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Seeking light in a murky world

Myths, Monsters and Contradictions

An assortment of things I’ve read over the past few months have come together - somewhat - in my mind to form related, if still rather disconnected and contradictory, thoughts. I hope that by the time I’ve finished laying out the parts I’ll have figured out how to fit all the pieces together. Or you will have, at any rate.

This is likely to be a bit long. Brace yourselves.

Via Alas, a Blog comes this fascinating children's book review at American Indians in Children's Literature. We are allowed a peek at what is normally a closely held and secret sacred Cherokee story - which, even now I am sure we are only getting a small flavor of. From what I can tell, this review of Gail Haley's Two Bad Boys is written by Gayle Ross. Here are a few highlights:

Let me first say two things. I don’t tell this story publicly. It’s part of the long creation story that is told in ceremony every year at Green Corn time. An elder once told me that the Earth needs to hear these stories, but how, when and to whom they are told must be respected.

The second thing is that, in order to tell a good story, you have to know that the story is alive. You have to make it comfortable in your interior landscape. Most Native stories that find themselves wandering around in the psyches of non-Native storytellers and writers would be in a place as foreign to them as Mars would be to the average Earth-dweller. That’s where you’d find something like Two Bad Boys.

Gail Haley’s retelling of our sacred story about Kanati and Selu mirrors the Christian myth about Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, and how work came into the world.


But Two Bad Boys is not, in any way, at all, “a very old Cherokee tale,” nor is it, in any way, at all, what our story is about. There are layers and layers of meaning in this most sacred story that are contained in essential elements that Haley did away with in order to make it a “children’s story.” The entire process of eliminating what makes the story sacred is what makes Haley’s version a desecration. Two Bad Boys is the cultural equivalent of retelling the Easter Story and leaving out the crucifixion. It’s that insensitive.

[ed: read the rest of the review for the Ms. Ross' version of the actual story.]

I'm sure Ms. Haley is a wonderful storyteller. She appears to have won a few awards and lots of acclaim ... I have nothing bad or good to say about her, having never heard of her before this, so any stray thoughts I have as a result of reading this review are not really about her or her work - or Ms. Ross, for that matter.

For some reason, though, this telling brings to mind a favorite saying of mine: a line from ebogjonson in reference to something completely unrelated to this - or is it? - about "dangerously wild and crafty memes that have been laughing at intent and virtue for over 140 years [...] that tend to slip out of a user's grasp almost immediately, so deliberately handling them constitutes a form of willful recklessness."


I hadn't heard of La Vendida before reading about her at brownfemipower's a few months ago. As she says, the story around La Vendida is a bit complicated, and "to discuss La Vendida, you have to start with La Malinche". So she does:

La Malinche (known as Malinche, Malintzin, or Dona Marina), refers to a native woman in Mexico during the time of colonization. As the story goes, she slept with Cortez eventually acting as an extremely effective interpreter and it is rumored she even went into battle with Cortez, her knowledge of the various tribes serving as an essential tool in Cortez’s victories.

Because of her role during colonization, Malinche has come to represent very negative qualities. There is no written recored of what type of sexual relationship Cortez and Malinche engaged in. She started off as a slave to Cortez (thus implying her sexual submissiveness), but eventually was partnered with him (some say they were married, others say she was a mistress) and bore him a son (thus implying her sexual autonomy).

Lots, lots more there, where she delves deeply into the significance of La Malinche and La Vendida to present day Mexico and those of Mexican descent, nationalism, feminism, machismo and much more. A wonderful article, well worth reading - but it's actually a conversation in the comments of this post that calls out to me to be included in whatever picture I am attempting to paint here.

My question to brownfemipower (bfp):

Continue Reading Myths, Monsters and Contradictions

Posted by Nanette on 08/30 at 02:17 PM
Civil RightsCoalitionsFeminismHumanRightsRacismSocietyWomen
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All Done at Feministe - And I Survived!

Not that that was in any doubt, of course.

I only posted a couple of things, besides my introductory post - both of which I also posted here.

I didn’t make too big of a splash, but that’s okay. One of my fears was that I was going to be the one to blow up the blog - it seems at least one of the guest bloggers does it every other rotation, starting with Roy, who was a guest blogger the first week. But, thankfully, it wasn’t me… one of my guest co-bloggers, Ren, of Renegade Evolution, stepped up to the plate and took that on, in this thread - 588 comments! (I still have no real idea what the whole thing was all about).

