Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tuesday Tune

237 reasons to get your groove on

Researchers know the hows of sex, but they don't know much about the whys of it. Now they sorta do. Two psychologists from the University of Texas interviewed thousands of people and came up with the following list of reasons about why people have sex. Take a look at this extensive list and see if they missed anything.

Why Have Sex? (YSEX?) Questionnaire
[Developed by Dr. Cindy Meston and Dr. David M. Buss]*

Note. This questionnaire is entirely voluntary. You are free not to participate or to skip any question you do not want to answer for any reason. All responses are totally confidential and anonymous. We would greatly appreciate your honest responses. Thank you!

People have sex (i.e., sexual intercourse) for many different reasons. Below is a list of some of these reasons. Please indicate how frequently each of the following reasons led you to have sex in the past. For example, if about half of the time you engaged in sexual intercourse you did so because you were bored, then you would write “3” beside question 3. If you have not had sex in the past, use the following scale to indicate what the likelihood that each of the following reasons would lead you to have sex.

1. I was “in the heat of the moment.”
2. It just happened.
3. I was bored.
4. It just seemed like “the thing to do.”
5. Someone dared me.
6. I desired emotional closeness (i.e., intimacy).
7. I wanted to feel closer to God.
8. I wanted to gain acceptance from friends.
9. It’s exciting, adventurous.
10. I wanted to make up after a fight.
11. I wanted to get rid of aggression.
12. I was under the influence of drugs.
13. I wanted to try to get a better mate than my current mate.
14. I wanted to express my love for the person.
15. I wanted to experience the physical pleasure.
16. I wanted to show my affection to the person.
17. I felt like I owed it to the person.
18. I was attracted to the person.
19. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release.
20. My friends were having sex and I wanted to fit in.
21. It feels good.
22. My partner kept insisting.
23. The person was famous and I wanted to be able to say I had sex with him/her.
24. I was physically forced to.
25. I was verbally coerced into it.
26. I wanted the person to love me.
27. I wanted to have a child.
28. I wanted to make someone else jealous.
29. I wanted to have more sex than my friends.
30. I was married and you’re supposed to.
31. I was tired of being a virgin.
32. I was “horny.”
33. I wanted to feel loved.
34. I was feeling lonely.
35. Everyone else was having sex.
36. I wanted the attention.
37. It was easier to “go all the way” than to stop.
38. I wanted to ensure the relationship was “committed.”
39. I was competing with someone else to “get the person.”
40. I wanted to “gain control” of the person.
41. I was curious about what the person was like in bed.
42. I was curious about sex.
43. I wanted to feel attractive.
44. I wanted to please my partner.
45. I wanted to display submission.
46. I wanted to release anxiety/stress
47. I didn’t know how to say “no.”
48. I felt like it was my duty.
49. I wanted to end the relationship.
50. My friends pressured me into it.
51. I wanted the adventure/excitement.
52. I wanted the experience.
53. I felt obligated to.
54. It’s fun.
55. I wanted to get even with someone (i.e., revenge).
56. I wanted to be popular.
57. It would get me gifts.
58. I wanted to act out a fantasy.
59. I hadn’t had sex for a while.
60. The person was “available.”
61. I didn’t want to “lose” the person.
62. I thought it would help “trap” a new partner.
63. I wanted to capture someone else’s mate.
64. I felt sorry for the person.
65. I wanted to feel powerful.
66. I wanted to “possess” the person.
67. I wanted to release tension.
68. I wanted to feel good about myself.
69. I was slumming.
70. I felt rebellious.
71. I wanted to intensify my relationship.
72. It seemed like the natural next step in my relationship.
73. I wanted to be nice.
74. I wanted to feel connected to the person.
75. I wanted to feel young.
76. I wanted to manipulate him/her into doing something for me.
77. I wanted him/her to stop bugging me about sex.
78. I wanted to hurt/humiliate the person.
79. I wanted the person to feel good about himself/herself.
80. I didn’t want to disappoint the person.
81. I was trying to “get over” an earlier person/relationship.
82. I wanted to reaffirm my sexual orientation.
83. I wanted to try out new sexual techniques or positions.
84. I felt guilty.
85. My hormones were out of control.
86. It was the only way my partner would spend time with me.
87. It became a habit.
88. I wanted to keep my partner happy.
89. I had no self-control.
90. I wanted to communicate at a "deeper" level.
91. I was afraid my partner would have an affair if I didn't have sex with him/her.
92. I was curious about my sexual abilities.
93. I wanted a "spiritual" experience.
94. It was just part of the relationship "routine."
95. I wanted to lose my inhibitions.
96. I got "carried away."
97. I needed another "notch on my belt."
98. The person demanded that I have sex with him/her.
99. The opportunity presented itself.
100. I wanted to see what it would be like to have sex while stoned (e.g., on marijuana or some other drug).
101. It's considered “taboo” by society.
102. I wanted to increase the number of sex partners I had experienced.
103. The person was too “hot” (sexy) to resist.
104. I thought it would relax me.
105. I thought it would make me feel healthy.
106. I wanted to experiment with new experiences.
107. I wanted to see what it would be like to have sex with another person.
108. I thought it would help me to fall asleep.
