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Notes from a Choicer
May 26th, 2011 by Dr Karma

Yesterday, Dan Savage mentioned the brave stance of “the leader of British Columbia’s Conservative Party, John Cummins, [who] told a radio interviewer that gay people shouldn’t be covered by the BC Human Rights Act because being gay is ‘a conscious choice'”.

Mr. Savage went on to complain about us “choicers”, and invited Mr. Cummins to prove you can make a choice by choosing to suck Mr. Savage’s dick.

Well, Mr. Savage, Mr. Cummins and his followers (like me) won’t be fooled that easily! Especially since that sounds yucky, (no matter how hot your dick might be)!

Mr. Savage has obviously made bad choices and is just bitter now that he’s being asked to accept being judged in things like housing and employment because of them. This is why we lovingly bully gay teens, Mr. Savage–we want them to truly think about their choice while they’re still young. If we can beat them up enough, threaten their lives, and convince them that they’ll never be happy or loved by anyone, especially God, then they’ll make the right choice. Each fist reminds them of the consequences of their choices, in the name of the Lord.

Of course, you might claim that God is accepting of everyone, just because there are a few Bible passages which indicate that. But you can’t be Christian, Mr. Savage, because you’re gay. If you were Christian, you would know that Jesus only said those things about love and equality because he was cowed by the politically correct pressures of the time. We refuse to be cowed in the same way.

There are several Bible passages that support holy prejudice. Of course, since Canada is not a theocracy (yet, fingers crossed!), we need to remember that our founding fathers were no great believers in equality. Since founding fathers are always the best judge of morality, we should listen. (Thinking that morality evolves and changes is just a gateway to accepting Darwin’s wicked ideas.)

Our founding fathers, for example, knew that women were not the same as men. We’ve tried to change the old ways, allowing women to have jobs, demanding that they be paid the same, etc. Luckily, however, even our Human Rights Code acknowledges that it’s sometimes perfectly acceptable to treat women as the inferior bodies they are. It explicitly says, “A person does not contravene this section by discriminating (a) on the basis of sex, if the discrimination relates to the maintenance of public decency or to the determination of premiums or benefits under contracts of life or health insurance.” That’s right! We need separate bathrooms AND separate insurance rates! Since it’s perfectly legal to charge a woman more for insurance just because she’s a woman, we know then that it’s fine to discriminate about things that aren’t choices.

Speaking of choices, I would like to argue, Mr. Savage, that you’re taking Mr. Cummins’s statement too personally because he only mentioned the choice of being gay. We mustn’t forget the other implications of Mr. Cummins’s statement. Our Human Rights Act currently says that we can’t discriminate “because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, age or lawful source of income of that person or class of persons, or of any other person or class of persons.”

As you’ll note, most of these things are also about choices, which is why Mr. Cummins’s ideas should be applied so liberally. For example, marital and family status is usually a matter of choice. All “single mothers” are such by choice, yes? So shouldn’t I get to tell them they can’t rent an apartment in a building I own? Shouldn’t I be able to tell them to raise their bastard brood somewhere else?

Similarly, I could choose not to hire a married woman–for certainly she wouldn’t need a job since she chose to do the right thing and marry a good man to take care of her. And to encourage women to make that right choice (thus preventing the aforementioned bastards), I could also refuse to hire women who have chosen not to marry yet–once a women realizes she can’t support herself, she’ll do the right thing and settle down.

Religion is another obvious choice. If my neighbour chooses to worship differently than I do, as is his or her right as a Canadian, I should be able to choose to allow them employment and housing or not. I should also be able to publish pamphlets about how their religion is of the devil and thus that their house of worship should be burned. Sadly, the Human Rights Act discriminates against my right to try to wipe the heretics off the earth in the name of my God. Thankfully, Mr. Cummins’s modest proposal that we think more clearly about choice will fix that.

