Friday, May 23, 2008


I want to just make note of three news stories that have captured my attention lately. To write about them, in depth, at once, would be exhausting. But I do want to continue to keep them in the forefront of my mind, so making note of them is important for future consideration.

This story and this story in the Nation about Big Pharma testing drugs in third-world nations. For years I have mistrusted the F.D.A. and Big Pharma in general, but this is just one further example of how capitalism necessitates the oppression of the poor. The best example of this? The fact that, in justifying the fact that these pharmaceutical companies have lied, coerced, and denied treatment to sick participants (including infants), the main defense for their actions was that, "poor people are lucky to have any treatment at all." WTF? I would be interested to know if pharmaceutical companies from countries with socialized medicine are facing similar accusations. Are American companies more likely to perpetuate harm on research subjects in third-world countries than their European counterparts, given the difference in our respective philosophies about health care being a human right? Or is this just another example of racism, classism, and oppression? Or both?

2) In a similar vein, this op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal, in which Mr. Lomburg tries to argue that if we'd just stop focusing so much on the fact that our planet is going to implode, we could REALLY help poor people. Because, you know, 10 years ago before global warming was in the public/legislative/world consciousness, the world HAD no problems! Attempts to bring down the global thermometer are simply diverting monies from cancer, "preventative/peacekeeping" wars, and getting vitamins to poor kids. Again I ask, WTF??? Using poor kids to justify polluting the planet....classy.

People keep trying to keep "those gays" from getting married. An amendment to California's state constitution will be up for vote in November to keep gays from marrying. The problem, as I see it, is this: as this article makes abundantly clear, gay marriage is not something that is decided by a majority vote by the people. It will be tragic interesting to see the war of the worlds type battle that will ensue after this "amendment" passes (which it inevitably will- I don't have much faith in people, even Californians, to not be ignorant hate-filled retards). Will the Supreme Court's initial ruling stand since it was in place before the amendment was made? Ugh. Don't we have bigger things to worry about than whether or not people get married? Like, you know, numbers one and two on this list?

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Response Letter

Dear Ms. Parker,

I am writing to tell you in the strongest possible language how incredibly offensive I find your recent article,
"The Bubba Vote." Given the inflammatory nature of your op-ed, I realize you have probably by now received several letters similar to mine, but I hope that you will at least read my response, if, for no other reason than the fact that it is good to read the opinions of people who think differently than you do (which is why I read your column).

For the sake of brevity, I am not going to focus on the political campaign aspect of your article, though I would like to briefly reply that Mr. Fry's quote stating he would be more comfortable with someone who is a "full-blooded American" most likely has nothing to do with Mr. Obama's Kenyan father OR McCain's military service and more to do with the fact that an uncomfortably large number of people actually believe that Barack Obama is an immigrant with Muslim origins. It has more to do with political scare tactics introduced by people who want to use Mr. Obama's ethnic name as an excuse to stir up "the growing unease among yesterday's Americans" (aka- xenophobic America) than any deep-seated introspection on roots, or politics for that matter.

Now, on to your concept of full-blooded Americans.

"It's about blood equity, heritage and commitment to hard-won American values. And roots. Some run deeper than others..."

I would simply like to state, (others having stated better the obvious fallacy of your argument in regards to Obama), that the last time I checked, the rules for running for president (and therefore, for being "qualified") did not include having "roots" that include generations of sacrifice (I'm sure you've already read Glen Greewald's criticism about Obama's grandfather serving in WWII). Instead, it mandated that a president must be born in the United States. That's it. That means, Ms. Parker, that the little Mexican girl born in the United States by illegal immigrants is JUST as qualified to someday run for president as John McCain. Or at least, that's how our forefathers who designed this system would view it (were they not encapsulated by the obvious historical constricts of sexism that didn't allow women to be viewed as equal citizens under the law).

I would encourage you to read American history texts, blogs, and other sources of information pertaining our country's long-standing heinous xenophobia and treatment of immigrants, illegal or no. Your nativist daydream that America ever had good ol' days is just that. And, unfortunately, despite posturing on the racial neutrality of your column, such sentiments are inherently racist.

What I love about this country (where I can trace my "roots" as far back as the early 1800s) is our collective ability to struggle. I am incredibly proud to be from a country where, despite MONUMENTAL opposition, strong individuals have spoken out against oppression, racism, sexism, genderism, and have taken a stand. I am so proud of the people in America who stand up against the conventional current that says that things are fine the way they have always been. Things are not fine. Things have never. been. fine. And, because we're America, they probably never will be fine. But it is fighting that current that makes us stronger as individuals, as families, as communities. It is the bravery of those who speak out, knowing what price they will pay, that gives me a fierce love for this country. We have been raised to believe that, despite all else, at least we have a right to speak.

