Google just launched a new search technology that speeds up the already mindbogglingly fast process by which you can find information online. I read about it in the New York Times this morning. It launched yesterday and it's called Google Instant. It works like this: as you type your search string Google begins finding results and displaying them before you hit "search." The list changes as you continue typing. If you begin to type "censorship" for example, by the time you type "CEN" you get search results for Central Park. Type the "S" and you get results for Census. Type the "O" and you get censorship-related results. This all happens at the speed of typing. Fascinating. I was wondering whether I thought this was distracting or helpful when I read something that really pissed me off:
I don't think that automatic filtering for "violence, hate or pornography" makes sense in the first place - users should be able to control their own filtering - but I certainly don't think that "nude" should be filtered because of a possible connection to pornography. I wondered what this looked like in practice, and I also wondered what else was filtered.
I went to my computer to try it out. I started typing.
N (Netflix) NU (Nurse Jackie) NUD (...nothing at all!)
One of the things that's kept me from blogging recently - aside from family concerns, work, and all the ordinary stuff that keeps people from blogging - is this paralysis that comes when I find a story I want to blog about and then think "oh but there've been SO MANY I've missed, and some have been WAY more important than this..." and then this one gets missed as well.
Not today. Today a story got me angry me and I'm going to blog about it despite the fact that many other much more important stories have happened. I'm going to blog about this one because it grabbed me and if I don't dive in I might never blog again.
I learned it from Dr. Petra Boynton and as I read her post I heard Garrison Keillor's voice in my head and instead of being soothed I was outraged, and so now I'm blogging.
What I heard in my head: That's the news from Dallas/Fort Worth, where the breasts are too droopy, the faces are too wrinkly, and all the labia are above average.
The real story: A news anchor at the Dallas/Fort Worth CB 33 tv station read a story featuring a local woman and a local plastic surgeon. Here is a link to the video and story.
My sweetie writes about boats. I write about sex. Tonight we were fortunate to find an entertaining intersection between the two: Cabaret Red Light's "Seven Deadly Seas" performed on the schooner Gazela, docked for the next few nights in Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn, sponsored by PortSide New York.
If you're looking for something to do check them out. It's an intimate setting - only about 80 seats per show - the second row is about as far away as you can get from the action!
The performers are fabulous and the writing is witty. The costumes are lovely, and the shedding of them is lovelier still. Gazela is a beautiful ship, and with the skyline of Lower Manhattan in the background it's hard to imagine a more fitting setting for a show about debauchery and plunder.
Check them out. They're only there for this one weekend. For more information or to by tickets:
From Leonore Tiefer, via the NYU Gender Studies listserv:
THE NEW VIEW CAMPAIGN announces its THIRD Conference, to be held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Sunday, September 26, 2010.
FRAMING THE VULVA: GENITAL COSMETIC SURGERY AND GENITAL DIVERSITY
While the vulva surgeons are holding a conference on the Las Vegas strip, the New View, in collaboration with the UNLV Women's Studies Department and Petals, will hold a counter-symposium to examine the personal and political complexities of the new female genital cosmetic surgeries.
I just read a story in the New York Times, written by Tamar Lewin, that was both touching and infuriating. It concerned a change noted recently by staffers at the GI Rights Hotline, a number for people to call if they want help becoming conscientious objectors.
The touching part of the story came in the descriptions of the work done by those who staff the hotline. Since conscientious objector status is decided based on a person's beliefs, and since a caller's beliefs and a staffer's beliefs might be quite different, it can be a challenging job and these workers come across as very dedicated to helping people despite conflicting belief systems. It was also touching to read the concerns they shared about those who never make it to the hotline, speculating that many of those who desert or who kill themselves are people who are "struggling with their conscience."
The infuriating part comes in when people apply their beliefs in illogical ways. Specifically, the change on which the article reports is the new growth in calls by people who want conscientious objector status because they cannot in good conscience serve in the military with people who are gay. Lewin explains in her article that this objection on the face of it fails the conscienctious objector test, in which a person must clearly object to participating in all war as a result of some deeply held moral, ethical, or religious belief. She quotes J. E. McNeil, a long-time staffer of the hotline, who explains that “In the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ situation, they’re not opposed to participating in war, they’re opposed to who they’re participating with”.
Some good news from the US Supreme Court this week: Schools do not have to tolerate discrimination. Sound like a radical decision? If you believe the dissenters you'd think that free speech as we know it is about to fall to pieces. Don't be fooled.
The question was whether or not a student organization that intended to exclude gay and lesbian students was entitled to official recognition as a student club, a status which would entitle them to use of school resources (funding, computers, facilities), and use of the school's name and logo. The school is Hastings College of the Law and the student organization is the Christian Legal Society.
Lawyers for Hastings argued that it was simply enforcing a policy that required all official student organizations to be open to all Hastings students. (Actually, as the editorial page of the New York Times points out, first they asserted that the club violated their nondiscrimination policy, then later shifted strategies to focus on the narrower "all comers" policy which says that student clubs must be open to all interested students.) Lawyers for the CLS students argued that the policy in question violated students' rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.
The tank top is a lovely apple green. I tried it on with a long matching over shirt, did my usual pantomime of chalk board writing to see if it was comfortable, scrutinized it to see if the over shirt hung in such a way as to avoid showing the contours of my nipples, visible through the tank top, was satisfied, and left the store.
