Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mystery Visit

Okay, I confess to checking the ol' Site Meter pretty regularly. It's interesting to see how people end up here; lately I've had a mad rush from Majikthise and Ezra Klein (hi, guys!). But the other day I found that someone in Sri Lanka had Googled
wedding preparation marriage night virgin shy bride
and landed here. My initial thought was that it was, well, a "shy bride" looking for advice. I was about 30 seconds into my bonding with this imagined quaking woman across the seas when I realized the visitor might well have been a prospective bridegroom instead, looking for tips on how to overcome his new wife's reticence. Hoping to find out, I googled the search terms myself (using google.lk).

I found a page recounting some woman bitching about getting married in the Dominican Republic, and this much more interesting page about (I assume) traditional Sri Lankan weddings. Good lord, it's very complicated and involves mats. Lots and lots of mats. With strict etiquette about color, and plaiting, and the order in which they're presented and what offerings are spread on which ones and how many get tied onto the bride and groom in layers. It sounds exhausting. Lots of food too, and tea towels, and mosquito netting. I don't know that the bride should be too worried about the wedding night since there would seem to be a high likelihood that both bride and groom will crash out for a good twelve hours after this endurance event of pre-nup preparations, the mat-laden ceremony itself, and the mongo feast afterwards. Night two is undoubtably a different story, though.

Let's see, what else... the search terms will also lead you to a compendium of marriage-relevant Quran verses, as well as to a Christian blog titled "Modestly Yours," offering this bon mot about a 31-year-old virgin bride:
She also notes that while most brides and grooms today boogie the night away at their wedding reception, she and her groom were outta there in record time, they couldn't wait to begin their honeymoon.

There you have it. I have no idea if any of these pages gave the Googler what she/he was looking for. She/he did spend a couple of minutes here, with two page views, so if nothing else maybe I managed to provide some amusement.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Australia got absolutely jobbed when the referee got mesmerized by the Italian Diving Team with 15 seconds left in extra time. Un-freaking-believable. Neill slides, anticipating a shot, the ball is gone, Grosso trips over Neill's arm and extends into a face-plant. Penalty, shot, score, game over. Poor Socceroos; they deserved better than that. Even with the earlier red card to Italy.

Okay, now that the US, Australia, Ivory Coast, and Ecuador are out, it looks like Ghana is my new designated underdog. Of course, they have Brazil next, so I'll be pooch-shopping again round about this time tomorrow (plus about three hours).

The referee coordinator for the local recreational leagues (yes, people, even if your little darling plays for one of the elite clubs, it's still Amateur Hour out here) has issued an edict that referees are never to criticize or agree with criticism leveled at another referee, no matter who or what, ever ever ever. Or we'll lose our jobs. Uh, Lou? Sometimes folks just fuck up, and pretending they don't or pretending we were looking at something else and didn't quite see the call doesn't change that. Think the local guys are going to look at us part-time refs with additional respect after watching the pros and putative best in the world make glaring errors? I don't think so either.

Never Expected...

Never expected to be feeling this way. It's become the theme to the summer, a summer defined by this constricted little bit of time. When I think back on summer '06, years from now, it is this time I will remember. And it's only been two weeks.

I never expected the intense reaction to seeing someone get married. I never expected the distraction, no matter how fleeting. I never expected to feel like I was in a competition for my son. And, should that have come to pass, I never expected to feel like I was losing.

Two weeks in June have drawn to a close, two weeks that, against the backdrop of the chaos the world has entered, don't impact the big picture a whit. Two weeks that, nonetheless, have left me staggering backwards, sputtering "What the hell?" more than once.

Do I evolve, or is it really just a big circle of the same outcomes rolling round and round without end?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Amnesty Sunday

I must confess to some confusion over the amnesty to insurgents being offered by the Iraqi government.
Al-Maliki's 24-point national reconciliation plan also would include an amnesty for insurgents and opposition figures who have not been involved in terrorist activities. Al-Maliki declared, however, that insurgent killers would not escape justice regardless of whether their victims were coalition forces or Iraqis.

I may be reading between the lines here, but this fairly baldly asserts that only those insurgents who limited their killing to coalition personnel (rather than Iraqi civilians) are eligible. But if they killed anybody at all, they'll face justice. So not only does this suck, but it's also a little short on logic. By this definition of amnesty, the only people who should be rushing the gates for the amnesty stamp are people who haven't killed anyone at all or blown anything up.

In other words, the really lousy or really timid insurgents. Although if they're serious about administering justice to the non-terrorist killers, they'll end up corralling the really stupid ones too.

Again, I'm left wondering what the Republican response would be if it were the Democrats lauding this dumbfuck plan as the greatest thing to happen in Iraq since Sumerian clay tablets. Blow up a market full of civilians? No amnesty for you. Blow up a US Humvee? Amnesty! With the blessings of congressmen who are lining up to say what a great idea it is!

How the fuck is this playing in Peoria? How is it playing in the homes of people who have kids, parents, spouses, friends over there? How about in the homes of guys who lost buddies, limbs, eyes over there? Are they feeling particularly supported right now, by this, by the incredulity of its proponents when faced with Democrats screaming bullshit on it?


Thursday, June 22, 2006

World Cup Fizzle and the Same Old Shizzle

We were prepared, the boy and I. We got up early and made an all-American eggs 'n' bacon breakfast in hopes that it would help. Uh, it didn't. The boys in red white and blue biffed their must-win game against Ghana 2-1. A couple of questionable calls and non-calls didn't help, but the ref didn't decide the match. The US side were listless against the Czech Republic and again today, showing very little creativity.


