Rep. Gwen Moore & Rep. Jackie Speier: Amazing Speeches on the House Floor

As House Republicans argued for extremist measures to cut assistance to women, children, and men who use Planned Parenthood’s services, Gwen Moore and Jackie Speier bravely shared their own personal experiences on the House floor.  Their words are a reminder of the dire necessity to have more women and people of color serving in legislative positions.

Making History in Egypt

Protest turned to celebration today in Egypt with the announcement of Mubarak’s immediate resignation after nearly thirty years of rule.  The people have triumphed, and Egypt will never be the same.  Be sure to check out Al Jazeera English’s live stream of continued coverage here.

Also, take a look at some on-the-ground reporting and analysis this week from young bloggers.  Thanks to 1st year women’s history student Katrina Brown for the tips!

The Role of Masculinity in the Egyptian Uprising by Annie Rebekah Gardner Canonball: “I’d like to consider the role that masculinities have played in the uprising, and how a revolution, should it ever come to pass (as we all more or less know, any transitional government that is US-brokered is highly unlikely to radically shift the status quo of governance here), could hold a potential for re-imagining masculinity in a new order.”

Beside Boys on the Street: Women & the Egyptian Protests by Max Strasser Canonball: “Much of the U.S. media’s coverage of the ongoing uprising in Egypt has been pretty alarmist and ignorant, in particular with regard to the “Islamist threat” posed by the Muslim Brotherhood. (See, for example, this astoundingly tone-deaf article in Slate by someone I suspect has little experience in Egypt.) But it has pleased me to see that the role of women has not gone completely ignored.”

One Intifada you can’t scapegoat by Sarah Hawas:                                                  The Daily Nuisance: “But the absence of any agenda or blueprint in Tahrir square is seriously outdone by the presence of direct, cooperative action between people who are united by one thing only: their determination to end the reign of Mubarak and his appointed regime, at all costs.”

Super Bowl Round-Up

Super Bowl News and Analysis

Huffington Post: What to Say to Young Boys and Men About Big Ben

“There will also likely be considerable hand-wringing from many in Steeler Nation, who will cheer for their team with a troubled conscience, out of concern that their cheers could be construed as support for a man — the team’s quarterback and on-field leader — with a disgraceful record of mistreating women.

The following talking points are designed to give parents, coaches and other adults some ideas about how to frame conversations with boys and young men (and girls and young women) about the Ben Roethlisberger case.”

Change.org: Super Bowl: ‘One of the Biggest Human Trafficking Events in the U.S.’

“At the second annual meeting of Texas’ anti-trafficking task force last week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot announced that his staff is already getting ready to help authorities stop traffickers during the Super Bowl—which he described as “one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States.” Task force staff will train law enforcement to identify victims of trafficking, and to engage with them as victims, rather than criminals.”

ColorLines: Mike Tomlin’s Super Bowl Return Is Proof Affirmative Action Works

“But Tomlin wouldn’t likely be roaming the sidelines if not for the Rooney Rule, which requires an NFL team with a head coaching vacancy to interview a candidate of color. Before the rule, few African Americans were granted interviews, let alone given head coaching jobs.”

Socialist Worker: Those Non-Profit Packers

“Actually, it’s not quite accurate to say the Packers are without an owner. They have 112,000 of them. The Packers are owned by the fans, making them the only publicly owned, not-for-profit, major professional team in the United States.

…. In the United States, we socialize the debt of sports and privatize the profits. Green Bay stands as a living, breathing–and, for the owners, frightening–example that pro sports can aid our cities in tough economic times, not drain them of scarce public resources.”

Ms. Magazine: There’s a Reason Lucy Grabs the Football from Charlie Brown

“When do corporations spend $100K-per-second for TV ads in which the product will inevitably be forgotten by consumers, but the content will help spread misogynistic stereotypes?

On Super Bowl Sunday.”

Feminism & Veganism

Below is an excerpt of an article originally posted at For the Birds Feminist Collective.

