Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Literary Courtesan

The Literary Courtesan is a friend of mine. Tell her Lorraine sent you.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Shut It Down

For more information on how you can help, contact The Center for Constitutional Rights

Am I Ready?

Rob Brezsny tells me that this is my horoscope for this week:

Taurus (April 20-May 20)
This is the one of the shortest horoscopes I have ever written for you. That's because there is just one simple message, which you should take to heart in a hundred ways. Are you ready? Trust yourself as you have never trusted yourself before. Trust your perceptions, your feelings, and your body. Trust your bratty whims, your weird longings, and your momentary lapses. Trust your urge to merge, your itch to bitch, and your yearning to learn. Trust your ability to know exactly how to trust.

So, as I get my commitment letter from the bank on the house I've just bought, finish up the edits to a manuscript to a novel that will be on an agent's desk by the end of July, prepare to teach a course this fall that I've never taught before, the question is, am I ready? I am.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


I've issued an invitation to all bloggers Declaration of Independence here. If you're interested, check it out.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Sovereign Nation vs. Rogue Nation

I've held off on commenting on the "we know where Bin Laden is" stories that official organ of the Bush administrationTime magazine is touting in its interview with CIA Director Porter Goss. This is the same administration that has had "excellent ideas" where to find just about everything. Problem is, in order to have excellent ideas, they have to be based on reality, and this administration is a little reality-challenged.

The director of the CIA says he has an "excellent idea" where Osama bin Laden is hiding, but that the United States' respect for sovereign nations makes it more difficult to capture the al-Qaida chief.

But this quotation in the lastest news snippet made me spit coffee on my keyboard. We have respect for sovereign nations? Really?

I think this may be one of those semantics problems. A "sovereign nation" is one that allows us to "extraordinary rendition" our human rights issues, takes our money and allows us to place our bases there, or, in general, accepts our current administration's definition of emissions standards, human rights, or science. "Rogue nations" are those who give us the finger. If Bin Laden was hiding in a rogue nation, we'd be invading in a New York minute.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Leaves Me Cold

My daughter will tell you that every time I hear something that even remotely resembles Coldplay, or one of the myriad Coldplay wannabe bands on the radio, I hit the "scan" button. This article gave meaning to my aversion.
Imagine if the biggest rock band in the United States was fronted by someone who looked and sounded just like George W. Bush. Worse, by someone who was from the same social caste as Bush and who thought that everything Bush does is "BRILLIANT." So BRILLIANT, in fact, that said rock star offered Bush his cell number with an invitation for him to call if he ever felt like chatting about world poverty, or world peace, or fancied being taught how to play a mean F-chord on guitar. You would think that was weird, right? Especially if you associate rock with rebellion -- with the guitar-smashing antics of the Who or the anarchic shenanigans of the Sex Pistols -- and not with schoolgirlish sucking up to the biggest Boss Man of all.

You want to listen to real rock? Check out Sleater-Kinney.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sex With Jeff

Jeff has a damn good post on sex education today over at CultureKitchen. You've all heard me blah-blah-blah on this one. I'm deferring to Jeff today.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Are You FUCKING kidding me?

(I apologize in advance for the profanity-laden rant. But this stuff makes me nuts.)
More from the department of making shit up:

In one of those moments when the NYT decided to provide free advertising to the Heritage Foundation, it prominently features the following from one of our favourite right-wing thinktanks:

Studies Rebut Earlier Report on Pledges of Virginity


Challenging earlier findings, two studies from the Heritage Foundation reported yesterday that young people who took virginity pledges had lower rates of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases and engaged in fewer risky sexual behaviors.

The new findings were based on the same national survey used by earlier studies and conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. But the authors of the new study used different methods of statistical analysis from those in an earlier one that was widely publicized, making direct comparisons difficult.

Independent experts called the new findings provocative, but criticized the Heritage team's analysis as flawed and lacking the statistical evidence to back its conclusions. The new findings have not been submitted to a journal for publication, an author said. The independent experts who reviewed the study said the findings were unlikely to be published in their present form.

Okay. Say this with me now. Manipulating the data to make it look like the truth is still considered LYING. (And I still believe that bearing false witness is a big no-no. But what do I know? I'm an unethical atheist.)

Now that certain people have decided that science can be interpreted any damn way you please, and thus, there is TOO scientific proof for Intelligent Design, apparently, you can take a survey and change the data just a little tiny bit and get whole different results. Who'd a thunk?

So, even though the original study was published in a vetted journal, and this one is not going to be published in a journal, doesn't make this one any less legitimate, right?

Those studies that came out of Texas that showed higher rates of pregnancy among the kids who'd taken abstinence-only education courses must have been bullshit, no?

The team needs to do "a lot of work" on its paper, said David Landry, a senior research associate at the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York. He said in an interview that it was "a glaring error" to use the result of a statistical test at a 0.10 level of significance when journals generally use a lower and more rigorous level of 0.05.

.10 or .05, what's the big diff? Sheesh.

I figure there's going to be lots of explaining to do soon. See, if these kids are not having sex, how are they going to explain those pregnancies? Hmmm. That virgin birth story worked once before....

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Remains of the Day

Copyright: Mark D. Beazley, BigToePhotography

These two photographs are taken from Roosevelt Island, on the East River in the middle of NYC. Roosevelt Island was formerly known as Blackwell Island, and it used to house an insane asylum, a smallpox hospital, and a women's prison. Emma Goldman spent time in that prison. These are photographs of what remains of the smallpox hospital. There are more photos over at Mark's site. Please check them out.

BlackwellRoosevelt Island

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Menstruating She Devils

Menstruating She Devils is making its way into the world. Come on over and see what we're up to.

This amazing image is by the incomparable Tild.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Why Feminism is NOT just a woman’s issue

One of the most disheartening things for those of us who consider ourselves feminists is the sense that it has become a ghetto term; the Right was successful in labeling us as man-hating FemiNazis (or, as one recent Dkos poster referred to us: “menstruating she-devils”), when the irony is that feminism is the bedrock of progressive politics. Feminism links the private with the political, interrogates how restrictions on personal behaviour echoes out to national policy, and understands gender not as “sex,” but as power—who has it, who wants it, and how those in power get to portray those who do not.

The discussions of the personal, which could be categorized constitutionally as those things covered under the "right to privacy," principally things such as abortion and gay civil rights, have come up repeatedly as the things that people are willing to throw overboard in order to save the Democratic party. But I would urge no surrender on any of this.

Maybe you think that abortion and gay marriage don't matter. Maybe you think they're things we're distracting ourselves with. But my argument, nay, my plea, would be for us as progressives to consider the personal issues as political issues and realize that if we take away anyone's right to privacy, eventually, we will lose our own.

We need to reclaim the body. If we claim the body, then we are able to say categorically that torture, capital punishment, sexual repression, gender inequality, are not part of the progressive agenda. If we claim the right to privacy, we are able to say that illegal search and seizure, religious indoctrination in schools, public prayer, refusal to sell Plan B, abstinence-only education—all of these things—are not acceptable. If we claim gender as power differential, we are able to see how the sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners is tied into notions of dominance—the same notions of dominance that will be used against all of us.

And it’s gender studies that have allowed us to see these things. Gender as defined by Joan Scott:
Scott’s definition of gender has two parts and several subsets; they are interrelated but analytically distinct. Her definition rests on two propositions:
1. gender is a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes;
2. gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power.

Riane Eisler had this to say about the personal as political and our reluctance as progressives to discuss it:

Today, it's regressive fundamentalists, not progressives, who are more comfortable talking about the personal as political. They, not progressives, dominate the debate over "private" life and "family values."

Yet family relations directly influence what people consider normal and moral in all relations -- public as well as private. We must challenge the reactionary, increasingly fundamentalist "traditional family values" agenda. We cannot build a healthy democracy on a foundation of authoritarianism and intolerance -- in the home and outside it."

Family relations affect how people think and act. They affect how people vote and govern, and whether the policies they support are just and genuinely democratic or violent and oppressive.

Slogans like "traditional values" often mask a family "morality" suited to undemocratic, rigidly male-dominated, chronically violent cultures. They market a "traditional family" where women are subordinate and economically dependent, where fathers make the rules and severely punish disobedience -- the kind of family that prepares people to defer to "strong" leaders who brook no dissent and use force to impose their will.

How can we expect people raised in authoritarian families -- where men are ranked over women and children learn that any questioning of belief and authority will be punished -- to vote for leaders whose policies promote justice, equality, democracy, mutual respect and nonviolence?

It's not coincidental that for regressive fundamentalists -- whether Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Muslim -- the only moral family is one that models top-down rankings of domination ultimately backed up by fear and force. It's not coincidental that the 9/11 terrorists came from families where women and children are terrorized into submission.

