European television.

And I do wonder why. It surely doesn't have anything to do with comprehension - I'm quite convinced that the average American is just as capable of understanding a nuanced geopolitical assessment of a news event as anyone else on the planet. The American news media seem to be saying that this kind of "infotainment," however, is what Americans want, because this is what they will watch and hence this is what the advertisers want to pay for because this is what Americans want to watch, and I'm sure we've gotten into some kind of circular reasoning here... and I really don't know if that's true or not. But for whatever reason, there really doesn't seem to be a lot of news - or at least what I am accustomed to thinking of as news - on the US TV that I have access to.

And the fact remains, that unless I want to perform a little, totally unscientific experiment like the one I've just described, the only US news organs I know of that carry anything like the kind of news coverage, analysis and commentary that I can get all over the place in Canada are The Daily Show and The Colbert Report - and even those, I watch on Canadian channels. ;-)

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Child molestation.

Sexual abuse.

The sexuality of children.

Yes, I'm interested in these things.

I'd be interested in them even if I hadn't been sexually molested by my mother's husband when I was eight and raped by a stranger when I was 12.

I'm interested in discussion of the issues that surround these acts that humans engage in. Why do people do commit them? Are they always harmful? If they are, how harmful, compared to what? What are the effects of such actions on victim and perpetrator? How best to reduce the harm of such acts once they have been committed? How best to reduce the likelihood that they will happen? What is the history, the psychology, the sociology, of these acts? What functions have they served in societies now and in the past?

I'm also interested in the portrayal of these acts in cultural products - fiction, films, music. All kinds of cultural products. Yes, that means porn too.

I know, as it seems many people do not, that the word, the image, is not the action. Writing rape porn is not rape. Writing fan-fiction about sex between two underage wizards at Hogwarts or proto-slayers hiding out in Buffy's basement is not child exploitation. Writing a novel about Pharoah Ahkenaten and his daughter-wife Ankhesepaaten is not incest. Writing Lolita or Bastard out of Carolina is not child molestation.

The thought is not the action either. Reading about rape, or child molestation, or incest, is not rape, or child molestation, or incest. In fact, reading about rape, or child molestation, or incest, and getting all hot and excited about it, is not rape, or child molestation, or incest either. It's thought. It's fantasy.

The fantasy action is not even the action. Rape play or age play between two consenting adults is not rape or child molestation either.

Rape is rape.

Child molestation is child molestation.

Believe me, I know the difference.

Why don't you?

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I hate spam. I know I am not alone in this, but I just thought I'd mention it anyway.

I bring this up today because I have been getting inordinate numbers of anonymous comments on old posts from people who want to sell me penis enlargement products, all sorts of magical cures for everything from hair loss to erectile dysfunction, and hot stock tips, among other bizarre offerings.

None of these things interest me. But I'm really getting tired of deleting these sales pitches from my journal. So, if there's anyone out there reading this who does not have a LiveJournal account, I have reluctantly disabled anonymous commenting. Sorry. If there's anyone out there in this position who ever does get the hankering to make a comment, you're free to email me (see my user profile) and if you want, I'll post your comment for you so anyone else reading can respond to it in my LJ.

What I hate worse than spam is having to implement anything that smacks of censorship in order to avoid the hassle of deleting spam on top of spam on top of spam.

morgan_dhu: (knight)

I've been alternating between sickened horror and an outrage I can barely express without tears or violence for days now.

And I've been struggling to figure out why.

It's not as if I - and all of us - didn't know that countries around the world have been torturing prisoners, both criminal and political.

And it's not as if I - and all of us - didn't know that the countries of the so-called civilised Western world have been torturing people in colonised nations.

And it's not as if I - and all of us - didn't know that these same so-called civilised countries have been backing, supporting, encouraging and protecting dictatorships all around the world that have been torturing people.

And it's not as I - and surely, at least since Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, all of us - didn't know that people were being tortured by or in the name of the so-called civilised countries we live in.