There was a good conversation in my Benefit of the Doubt post at feministe, which I didn’t really join in that much, for one reason or another. Stress at being in an unfamiliar place among unfamiliar people for an entire week (this can really send us introverts for a loop), plus also, because it was a guest posting gig, I felt like a guest host (I even called it that in an email to Jill of feministe), and so refrained from injecting myself or my opinions into the conversation too much. Also, and I hate to admit it, for some reason I had a really had time finding my posts again. Sigh, I’m such a Bad Blogger.

Still, as a result of that thread I have started a religion called IlykaPele-a —celebrating the goddess of fire, lightning, dance and ferocious advocacy.  (I added the a because I am not exactly appropriating the Hawaiian goddess of similar name.)

[edit] There was also a good conversation on the post about skinny people way back when, both at feministe and Maat’s Feather. I learned, or was reminded, that for the shows (Soul Train and others) staffers went out into the crowds and actually choose people to come in, I guess to establish a “look”. Anyway, it’s explained better here.

I have some links.

The Ladies of La Patrona: Humanity’s Hope

As Central American migrants cling to rickety old trains with the hopes of making it North they are exploited by police, corrupt officials, and gang members.  But a small town on the outskirts of Cordoba in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, offers a welcome respite. The Ladies of La Patrona, who have very little means, give all that they can to the migrants passing on the trains. Why? Just because it’s right.

Radical Knowledge: Where are all the bloggers of color?

This question makes the rounds in blogland oh, every three or four months. Invariably, a white blogger is the one doing the asking and a whole slew of white folks are speculating about the answer.

I don’t usually make a point of paying attention to those conversations. Knowing that I’m a blogger and I’m right here, makes it really hard for me to pay attention to all the garbage that usually gets spewed out (i.e. they’re too poor to blog, they don’t care about blogging, they aren’t educated enough to blog, they don’t have the time to blog etc). But this time I read such interesting commentary from different bloggers of color, I was inspired to try to unravel some of my own thoughts about the “where are they” conversations.

On Myths and Monsters

When it comes down to it, those are the things that run the machine. These caricatures and invented mythologies are what NEED to be spun around humans when you justify not treating them with any sort of consideration or respect.

R. Mildred… in lolcat

No quotes. It’s mostly all visual and, of course, hilarious.

Posted by Nanette on 08/27 at 05:35 PM
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The Benefit of the Doubt

From The Free Dictionary:

give someone the benefit of the doubt
to believe something good about someone, rather than something bad, when you have the possibility of doing either.

I’m afraid this is going to be more ‘stream of consciousness’ typing, taking the thoughts as they come - which is what I am actually more comfortable with - rather than something that has a specific beginning, middle and ending. Or point. I did have something else planned, having to do with the question “Why is this a feminist issue?” but, you know… I think I’ll just leave that one for another place and time. Heh.

I, as always, speak only for myself and my experiences and not as a spokesperson for any particular group of people.

So, this is an off the top of my head topic, mostly because I’ve been seeing that phrase (the benefit of the doubt) used lately and it does sometimes seem to me that different people have different ideas of what that means - depending on which side they are looking at it from, I suppose. I know, shocker. It often comes up (in one way or another) during discussions of race on and off the blogs, especially when it’s an issue of someone - usually, but not always, a person of color - saying to a person - usually, but not always, White - “hey… you know, that’s a racist saying, picture, way of thinking”. 

Needless to say, this is not always greeted with cries of joy, thankfulness and relief. More often with defensiveness, pushback, argument, hard feelings, hurt feelings, discussion and then - if we’re lucky - some sort of resolution. And in there somewhere, sometimes, wails about being given the benefit of the doubt. And that’s when I wonder… what is it people think the benefit of the doubt actually is? Whatever their interpretation is of it, it’s far different from mine, I guess.

I have a favorite blogger, a White guy, that I came across through a link from another site - most of the time, with those, I go, look at whatever it was that was linked, and then forget to go back again, but with this one I was so impressed with the quality of writing, as well as the sense of humor and heart of the writer that I put it on my daily reading rotation. Almost as much fun as his writing is seeing the pictures that he finds to go along with the posts - some of them are just brilliant. Old timey, retro stuff a lot of them - really fun and neat.  He doesn’t write much on race (that’s not what I visit his site for), but when he does it’s with a level of understanding - including knowing that there are some things he can’t understand - of righteous rage (especially about Katrina) and a talent for getting to the heart of the matter. I knew that this was someone who “gets it” and I felt comfortable there.