109. I could brag to other people about my sexual experience.
110. It would allow me to “get sex out of my system” so that I could focus on other things.
111. I wanted to decrease my partner’s desire to have sex with someone else.
112. It would damage my reputation if I said “no.”
113. The other person was too physically attractive to resist.
114. I wanted to celebrate something.
115. I was seduced.
116. I wanted to make the person feel better about herself/himself.
117. I wanted to increase the emotional bond by having sex.
118. I wanted to see whether sex with a different partner would feel different or better.
119. I was mad at my partner, so I had sex with someone else.
120. I wanted to fulfill a previous promise to my partner.
121. It was expected of me.
122. I wanted to keep my partner from straying.
123. I wanted the pure pleasure.
124. I wanted to dominate the other person.
125. I wanted to make a conquest.
126. I’m addicted to sex.
127. It was a favor to someone.
128. I wanted to be used or degraded.
129. Someone offered me money to do it.
130. I was drunk.
131. It seemed like good exercise.
132. I was pressured into doing it.
133. The person offered to give me drugs for doing it.
134. I was frustrated and needed relief.
135. It was a romantic setting.
136. I felt insecure.
137. My regular partner is boring, so I had sex with someone else.
138. I was on the “rebound” from another relationship.
139. I wanted to boost my self-esteem
140. I wanted to get my partner to stay with me.
141. Because of a bet.
142. It was a special occasion.
143. It was the next step in the relationship.
144. I wanted to get a special favor from someone.
145. I wanted to get back at my partner for having cheated on me.
146. I wanted to enhance my reputation.
147. I wanted to keep warm.
148. I wanted to punish myself.
149. I wanted to break up a rival’s relationship by having sex with his/her partner.
150. I wanted to stop my partners’ nagging.
151. I wanted to achieve an orgasm.
152. I wanted to brag to friends about my conquests.
153. I wanted to improve my sexual skills.
154. I wanted to get a job.
155. I wanted to get a raise.
156. I wanted to get a promotion.
157. I wanted to satisfy a compulsion.
158. I wanted to make money.
159. I wanted to keep my partner satisfied.
160. I wanted to change the topic of conversation.
161. I wanted to get out of doing something.
162. I wanted to test my compatibility with a new partner.
163. I wanted to get a partner to express love.
164. I wanted to put passion back into my relationship.
165. I wanted to prevent a breakup.
166. I wanted to become one with another person.
167. I wanted to get a favor from someone.
168. I wanted to breakup my relationship.
169. I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease (e.g., herpes, AIDS).
170. I wanted to breakup another’s relationship.
171. I wanted to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
172. I wanted to make myself feel better about myself.
173. I wanted to get rid of a headache.
174. I was afraid to say "no" due to the possibility of physical harm.
175. I wanted to keep my partner from straying.
176. I wanted to burn calories.
177. I wanted to even the score with a cheating partner.
178. I wanted to hurt an enemy.
179. I wanted to feel older.
180. It is my genetic imperative.
181. It was an initiation rite to a club or organization.
182. I wanted to become more focused on work - sexual thoughts are distracting.
183. I wanted to say "I’ve missed you."
184. I wanted to celebrate a birthday or anniversary or special occasion.
185. I wanted to say "I’m sorry."
186. I wanted to return a favor.
187. I wanted to say "Thank You."
188. I wanted to welcome someone home.
189. I wanted to say "goodbye."
190. I wanted to defy my parents.
191. I wanted to relieve menstrual cramps.
192. I wanted to relieve “blue balls.”
193. I wanted to get the most out of life.
194. I wanted to feel feminine.
195. I wanted to feel masculine.
196. I am a sex addict.
197. I wanted to see what all the fuss is about.
198. I thought it would boost my social status.
199. The person had a lot of money.
200. The person’s physical appearance turned me on.
201. The person was a good dancer.
202. Someone had told me that this person was good in bed.
203. The person had beautiful eyes.
204. The person made me feel sexy.
205. An erotic movie had turned me on.
206. The person had taken me out to an expensive dinner.
207. The person was a good kisser.
208. The person had bought me jewelry.
209. The person had a great sense of humor.
210. The person seemed self-confident.
211. The person really desired me.
212. The person was really desired by others.
213. I wanted to gain access to that person’s friend.
214. I felt jealous.
215. The person flattered me.
216. I wanted to see if I could get the other person into bed.
217. The person had a desirable body.
218. I had not had sex in a long time.
219. The person smelled nice.
220. The person had an attractive face.
221. I saw the person naked and could not resist.
222. I was turned on by the sexual conversation.
223. The person was intelligent.
224. The person caressed me.
225. The person wore revealing clothes.
226. The person had too much to drink and I was able to take advantage of him/her.
227. I knew the person was usually “out of my league.”
228. The person was mysterious.
229. I realized I was in love.
230. I wanted to forget about my problems.
231. I wanted to reproduce.
232. I/she was ovulating.
233. I wanted my partner to notice me.
234. I wanted to help my partner forget about his/her problems.
235. I wanted to lift my partner's spirits.
236. I wanted to submit to my partner.
237. I wanted to make my partner feel powerful.
238. Other (please fill in your reasons in the space below).

