Monthly Archives: April 2009


It’s been three years, and every time I hear an irreverent joke I still want to pick up the phone and call her just to hear her laugh.



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This week hit me like a ton of bricks.  Or a Mack truck.  It hit me hard enough that I can’t even locate the appropriate cliche, for God’s sake.

Anyway.  I’m not complaining; I love to be busy.  But I’ve been neglecting everything but work, food, and sleep this week, for the most part, and that doesn’t make me feel like a very good girlfriend or cat-mom or friend.  Or blogger!  Need… long… weekend…

Oh hello, Patriot’s Day!  *bats eyelashes*

Busy or no, one of the highlights of my week was Tuesday, when I spent most of the day at a conference on Structural Racism to learn about ways legal services attorneys can try and make combating it more of a priority.  (As promised, here’s your write-up, RunningAwayWiththeSpoon!  *grin*)

The keynote speaker was professor john a. powell, who was amazing.  He was funny and touching and on-point and very, very so much very smarter than I could every hope to be, and he repeatedly utilized one of my favorite methods for presenting abstract and sometimes hard-to-follow material, which is to tell lots of stories.  The purpose of his keynote address was to outline for us the concept of structural racism, to set the stage for our many small-group conversations throughout the rest of the day.  Structural racism, as he presented it, is something more than the concept of individual racism (which is how most people tend to think of racism – as regarding the motives and actions of individuals).  It’s also more than institutional racism (which shifts focus from individuals to the practices and procedures within insitutions).  Structural racism is concerned with inter-institutional arrangements and interactions, and how they are arranged – deliberately or not – in ways that result in racial inequality.

Because Americans often take individual people to be the main vehicles of racism, we fail to appreciate the work done by racially inequitable structures. But, in fact, all complex societies feature institutional arrangements that help to create and distribute the society’s benefits, burdens and interests. These structures are neither natural nor neutral, as Harvard Law Professor Roberto Unger argues. And just as we cannot account for or address the impact of institutional racism by only considering a given individual’s actions or psychological state, we cannot adequately understand the work structures do simply by looking at the practices and procedures of a single institution, as political philosopher John Rawls underscores. Iris M. Young uses Marilyn Frye’s bird-in-the-birdcage metaphor for illustrating the works of structures. If we approach the problem of durable racial inequality one “bar” at a time, it is hard to appreciate the fullness of the bird’s entrapment, much less formulate a suitable response to it. Explaining the bird’s inability to take flight requires that we recognize the connectedness of multiple bars, each reinforcing the rigidity of the others. In confronting racism we must similarly account for multiple, intersecting and often mutually reinforcing disadvantages, and develop corresponding response strategies.

“Toward a Structural Racism Framework” by Andrew Grant-Thomas & john a. powell

(Shoutout to Marilyn Frye!)  Ahem.  Anyway.  So for professor powell, what’s most important in combating structural racism is outcome. A social system is structurally racist to the extent that it promotes racially unequal outcomes; thus, the goal of any change should be outcome-oriented.  In the context of legal services, he focused a great deal on the social opportunities afforded our clients, where they are socially situated, and how structurally racist systems affect them in multiple ways.

For instance, take health care.  In MA, we have nearly universal healthcare – health insurance is mandated by the state.  This is a plan that is meant to be universal – it should, the thinking goes, result in the same outcome for people of color that it would for white people: improved healthcare.  However, the healthcare institution is only one part of a much larger structure.  If you look only to that, you most likely wouldn’t see anything particularly racist in MA’s healthcare mandate.  However, the outcome is racially inequitable.  This is because the universal healthcare system isn’t taking the whole structure into account – that people of color in MA are more likely to lack reliable transportation, for instance.  If you can’t get to the doctor, it doesn’t matter how fantastic your health insurance is.  Well-meaning people injected change into an institution, without trying to create a racially inequitable outcome.  However, because of the structure of inter-institutional arrangements (healthcare  + city planning) the outcome was, nonetheless, racially inequitable.  Structural racism, ta da!

(I would like to note here what may or may not be clear from my blogging thus far regarding my own social situatedness: I am a young white educated middle-class lesbian woman.  And about a million other things.  But I think it’s important to acknowledge that in any discussion of race.  I’m doing my best to summarize professor powell’s thoughts, and I am very much simplifying what is a pretty huge concept.  I freely admit that I don’t know what it feels like to be racialized, marginalized because of my race, or to struggle in my daily life against structural racism, so to the extent that this is or is not ringing true to any of you as you exist in your own social situatedness, I can only hope you will speak up, because I’d love to hear reactions.)

