Yesterday I posted a video showing what happens to women everyday as they walk down the street.
I think it was in March of 1969 when I went for my first appointment at the Center For Special Problems in San Francisco.
I had been out in public mostly with friends maybe half a dozen times prior to that day.
I got off the bus at the East Bay Terminal and walked over to Union Square. It was the first time I experienced all the catcalling as a woman. I was so excited, it was so different from the catcalling I had experience as a presumed gay androgynous person. The filth I had experienced before had always had a strong dose of verbal violence and threat.
When I got back to Berkeley and told some women, who lived in the collective, they rolled their eyes and said, You’re going to get tired of it really quickly.”
Part of being a politically aware hippie woman with a blossoming level of feminist awareness meant that what was fun the first few dozen times grew stupider and stupider with each passing incident.
After I was raped in 1974 I started studying the martial arts and learned to move with alertness and confidence, like a woman warrior. I dressed like a dyke and wore feminist t-shirts, a combination that armored me up when it came to the street bullshit.
Over the years the street harassment has become far more vicious and threatening. Hiphop culture has made thuggish behavior acceptable while the right wing has seriously pushed misogyny as part of the cultural wars.
I’m old and mostly travel by car, I live in suburbia and that sort of bullshit would have neighborhood watch up in arms. It has been some 15 years or so since I was last harassed. The last couple of incidents were rather threatening.
When one happened I was out early in the morning, power-walking and involved a gang of young black men. When I ignored them they whipped out the catcalls accusing me of being a man. One of those incidents where I would have felt a great deal safer with a handgun in my fanny pack.
Then a drunken Latino man grabbed me and groped me as I was coming home from the grocery store. My martial arts skills kicked in and I kicked him several time. Didn’t even drop my groceries.
We are coming up on the Day of Remembrance Ceremonies around the world. Some of the violence done to trans-women starts off as street harassment and escalates from there.
Lessons in how to deal with street harassment should be part of the counseling given women coming out as trans early in their transition. It could save their lives.
That and convincing sisters to do safer forms of sex work other than working the strets.
Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Bill Maher’s recent monologue on “Real Time” about the failure of liberals to speak out about the routine atrocities and violations of human rights carried out in the name of religion in the Muslim world has unleashed a torrent of commentary, much of it from progressives advocating more, not less, tolerance of Islam.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who sided with Ben Affleck against Maher in a follow-up segment a few days later, calls ISIS rebels, in an op-ed, “barbarians” who “give all Islam a bad name,” and asks us to take into account the religion’s diversity, lest we slip into “Islamophobic bigotry.” Fareed Zakaria, in his Washington Post column, cautions us to recall that Islam, Christianity and Judaism once peacefully coexisted, but acknowledges that Islam suffers from a “cancer” – extremism that incites acts of terrorism. This he views, though, as a problem of “Islam today.” (He neglects to point out that in the Muslim-dominated countries where this peaceful coexistence occurred, Christians and Jews suffered humiliating second-rate dhimmi status, unequal legally or socially to Muslims.) Writing on Al Jazeera English, Lana Asfour lauds Affleck for calling out Maher’s “racism” and espies, in the comedian’s treatment of Islam, an “overriding agenda” aimed at justifying the “past, present, and future mistakes” of U.S. foreign policy.
One pundit in particular, though, has busied himself opining on Maher and nonbelievers in general — Reza Aslan, Islam’s most prominent apologist of late. Delivered via multiple media outlets, his remarks, brimming with condescension, tinged with arrogance and laden with implicit insults to thinking people, deserve special scrutiny for one main reason: among well-intentioned liberals who don’t know much about religion, his words carry weight.
In a New York Times editorial, Aslan accused Maher and other nonbelievers of “exhibiti[ing] an inability to understand religion outside of its absolutist connotations.” Such folk, in his telling, unjustly “scour holy texts for bits of savagery and point to extreme examples of religious bigotry, of which there are too many, to generalize about the causes of oppression throughout the world.” They fail to grasp, in his view, that “religion is often far more a matter of identity than it is a matter of beliefs and practices.”
Yet Aslan accuses the benighted critics of religion of a far more grievous misapprehension: the assumption that words mean what they actually mean. Here I’ll quote him at length.
“It is a fallacy to believe that people of faith derive their values primarily from their Scriptures. The opposite is true. People of faith insert their values into their scriptures, reading them through the lens of their own cultural, ethnic, nationalistic and even political perspectives. . . . After all, scripture is meaningless without interpretation. The abiding nature of scripture rests not so much in its truth claims as it does in its malleability, its ability to be molded and shaped into whatever form a worshiper requires. . . If you are a violent misogynist, you will find plenty in your scriptures to justify your beliefs. If you are a peaceful, democratic feminist, you will also find justification in the scriptures for your point of view.”