You do not have to be a woman to recognize that gender and feminism are inextricably tied to the progressive agenda. You do not have to be a woman to recognize that when progressive males start shitting on so-called women’s issues, they are missing the point. If you do not understand how power works, how it is rooted in the binary oppositions that we ascribe to the sexes, then you will continue to focus on saving one tree while the entire forest is being razed.

Kos and Pie

I never had a problem with the pie ad. I think the reason  is that I've become so used to living in a society that equates women with their bodies that I literally didn't see it.

I also had the experience of posting on CultureKitchen about issues of choice and having an anti-choice company place banner ads with my diary. Liza Sabater figured out very quickly that the more people who clicked through to the site, the more CultureKitchen made, which would allow her to continue to pay for the space that allowed she and I to post our views on the very issue of abortion, among others. So, sometimes, you wind up making money off people in this world who are doing their damndest to defeat you. I kinda liked that.

But, the response from Kos to the pie ad has caused me to opt out of the DailyKos community. As someone who writes primarily about the connection between the personal and the political, I have no choice but to be a feminist. I care about gender issues, sexuality issues, surveillance issues, sex education issues, marriage issues, etc., etc., etc. And what bothers me more than anything about the tone of the debate is that CERTAIN (not all) heterosexual males don't seem to get that what they deem women's issues or gay issues are one step away from being their issues. Anyone rememeber Neimoller's famous quotation?

I have also been called a whore for writing about sexual issues as explicitly as I do, so I can hardly be considered a sexless harridan. I love certain men. I want to live in a world where no one has to contest their rights as human beings because of gender or sexuality.

I know that some people don't understand why some of us are so fucking angry at Kos right now that we can't see straight.

It's not about the fucking ad. It's about the fact that those of us who think that there will be no politics to fight about if we don't protect the right to privacy have been told repeatedly that our issues don't matter. That we should be patient, get in line, wait our turn.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

I got tagged

And because I'm afraid of bad blogging karma, I'm going to respond.

Your favorite band/artist:
1. Peter Gabriel
2. Tori Amos
3. Patty Griffin
4. Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service

Your hobbies/interests:
1. Writing
2. Reading
3. Pop culture
4. Gardening

Things that scare you:
1. Heights
2. Deep Water
3. Christian Fundamentalists
4. George W. Bush

Your favorite fiction writers:
1. Margaret Atwood
2. Umberto Eco
3. Karen Novak
4. Russell Banks

Your three celebrity crushes:
1. Clive Owen
2. Mariska Hargitay
3. Jonathan Poneman

What you are wearing right now:
1. Teva sandals
2. Backless, sleeveless summer dress
3. nothing
4. nada

What you want in a relationship:
1. Emotional availability
2. Compassion
3. Intelligence
4. Wit

Your everyday essentials:
1. Coffee
2. Blogging
3. Writing
4. My daughters

Your drugs of choice:
1. various prescriptions

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sleeping in the Forest

Sleeping in the Forest by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

"I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately,  to front only the essential facts of life,  and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,  and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Henry David Thoreau

I have just returned from a full week of seclusion. I went to the Catskills, checked into a motel along the banks of a river, and spent seven days in my own company. During that time, I had no access to the Internet, nor to my cell phone. A few friends knew where I was; they called me intermittently on the motel phone. I saw people every day when I went for my meals; I chatted with the people who lived in the small town where I was, and one night, I even drove down to Manhattan for a date, but for the most part, I wrote, I hiked, and I read. Alone.

What I want to talk about is solitude.

May Sarton once said that loneliness was the absence of the other but solitude was the company of the self. I've just experienced that. It's not the first time in my life that I've enjoyed a period of time alone and not been frightened by it, but it's taken me a long time to reach a point where the idea of going off by myself, without a companion, does not fill me with dread.

Loneliness is a terrible sensation. The absence of others opens up before us like the maws of hell; and the desolation of isolation feels like being hugged by the ice-cold arms of death itself. Perhaps the fear of being alone is the fear of death; it's the one journey that we must take alone. There will be no one there to accompany us, and the struggle against that feeling drives many of us to behaviours that are ultimately harmful, even if the things we do seem to be staving off loneliness at the time.

My week away was amazing. Its purpose was to finish my novel, which, I'm happy to report, I did. The novel is done. After some revisions, it will be ready to shop around for possible publication. But I didn't write for publication. I wrote to communicate, to set free the ideas in my head, to give parts of myself voice. Ironically, I did this while being quiet.

While I'm engaging in a solipsistic recitation of a week spent alone, I'm aware of a few things that I think are relevant to my politics. One of them is that my ability to go into the woods for a week is a privilege. The motel was incredibly inexpensive, but still, a week in a motel is not cheap. If I had camped, I would have needed equipment; my point being that a week in the wilderness these days is only for the privileged classes who can afford to get away from it all, or the everyday life of the rural poor who call those areas their home. Economically disadvantaged, I assume that they are able to enjoy the natural beauty that those of us trapped in urban and suburban sprawl long for.

I could tell you about the experience of my hikes into the wilderness every day. Of how I never saw another human being; of the pair of eagles that flew just over my head; of the newborn fawn, still wet from his mother's body; the snakes I nearly stepped on; the mother grouse that feigned not being able to fly in order to lead me away from her nest; of the multitude of wildflowers in the woods. There. I guess I have told you. But really? I hope you get to experience some facet of this yourself.

The other thing that was reiterated to me by my trip is the sense that if only we could make peace with isolation, with solitude, and not feel the panic of loneliness, our politics would benefit. The need for company, for relationships, can lead to issues of domination and control and cruelty and abuse. Yes. Relationships are powerful and can be fulfilling and lovely. But our fear of being alone can drive us to do cruel things to keep some people near. It works its way up the chain of our relationships, so that our politics becomes a macrocosm of crying, grasping need. Of pure want. Of suffering.

I walked in a local graveyard. There were too many children's graves there. Some of them were recent; in a town as small as it was, there seemed to be too many adolescents and children in the ground. There was also something stunning: carved into the side of the cemetery, overlooking the river, was a huge granite memorial with Chinese inscriptions and carvings of Chinese ancestors. The only sensation that I can use to describe this monument and its setting, the absolute peace that I felt when I sat in the middle of it with the sun kissing my face and the breeze off the river keeping me cool, is perfection. Quiet perfection.

There is no point to this diary. It is a simple acknowledgement on my part of the power of this community; of how, having returned from being away, I wanted to make contact again. Of how grateful I am for all of this. Of how much gratitude I have for both community and solitude.

So, I'm grateful to be back. Grateful to be alive. And eventually, I'll read all the news I missed for the week and re-immerse myself in the politics before us. But I'll carry the wilderness with me, just as I carried this community with me into the woods.

Monday, May 16, 2005

NCAA addresses Indian Nicknames

The NCAA announced today that it is contemplating how to manage the issue of college teams that continue to use nicknames taken from reference to Indian tribes (Redmen, Utes, Savages, Braves, etc.).

Native American coalitions have asked the NCAA repeatedly to ask its member schools to drop these nicknames. They are seen by Native peoples as derogatory and offensive. Schools, of course, claim that adopting these nicknames is a tribute to the spirit of Native Americans.

Ah, nothing like a little cultural appropriation after you've practiced genocide to try to make up for your actions. I'm sure there are colleges all over Germany with nicknames like "Jews," "Hebrews," "Gypsies," and "Slavs." Those nicknames would certainly honour the spirit of the murdered souls, don't you think?
I'm not sure why this is so difficult for school administrators to get. After all, Stanford made the change years ago, and there doesn't seem to have been a complete collapse of fan loyalty now that it's the Cardinal.

When the NCAA dealt with schools that continue to use the Confederate flag in their school flags, its decision was that schools could continue to participate in their conferences, but various levels of NCAA championships could not take place at those schools. That's quite a financial hit if you are not able to host a regional tournament in a revenue sport.

Now, faced with what is sure to be a hot-button issue, the NCAA is getting ready (after four years of study) to issue recommendations about how to change school mascots and names.

I know that one of the arguments is that no one is asking schools to change their names if they are called the "Spartans" or "Trojans." But those universities do not sit in the middle of conquered or stolen or swindled land, do not sit next to reservations where those native peoples live in some of the worst states of poverty in the country, are not seen as affronts to the people they are meant to honour.

It is time for the NCAA to deal with this matter firmly. There should be penalties attached to Indian nicknames. If you know, for example, that the name of your team hurts the people who are supposedly meant to be honoured by it, why would you resist changing the name?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Culture of Rape: Spiritual and Physical

When you force religion down someone's throat, something else is sure to follow. I want to talk about the connections between spiritual and physical rape; this morning's report in the New York Times that proseltyzing for Christianity was taking place in a systematic, insensitive way while academy leadership turned its head bears striking similarities to what happened when hundreds of women at the Air Force Academy reported being raped.