Finally, we need to be honest about a few other choices on the protected list. People of the lower classes are protected from discrimination, but we all know that if they’re poor, it’s because of their choices, yes? In this great land, they must be lazy or morally inept to still be in the lower classes. After all, the economic downturn affected all of us–I had to lay off thousands of workers, but I still managed to say in the upper class! Those workers should have used all their new free time to climb the social ladder.

We must also think about all those people with physical and mental disabilities. I’m sure we all feel badly for those people who did not choose to be disabled, but quite a few people in this protected class have made bad choices. Born blind? That’s bad luck. But if you’re blind because you looked at an eclipse–after your grade nine teacher said not to!–then that was your choice!

Is your limb gone because you were unfortunately hit by a drunk driver or because you didn’t follow the safety protocol at work? Or because of diabetes, which surely is an indication of bad choices?

I propose that we take Mr. Cummins’s ideas just one step further–let’s have an honest discussion about choices so that we can once and for all decide who gets to be treated with decency and respect in our society. As you know, fellow citizens, equality isn’t meant for everyone!

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Mommy Snobs
May 23rd, 2011 by Dr Karma

My BFF, Denise, posted a link about how some people were taken in by a new Onion headline, which proclaimed: “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex.”

In response, a “friend” of hers on Facebook said:  “I’m sorry to rude….but you really need to get a life! Have kids? . . .  If you haven’t carried a baby in your body, you really have to step off this subject.”

Part of Denise’s response:  “I’m glad that motherhood is awesome for you, but don’t imagine that the mere fact that you birthed those kids yourself makes you better than anyone else. You might be better than other people. You might be better than me. But the fact that you gave birth isn’t the reason why.”

Natasha, the “friend”: “Actually….it is. Sorry 🙁 “

Of course, several people, including Courtney, in a fabulous post suggesting that surely Natasha was just doing satire and we weren’t getting it, weighed in. I even started a new (probably short-lived) meme when I said: 

“The baby I carried is graduating from high school in a few weeks. We’re both pro-choice & we both think that ALL women have the right to choice, and the right to debate abortion rights; however, we’re confused about why someone would “choose” to actually think they’re better than other people because they did what most female animals do. I’m especially aware that Denise is in fact a better person than I am–she’s way more patient and generous and thoughtful, which is why when and if she ever chooses to push a baby out, she’s going to be gracious enough not to tell anyone that it gives her mystical pussy superiority.” Apparently, some people think that last bit needs to appear on a coffee mug or band t-shirt somewhere.
This conversation is still bugging me. I can’t even discuss this woman’s claim that to not have children is to not have a life. Not without using some very bad language.
And I want it noted that I have no trouble when people decide that they’re better than other people. I think I’m better than whole groups of people (people with confederate flags on their trucks, people who think reality tv is unscripted, people who think The Simpsons is for children, people who deny the holocaust happened, etc).
I think I’m better than other people when I think their ideas are dumb, not when our experience has been different. I have absolutely no patience for people who say that every woman wants a baby, whether she knows it or not. Or that all women must have a baby. Or that we must have babies cause that’s the gift god gave us in lieu of being able to understand his writings on our own (& variations on that theme). Or that if we do have babies, we must stay home. And we must breastfeed. And we must do whatever it is this self-righteous woman is doing.
You see, if we all HAVE to do exactly whatever she’s done, then it will totally validate all her choices. It will also confirm that she’s a “good” mom. I only know this person from her posts this week, but I can see why we might need to confirm that.
I’m also stuck on the logic of stepping off a subject like abortion rights. Of course, to me it seems that all women should be interested in abortion rights (all men too, since presumably they might love a woman who will have to make this choice & in the best situations will make a choice with her). By Natasha’s logic, all men should step off this.
All non-teachers should step off the debate about unions, tenure, and pay. If you haven’t been in the classroom, how can you even talk about our benefits?
And of course, if you’re not gay, then you shouldn’t have a damn thing to say about gay rights, right?
Can we change it so that only gays can vote on gay rights and only teachers can negotiate teacher pay?
(I’m thinking Natasha maybe hasn’t thought this through.)
Finally, I am reminded of all the times when people made assumptions about how my having a vagina would influence my beliefs. For example, Natasha seems to think that since a baby has come out of me, that I would be pro-life. Years and years ago, when it looked like Libby Dole might run for President, a Republican friend said, “Oh, you’ll finally vote Republican!”
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, you’d like to see a woman President, right?”
“I would love to see a woman President if I agreed with her political positions. No one gets my vote just because she has a vagina.”
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A New Venture
May 22nd, 2011 by Dr Karma