I guess this leaves me rooting for Ghana, despite their proclivity for diving--gotta love a guy with crazy hair named Pimpong, after all--and I suppose England, although they've looked only a little more inspired than the US so far.

I still blame Israel for Ireland's failure to qualify.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, murder indictments have rolled in for 8 marines in one incident, Haditha's still being investigated, and the Army's finally admitted that two soldiers killed back in '04 were actually shot by Iraqi soldiers (like, the guys we're supposed to be training and propping up). Word is that the Marines may face the death penalty. No word on any punishment for the brass who set the stage for them.

And yep, I still do "support the troops" who have managed to avoid committing war crimes so far. Of course, I'm the kind of person who tends to blame the parents of unruly toddlers more than the toddlers themselves, even when they know at least a little bit that what they're doing is wrong. I've said it repeatedly and will say it again. Fluid rules of engagement, implicit condoning of detainee abuse, and encouragement of a retribution mindset in a situation with wretched security and random IED attacks makes abuses and war crimes... well, saying "inevitable" probably relieves perpetrators of more responsibility than is warranted, so I'll say "unconscionable but not unexpected."

The anti-war protestors were out again at Campbell and Speedway yesterday, early in the morning before it got too hot. I can always tell when a protest is gearing up because of the car horns honking in support. There wasn't much honking as I went through the intersection; maybe it was because the protestors were just starting to set up and didn't have all the corners covered, maybe people weren't sufficiently caffeinated yet to notice and get their peace honk on. I hope it wasn't creeping anomie.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Predicted Response

It didn't take long for the predicted righty responses to surface, and it may have taken less time than I thought since I didn't wade into Redstate and its ilk until this afternoon. A sample comment from Redstate:
At americablog there are posters acting like it is an appropriate response to American's "torturing" prisoners.

That's an interesting misreading. The Americablog comments I've read so far are acting like it's a predictable response, but I have yet to find anyone who thinks torturing (or "hideously torturing," in case drawing-room variety torture isn't heinous enough) captured American soldiers is appropriate. The consensus is grief for the men's families and continually growing outrage at the administration's refusal to adopt a timetable for getting the hell out of there.

And wait for it, waaaaaiiiit for it... oh, never mind, you don't actually have to wait for it after all. As expected, we also immediately had:
What they won't tell you is that to desert Iraq would be to dishonor their deaths, and to throw away what they were fighting to accomplish.

By this logic we will never, never leave Iraq until the very last man dies. To borrow the White House's favorite nautical metaphor for this desert hell, "staying the course" dead into the path of a hurricane sacrifices the ship and all hands for no purpose other than the captain's ego. "What they were fighting to accomplish" was thrown away a while ago when the adminstration failed to consider and plan for the likelihood of post-Saddam sectarian conflict, whether you want to call it civil war or not. It was thrown away when they failed to adjust patrol protocols and tactics to deal with IEDs, which created an atmosphere of even more paranoia and fear than normal combat does, and when the chain of command failed to control the boots' reactions to seeing their buddies randomly blown into bits while riding in under-armored vehicles. It was shot all to hell when Abu Ghraib was tacitly condoned, when white phosphorous was used on Fallujah, when soldiers abused detainees and marines shot innocent children in retribution and airstrikes accidentally blew away families rather than the insurgents in the house next door.

My brother came back alive and physically sound from Baghdad two years ago, before things really started to go to shit. If he hadn't, I wouldn't be beating the drums for more young guys to go and die themselves just because he did, out of some twisted logic telling me that his death could only make sense if thousands more lost their lives in service of the same hopeless cause.

I'm not going wading any more today. I'm sick enough to my stomach as it is without reading more tripe about how the "leftist media" are making this look worse than it really is by publishing pictures of the dead men intended to make them look as young as possible, and by talking about how much their families will miss them. The cluelessness of the people those kids thought they were fighting to defend is part of the tragedy too.

Tuesday Mourning

After the bodies of the two missing 101st paratroopers were found last night...
Iraqi defence ministry spokesman Gen Abdul Aziz Mohammed said: "We found they had been tortured in a barbaric fashion."

W, at a GOP fundraiser last night...
An early withdrawal would embolden the terrorists. An early withdrawal would embolden Al Qaeda and bin Laden. There will be no early withdrawal so long as we run the Congress and occupy the White House.

One day, two quotes, completely divergent realities.

How long before the pro-war faction uses the latest two deaths to argue for an open-ended occupation? How long before they claim pulling out the troops who've managed to survive this long means Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker and the other 2,502 have died in vain?

Who will be the first conservative commentator to defend the next report of our guys' atrocities against civilians or detainees by saying, well, look what they did to Menchaca and Tucker?

We're going to stay the course. Just like the Titanic.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Kiddie Flashback

Memories popping up out of nowhere. 1976, nine years old, reading The Hobbit for the first time. I get inspired to draw a picture of Bilbo and take it to show my step-father, the big Tolkein fan who lent me the book in the first place. He glances at it and points out some rather major flaws--for one thing, I've put shoes on the hobbit--and goes back to whatever it was he was doing. I go back to my room and tear the picture into little pieces and throw them away. Some time later, maybe the same year, maybe not, I'm in my dad's office, drawing again. I produce what I think is the best german shepherd profile I've yet drawn and show it to my dad. He says it looks more like a bear than a dog, takes a pencil, sketches out a properly elongated muzzle. I take the picture back and, when he's out of the room, tear it up and hide it in the bottom of the trash can.