A chaplain at the Air Force Academy has described a "systemic and pervasive" problem of religious proselytizing at the academy and says a religious tolerance program she helped create to deal with the problem was watered down after it was shown to officers, including the major general who is the Air Force's chief chaplain.

The academy chaplain, Capt. MeLinda Morton, 48, spoke publicly for the first time as an Air Force task force arrived at the academy in Colorado Springs on Tuesday to investigate accusations that officers, staff members and senior cadets inappropriately used their positions to push their evangelical Christian beliefs on Air Force cadets.

This is not the first time that "insensitivity" has reared its ugly head at the service academies, especially the Air Force:

One female student in seven attending the nation's military academies last spring said she had been sexually assaulted since becoming a cadet or midshipman, according to a report on the first survey of sexual misconduct on the three campuses released yesterday by the Defense Department.

More than half the women studying at the Naval, Air Force and Army academies reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment on campus, according to survey responses. But few of those incidents, and only a third of the assaults, were reported to authorities. A new confidentiality policy for assault victims, also released yesterday, attempts to improve reporting of sex crimes on military campuses.

The survey, conducted largely in response to allegations of widespread sexual harassment and assault at the Air Force Academy in 2003, suggests a prevailing climate at the academies that worries military leaders. Too many students condone off-color jokes and unwanted sexual advances. Too few dare to confront classmates with their transgressions or to report them to anyone else, the survey shows.

Not surprisingly, cadets do not report the sexual assault or harassmen to their commanding officers for fear of retribution. It seems that the commanding officers do not "get" it when it comes to matters of insensitivity.

More on the attempts to promote sensitivity to religious difference:

She said the R.S.V.P. program was significantly altered after it was screened last fall for 300 academy staff members and officers. Military officials confirmed that the program had been altered but said changes were routine in the development of such training programs.

Maj. Gen. Charles C. Baldwin, the chief of chaplains for the entire Air Force, screened the R.S.V.P. program in October, Captain Morton said, and afterward asked her, "Why is it that the Christians never win?" in response to some of the program's dramatizations of interactions between cadets of different religions.

So, being a Christian is about winning?

What's more important is the climate that is perpetuated at the Academy, where being a Christian is the price of serving one's country:

Captain Morton said, "People at the academy were making cadets feel an obligation that they are serving the will of God if they are engaging in evangelical activities, and telling them that this is harmonious and co-extensive with military service."

One staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity said on Wednesday: "There's certainly an impression that evangelicals here have that the leadership is kind of on their side. And there's a feeling among people who are atheists or people who are other varieties of Christian that the leadership does not really accept them."

Now imagine an environment of evangelical Christianity, where women are subordinate to men, and picture how the following are taking place simultaneously:

From the

rape scandal:

"Our goal is to produce military leaders of character," Schmitz said at a news conference. "And obviously, sexual assaults are not a good indication of character. In fact, they're a very bad indication."

Two-thirds of the sexual assaults against men and women -- 248 incidents -- were not reported to authorities, the survey shows. Officials said this is a result of privacy concerns and myriad other factors that deter assault victims from reporting the crime in the general population.

But students reported other factors germane to their campus culture. One is fear among victims that they, too, could be punished for conduct related to the assault, such as underage drinking. Another is a sense of loyalty to classmates. A third is fear of reprisals by classmates or senior officers, according to the survey. Of the 96 cases that women reported to academy authorities, 29 led to criminal investigations, according to the survey. It was unclear how many led to actual charges against the alleged offender.

I think it could be argued that an environment in which loyalty is emphasized, the desire to belong is cemented through the idea that spiritual cohesion is necessary--therefore drop your individual religious identity in deference to the group's--and a belief that there is some kind of "winning" involved when you are successful in defending your faith, are all a fertile breeding ground for attitudes of insensitivity, entitlement, and brutality and power/control that leads to rape.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Rape Your Wife For Jesus

Fuck. Here we go again. W. David Hager--beloved OB-GYN from Kentucky, the man who President Bush wanted to appoint to an essential role in the FDA, the man who refuses to dispense various forms of birth control to his patients because it offends his moral values--that Dr. Moral Values, that one--raped his ex-wife repeatedly from 1995 to 2002, when she finally left him. Oh, and he didn't just rape her vaginally. He raped her anally, while she was taking medication being used to treat her narcolepsy. The man buggered his wife while she slept.

The details can be found in this week's The Nation. The story is sordid, and I don't want to quote any of it here. You can read it for yourself. Quite frankly, the man clearly has serious hang-ups about sex. But duh. Most of us could have told you that given the things he has said and done in the past. He's obsessed with sex; he's obsessed with the idea that women can't be trusted with their bodies, that they need a paternalistic doctor to tell them how their reproductive systems really work, and how if they gave themselves to Jesus, their ills would be cured. (Of course, I gave myself to Jesus, and now he never calls.)

Some of you may remember Hager as the asswipe that the current president (sic)
appointed to the FDA's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs. He was one of the few members of this committee who voted against making Plan B available over the counter. His reasoning? It would encourage adolescents to engage in unsafe sex. (The fact that he considers Plan B to be an abortifacient was not a factor. Yeah right.)

So, Hager is not exactly the man I want with his hands in my vagina while I'm getting my annual pelvic exam. He and I do not see eye-to-eye on women's health care issues. (Oh god. I just thought about that man's gloved fingers inside my vagina and I think I have to hurl.) My question is, why do misognynistic fucknuts like this go into obstetrics and gynecology? Sheesh. I wonder if it's because he's a little insecure in his manhood? Wants to have power over women? Wants women to come to his office and tell them all about their sexual histories while he hides his woody under his desk while he lectures them on their immoral abuses of their god-given womanly parts? (By the way, this man actually told his wife while he was fucking her that he couldn't tell the difference between her anus and her vagina. Um. That's just a little too frightening for me to even think about.)

So, tell me again. W stands for women? Not quite. W stands behind men who anally rape their wives--better to see the view.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Last night, I was hanging out with a group of drunks and addicts who are trying to stay sober. The topic was anger. Anger. Shit. An emotion that I'm intimately familiar with, but am only now learning to deal with. Anger, which for me, is perhaps the most complicated emotion I deal with. Anger and I have a history; I bear its scars, most of them internal, unseen by the outside world, but the contours of which I can trace like a map. Anger and grief, anger and self-hurting, anger and addiction.

Why am I telling you this? Because so much of my politics is my attempt to channel the anger, to calm the rage, to make a difference so that the anger I feel does not win. And I struggle with my anger, especially now, when I see what we're up against. I have spent my life wanting to react with the grace of Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. But I'm a mother, and more and more, I find myself reacting to the bullshit with the rage of Medusa. If I could, I'd turn them to stone. Not because I want to hurt them. But because I don't want them to hurt anyone I love ever again.

I started to write out a list of things that make me angry. And I realized that that list would comprise thousands of words. I suspect that many of us are angry about similar things. That there is injustice, and that our government, hell-bent on pursuing the worst of agendae, ignores those of us who want a truly kinder and gentler culture.

I'm a woman. Perhaps it's my gender, perhaps it's the family I grew up in, but anger is the scariest of emotions. I grew up in a situation where expressing anger was the fastest way to provoke someone else's anger; in that environment, those who were bigger hurt those who were smaller. After a while, I learned that anger was a dangerous thing. I turned that anger inward. Rendered powerless, I used my anger to beat the shit out of myself. Eating disorder. Ulcer. Substance abuse.

Only recently have I learned that anger is not my enemy. Anger takes two faces with me, and in learning to intepret which anger I'm dealing with is helping me to become a better political activist.

Anger sometimes makes me flail. I hate flailing. It's like being caught in a current; sometimes, the answer is not to fight, it is to let the water carry you where you need to go. My anger is like that sometimes. If I flail against it, I drown. If I let it carry me, sometimes I come to shore in a new place with a new perspective.

I've learned to ask my anger a question. Is this anger I'm feeling because I feel powerless, because I can't get my own fucking way, because I can't get someone to do the thing I want them to do? Or is my anger pushing me to change something? Is my anger an expression of power or powerlessness?

Addicts know a lot about powerlessness. Powerlessness is the recognition that we don't get to be in charge of the world, as Annie Lamott once said, "It's realizing that you're not secretly God's West Coast representative." Powerlessness is about realizing that each of as individuals make our own decisions, and I don't have control over anyone else's life. So wanting to change someone's behaviour, that's an anger of powerlessness.

The other anger? Well, I consider that to be an anger of empowerment. This government pisses me off. I can write letters to George Bush until my fingers wither and fall off; he's unreachable. There's no point in trying to reason with him. But, there are things I can do with my anger against this man who dares to think of himself as leader of the free world even as he seeks to strip liberties from everyone who does not agree with him.