As you all know, I don’t blog as often as I should. This month, I’ve had a totally valid excuse–I’ve been writing an article that’s due on Time Travel in Star Trek. It’s left little time for anything else.

It’s also affected all my dreams. I’m having time travel dreams and nightmares nightly. Am hoping that when I turn the bugger in this week, they’ll stop.

Of course, those who’ve missed my musings can catch the bi-monthly movie column at www.matchflick.com (upcoming: Hitchhiker’s Guide). My work at matchflick is out of pure love for movies–even though I’ve been doing the column for years, I don’t get paid anything for it. I haven’t even so much gotten one free movie ticket or press pass to WonderCon. Oh, well.

That’s why I agreed to follow Denise Du Vernay’s suggestion of joining her as an examiner on www.examiner.com. Denise is the Chicago Best Friends Examiner. I’m now the Davis/Sacramento Sci-Fi Examiner.

(Want a similar gig? Ask us about it!)

Examiner expects bi-weekly entries, but they get to be pretty short. The hardest thing about writing for them is that they discourage first person. I broke that guideline a few minutes ago on a new post, but it would have been weird to talk about myself in third.

Friends, Examiner actually pays us when you click on and read our articles. I think three views gets us a shiny new penny, but a penny is better than no penny.

Forgive me, then, for sometimes reminding you that Denise has articles here: http://www.examiner.com/best-friends-in-chicago/denise-du-vernay

Mine are here: http://www.examiner.com/scifi-in-sacramento/karma-waltonen

We’re both taking suggestions for content, by the way!

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Nail Polishing and Face Punching
May 9th, 2011 by Dr Karma

Clothing ads don’t often make the news, but clothing ads that feature boys wearing nail polish are apparently an exception.

J.Crew’s new ad featuring a woman looking into the eyes of her smiling child is setting the news ablaze because the happy boy playing with his mother is wearing nail polish.

You can see the ad here: http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/dpps/entertainment/j.crew-ad-showing-boy-with-pink-nail-polish-sparks-debate-dpgonc-20110412-fc_12731866

Multiple sites have blogged about it, and Jon Stewart devoted an entire segment to the media frenzy. The main criticism of both blog-response posters and conservative news commentators was that the mother in the ad (who works for the company) and the ad itself had an agenda. Many said this was about being gay; many complained that this was about being “accepting of transgender children.”

Of course, there’s room to talk about all of the terms getting thrown around, about how not all of those terms are as interchangeable as people believe them to be, about how some straight men wear nail polish, and about the fluidity of gender identity in young children, but instead of talking about these issues in relation to an ad, let’s talk about a real little boy who wore nail polish once.

My son.

When my son was four years old, he spent the weekend with his older female cousin. Upon seeing her paint her nails, he requested that she do his as well. On neither of their parts was this an agenda, nor a statement of sex, gender, or sexuality. Maybe this was because my son wanted to be like his nearest cousin in age. Maybe they were bored.

Whatever it was, when he came home, he proudly displayed a coat of translucent yellow on his nails. If he hadn’t pointed it out, I might not have noticed—they just looked a little jaundiced.

I didn’t give it much thought; the next morning, he went off to preschool.

When I picked him up later that day, he was crying. In the car home, he told me that another boy, another four year old, in the company of others, had punched him in the face and called him a girl.

I didn’t know what to say.

I considered myself a feminist; I was in college taking courses in women’s studies. I was a supporter of gay rights. If I had to argue with an adult, I would know how to do so. If I had to comfort an adult, I would know how to do so.