And it's not as if I - and many others - didn't suspect that torture in prisons and jail cells and interrogation rooms and detention centres and other places in these so-called civilised countries was nowhere near as uncommon as those who run these places would have had us think.

No, we knew all that, and I'm sure we all thought it was horrible. and I'm sure that many of us marched or wrote letters or did something over the years to speak out for the human rights of people all around the world not to be tortured.

I think what makes it so much worse now is that at least in the past the leaders and law-makers of the so-called civilised West have at least tried to pretend that they didn't approve of torture. That it was wrong. They tried to conceal the fact that they tortured, or allowed torture to happen in their name or at the hands of dictators they gave political, financial and military support to (at least until it suited them to abandon those same dictators).

Until now, our leaders have at the very least been a little ashamed of what they were doing. They were worried that if they came out and said it, we might get angry enough to do something about it.

But not any more. Now, it's possible to debate how much you should be able to torture someone, to discuss how much pain and humiliation and damage one can inflict before you go too far.

And that sickens and outrages me to the core. How did it come to this, that every citizen of every so-called civilised country has not risen up in their disgust and outrage and demanded that those who want to torture people, or who are willing to stand aside while their allies do so, are not fit to be our leaders?

And no, I am not pointing fingers at any one country. We all, in this so-called civilised West, are responsible for letting it come to this, and for whatever will follow from it. I'm sickened and outraged by my own government's actions, and the lack of response among my fellow citizens.

What kind of people are we, that we can accept this?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

I found this item courtesy of [profile] techn0goddess.

Let me ask just one simple question.



People all over this planet are strangling on the accumulations of bile-soaked hatred and slaughter justified by fundamentalist doctrines (not to ignore the contributions of all those other wonderful things like colonialism, imperialism and incessant meddling from European and american empires and the global neo-liberal nightmare of untrammelled oppression and greed in the name of the holy profit margin).

And the US military machine is humming "Onward Christian Soldiers."

Is anyone in power there even thinking anymore?

(Edit: I originally misspelled [profile] techn0goddess's name. This has been corrected. My apologies.)
morgan_dhu: (Default)

Yes, you.

You're probably reading this.

Just in case you had any doubts, yes I am a socialist, a queer, a radical, a subversive, an activist, an environmentalist, a bleeding-heart tree-hugger, altogether the sort of person you don't want in your country.

I disapprove heartily of almost every piece of foreign policy your governemnt has ever adopted, beginning with the Monroe Doctrine (you maybe thought we hadn't noticed your attempts to annex Canada back in the good old days?) and working up to preemptive strikes and invasions.

I also think you have the worst record of civil rights abuses of any developed country, and I rather suspect you do much worse than a good many developing countries, too. (And that's saying a lot, because most developed countries, including my own, have some pretty serious problems in this regard.)

Your internal social and economic policies look pretty much like a disaster to me, but that's up to your citizens to deal with, I'll just boo and hiss from the sidelines on that one.

But don't worry, I have no intentions of risking my health, life and liberty by visiting your country, at least not while the current dictatorship is in power. Yes, I know that if all your master's plans work out properly, that's going to be a very long time.

So just go fuck yourself, OK?

Thanks, and have a nice day.


morgan_dhu: (knight)

Notice to all persons who have uteri.

It doesn't matter if you're Mary Magdalen or Mary Jones from around the corner, you are a flowerpot.

You may be a flowerpot that doesn't have any earth in it yet and can't grow anything until you get some, a flowerpot containing lots of earth but no precious seed - yet, a flowerpot just about to bring forth its bounty of blossoms, or an old cracked pot that can't hold water, earth or seed any more, but never forget that you are a flowerpot.

Has nothing changed since I was ten years old and being taught by some idiot what to expect now that I was "becoming a woman"? Are women to be forever assessed in terms of the content of their wombs, and not the content of their characters?

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For anyone who found my previous rant about the Da Vinci Code nonsense interesting, my discussion of the literary histoy of the Holy Grail as presented in Richard Barber's book The Holy Grail: History of a Legend is up on my book journal: [personal profile] bibliogramma.