So that’s the (incredibly pared down) gist of professor powell’s address.  Unfortunately, there’s obviously no easy solution to the problem of structural racism, so we continued our day by breaking up into smaller groups and trying to work out ways in which we as attorneys could incorporate this concept of structural racism into our own work.  They weren’t easy discussions – again, there are no easy answers – but I think we all left feeling as though we at least had a much better framework for understanding the challenges many of our clients are facing.  It was helpful to have some language to use in articulating why so often a one-size-fits-all “solution” so often doesn’t help clients who are socially situated within racially inequitable structures.  I think for myself, I walked away with a commitment to watch for opportunities to advocate for clients for whom universal plans are not working.  In other words, I’m excited to sue some people.

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Filed under new leaf, ohmygod i'm a lawyer, quotables, righteous rage

.amazon fail.

I’m not sure how many of you are on twitter, but if you are you’ve probably noticed that #amazonfail is hovering around the #1 most used phrase of the moment.  Looks like has taken it upon itself to protect its delicate customers from being forced to stumble across “adult” material when said customers perform a search from its homepage.  That, in and of itself, is a pretty ridiculous notion, but what’s worse is how they’ve decided to define the category “adult”: anything having to do, in any way shape or form, with the gay.

The way Amazon has decided to accomplish this (admittedly bold) feat is by pulling the sales rank numbers from books they categorize as “adult.” This doesn’t mean that the book is no longer sold on Amazon, but that the books are no longer listed on the bestselling book ranks, nor listed under the subject headings for their subject/genre.  In other words, unless you search the exact author or title of a book, you won’t find it once Amazon has decided it’s too “adult” for you.  Gee, thanks Amazon!  I feel so relieved to have you watching out for lil ‘ol me.  Oh, and also, go fuck yourself.

Meta Writer is keeping a running list of the books that have been de-ranked so far.  Some of the highlights (shield your eyes!!!):

  • Ellen Degeneres: A Biography
  • Homosexuality: A History
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Tipping the Velvet
  • Rubyfruit Jungle
  • Maurice (E.M. Forester)
  • Heather Has Two Mommies
  • History of Sexuality v. 1 (yea, that would be Foucault)
  • The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students
  • My Gender Workbook (Kate Borenstein)
  • The Secret Life Of Oscar Wilde (critically acclaimed biography)

Pulling my hair out…

And yet, you can still search for anal plugs, vibrators, and Playboy, none of which have been de-ranked.  Which is not to say they should be (!) but if Amazon is genuinely trying to purge “adult” materials from its general search function, one would imagine these would have been included, no?  And maybe Ellen DeGeneres’s biography might have been left off the list?  I can’t say I’ve read it, but something tells me it’s probably not the erotic lesbian fantasy we all kind of secretly wish it would be.

Not that this is the first time Amazon has shown its true colors; after all, we’re talking about the same business that, up until a few months ago, stocked a rape simulation video game.

Seriously, between this and the census, I’m starting to feel like I’m in a Twilight Zone episode where I’ve disappeared…

And finally, Smart Bitches Trashy Books is (successfully) working to GoogleBomb Amazon, so… just doing my part!

Amazon Rank


Filed under politicking, queering the binary, righteous rage

.what would it take to get rachel maddow to marry me?.

Per Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post:

Tonight, on the Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow and regular guest, Air America’s Ana Marie Cox, discussed the fringetastic anti-tax Renaissance Faires known as “tea parties.” There is only one thing in all the world worth noting about the people behind these things, and it is this: everyone involved is apparently unaware of what the term “teabagging” means. As you will see, this is not the case with Maddow and Cox.

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On any given day, and on this day especially, I may choose to release what no longer blesses me, what no longer serves the highest and best of my intentions.

I have been trying to live by these words lately.  Letting go of those things that weigh heavily, keeping and accepting and calling to myself those things that make me better, that bring me good.