So, imagine my… well, surprise, surely, but mostly shock and um… gut kicked feeling when one day I click on the site and there is this really dreadful, racist picture there, illustrating a post. Oh man - I knew what it was about, from the post… it was being used to illustrate some sort of racist thing right wingers were doing or saying regarding Black people and he was ripping them a new one. Still…

I had a dilemma. I was a fairly new commenter and, I’m pretty sure, either the only or one of the few commenters who was Black or of color and I felt I could do one of a few things.

1.) I could just say “oh well, I know what he’s doing and that he’s not racist himself” and just let it pass and keep commenting there as if nothing had bothered me.

2.) I could just scratch the site off my rotation and move on to somewhere else.

3.) I could mention that, while I understood the intent, that the picture was worse (to me) than whatever it was he was writing about or against, and that it made me extremely uncomfortable.

#3 is the one that is most fraught, for me, as a person of color. So many things can (and often do) happen when one chooses that option. And, the thing is, you never know which reaction you’ll be hit with, even if you are dealing with the nicest, most aware, most “I get it” (usually) White person that you know, especially if it’s someone you like and who you believe likes you. Anywhere from an outright denial of the racism to “well, reasonable people can see that sometimes things, when used like this, aren’t racist” (which, of course, puts you right away in the “unreasonable” category), to - as someone recently pointed out - if they are selling something, other (usually) White commenters coming to the defense of the original writer, declaring that of course it’s not racist, whatever it is you are selling I am going to buy 10 and give them to all my friends and family, to eventual grudging acceptance that, okay maybe it’s racist, but you’re a jerk for pointing out, to oh okay, sorry, i didn’t think of that, thanks for pointing it out.

Me, I dithered a lot, all the time with this huge pain in my stomach because if I got the “wrong” reaction, I would have just been so disappointed, I love the site so maybe it’s better to say nothing, but if I don’t say anything how can I then continue to enjoy the site, knowing that I don’t trust this person enough to speak, and if I don’t trust this person enough to speak and don’t trust him and his reactions enough to believe that he’ll do the right thing, or if I don’t trust this person enough to believe he’s not going to turn into someone else and start spewing accusations and vitriol at me for speaking up… well then, what the heck am I doing here? Do I trust this person or not? Okay, yes, I do.

So, I went into the comments of the post and said something to the effect that, while I usually love all your pictures, I do not love this one. It’s racist. And his reaction was to change the picture immediately and then to comment on why he had used it, and what he was trying to accomplish, but that he definitely could make the same point with a different picture.

Or something like that, this was a while ago.

In making the decision to not just shake my head and move on, or to stay silent and probably seethe or to roll my eyes and think “oh well, par for the course” but deciding instead to bring this to his attention, come what may, and to believe (or at least hope) there would be no blowback from it… I was giving him the benefit of the doubt.

When people’s commenters (friends, co-workers, so on) choose forms of options 1 and 2 and opt not to mention that something is, even if unintentionally, racist (or wrong in some other fashion), it may be quieter and less painful for the original poster and less uncomfortable for those that like and support them, but that person is not necessarily being given the benefit of the doubt, in my opinion.

They’ve already lost it. 

Posted by Nanette on 08/24 at 02:56 PM
Civil RightsCoalitionsI'm old and crabby and I have a penRacism
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Back When Baby Didn’t Have Back

My daughter noticed something odd the other day. Odd to her, anyway, and, now that I think about it, odd to me too. In different ways, though. 

See, she came to visit the other day and as I had to finish something up in the other room she dropped down on the couch to visit with her grandmother, who was watching Soul Train, one from the 70s, on the TV. As I left the room, she was barely containing her laughter at all the “weird” clothing (as if kids today have room to talk) and dances.  When I came back in, though, she had such a strange look on her face… a combination of puzzlement, disgust and ... I don’t know. Disbelief, or something.

I looked to see what they were doing - the people had formed two lines and couples danced down the middle. I don’ t know that they do that these days on dance shows, still… though it WAS the 70s, it didn’t seem too outlandish. Not enough to cause that look on her face. So, I asked her what the matter was.

“What’s wrong with them?” she asks.  So, I look again. Okay, so maybe the dances are a little silly looking, but surely she’s seen sillier ones?

“No”, she says… ”look at them! Why are they all so skinny?” And, sure enough, I look again and there are dozens of Black people, men and women, and all thin as rails. I sat down too, and we kept looking, pointing out when it appeared that a woman had hips, only to see it was because she was wearing baggy parachute type pants or something; some of them had visible breasts, but not many. Not a one had a “booty”. Even the men were super thin - little muscle tone, and certainly no bulk to them at all. And now that she’d pointed it out, I remembered when that was the look to aspire to. 