But how was I to explain to my child how the world around us had made another child violently police gender normativity? Or that someone’s parent raised a preschooler who would react this way?

My son already didn’t like his preschool, but he went because it was what we could afford. The $15 a month discount I was offered by the owner for being in college was a great help. The owner perhaps felt sorry for me. Most of the parents in the daycare were young, single mothers like I was. But I was a little younger. And unlike the mothers who worked at the grocery store and the McDonald’s down the street, I didn’t technically have an income—just student loans.

Let me clarify that this was almost fifteen years ago, when gay marriage seemed a much further off dream than today. We were also in the South at the time, where all struggles for equality seem a little bit harder.

Even in our own family, gender norming was, well, the norm. While I was allowed to be a tomboy, when my son was born, my grandfather insisted that the infant be called “handsome” instead of “beautiful.” He didn’t get my joke in buying the baby a shirt that said, “If you think I’m handsome, you should see my grandfather.”

When he was a toddler, my son found an island Barbie among some of my old toys that my mother had unearthed. He looked into her brown eyes and at her long, dark hair and declared her “Mommy Doll.” My hair was only down to my waist, whereas hers met her calves, but it was the closest he was going to find.

My son didn’t so much play with Mommy Doll as want her near. That is, he didn’t dress her or comb her hair, but he carried her with him and slept with her at night. In fact, having Mommy Doll served useful to me as his requests to sleep with me decreased when he was able to use my smaller substitute.

My grandmother was horrified and expressed concern that Mommy Doll would make him “a gay.” Since I actually knew gay people, I knew that wasn’t how it worked. In fact, one of my gay friends consistently gave my son truck toys, insisting that they’d “worked” for him as a child.

One day, when my grandmother was caring for my son, Mommy Doll disappeared. She never would tell me what she did with the body.

Even though I was very liberal and progressive for this place and time, I had no other agenda for my son than to love him no matter what and to accept him no matter what.

Unless, of course, he became a bigot.

There seemed a small chance of that given my diverse group of friends, who all took turns babysitting at times so I could finish a paper or make it to a play rehearsal. We were all on various places on the gender spectrum. For example, I taught the boy show tunes, but I also taught him about cuss words, science fiction, and discipline.

And I tried to watch my language. Once, late in elementary school, his friend overheard me saying something like, “well, whomever you choose to spend your life with probably won’t appreciate you being such a picky eater.”

“Why does she say it that way?” the friend asked.

My son sighed. “In case I’m gay.”

But right then, I was in the car with a sobbing child. A child who’d been physically assaulted. A boy who’d been called a girl.

“Are you a girl?”

“No.”

“Then why do you think he said that?”

“Because he’s mean.”

“And stupid,” I added, in a not so generous moment. “His parents have taught him something silly—that being a girl is about how you look, but we know better.”

I did not talk about the sexism (why is “girl” a bad name) or heteronormativity or Christian tendency to judge that predominates the South. Nor did I point out that because we were poor, we were in a predominantly black area, where homosexuality and gender transgression was somehow more taboo than in the predominantly white campus that was the other part of our world.

I did not say, because I was too angry to think it, that perhaps the young boy had learned to hit transgressors because maybe that’s how he had been disciplined when he failed to understand the gender rules that his parents had internalized.

“What do you want to do,” I asked the teary-eyed boy, who was still gasping a bit from his sobbing.

“I’ve been trying to wash it off all day!”

Finally, something I could solve—“I know how to take it off. We can do it right when we get home if you want.”

But then I remembered something.

“Didn’t Tessa do your toenails too?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want to take the toenail polish off?”

My son thought hard.

“But they can’t see my toes in my shoes. Only you and I can see my toes.”

“That’s true.”

“Then we’ll keep it on the toes.”

My son learned about the magic of nail polish remover on his fingers as soon as we got home.

The tint on his toes remained for a time before fading away naturally and completely, as things like that tend to do.

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