Admirable Women – Hidden Leaders

21 02 2011

From elementary school through to about my sophomore year in college the only books I touched were manga, sheet music, and those scholarly tomes foisted upon me by the demands of my education. Then something changed and I developed a deep love of reading practically overnight. One of the first books I picked up after going through this metamorphosis was one that I had heard about a couple years before and had just never got around to picking up – Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. That book immediately became a favorite of mine and remains one to this day. It is the story of how Dr. Nafisi taught forbidden western literature to a handful of young women in Iran in the 90’s, a bit of her biography, an analysis of a handful of popular pieces of classic literature, a discussion of the poisonous effects of religious fervor and anti-intellectualism run amok, a reminder to never take simple things for granted, and a look at the contemporary history of Iran from the 1979 Revolution and the optimism that followed to its current repressive, backward state all at the same time. I had encountered much of the literature she referenced in various classes and the personal perspective she brought to what Iran was about 35 years ago versus what it is (or was as of the mid 1990’s) was enlightening. I loved the book for all of its exotic as well as familiar elements, but that is not why I admire its author.

Teaching the material she was teaching in Iran was an incredibly risky undertaking and that in and of itself is worthy of a hat tip, but the fact that the whole endeavor was borne from a deep dedication to education and to this particular group of students is equally commendable. I have had the good fortune of being taught by some exceptional teachers and the thing they all had in common was that kind of dedication and love of what they were doing with their lives. I had said that the women I admire are leaders and I think that Dr. Nafisi is one. While she didn’t lead a nation or a national movement of any kind, she was a leader to this small group of women in a Tehran living room. Leaders aren’t always in the places you’re used to looking for them. Sometimes these hidden leaders have a greater effect on us than an auditorium full of dignitaries.

Incidentally, Azar Nafisi, now residing in the US, still teaches. How cool is that? She has also written another book, Things I’ve Been Silent About , which I have yet to read though I am very anxious to do so.





Admirable Women – A Random Survey and an Idea

20 02 2011

According to this article, a recent survey of professional women found that 45% of the participants named Hillary Rodham Clinton Most Admired Elected Woman Leader. Sarah Palin was a distant second with 12% followed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with 8% and, rounding out the top five, Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi tied with 4% each. 27% of those asked chose someone else. A lot of things bug me about this survey. First off, Most Admired Elected Woman Leader is a rather awkward title and that’s easy to fix. Yes, I know, nothing on this blog is what you might call Pulitzer Prize-winning material – my spelling is not the best and the prose sort of bumbles along – but I’m not getting paid for this either. If their was a paycheck associated with this, let me assure you the Discourse in C# Minor would be a good deal crisper and typo-free. Secondly, The position of Secretary of State is acquired through appointment, not election. Also, more than a quarter of the participants gave other names. listing those may or may not provide greater insight into the kinds of things that women admire in one another. If Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer placed sixth and seventh, that indicates something different than if Benazir Bhutto and Dr. Hanan Ashwari came in sixth and seventh. Only 222 women took part in the survey to begin with. It would’ve been interesting to see the whole list.

The thing with me is, particularly post-job loss, the next thought that pops into my head after I’ve figured out what I don’t like about the way something has been done is how I would’ve done it better. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make anyone take a poll, but I was inspired. I decided to highlight the work of women – not necessarily political women, but definitely powerful women – leading up to International Women’s Day which is March 8th. There are many that I think are admirable and this way I won’t forget Women’s Day all together this year. Women’s Day is a thing for me because we made a big deal out of it at my college and I believe very strongly that all women deserve to be honored whether or not they’ve birthed children. This is the first in that series of posts.

