when the status quo frustrates.

Get Over It

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

A friend of mine was talking the other day about this guy who was yelling at her on the street, and how uncomfortable it was for her. Not an uncommon event, not even for her, but this one was a little frightening because he started following her for a bit. She posted it on her facebook page, and got the normal comments of support. Then she got this comment:

Oh get over it. You’re bitching that someone though you were hot enough to try and talk to.

Harassment is a compliment, dontcha know. Now, I could just go “Asshole says things assholes say” but I think this is a very small illustration of something that women, particularly feminists who point it out, deal with when we point to the many, everyday ways we have to deal with shit in a patriarchy and how those things are completely minimized.

Liberals and Progressives like to say things like “context matters” a lot. A noose hung at the “white” tree where some black kids dared venture is a very different symbol than a noose in a western movie (though they both have the broad stroke of being “threatening”). The context of the first makes it “racist”. The context of the second makes it different. The same is true of the shit women deal with.

If I was an alien being who popped in from the land of Egalitaria and I have never experienced sexism before in my life, the random frat guy that barked at me when I was waiting for the bus would have been baffling, but not rage-inducing to me. Was I doing something wrong in a social context? Was it a warning that I didn’t understand? I would assume from the looks that were delivered with it and the tone of the barking activity that this was a judgment of me in some context, and a judgment met with approval by his peers with him, but I would probably find it more weird than embarrassing. In the real world, it was rage-inducing because I knew exactly what I was doing “wrong”- I was being insufficiently attractive to a guy while in public. Hell, I’d probably say “I was existing in public while female” and that’s probably all the “wrong” there was. I went to happily joking with my husband while waiting for the bus to mad as hell in the context of a bark. I took care of it in my normally mature fashion*, but I had the added benefits of it being in public, with my Hubby, and they were unlikely to come back and escalate the situation. In a different time and place, I probably would have just been silent, realizing the powerlessness of the situation and the added danger that comes from the ever-present threat physical violence.**

The context of a guy barking at me was a context where guys feel free, nay encouraged, to comment on women’s body’s like they are entitled to them. One incident is something that is easily forgettable. One incident where you know that you are going to get an equal level of social support, or more level of social support is equally forgettable. Such an incidence happen to me once when I was walking down Minneapolis. An extremely inebriated individual yelled at me “Hey! Do you know you have really big tits!” not once, but twice at me and was aiming for a third time when I acknowledged him by saying “Yes, I know”. I had my Hubby, I had my friends with me laughing at this guy, but the friend of this guy was busy trying to get him to shut up and saying “not cools” at him. This incident did not make me feel embarrassed, nor threatened, nor have the effect of taking up any of my mental or emotional state. This event did not cause me to pause at the idea of wearing a shirt that was low-cut or a push-up bra. The only thing memorable about this incident is the fact that it was actually a little bit funny to my social group. This event is something, that while annoying, is easy to “get over”. Someone barking at me is in a context of social encouragement, dozens of similar events that I have to ignore if I want to be in public, and an all-pervasive attitude of entitlement.

One cut doesn’t kill someone. One cut probably doesn’t even scar, especially if you throw on some salve right away. But a million of the same size cuts can kill a person.

*Yelling at him to fuck off while delivering the boob of justice at him- if there’s nothing that I can do to get him to stop I’m getting an emotional release from the encounter.
** Or maybe not. I’ve been known to invade the personal space of someone who has been yelling at me in the middle of the night by myself. Being suicidal is marvelous freeing in the context of not being afraid of death.

Toy Story 3

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Toy Story, the original, came out when I was 10. I went to the theatre to watch it and was entranced, and I own (and still occasionally watch) it 15 years later. I loved the characters, I loved the secret suspicion and day-dreaming that the toys were alive shared with others and brought to reality on the big screen. As an adult, I love the themes and inside jokes a missed as a young child. My adult, cynical self suspects that this movie concept originally was green-lighted because it was easy to make toy tie-ins, but I really think the creators of this story wanted to create something long-lasting, not just a cheap marketing gimmick. They told a story with the reverence most children do show their toys. Also, this was the first time I had been introduced to Pixar’s “gag real” during the credits, and I laughed about as hard at those as I did during the movie.

Toy Story 2 came out a few years later, and by this time I was fully on my path to a cynical teenager, who had long ago learned that “sequel” normally meant “sucktastic”. Nevertheless, I went, and I took along my two kids sisters with me. I was so thrilled with the sequel- in a lot of ways it was even better than the original because it dealt with complex themes of loyalty, who you are, and the choices you have to make to decide where you want to be. It wasn’t a “sequel”- it was another story in the same universe. If you watched the movie by itself, it was still a good story. If you watched the first movie before it, it was an excellent continuation of who the characters were. It found, I think, the balance between establishing the characters for new viewers without boring the people who had come before.