I don’t have pictures, but here is a short video of a 1974 Soul Train dance line.

All of a sudden she exclaims, “Ugh! They all look like they have AIDS or are on crack.” I then turn to look at her, wondering why in the world she choose those particular comparisons… and then it hit me.

She was born in 1979. Crack invaded many Black neighborhoods in the early 80s and AIDS not long after, plus one barely mentions Africa without also mentioning, or at least thinking about, the AIDS epidemic in many countries there.  In the world that young Black people my daughters age and younger have grown up in, a good many really skinny Black people they come into contact with, see in the movies or on the news, are simply not healthy for one reason or another. Some are, of course, there are plenty of healthy, thin Black people, but my daughter and just about all of her female friends that I know of are… curvaceous. Hips, breasts, rounded bellies - and they love themselves and their looks, which I think is a great thing.

I was reminded of this by this post of Sewere’s, at Rachel’s Tavern ,where he has a conversation going about theBlack Male Gaze causing self-esteem issues, referencing a Post Secret confession.  I know there was a study done not too long ago that said something like that, contrary to most White women, Black women are actually healthier when they have a little meat on their bones. Still, I have to wonder if part of the reason for the shift in desirable body type, at least among some younger US Black folk, is a reaction to the “skinny = sick” thing.

You think?

(little update: actually, watching the video up above all the way through, at least in this set of dancers there are a few who are curvier. Still, considering that TV adds 1o lbs (or so) to your frame… )

cross-posted at feministe

Posted by Nanette on 08/22 at 05:45 PM
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I’m Guest Blogging at Feministe This Week

In case anyone wants to stop by and say “hi”! And provide comfort and chocolate. 

My first, very short, post is here.  Just an intro, not much talk about anything - I have a few ideas planned for posts through the week, covering race, feminism, coalitions and who knows what else.  I’ll probably cross post here too.

We’ll see how things go!

Posted by Nanette on 08/20 at 04:23 PM
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On the Wings of a… Butterfly?

We are still a little unsettled here - in stasis, you might say. Or - how can I resist? - in a cocoon. I’d hoped to have things in place by the beginning of September, but that’s not going to happen. It actually could - the mechanics of putting together a site or a magazine, gathering together the stories, seeking out new voices and following the steps in a plan is how things usually get done, and that hasn’t changed. No, the plan is there… what is missing - or, rather, what I am missing - is the drive, fire and excitement to actually bring things together.

Should I be talking about this “out loud”, so to speak? I don’t see why not. We’ve been in operation for a number of years and I think our readers, as well as those that just surf through, should know what is going on and why. Besides, it is not gone forever, this I know - right now, for whatever reason, it’s just quiet for a time.

Oh, but about that butterfly…

Anyone who has clicked on the pictures arrayed across the top of the site (front page) will notice that they don’t, as yet, lead anywhere. They might not ever do so, actually, as at the time I made them, they were a substitute for words. Each one tells a story and serves as a reminder to me of who, what, when, where and why. Sort of.

a butterfly flaps its wings in...You know that saying? A butterfly flaps its wings in ... one particular place. A beat of a wing, an infinitesimal breath of wind, and things change across the world.

I thought I had lots more to say about this, but I don’t. Not much, anyway, at least right now.  Because, for all the talking there is in the world, there really is only one thing to do, no?

Be the butterfly.

Posted by Nanette on 08/20 at 10:05 AM
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Kudos to CARE?”

"CARE, one of the world’s biggest charities, is walking away from some $45 million a year in federal financing, saying American food aid is not only plagued with inefficiencies, but also may hurt some of the very poor people it aims to help.”

From The New York Times

Do read the article, I can’t put enough of it here to give the full flavor and the personal stories are especially worth hearing about.

CARE’s decision is focused on the practice of selling tons of often heavily subsidized American farm products in African countries that in some cases, it says, compete with the crops of struggling local farmers.

The charity says it will phase out its use of the practice by 2009. But it has already deeply divided the world of food aid and has spurred growing criticism of the practice as Congress considers a new farm bill.

“If someone wants to help you, they shouldn’t do it by destroying the very thing that they’re trying to promote,” said George Odo, a CARE official who grew disillusioned with the practice while supervising the sale of American wheat and vegetable oil in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

Under the system, the United States government buys the goods from American agribusinesses, ships them overseas, mostly on American-flagged carriers, and then donates them to the aid groups as an indirect form of financing. The groups sell the products on the market in poor countries and use the money to finance their antipoverty programs. It amounts to about $180 million a year.