California Representative Jackie Speier took standing up for a woman’s right to choose to a whole other level Thursday night when she told all of  her colleagues is the House of Representatives and the country as a whole that she herself had an abortion due to major complications with a pregnancy. This happened during a debate on the House floor regarding whether the government should continue to fund Planned Parenthood. As restrictions tighten is states across the country and as South Dakota was, until Wednesday, pondering whether the killing of an abortion doctor should be considered a justifiable homicide, this woman stands up in front of the nation and tells her very personal story  in an attempt to stem the GOP’s march back to Gilded Age-style family planning. She has opened herself up to actual danger by doing so. The überwingnut elements of the anti-choice movement don’t play around. Remember the abortion clinic bombings in the 90’s? More recently, in 2009, Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider, was killed in his church at the end of Sunday services. To stand up in the face of all that takes a special blend of courage and a conviction to do what she believes is right that not many of us can stand up and say we have, and to do so frankly and strongly. That’s why I admire this woman. If you missed her speech, this is it.





The Third Piece of the H.R. 3 Trilogy

5 02 2011

I figured I should let you know the latest on the case of Republicans vs the English language regarding the word rape. Parts 1 and 2 of the saga are here. According to a Politico article written on Thursday, The GOP has dropped the “forcible rape” language from the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The same is true for putting an age limit on funding abortions for victims of incest. The following is a quote from that article.

The bill’s authors, including Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), say it’s not their intent to change the way the exemption is applied.

“The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law regarding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so,” Lipinski told Talking Points Memo in a statement.

Call me cynical, but if this particular section of the bill wasn’t supposed to change the our current law, then why was it even added and why was there an obvious attempt to alter the current standard created and upheld by the Hyde Amendment by coining the term “forcible rape”. Regardless of what the purpose of that section of the bill was, it isn’t there now and I’m glad. I don’t like a lot of other parts of this bill and I don’t like that pursuing a social conservative’s dream agenda has taken priority over improving the economic situation for millions in this country, but maintaining our current definition of rape is a start. Hopefully, it’s a reality check for the House Republicans at the very least.

Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show ran a really good segment on the redefinition of rape the night before Politico reported that it was no longer in the bill and it summed things up pretty well. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with that section being cut, but tit was a good segment. Since it refuses to embed properly, this is a link to the clip. Hopefully, this is the last we hear of the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act”. I’m hoping it falls apart before becoming law because, technically, taxpayer money doesn’t go to funding abortions except in the extreme cases dictated in the Hyde Amendment which aren’t being affected and – according to one of people who wrote the bill -never were going to be affected (an explanation I still think is bullfunky) by this new bill. One can only conclude, if they are willing to cut through the sanctimony surrounding the issue of abortion, this whole bill is either a massive waste of time when there are far, far bigger things our congress needs to focus on, or an attempt to limit funds from going to institutions which not only provide abortions – the vast majority of which are not taxpayer-funded and therefore none of the government’s business or anyone less’ for that matter – but also birth control, prenatal care, testing for STD’s, OB/GYN visits, and mammograms. Last time I checked there weren’t large-scale protests about the immorality of low-cost, subsidized STD testing and obstetrical services. I leave you with this picture of silly protest signs because it just seems appropriate.





A Follow-Up on H.R. 3 and My Second and a Half of Congressional Time

2 02 2011

I threw a big fit a few days ago about House Resolution 3 and I have more info now.

Every so often, once in a blue moon, someone listens to the “little people” – in this case, the “little person” typing this right now. I thought this dissection of terms regarding sexual violence in order to score a few political points was so insane that I actually did something I tend to think of as supremely self-righteous, slightly whiny, and kind of pointless – I emailed my congresswoman.

I don’t feel that emailing a government representative is self-righteous, whiny, and pointless because I feel that it somehow isn’t my place as one of the masses – a noble nobody as I have previously described myself. I just think that, with everything that goes on at Capitol Hill and all the work that needs to be done to keep the country running smoothly, I find it hard to believe that my semi-educated thoughts on a particular piece of legislation carries much weight. My congresswoman has more information about what is going on in the House than I do and understands the law better than I do, so I don’t think she really needs me to tell her about a bill. I know enough about her political stand on abortion and women’s issues and her voting record to know she opposes H.R. 3. I’d just like to see somebody in the House say, “Hey, are we actually trying to redefine rape and incest here,” and she seems like she might do so. I sent off a short note from her website’s contact page and was satisfied that I had properly and officially expressed my outrage and been a good citizen too by doing what I had been told I should do by my Social Studies teachers so many years ago. Patriot in C# Minor here. Civic duty accomplished. Done. I knew it wouldn’t be read. Who cares about one unemployed, snowbound, twenty-something blogger, right. Well, apparently somebody in Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s office thought it was worthy of a response and I will share it with you.