You know, I wouldn't have minded at all if Brown had said "This is a works of fiction. I've taken some historical people and things and reinterpreted them as is my right as a creator of works of the imagination, but this is literature, not history."

But no, he said it's all based on fact, when it simply isn't, and that makes all the difference to me.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

So what do these two things have in common? I think you can figure that one out. Be creative.

For once and for all, it's just a piece of fiction. It's not based on history. There is no Da Vinci Code, there was no Prieury de Sion before Pierre Plantard - a right-wing ultramonarchist with claims to a Merovingian bloodline - and some friends invented it. The idea was so cribbed from the idiots who wrote Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which built Plantard et al's delusions of grandeur into a pile of wing-nut tinfoil hat conspiracy crap, and the saddest thing is that the focus on this idiotic vision of Mary Magdalen as the earthly vessel of the Lord's sacred seed draws attention away from what the Roman Catholic church really did conceal about her.

If you want to know something really revolutionary and dangerous about Mary Magdalen, read the Gnostic gospels - the ones that were excluded from the biblical canon and ordered destroyed, but have survived in bits and pieces here and their, most notably in the Nag-Hammadi find. The Gospel of Philip is instructive. So is the Gnostic text Mary herself is reputed to have written, called the Gospel of Mary (this one was found in Cairo in the late 1800's, not at Nag-Hammadi).

These excluded Gnostic texts identify Mary as not just one of Jesus' companions, but as someone very special to him - not because she was his lover, although she may also have been that, but because she understood his teachings better than anyone else. One passage of the Gospel of Philip says:

They [the disciples] said to him "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness."

Mary was the one who set the course of the Christian church after the death of Jesus. It is on her vision that the initial message of the Ressurection rests. Some passages in the Gnostic gospels suggest that Mary was one of the leaders among the early disciples, and considered by at least some to be the person Jesus chose to lead the early church. Mary preached. Mary was, as much as any of the disciples were, a priest, and following her example, other women in the first two centuries of Chritianity were also priests and preachers.

The Gospel of Philip also tells us that there was a power struggle in the years after Jesus' death between Mary and Peter - Peter refused to accept that Jesus would give higher instruction to a woman, but other disciples - Matthew among them - accepted Mary as, at the least, the recipient of deeper instruction from Jesus and thus a legitimate teacher to the other disciples.

Now, let me ask you - what is a more revolutionary secret? That Jesus might have had sex, or that Jesus intended to place the leadership of his movement in the hands of a woman who he believed understood his teachings better than any of the men around him? That Jesus had a child, or that he intended women to have the same authority as men within his church?

Please note: I am not a Christian. I am looking at the history of the accounts of the person we know as Jesus and his companions, at the history of the early Christian movement, and the history of the Catholic Church. Whether Jesus was divine is irrelevant to this discussion; he and his followers have impacted history based on the assumption that he was, and there are many accounts of how that happened. From a historical perspective, there's no difference in legitimacy between the texts that were preserved as part of the Bible, and the texts that were excluded, mostly on grounds of theology and politics.

But if I were a Christian, I'd much rather have the legacy of a woman who was called to lead the early church than a convoluted story about a bunch of men hiding a holy flower-pot.

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Well, it was an interesting night.

By the time the show started, I was more than a little amused at Heath Ledger's repeated panegyrics to his WIFE and their NEW BABY, just in case anyone thought that just because he played a GAY COWBOY in THAT MOVIE there might be something a little off about his MANLINESS. I mean, really, every time I saw an entertainment reporter ask him what he thought about his experiences doing the movie, he didn't seem to think of much to say about the acting process, just how wonderful it was that he has a WIFE and a NEW BABY. OK, Heath, I hear you, you're an actor, not a gay cowboy.

And then there was Reese. Lovely acceptance speech, Reese. Would you mind telling us what was on your mind when you kept repeating the words REAL WOMAN over and over again?