What can I do? Well, first of all, I can do this. I can write. And then I can choose to write to people who might have access to power that I don't have: my representatives. My senators. Newspapers. I can also make a difference in the lives of my daughters. I can model behaviour for them that will serve them well later in life: if I show them that one can live a life of integrity and passion in the midst of madness, perhaps they can draw on that later in life. I can contribute to organizations that are making a difference in the lives of those we have harmed. I can feed a hungry child. I can read to a child who has no one to read to them. I can realize my true size in this gigantic world while resolving to take up the space that I'm supposed to. (As a woman, taking up space is a revolutionary act.)There are other things I can do: sometimes, I don't know what those are until the anger has battered against me. Anger is my nemesis, but it's also my mirror. It reflects back to me what's important.

For those of you familiar with the Steps, you know I'm attempting to practice the first three steps here.

I'm a control freak. It's part of my addiction. If everyone would just let me be queen of the universe, we'd all live in peace and harmony and justice and love. Really. But the universe seems to have other plans. And so I light my affirming flame, want to burn bright enough so that those in darkness can feel the heat and the light.

And finally, I came across this poem today. I don't know if McKay was talking about The White House in DC, but this is my affirmation today.

The White House
Claude McKay

Your door is shut against my tightened face,
And I am sharp as steel with discontent;
But I possess the courage and the grace
To bear my anger proudly and unbent.
The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,
A chafing savage, down the decent street;
And passion rends my vitals as I pass,
Where boldly shines your shuttered door of glass.
Oh, I must search for wisdom every hour,
Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw,
And find in it the superhuman power
To hold me to the letter of your law!
Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate
Against the potent poison of your hate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Saturday, April 23, 2005

A Response to Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank has a piece in this week's NYRB that will serve as an addendum to the paperback edition of What's the Matter with Kansas?. The article is more than worth reading (that goes without saying) but I would like to offer some additional historical and other perspective. It goes without saying that I think he missed something: the crisis of masculinity that I think permeates American politics.

Frank offers his brilliant analysis of the populist politics of the past thirty-five years: the Republicans' mastery of convincing working class people to vote against their economic interests in order to stick it to elitist liberals who seek to destroy the working class's values. By manipulating religion, the right--the party of elitist business concerns--makes an unholy alliance with fundamentalist Christianity.

an aside(For those seeking further historical parallels, study the history of the English Civil War. The Roundheads, Cromwell's armies, were the product of years of propaganda campaigns in the countryside that sought to equate the peasants/small tradesmen/budding bourgeoisie with their Calvinist embrace of severity and simplicity against a Court/City culture of extravagance, sexual corruption, and secret Catholicism. But this analysis is for another diary.)

Conservatives generally regard class as an unacceptable topic when the subject is economics—trade, deregulation, shifting the tax burden, expressing worshipful awe for the microchip, etc. But define politics as culture, and class instantly becomes for them the very blood and bone of public discourse. Indeed, from George Wallace to George W. Bush, a class-based backlash against the perceived arrogance of liberalism has been one of their most powerful weapons. Workerist in its rhetoric but royalist in its economic effects, this backlash is in no way embarrassed by its contradictions. It understands itself as an uprising of the little people even when its leaders, in control of all three branches of government, cut taxes on stock dividends and turn the screws on the bankrupt. It mobilizes angry voters by the millions, despite the patent unwinnability of many of its crusades. And from the busing riots of the Seventies to the culture wars of our own time, the backlash has been ignored, downplayed, or misunderstood by liberals.

I don't disagree with Frank. I think he's right. But where he sees "class," in his analysis, I see "gender."

A newcomer to American politics, after observing this strategy in action in 2004, would have been justified in believing that the Democrats were the party in power, so complacent did they seem and so unwilling were they to criticize the actual occupant of the White House. Republicans, meanwhile, were playing another game entirely. The hallmark of a "backlash conservative" is that he or she approaches politics not as a defender of the existing order or as a genteel aristocrat but as an average working person offended by the arrogance of the (liberal) upper class. The sensibility was perfectly caught during the campaign by onetime Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who explained it to The New York Times like this: "Joe Six-Pack doesn't understand why the world and his culture are changing and why he doesn't have a say in it."[3] These are powerful words, the sort of phrase that could once have been a slogan of the fighting, egalitarian left. Today, though, it was conservatives who claimed to be fighting for the little guy, assailing the powerful, and shrieking in outrage at the direction in which the world is irresistibly sliding.

I have commented on this before. Part of the chaos that is being reacted to is the shifting world of gender politics. No longer confined to home and babies, no longer economically dependent on men, women occupy a nebulous, borderless, threatening position in our culture right now. I used to reject notions of patriarchy and archetypes: now, as I have postulated before, the past forty years have brought with it
I find myself wondering if America doesn't long for Daddy's spank. So many people bemoan the loss of order in this culture: the hard, unyielding discipline meted out by daddy, the kind that scared us, the kind that made us behave ourselves for fear of getting into trouble. In the last forty years, things have been more fluid, more yielding, more liquid, and increasingly, covered by the mucus of borderlessness, some in our culture seem genuinely grossed out. Female bodies are icky for some, and perhaps they feel as if they've been living inside a cunt. The shapeless feminine.

Class gives boundaries, markers, borders within which individuals feel safety. It is possible to leave your class in an upward bound trajectory, but for many of us who grew up in working-class families, there is a certain stigma that comes with such a move. A sense of class betrayal. Of going to the other side. As class has broken down: the destruction of the working class, the destruction of the middle class, the triumph of a two-class system: rich and poor, class no longer serves as identifying marker. What's left? Gender and Religion. And gender isn't in great shape right now.

To quote Frank again:
James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time ever and, proclaiming that "everything we hold dear is on the line" because of the threat of gay marriage, addressed gargantuan political rallies of evangelical Christians around the country.

"Everything we hold dear." Gay marriage threatening everything we hold dear. The penetration of the family, of gender roles, of men acting like (heterosexual) men--and the equation of John Kerry, the war hero, with a "girlie-man."

More Frank:

The backlash narrative is more powerful than mere facts, and according to this central mythology conservatives are always hardworking patriots who love their country and are persecuted for it, while liberals, who are either high-born weaklings or eggheads hypnotized by some fancy idea, are always ready to sell their nation out at a moment's notice.

Weaklings. Eggheads. Traitors. The treacherous feminine. The archetype of feminine danger, of Eve, conspiring with the serpent to bring Adam down.

War casts in sharp relief the inauthenticity of the liberals, the insincerity of their patriotism, and their intellectual distance (always trying to "understand" the terrorists' motives) from the raw emotions felt by ordinary Americans—each quality an expression of the deracinated upper-classness that is thought to be the defining characteristic of liberalism.

The reason conservatives are always thought to be tough and liberals to be effete milquetoasts (two favorite epithets from the early days of the backlash) even when they aren't is the same reason Americans believe the French to be a nation of sissies and the same reason the Dead End Kids found it both easy and satisfying to beat up the posh boy from the luxury apartment building: the cultural symbolism of class. If you relish chardonnay/lattes/ snowboarding, you will not fight. If you talk like a Texan, you are a two-fisted he-man who knows life's hardships and are ready to scrap at a moment's notice.

Before 2006, before 2008, progressives have got to figure out how to appeal to the wounded masculine in this country. It is not to be accomplished by destroying Roe v. Wade, denigrating women, repealing the small steps that gays have made toward full citizenship. We cannot go backwards on that. But we can realize that there are a lot of alienated males in our culture right now. Without their jobs, their traditional jobs that gave them identity, they need a new way of understanding their manhood.

George Bush has stirred up patriotic fervour in this country. (Patriotic: from patria or father). He has tapped into and his advisors have manipulated a warrior ethos in which it is unpatriotic to not support the troops and the war, where to oppose the war is to be sissified. The right has stirred up resentment against elitism as the provence of effeminancy, borderlessness, the world of sexual depravity. The Christianity that has emerged to combat these evils is not the gentle Christ; it is the manly, take-no-prisoners, I'll-kick-your-ass Christ.

The culture war we are engaged in is one of class, yes. But it is framed in notions of wounded masculinity that seeks to destroy the feminine in oh so many ways. As a woman, I'm terrified. But it's not about males versus females. Gender here is about more than that here. It's about rigidity versus fluidity, it's about authoritarianism versus freedom.

We must find a way to address these issues.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More Dead Women courtesy of USA

The Guardian is reporting that despite approval by a panel of medical experts, the World Health Organization has not, as yet, moved two medications onto an "essential medicines" list. Guess what those two medications do? Replace surgical abortion.

