26.05.14

(TW: misogyny, violence, violence against women, death

The main story on the internet at the moment is a pretty difficult one for a lot of people. Yesterday in California, Elliot Rodger shot and killed 7 people after posting a video to youtube detailing his severe and terrifying hatred of women. This act of violent misogyny has sparked a massive conversation about the violence, whether actual, threatened or potential (all of which have serious consequences for women’s lives) that women face; for some, every single day.

If you’re up to it, the #YesAllWomen hashtag on twitter is worth a read, detailing the experiences women have with violence and misogyny, from supposedly minor to major. It inevitably needs to come with major trigger warnings for violence, sexual assault, physical and psychological abuse and death.

Some other interesting (but again, very hard to read) pieces on the shooting and the issues it raises include this piece on The Belle Jar about the problematic way the media has been reporting on this tragedy, especially speculations about Rodger’s mental health. s.e. smith has also written about the issue, focusing on the systemic violence that women (and indeed most people who do not identify as men) face and the fear we are constantly subjected to. Laurie Penny’s piece looks at the ‘not all men’ reaction that women often get when discussing male violence and misogyny. Beatrix Campbell’s piece is not directly about the shooting, but examines neoliberalism as a distinct form of patriarchy (though, be warned, she doesn’t engage with some issues in a particularly critical way).

Before moving on from this horrible subject, I want to take a moment in all the #YesAllWomen discussions to acknowledge that the ability to take such precautions as making knuckle dusters out of one’s keys, or (in jurisdictions that allow it) carrying small weapons like tasers and pepper spray, is not universally available to women. Quite apart from the fact that these precautions may make little difference, the US at least has a history of denying such measures of self-defence to women of colour and trans women. We have to always keep in mind the intersecting lines of identity that silence or lessen the impact of some voices in global discussions of violence.

If you’ve still got the energy for some more devastating and challenging commentary, read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ incredible long-read at The Atlantic on the case for slavery reparations in the US. If the last 36 hours have left you unable to do that right now, please save it and read it later: it is an incredibly important argument and a stunning piece of journalism. The article is meticulously researched and a lot of that research has been posted along with the final product. This interview with Coates is also worth a watch.

Still on institutionalised prejudice, but on a slightly lighter subject, this piece on colonialism in science fiction is an interesting read. I’m especially interested in discussions of political issues in sci-fi right now ’cause I just hit a very stressful story arc in Battlestar Galactica (by the wizard gods, you haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica? Go and watch it right now. No, go and read it after you’ve read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay).

Interest in the story of the nearly 300 kidnapped Chibok girls in Nigeria, has sadly (and almost inevitably) waned of late, so it’s worth reading about the deployment of US troops in Chad to assist the search, some obstacles facing the search, the political ramifications of the crisis in Nigeria and another piece from The Atlantic on the issue (the Atlantic may be my favourite site for current affairs and social commentary at the moment).

Finally, to cheer you up, Alex Casey’s blog at Flicks.co.nz on movie makeovers and why they are the worst is hysterically funny (be warned, do not read immediately before you have to work, or you may, like me, have to explain to people why your mascara is halfway down your face). If you’re a West Wing fan, have a read of this oral history of the show (Allison Janney thought that Gail was the same goldfish for seven years) and go and play with this RIDICULOUS show of nerdery, in which an uber fan has created a giant graphic analysis of the episode ’17 People’.

It’s going to be a hard week, so look after yourselves and each other.

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Serving Whose Country? The Ethics of Naturalisation Through Military Service in the USA.

The use of the military by enlistees as a tool for gaining citizenship and civil rights raises some interesting ethical questions. In the United States, people who serve in the military while living in the US on a Green Card can be eligible for fast-tracked citizenship, originally either after serving one year in peacetime, or immediately when serving in combat. A programme was initiated in 2009 to allow enlisted soldiers to naturalise after completing basic training. In 2012, 7257 service men and women became US citizens.

Guadalupe Denogean’s episode of the ‘I am an American’ video series, on gaining his citizenship through military service.

The United States has a long history of allowing naturalisation through military service and it has been a powerful tool especially by African, Irish and Asian Americans to challenge societal prejudices and gain recognition within society:

Central to military naturalization is a powerful symbolic message: those willing to fight and die for the United States are worthy of its citizenship. For immigrants historically considered “racially distinct,” military naturalization afforded an opportunity to challenge preexisting conceptions of citizenship that equated color with country.

The practice has strong ties to the concept of the citizen-soldier, a figure who fights for their country as a part of their duty as a citizen of that country. Offering legal citizenship to those who fight is seen, in this sense, as a kind of natural justice. There is also evidence to suggest that minority groups who are able to serve in the military, in societies which value military service, gain an important tool in their struggles for greater rights and recognition.

An RT News segment discusses some of the issues with military naturalisation

In contrast to the many positive aspects of military naturalisation, the tradition of allowing US residents who serve to become legal citizens exists alongside a long history of promoting a racialised concept of citizenship, showing that only ‘certain kinds of foreigners’ have historically had guaranteed access to it. It also seems problematic that those in society who may already be seen as less grieveable because of their race, ethnicity or nationality, are prompted to join the military as a way of gaining recognition, allowing more privileged members of society to more easily avoid military service. Migrants, especially undocumented ones, already experience higher levels of ‘precarity’ than documented residents and citizens, so it may be that it is easier to send them to fight (and die) in war.