My mom? She usually thought anything I did was golden. I wish I could remember that as easily as the unexpected criticisms.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Massive Sunday Morning: A Response to Aimee Short

Last month I wrote a post that mentioned a Christian abstinence-promoting teen dance group that plans to travel to Uganda to help Ugandans find God and swear off sex until marriage (please ignore the maddening formatting-that-didn't-quite-take and just read). I was less than optimistic about their chances of success and more than a little cynical about the entire aggressive abstinence movement as a whole.

The founder of the Tucson chapter of the group, one Aimee Short, took the time to leave a lengthy comment on the entry, so I'll return the favor and respond to the points she raised.

I was a virgin on my wedding night. If you knew what happened with my marriage you would feel like a jerk for even attempting to presume I did anything wrong. And just so everyone knows, I will not have sex again until I am married.

I respect Ms. Short's intention to not have sex until she gets married again, and am genuinely sorry for whatever hurt she experienced that makes this even more imperative for her than just religious conviction. I know too many women who have experienced sexual and emotional abuse to ever belittle someone's personal experience, so I do apologize for seemingly callous remarks.

Nobody is trying to deny any young person of having fun or "getting their freak on" as you put it. We ARE trying to help young people avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, STDs, and the emotional heartbreak associated with pre-marital sex.

I am not even going to try and convince the readers of this blog (which I am sure already share your viewpoint, however uneducated it may be) that what we do helps teenagers and that it is effective.

My viewpoint may have come across as a bit snarky, so I'll try to explain it clearly. While I simply do not believe that all people need to abstain from sex until they're married, I do believe that it's a big mistake to be sexually active before you're emotionally mature enough to handle it. Our brains are hard-wired to go, go, go, and what seemed like a great idea at the time can come back to bite you in the ass the next morning, or even five minutes later, if you went into it thinking true love and the other person was just looking to get off.

Sex can be a powerful, powerful thing and has the potential to create emotional trauma. It can be bad enough when you make a mistake that's just centered on you (damn, that was stupid, he/she was just using me; crap, I was drunk, I hope she doesn't call me back). It can be a hundred times worse when your mistake also means you broke a sacred vow you signed your name to, let down your parents who thought you were great because you were a virgin, and pissed off your god.

And it can be a million billion gazillion times worse when all of the above happens and--because your abstinence education didn't provide it and your personal abstinence pledge gave you a compelling reason not to research it--you either didn't use protection or used it incorrectly because you had no idea how it works. And that's where the problem lies. Ms. Short says she's trying to help kids avoid pregnancy and STDs, but offers no solutions beyond "don't have sex."

That advice is golden in a perfect world, but does exactly nothing to protect people who get caught up in the moment, or in situations they have zero preparation for because they were told--and told themselves--that they simply would never do that. The membership of Short's own group belies that assumption; at least one guy, quoted anonymously in the original newspaper article this story came from, admitted to losing his virginity at 14, although he's since re-committed himself to abstinence. Did he use a condom? The paper didn't say. If any of the other BreakDown dancers get carried away at some point and have a sexual encounter, will they know how to protect themselves? Look at the numbers of abstinence-pledge kids who engage in oral or anal sex because they don't think it's the "real sex" that their pledges proscribe. I don't think those activities are inherently immoral, but they are risky from a physical health perspective and carry the same potential for emotional trauma good old penis-vagina sex does.

The other problem I have with the abstinence movement is the need of its proponents to formalize the decision and cover it with so many symbolic and ritualistic trappings that it moves into the realm of the sacramental--which comes with its own attendant problems (my, I'm feeling self-referential today). I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of kids wearing jewelry serving as a prominent statement about their sexuality. Deciding you're not going to engage in sex for recreation is admirable, but wearing the locket or ring every day seems, in my heathen opinion, to put an inappropriate emphasis on a kid's sexuality, to draw more attention to it--even when it's in the negative sense--than is warranted. But that's just me.

Where this becomes troublesome in my mind is when the kid who has made such a huge deal about being abstinent stumbles and does something. When the girl who's gone to the Purity Ball with her dad, or done the Silver Ring Thing and made her pledge in front of the group and wears the ring ends up having sex anyway. Hard enough to wake up the next morning after doing something you feel violates your own personal principles, your own private promise to yourself. Throw in betraying your community and all hell breaks loose.

I suppose that's the point; fear of tribal approbation keeps most people in line to some extent. And, the Abstainers might argue, if there's no threat of shame or other consequence hanging over your head, what's the point of making a promise in the first place? I simply prefer to see more holistic approaches taken that do not require perfection in order to be effective, and that includes acknowledging, accepting, and being honest about realities that don't conform to your ideal world. Vaginal sex doesn't always result in pregnancy or STD--but it can, so you need to be prepared. Oral and anal sex don't always result in STD--but they can, so you need to be prepared. Pre-marital sex does not always result in heartbreak--but it can be very messy indeed, so yes, you need to be abstinent if you're not emotionally mature enough to handle the potential trainwreck.