Dear Discourse in C# Minor, (It has my name on it, but I’m not going to put my politics online while I’m still sending out resumés, so I’m remaining anonymous.)

Thank you for taking the time to contact me.  I appreciate hearing your views on this important issue.

Like you, I oppose the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.  Current law already prohibits federal funds from being used for abortions.  The Hyde amendment has prohibited public funding of abortion in most instances since 1977.  This proposed legislation is an unprecedented overreach that would deny abortion coverage to low-income women, federal employees, and military women and effectively end coverage through private insurance policies.  In addition, it would jeopardize a woman’s ability to access abortion services even in the case where the mother’s life is at risk. This legislation has been referred to the Judiciary Committee, but you can be sure that I will oppose it should it come to the floor for a vote.

Again, thank you for writing.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me on this or any other matter of concern to you in the future.

Sincerely,

Rosa L. DeLauro
Member of Congress

It’s a form letter, I know that, but it was more than I had expected and it’s a sign that it wasn’t immediately deleted like so much junk mail. It also gave me a scrap of information to report. H.R. 3 has been referred to the Judiciary Committee. Good. Maybe they’ll decide that haphazardly trying to differentiate between different instances of the same crime is legally suspect and/or could have an adverse effect on the prosecution of those crimes. If not, I’m hoping there is an almighty fuss raised if it goes to the floor.

And, since not ignoring the “little people” shouldn’t go unnoticed, I hereby award this gold star to the person in Rosa DeLauro’s office who took that second and a half to read my email. It may have been Rep. DeLauro. It was much more than likely a member of her staff. Whoever it was, that star is for them.

There’s another update here.





The GOP’s Choice – Jobs or Redefine Rape

29 01 2011

I woke up to shoveling-induced back pain and the melodious tones of the snoring shiba inu at the end of my bed, so I grabbed my eReader and got on the internet – because why have the ability to go on the internet without having to walk to the computer if you aren’t going to use it, right – and found that somebody had tweeted this article from motherjones.comHouse GOP’s Plan to Redefine Rape. It has to do with changing the current rules about allowing taxpayer money to go toward abortions in extreme cases – when the life of the mother is at stake, incest, and rape. It seems that Republicans feel being impregnated by having had sex against her will is no longer a good enough reason for a woman not to be made to birth her rapist’s baby if she would require federally allotted funds in order to obtain an abortion. In short rape doesn’t really mean rape when you’re on Medicaid. What?! I read it and had to vent about it somewhere. Aren’t you all lucky?

First of all, I would be remiss if I didn’t do a little research. The article linked to the full text of the bill available on opencongress.org and so did I, just so you know I’m not making this stuff up. The bill is not very long and surprisingly easy to understand. This is not a misinterpretation of legalese by a woman with a BA in theater and media arts. Section 309 reads as follows, though the underlining was added by me –

‘SEC. 309. TREATMENT OF ABORTIONS RELATED TO RAPE, INCEST, OR PRESERVING THE LIFE OF THE MOTHER.

‘The limitations established in sections 301, 302, 303, and 304 shall not apply to an abortion-

‘(1) If the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of and act of forcible rape, or, if a minor, an act of incest; or

‘(2) in the case where the pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the pregnant female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

See, I told you it’s pretty clear, except for one thing – what is forcible rape? I looked up the definition of rape and this is it, according to dictionary.com. Again, the underlining and italics were all my idea.

rape1  [reyp] noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.

NOUN 

1. an act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
2. the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
3. statutory rape.
4. an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation;violation: the rape of the countryside.
5. Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.
VERB (used with object)
6. to force to have sexual intercourse.
7. to plunder (a place); despoil.
8. to seize, take, or carry off by force.
VERB (used without object)
9. to commit rape.