The Guardian understands that the US department of health and human services has been lobbying the director general's office at the WHO to block approval of the pills, in line with President George Bush's neoconservative stance on abortion.

While the availability of pills might make abortion easier and could increase the number choosing it, the experts want them listed to reduce the deaths and damage caused by surgery. Every year, 19 million women have unsafe abortions - 18.5 million of those take place in developing countries. An estimated 68,000 women die as a result of botched or unhygienic surgery, while many others suffer long-term damage, including sterility.

The WHO's own department of reproductive health proposed the addition of the abortion pills to the list.

As I stated in an earlier diary, "the World Health Organization reports that 500,000 women still die in childbirth every year, and 10.6 MILLION children die before age five."

Maternal health is supposed to be a priority. WHO has proclaimed this year as "make every woman and child count." But for those who will die in childbirth because they could not safely have an abortion, those women don't count. For those women who will die having a surgery in unhygienic conditions, when they could have safely taken medication, they don't count either. For those who are pregnant as the result of campaigns of rape--and such campaigns are being carried on now, as I type, they don't count either. For some of those babies, brought into the world against their mothers' wills, who will die of starvation, malaria, AIDS, diarrhea, they don't count either.

Our government would rather watch women DIE than admit that maybe, just maybe, abortion is the right option for some women.

Liza shines some light

Yesterday was a black day. But CultureKitchen has a great piece on yesterday's papal election and Mario Cuomo. Go read it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I am in mourning

The cardinals could not have chosen a worse person to elevate to Pope. Hatred is now the Catholic church's official doctrine when it comes to gays and women. Paint it black.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Joy of Teaching

Okay. I just got caught "googling" myself, and one of my old, shitty short stories popped up. I swear I'm a much better writer now, but if you want to see what I wrote when I was really pissed about something, check this out.
Giggle. And there was even a review.

Scalia didn't deserve privacy

As many of you know, Justice Scalia was asked if he sodomized his wife. The student who asked the question defended himself beautifully in this letter. And it goes without saying, his question if fully in line with my insistence that we have to ask embarrassing questions of those who seek to destroy our right to privacy.

Sex Positive Shout-Out

Looking for a perfect gift? How about a handcrafted piece of erotica written specifically for your loved one? It's spring; everything is thrusting itself forward, upward, outward. The world is fecund and receiving. Time to shake off the winter doldrums and fuck like bunnies. If you're looking for that perfect gift for that certain someone, check out The Literary Courtesan. She has many happy clients who can attest to her abilities--I'm one of them.

What the Theocrats Want


The Seductiveness of Death

This is what the theocrats in this country want. To lead the female body back to the darkness, to shut us up in the tomb, to deny us our humanity.
I'm haunted by this image.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

My Privacy Manifesto

Cross-posted at CultureKitchen

I, Lorraine Berry, assert my right to privacy as a basic human right that I will not allow to be compromised by my political party, which has allowed notions of privacy to be hijacked by those who call them “moral” values.

We are allowing ourselves to be dominated by a Republican ruling party of scolds, prudes, and control freaks, who believe, somehow, that their claim to eternal life is tied to their control of all the chaotic elements that make us human. They want to regulate in others what they consider to be sin: sin, for them, separates them from God, it is the source of suffering, it is our very humanity they seek to tame and take away. Why? Well, because I am prone to meta-explanations, I would argue that they’re seriously afraid of death, and think, somehow, if they control other people’s behaviours, they won’t have to die. I know that sounds horrendously illogical. But I’d like you to think about it.

Bernardino da Siena, the Franciscan Observant preacher, went from town to town in the 1420’s, warning inhabitants of each of the towns he visited that those who tolerated sin within their city walls would be punished by God for allowing that sin to exist. “So will I destroy the cities” is foretold in the Book of Malachi, and so it would be for Christians, thundered Bernardino to his flocks. Who did he urge them to root out? Sodomites. Usurers. Witches. Later in the century, fellow Franciscan Observants such as Bernardino da Feltre would add Jews to this list.

The fifteenth century bears strange similarities to our own century. The greatest threat to Christian Europe was the Turk, Muslims, who, it was thought, would overrun Christian Europe, slaughtering the men, making women their concubines. In absolute terror that the advancing Turks were the scourge inflicted on Christians by an angry God, communities looked inward for their enemies, and started offering up their friends and neighbors for private acts that were seen as publicly dangerous. Sometimes, I don’t think that rhetoric sounds any different than what we hear coming from right-wing pundits and preachers. We’re marching lock-step back into the Dark Ages.

So, here’s how I intend to counteract the attacks on privacy. Perhaps if enough of us were to do it, we can change the nature of the debate. This is not about moral values. This is about insecure people hoping to somehow gain eternal life by destroying the lives of others.

So, the next time someone calls abortion a moral choice, I will ask him the results of his last prostate exam, or her the results of her pelvic exam. I expect they’ll tell me it’s none of my business. To which I’ll reply, “exactly.”

The next time someone argues against gay marriage, I’ll ask him or her when the last time he or she made love with their spouse. I expect they’ll tell me it’s none of my business. To which I’ll reply, “exactly.”

The next time somebody defends pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control pills, I’ll ask them what prescription medicines they are currently taking. I expect they’ll tell me it’s none of my business. To which I’ll reply, “exactly.”

The next time someone says that Terri Schiavo was murdered, I’ll ask them if they’ve made arrangements for a local government official to be in their loved one’s hospital room making final decisions. I expect they’ll tell me it’s none of my business. To which I’ll reply, “exactly.”

The next time some legislator proposes banning sex toys, I’ll ask them what method of masturbation they prefer. I expect they’ll tell me it’s none of my business. To which I’ll reply, “exactly.”

The next time someone talks about family values, I’ll ask them to tell me what the last thing they disciplined their child over. I expect they’ll tell me it’s none of my business. To which I’ll reply, “exactly.”

We cannot allow our panic at being out of power to lead us to separate abortion rights, gay rights, end-of-life-decision rights, parenting rights, medical rights from the basic human right to live free of someone else butting their nose into our personal lives.

We need to explain that even if they could live in their perfect world where human beings lived the types of lives that the moral scolds imagine, the moral scolds are still going to die. If they control everything, they’re still going to die. It is the ultimate form of addiction to think that if you control-freak yourself all over other people, you can be happy. But it doesn’t work for addicts, it won’t work for them, and it makes the rest us pretty fucking miserable. Can we please stop enabling the control freaks? Please?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Snark Attack

Proof that Homo Erectus was a Progressive:

According to the New York Times, scientists have gone public with their findings regarding fossil evidence that compassion is an evolutionary trait.

The toothless skull of an early human ancestor, discovered in the Republic of Georgia, may attest to evolution's oldest known example of some kind of compassion for the elderly and handicapped in society, scientists are reporting today.

In interviews and the current issue of National Geographic, the paleoanthropologists said caring companions might have helped the toothless man in finding soft plant food and hammering raw meat with stone tools so he could "gum" his dinner. If so, they said, this was evidence of a kind of compassion that had been absent in the ancestral fossil record before the Neanderthals 60,000 years ago.

In the survival of the old man, Dr. David Lordkinidze said in National Geographic, "We're looking at perhaps the first sign of truly human behavior in one of our ancestors."

Having just argued that compassionate politics do not have to be reliant on notions of God, that we do not have to cede ground to the Right on this, reading this article presents proof that caring for other human beings is a human impulse, a late impulse that contributed to our evolution, the thing that, gasp! makes us human.

So, long, long ago, our ancestors kept a toothless old man alive. For what reasons and at what cost to themselves? At some point, humans developed the notion of a common bond, of an empathy for their fellow travelers.

Do we have any doubt which party can claim that as our lineage?

Contemplating the Rock


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Going to Jail for Indecency

Christ. We've got Texas senators threatening judges, and now we've got Representative Sensenbrenner (R-Wi) saying that indecency standards on television should be enforced with criminal prosecutions.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Violators of federal broadcast decency standards should face criminal prosecution, U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner said on Monday.

``People who are in flagrant disregard should face a criminal process rather than a regulatory process,'' the Wisconsin Republican said at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association annual convention.

The problem I'm having is I can't quite figure out what the fuck he's talking about.

From another report:

"I'd prefer using the criminal process rather than the regulatory process," Sensenbrenner told the executives.

The current process -- in which the FCC fines a licensee for violating the regulations -- casts too wide a net, he said, trapping those who are attempting to reign in smut on TV and those who aren't.
note: 'reign in' is sic. and journalists wonder why we think they're idiots.

"People who are in flagrant disregard should face a criminal process rather than a regulator process," Sensenbrenner said. "That is the way to go. Aim the cannon specifically at the people committing the offenses, rather than the blunderbuss approach that gets the good actors.

