noticing people

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What Democrats need to say about reproductive freedom

Why do anti-choice activists want to make abortion illegal?

The answer has to be to decrease the number of abortions performed in the US.

It is a painful irony that many women who have abortions feel like they have no choice in the matter at all. The major reason why women have abortions is economic. There is a strong link between abortion rates and poverty. In the US the abortion rate among very poor women is four times the rate among wealthy women.

Worldwide, the countries with the lowest abortions rates are those in which abortion is legal and accessible and the countries with the highest abortion rates are those with highly restrictive abortion laws. We know that before Roe v Wade there were many illegal and dangerous abortions in the US. When you take away someone’s only legal option you restrict them to illegal and dangerous alternatives.

If it is genuinely the case that anti-choice activists think that decreasing the number of abortions is of primary importance, and we know that abortion rates are linked to women living in poverty, then it only follows that it is of primary importance that anti-choice activists address the feminization of poverty.

If the goal is to decrease abortion rates, and not just to bully or control women, then the focus should not be on creating highly restrictive abortion laws, it should be on improving the economic status of women in the US.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

expert on race = oxymoron

The other day I was out with a group of women and one of them said of Hispanics: “Those people just don’t value education.”

Whoa. Seriously? Everyone in the room was white. No one was saying anything. I am a professor, and I study and teach about race in the US. I spent years developing expertise on the causes and the effects of racism and working on ways to counter racism in this country.

When I spoke up and said that such comments were not OK, a very disturbing thing happened. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that because I spent so much time learning about race, I was likely overly sensitive in my perceptions of racism, both in this situation and in general. My education makes me an unreliable witness.

That is like telling an oncologist that, because she spent so much time learning about cancer, her interpretations of diagnostic tests are likely overly sensitive. Her education makes her an unreliable diagnostician.

The difference is that going to school and spending six years learning about cancer has the effect of making you a reliable expert, but going to school and spending six years learning about race makes you an unreliable radical.

It is good to be someone who knows about cancer, and it is bad to be someone who knows about race.

What happens when the very act of knowing something stops people from treating you as trustworthy and reliable? The more that you know the less people are willing to treat you as knowledgeable. This means that, as a culture, there are some things that we simply can't know because the people who do know them, by their very act of acquiring the knowledge, become suspect in our eyes.

This is a way for whites to pretend that racism doesn’t exist, which means they can pretend that they are not complicit with it and bear no moral responsibility for getting rid of it.

The horrifying thing is that it does exist, they are complicit, and they bear responsibility.

I thought integrity was something that Americans valued.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

In praise of the 1st amendment

I just got back from NYC. I went last weekend to say my 2 cents against the war, me and what the newspapers say were 299,999 other people. I was marching with the labour contingent. A good place to march. You see, even though I count as a member of the effete liberal intelligentsia, the effete liberal intelligentsia piss me off. I came from a hard working family and their money, which is income and not wealth, gets used up before the month is over. So, people whose parents paid for their college and grad school and have never lacked for anything decrying social injustice over a latte make me want to scream. If they actually think that social injustice is bad, they could put their latte money towards the tuition of a student who joined the military in order to go to college. There is a difference between bitching over a latte and actually doing something. I bought a T shirt: “Stop bitching and start a revolution.” My new favorite shirt.

I was marching with people who reminded me of home. There was a woman bent over two canes, saying nothing, her head was down, she was just walking. There were men who got their hot bodies from lifting heavy things at work instead of at a health club. Foreman as personal trainer--you don't lift stuff, you don't get paid. There were people whose faces were lined by a hard life. There were women with their children. These were everyday folk with something to say. People who know that the money spent in Iraq would be enough to fund social security for the next 75 years. People who are angry that their taxes are being spent occupying a country where Americans aren’t wanted, instead of paying for education and health care. People who are furious that their brothers and sisters are the victims of stop loss programs. People whose families and friends are the ones who are actually dying in this illegal war.

I was proud to be in their company. It gave me hope. How could anyone ignore us?

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Bad internet dating experience 1

The Bill.

I went out with him five times. When I first met him I was startled because online he said he was six feet tall and I, with my average woman’s height, towered over him. But, we shared several very thoughtful emails and I decided to see if he was as interesting in person as he was online. He wasn’t. He made a point of lamenting my salary as a humanities professor. He was a computer scientist and with the same level of education was making four times as much money. Needless to say, when I suggested dates they were for things like a walk and then ice cream, when he suggested dates they were for things like theater and expensive dinners.

I really did give it the college try, because smart men who aren’t freaked out by a woman with a doctorate are few and far between. But, finally I told him that even though he was a charming person, I didn’t think that we were a compatible match.