Today, however, I am feeling the weight of those things that no longer bless me, and I am struggling to release them.  Right now, it’s a feeling of seeping fear, about the economy, about my future, a feeling of having somehow failed.   There is the very real possibility – more of an eventuality, at this point – that unless something in our economy dramatically changes, I will be laid off in a few months.  I know I am not utterly without a safety net – thank god I have had so many advantages, thank god I know how to advocate for myself – but when I think about unemployment my chest tightens and my stomach turns.  It’s not so much that I worry I won’t be able to survive in the day to day; I know that I will get by, I have resources, education, friends and family.  It’s not a fear of any immediate privation that scares me – it’s the fear that I will have failed, that I will continue to fail, that I’ll fail to find a new job, I’ll fail to be able to pay my own bills, I’ll lose that independence, and while other people continue to move forward, I will be falling behind.   I’ll have to ask for help, and I’ll have to accept it when it’s offered, and I won’t live up to my own expectations for myself.  And I finally understand why so many of my clients who are eligible for food stamps or welfare get upset when I recommend they apply.  I quietly questioned them for letting their pride get in the way of their well-being; I thought they were foolish to turn down help on mere principle.  But I am discovering for the first time that there is a fierce joy in being self-reliant.  In that way, pride is an important thing; I am already wincing in anticipation of mine being bruised.   So it is time to write that out and let it go…

On any given day, and on this day especially, I may choose to release what no longer blesses me, what no longer serves the highest and best of my intentions.


On a more positive note, this whole fear of being laid off issue has forced me to think more about what kind of life I want to create for myself.  I never thought I would be wealthy; I knew going into legal aid wasn’t exactly the way to make the big bucks, and I was prepared for it.  But I have surprised myself at how often I long for more – more money, more financial security, more… stuff.  This is I think in part because of the way I grew up – my father (who I admire endlessly) worked his ass off for years to get where he is today, in a very American-dream-esque kind of story.  We started out with virtually nothing (my mother told me recently that she used to wear her one “good” shirt – basically a cotton t-shirt with a collar and pocket – to every PTA meeting, every parent-teacher conference, everything, because she couldn’t afford to buy any nicer clothes.  She worried that it would get stained or ripped, so she wouldn’t eat in it and treated it with great care.  I get a little teary every time I think about that).  Over the years, my dad stayed late, traveled, worked hard, got promotions.  Today my family is fairly well off, but I remember when dinners were mac ‘n cheese or tuna sandwiches for weeks on end.  I suppose I just kind of took it for granted that that’s the course my life would take as well: poor, work hard, pulling bootstraps and whatnot, ending in some kind of middle-class stability. As I was talking it over with Finn (who grew up in a 3rd world country and whose parents were both teachers) we realized that I’m the only one of the two of us who has this assumption regarding the trajectory our life will take.  Not that she doesn’t want a house, financial stability, etc., but she doesn’t see it as inevitable (or necessary) in quite the way I do.  Needless to say, she is much less panicked about the turn the economy is taking.

It occurred to me today that everyone I know lives up to the edge of their means, no matter how much they’re making.  I wonder, if I made $20,000 more than I make today, would I continue to live the way I’m living now and save that $20,000?  Not likely.  That’s not the way most people have been taught to live.  We push and push and push ourselves to make more so that we can have more so that we can finally attain – whatever, the ease, the clothes, the house.  Wants turn into (what feel like) needs over time.  But… when I step back and take stock, I need to remember that I’m okay.  Would I like to make more money?  Well, sure.  But as long as my basic needs are met, and I’m not in crisis, it’s just a matter of the number and degree of things I can afford.  And I need to remember that it’s okay to not play that game.

I’ve realized that a lot of my anxiety stems from feeling as though I’m somehow falling behind my peers – that everyone is going to do “better” than I will, that they’re going to make more money and that they’re going to be happier and I’m still going to be in the same place 3, 5, 10 years from now.  But wow, that is a really fucked up way of looking at my own life.  When it comes down to it: I’m blessed.  I have family and friends and cats and Finn and a bright future and a lot to celebrate.  Dissatisfaction with my paycheck doesn’t change any of that, and I need to stop giving it the power to change the way I look at my own success and my own happiness.  All I would do with more money is spend it, likely on things I don’t even know I’m missing now.  And I sincerely doubt it would make me any happier.  So what am I so worried about?

So.  Thank you for bearing with me through what turned into a mini-processing sesh.  Anything you’d like to release, while we’re at it?

