HOPE.

5 11 2008

So, Obama won. He is the first African-American president of the United States. Which is amazing in of itself, and even better, I do really like the guy.

This election meant a lot to people like me. Ever since I’ve been old enough to actually follow elections, they’ve had bad results. Two rounds of Bush, three of Harper. I’ve never really been happy the day after and election. So, to watch Barack Obama win, to know you lived to see history being made, was truly amazing. As he made his speech last night, I cried, and things like that don’t usually make me cry.

This morning, I cried again, but those weren’t tears of joy. Prop 8 passed, as did similar measures in Arizona and Florida. Prop K was voted down. For areas where people did vote Democrat, this was especially disheartening. Yes, progressives can be dicks too, and a whole bunch of people suffered because for some reason, people feel it’s right for the majority to veto the basic rights of the minority.

I finally got what Obama was saying when he talked about hope all this time. A mixed-race kid from a single-parent family, with an unusual name, grew up to become president. And, while queer folks in the United States still can’t get married, and sex workers in San Francisco still can’t work without the fear of being arrested. But all of us “freaks” – we don’t go down without a fight. We’ll keep fighting, and if this election showed us anything, it’s that people who are different because of what they are, or do, can be leaders. And I believe the world is moving forward, despite all the threats out there to anyone who is percieved as different. Today, there are a lot of minorities, disadvantaged folks, freaks and queers who now know that they can do anything.

Maybe even lead a country one day.

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Vote, dammit!

4 11 2008

Just reminding all my American friends (well, the ones over the age of 18, at least), to vote today. Preferably for Barack Obama, who I’m almost sure will become the next president of the United States.

I’m so excited.

Also, if you live in California, make sure you “Don’t Stop at the Top”, and vote NO on Propostion 8, an anti-gay ballot measure. If you live in San Francisco, voting YES on Prop K, a measure to decriminalize sex work, would make me a happy panda.

I’m going to start kind of an open election thread in the comments, so post as you wish, in terms of election-related things. Play nice, and don’t forget to vote!





In Defence of Raunch Feminism

18 04 2008

(Note: This is a post for the second Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy. Woo-hoo!)

About a year ago, I read Ariel Levy’s book Female Chauvinist Pigs. If you haven’t read it, I’ll sum it up for you: essentially, Ms. Levy takes issue with “raunch culture”, especially that which is assumed to be masquerading as feminism. While some of her points are well taken, I think the entire premise of the book was somewhat misguided.

Never mind the fact that nobody really considers Girls Gone Wild or Sex and the City feminist. Not even sex-positive feminist.

A few weeks ago, the 3rd annual Feminist Porn Awards took place in my city. And the feminist blogosphere jumped on it. I don’t feel like linking every single post, so just do a google blog search if you want to read what people posted. There were quite a few positive responses, but also a lot of stuff along the lines of “How DARE you take the exploitation of women, and call it feminist?”

My friend Chanelle Gallant actually helped spearhead the first FPA’s, and trust me, she knows what she’s doing. I always found it interesting that even though she says that the Feminist Porn Awards were meant to combat sexism and racism in porn, and that while a lot of porn sucks, not all of it does, the knee-jerk reactions are still the same. And whether the debate surrounds porn, sex work, or a woman simply wearing a low-cut top, the same word keeps popping up from a lot of feminists.

Victim.

As in, “women who are in porn are victims of the patriarchy”. Or “Sex workers are victims of exploitation”. And if someone points to organizations like the Sex Professionals of Canada or Scarlet Alliance or Empower, people concede, “Well, there are some who choose to do that, but they’re in the tiny minority”.

It’s true that a number of women (and men) are coerced into sex work. But the assumption that seems to come up over and over again, at least the way I see it, is this: women do not have the power to consent to sex work.

And this seems to be coming from a blatantly sexist assumption – women are too weak, or too stupid, or too easily controlled to be able to make such choices for themseleves. I doubt many people would admit it, at least in those words, but that’s where it seems to be coming from. Not to mention it’s incredibly heteronormative – pornography and sex work can involve people who are queer or straight, transgender and cisgender. It’s not always about “men vs. women”.