*Meston, C., & Buss, D.M. (2007). Why humans have sex. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 477-507.

I know it's wrong but....

HA HA. You son-of-a-bitch.

Puerto Ricans reflect on status as more die in war

by Jeannette Rivera-Lyles Sentinel Staff Writer
July 30, 2007

DORADO, Puerto Rico - One afternoon in July 2003, Ada Hilda Torres caught the end of a TV report about a U.S. soldier who had died that day in Iraq. His name had not been released, but the Army had confirmed he was from Puerto Rico.Torres' motherly instincts immediately told her it was her eldest son, 29-year-old Army reservist Ramon Reyes Torres. She cried for hours before two men in uniform came to make it official."He died proud in his uniform," Torres said. "He loved the Army, and he loved his unit. But this is a war that should've never happened. Our young people are dying, and for what?"

So far, at least 66 Puerto Rican soldiers have died in Iraq and seven others in Afghanistan, according to Mothers Against War, an organization on the island. An additional 1,700 have returned injured.The casualty numbers from Mothers Against War are higher than those from the Department of Defense because they identify dead and injured soldiers by the towns from which they were recruited. DOD, which lists 29 fatalities from Puerto Rico, uses the hometowns listed by the soldiers themselves -- which are often their last military base.Like Torres, 75 percent of the residents of the U.S. commonwealth oppose the Iraq war, according to a recent poll by El Nuevo Dia, the island's leading newspaper. That is higher than the 62 percent of Americans on the mainland who don't support the war.

Those feelings are fueled by a dilemma as long-running and complicated as the century-old relationship between Washington and San Juan over the island's political status. The way some here see it, their soldiers are dying for a country that will take their blood, but not their votes. Although they are American citizens, Puerto Ricans can't vote for their commander in chief or elect representatives to Congress under the terms of the island's commonwealth status.

The anti-war sentiment is exacerbated by the many bodies in flag-draped caskets that have arrived on the island. Those images, as well as the sobs of grief-stricken relatives, are broadcast coast to coast for days at a time by the local media.

Puerto Rico is one of the U.S. Army's top recruiting regions. Since the Iraq war began in 2003, 6,275 Puerto Ricans have joined the Army or the Army Reserve, according to U.S. government data. Puerto Ricans who live on the island have signed up for military service at a higher rate than the residents of many states, the same data show.

Most join because of a sense of patriotism and loyalty to the U.S. But similar to other places in America, many are in dire financial need. That is a strong motivator in a place where more than 40 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to U.S. census figures.

"Reality is that the kids joining the military belong to the poor and working classes," said Sonia Santiago, founder of Mothers Against War, a grass-roots organization that also monitors recruiting tactics. "They see it as a way out of poverty."

It is hard to tell how many active-duty Puerto Rican soldiers are in the war because once they are recruited, the Army classifies them only as Americans. Mothers Against War estimates the number to be about 2,000. In addition, there are about 2,300 Puerto Rican National Guard and reservist troops in Iraq, according to Associated Press reports, and an additional 635 are expected to be deployed before the end of the year.

Yet, the 3.9 million Puerto Ricans on the island have no clout in Washington. Under its current commonwealth status, Puerto Rico is only allowed to send a nonvoting member to the House of Representatives. Some say it is a handicap that renders island residents second-class citizens.