I’ve been a vegan for the last five years.  I have always intuitively connected not using animal derived products to my feminist politics, but only recently was asked to articulate this relationship for a symposium at at local college.  Once I dedicated time, thought, and research to the topic I found many different facets of the intersection, not only between speciesism and gender, but also race and class.

One approach to the topic examines notions of masculinity and femininity within our culture.  Men are often denied emotion, feelings, compassion. Instead rationalization, hierarchy, and conquering are embedded within our notions of masculinity.  Discussed in the works of Max Weber and Theodor Adorno, modernity has contained the thematic of dominating nature (or the feminine).  In reading the work of Carol Adams, I learned that historically men have been the ones to consume meat and determine women’s consumption of meat, despite women’s work caring for the animals and preparing the food.  So while manly men are associated with the active ‘beefing’ up, women are associated more with vegetables. Even in societies where food is more plentiful we can see these distinctions in cookbooks, popular culture, and socialization behaviors (i.e. the bar b que).

If a male does opt to be a vegetarian, there can be a stigma of not being manly and being a ‘fruit’.

At the same time in a recent study of ethical vegetarians in college, Ben Merriman found that family and friends were actually neutral or favorable to men’s transition to vegetarianism.  Women, on the other hand, were found to face hostility primarily from male family and friends.  Merriman concluded that this is because the men were seen as capable of governing their bodies, while the women were not.

Denial over control and exploitation of bodies is certainly not limited to human females.  Animals we culturally define as food have been shown to be sentient beings.  Jonathan Balcombe, a senior research scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has looked at animal’s experience of joy.  He determined that animals have behaviors that are carried out for pure enjoyment, such as oral sex being documented amongst goats, hyenas, various primates, bats, and sheep.  In “Let Them Eat Dog: A Modest Proposal for tossing Fido in the Oven” Jonathan Safran Foer makes the argument that while dogs and pigs are quite equivalent in their emotions and intelligence, we do not eat dogs even though it would simultaneously solve our problems of over population of dogs and hunger.  Even those animals we define as food we need to objectify and remove from their corporeal bodies.  We utilize absent referents, renaming the flesh foods as a way of hiding their origins; we eat pork, bacon, and sausage instead of pigs.

This becomes an explicitly feminist issue when examining the source of our flesh foods.  The ‘means of production’ in modern factory farming is the female animal body.  Impregnation is no longer something occurring between two animals but now involves a ‘rape rack,’ or a metal pipe used to deposit sperm.  Hens are caged in confined spaces, have their beaks cut to prevent killing those they are caged with when trying to move, and are made to lay egg after egg until they can no longer reproduce and are then slaughtered.  Sows are forcibly impregnated and kept in small spaces, making nursing of their young difficult.  Female cows are kept pregnant for their milk until they are ‘dried up’ and then slaughtered.  Their calves are taken away early, to which the mother cows have displayed emotional grief.  Male babies in all of the above are often considered byproducts.  Male calves are often placed in confined spaces and fed low iron diets so that they become desirable veal, while male chicks are simply thrown away.

As human women we are cougars, chicken heads, chicks, foxy, bird (brains), pigeons, bunnies, (ghetto) rats, pigs, cows, pussies, beavers, old bats, and of course bitches.  These comparative labels position women hierarchically below men, justifying our exploitation.  To say you feel like meat is not only to say you feel like an object, but one reduced to flesh.

–Megan, For the Birds

Read the rest of Megan’s article at For the Birds Feminist Collective.

Petition to Pardon Kelley Williams-Bolar

Please consider signing this petition at Change.org calling on Governor Kasich of Ohio to pardon Williams-Bolar for unfair sentencing.

I was infuriated yesterday when I visited The Boyce Blog (via Racialicious’s daily link roundup) to learn about a black woman in Ohio, Kelley Williams-Bolar, who is being sent to jail for sending her children to the wrong school district.  Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse writes, “She was convicted on two counts of tampering with court records after registering her two girls as living with Williams-Bolar’s father when they actually lived with her. The family lived in the housing projects in Akron, Ohio, and the father’s address was in nearby Copley Township. Additionally, Williams-Bolar’s father, Edward L. Williams, was charged with a fourth-degree felony of grand theft, in which he and his daughter are charged with defrauding the school system for two years of educational services for their girls. The court determined that sending their children to the wrong school was worth $30,500 in tuition.”