When you say that an individual's patriotic legitimacy should be judged according to their heritage and their roots in this country, you state an opinion that, if one took seriously, would serve to silence a large portion of our country. Surely you cannot believe it. Politics aside, surely you cannot believe it.

I do not agree with your article. I found it incredibly offensive and naive. It is my sincere hope that, as you review the backlash firestorm that has occurred (at least in the blogosphere) as a result of your article, you will take a longer look at this country and its history of immigration and nativism.


Rebecca Simmons

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

When blatant racism passes for patriotism

There's an extremely interesting article in The Nation today that compares the struggles today's immigrants are facing to the struggles of blacks under Jim Crow Laws. I'd never seen it that way before, but it's a spot-on comparison. The struggle for basic rights is similar, but what I found most pointed about the article was its point about how immigrants are made explicitly aware that they are "different" from regular folks. Because, you know, they come from somewhere else....and different is BAAAAAD.

This is a difficult subject for me to take on because my emotions on this subject too oftentimes render me less than articulate. I start talking and find myself too full of rage to continue, so if I seem a little disjointed, forgive me; it's gonna take more than one take to get this out.

11% of Utah's population last time I checked (probably more now because that was a couple years ago) is Latino. They are the largest minority by FAR in our lily white state, and as this epicenter of cultural homogeny starts to gain a little color, Latinos have taken the brunt of the backlash. From making illegal immigrants use "driving privilege cards," to the Utah Minuteman Project, to Senator Chris Buttars shamefully ridiculous inference that
"In order for Satan to establish his 'New World Order' and destroy the freedom of all people a predicted in the Scriptures, he must first destroy the U.S. The mostly quiet and unspectacular invasion of illegal immigrants does not focus the attention of the nations the way open warfare does, but is all the more insidious for its stealth and innocuousness."
it is obvious that Utah is doing its part to make sure that racism extends well into the 21st century and beyond.

The difference between the blatant racism of the Jim Crow days, or the days of the
Chinese Exclusion Act, or basically the BAZILLION different instances in US history where racism has been the driving factor behind our actions, is that now it is much more subtle and nuanced. For example, the majority of people no longer find it socially acceptable to be blatantly racist against legal immigrants. This does not mean that they aren't, it just means that there aren't as many public forums that support hate-filled rhetoric against legal immigration as there used to be in the good ol' days. NO, to continue the legacy of our racist agenda, we must turn to illegal immigrants so that when pressed for a reason behind the hatred, we can claim that there wouldn't be a problem if they'd just do things "legally, like everyone else."

*Aside: this particular "compromise" racism is also apparent in Barack Obama's bid for presidency, where a determined group of individuals are intent on proving Obama's Muslim roots. Because, you know, we don't mind that he's black, but if he's a black Muslim, well then there's a DEFINITE excuse to kick the fucker to the curb.

The standard arguments that allow people to continue spouting racist ideafuckologies continue along the boring, overused lines that have been used for literally centuries in our nation to keep out legal immigrants, with a few fun new ones just to mix it up a little. They take jobs, they don't assimilate in our culture, they raise crime, they don't pay taxes, they raise healthcare costs, they STEAL YOUR IDENTITY, they take money from the children (think of the children!!!), etc. etc. ad nauseum.

Hate to burst your bubble people. It's racism. Pure and simple. That's all it's ever been.

If Americans were so worried about rising healthcare costs, they would support a system of universal healthcare that relieves financial pressure on individuals and establishes a system of checks and balances for Big Pharma and the medical system.

If they were so worried about their job security, they would support
sound economic practices (things that don't involve giving out an emergency stimulus package because the quick boom from the other one has faded), and they would truly start to examine our current stratified distribution of wealth, the likes of which haven't been seen since the 1920's. Instead of looking to the poorest people in our nation (yes, that would be the illegal immigrants) they would start questioning WHY the richest people in our nation are consistently the ones eligible for the largest tax cuts.

If they were worried about the uprise in crime (actually, other than domestic violence, crime has gone down nationwide), they would look at the long-established reasons that crime is perpetuated.

And if they really gave a DAMN about the children, they would focus more on fixing the public school system, relieving the crushing weight of college debt, pumping more money into teacher education, and ditching the abysmal mess that is No Child Left Behind.

The fact of the matter is that despite how far we've come, we are STILL a country who tries to pass off pervasive racism as patriotism. And sadly, it works.

Monday, May 12, 2008

White Feminist Apologetics

One of the most difficult things for me, as a feminist and as a white person, is trying to figure out how to correctly address the criticisms of white feminism by women of color. Historically, women of color and their unique perspectives and issues have been marginalized within the greater feminist agenda, which has lead to many WOC feeling distanced from the greater feminist collective. If white feminists aren't talking about issues that are relevant to WOC, and are actively disregarding issues that specifically pertain to WOC, then I would argue that they are actively engaged in perpetuating culturally entrenched racism.

