Monthly Archives: January 2010

Scott Roeder Found Guilty of Murdering Dr. George Tiller

Via CNN.com: Scott Roeder, the anti-choicer who murdered Dr. George Tiller last May, has been found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, with a chance of parole after 25 years.

I’m relieved that the jury made the decision to uphold the law and didn’t show Roeder any leniency, and I’m glad that this man is off the streets and unable to harm anyone else. Ultimately, though, I can’t bring myself to feel any satisfaction or joy. I’d be happy if Dr. Tiller hadn’t been killed. I’d be happy if I didn’t know that there are thousands more anti-choice activists out there, many of whom are capable of doing the same thing Roeder did. I’d be happy if people weren’t still celebrating this horriffic crime. I’d be happy if there were more than two doctors left providing this essential service to women, and if those doctors weren’t being continually harassed and threatened.

I’m incredibly saddened by all this rhetoric surrounding the trial, and abortion in general, that acts as if abortion is something that occurs between doctors, legislators and fetuses. As if the women who actually make these difficult but necessary decisions were just an afterthought. As if killing doctors and passing anti-choice laws would actually stop abortions from occurring, rather than forcing women to risk their lives to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Dr. Tiller knew this. He said himself that abortion is a matter of survival for women, and he worked and knowingly risked his life to ensure women’s right to survive. I can only hope there are more people out there who are brave enough to follow his example.

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Men Still Studying Less, Earning More than Women (Part I)

While I agree that Feministing’s approach to this article – namely, their assertion (at least in the headline) that the gender gap in higher education is disappeared or is disappearing – is a misrepresentation, the amount of backlash that always seems to appear when feminists dare to suggest that the highly publicized “boy crisis” is, in fact, a myth, is both ridiculous and incredibly revealing. And since everybody and their mom seems to feel the need to jump in and inform us self-centred ladies that no really, the education system is FEMINIZED and DISCRIMINATES against boys and WHY DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT MEN, YOU EVIL HARPIES, well, I can’t help but throw my opinion into the mix, too.

My day job requires that I spend a lot of time working with educational researchers, though I myself am but a lowly admin assistant, so I like to think I have more than a passing understanding of the subject. And from what I’ve read, yes, women do outnumber men in postsecondary education (particularly university), and yes, girls do outperform boys at nearly every level of education. In my opinion as an aspiring academic and a feminist, however, this has nothing to do with either innate ability, or with a feminist agenda that favours girls and women over men and boys, and everything to do with patriarchy and its rigid construction of masculinity and femininity. Ultimately, the comparative underachievement of boys and men is linked to a system that values male achievement over female achievement, and that ultimately favours those same boys and men, regardless of their level of education, in the workplace and in society.

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Worth Reading

As you may have noticed, my holiday hiatus lasted a lot longer than it should have. This was partly due to actual holiday things – I spent a week in Ottawa with my family, avoiding the computer as much as possible – but mostly because I’ve been working on other projects. Specifically, I’ve started working on the YA historical novel that I’ve been planning for about two years now. It’s set in eighteenth-century France, and honestly I think I’m most comfortable writing about eighteenth-century France than any other time period, including the present, but I still find myself doing a shocking amount of research (apparently the four years I spent at university studying French history just wasn’t enough). Between that, and my full-time job, and my occasional (mostly futile) attempts to find freelance work, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for blogging.

Which isn’t to say I’m going to stop blogging; I just can’t do nearly as much of it as I’d like to, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a fair amount of my blogging related in some way to the research I’m doing for my book. Which brings us to the actual point of today’s post! Because, you see, much of the research I have done has involved some really awesome books, which those of you who approach my level of nerdiness might enjoy. Yes, this is self-indulgent, but I never miss a chance to talk about the books I like. So: books!
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Religious Right Can’t Imagine that a Trans Woman Might Be Really Good at her Job

I’ll admit it: when I heard about Amanda Simpson’s well-deserved presidential appointment as senior technical advisor to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, my first thought (well, my second thought, after “Hey, awesome!”) was, “Wow, the religious right are going to hate this.” And guess what? I was right. I wish I could attribute that to my amazing psychic powers, but I think it has much more to do with the fact that conservatives these days are really, hilariously predictable.

I say “hilariously” because, while transphobia itself isn’t funny, the fact that anyone – even crazies like anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera and Jerry Falwell acolyte Matt Barber – could protest this appointment is so ridiculous that I don’t know what to do but laugh. Because clearly, appointing someone with thirty years of experience in her field and multiple degrees in subjects that I probably wouldn’t pass an intro course in (I have great respect for anyone who can finish one science degree, let alone several) is “special treatment”, “political correctness” and a result of Obama “pandering to the gay lobby.” It has clearly never occurred to these people that anyone other than a cis man could be the best candidate for this job – or, most likely, any job.

But the more I consider these wingnuts’ mentality, the more I realize that it isn’t that far off from the one shared by patriarchal (or kyrarchal) culture as a whole. In a word where straight, white, cis, able-bodied men are seen as the “norm” – where straight, white, cis, able, male identity is perceived as universal – everyone who doesn’t fit that arbitrary definition of universality will be marked as “other”, and whatever characteristic defines our otherness will be assumed to define us, as individuals. We are, essentially, reduced to nothing but a single characteristic, that one trait (one which is, more often than not, socially constructed in the first place, and may in fact have very little to do with how we perceive our own identities) that marginalizes us within kyrarchy. There is no room for us to be seen as complex, multi-faceted individuals. For people like those quoted above, who have absorbed this rhetoric to the point where any other seems completely alien to them, a trans woman being given a high-ranking job can’t be about anything other than her being trans – after all, that’s the only thing about her that really matters to them. It can’t be about her being really smart, or having years of experience, or being a goddamn rocket scientist – because she’s trans! And therefore it’s all about political correctness! And pandering to the evil gay agenda! Or something!

We can mock all we want (and nothing can stop me from mocking) but the scary part is that all too often, this gets taken a step further – an individual’s status as “other” overtakes not only their other skills and character traits and features, but also their humanity. There are many people out there who simply don’t see trans people (or People of Colour, or women, etc.) as human beings. It’s no wonder, then, that women, POC, PWD and LGBTQ people face such staggering rates of abuse, assault and murder. The religious right may sound ridiculous, but they exist on the same continuum of stereotyping and dehumanizing as many more violent and frightening forms of discrimination – and, as the connections of certain anti-gay groups to the “kill the gays” bill in Uganda has demonstrated, the ends of that continuum aren’t nearly as distant as we might like to think.