"The people who are trying to do the right thing end up being penalized the same way as the people who are doing the wrong thing."

It's the last paragraph that's got me totally confused and for which I'm seeking help from those more familiar with Sensenbrenner's idiolect.

There's good swearing and bad swearing? There's good violence and bad violence? There's good nudity and bad nudity? Who gets to decide the rules? And why, when there is a shitload of really important things going on in the world, is Sensenbrenner deciding to criminalize the censorship process? Isn't that a hair scary to anyone?

Of course, I have my theory of what he's talking about in terms of the "right" people and the "wrong" people. See, when they show Mel Gibson's The Passion, which is absolutely full of indecent violence, on tv next Easter, that will be okay to show on t.v. because those will be the people doing the right thing. Those people trying to show Saving Private Ryan, which is also full of indecent violence but which suspiciously  looks like a criticism of the Iraq war, will be doing it for the wrong reason and should go to jail.

In the words of Humpty Dumpty, Chapter 6, Through the Looking Glass
`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master -- that's all.'

Monday, April 04, 2005

Does the Bible Make Me Look Fat in this Dress?

My latest post at CultureKitchen.
In case you were wondering what I'd been doing recently.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A big fat advertisement for myself

Someone suggested I post my resume if I want potential employers to see me. So here it is:

Lorraine Berry

EDUCATION Cornell University
Master of Arts in History (ABD); January 1997

University of Washington
Master of Arts in History; June 1993
Bachelor of Arts, with honors, in Comparative History of
Ideas (CHID); 1987.

HONORS Mellon Fellowship
Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship
Beatrice Brown Award
Arthur Denny Memorial Fellowship

EXPERIENCE Project Director 2003-present
Established Web magazine that publishes articles from students
at SUNY Cortland, the University of the Sunshine Coast
(Australia), and universities in Costa Rica, Peru, Slovakia and
Teach “global journalism” and supervise a staff of 25 writers and
designers each semester.
Edit article content and supervise art director.
Establish monthly themes for commentary.
Work closely with SUNY and international faculty to integrate
magazine into curriculum.
Research political, cultural, and intellectual issues in order to keep
content current and cutting edge.
Supervise interns.
Manage budget.
Supervise “Indie Media Club” on campus.

Assistant Editor 1998-2001
Momentum Media Sports Publishing; Ithaca, New York
Athletic Management, Training & Conditioning, Coaching
Management, and Gball magazines.
Conducted interviews and research in the preparation and writing
of articles that covered the NCAA and its policies, college sports
administration, social issues that affected athletics, high school sports administration, sports medicine, athletic training.
Became expert on legal issues in sports administration, especially Title IX, women’s sports, and the First Amendment . Wrote a number of articles in which I explained Supreme Court and other judicial rulings to a lay audience. Developed network of legal-network contacts as regular commentators on such decisions.
Managed the production of various editions of Coaching
Management, including developing article ideas, assigning articles,
supervising editing process, working with art director and production staff.
Produced one young adult-book review per week for
Edited a variety of articles written both in-house and by freelancers.

Freelance Editor and Writer 1998-present
Wrote "God and Football," an 8,000 word
exploration of the repercussions of Doe v. Santa Fe Independent
School District, a Supreme Court decision handed down in June, 2000, which ordered that Texas high schools desist from opening
football games with a prayer. Article was cited by the Guardian, in
its Web log, as one of the best articles published on that date.
Edited book-length manuscript for Pat Toomay, author of Any
Given Sunday.
Frequent contributor to Ithaca College Quarterly.

Book Tour Coordinator 2000
Organized a series of promotional events for Karen Novak, author of Five Mile House.
Contacted book stores to set up readings.
Served as liaison between Ms. Novak and the local press.

Instructor 1997
Cornell University
Taught a Freshman Writing Seminar on the History of the
European Witch Panics. Determined the content of the
course, facilitated discussions, taught analytical skills, and
evaluated student performances.

PUBLICATIONS Published clips available upon request.
Published academic articles also available.

LANGUAGES French, Italian, Latin

REFERENCES available on request

Knock That Shit Off

Finally. Someone stands up to the Fundies and tells them to knock that shit off. The Governor of Illinois has issued an executive order telling pharmacists that they don't get to make moral decisions about whether they're going to fill birth control prescriptions.


Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is my new hero. If you want to send him a thank you card--here's the information.

Send correspondence for Governor Blagojevich, to Governor or to the Office of the Governor, 207 State House, Springfield, IL 62706; (217) 782-0244 or (312) 814-2121 [TTY (888) 261-3336].  (NOTE: Should a response be required it will be mailed to you via the United States Postal Service, so it is important that you include your name and complete mailing address.)

Thursday, March 31, 2005


So, I have a very wise friend who always tells me that if you let the universe know what you want, and make room in your life for the universe to be able to send it to you, that eventually, the universe will find a way. So, I'm trying this.

I don't want to work at the job I have anymore. So, I'm sending out there this message: I have a long resume full of editing/writing/researching experience. I'm good at what I do. I'm looking for work. If anyone out there is reading this and knows of people who are seeking help with any kind of writing/editing project, please feel free to steer them my way.

And now, back to my other job.

Thank you in advance.
Oh, they can contact me at lorraine_berry at yahoo.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


So, my poor personal blog is getting neglected because I've been asked to post on CultureKitchen, which I consider a big honour. I've also been posting alot at DailyKos, and perhaps most important of all, I've been working on the novel. But I will try to post something interesting here soon.

Go Huskies!! University of Washington men's bball team has made it to the Sweet 16!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Fuck your SUV

Maybe you can drive your oversized, gas-guzzling status symbol that FUCKING FLIPS in the snow, up to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and show your children all that pristine wilderness that is now being drilled so you can continue to drive your behemoth. And while you're there, why don't you meditate on the 1500+ dead in Iraq who have died for that same thing you insist on driving.

But, if you want to do something more productive about the vote on ANWR today, here's a damn good idea.

I have to go scream into a pillow now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Stregas in Michigan

I posted this on DailyKos today. Don't read it if reading about right-wing nutjob bigots is going to blow your day.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Moyers on the Rapture

Bill Moyers is turning into the social conscience of our age. This article in the NYRB is well worth a read. It seems prescient given that the idiot in Wisconsin was a member of an end-time church. He must have thought he was giving Jesus a little help with the Rapture business.

The children of authors

My friend, Karen Novak, who writes remarkable books about difficult subjects, referred me to this article about being a writer and having our children read what we write. Even as fiction writers, we're aware that what we're writing is not "us," but it's amazing how many people will read a manuscript or a book and start trying to identify the parts of the novel that are autobiographical.

Imagine, though, having your child read what you've written. In my manuscript, there is graphic sex and the wrestling with the power of the erotic, a discussion of politics, my character's non-belief in God and her incredibly blasphemous denunciations. I don't have a problem with any of it. All of these subjects have been discussed with my older daughter, so I don't think any of it would come as a surprise. I'm not so sure what the neighbors may think. But then again, if I don't get the novel finished, no one will ever know.

So I guess this means I'm going back to work.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Productive Week

I wrote 70 pages this week. My brain is toast, but the novel is now on the downward slope.
More when I can think straight.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Going Away

I'm taking my computer and going to a motel for several days to work on the novel. Daily life is full of distractions--some sweeet and some not-so-sweet, and I have to find some quiet. I guess it's also a spiritual retreat in that alone, I'll either find my voice or spend a lot of time eating M&Ms.
So, I won't have access to e-mail or the Internet. Should be an interesting experience. I'm not even planning on reading a newspaper.
If the Rapture comes while I'm gone, I'm sure most of my friends will still be here when I get back, but maybe the rest of us can get on with building a peaceful, just world.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

Soul, Heart, and Body One Morning

There's a morning where presence comes over you,
and you sing like a rooster in your earth-colored shape.

Your heart hears and, no longer frantic, begins
to dance. At that moment soul
reaches total emptiness. Your heart becomes Mary,

miraculously pregnant, and body, like a two-day old
Jesus says wisdom words. Now the heart
turns to light, and the body picks up the tempo.

Where Shamsi Tabriz walks, the footprints
are musical notes and holes you fall through into space.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase 'each other',
doesn't make any sense.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

On being called a whore

When one posts about the body and the body politic and one happens to be a woman, I guess it was to be expected that someone would call me a hooker. And that others would jump on the bandwagon and make their own comments about my being shallow for arguing that bodies matter. Expected. But it still hurt. Which I guess was the point. Telling women they are whores for speaking their mind is about as old as time, I guess. I tell myself I should be proud to join the sisterhood, and I am, but there's a certain wound I feel today.

If anything, it has given me fuel for my novel writing. After all, if in 2005, I still can't claim myself as a sexually desiring subject without being labeled with sexual epithets, certainly my character from a hundred years ago would have faced the same thing.