I want to say thank you to so many people who helped me create this role. Everyone at Fox, Cathy Konrad, James Keach, for producing the film. A very special thank you to Jim Mangold who directed the film and also wrote this character. Who is a real woman. Who has dignity and honor, and fear, and courage, and she's a real woman.

Right, Reese, your character was a real woman. That's not unusual in a biopic, Reese, you didn't have to shout it from the rooftops. Oh, what's that, it's not just your character that's a real woman, you are too?

And I want to say that my grandmother was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She taught me how to be a real woman, to have strength and self respect, and to never give those things away. And those are a lot of qualities I saw in June Carter.

Reese, dear, if you keep on making a fuss about real women, someone might think that you're trying to make some kind of point. And we know you weren't trying to do that, now, were you?

Thanks for being so open about yourself, Reese. By the way, I'm really looking forward to seeing Transamerica.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Taken from [ profile] hothead, [ profile] fancymcsnazsnaz, and [ profile] madamjolie, and modified to fit my own circumstances.

I'm pro-choice, and I would have an abortion. I have had an abortion in the past, and I do not regret my choice.

The meme:

If you agree with this statement, post it in your journal:

I'm pro-choice, and I would have an abortion.

*If pregnancy is not in the theoretical cards for you but you want to participate, feel free to substitute the statement "I am pro-choice" or "I'm pro choice and I would assist someone with having an abortion, no questions asked." Or whatever you're comfortable with. The implications are slightly different, but solidarity is just as important. The important thing is not having the BUT that everyone loves throw in there.

The background:

There are too many damned idiots in the world going around saying "I'm pro-choice, but..."

But what? But I'm so morally superior I'd never do such a nasty thing myself? But I'll never be in that position because I'm too smart, too privileged, too whatever I think will exempt me from the possibility of being pregnant and not wanting a child? But I think it's the less worse of two evils and I really feel uncomfortable about it? But I really don't want to admit that pro-choice means that some people will have abortions, no matter how perfect a world it is.

And if you are that person who accepts without judgment another's choice to have an abortion but would not have one yourself, guess what - you're just plain pro-choice. You choose not to abort. But it's a choice, and you acknowledge other people's rights to choose differently. So you don't need to say "I'm pro-choice, but..." Unless what you're really after is distancing yourself from those people who choose abortion, and if you are, then perhaps you need to ask yourself why you need to distance yourself.

So, no "Buts" allowed on this one. You either believe in reproductive and sexual choice or you don't.

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Well, now that we have to be able to defend any cultural product, whether it depicts a real or an imagined sexual act involving a person under 18 years of age, I figured that I'd have a look and see what I might need to defend ownership of.

I know that some people will tell me, and all those members of the Canadian artists community, that I'm exaggerating, making a big fuss about nothing, because the law has some phrases in it that would surely prevent them from challenging the status of real "art."

After all, the work has to have "as its dominant characteristic the description, presentation or representation, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years."

And "No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the act that is alleged to constitute the offence (a) has a legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art; and (b) does not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under the age of eighteen years.

One of the big problems with this is that the onus is now on the originator, distributor or owner of "any written material, visual representation or audio recording" that contains representations of sexual activiy involving someone under 18 to prove:

1. that the sexual activity is not its dominant characteristic
2. that it does not have a sexual purpose
3. that it has a legitimate purpose related to one of the specified areas
4. that it does not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under 18

Now I agree that if the nature of the sexual activity is heterosexual and vanilla, and there's a plot in it somewhere, you will likely get a pass - in fact, if there's enough of a plot, it might not even be challenged.

But let's talk about work that involves kink, or queer sex. You really think that a book about a baby leatherdyke finding herself and coming to terms with her sexuality can easily prove, in this society, it does not have a sexual purpose (whatever that means), that does it has a legitimate purpose and that it does not pose an undue risk of harm to minors? Because the Canadian public and their elected legislators may have just barely agreed queers can get married, but lots of them still don't want to think about what queers do in bed (or on the kitchen table, or in the dungeon), and they don't want their kids finding out about it either, lest their kids realise that it sounds interesting.