Now we have to stop and ponder what we are being sold here. Aslan is essentially taking a postmodernist, Derrida-esque scalpel to “scripture” and eviscerating it of objective content. This might pass muster in the college classroom these days, but what of all those ISIS warriors unschooled in French semiotic analysis who take their holy book’s admonition to do violence literally? As they rampage and behead their way through Syria and Iraq, ISIS fighters know they have the Koran on their side – a book they believe to be inerrant and immutable, the final Word of God, and not at all “malleable.” Their holy book backs up jihad, suicide attacks (“martyrdom”), beheadings, even taking captive women as sex slaves. This is not surprising; after all, the prophet Muhammad was a warrior who spread Islam by the sword in a dark, turbulent time in history. (Christianity’s propagation had, in contrast, much to do with the Roman emperor Constantine’s fourth-century conversion and subsequent decriminalization of the faith.)
Some things you shouldn’t assume.
Don’t assume that just because I’m an old dyke I want to go to the Michigan Wymonz Muzack Festival. As much as I like the country I haven’t any desire to sleep on the ground when there are perfectly good beds to be had.
Besides which I pride myself in having really eclectic musical tastes and while I might well listen to some of the artists who play the MWMF there are many I have never heard of.
I also like to support local music and musicians.
I haven’t a clue as to local lesbian bars. My partner and I don’t drink.
I don’t do Pride Day. It is generally really freaking hot, parking is non-existent and I am usually at work. Besides I’m old and I’ve been there and done that… Way too many times.
I don’t know any trans-bars or local organizations/rap groups. I had SRS well over 40 years ago and every traumatic transition story is basically the same. Time to give young folks the pride of doing their part and being activists.
What’s a “genderqueer”? (Snark) We used to say people doing “genderqueer” were doing “Gender Fuck”. Back in the post-1960s people understood camp and detournement, today everyone is so freaking deadly serious and expect you to automatically know and use proper pronouns even when they made those pronouns up.
I’m a vanilla crunchy old hippie dyke. I think all the emphasis on gender is really retro and conservative. I don’t do BDSM… If it floats your boat… Whatever… I too have hobbies that some think are strange, like going to a gun range and shooting my 9mm.
Same sex marriage is more important to me now I am old than it used to be. I used to think it reactionary but I’ve seen how the powers that be fuck over unmarried people, particularly old folks when one partner dies.
I vote Democratic. I’m pretty much a working class Democrat. Don’t assume I embrace “identity politics”. I don’t. I think they are a curse that keeps people from supporting progressive politics.
I don’t like the police state. I think it is time to end the drug prohibition, in part because I think pot might help with the pain in my hands and other joints. I oppose most progressives on matters of gun control and think many of the roots of gun control are both racist and classist.
I believe in unions and I am skeptical of the efficacy of anti-discrimination laws in a world where workers have no real rights. In that sort of world anti-discrimination laws seem like a diversion.
I know it is trendy for progressives to be anti-Israel. I support Israel, I think it is the only real democracy in the Middle East, the only place in the region where women and LGBT people have any real rights. Besides Israel is one of our strongest and best allies.
Don’t assume I like pop music or give a rat’s ass about various divas. Or cable shows featuring TG-folks. I’ve never seen Orange is the New Black. Yes Laverne Cox is a great advocate for TS/TG folks but I could barely put up with “The L-Word” and prison dramas… Well there are way too many folks actually in prison and I doubt any dramas do them justice.
I’m an old hippie. I like roots music, interesting food. I work to be able to live. I don’t live to work and earn lots of money for my employer. I do art, play music and the like because I like doing it, not because I’m really good at it and can make lots of money.
I may be post-transsexual but I don’t own any high heels, I prefer athletic shoes and Birkenstocks. I don’t wear make-up and consider fashion a bore. Actually I consider fashion rather stupid, “Vogue on the outside, vague on the inside.”
I’m not a member of the Transgender Community… It came along long after I was post-transition. I have TS/TG friends. I support the rights but the drama and fighting gets to me. I think calling transsexuals who claim that label elitists is fucked up Everyone else gets to pick their own labels why not transsexuals?
While I’m at it transsexuals have the right to experience life after SRS as individuals and not according to the ideology of some committee made up of transgender authorities.
Stop assuming we are all the same. I’m working class, a hippie, a crunchy dyke. My experiences make me different than a middle class person who came in middle age after a marriage and fully developed career. We don’t have all that much in common.