The last point the Abstince Movement regularly fails to acknowledge is that a marriage license and minister's blessing don't magically make you immune to either STDs or heartbreak. A woman can be a virgin who's never been with a man unaccompanied and still end up with a nasty virus on her wedding night if her husband was neither "pure" nor careful in his youth. Sexual abuse still happens within marriage, as does sexual incompatibility. In short, human sexuality is maddeningly and wonderfully complicated. Just saying no before marriage will solve some problems, but it ain't a magic fix for everything, and it isn't free of its own unintended side effects.

Endnote: My concern that BreakDown's message is overly simplistic for Uganda stands. Emphasizing self-esteem and self-worth as reasons to decline sex outside of a committed relationship, especially for teenagers, and especially for girls, is a praise-worthy goal. But it's hard enough to make that kind of thinking stick in America. I'm not sure that trying to transplant that model wholesale onto another culture will be hugely successful without simultaneously (or first) addressing the issues of gender inequality, the sexual expression of male power and dominance, and poverty.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Nifty Tidbits and Lessons Learned in the Past 144 Hours

The pancackes at the B-Line taste exactly like the ones my grandma makes. Wonderful eggy buttermilk pancakes with crisp edges, served with hot, thin homemade syrup that splashes over the lot and soaks in. All these years away from home and the cakes have been lurking mere miles away. The bonus at the B-Line is that, unlike at Grandma's, nobody keeps pushing you to drink orange juice that will be an ungodly sour chaser to the syrupy bliss on your plate.

Watching World Cup soccer is infinitely better on Univision, even if your Spanish isn't rapid-fire good. Give me the excitement and GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLL of the Mexican guys over the American dorks any day.

Soaking the garden in the morning, misting right after work, and lightly watering at night keeps the cucumbers from drooping.

Sceloporus lizards don't like to be misted.

The Iraqi government is granting amnesty to Sunni insurgents who "only" targeted American soldiers rather than fellow Iraqis. I'm sure the families of the thousands of soldiers and marines blown up or maimed by those fuckers are thrilled in equal parts by, first, the amnesty resolution and, second, by the vociferous support it's getting from Republican congressmen. Cutting veterans' benefits, dragging their feet on up-armoring soldiers and vehicles, and applauding the release of the murderous goons who have put 2,500 Americans in the ground is certainly an interesting way of supporting the troops.

Folger's coffee is bad enough, but year-old Folger's is even worse.

Sometimes when Dad calls me at work in the middle of the day, the purpose actually is not to ream me a new asshole.

Smooth sailing the first dozen times you use the SSH protocol to access the network at the office does not mean you can ignore that "transfer in progress" message even when it looks like all your transfers were completed ten minutes ago. Goddammit.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Concerned, But Not Terribly Concerned About Historical Accuracy

Ah, the Concerned Women for America. "Concerned" anything brings to mind the quintessential church lady frowning slightly, certain Something's Wrong with whatever issue has blundered into her line of sight, but unable to quiiiiiiite put together a cogent argument for why It (whatever it is) should be different.

Yesterday was Flag Day, so the CWA took the opportunity to wax indignant about... the Pledge of Allegiance, in support of yet another Republican base ass-kissing called the Pledge Protection Act (courtesy of Arizona's very own six-letter menace, Jon! Kyl!)--a proposed federal law that would prevent the phrase "under God" from ever being excised.
[Lanier] Swann said, “As Americans commemorate Flag Day, it is also appropriate to remember the importance of keeping God in our Pledge. CWA strongly supports the mention of God in our nation’s oath in keeping with our constitutional freedoms. We are free from an established religion and free to worship as we choose. Men of faith intentionally included the phrase ‘under God’ in an oath that serves as a symbol of loyalty and patriotism to our great country.

It's unclear if the CWA understand that while men of faith inserted the phrase into the pledge, they did so almost sixty years after the pledge was originally penned by an atheist socialist. It's equally unclear whether they understand the constitutional freedoms mentioned so reverently above, as Swann goes on to say:
“The Pledge Protection Act would uphold and protect the sanctity of our age-old Pledge. Children across the country must continue to have the right to recite our Pledge day in and day out. The words ‘under God’ make the Pledge not only a patriotic oath, but a public prayer for our country,” concluded Swann.

Hang on, let me rewind a moment here. In order to fulfill the religious freedoms mandated by the Constitution... we need a federal law... mandating the inclusion of a reference to a deity in the Pledge of Allegiance... in order to permanently establish said pledge as a public prayer.

Makes perfect sense to me.

The other reference I find curious is calling the Pledge "age-old," a phrase usually reserved for certifiably ancient things such as mountains and the British oppression of Ireland. The Pledge was written in 1892, which is definitely old, but not qualified as "age-old" even in the context of the US. To be age-old in America, you need to date to no later than the initial founding and framing spasms of the country, say Bill of Rights or earlier. And since I'm pretty sure the key bit being cited as age-old is the hat-tip to God, age-old apparently means "52" to the CWA, which makes not just the Pledge but also my boss and my Betty Crocker cookbook age-old as well. Who knew?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


After the weekend, focus is still slow in coming. I don't want to think about politics, immigration, feminism, organic farming, or gay marriage. I don't care to care that much about anything at the moment, truth be told.

In the interim before I get my angsty freak back on, here's a list of recommended diversions.


Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, and The Passion
Katherine Dunn, Geek Love
Franco Ferucci, The Life of God
Jay Winik, April 1865
Ruth Reichl, Tender At the Bone
MFK Fisher, The Art of Eating
Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair
Andrea Barrett, The Voyage of the Narwhal
Ian Frazier, On the Rez
James Lileks, The Gallery of Regrettable Food
Mark Dunn, Ella Minnow Pea


Natalia Zuckerman, On a Clear Day
Nortec Collective, The Tijuana Sessions, Vol. 3
DeVotchKa, How It Ends
Nada Surf, Let Go


Not us.

Soccer coverage.

Not ESPN. JP Dellacamera is a blithering idiot.

That is all. Deep insights tomorrow, really.

Better Living Through Polysyllabism

(Courtesy of PZ Myers over at Pharyngula.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Hey, Ho, Way To Go, Ohio...

Some time ago, round about when South Dakota enacted their abortion ban and Missouri and Louisiana were prepping their own, I wrote something about the far-right giddily bounding up to the line, eager to out-insane each other in the new Alito-Roberts-Scalia-Thomas world. Ohio is the latest entrant and current holder of the yellow jersey in the Tour de Compulsory Birth, courtesy of Tom Brinkman's (R-Cincinnati) little gem of a bill that would criminalize all abortion, no exceptions. No exception for rape, either of the stranger, acquaintance, or incestuous variety--nothing new here, right? But wait. There is so much more. The bill includes no exception for saving the life of the mother.

Read that again.

No exception for the life of the mother.

This isn't South Dakota's refusal to include a "health of the mother" exemption. This is, finally, an honest acknowledgment of what we in the choice camp have been saying louder and louder since South Dakota, since Louisiana: in the view of the anti-choice camp, women are life-support systems for a uterus. Nothing more.

The bill is almost certainly intended more as a Roe v. Wade challenge than as seriously contemplated public policy, more a bit of one-upsmanship designed to appeal to the same ultra-conservative voters who support gay marriage bans, flag-burning amendments, and nuking Iran. As such (and given the short time since it was announced), I haven't been able to dig up too much of the intellectual background behind it. I'm very anxious, though, to hear the ethical reasoning that leads to the conclusion that it's preferable to sacrifice two lives rather than end one to save the other. I wonder if this is a Salvadorean-esque mindset that values even an ectopic implantation of a small clump of cells more than the actual thinking, breathing, living woman carrying it.

Let the red-dress frenzy begin.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Wedding.

I was going to lead off with an unfounded generalization. I was going to say, "It's weird going to your ex's wedding." But instead of presuming to speak for everyone in the world, I'll revise and just say it was weird going to my ex's wedding. I get along with him just fine, obviously (otherwise it would have been quite weird indeed to show up at his wedding...), and I adore his family. Walking into the church and being warmly, delightedly greeted by his sister and brother and catching up with exactly how much the nephews have grown made it feel like a family reunion. The reunion of a family I don't quite belong to any more, or at least belong to in a relationship I haven't figured out yet.

I got through the ceremony without a single one of the welling tears escaping my eyelids, mainly by pinching the fingertips of my left hand in succession just short of the point of drawing blood.

It was maddening because I didn't know where the waves of emotion were coming from. The girlfriend was next to me crying like a... well, like a copiously crying person the whole time, but she also cries at Hallmark commercials so I don't think our tears were springing from the same well. Maybe it was because the last time I saw him in such a tuxedo-clad setting slipping a ring on someone's finger, it was me on the receiving end. Which makes no sense since I have no desire to be married to him or to any man, for that matter.

I just wasn't prepared. I don't think there's anything in life that really prepared me for that. The divorces I grew up with involved the salient parties pretty much hating each other's guts, so the proper place and behavior of the amicable ex-wife at the next wedding was never properly modeled for me. I wanted to hang with the ex-in-laws at the reception, but didn't want to barge in someplace I don't quite belong any more.

The next few weeks and months will be a learning process.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Special Report: Purity Pledges and Rape Reporting

When pressed for time and needing to gather your thoughts (World Cup starts in 45 minutes! Ex gets re-married in 30 hours!), post stuff from your dailyKos diary. Sure recipe for success. So now I reach back to April and rescue a piece I apparently never got around to putting up here...

Continuing the theme of purity pledges and a level of paternal involvement in pre-adolescent girls' sexuality, we turn to the wide world of chastity jewelry, divergent symbolism for girls and boys, and some of the unsettling implications for those kids' lives once they grow up. This was spurred by yet another Digby post, this one discussing the purity jewelry offered by a guy loosely connected to Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry.

The Heart to Heart jewelry guy provides the material manifestation of the queasy pseudo-incest imagery suggested by the Purity Ball's vows between daughter and father involving (1) saving the girl's purity as a gift to the future husband and (2) the father "covering" his daughter and protecting her purity until handing her off to the husband. Visitors to the H2H website can find a heart-shaped locket with a key for Daddy to keep until the wedding day, at which point he gives the key to the groom, who inserts it in his wife's keyhole (wink, nudge) and opens her heart. As a nifty bonus, the locket is designed to hold a note written by the girl to her future husband, promising to love and serve him faithfully despite never having laid eyes on him at the time the note was written. At least there's a "masculine cross" option for boys, giving equal time to genitalia depictions now adopted as symbols of religious sexual purity. No similar note-writing provision is made for the boy's locket, however; while his future bride will be given the key to the cross, the boy isn't expected to literally commit himself on paper to a woman he won't meet for several years.

