Category Archives: righteous rage

.out of the darkness and into the workforce.

Yup: I am, once again, joining the ranks of the full-time employed!  As those of you who have followed my sad little unemployment saga know, this is a HEE-YUGE relief.  March brings us to Month Seven of my unemployment, and it was beginning to feel like I would never get a job… I was okay at fending off discouragement most days, but I’m not sure how much deeper that well of optimism ran.  Suffice to say, this is awesome timing.

I’ll be working for the federal government, which will be an interesting turn for the girl who has only ever done legal services work.  It being the Fed, I probably won’t give too many details about my job, but I think it’ll be interesting work that keeps me challenged and interested.  (Now if we could just get Congress to overturn DOMA so that when Finn and I get married she could be on my health insurance, that’d be greaaaat.  Obama’s executive order stopped just short of that, and I am not happy.  You hear me, Mr. President?  Not.  Happy. At. All.)

But today is not the day to let discrimination rain on my parade.  I am employed, it is a job I think I’ll enjoy, and I no longer have to live in a state of constant fear that I’m not going to be able to pay my bills.  It’s a good day.

Before I go, I’d like to give a slow-clap shoutout to everyone who helped keep me emotionally afloat the last 6 months.  (In particular, I’m looking at you Finn / Rev – particularly with your well-timed reminder of J.K. Rowling’s discussion of the benefits of failure / Cali / Rala… I don’t know what I would have done without you.)

Yay!

Leave a comment

Filed under anticipation, Cali, Finn, if you call it "funemployment" i will smack you, manythanks, new leaf, Obama, ohmygod i'm a lawyer, queering the binary, Rala, Rev, righteous rage

.h’update.

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.

Leave a comment

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 Amazon.com 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

3 Comments

Filed under politicking, queering the binary, righteous rage

.i’m hit.

Here’s a question I haven’t had reason to ask until now: what do I do with clients who hit on me? (I had a [male] client call me a “cutie” today. Said client had also asked me if I was single in a previous conversation, and if I’d like to get a cup of coffee with him. Color me flabbergasted.)

In my non-work life, the way I dress, combined with my haircut and my must-be-obvious disinterest in any of the men around me, serve to deter guys from hitting on me. I am read, except by the drunkest of men, as a fairly androgynous lesbian. But something about the way I dress for work (and maybe especially my semi-femme suits?) throws people off. Which definitely throws me off, because I am not used to being hit on by men. I don’t even know how to react. Case in point.

My client, I noticed, flirted with everyone, not just me. It seemed to be the way he related to people – you know the type, the guy who thinks he can get by on his charm and his boyish good looks, usually because he always has. As I was completely caught off guard, my reaction was to laugh halfheartedly and kind of roll my eyes and shake my head. Should I have given him shit for it? I don’t know. I mean, to have just put several days of hard work into preparing his case and then have him respond by telling me I was cute was certainly insulting. Part of me wanted to respond, “I’m not a cutie, I’m your ATTORNEY. I’m working my ass off to save yours, so let’s keep our sexism in our pocket, shall we?” The other part of me was concerned with preserving the attorney-client relationship, trying to be understanding that he was incredibly nervous, and that he was probably just doing what he always does to ingratiate himself with people. He was genuinely grateful for my help, and made that very clear (in ways that were much less sexist). What’s more, all the other women in the room laughed and blushed and acted flattered when he flirted with them – did I really want to be the crazybitch attorney who made him feel bad about himself 5 minutes before we walked into his hearing?

Or did I let him get away with it? Despite the fact that I knew his intention wasn’t to make me uncomfortable, being called a “cutie” in that context essentially rewarded me for my professional work with a wink and a pat on the head. And I couldn’t help but think to myself, he never would have said that to a male attorney. That’s what it really comes down to. I don’t work my ass off for clients so that they’ll think of me as that sweet, helpful little girl. I do it because I believe in their essential dignity – I believe they are people worthy of respect, even in a society which would rather pretend they don’t exist. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they return the favor.

2 Comments

Filed under ohmygod i'm a lawyer, queering the binary, righteous rage

.the arc of the moral universe.

Two of Finn’s good friends are in town this weekend staying with us. They’re both friendly, funny intellectual gay boys, and we were up until 1am last night arguing (or “debating,” I suppose) the place of queer politics in a democratic society. I haven’t had a conversation like this since undergrad, and it was nice to discover I could still hold my own. It came down to this:

Finn and K: Democracy has failed us (the gays). We should not be forced to accept less-than-full equality, and on principle, we should reject it. If we accept civil unions, for instance, instead of full marriage equality, then we allow bigots to feel good about themselves because they’ve given us something despite the fact that they are still insulting our dignity; we lead ourselves and the rest of the movement to become pacified and complacent; and we ultimately hurt the movement because it makes it more difficult to argue for equality when you’ve achieved something that most people will see as “close enough.” What we need instead is a mass movement leading to a total reformation of government so that full equality can be achieved for everyone all at once. (There was also a related argument about whether conditional love – “I love you, but I don’t accept that you’re gay” – is genuine love, or whether it too should be rejected outright, for essentially the same reasons one would reject less-than-fully-equal policy change.)

Pom. and J: Democracy is an imperfect system, but it’s the best and most workable system the world has developed thus far. When you live in a democracy, incremental change is the reality, and it shouldn’t be rejected in the hopes that some mythical revolution will occur in the meantime. If you reject every incremental change because it doesn’t provide full equality, you are left without even the incremental change to build on. The past 200 years – hell, the past 50 years – has seen many relatively major advances for queer people. Obviously, that doesn’t mean we should stop working and become complicit in our own oppression – there is still work to be done, of course – but there is no reason to think that incremental change is not on track to create real and lasting change in the big picture. As for conditional love, whether or not you accept it might be a personal decision, but because we are human beings who are connected to other people and to our society, rather than close doors to people who are trying to grow you would hopefully, where you can, decide to try and engage them.

If you had asked me in undergrad, I would have fallen squarely on the side of Finn and J’s argument – revolution for everyone. And in theory, I still agree wholeheartedly that swift progress is preferable to incremental change. Which is why it felt strange, last night, to be advocating so strenuously as to the benefits of incremental change. But having become, somehow, much more of a pragmatist over the last few years, I guess I’ve come to realize that the revolution ain’t gonna happen. If you genuinely believe that a democracy – despite its admitted failings – is the preferable system, then you have to acknowledge that incremental change is built in for a reason. It is designed to prevent civil war, violent overthrow of the government, anarchy.

Look, it sucks to be on the losing side of a democratic argument (though keep in mind that when it comes to fundamental rights, the courts are also supposed to take a stand, as fundamental rights are generally thought not to be validly put to a vote). But that is both the joy and the sorrow of living in the so-called marketplace of ideas – you have to sell your point of view. Over time, I genuinely believe that progressives are winning, slowly but surely, in the marketplace. Finn and K argued that it shouldn’t be queer people’s responsibility to “teach” people out of their ignorance, that people’s own consciences should alert them to the fact that discrimination is wrong and that those people are responsible, then, for creating change. I definitely understand the anger and frustration of feeling like you are constantly having to teach people, but that is the way of democracy. You MUST take responsibility for your own ideas, and for convincing people of their value. The other side is teaching, all day, every day. They are loud and well-funded and well-connected. Our teaching might be smaller, but it is no less important. We are seeing the changes, in fits and starts, over the years. It gives me hope.

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” -MLK

Leave a comment

Filed under Finn, politicking, queering the binary, righteous rage