The problem for me is how to participate in a discussion about WOC and their issues without coming across as patronizing or disingenuous. I feel uncomfortable coming to this table, and I've felt it many many times. When working in sexual violence, I once attended a workshop about sexual/domestic violence against women of color. I was the only white person present and, although I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the discussion and learning about the cultural stratification that separates WOC from other victims of sexual/domestic violence, I did not feel as if I could participate- even to ask questions. It's not that I don't have anything to say, or that I don't have any questions, it's simply that I don't want to come off as that "white girl."

I really haven't found an answer for this conundrum. In all aspects of my personal and professional development, I try to consider viewpoints from women of color. I actively seek out different blogs by women of color and I try to follow legislative/local/societal issues that pertain specifically to different women of color groups. This, however, doesn't really help me know how to better approach women of color feminist issues as a participant. I am the great philosophical lurker- up to date on pertinent issues, yet with no voice or direction of my own.

Today, however, I read an article on Feministing and then several other articles about
Ramona Moore, a girl who was kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered in a basement in Brooklyn. This story made me physically ill- literally nauseous. The police did nothing to find this woman while her mother and family members frantically tried everything they could think of to get her back. Her own mother discovered her brutally beaten body under an ice cream truck- the family was waiting by the body when the police arrived. The picture of her mother, Elle Carmichael, in the Village Voice was heartbreaking. Her eyes contained so much sadness. Her mother could have been my mother, in fact she reminds me of my mother. My mother would have done exactly what Ms. Carmichael did. She would have gone crazy with worry and hounded the police and put out fliers and conducted her own investigation. She would have fought tooth and nail to bring me home.

The difference is, my mother might have gotten results. She's white and so am I. The police pay attention to white women. When Elizabeth Smart went missing, the whole nation went into high alert. Thousands of people went looking for her and posted fliers and prayed. A black girl goes missing and it took her family contacting local politicians to pressure the police into action 4 days later. It makes me want to give up.

Her mother is bringing a case against the NYPD, accusing them of racial stereotyping. I am amazed by the strength and persistence of her love- the fury and the whirlwind type ferocity that drives this woman whose tragedy is unimaginable to keep fighting the system. I have looked for different ways to help, for different ways to lend a hand, and so far I haven't found a whole lot of direction from the blogs and news reports I've seen. But I can talk about it.

Women of color STILL face incredible discrimination and violation of their basic rights. I want to figure out how to participate in their struggle in a way that doesn't involve subscribing to typical brands of racism and patriarchy. Until I figure out how to do that effectively, I vow to at least TALK about it.

Friday, May 2, 2008

My own definition of feminism

I am a perpetual blog lurker, especially on feminist sites. All the traditional sites (BitchPhd, Feministing, Feministe, AngryBlackBitch, etc.) and some non-traditional ones as well, when I feel so inclined. Usually, I lurk because I don't feel I have much to add via discourse to the feminist conversation- I am silenced for fear of my own ineptitude. However, it is my hope that creating this blog will give me practice on voicing my views and opinions. I don't intend to talk about JUST feminism because frankly, I'd rather leave this topic in the more competent hands of those who are already providing daily commentary. Because I rarely engage in the ongoing dialogue, however, I am going to use this site to process my own thoughts on politics, feminism, life, which will hopefully allow for more personal development that I'd like to see.

That being said, I want to give my own definition of feminism today.

  • When I say that I am a feminist, I mean that I am an advocate for women.
  • I mean I enjoy talking about things that pertain specifically to women and women's place in social structures (families, communities, nationally, historically).
  • I mean that I believe that women struggle in a patriarchal society which is, at best, schizoid in its conception of women's roles, rights, and responsibilities.
  • I mean that I do not assume to know everything that there is to know about oppression and disenfranchisement and that my state of being is a constant state of learning.
  • I mean that I believe in strong women who don't take shit from anyone, and that I empathize (and self-associate) with women who DO take shit because they've been socialized to believe they should.
  • I mean that I believe women have the right to do all of the same things that men do, without receiving flak for their gender.
  • I mean that I believe fundamentally in reproductive rights that protect women- specifically preventative, educational care that allows women to make informed choices regarding their individual bodies.
  • I mean that I believe in women's sexuality and sexual expression, and the importance of defining sexuality in non-masculine terms.
  • I mean that I believe that it is possible to harbor the dual beliefs that 1) Women are different from men and 2) We are all human and equal and deserving of treatment that disregards gender, race, and class.

I will probably have more to add to this list later, but I want to get these beliefs out there because they are what feminism is to me and they are why I identify myself as a feminist. As I continue to refine my definition of what feminism means, and how I identify with the term, I'm sure there will be more to say. For now- this is me.