Pumpkinseed Press carries even more incongruous gender-specific jewelry to go with their complete purity ceremony in a box. For the girls, a heart-shaped ring with a keyhole in the middle. For dad, a key-shaped lapel pin for him "to wear until the wedding day in which he places it on the lapel of the groom, signifying transition of protection and authority." Also included is a pre-printed covenant for father and daughter to sign. And for the boys? They get a wristwatch. Printed with "I will wait for God's timing." No accompanying symbol of parental control, no totem to be transferred to his future wife, no covenant to sign. Just... a watch. And the implicit assumption that, having decided to remain chaste, the boy is perfectly capable of seeing after that himself. Or not; apparently it doesn't matter much given the lack of a public vow and corroborating paperwork.

In both cases, the fathers are given the power and control over the girl's sexuality; the Heart to Heart folks at least make a half-hearted stab at trusting the boy's key to both parents. While the protection aspect is certainly appopriate in thinking about young children--as well as, let's admit it, the emotionally unready portion of the teenage population--the model falls apart when extended to adults of marriageable age. In fact, the entire program and the movement behind it looks geared to a social system that moves children directly from school to marriage. Explicitly--the "masculine cross" aside--it is a system designed to move a girl directly from her father's home to her husband's, with no intervening alone time during which she may venture out into the world, be exposed to dangerous new ideas, and, even worse, risk sullying her purity, which would render her potential as a gift to her husband void.

How does this translate to a world in which a girl graduates high school, graduates from college, and gets a job for a few years before settling down with Mr. Right? She is no longer a girl. She is a woman, an independent adult. Unfortunately for her, she is also an adult whose parents still claim sole authority to her sexuality, a claim they are likely to expect to see reinforced by the girl-woman continuing to wear the locket that only Daddy can open. What happens when this putatively independent adult woman runs into situations she was unprepared for or is unable to control?

I wasn't able to find anything dealing with how these newbie women cope when they find themselves in a guilt-inducing but nonetheless consensual sexual relationship before marriage, but I did find two rape accounts that underscore the additional emotional burden the Purity mindset can bring to a sexual assault. One woman was raped by a short-term acquaintance she met at a campus church group in Texas, the other by a long-term friend in Illinois. Both are religious; both made statements about how much they valued their virginity and feared their parents' disapproval for having been compromised, although it is unclear whether either formally made a purity pledge. The Texan filed charges and went through the trial:

During opening statements Tuesday, defense attorney David Barron described a different scenario in which the woman was a willing participant who made up the rape claims in order to save her religious reputation... Meanwhile, Barron urged jurors to question the woman's credibility. He described her demeanor on the stand as "flippant" and said the presence of her father - a youth minister - in the courtroom motivated her to minimize her involvement that night...

The woman in Illinois did neither:
Maybe it was the embarrassment. "I wanted to tell my parents, I wanted to tell a lot of other people. But I knew that one of the things my mom and dad thought was really great about me was the fact that I was a virgin, and I was very ashamed that this happened to me."

The stories are admittedly anecdotal, and reliable documentation of the effects of chastity vows on rape reporting are scarce on the Web. In fact, documentation of all sexual assault regardless of individual victim attributes is uneven at best, given the lack of consensus on what percentage of rapes are reported and what percentage of those may be false claims (sources here and here). The second complicating factor is the relative youth of the abstinence movement; while religious and social conservatives have essentially always expected chastity from their daughters, that expectation has only recently become formalized in public displays through ritual and adornment with specific jewelry.

The anecdotes related here do demonstrate, however, two different potential unintended effects of the chastity program stemming from the same cause; the additional guilt and turmoil injected into an unwanted sexual encounted by heavy parental expectations and praise of virginity are argued, by different parties, to lead to either false reporting or no reporting at all. In each case, the male involved did not have his behavior constrained by similar expectations, even when he came from essentially the same religious demographic as the woman.

This is not an indictment of the purity program. My personal biases and family background make me highly skeptical that a promise made at ten years of age to remain sexually pure is anything but a naive fantasy that places unrealistic pressure on post-adolescent women who end up outside the protective barriers put in place by their families. In an age of plentiful and deadly STDs and ever-decreasing abortion (and, in some places, even contraception) availability, chastity is not an option to be snorted at. But it should be an option that is chosen based on the individual's informed conscience (yup, I broke from the Catholic Church long ago, but I've always found that phrasing very useful), irrespective of gender, rather than being coerced only from girls by symbolically giving their fathers the sole authority over their bodies.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Emotional Hangover Remedy

Yesterday and the day before's marriage amendment kerfuffle sucked such raw emotional ass--and Boltgirl doesn't really go for that too much, although she's happy for the people who do--that I refuse to think deep thoughts today.

I did find this most excellent comic. Read them all. This one too. I think I'm in love.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More. It Never Ends.

Cornyn says protecting marriage is important because it's the most fundamental institution of American society. Funny me, I thought our most fundamental institution was the structure of the republic, with the Constitution as its source. He still thinks laws should be determined solely by We the People, rather than given on high by activist judges. Of course, he's a Texas Republican, so he's probably still chapped about the courts decreeing from on high that non-whites gotta be treated as full humans after all, even to the point of letting them marry white folk.

Oh, and the Clear Skies Initiative really would clean up our air, and drilling could be done in ANWR in an environmentally friendly way.

