Saturday, November 28, 2015

How is This Not Terrorism? The Oxy-Moron of "Pro-Life" Violence.

[TW for gun violence]

When I first read about the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, my stomach sank. It fucking terrifies and enrages me that women (and men) run the risk of having their lives ended by a "pro-life" gun, simply for working at, going to, or merely being in the vicinity of a Planned Parenthood clinic. It fucking enrages me that women have to fear for their lives because some people believe that, somehow, shooting and killing women is better than allowing women to have freedom of choice when it comes to their own reproductive organs.

As I read further, I became even more enraged. I read how the police asked people not to make assumptions about the shooter's motives, even though the only place he attacked was the Planned Parenthood clinic. I read how there was a five-hour standoff while three bodies lay lifeless somewhere in the vicinity of the AK-47 he used to take their lives. I read how the attack was labeled as a "shootout" and a "standoff," as if this were a spaghetti Western and not a real life-or-death situation.

What I didn't read was the word "terrorism" anywhere in the news coverage, even though this was clearly a situation in which someone was using deadly force and grievous bodily harm, and the threat of such, in order to scare people into not using their legal right to reproductive health care. What I didn't read was how the police shot the gunman on sight, even though he, as noted in this article, "previously had been firing at police who entered the facility." What I didn't read was an instant condemnation of the inherent violence of white men, because the person who committed this act of terrorism (referred to in the media as a "shooting") was, indeed, a white man.

Part of the reason for this is because he committed an act of violence against women. The majority of patients of Planned Parenthood are women, and it's not a coincidence that Planned Parenthood clinics are the target of this much violence. The people who are arguing that Planned Parenthood should be defunded/shut down/what-have-you are arguing so not because they want to "save babies," but because they want to punish women for having sex that they deem unacceptable. The only proof you need of that is any argument featuring a "pro-lifer." Read far enough down the thread, and you'll find the truth--"save the babies" almost instantaneously becomes a self-righteous "if you don't want to get pregnant, keep your legs closed" the second they find themselves backed into a corner. They want to punish women for having sex of which they don't approve, namely sex purely for the purposes of recreation rather than procreation, and we're pretty much OK with that.

The other reason this act of terrorism will not be labeled as such is because the person who committed the act is a white man. If this person had been a black man, he would have been dead the moment he opened fire on the clinic (especially on the police) and the media would be condemning the inherent violence of black men before his body had even had the chance to go cold. If this person had been of Middle-Eastern descent, this act of terrorism would have been called such and then, of course, the conversation would go back to how we can't accept Syrian refugees in this country because LOOK AT ALL THE TERRORISTS. But because this person was a white man, we will instantly give him the benefit of the doubt. We will give him the benefit of a five-hour standoff, even though he's already killed three people and fired his gun at police. We will refuse to label this shooting as an act of terrorism, because terrorism is a word we reserve for acts of violence committed by those who "appear" Muslim, whether or not they actually are. We will blame the mental health system, we will call him a "lone wolf." We will do anything and everything BUT call him what he is--a motherfucking terrorist. And all because he is a white man who committed an act of violence against women.

White men are committing act after act of horrific mass violence, over and over and over and over and over and over and nobody seems to care enough to do anything about it, or even to call it what it is. For the "pro-life" man who pulled the trigger, I'm sure he felt that what he did was simply an act of retaliation, a way to punish the women who didn't listen to him when he told them what to do with their bodies. And that's really what it boils down to--he, and every other man who's attacked Planned Parenthood clinics, is punishing women who dared exercise their right to bodily autonomy, even though he expressly told them not to. When we women find ourselves staring down the barrel of a gun as punishment for exercising our right to freedom of reproductive choice, we have to ask ourselves--how is this not terrorism?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why I Cannot (and Will Not) Accept Eldership from a Transphobic Person

[TW for transphobia]

In the last few days, I have been made aware that there are a handful of so-called elders in the Pagan community who have said and done some really nasty, hurtful, and bigoted things towards trans* women. Some of these things include, but are not limited to, referring to Caitlyn Jenner by the wrong name and violently misgendering her by referring to her as "an old drag queen" and referring to her biologically male anatomy as alleged proof that she is not a "real" woman (implying that all trans* women are not "real" women), and refusing trans* women access to women's-only circles on the basis that trans* women are "women with penises" and that only "women-born-women" should be allowed access to that sacred space. Put simply, they have gone out of their way to deny trans* women access to circle and other forms of ritual space dedicated to women because they do not believe that trans* women are "real" women, and they have gone out of their way to let trans* women know that they are not welcome in the Pagan community.