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Filed under anxiety, Finn, quotables, type A personality: check

.i love you.

No, really.  Spread the word.

I love you.

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Filed under the beauty of the in-between

.and another thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot today, as Iowa of all places just showed itself to be more progressive than I ever would have given it credit for, about how to come out to my paternal grandmother.  (Maternal grandma, with whom I am somewhat closer, knows all about the gay and has pretty much always been uber-supportive).   It’s been nearly 10 years, and I’m thinking it mayyyyy be time to let other grandma in on the secret.  And as I was pondering worst-case-scenarios (despite the post-Iowa glow) this thought occurred to me:

So, I know that in not telling her, I am neglecting to give her the chance to know my whole self.  But is it possible, too, that in keeping this information from her I am failing to give her the chance to know her whole self?  What if I – in my hesitation to tell her the truth, out of my own sense of worry and fear – am withholding a moment for her to be loving, tolerant, progressive, understanding?  What if I am neglecting to give her room to be better than I expect?  Better, maybe, than she expects?

Does that sound too… I don’t know, pretentious?  I don’t mean it to be… I just hadn’t thought of coming out that way: as a gift, almost. An opportunity for people to show themselves to be what you’d hoped they would be.  I’m one of those who rarely gives up on people, even when I maybe should, because I always want to leave the door open for them to redeem themselves, to be better than they were.  I can never shut that door.

the day the sun came out

.the day the sun came out.

I’ve come out so many times – still do, so often – that it’s almost rote at this point.  For the most part, I no longer care how people take it, because I know where (almost) all the most important people in my life stand.  But I like the idea of coming out as not just something I have to do for myself, so that I can walk through the world with integrity, but as a moment that can others to do that as well.  What do you think?

On a much less serious note, how fabulous is it that one of the top google searches for people to find my blog is “animals in pajamas”?  Clearly, I am on my way to greatness.

Finn and I have started a contest, for no other reason than we like contests, to see which one of us can read the most pages.  We were inspired by her brother and his wife, who are having a competition to see who can read the most books, but we decided that wasn’t entirely fair since some books are so much longer than others.  (Despite our seeming need for this competition to be entirely on the up and up, we neglected to put a time limit on the thing – no, don’t think about it too much).  Since I’m a faster reader, she gets to count pages from things like the Twilight novels, while I apparently don’t get to count anything not written for grown ups.  Not that I’m sure I even want to venture to read the rest of the Twilight books… I read the first to see what all the hype was about, and I thought I was going to kill myself.  (From a letter I wrote to a friend as I was muddling my way through: “I’m going to try and make it through the first one, but if this whole page-upon-page of desperate fawning and soulful, heavy-lidded glances punctuated by inane teenybopper conversation and thinly veiled shoutouts to the abstinence-only crowd thing doesn’t end soon, I may have to stop.”)  Also, I’m apparently the only person who thinks Edward is a condescending asshole and not dreamy in the least.  That said, I do kind of feel I should give the second book a chance.  (What did I say about my inability to close doors???)

Anyway, I’m currently well into Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, which I think I may have read at some point during high school because the story sounds strangely familiar in parts, and which I’m quite enjoying either way.  (I have a bad habit of forgetting which books I read during high school, as I devoured books at a rate that probably wasn’t entirely healthy.  There was also a summer in college when I worked at the library and wasn’t taking classes or anything, so I ended up reading upwards of 50 books at a pace that has rendered them all one fantastical wispy blur).  I also just finished Stand the Storm by Breena Clarke, which was a pretty wonderful novel about a newly-freed slave family struggling through the pre-and-post Civil-War era.  And next I’m planning on getting into Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation in order to continue to feed my obsession with the Revolutionary War (and John Adams in particular – I may have been him in a past life, actually).  Though I might get sidetracked by World Without End by Ken Follet, because I really enjoyed his Pillars of the Earth and because it’s going to be due back to the library soon.

Okay, this post might have just taken kind of a nerdy turn.  In closing, then, something slightly snarky to up my hipster factor:  I give you Autostraddle’s The L Word WTF?! Video, Part 1.

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…it’s funny because it’s true.

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Filed under crazy cat lady: ur doin it rite, Finn, nerdiness, politicking, queering the binary, The Fam, vidjas