Is this the same guy who was standing up yesterday talking about what a surreal experience it was? Yeah. Still pretty surreal from this end too.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Things I've Learned Thanks to the Gay Marriage Kerfuffle

Random tidbits from the Marriage Amendment debate. My reactions, as always, follow in italics.

From Sam Brownback:
Massachusetts marriage licenses now have spaces for "partner A" and "partner B" instead of "husband" and "wife." This means the terms husband and wife will soon disappear, and if that happens, Lord only knows how the terms "father" and "mother" will be redefined (shudder). Because Lord knows that if I don't put my name on a line explicitly labeled "husband" on a form, that word will permanently disappear from my vocabulary.

More from Brownback:
How this impacts religious freedom: Catholic Charities was forced to leave Boston! Because "they're not allowed to do adoptions anymore!" Never mind, of course, that they chose to stop administering adoptions rather than consider same-sex couples.

Brownback's closing argument:
Ask in your own heart: is this the best way to raise the next generation? Hmmm. Should we raise them to believe conformity with a specific interpretation of the Christian Bible should be mandated for an entire society, or should we raise them to believe the individual informed conscience should be the arbiter? Let me think about that one for two seconds.

Whoops, Sam ain't done:
It's very hard for children to be raised by single parents. So it somehow follows logically that the problems encountered by single-parent households are solely due to the absence of the opposite gender, rather than the absence of a second parent. One of the best ways out of poverty is to get a job and get married! So we better make sure that option is never available to gays.

Oh, goody, now it's Cornyn:
We're not raising this issue gratuitously. It was brought to us by people who ran to the courts claiming that one man-one woman is discrimination. The facts that it's election run-up season and Dear Leader's numbers are tanking have nothing--nothing!--to do with it.

Throughout history, the marriage of a man and a woman has been viewed as the ideal. Except, of course, when it hasn't.

Lawrence v. Texas signaled the beginning of the threat to traditional marriage. The court not only struck down the sodomy law but created a new constitutional right saying your intimate adult sexual relationships can't be regulated. Because conservatives want nothing more than for government to butt out of... oh, wait a minute, that only applies to business regulation.

This almost seems surreal to me. Try spending a day inside my skin, bro.

This is our Constitution. And it's the people's prerogative to amend it and say what goes into that constitution. Funny, I thought it was my Constitution too, but I seem to have very little say about what goes in or stays out.

This amendment will protect the American people from having to live in a country where the laws do not reflect their will. Oh, John, John, are you sure you want to skate out on ice that thin? Forty years ago there were a hell of a lot of people in this country who vehemently disagreed with the notion that two people of different races should be allowed to marry.

I'd live-blog more of this, but it's just too fucking depressing and I can't listen to it any more. Much more later, I'm sure.

Happy Hate Day!

Yes indeedy do, today the White House "celebrates" the opening of debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment with the help of a stable-full of invited fundies, conservatives, and terrified Democrats who have to know they're marching themselves to the electoral guillotine by playing along with the Bushies on this one. John at AmericaBlog has a nice action alert up, for those who like to listen to their representatives' staffers sputter on the phone. I haven't called McCain or Kyl yet, partially because I suspect it would serve no purpose other than to give me some personal vindication, partially because I'm actually pretty shy and tend to avoid verbal confrontation.

This has been blogged to death, and I don't know that I have any original takes to offer. The proposed amendment is sheer grandstanding; some of its most vocal proponents have contributed plenty to the diminution of "marriage" through their own divorces and extramarital affairs. Evangelicals have the highest divorce rate of any demographic in the country, but somehow lifelong committed relationships between two people with the same chromosome set are the biggest threat to societal stability the world has yet seen.

Christ admonished his followers that whatever they did to the least among them, so they did to Christ himself. The mean-spiritedness of this amendment, which not only forbids same-gender marriage but also any legal contract securing a similar set of rights and responsibilities, suggests that the "Christian" howler monkeys on the right would rather live in the world of Leviticus than the world of the Beatitudes. Self-righteous hate and oppression of the Other is so much easier, requires so much less reasoned thought than selfless love. So much easier to tick a category on a checklist and write off every member of that category than to recognize the inherent humanity--recognize yourself--in the individuals who comprise every group of people on earth outside your own.

Friday, June 02, 2006

When Netroots Fail: Cecilia Fire Thunder vs. Male Hegemony in Pine Ridge

I thought this was going to be a nice little ray of sunshine piece, about how a modest netroots effort in the face of unjust legislation actually managed to make a difference. A little background for those who missed it the first time: the South Dakota abortion ban pissed off the president of the Oglala Sioux tribe in a major way.
''I'm always an advocate for women, it's all about women. To me, when I heard that [Gov. Mike Rounds] signed the bill including rape and incest, I was going, 'Wait a minute, we know that rape and incest occur - how do we allow white men to tell me what to do with my little brown body?'

''It was just intuitive as a woman to speak up. I shook the tree of denial on the Pine Ridge Reservation and now everyone is talking about it. Did you notice that it's mostly men criticizing what I've been doing?''
Her declaration took the blogosphere by storm and we all did little happy dances.

Her vow to open a women's clinic on the reservation, outside the SD legislature's jurisdiction, almost seemed knee-jerk at the time, a great idea or at least a bold boast that didn't have a chance in hell of becoming reality. But enough people were galvanized by Cecilia Fire Thunder's rhetorical flipoff to the SD governor to send thousands of dollars in donations and letters of support, and enough dollars piled up to make the clinic a reality.