I don’t even pretend to be an expert, but even at a casual glance this seems like an extremely poor way of doing things. There is disagreement, though, of course.

The Christian charity World Vision and 14 other groups, which call themselves the Alliance for Food Aid, say that CARE is mistaken; they say the system works because it keeps hard currency in poor countries, can help prevent food price spikes in those countries and does not hurt their farmers. Not least, they argue, it also pays for their antipoverty programs.

But some people active in trying to help Africa’s farmers are critical of the practice. Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Atlanta-based Carter Center uses private money to help African farmers be more productive, said in an interview that it was a flawed system that had survived partly because the charities that received money from it defended it.


CARE’s idea is that a profitable business is more likely than a charitable venture to survive when foreign aid runs out.

“What’s happened to humanitarian organizations over the years is that a lot of us have become contractors on behalf of the government,” said Mr. Odo of CARE. “That’s sad but true. It compromised our ability to speak up when things went wrong.”

I’ve been ambivalent about the practices of charitable organizations and human rights organizations for a while now, for a few reasons. And while I still am not an expert and I’m still a bit ambivalent, I think my first thought was the correct one.

Kudos to CARE.

Posted by Nanette on 08/16 at 04:20 AM
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As if X’s Weren’t Enough, Now I Have Dots, Too

Yes, yes, more whining and complaining about my self assigned daily tasks, I’m afraid. 

Well, I’ve gone though an entire 5 days of writing something - anything - each day, no matter how terrible it was. The writing that is, not the day… although some of those were pretty bad, too. So far, so good. Now, however, it is time to up the ante a bit and to see if I can write daily with a purpose. Okay, wait… that’s wrong. I know I can write daily with a purpose as well as I can write daily without one (as I’ve just proven, however briefly), so now it is time to actually do so.

To that end, to the tyranny of the Red X I have added the goading of the Blue Dots.

Blue dot days, which will also go on my calendar thingy, are HB days. Which means that there are specific professional tasks… writing, design, layout, making contacts, so on, that need to completed before I can mark the day with a red X. This also includes new areas such as HB media/design.

This may be an odd way of doing things, especially publicly, but it seems to be working for me so I will continue with it. We’ll just chalk it up to being part of my mid-life crisis.

So, for today’s X…

writing -
index pages, explanations of changes.
begin front page series.

Posted by Nanette on 07/30 at 07:58 AM
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I Almost Went Into Politics

Thank the deities I had the good sense to scrap that idea.

Not that I don’t think I could have been a good politician, mind. Then again, I imagine most politicians start out thinking they will be the best, most fair, most responsive to their constituents ever.

Then they get sucked into The Void. Or something. Has anyone written a sci-fi/fantasy novel yet about what happens to politicians once they are elected? Is there some sort of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” process that begins the moment they raise their hands (if that is the custom) and swear to uphold whatever it is various nations uphold?

I was thinking today about coalitions, and will be writing about them soon. I would have today but my computer is having issues and I am doing a bunch of virus and other scans and so cannot concentrate. And I do need to concentrate, as it’s about time I wrote something of at least a little substance and end this silly process of just slapping words on to paper in order to fill the gaping maw of the red X.

Posted by Nanette on 07/29 at 09:37 PM
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The Well is Dry

Have you ever noticed that people often gather around water distribution points to talk? Kitchen sinks, office water coolers and, who knows, maybe even wells. I wonder why that is. 

It’s also just occurred to me, when writing the title of this post, that I’ve never actually seen a well - or, at least, have never sipped water from one. They are not too thick on the ground around here. Still, if I did have one, it would be bone dry.

I’ve had absolutely nothing to say, all day today… and under normal circumstances that would be that. I rarely have trouble holding my tongue. Or, I suppose I should say, my type. However, these are not normal circumstances, and won’t be until November 10th - at which time I will either have completely lost my mind, or… I will be, if not a “writer”, at least someone who sits down and writes daily as a matter of course.

Perhaps I should be writing about more important stuff. The 2008 US presidential primary, maybe - but, man… this should be an exciting race, yet it somehow just isn’t. Not yet, anyway.

Do you think whoever wins, even if a Democrat, will act to restore checks and balances to the government? I admit to being a tad cynical about that one.

Or the occupation of Iraq. Always something to write about there, with the daily death and destruction - and, of course, massive, no accountability profit taking by those with various fingers in the regional pie.

Necessity being the mother of invention, and ingenuity, I’ve been of the opinion that real innovation - beyond a better phone, a faster computer processor, so on - will soon come from what we so offensively term “developing countries”, if ever the world gets its boot off their necks.