When I heard that they were going to make a Toy Story 3 movie, I was excited and worried in equal measures. I was excited, because honestly Toy Story 2 did not seem like the end of the story. It left to many things open, too many things unresolved. It felt like part 2 in a trilogy. I was hopeful that this was going to continue the characters I really loved and felt, in a twisted sort of way, that I had grown up on. But I had been burned before. There was Cinderella 2, the straight-to-video nightmare that I try to forget*. There was Return of Jafar**. This summer alone I went and watched “Shrek Forever After”*** which made me even more worried that it was going to be drawn out crap.

I went in worried, was made more irritated by the fact that a matinée was $7.50, and then watched the Pixar short that was the most insulting thing ever (more on that later). But then, the movie started, and soon I was an entranced little 10-year old again. (Some light spoilers, but I’ll try and keep away from the biggest ones).
(more…)

Un-Constitutional

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I’m wrapping up my work with the Census Bureau, which is nice except it means I’m back in Unemployment-ville very soon. But, this was a good experience. It was interesting to see how an American Bureaucracy works up close and personal* and I got that all important “leadership experience”.

But I am still absolutely flabbergasted at the number of people who believe that the Census is un-Constitutional. I doubt that there is a more Constitutional thing in the world. After so many of my enumerators told me people were refusing based on this supposed Un-Constitutional-ness, I finally went and double-checked the Constitution to see what it says.

Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse [sic] three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

(Bold added)

Fairly clear to me. Congress conducts a census, they have the ability to decide what goes in the Census. It was a little jarring to be reminded of the 3/5ths standard, but that’s our Constitution, warts and all. The court cases, from the District to the Supreme, all agree- you have to have a census, you can include information besides just a head count. We have never had a Census that was just a simple headcount.

I am baffled by people who believe that the Census is unconstitutional, when the Constitution says it right there. It’s not that long, and heck, it takes 30 seconds to google “Constitution” and “Census” and get the appropriate clause. I would be confused by people who were AGAINST the questions on the Census form, but that at least would be a reasonable thing to be. You could be irritating your Congressman every 10 years, three years before the Census, telling them that there shouldn’t be anything in the Census besides a headcount, and you would be well within your rights. But to say it’s unconstitutional is flat wrong.

But, people being wrong about basic factual things is something you get used to. When we have a population that, according a 2008 poll of 2000, less than half can name the three branches of government, it should be a fairly uncontroversial statement to say we are dealing with an undereducated populace.** The more interesting point I can think of is “Why would people propagate this lie?”

Our local wingnut, Michelle Bachmann, was one of the first people to express that the Census was unconstitutional, and it had something to do with ACORN (It doesn’t- ACORN’s only involvement in the Census is it was one of thousands of groups that put up advertising). Glenn Beck also repeated that all they could do was a count, and also suggested that this was some sort of conspiracy to take money from people (the Census does not report to the IRS) and that the race is because “Minority people are more valuable than white people”.***

Where are they getting this, and why are they saying it? Is it that they’re worried that the Census will show we’re not as white as we used to be? Is it politics- they’re trying to cause the Democratic Obama administration to waste as much money as possible so they can turn around and then say that the Democrats always waste money and the federal government just isn’t that efficient?

My suspicion is the latter, more than the former. While I know plenty of wingnuts that are convinced of the coming “race wars”, I really think that in the case of Bachmann and Beck, they’re simply looking to keep conservatives in power. A minority-majority would be plenty of fodder for them to go around arguing that affirmative action is unnecessary (again, I think they’d be wrong, but that’s a post for another day). But, people always seem to be suckers for the government is too expensive, we should get rid of it. I’m sure someone would come up with the idea of privatizing the Census Bureau (*shudders*) and then we can have some more endless, political arguments on something that, realistically, should be non-partisan.

What does everyone think their motivations are? Why politicize something relatively benign like “enumerate people every 10 years?” We have a few conservative lurkers here. What’s your take on the Census? If you think it’s unconstitutional, why?

*If you’re interested, it works I think on the principle of directed chaos. Everything’s going in their own, random space directed by someone else who is also moving in his or her random space directed by someone else who is moving in his or her own random space- you get the picture. I’m impressed at how well it works, but I’m amused at how often you have to make reality fit the paperwork, not the other way around.
**It should also be a terrifying one, one that should make you feel the need to tell your local, state, and federal government that we have to have civics requirements in schools, and need to fund them a lot better in addition to feeling the urge to pass out copies of the US Constitution and “American Government for Dummies” on the street corner, but that’s a discussion for another day.
***Bill O’Reilly, weirdly enough, is one of the few big-name conservative pundits that told people to fill out the form. He considered it a matter of being “good citizens”, which I agree with, and made me do a double-take.