There are many in the Pagan community who have had enough and are taking a stand against this bigotry and hatred. There are also many in the Pagan community who are defending their words and actions on the premise that everyone is entitled to their beliefs. They defend their words and actions because they are elders of the community and those words and actions, no matter how harmful, should be left alone. It seems that, by calling them out on their bigotry and hatred, we are stepping on their contributions to the community at large, and apparently it's more important to preserve their legacy than taint it by holding them accountable.

I have no other way to respond to this other than to say (and I promise this is the only time I will curse), "That's fucking bullshit."

When your beliefs cause you to intentionally, violently, and virulently misgender people and deny them their humanity and basic respect, they are not worth defending. 

What we have is multiple Pagan elders repeating the message that trans* individuals (trans* women in particular) aren't "really" their gender. What we have is multiple Pagan elders using old, tired rhetoric of biological anatomy as "proof" of gender authenticity (or inauthenticity), and using that "proof" as an excuse to deny trans* people access to sacred space. What we have is trans* women being told by multiple Pagan "elders" that they don't belong in "women-only" circles because they're not "real" women. That is the textbook definition of bigotry.

Pagan elders are supposed to be a pillar of support and are supposed to help guide people along their chosen path. They are supposed to provide a safe space for individuals to explore the greater mysteries. They are not supposed to pick and choose who gets access to these mysteries and who doesn't based on their gender and then go out of their way to make sure that those who are not of the chosen group understand that they are not welcome. That is bullying. That is bigotry. And that is not how an elder of ANY community is supposed to act.

It's high time we started calling these elders out on their transphobia. There are some who argue that calling them out and denying them support from the community will do nothing to help them learn. I disagree. Losing a large chunk of their community's presence, respect, and support as a direct result of their transphobic words and actions is a great lesson. It's a lesson that there are consequences to saying discriminatory, hurtful things about members of their community because of their gender--it's a lesson that you don't get to violently misgender trans* individuals and deny them basic respect, that you don't get to deny trans* women access to ritual space because they are trans* women, and still hold a position of power.  

Many in the community are arguing that this is an attack on their free speech--certainly, they're free to speak as they wish. They're even free to continue to deny trans* women access to women's-only space if they feel they must. However, they have to learn that there are consequences to their bigotry--in this case, the consequence is that no one will want to follow them. 

Long story short, I refuse to accept an "Elder" who picks and chooses who they will support and who they will allow access to the greater mysteries of magick. Last I checked, the deities (many of whom are of one, two, or many genders) love and accept all, regardless of gender.

It's high time these "elders" remembered that.

To quote someone who I consider an actual Pagan elder, "I don’t want to go where my kin can’t follow."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Feminist Review/Critique of “Jurassic World” (SPOILER ALERT (obviously))


I went to see Jurassic World with my boyfriend yesterday for my birthday, and I enjoyed the movie immensely, or at least all the action sequences with the dinosaurs (which is really the main focus of the movie if you’re watching it right). However, while it did make a valiant effort, Jurassic World was nowhere near perfect when it came to how they used the female characters throughout the film. 