Sexism and homophobia in the military may also act as limitations on who gets to be eligible for naturalisation through military service, though hopefully the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy from Uniform Code and the recent decision to allow women to hold frontline combat positions will help to begin lessening this risk. Citizenship gained through military service can also be revoked for ‘bad behaviour’ under some circumstances, a rule which most certainly does not apply to soldiers who were born in the US.

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President Barack Obama meets newly naturalised service men and women

Various measures aimed at opening up military naturalisation to undocumented migrants have been proposed in the US, raising some prickly ethical questions about coercion. Offering people with few other options the chance to risk death for a country that may otherwise deport them seems problematic, much in the same way that allowing desperate people to sell their organs on the black market is problematic. After all, the benefits of citizenship can only be enjoyed if one lives long enough to enjoy them.

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05.05.14

In reaction to Lorde’s tweets about a scumbag paparazzo, the wonderful Ally Garret wrote this blog which is worth a read. Also from The Wireless is this interesting piece by Scarlett Cayford about ‘selfish politics’ and political apathy.

In nerdy things, tumblr user quantumspork has envisioned a glorious universe in which Natalie Dormer, Eva Green and Rebecca Hall play the Black sisters from Harry Potter and Kristin Scott Thomas plays their mother. I always see gifsets like this and then cry forever that it doesn’t exist in real life. Also Autostraddle is doing a series of posts on how to build a PC, which is so cool and extremely handy, as I am going to have to replace a motherboard with my own hands at some point soon.

Some absolutely glorious musical videos y’all need to see:

2Cellos covering ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC… on cellos.

Postmodern Jukebox’s New Orleans Blues cover of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ featuring Miche Braden absolutely KILLING IT.

And Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ sung in 20 different musical styles. Let me tell you, I lost my shit at The Doors.

Fun fact: that is the first time I ever heard Dark Horse. I am super behind on music now I’ve stopped listening to the radio. I hear 100% less bullshit from ridiculously offensive radio hosts, though so it’s worth it.

Judith Butler, one of my favourite thinkers, has given an extremely interesting interview with Transadvocate about her work on gender performativity and how it relates (and hasn’t in the past) to trans people. She admits in this interview that Gender Trouble did not consider trans issues and that this is a failing, while also calling out some well-known feminist thinkers who espouse transphobic rhetoric, which is a great step forward in the quest to make feminism a trans-inclusive movement. This is my favourite bit:

Sometimes there are ways to minimize the importance of gender in life, or to confuse gender categories so that they no longer have descriptive power. But other times gender can be very important to us, and some people really love the gender that they have claimed for themselves. If gender is eradicated, so too is an important domain of pleasure for many people. And others have a strong sense of self bound up with their genders, so to get rid of gender would be to shatter their self-hood. I think we have to accept a wide variety of positions on gender. Some want to be gender-free, but others want to be free really to be a gender that is crucial to who they are.

Judith Butler has also written about the politics of grievability and which casualties get to be named in global conflict and strife, so on that note, I’ll leave you with this: a list of names of the nearly 300 Nigerian girls who are still missing.

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Hopefully by now you have heard about the 234 Nigerian girls, between the ages of 16 and 18, who were abducted from their boarding school by a group called Boko Haram. If you haven’t, I wouldn’t actually be that surprised.

It’s been two weeks since they were taken and there are reports that the girls are being ‘married’ to members of the group. Tensions in Nigeria are extremely high, with women marching on the National Assembly to protest what they see as a lack of action from the government. This mass trafficking of girls is, according to the media, part of an ongoing campaign on the part of Boko Haram against ‘western’ education, especially of young women.

This evening on One News, there was an item about Jeremy Clarkson being a racist douchebag on British TV. There was an item about a road collapsing in Maryland. There was an item about a portrait being painted of a decorated NZ WWII veteran. Most telling, there was an item about Madeleine McCann, the English girl who disappeared without trace 7 years ago. There was nothing about the 234 Nigerian girls.

All of those stories were interesting and valid news (and it’s great that the media hasn’t stopped giving Jeremy Clarkson shit for being one of the biggest fucknuggets on the planet), but their inclusion at the expense of this devastating crime speaks volumes about what the western media decides to care about. The prioritising of a story about a single missing white girl (which is, of course, a tragedy that continues to haunt her family and her community) over the lives of hundreds of young women and girls, is a despicable example of the way in which the media portrays some people as just being worth more attention than others. One of the clearest factors of this hierarchy of grieveability is race.

In response to this staggering lack of interest from western media, twitter user and blogger Kim Moore started the hashtag #234WhiteGirls to illustrate the racial element to the lack of coverage:

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This #234WhiteGirls hashtag is part of a concerted campaign in social media to raise awareness of the abduction and the rescue efforts, including another hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

I think that if 234 white girls were abducted at once, the scale of what happened next would be enormous. There would be huge vigils held across the globe. People who had no connection to any of them would be interviewed on TV, crying and begging for their return. It would be a major world event, no matter where in the world it happened. We would all remember where we were when we heard about it, even decades from now.

It’s not clear what needs to be done next to help these girls and their families. There are petitions circulating in the US to challenge media and government to pay more attention to the story. There are some who suggest that Nigeria needs help with their search, and some who say otherwise. Most of us can’t do anything practical to help. But I think we can at least make sure that people know about it. Because these people have lives and bodies, minds, personalities, hopes and dreams, and they sure as hell deserve to be recognised as more than sidebars in western media. This is just one example of the neglect of huge numbers of people on this planet by the developed world and its media. The least we can do is take notice.

Update: the number is reportedly being revised up to 276