And who says that a work in which the dominant characteristic is sexual activity involving minors is automatically TEH EVOL? Can anyone honestly argue that Romeo and Juliet aren't filled with teenage lust right up to the very tragic end?

And who decides what is a legitimate purpose? Obviously, the legislation presupposes that auto-eroticism is not a legitimate purpose. Would a book that helps young women who have decided to have sex (as is their right if they're over 14) develop skills for negotiating safe sex issues with their partners be a legitimate purpose? Is writing a political rant that mentions a book about young women aged 14 to 18 who have decided to have sex a legitimate purpose?

Many people are going to tell me, I expect, that these new restirctions are necessary because of the Supreme Court rulings in the case of John Robin Sharpe (more details here). Yes, the Supreme Court found that under the old law people can't be prosecuted for producing written or visual of their own imagination, for their own use.

And you know what? That was fine by me. It was illegal to show these works to a minor. It was illegal to use these works to persuade a minor to agree to sexual acts with an adult or another minor. It was illegal to use representations of real minors in creating these works. And it was certainly illegal to try to do any of the things in these works if a minor was involved. Making it illegal to even create the works is censorship and creation of a thoughtcrime. It may well be regugnant to most of us, but there's nothing demonstrably harmful about anyone wanking off in private to kiddie porn he or she made themselves without any exploitation of a minor person.

We didn't need laws about creative works to convict John robin Sharpe. He was also using porn produced through the exploitation of minors. That was illegal, and rightfully so. But it was his acts that invovled minors, not his solitary use of written porn, that caused harm.

And if you believe that only people who commit acts of pedophillia with minors would ever get off on kiddie porn, think again. Think about all those people who like to do sexual role-playing involving schoolgirls, or infantilism, or want to be leather daddies, or imagine initiating the hot young pizza boy. Think about people who use porn that depicts teenage sexuality (without actually using tennager to produce it) in order to regain the rush of their own adolescent sexual explorations. If people were only honest about it, there would be a great many people who include some sort of fantasy ageplay in their sex lives. Very few of them ever commit sexual acts with minors. Why? Because they know that what they're into is a fantasy. They don't want to really have sex with a minor of any age. They know that would be wrong. They just want the fantasy. Laws like this are trying to turn fantasies into thoughtcrimes.

So I thought about what I own that might make me guilty of thoughtcrime. My partner and I took a casual glance at a couple of our close to 50 shelves of books, and started making a list of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that depict some sexual activity involving a minor or minors. We don't know what "dominant characteristic" means, nor are we sure about "sexual purpose," because we can think of lots of sexual purposes that have nothing to do with wanking.

Here, in no particular order, is the first installment of the books I own that could be determined to be works of child pornography.

Dorothy Allison - Bastard out of Carolina
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
Rita Mae Brown - Rubyfruit Jungle
Michelle Cliff - Abeng
Moyra Caldecott - Guardians of the Tall Stones, Daughter of Ra
Frankie Hucklenbroich - A Crystal Diary
Anita Diamant - The Red Tent
Margaret Laurence - The Diviners
Alice Walker - The Color Purple
Anne Rice - Belinda
Anne Marie McDonald - Fall on Your Knees
Marion Zimmer Bradley - The Mists of Avalon
Lauren Greenfield - Girl Culture, Fast Forward
Bernard Lefkowitz - Our Guys
Susan Faludi - Stiffed
Pat Califia - Public Sex
Susan Hemmings (ed.) - Girls Are Powerful: Young Women's Writings from spare Rib

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, I'm such a thoughtcrimer.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

One might think that my joy would be unalloyed today.

The Civil Marriage Act was passed in the Senate last night, and received Royal Assent today. Canada now officially in all provinces and territories defines marriage as a union between two people.

In a particularly bizarre bit of last minute asshattery, Conservative senators attempted to introduce an amendment "stating the traditional definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, but that civil marriage is between two people."

Said one of the amendment's supporters: "It would have brought a great deal of comfort to same-sex couples that they would not be perceived as having somehow gained their legitimate rights at the expense of those for whom the traditional marriage of a man and a woman was so terribly important," said Conservative Senator Noel Kinsella, who supported the amendment.