Dr. Boyce offered further analysis:

[I]t’s interesting how courts find it convenient to make someone into an example when they happen to be poor and black. I’d love to see how they prosecute wealthy white women who commit the same offense. Oh, I forgot: Most wealthy white women don’t have to send their kids to the schools located near the projects.

I’m not sure why the court is treating this law-abiding mom like a thug who ran into a building with a shotgun and robbed the district of $30,000. Instead, they could simply subtract the amount it costs for her kids to go to the second school from the amount that would be spent for them to attend the first one. I’m sure the difference would still be substantial, since American educational apartheid dictates that schools in poorer neighborhoods are of significantly less quality than other schools. The racial divisions within American schools are nothing less than a blatant and consistent human rights violation and should certainly be treated as such.

The article on Change.org points out that Ms. Williams-Bolar had nearly completed educational requirements to become a teacher in Ohio, and now will be unable to do so as a convicted felon.  What’s horrifying is that the judge, Patricia Cosgrove, was well aware of this at sentencing, saying, “Because of the felony conviction, you will not be allowed to get your teaching degree under Ohio law as it stands today. The court’s taking into consideration that is also a punishment that you will have to serve.”

Please remember to sign the petition at Change.org! And spread the word.

–Rosamund Hunter

Melissa Harris-Perry: Michael Vick, Racial History, and Animal Rights

After feeling as if her comments regarding Michael Vick were not properly contextualized on her appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show last night, Melissa Harris-Perry took the opportunity to flesh out the history of race and animal rights on her group blog today.  I was happy to see she tackled the issue of Tucker Carlson’s recent comments that Michael Vick should be executed as punishment for his crimes.  Here, Harris-Perry discusses some crucial historical connections that rarely get discussed:

Recall that North American slavery of the 17th and 18th century is distinguished by its “chattel” element.  New World slavery did not consider enslaved Africans to be conquered persons, but to be chattel, beast of burden, fully subhuman and therefore not requiring the basic rights of humans. By defining slaves as animals and then abusing them horribly the American slave system degraded both black people and animals. By equating black people to animals it both asserted the superiority of humans to animals, arrayed some humans (black people) as closer to animals and therefore less human, and implied that all subjugated persons and all animals could be used and abused at the will of those who were  more powerful. The effects were pernicious for both black people and for animals….

Not only have animals been used as weapons against black people, but many African Americans feel that the suffering of animals evokes more empathy and concern among whites than does the suffering of black people.  For example, in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina dozens of people sent me a link to an image of pets being evacuated on an air conditioned bus. This image was a sickening juxtaposition to the conditions faced by tens of thousands of black residents trapped by the storm and it provoked great anger and pain for those who sent it to me.

I sensed that same outrage in the responses of many black people who heard Tucker Carlson call for Vick’s execution as punishment for his crimes.  It was a contrast made more raw by the recent decision to give relatively light sentences to the men responsible for the death of Oscar Grant. Despite agreeing that Vick’s acts were horrendous, somehow the Carlson’s moral outrage seemed misplaced. It also seemed profoundly racialized. For example, Carlson did not call for the execution of BP executives despite their culpability in the devastation of Gulf wildlife. He did not denounce the Supreme Court for their decision in US v. Stevens (April 2010) which overturned a portion of the 1999 Act Punishing Depictions of Animal Cruelty. After all with this “crush” decision the Court seems to have validated a marketplace for exactly the kinds of crimes Vick was convicted of committing.  For many observers, the decision to demonize Vick seems motivated by something more pernicious than concern for animal welfare. It seems to be about race.

Read Melissa Harris-Perry’s full blog here at TheNation.com’s group blog, The Notion. (WARNING: Disturbing images.)

–Rosamund Hunter