With force being part of what defines rape in general, what kind of conditions are being set here? After years of preaching that “no means no”, might we be undercutting that message now. If you don’t think that a savvy attorney would try their best to use the denial of federal funding to terminate the victim’s pregnancy as a tool in their defense, I think you are sorely mistaken. And what constitutes forcible anyway? A physical struggle? How much? Do those who were drugged and raped have to have the baby unless they can afford to pay for an abortion out-of-pocket? What about someone who is mentally impaired? What about a statutory rape? If a 13-year-old is impregnated by a 22-year-old should she be made to bear the child if she or her parents don’t have the money? What if the rape victim was threatened or otherwise coerced into not fighting back? Is that forcible enough or do there have to be physical scars? I think this type of hair-splitting could set us on a course back to the days when there was a type of woman who could be raped – the “good girls” who didn’t party hard, dressed modestly, etc… – and those who could never possibly be raped because they behaved and dressed in a manner that was “asking for it”. News flash – nobody ever asks to be raped. If a woman drinks and/or takes some drugs, it means they’re using drugs or drinking. They aren’t asking to be raped. If a woman has a sexual history, it means they’re not a virgin. They aren’t asking to be raped. If a woman wears something provocative, it means they want to look sexy. They aren’t asking to be raped. After all the time and energy we have devoted to the message of not blaming the victim, whoever she is and whatever her lifestyle, for the actions of her attacker, we may be headed right back there. As if this wasn’t disgusting enough, there’s the other thing in the bill that I underlined. A victim of incest – yes, incest – is only eligible for a federally funded abortion if she is under the legal age of consent. Do we really want to put the victim seeking an abortion on the grounds of incest through anything more than she’s already been through. How the hell was she “asking for it”? Whoever thought we needed alter the definitions of rape and incest as part of our healthcare policy is a really particular kind of ideologue – the creepy kind. In both situations, this proposal would punish individuals who are victims of a crime – a point that is never disputed – for not being victimized enough. That’s just twisted. By the way, this bill has 173 cosponsors. If they get a few more supporters, this could pass the House of Representatives.

The issue also has a socioeconomic angle to it. The bill itself has been proposed not to stop all abortions in these cases, but those in which taxpayer money would be used. Taxpayer money as it stands now is mainly Medicaid, which pays for medical care for those who otherwise can’t afford it. Our tax dollars will also be used for the soon-to-be-created insurance exchange where a person can purchase coverage at a reduced rate. So even if a victim purchased insurance with her own money through this healthcare exchange, her policy would not be allowed to cover an abortion because the rate she paid was subsidized by the government unless she met these new guidelines. If not she would have to pay for the procedure out-of-pocket and the poorer the victim, the less likely she would be to have the money.

Speaking of money, this is supposed to be the congress that was elected to get America’s economy rolling again and get jobs creation up. That was the message that many of these conservative Republicans got in there on. Fine. Whatever. Elections have consequences, but this is what happens when people vote against a politician or administration rather than for a candidate’s platform. Well, surprise! This was an extremely successful bait-and-switch by social conservatives. Their third item of business has not a bit to do with jobs or fiscal responsibility and everything to do with the social conservative vision of what everyone’s morals and life should be. It is not what they campaigned on and there is something disingenuous about trying to start pricing women out of their right to choose (which is still protected by the Supreme Court) before tackling a budget, or the national debt, or most of the other stuff they promised to work on as soon as they got to DC. Furthermore, The Hyde Amendment, the “rider” attached to annual appropriations bills since 1976 which limits the use of federal money for abortion funding to instances of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother, while not a permanent law has worked pretty well as a compromise thus far. Many, including myself, have issues with it, but compared to this mess, it’s definitely the lesser of two evils. At least it doesn’t get all nit-picky about incest. While I am all but certain the Senate will vote down HR 3 (that’s what this bill is called – House Resolution 3) if they go near it at all, it is clearly a sign of things to come.