Yeah, right. All us queers and queer-friendly allies would have been so comforted to know that even as Canada finally acknowledged the rights of any two people to get married, the Religious Wrong was trying to have it enshrined in that very law that same-sex marriages might be legal, but they weren't really "real" marriages like those that happen between a man and a woman. Because nothing is real unless there’s a penis in it somewhere - as long as it's nowhere near another penis, of course.

But let's move on. I'd much rather my last thoughts on this Parliamentary struggle be about Senator Nancy Ruth, who danced in the Senate Chamber, and said "the whole country should be dancing."

Unfortunately, the Senate has also given us a very good reason not to dance, but rather to start the next fight for civil rights.

Yesterday the Senate passed Bill C-2, AN ACT TO AMEND THE CRIMINAL CODE (PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND OTHER VULNERABLE PERSONS) AND THE CANADA EVIDENCE ACT. In an attempt to disprove Stephen Harper's allegations from the last election, Paul Martin's government has now passed an anti-child porn law so vague in it's attempt to catch all the child porn in the world that it may even be illegal to discuss what's in it, unless I can prove in court that I am doing so for a "legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art."

So humour me, folks, I'm educating you. Legitimately. Right?

In the Library of Parliament's Legislative Summary of Bill C-2, one of the problems that has cultural workers and arts organisations across the country up in arms for their right to write is discussed as follows:

Bill C-2 eliminates existing exemptions for material with "artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose," leaving the statutory defence of a "legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art." Bill C-2 further specifies that the material in question must not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under the age of 18. Amendments also broaden the scope of the offence by eliminating the need to show that written materials advocate or counsel illegal sexual activity with children. To satisfy the definition of child pornography, it will be sufficient to establish that the "dominant characteristic" of any written material is the description, "for a sexual purpose," of sexual activity involving a person under 18 that would be an offence under the Criminal Code.

Representatives of cultural workers, particularly writers, have been vocal about this legislation. From a Press Release released by the Writers' Union of Canada, dated June 20, 2005:

"Real abuse of real children deserves zero tolerance," said Brian Brett, Chair of The Writers' Union of Canada, "but this proposed legislation forces an accused writer to prove that his or her work does not present an undue risk of harm to children. What has happened to the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'? We are urging the Senate to hold hearings on these issues and not rush through such important and sweeping legislation."

A spokesperson for the Quebec Writers' Union said this week:

"They're trying to clamp down on child pornography, but they're going too far by making too loose a definition of it," says Charles Montpetit, chairman of the freedom of expression committee at the Quebec Writers' Union. "Any description of sex involving people under 18 will be considered child pornography. It's absurd because the age of consent in Canada is 14. Between 14 and 18, teenagers can legally have sex but we can't talk about it because that would be child porn."

And let's not for a moment forget that it's young women and young queers of all kinds who often have the most need to be able to explore a variety of writings and imaginings about sexuality, because there's not much representation of sexuality from these perspectives in the mainstream culture.

Canada has a bad history of targeting queer writings with its porn laws. If anyone has any doubts that important explorations of queer sexuality and coming out among youth will be particular victims of this law, then you need to look at the kinds of works that have been challenged in the past and think again.

Just last night I watched an interview with author Susan Swan talking about the indignity of having to defend her well-known bookThe Wives of Bath from accusations of child pornography under the previous laws, which allowed for a defence of "artistic merit." For those unfamiliar with the book, it explores, among other things, the sexual awakening of two girls in a boarding school. It was a finalist for the Guardian Fiction award and Ontario's Trillium award, and was the basis for the film Lost and Delirious

To say nothing of writers and readers using literature as a way of discussing and dealing with issues of child sexual abuse. Will anyone in Canada be able to see the film based on Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina ever again, let alone read the book?

Arggh. I’m disgusted and appalled.