I'm not going to provide links to where this has happened. I don't want to give those who set out to wound me with any more ammunition. And I'm trying to forget that people I have trusted have treated my sexual being as suspect. That wound is too raw to even talk about right now, but it hurt more than I can say.

Why can't we live in a world where we respect each other as human beings? I know it's a stupid, rhetorical question. I do. But tonight, I want to claim my self as a woman and my self as a human in the same breath, and it frustrates me, no, saddens me, that somehow, there are still way too many people in this world who cannot accept the humanity--in all its glory--of women.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Our hubris, ourselves

Robin Williams can't make fun of James Dobson on the Oscars tonight. Nor can he hint that Olive Oyl is anorexic nor that Betty Boop is a bit of a tramp or that Caspar the ghost wears white because he's in the Ku Klux Klan.

Seems the official enforcers of fear and loathing at the FCC are winning. We're all afraid to laugh now. Laughter is bad. We might offend someone.

Cultures that can no longer laugh at themselves because we are taking ourselves too fucking seriously are headed for the enormous fall. You know, the hubris fall. Read Greek tragedy. Bone up on the word. You're going to be hearing a lot about it in the next few years. Trust me.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Lorraine's Body Politic

Yesterday, I posted the following over at DailyKos and incited arguments I wasn't expecting. There were threads about abortion, gun rights, assisted suicide, fascism, and biggest surprise, a huge fight over whether it was appropriate to tell me I had a nice body.

My response to the body question was this. I think bodies are to be celebrated. The compliments that seemed genuine appealed to me. The ones that amounted to "show us your tits" annoyed me. Some other person may have had a different line than I did--perhaps any comment about his or her body would have been offensive. Maybe I shouldn't have posted the picture. Maybe I should have chosen a different one. You can read my justification for why I posted my picture on the Kos post.

Yes. I'm completely conversant in notions of objectivity/subjectivity, the male gaze, female objectification, etc. But I'm asking an honest question to those of you out there who read this. Is it okay to comment on someone else's body if what they've offered is a photograph of themselves?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Poetry while I'm healing


The way of love is not
a subtle argument.

The door there
is devastation.

Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.

How do they learn that?
They fall, and falling,
they're given wings.

Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


After all the problems I've had with my cervical spine, I found this old picture of it. The human form is lovely, don't you think?
So why would we allow right wing nutjobs to tell us what we can do with our gorgeous instruments?

No Dildoes for Alabama

The Supreme Court refused to rule today on the Eleventh Circuit Court's ruling that Alabama's banning of the sale of sex toys is constitutional. The ACLU's argument, that sex toys are covered under the right to privacy, was tacitly rejected by the Court in its refusal to take the case.

I've commented on this before. I'm sick as a dog right now, but I'm trying to pull my head together to write something about how it may be funnier than hell that Jim Bob isn't going to have to worry that his wife is getting orgasms from a vibrator, but really, this is a major invasion of the bedroom by the moral fascists who are trying to run the country at present.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Ithaca Falls

In the winter, these falls, which are 300 yards from my house, freeze solid.

Falls the Shadow


Frozen falls at night with snow falling on the camera lens.


The trees are dormant, awaiting spring.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Who knew Koko was a breast man?

Koko the gorilla, likes looking at breasts. Wouldn't it have been cheaper to get him a subscription to Playboy?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Counting my blessings, hating my bills

Pasta, again. I've come to hate fucking pasta. But it's cheap. When it's on sale, you can pick up four boxes of something or other for a buck. Throw a little jarred sauce on it, sprinkle a little parmesan, and you've got another meal. Tonight, my 7-year old is staying with me, and she opted for chicken noodle soup--her favourite. She'd live on it. Luckily, her dad fixes elaborate meals at his house, so a couple of meals a week of chicken broth won't do lasting damage.

But today, I'm really feeling it over the damn bills. Too many bills, not enough paycheck. I've already talked to the phone company--I have until Wednesday to pay them what I owe them. Next, I'll talk to NYSEG, and TWC, and the hospital, and my car insurance company.

I am extraordinarily lucky. I know that. I have an assistant professor's salary--but academia is not where you go to get rich. With two advanced degrees, I should be able to get a better paying job, but that would mean moving away from this small town where my daughters live, and I'm not willing to desert them. So, I'm stuck.

Most days, I blow it off. Tell myself, "it's only money." But today I feel badly. My oldest daughter asked for her allowance, and I had to tell her Id used it to buy groceries. I'd pay her on payday. She was gracious about it, but what kind of parent uses their 13-year old's money?

I love my life. I really do. I have amazing children. I have a roof over my house, a car, good friends. I laugh often and much. But I didn't expect to be 42 and living this close to the edge. I have no margins. I am fortunate enough to have friends who are willing to loan me money, but I wonder sometimes when I'll ever be in a position to pay them back.

It's only money. Why, tonight, does it feel like it's part of my identity?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

First Amendment

Free speech is never going to be easy. If someone threatens someone with Biblical punishment, does that constitute a threat to their safety? I don't know.

Oy vey.

Cry, The Beloved Women

I moved this story over to Daily Kos.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The real obscenity

Ah Christ. It's not enough that I've been hit by one of those stomach bugs that's insisting on sending things back up the way they previously went down, now I've been nauseated by this. Our esteemed attorney general, who is suppposed to be protecting Constitutional rights, like the ones that have been trampled by the USA Patriot Act, our treatment of prisoners at Gitmo, our denial of due process to hundreds of internal enemies--you know, thoseConstitutional rights, has opted to pursue his first major case--against a pornographer. Unless we're talking the abuse of children or snuff films, I smell a complete distraction from the real issues.

Okay. I have to go barf now. Literally.

Thunder Snow

Some of you may have never experienced it, but it's happening right now. It was raining this morning, but the temperature is dropping, and rain has turned to ice pellets has turned to flakes of snow as big as your palm. I was just sitting at my computer, when an enormous flash reflected off my computer screen, followed by the crack of thunder. Thunder snow. What more perfect expression of the turmoil going on at my work this morning than a thunderstorm in the middle of a snow shower?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Lest you think...

I only get my panties in a wad over Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, well, here's a shout-out to Hindus who apparently think the whole love thing is an abomination. Love causes anarchy. Love causes revolt. Love causes social unrest.
And while I may suck at love, I think it's a cool thing. So, commit an act of political and religious rebellion: fall in love.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Friday, February 11, 2005


Cry. That's what this story made me do. Rape has always been a facet of war, men confusing their guns and their machetes for their penises, penetrating women, penetrating land, spilling their seed of destruction and hatred before them.

It happened in Yugoslavia. The rape camps. The systematic use of rape to destroy these women's identities, force pregnancies on them, leave behind the permanent markers of these women's violations.

And what must we do? Tell these women that these children are their reward for violation? I do not pretend to understand those who would deny abortion to women who have been raped. And it's clear that for some of the women in this article, the children are their only consolation. But for others, getting pregnant from a rape has led to ostracism. "Insult to injury" doesn't even come close to covering it.

I was about to say something deeply cynical and snarky about all of this, but I think, instead, I will be quiet. And cry.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Let's hear it for cynical exploitation

It's February. Sweeps week. And, as usual, devoid of any new ideas, network television offers us the lesbian kiss. Ah, nothing like two gorgeous heterosexual women pretending for the titillation of those straight men in the audience to kiss one another as if it meant something. How much tongue? How much full lip contact? Will there be other parts of the body touching?

"Hey honey. How about a threesome?" he says, turning off the remote and reaching for his wife.

Michel Foucault is no doubt laughing in his grave. Our culture gets its knickers in a twist over the things that it is most titillated by. Certain members of our culture watch this stuff through hands over their eyes, fingers split open, and then file complaints with the FCC. In the meantime, advertisers and television producers collaborate together to cynically exploit this culture's completely fucked-up attitudes toward sex, sexuality, and gender. I know, I sound like a broken record. But I can't help it.

Foucault wrote that it is the culture that is most obsessed with regulating sex that creates a situation where sex is everywhere. And sex is everywhere in this culture. I want us to reclaim sex as the amazing thing it is, not some commercial enterprise that is used to sell us things. And by the way, sells us completely awful images of women's bodies, too. I read Eve Ensler's The Good Body last night. Every word resonated.

How can a culture that hates bodies really embrace sex? And how can a culture that hates sex really embrace love?

All Hail King Howard

Viggo Dean.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


I'm not a poet, but I gave it a shot.