Fire Thunder announced that the Sacred Choices clinic would be built on the reservation in the village of Kyle, to offer comprehensive women's health services--something that's been sorely lacking on the rez.
She said Pine Ridge has a population of beautiful young women who have no education or an awareness of making choices about their bodies.

''This is a good opportunity to do that.'' ''It's a hard enough decision to make, and how many women are strong enough to make that decision and stick by it? So when a woman makes up her mind, she doesn't need someone to undermine her decision. I'm just here to love you and hold your hand and support whatever decision you make,'' she said.
But the movement appears to have come to a crashing halt. The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council yesterday suspended Fire Thunder, pending impeachment, and enacted a ban on all abortions on the reservation.
"It was unauthorized political activity," said Will Peters, a tribal council representative from the Pine Ridge district. "It's just a matter of failing to communicate not only with the governing body but with the people that she was elected to serve."
Peters claims that if Fire Thunder had initially proposed the clinic as a comprehensive women's health center, the tribe wouldn't have had a problem with it. The perception that Sacred Choices was intended solely to provide abortion--despite the fact that Fire Thunder never explicitly used the term "abortion" when talking about the need for a clinic--was apparently too much for the council to take.
"Women need services. Women need support. Right now on the Pine Ridge reservation, there's very little support for women who have been raped," Fire Thunder said.

"If that's the way it was presented to people in the first place, I think she would have been OK," Peters said. "Her stand, by what we read and what we hear from all accounts, was to support abortion. I've never seen such a turn-around."
Peters went on to say that while he feels women should be allowed to control their own bodies, many of the people opposed to the clinic are themselves Lakota women, so he feels that he needs to support them as a Lakota man. I wonder if it bears repeating that Fire Thunder and the women on the Sacred Choices board of directors are also Lakota women who could use some support, that the simple presence of women among the detractors does not trump the greater numbers of female proponents. I fail to understand the logic that dictates a valuable project with the potential to improve the lives of half the reservation's people be discarded because it was initially pitched as an abortion provider.

Kim Tall Bear lauds Fire Thunder as a champion of both female and cultural sovereignity, and articulates the abortion conflict as a Lakota woman herself (emphasis mine):
For those of us who do not subscribe to certain Christian doctrinal teachings, but who do subscribe to cultural imperatives about the sacredness of life, our moral and political response to terminating a pregnancy is not captured by either of the most vocal positions in the American abortion wars: the ''pro-choice'' and ''pro-life'' positions.

My Dakota mother and great-grandmother, for example, did not let me forget the powerful potential of my body to bear children. I was taught that a child is sacred, and that an unwanted pregnancy was to be assiduously avoided through safe-sex practices and, when I was younger, through abstinence.

My mother and great-grandmother never used the words ''choice'' or ''rights,'' but rather they spoke of ''power'' and ''responsibility.'' But my mother and great-grandmother also took a leap of faith that I would have the space to be responsible for my body - that I would not, for example, face rape.

At the same time, I was raised with a politicized understanding of the world. Both women and men in my family and in our tribe endured their share of hardship, including sexual violence. I grew to understand that within a colonial context. Abortion, in that context, might be considered a sad but necessary decision.

We differed from the ''pro-choice'' position in that we spoke of this and all reproductive decisions not as a ''right'' or a ''choice,'' but as a responsibility that grew out of the power in women's bodies. We differed from the ''pro-life'' position in that we recognized that the decision could be shaped by the hardship and violence that haunt Indian people to this day. Our views about the sacred nature of the unborn child were not synonymous with fundamentalist Christian views. From my upbringing, I came to understand abortion as a difficult topic with only context-specific and imperfect solutions.
What happens next for the women of the Pine Ridge Reservation will be largely determined by what happens for the women of greater South Dakota. Betty Bull Bear, one of the board members, said it would be a wellness center, and the board would wait to see what happens with a statewide abortion ban referendum and any subsequent legal challenges before deciding whether to attempt to provide any abortion services.

Meanwhile, they'll start verifying and counting signatures next week from the referendum petition. Volunteers are claiming they already have more than three times the required 16,000-odd signatures, well ahead of the June 19 deadline.

Multiple issues are in play here--cultural views on abortion sometimes twined with and sometimes butting up against women's autonomy and power, entrenched poverty, domestic violence and rape that impacts Native women at a rate four times that of the non-indigenous population, and a mostly male (14 of 17 members) tribal council that has been resistant to the leadership of the first woman Oglala president since her inaguration. This is the second time Fire Thunder has been suspended and threatened with impeachment; she has been viewed as a maverick for going outside traditional channels to secure a loan from a different tribe to finance gaming operations (that impeachment attempt didn't stick). Depending on your perspective, she's either a mouthy woman who has forgotten her place or a courageous leader attempting to fight decades of oppression both within and from outside the Lakota Nation to better her people's lot. The support she enjoys among Lakota women--councilman Peters' claims notwithstanding--suggests the president is not the council member who's out of touch with the people she represents.

Would it have made a real difference if President Fire Thunder had gone through official channels to accept the thousands of dollars in unsolicited donations that poured into Pine Ridge from across the country? Would it have mattered if she had made "comprehensive health care" the first words out of her mouth any time she addressed the issue? As long as some people have a vested interest in keeping abortion or emergency contraception out of any discussion of comprehensive health care, and as long as others have an equally vested interest in maintaining their own gender-based power, I fear the answer will continue to be no.