I put it on one morning, paired with some new light grey jeans, and wore it to work. I got several compliments on the color and also a few glances that made me self-conscious. I ignored them as best I could. I did not try to wear the shirt again for a while. Some weeks later I put it on again. I stepped into the living room to ask my sweetheart Will what he thought. I turned this way and that, put my hands on my hips, brushing the overshirt aside as I do in class sometimes, took a few turns, and waited for his reaction: "It's a bit nipply." I took it off. I have not worn it to work since.
I don't want to wear my nipples to work. I don't want to deal with people looking, looking away, and looking back. I don't want to worry about whether they think I am a hippie or a slut. I wouldn't care if they thought the former but I would be afraid that if they thought the latter they would think it in the erotophobic, judgmental, shaming kind of way that I do so much to resist.
Several years ago I gave up on wearing bras. This was not a political move, at least not initially. It was about my own physical comfort. I have never found a bra that fits well, looks good under clothes, and feels comfortable for more than a couple hours. Since I have never been physically uncomfortable without a bra, I decided to forego them. At first I only went without on the weekends. It seemed too risky to go without at work. Then eventually I decided to go without there, as well. It was then that I encountered my nipple dilemma. I had always worn bras that had a bit of padding, and even my apparently steely nipples never showed underneath them. Without a bra, every top presents a challenge. Dark colors and patterns are the easiest. I often wear vests, jackets, or over shirts for extra coverage. Sometimes, as with my apple green combination, even an over shirt doesn't seem like enough. (I have a similar conflict with a light tan t-shirt and matching vest combination.)
I'm sure you recall the 2009 and 2010 Sex Blogger Calendars. While I'm not posing in the 2011, I'm very happy that next year's Sex Blogger Calendar is supporting an organization I care deeply about: Woodhull Freedom Foundation. Woodhull is an organization dedicated to advancing sexual freedom as a basic human right and I am honored to serve on its advisory council. Straight from the Sex Blogger Calendar site, here is Tess's post explaining how the calendar will work this year and how you can participate. I hope you will!
A bit of satire for you by Susie Day
WITH HELP, HETEROSEXUALS CAN BECOME GAY
(PU) A recently released study has found that heterosexuals can, with effort, become gay. Eighty-six percent of a survey group of straight women and men were able, through various forms of reparative therapy, to transform their sexual orientation and achieve “good homosexual functioning.”
Dr. Marvin Flabcock, of the American Psychiatric and Floral Design Association, conducted interviews with 200 former heterosexuals who expressed satisfaction at finally becoming “full human beings.” Dr. Flabcock said that he cannot yet estimate what percentage of the larger heterosexual population can become gay, but that if heterosexuals are “highly motivated,” there is hope. “The secret is self-hatred,” stated Dr. Flabcock. “You’ve really got to loathe yourself if you want to lead a normal life.”
Most of the study’s participants said that, in order to effect their sexual transformation, they used more than one form of reparative therapy, including support groups, individual counseling, or dressing up in monks’ robes and flagellating themselves in deserted grade school restrooms. Many of their sexual conversions were religious in nature.
“Praise Jesus!” cried a recently self-avowed lesbian, one of several study participants who agreed to be interviewed for this article. “For years, I was boy-crazy,sin-soaked, and born-to-breed. But my encounters with the opposite sex were quick, empty, and loveless, and I hated the decadent heterosexual culture. Then, through intensive therapy and daily prayer, I was able to uncover a childhood trauma in which I was once yelled at and made to clean the erasers by a heterosexual math teacher. It really screwed up my sexuality, and gave me terrible math anxiety. But with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, I saw that girl-on-girl action is part of God’s plan for us. I still can’t do long division, though.”
I've been thinking a lot about the term "allies" as it is used in social movements these days. I particularly think about it as used in the sex worker rights movement, in the LGBT rights movement because of the way that "ally" has become an identity term instead of a political description. Then I came across this statement about allies in an entirely different context and wanted to share it here. It says almost everything I've wanted to say and been unable to find the words for:
Allies in the culture wars aren’t appreciably different than military or political allies, but somehow, the meaning of the word has changed online. We’ve gone from “In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them” to the assumption that the act of alliance comes with specific obligations and that people are “bad allies” or not allies at all if particular things are done or left undone.
This isn’t true, of course. There is nothing about an alliance that requires that one of the parties give up its sovereignty, or there would be many fewer alliances. Alliance is not allegiance. We do not set aside our own concerns and our own marginalization because we care about someone else’s. We don’t let someone else set the terms of our participation in the public sphere, simply because they call us allies, without going through the tricky act of negotiation. We don’t give up our autonomy as allies any more than we would, by giving aid that isn’t wanted or needed, usurp the autonomy of those we aim to help.
Student groups and others who are working to recruit allies understand this. They talk about the behavior of “ideal allies,” presenting aspirational goals and actions that can be adopted by allies. They recognize that learning will need to occur, and continue to occur, throughout the experience of being an ally, saying, “Ask lots of questions and talk honestly about what you do know, what you don’t know, and what you’d like to learn.” They don’t expect perfection, and they demand expect monolithic behavior.