Next up: Watch this space for future posts in which I list the books we own that may well be child porn under the new law. Just to make it easier for the cops to find me. Any other Canadians out there feel like telling everyone what evil works of child porn they're hiding on their bookshelves or among their collections of DVDs?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

So the poor widdle heterosexual politician just can't feel comfortable sitting on the same side of the floor as his queer-loving former Liberal colleagues.

And some phobic asshats would prefer bringing down the government to letting a federal law defining marriage as a union of two persons be passed in the House.

Some people just don't get it. It doesn't matter that over half the country agrees with legitimating same-sex marriage. It doesn't matter that the fucking Supreme Courts of seven provinces and one territory have required governments to accept the legitimacy of same-sex marriage in those jurisdictions. It doesn't matter that the Supreme Court of the whole fucking country has examined the proposed legislation and declared it to be constitutional. It doesn't matter that it's an issue of human rights, and we're supposed to be big on that sort of thing up here - unless of course you're a Reformer disguised as a Conservative, or even a Liberal.

No, same-sex marriage is TEH EEVOL and some of these asshats would rather bring down the government than let queers get hitched. Because marriage is so special, you know, and if queers get their deviant and debauched claws of doom on it, all marriage between heterosexuals will immediately collapse into the same primordial slime the rest of us are condemned to live our lives in.

Or some such rot. I still have not been able to find one opponent of same-sex marriage who can make an effective argument, without resorting to religion, about how the marriage of two men or two women is going to irretrievably damage existing marriages between a man and a woman, or the concept of marriage, or society, or the fate of the universe.

Well, maybe more hot queer sex would delay the onset of heatdeath and allow the universe to survive a few extra millennia before ending with a whisper, but aside from that, just plain WTF?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Get over it, people. Members of Parliament have been crossing the floor since parliaments were first invented. And in case you've forgotten your Civics 101, you cast a vote for the candidate, not the party. Of course, the candidate most likely has a party affiliation, but is still at liberty to change zir affiliations, particularly if it appears that zir current party’s policies may be detrimental to zir constituents.

I'm not denying the importance of party politics – who could, these days? And I've seen people, quite understandably, called a traitor or an opportunist for crossing the floor in the past. That's just standard political name-calling. But the level of invective and personal insult that's been levelled at Ms. Stronach is unlike anything I've seen in 30 years of watching politics. Remarks such as:

"A little rich girl who is basically whoring herself out to the Liberals." "I said that she whored herself out for power, that's what she did." Tony Abbott, a Conservative member of the Alberta legislature

"Some people prostitute themselves for different costs or different prices. She sold out for a cabinet position." Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott

Aside from the "whore" remarks, there have also been an astonishing number of people impugning her intelligence, saying things like "Belinda's not the brightest bulb" and so on.

"She sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick, an attractive one, but still a dipstick, with what she's done here today. She is, at the end of the day, going to paint herself as something of a joke." Ontario Conservative Bob Runciman

"I've never really noticed complexity to be Belinda's strong point." Conservative Leader Stephen Harper

Interesting. Setting aside the whole issue of pot, kettle, black, she was smart enough for the boys in borrowed blue when she helped broker the whole deal-making process that led to the creation of their freaking party. She was smart enough to run Magna and be identified as one of the most powerful women in international commerce - until last night of course, when suddenly they're describing her successful stint at the helm of Magna as "playing with the company Daddy gave her." Hello, lots of successful men made their name in the family business.

I've never seen personal insults of this nature directed at a man in her position before. This is pure sexism, and it says so much about the Conservatives and their supporters. I can't help wondering if this is part of the reason that the Liberals are back up in the polls, and the Conservatives are down again. Maybe, just as they always seem do, they've shoved their feet squarely into their mouths up to the knee joint and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory once again. If so, it couldn't happen to a more deserving party.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

It’s all over LJ, so you probably know about [ profile] anniesj and her visit from the Secret Service over comments she had made in her LJ that she describes as “some rather inflammatory things about George W. Bush in a public post in my LJ, done in a satirical style.