There’s a follow-up post here and a follow-up to the follow-up here.





That’s It! Sarah Palin, Get The Hell Out Of My Living Room!

1 12 2010

TV personalities are invited into my living room. If I like them, I might grace them with my viewership and make my one woman contribution to their ratings. I might make it a point to watch a show regularly, if it appeals to me. I might even purchase episodes or DVDs. I’m even fussy about my news broadcasts because some anchors are just too damn annoying. If something isn’t entertaining to me for whatever reason, so long. I’m like Luke Skywalker and the remote is my light saber – I will use the force.

But it doesn’t always work.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to avoid the Kardashian sisters completely. They’re just everywhere. I am happy to say I don’t know much about them, but I can tell you their names and probably which are married and other useless bullfunky like that. They’re inescapable. Like football. I’m not a fan football in the NFL sense, preferring the football that actually involves a foot coming into regular contact with the ball, but I can still tell you who won the last Super Bowl. Also, because I was born in America and went to high school, I know the basic rules of the game. Some people and things are just like that. Last year, whether you wanted to or not, you got to know more than enough about John and Kate Gosselin as the nation watched their marriage crumble while the reality television cameras rolled on. In the world of politics, everybody heard all about South Carolina governor Mark Sanford and his Argentinean “soul mate” and saw John Edwards take Bill Clinton’s famous extramarital activities one step farther by insisting that he did not father a child with that woman – which was proven to be quite false indeed. We all heard so much about those events and everyone was saying “Enough! Please!” Well, I’ve reached my media saturation point with someone else.

Dear sweet God Almighty, am I so damn sick of Sarah Palin!

This begged for a picture, but I am in full Palin Overload at this point, so this is as close as I'm getting to putting her picture up here. Bullwinkle is my Sarah Palin Stand-In.

She’s highly opinionated, she’s rabidly conservative, and she is everywhere I look. She needs to get out of my living room – now – but changing the channel isn’t much help. She is mentioned in nearly every US news broadcast. (I’m so thankful we get BBC.) Turn on any Discovery Channel subsidiary and you’ll see the ad for her reality show at least six times in any given hour, so she’s effectively invaded Mythbusters. Browse the internet for anything political and there she is. Her tweets and facebook posts make news in a way many government officials who were actually elected to a particular office can only dream of. She even turned Dancing With the Stars, something else I avoid, into a battle between the right and the left. Did Bristol Palin get as far as she did because of who her mother is (because it’s certainly why she was on the show to begin with)? Did she lose because of all the Palin-haters out there furiously voting against her? Oh, the conspiracy theories abound. Then there is her position as an analyst for Fox News and her reality show fame. You can’t lob a political statement anywhere without it running into some issue she’s been pontificating about over the past few months. Add to that the fact that my own father thinks she’s the best human being to grace this planet since, I don’t know, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, maybe Jesus, and it’s official – I’m trapped. The American political discourse has turned into Palin World, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of her. Sarah Palin has been the center of national attention more times in two years than Dubya was in his eight years in the White House. Thankfully, I’m not alone in my Palin fatigue. It’s nice to know the entire country hasn’t gone mad, but it’s disappointing to think about how many people may very well be voting for “that reality show lady” in 2012.

And before people start to screech about my obvious liberal bias, let me point out that I haven’t even mentioned her views and where they differ from my own. This isn’t even about ideological stances, it’s about media overexposure. It’s like that song on the radio that you hear all day long and sooner or later you start to not like it. Sarah Palin is getting over-played fast and, with two years until the next election, I think she runs the risk of going overboard with the self promotion even with those who are more inclined to like her. Her strategy of inundating the country with all Palin all the time could backfire. She has high disapproval ratings as it is and in polls conducted by both Quinnipiac University and CNN she loses to Obama in a hypothetical election by eight points – more than his margin of victory against John McCain in 2008. That is not an insignificant thing to overcome and becoming a pop culture nuisance isn’t going to win people over, it’s just obnoxious.