Four days later I got a letter in the mail at my office. In this letter he told me that not only did he not find me physically attractive but he thought that I had a bad character as well. He could overlook my nasty appearance, after all eliminating a mate on the basis of looks was tantamount to racism in his books, but he just couldn’t overlook my character flaws. Now, I know that I am not gorgeous and I also know that I am a very nice person, so this was nothing but goofy. The best thing about this letter was that the man had kept track of the cost of all of our outings and had calculated the difference between what I spent and what he spent. Then, get this, he included a bill for the difference.

I wanted to tell him that if I were in the business of paying for companionship, I would have made some difference choices about who I dated. I wanted to tell him that he was so dull that he should actually be paying me. I wanted to tell him a whole lot of things. But, I told him nothing. I paid the bill and asked for a receipt, which he sent me. I put the receipt in my scrapbook as a token of perhaps the oddest man that I have ever dated.

bad cat

Kitty loved anything swinging in the air. Her claws were sharp. Bad news for Erik as he was having sex with Samantha for the first and last time.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dress code 1

The dress code for my job is, "don't be naked." On one hand I love this, I do my best to find clothes as comfortable as PJ's. No one can tell me to wear heels and hose. I don't own a blazer. It is a serious perk. On the other hand, I have colleagues who could use sprucing up or at least covering up.

"Don't be naked" is subject to interpretation. Who knew? It seems so clear, so minimal. I have a colleague who is a rabid exerciser and wears these tiny little running shorts around the office during the summer. Now, he is an old guy and in great shape, so I don't begrudge him the short shorts. But guys, when you wear those things, you really need to keep your feet on the ground. Squat down to tie your shoes. Don't lean back in a chair and put your feet on the table. In fact, all of the mini skirt rules apply to men in short shorts, at least to men in short shorts at work. When you get out of a car, swing both legs out the door together and then stand up. If you pick something up off the ground bend at the knees not at the waist. I learned these rules in high school without any problem. It just isn't that difficult to avoid exposing yourself.

In my second year on the job, I was chatting over drinks with a different colleague's wife. After the right number of G&T's she leaned over to me, "So Carla, you've been here for a while now, what do you think about X's testes?"

I learned a small life lesson: 'single malt scotch hurts just as much as the cheap stuff when you snort it out your nose.' Aside from the nose pain, her question had comforting implications, sort of. "Really, you mean that those little shows weren't just for me? Now I don't feel special at all."

"I'll give you a hundred dollars for every person in this room who hasn't seen X's balls, he just can't seem to keep them to himself. About 10 years ago, the department chair had to point out to him that it wasn't such a hot idea to sunbathe in a speedo on the lawn in front of the office?"

Now, this seems like a problem to me. I feel confident that it isn't normal to glimpse coworkers' genitals. I am not sure how to fix it. Maybe change the dress code to "Don't be naked, EVER." Maybe the university administration could specify that professors to wear snug underpants. Maybe there could be some sort of warning policy: Faculty Handbook section 1 subsection 5 paragraph a, "Before exposing oneself advise people in the immediate vicinity allowing them time to look up or carefully study a book or other document." There are options out there. I just need to waste more time thinking about them.

Monday, March 06, 2006

smartest thing I've read in a long time

"Sadly, what you see is what you get. If you can't "see it", you don't get it baby."

My sister thinks it's pretty damn smart too.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

men in my house--1

There is a Slovinian poet in my basement and I have never seen him. Someone pointed him out to me on the street once. But all I could really see was a fedora and trench coat. As Descartes wrote, you don't really ever know if there is a person under that sort of attire. It could have been a five foot nine robot or scarecrow or a woman or some other guy. My house is pretty rickety. There are places in my bedroom where I can see strips of light through the cracks in the floorboards. I bet if I set my mind to it I could find a place where I could peer into the basement apartment. So far I have resisted. I know that he is down there because I can hear the door to his apartment squeak open and closed. Trash appears in the garbage can that we share. Sometimes his parking spot is empty and sometimes the car is there. Late at night I can hear a TV from down in the basement. Not loud enough to make out the dialogue, just that comfortable thrumming of an indistinct voice. Occasionally I even hear him, I suppose, talking on the phone in, I suppose, Slovinian. Then I strain to listen. I love listening to the music of someone speaking in a language I can't understand. I could run into this man, this Tomaz, in the supermarket and look him in the eye without ever knowing it. Maybe I already have. I could have sat beside him on a bus or at a lecture. I could have smiled at him in a coffeeshop and hoped that he would stop to say hello.