She has written a new entry in which she responds to some of the discourse that has occurred in response to her experience. Now, [ profile] anniesj has every right to her own thoughts and responses to this experience, but I also have every right to say that I think she is very wrong in some respects.

In her follow-up, she says:

1. I made a very big mistake in posting what I originally posted. I did not intend to threaten anyone with what I originally said. I was pissed off by what President Bush said, and I ranted about it without thinking that what I said could be construed as a threat against the president's safety. Obviously, I was wrong and I admit responsibility for making an inflammatory post. I apologize to anyone it may have offended, and I will be much more careful in the future when expressing my political beliefs.

2. My political beliefs did not trigger this, and what happened to me was not political. The reason why I was reported to the FBI was because I made the mistake of posting something that could be misconstrued as being a threat to the president's safety. I understand this, I apologize for it, and I will not make the same mistake again. I repeat, I do not seriously wish to harm anyone else on this planet, and in the future, I will make certain that I never give that impression again, no matter how pissed off I get.

[ profile] sistermarysith has already written a wonderful response to this, but I need to put in my two cents’ worth as well.

Free speech is one of the most important rights that a citizen can have. Any attempt to suppress it is a political act. It’s true that most democratic nations have placed some prudent limitations on some forms of speech, such as inciting crimes, hate speech against minorities, slander and libel. But citizens must remain able to challenge any and all of the cultural and political assumptions, issues, policies, processes, parties, and powerful individuals in their society. And to ensure this, limitations should not be placed on speech because it is offensive, or satirical, or speculative, or obscene, or even violent.

Satire, in particular, has a long history of using violent images to make its points. And satire is a mode of speech that is open to anyone, not just professional comics and satirists. The use of violent imagery in satire does not mean that a real threat is being made. Emotional utterances are another area in which people use a lot of violent imagery that has no literal intent. Again, just saying something violent doesn’t mean you are going to do it, or even that you really want to do it.

For instance, I could make a satirical comment about George W. Bush being too arrogantly sure that he is doing God’s will and under God’s protection to bother getting out of the way of a deadly plague of locusts. Does this mean that I, personally, am planning on making this happen, or even that I want to see harm come to him?

I could write a play about George W. Bush waking up one day and finding himself transformed into a pregnant women, and cover in great detail the agonising process of trying to find an abortion and failing, only to end up bleeding to death on a back-street abortionist’s table. Does that mean I really want to see that happen?

Or I could create an animation in which George W. Bush can be made to walk into a toxic waste dump and die choking on the chemical fumes while all the birds and animals harmed by his environmental policies express their hopes that a new President will do something to let them live. Does that mean I want him to die a slow and painful death?

I might blurt out in the heat of anger or frustration that often surrounds intense political debate, that the world would be much better off if George W. Bush were dead, or even that he deserves to die because of all the Afghani and Iraqi civilians murdered in his wars. Does that mean that I want the man dead, much less that I plan to kill him myself?

I have the right to be offensive. I have the right to think about violent acts, and to speak about them. It may well be impolite and inconsiderate and even counter-productive to utter offensive and violent speech, but unless it’s coupled with immediate threat of bodily harm, it’s still just speech and it’s my right to utter it. And it’s a lot less offensive than sending armies to kill innocents, or wilfully turning a blind eye to policies that ravage the environment.

What I - or anyone - do not have is a right to commit violence, or incite someone else to. And if a government cannot understand the distinction between the act of speech and the act of violence, if it tries to limit speech about a public figure, no matter how offensive or violent that speech may be, that would be an act of political repression, no matter how nice and polite the brown-shirted thugs in their government-issue camouflage suits are when they arrive at the door.

And that is what bothers me, not just about what happened to [ profile] anniesj, but also about the tone of her response to it. [ profile] anniesj was silenced, and unless we fight that silencing, it could happen to anyone else. The lesson I take from what happened to her is not to be cautious about what I say, lest someone think it is offensive or threatening and call down the dogs of thoughtcrime upon me, but rather to struggle for the right of everyone to speak in freedom.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
-Pastor Martin Niemöller

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