"I want to taste your history," he said,
his tongue at the entrance to me.
"You taste like salted honey,"
I thought of ancient lands,
of honey offered to
I felt myself begin
to flow toward him,
Offering myself to him,
wanting his tongue there,
just there,
the nugget of me
being suckled.
I began to open then,
to feel my secrets
seep from me,
into his mouth,
his gentle mouth that felt
like the legs of the bee
upon my flesh.
I felt the buzz then within me,
a hum of a thousand bees beneath my mons,
louder, louder,
so I thought he
might hear it,
this thing that was moving like a swarm
through me.
I felt myself rise under his mouth, felt
myself push against his lips and tongue and chin,
myself the offering,
myself the goddess.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Plan Body

I'm going to commit a revolutionary act: I love my body. I do. It's taken me 41 years to say it, but here it is. I LOVE MY BODY. Now, I can think about other things, like war and famine and violence against women and ... love. I can think about love.

I've been pre-occupied with thinking about women's, specifically my, body for a number of reasons. First, tomorrow I'm going to say the word "cunt" in a reading on campus, and given the conservative nature of many people on this campus, I'm actually a little nervous about doing it. But, oh well.

Second, some of my students are performing The Vagina Monologues next week. A friend and I are taking our 13-year old daughters. While researching on the Internet, I discovered just how much people hate this particular play. Imagine. Women talking about their vaginas gives conservatives apoplexy.

And now, Eve Ensler is at it again. Her new play explores the way women feel about their bodies in general. But as women know, we don't think about our bodies in general. We think about our bodies in microscopic particulars. We don't look at our whole body and say, "This looks good." We might say, "This looks good, but my ass is too big," Or "My breasts are too (fill in the blank)." This micro-targeted rage at these tiny little parts of ourselves that we see as imperfect. It's all so poignant. And sad. And distracting as hell. Imagine the power we'd have if we said, "I love all my body, and by the way, your policies suck."

So, for Lent, I'm giving up my obsession with a particular place on my body that I've been cruel to my entire life. I'm going to be nice to all of me, and see myself as a creature of Wabi-Sabi.

And, because I'm a fertile, sexually active woman, I'm going to once again lobby my legislators to make Plan B contraception available over the counter. New York may finally get with the program on this one. If the Right is so committed to reducing the number of abortions, why won't they support a bill that would make morning-after contraception available to any woman who asks for it? The drug has no side effects, you cannot overdose on it, and it reduces the chance of pregnancy 89 percent. And it turns out that the people who are most opposed to Plan B contraception are pharmacists. I'm shaking my head at this, but you should have seen the face of the pharmacist who I asked last night if Plan B was available without a doctor's prescription. She literally screwed up her face like she'd eaten a persimmon. Perhaps she should eat more of the pomegranate.

So, call your legislators. Call your Congressional reps and senators. Tell them that the FDA needs to stop standing for obstructionist policy that tells women they're too stupid to regulate their own fertility.

Oh, and decide today that your body is just perfect the way it is.


"For a fun second-term drinking game, chug a beer every time you hear the phrase 'contentious but futile protest by Democrats.' By the time Jeb Bush is elected, you'lll be so wasted you won't even notice the war in Syria."
--Jon Stewart, "The Daily Show"

Monday, February 07, 2005

My reading

So, I've been totally preoccupied with my reading for Wednesday. I'm posting a bit of it below. If you're offended by frank talk about sex, skip reading any further.

The point of the negotiation is surrender. What is it for a man to surrender to a woman? Is it to imagine what it is to be the glove, rather than the hand? To be the sheath. That is what vagina means, you know. Sheath. From the Latin. She finds it fascinating that a part of the female body, the canal through which women bring forth new life, the first journey we experience as human beings-sliding through a fleshy tunnel into the light and cold-that the name for that conduit is not related to its function in birth, but rather, bears the name of a holder of a weapon. A scabbard-the covering in which you insert your sword.

Is this what men think of their penises as? Weapons? Swords? But a sheath is where you keep your knife to keep it safe, to keep it when you're not using it for violence. It's a place for it to rest until the next time it's needed. When you place your sword inside its sheath, you've put down your weapon, you've disarmed yourself, you've made yourself vulnerable. You've surrendered.

But who is being asked to yield? Because she wants to surrender, too. She wants to lay down this burden of boundary and border and being closed. She wants to be borderless. And that doesn't mean that she wants to be penetrated by him as if she has no wall. Of course that's part of it. She does want to be penetrated by him, and if she allows her mind to wander, the delicious details of what that physical penetration would entail are quite distracting. But part of giving up her borders is not letting someone in; it's being free to take up as much space as she needs, to fill him up, too, to exceed the tiny little space she's been taking up since she was a little girl. This is about feeling. About liquid. About being liquid, and engulfing someone so that he swims in her, floats in her.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Okay. I didn't watch the SOTU last night. But Jo did. And her analysis is brilliant. Sputter indeed.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Give and Take

Next week, I'm giving a reading on campus. It's in honour of Valentine's Day, and, as one professor has been promoting it on campus, "it's a warm-up for THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES." VM is being produced on campus the week following, so there's going to be much discussion about cunts on campus.

I'm going to read erotica to an audience comprising my colleagues and students. The president of our campus is a bit uptight, so either he's going to show up and get an education, or he's going to choose not to be in attendance. Either way, the show will go on.

I spent much of last night writing. The theme running through the piece I will be reading is about dominance and surrender. Not BDSM fantasies, but about the nature of love and the erotic, what it means to be penetrated, what it means to lose part of yourself inside another person's body.

If it goes quiet on the blog for a few days, you'll know that it's because I'm working. And it feels good. Like squeezing the seeds of the pomegranate between my teeth and feeling the burst on my tongue.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Just Say Duh

Told you so. Seems that abstinence-only education leads to fucking like bunnies.

Toxically Distracted

I'm having one of those days: too much to do, so what am I doing? Not what I'm supposed to. At the moment, I'm listening to the version of "Toxic" that should have been a hit. Britney Spears' version was just too nice. Local H just seems to be having a lot more fun with it. Enough fun anyway that I keep jumping up from my seat and dancing around my office. Luckily, students haven't shown up in the middle of my little party.
Shit. Back to work.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Control Freaks

Well, the Anti-Choice forces are at it again. They're trying to push through the Senate a bill that would make driving a teenaged girl across state lines to get an abortion punishable by up to a year in jail. Never mind the fact that there are entire states now where it's impossible to have an abortion performed; what's important to the anti-choice forces is that the teenaged girl who dares to get pregnant needs to be punished. And if she enlists the aid of an adult who wants to help her, well, that adult should be punished, too.

It's being couched in terms of parental notification laws. I'm sorry, but speaking as a mother, I still say my teenager is entitled to her right to privacy. Do I hope that if she finds herself in a difficult situation she'll talk to me about it? Of course. But she also knows that I've never laid a hand on her, and am not likely to hit her no matter what she has to tell me. That's not the case for many children in this country.

Forcing someone to remain pregnant when she does not want to be is an act of terrorism.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Are Women More Moral than Men?

This was the discussion I wound up getting into with someone on a leftist blog. The poster had argued that the eight Democratic women senators who voted for Condi Rice might have done so as an act of "gender politics." I took umbrage with the suggestions, especially since he was careful to completely omit the idea that Obama might have voted for Rice as an act of "racial politics." Let me say immediately that I don't buy either argument, but I used Obama to try to get this guy to agree that his argument was specious and, well, lazy. He refused to acknowledge my point, and in fact, argued that women should have held Rice more accountable. Another person joined in the fray and argued that people voted women into politics because they thought women were going to bring a new moral vision into the mess that men had made.

At which point I threw up my hands and left the building.

I tried an experiment on google today. Barbara Boxer is called a "cunt," "harridan," and "harpie," in a lot of entries out there. I didn't have the stomach to put in other words, but I'm sure we could find every epithet for angry woman out there.

The woman who opposed Rice gets singled out; the women who didn't oppose Rice get singled out, and in the meantime, all those men in the Democratic party who acted on her nomination just get to be members of the Democratic party. The spineless Democratic party, but no one is out there suggesting that as men they had a moral duty to oppose Rice.

Elevating women to a position of moral superiority to men is still sexist. If we are still operating in a culture that argues that man is "normal", and woman is outside the norm, true equality will never be possible. Ceding the high moral ground to women is just another form of chivalry, something that Sarah Grimke characterized as "practicable contempt." If women are more moral than men, then we're not going to be equipped to deal with the realities of war, which is not a moral playground, and thus, we'll have to be spared it. If politics is immoral, well, you see the pattern. It just becomes another way to shut us out, unless, of course, we're needed to lend our moral voice to voting against something.

The Democratic party is already splintering into a bickering mess of "it's your fault we lost the election," with white males arguing that they need to dump gays, racial and religious minorities overboard in order to take control. I see this argument for the innate morality of women as part of this pernicious trend. Putting us up on thrones still keeps us out of the action.