Strangely, though, there’s a blog that chronicles the ways that people in various places in Africa use bits of wire and tires and iron - whatever is handy - to duplicate various items, or to create windmills or generators or… well many things most of us could just drive down to the mall and pick up, as long as we had the money. I used to quite like this blog although I only visited it infrequently - except today I read it and it just somehow struck me the wrong way, I guess.  I might feel differently about it tomorrow. Today, it just gave me an the feeling of… I don’t know. 

Oh, and wells… which is where I started off. I seem to have eked out a few drops from the dry one… but I want to remind myself to write about trusting the water in the well once it does fill up again.

photo at top by Michael Connors - via

Posted by Nanette on 07/28 at 10:01 PM
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If I Could Just Use Made-Up Words…

Life would be much simpler. And, undoubtedly, far more interesting. 

One reason I don’t like to write much is that I quite often cannot remember the word I am reaching for. Perhaps something to do with increasing age, but I doubt it - more likely, the less I write, the fewer words I need on a daily basis and thus, the fewer words that stick in my mind. This presents a problem!

The most logical solution, it seems to me, is to just make up a word to replace the one I can’t remember. I can think of some quite lovely ones, on rare occasions… full-bodied, sinuous, with a sound you can almost touch - a word that rings in the ear long after it is said… It seems a shame to waste it.

Except, gasp, even after I’ve gone through all that work, someone is sure to declare that it doesn’t “exist”. And, then, refer me to The Dictionary. As if.
Dictionaries are widely known to be tyrannical and to require impossible contortions to prove that a word exists. I take issue with that… after I have said it and, more importantly, written it, does it not then incontrovertibly exist?

Oh, some doubters say… but if you make up your own words and then just inpong them into a sentence, no one will know what you mean by them. There will be mass confusion!

That’s not exactly true, though, is it?

When I was a child, I read incessantly. Everything I could get my hands on and, in fact, many things I never should have gotten my hands on (at that age). Soon I was mailing in all those little postcards that would come in the books or in magazines… “Buy 5 for a penny, get 1 free!”, and so on. The Mystery Book Club, Science Fiction Club, The Classics, even the Shakespeare Book Club - I joined them all.

(Um… did I mention I was about 10 at the time? I’m afraid my mother didn’t find out about my joining these things until all the books started showing up at the door, if she realized it then. Sometimes I would get to them before her. She was more completely informed when the bills started coming...)

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, nor the point of the story. The point is… whenever I came across an unfamiliar word in one of these books - a word that, as far as I knew, could have been made up on the spot, by the author - I would look to see how it fit within the sentence and figure out the meaning from there. 9 times out of 10, I’d say, I would be correct - well, in figuring out the meaning of the word, if not always the proper use of it.

You understand, of course, that this is proof that as long as most words within the sentence are familiar, you can splosh in a fake word or two and no one will ever know the difference.


(illustration at the top via Bibliodyssey)

So, I Watching FOXNews a Couple Years Ago…

Yeah, yeah, I know… FOX. But it was an interesting segment - a good conversation between Israeli and Palestinian spokespersons - when suddenly the host got an intent, focused look on her face (yes, you’d think she would already have had one, but this was FOX, after all) and said…

- with barely suppressed excitement and anticipation coloring her voice - “Excuse me, gentlemen, I’m sorry but we’re going to have to end this here and break away. We have BREAKING NEWS!” There was time to see the puzzlement and worry on the faces of the guests, who were obviously wondering what disaster or major event had occurred, before the screen broke away to…

A car chase.

No, no… you read that right… a car chase. In progress. Zoom, zoom, screech, honk, avid anticipation with every rotation of colorful lights, egged on by the rising and falling wail, of the hoped for “pop! pop! pop!” at the end. Or, failing that, a good, loud bang! scrunch - and a silent ambulance driving away. Now, that is news. How could major local or world events top that?

4 Confirmed Dead After News Helicopters Collide

PHOENIX—Two television station helicopters tracking a high-speed police pursuit in central Phoenix collided in midair and crashed Friday, killing everyone on both aircraft.

Sad. My condolences to the families and friends of these individuals. 

Posted by Nanette on 07/27 at 04:10 PM
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little light’s Question

Since I am on this subject today, little light asked this question in a fast moving thread last year, and I thought it was a very important one. 

I am posting it here so that it can go on my virtual bookshelf, as the thread (at brownfemipower’s) does not have comment permalinks. I sometimes, in conversation, wish to refer people to this and/or get an answer to it and it will be nice to have easy access to it.