I want to start off by listing what I did like. I was happy to see four main female characters in the movie (Claire, the mom of the two boys (Claire's sister), the woman in the control room, and Claire’s assistant). In a movie franchise that has historically had only one token female character, that was pretty cool. I was also happy to see a woman FINALLY be a fucking bad-ass heroine in a Jurassic Park movie instead of just a screaming damsel in distress. Seriously, when Claire released the T-Rex to go fight the Indominus Rex? I could barely stay in my seat. The last thing I liked, and this is going to sound weird, is that they finally had the ovaries to kill off a female character (Claire’s assistant). This was the first movie where they included a woman in the dinosaur kill count, and I thought that was pretty awesome.

That’s pretty much where my pom-pom pumping ends.

The female characters just barely pass the Bechdel test—there are only two scenes where two women talk to each other, one of which is Claire and her assistant talking about the two boys she’s supposed to be watching, and the other is Claire and her sister also talking about the two boys, so technically they’re still talking about men. The woman in the control room never speaks to another woman, and you never see two female characters talking to each other about anything particularly relevant or important, which really disappointed me because 1) there could have been some great scenes between the woman in the control room and Claire, and 2) women do actually talk about things other than men and kids and, somehow, Jurassic World, which proposes a scenario where dinosaurs are literally attacking and eating people, managed to keep the women in the movie talking to each other about just those two things.
The next thing that really bugged me was how they portrayed Claire’s character. Anyone who’s watched any TV shows or movies (or even read any mainstream books) that depict career-oriented women know that these “career-driven” women are portrayed as selfish and cold-hearted (and I’m putting this mildly), and it’s either heavily implied or outright stated that they are the way they are because they don’t have and/or want a (specifically male) partner and/or kids. In other words, their lack of desire for a man in their life and/or lack of maternal instinct and desire for kids is what makes them bad people. This movie was no different. For example, Claire is portrayed as being so entrenched in her work that she doesn’t know how old her nephews are (which is brought up at least twice as a “seriously, you’re a woman and you don’t know how old your nephews are?” moment). When she meets up with the hero, it’s almost instantaneously brought up that they dated at one point and that she was the reason they stopped dating (of course) because of her “overly controlling nature,” even though Owen (the hero) is equally controlling, if not more so, when it comes to the dinosaurs and how to interact with them, yet nobody bats an eyelash at that, nor does anyone bring up the hypocrisy of Owen criticizing Claire for being so controlling when he's absolutely no better. At another point in the movie, when Claire is talking to her sister on the phone and it’s revealed that she’s decided to work instead of hang out with her nephews, having hoisted them onto her assistant, her sister says that she’ll understand when she has kids. Claire responds with an emphatic “if,” to which the sister replies with an even more emphatic “when.” By the end of the movie, after the chaos has finally been quelled, we find her staring longingly at a mother reuniting with her daughter before she walks off into the sunset with the hunky hero, further perpetuating the stereotype that women who don’t want a (male) partner or kids will always change their minds eventually.

OK, so there’s nothing wrong with portraying a woman with a career as selfish and cold-hearted, per se. There are plenty of women out there who are exactly that way. However, when it’s the ONLY DEPICTION of career-driven women we get in the mass media, that’s a huge problem. It’s also a problem when it’s only women who get this treatment. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, Owen the Hero's controlling nature when it comes to the velociraptors is accepted without question, and Vincent D’Onofrio’s character, Hoskins, was equally obsessed with his work, but the movie doesn’t ever question him, either (apart from wondering how good an idea it is to create an army of trained velociraptors). Nobody asks either male character if he knows how old his nephews are, nobody tells them “You’ll understand when you have kids,” and the film never asks them to reconcile their work lives with their personal lives (or give up the former for the latter). It really wouldn’t have been that hard to portray Claire as having changed her mind about her relationship with her nephews without implying that she suddenly wanted to be with the hero and have kids of her own. It also wouldn’t have been that hard to portray Claire as having realized that she can be a workaholic but still want to be around her family, even if that family didn’t pop out from her own body.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. The action sequences were intense and there were amazing twists, and there were some pretty bad-ass feminist moments, but I think that the movie could have done more to upend the common stereotypes that are tacked onto women in the media—if they can create a world where dinosaurs exist, they can also create a world where women can have a career and no partner or kids and not be total assholes.