The way I see it, trying to regulate people’s consensual sexual activities is often inherently anti-feminist in itself. It’s usually an effort to control women’s bodies. We see it time and time again with the religious right – restrictive abortion laws, restricted access to birth control, and abstinence-only sex education. And we’re seeing it with people who call themselves feminist. Because, supposedly, no self-respecting woman would ever do THAT! And then there’s the good old “Would you want your daughter doing that? What about your sister?” Never mind the fact that nobody wants to imagine any of their relatives doing the nasty. It’s all about control – people wouldn’t want their children, their family members, their friends doing that. So then they shouldn’t. Actually, if I had a friend or relative in the sex industry, I’d want them to be safe, but I’d support them just the same. I don’t see a need to be judgemental about other’s sex lives.

And I think, if someone is making an informed choice (and choice is the key word), more power to them.

And then there’s the other false assumption that people use against this so-called “raunch feminism”. And I think most people are guilty of using it from time to time. It’s that sex, sexuality, or anything that has to do with it is inherently unintelligent, superficial, and vacuous.

I call bullshit.

I think eroticism is one of the most powerful things out there. Or, in the words of Audre Lorde, “We tend to think of the erotic as an easy, tantalizing sexual arousal. I speak of the erotic as the deepest life force, a force which moves us toward living in a fundamental way.”

Think of when you’re attracted to someone. I mean really attracted. Can you feel it throughout your whole body? Does it take over your mind? I think that’s why we use eroticism so often in media and pop culture. It’s a powerful tool. And it’s usually not done in the most tasteful or equitable way, which is why we should critique what we see in the media. But I think the mistake a lot of people make is to automatically assume sex is either vacuous and stupid, or inherently exploitive. It can be, and sometimes it isn’t.

Which is why we have a responsibility, if we choose to use sex in one way or another (and almost all of us do, eventually), to do it in a smart way. Yes, you can have really smart, thoughtful sex! Casual sex, or other sex outside of a relationship, I don’t think is excluded from this either – sex for its own sake, in my opinion, is neither disgusting, nor degrading, nor a sign of being “low class”. It just, well, is what it is – sex for the sake of pleasure. I think we have to look at power structures, and critique them, without jumping to unnecessary conclusions or making unnecessary assumptions or judgments. Don’t assume people’s reasons for doing things. I think, if you look at it, a lot of people, including sex workers and those who use their services, are smarter than you think.

So here’s to raunch feminism. The smart, sexy kind that’s breaking down boundaries and ensuring sexual freedom for everyone. It may not be what you think it is.





Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, the Election, and Why It’s Not the End of the World

15 04 2008

It’s Democratic primary season. This primary season has been nasty among Democrats, with in-fighting, poo-flinging, hyperbole, people threatening to leave the party if their candidate doesn’t win the nomination, and all kinds of stuff that’s making me want to bang my head against a wall.

Really, it’s frustrating.

And maybe it’s being Canadian that gives me some perspective on it all. But I think the Barack vs. Hillary race to the finish, complete with the nastiness of some of each candidate’s supporters is way out of hand. It’s overblown. It’s, essentially, creating drama over something which doesn’t matter as much as you think it does.

Did I just say that? Yes I did.

And before you call me a Hillbot, an Obama cult member, a Shrillary lover, or an Obama Kool-Aid drinker, consider this. I’m actually quite nonpartisan when it comes to the Democratic presidential candidates. Neither Senator Obama nor Senator Clinton were my first choice were president. If you must know, I initially supported Dennis Kucinich. And, quite frankly, both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have done quite a few things to piss me off. And they’ve also each done some things that made me happy. I don’t love either of them, and I don’t believe they are gods. Neither do I think they are the spawn of Satan. They are people with flaws.

And don’t get me started on this tokenistic bullshit of “black man for president vs. woman for president.” I thought I was going to puke when I saw a report on CNN asking black women who they were going to vote for. Yes, it’s high time we had some diversity in the White House. But don’t reduce complex political issues to superficial identity politics. It’s insulting.

But I digress.

My point is this: I want to see a progressive in the White House. Honestly, I don’t find either candidate quite progressive enough for my liking, and as stated before, I certainly do not agree with everything they say. But what angers me is when overly partisan supporters of either candidate say that they will vote Republican, not vote, or vote for some inconsequential third-party candidate, if their candidate of choice doesn’t win.

What?

I want a progressive in the White House. I do not want John McCain as president, and I cannot believe that my fellow progressives would help him win an election.

So, Obama supporters, Hillary supporters, and everyone else who is about to pop a vein over the primaries: calm down. Let’s get a Democrat in the White House. I’m not especially fond of either candidate, but either candidate would certainly be the lesser of two evils.

It’s going to be a long election season.