Edited it slightly, removing person’s names and such, as that is not relevant, really.

The question, by the way, was never answered by the person it was addressed to.

little light’s question:


You objected, upthread, to the possible equation of anti-trans bigotry with racially-based bigotry, saying that the phenomena are too different to compare fruitfully or fairly. Okay, let’s go with that premise for a moment. Apples and oranges, let’s say.

Shortly after, however, you did an interesting parallel: you seemed to equate, or at least discuss as comparable, the marginalization of trans people with the marginalization of radical feminists. Not cisgendered women, or abused women, or women of color, say–radical feminists was the group you put forth as upsettingly and similarly marginalized. (Correct me if these are inaccurate readings; your wording seemed pretty clear to me.)

Now, this confuses me. How is the group “trans people” comparable, in terms of the phenomenon of its oppression, to the group “radical feminists,” any more than the idea of trans marginalization is comparable to the idea of racial marginalization? Radical feminism is a group of choice, comprised of people who share an ideological stance, yes? What marginalization they experience is based, ultimately, in their affiliation to a group they have chosen to enter based on shared ideals. (This isn’t a ‘they could leave any time and avoid the marginalization’ argument, I promise. Bear with me.) They have beliefs in common that allow one to figure out whether or not they “count” as radical feminists–they either agree with the premises of the ideology or not.

Now, the group “trans people,” according to their own experience, anyway, is one of inborn identity–one of being a particular kind of person in a way most of them find themselves unable to change, entirely separate from political stance. There are antifeminist transfolk and feminist transfolk–by their definition, anyhow, with which you might disagree–conservative transfolk, transfolk for and against just about any old thing. Transpeople are not bound by a shared ideology or set of ideals, other than that, if they are trans activists, that people should be nicer to them, to vastly over-simplify the goals in question.

That is to say: I have never met anyone who claimed to have been born a radfem. They may have held dear, even in childhood, ideas that they later would learn could be considered radfem ideas, but nobody claims that ‘radfem’ is an identity or category you can be born into–you have to choose to belong to the movement.

The only way you can consider these two categories comparable as phenomena is if you ignore the claim that trans people have of their inborn identity or their lived experience, and instead consider them an ideological group. You have to consider them a group of people who looked at the available ideologies and then chose to join a group based on shared ideals, as radfems are. That is: for that argument to work, you have to deny that trans people are a kind of people, grouped by identity and experience; you further have to assert that instead they represent a political position, a group of choice who is asserting a particular ideological agenda. That is: you have to ignore what trans people say about themselves and consider them unreliable narrators of their own experiences.

You claim elsewhere in this thread to be very interested, first and foremost, in hearing women’s experiences and stories, but if that’s so, you are not counting trans people–MtF or FtM or otherwise–as women, as you constitute the category. You cannot actually reconcile this line of argument with your claim to accept trans women as a kind of women, for instance, because their stories and experiences do not fall under the category of your interest–or you would consider what they are saying about themselves.

This is why this discussion isn’t working for you, I think, [...]–the premises we’re disagreeing on make the whole enterprise extremely difficult, because one group is seeing trans folk as a category of people bound by inborn or inherent identity, and another group is seeing trans people as a political group composed of ideologies rather than life experiences. One group is listening to trans people’s narrative of who they are, and the other is essentially calling them liars or, at best, deeply deluded or mistaken.

Trans identity does not encapsulate any politics, is my assertion, here, as an aside. There are trans people who believe in a trans movement; there are trans people who are apolitical and concerned only with their own lives. There are trans people I couldn’t stand to be in a room with because we have no shared ideals, no compatible ideological positions. We are not a group based on anything we agree on, and we are not, in our experience, a group we up and volunteered to join. If comparing race oppression and trans oppression is apples and oranges–two totally different kinds of identity the person cannot, in theory, choose or not choose to have–then the comparison of oppression of radfems and oppression of trans folk is apples and chinchillas. One is disagreement with a person’s ideas; the other is disagreement with a person’s identity or existence.

I’m not saying there isn’t marginalization of radfems, though most of what I see called such around here is disagreement, even vehement disagreement, not assertions that, say, all radfems are sick, violent, mentally ill, or monstrous. It’s people–yes, not always in a constructive way or a way I agree with–calling your ideas wrong, whether or not the accusers are correct. The marginalization of trans people may be about disagreeing with their ideas, but the idea in question as wrong is that they exist, or are fully human, or deserve to live alongside everyone else.

Either you have to let go of these things being comparable, or you have to admit that you see them as comparable because you see trans-ness as a political affiliation, not an inborn identity. I’ll be interested in your clarification.

Posted by Nanette on 07/26 at 04:25 PM
Civil RightsCoalitionsFeminismWomen
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“Women Born Women”…

Thinking out loud, coming to terms with terms… on my own terms. 

I mentioned in the post below that I was currently involved in a conversation about “women born women only” spaces and how some exclude trans women.

I was thinking that I would one day write a post about why I rejected any sort of policy of exclusion like that, and was pretty much convinced that I had thought things through enough to do so - still I had a sense of discomfort when recalling the conversation but I couldn’t identify the source. It finally came to me this morning. When I was taking a shower, actually - I do some of my best thinking there!

Various parts of the conversations, points presented by others, points presented by me, were rattling around in my head ... women born women only, transpeople, transphobia, protected spaces, women born women, civil rights, human rights, women born women, acceptance, life experiences, women born women.... and there, finally, I had my “Duh!” moment.

At times, in order to clarify my thinking or beliefs, it works best for me to just pare things down to essentials, otherwise I get caught up in all the little eddies and ripples swirling around, following this or that diversion - and I miss the center point that all of this is moving out from. For me, it all comes down to one thing.

Either I believe that women who are trans are women, or I do not. If I believe that women who are trans* are women, then there are no separate categories of ‘women born women’ and ‘transwomen’, as each would have been born women, just in different ways. This also means no separate levels of access, no separate levels of personhood, no separate levels of human dignity. 

I’ll not use that term again unless it is with scare quotes and is in direct reply or relation to what someone is saying.

(And, of course, many others have figured all this out long ago, but my brain is sometimes puny and non-absorbent, but as I say… I’m slow, but I get there.)

[edited slightly]

Posted by Nanette on 07/26 at 10:10 AM
Civil RightsFeminismHumanRightsShameOnUsWomen
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This and That

Notes, stray thoughts, maybe even a point.

It’s funny, being a procrastinator. Well, sometimes it is, anyway… but today, the first official day of my Red X project, I’ve been passing by the wall calendar I made all day… and noticing the empty space for today where, by all the best laid plans, there should have already been an X, . There will be after, this, of course, because… well, here I am. Writing. So there.

Oh dear, I sense a bit of resentment (already!) against the tyranny of The Red X, and it’s only my first day. This does not bode well.

I have some things in the hopper, though. Something for the front page, the beginning of a series that will work to move things along and give an idea of our progress with the plans for Human Beams, which should come to fruition around the first part of September. I think I will take as a starting off point those 4 pictures along that band on the front page, which seem unrelated to anything at the moment. Each one has a meaning though, even though they too will be replaced soon. I need to also write up things for each individual section, explaining what is going on, why the sections haven’t been updated, and about the editorial boards. A good number of visitors don’t enter from the front page, so they probably think we up and died.

Then, I am just loving my friend Nancy’s new blog, and have something partially written about that. Now she is a writer, for real - a few dozen books and various awards under her belt - and has been going strong, right out of the box, with wonderful, thought provoking topics and posts that are also great fun.

Also, I have a story of something that happened a couple of years ago that was very simple but left a huge impression on me. This one I’ve been working on, off and on, for a little while. I keep deleting everything and starting over. It seems very important to capture just the right tone and to set the scene properly for this story and it’s proving remarkably difficult for me to do, even though it was a real event and I can see everything right there, in my mind… it just won’t go properly onto the page! Oh well, I’ll get it eventually. Thru the tyranny of the X, , no doubt.

I’m also, as part of hb media/design, working on a couple of web design projects, and another community building type project, as well as working with arin to plan out the media/design site itself. Which reminds me, if you have any sort of credit issues that you want to learn how to take of , or want to build up your credit, or anything to do with that, arin has written and compiled a large amount of information on just how to do that - in an easy to understand way, with which steps to take when, all at Free Credit An amazing resource.

I don’t write much on the issues of the day, for some reason… even the ones I really want to, like the Jena Six or various other human rights matters that need our attention.  Am not sure why, but I think I will change that, to some extent.

I have been in an interesting, respectful conversation at litterolmermaid’s about women born women only places which exclude transwomen and stuff I consider transphobia and about radical feminists and so on. In fact, I have to answer a couple of comments sometime this evening. I am thinking of writing up a post about why I would reject being part of any place with that policy of exclusion and how I came to my conclusions. Maybe.

Posted by Nanette on 07/25 at 07:24 PM
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