"Today we have a situation in the battlefield that is incongruent with democracy," said retired U.S. Army Col. Dennis Freytes, an Orlando resident and Puerto Rico native. "We have two soldiers, both Americans, both defending our flag with courage, both facing death. But one of them doesn't have the right to vote because he is a resident of Puerto Rico."

The dilemma is not new. Puerto Ricans have served in the U.S. military since the first World War, but every conflict re-ignites the debate.

In the wake of the Vietnam War, for instance, political commentator Luis Davila Colon referred to the 345 Puerto Rican casualties as the "blood tax" paid in exchange for federal funds. The phrase appeared in an article he penned for the Puerto Rico Bar Association Law Review.

"It is a well-known American principle that taxation without representation is tyranny," Davila Colon said in the 1979 article. "The American citizens of Puerto Rico can add with dignity that the highest form of taxation is military conscription," he wrote, alluding to the draft.

In the Puerto Rican culture, the dead are mourned publicly and collectively. And when they are soldiers, the media joins in from the moment a casket arrives until it is buried. This is usually not seen as an intrusion but rather as a tribute to the soldier.

"It is an expression of love and respect," Torres said. "My son died the same day as [legendary salsa singer] Celia Cruz, but he got more news coverage."

The funeral of Torres' son was attended by more than 2,000 people, including Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila and six mayors.On the way to the cemetery, the funeral procession went through the town where the fallen soldier grew up. Hundreds of tearful neighbors lined the streets waving Puerto Rican flags as cameras rolled.

Many agree that these kinds of images have played a powerful role in shaping opinion.

"Puerto Rican media is not regional, so every fallen soldier is [islandwide] news," said media analyst Luis Fernando Coss. "It's not that the media has done a good job covering the war, it hasn't. We don't hear, for instance, about Iraqi casualties. But our dead soldiers have gotten a lot of attention."

Talk radio, which floods the local airwaves almost around the clock, also has been influential."

I don't know of a single talk show, regardless of the political views of its host, that is supportive of this war," said political commentator Adolfo Krans, who hosts a radio talk show. "The Bush administration lied to get us there, and that's something you'll hear time and again in my show and others."

Similar to many of their fellow Americans, most Puerto Ricans would like to see their soldiers pulled out of Iraq.

"Enough," said Wanda Colon Cortes of the Caribbean Project for Justice and Peace in San Juan. "Our hearts ache. The entire island mourns every time one of our young men or women returns in a coffin."

Jeannette Rivera-Lyles can be reached at jrivera@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5471.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Boys will be boys

I read this article in Time today and needless to say I am pissed. And not just because it's a Monday.

It's funny how when women and girls make advances towards equity in this society, it is seen as some sort of decline for men and boys. You name it: math, science, college admissions, reading scores, pregnancy rates, employment, income, athletics, it's all a threat to the male position in society.

What about our boys?
With these advancements has come an onslaught of findings, theories, criticisms that raise questions about the status of the American boy. Boys are falling behind in the classroom, boys are dropping out, boys are underemployed, boys are committing suicide, boys are being emasculated.

Honestly: I don't give a fuck. Fuck them all. If men were to be eradicated tomorrow, I could care less. I really could. And this isn't some sort of hairy-legged, unshaven armpit dykey manifesto. This is I am sick and tired of patriarchy type of manifesto.

I am so over it. O-V-E-R it. I am biased. Biased against boys because I am a girl. And I don't really buy into theories about one gender being better than the other, or women excel at this and men do this more, blah, blah, blah. I don't. To each his own. Fuck science and every study that says otherwise. For every woman that is a good listener, there is one who is good at math and lift 300lbs over her head. For every man that works well with tools, you will find one that loves to write poetry and take long walks on the beach and such.

This "what about our boys?" debate is infused with homophobia, misogyny and patriarchal desires for the good ole days.

Which boys should we be worried about?
This debate is really about Black boys. Really. It's about them. White boys don't have much to worry about in this country. Black boys are the ones dropping out. They are the ones going to prison and killing themselves. Seriously.

So then, this isn't really all about gender. This is about race. And do you think that these are rich Black boys? Of course not. These are poor Black boys making this an issue of class as well.

To hear all the pundits (male and female), they never talk about this. They talk about boys in this general Opie Taylor sense. The reality is, the Opie's of America have two parents and middle class privileges. This is yet another way the dominant culture is masking the real issues of race and class in this society by trying to attack the progress of women and faulting it with the decline of male status.

Giving boys what they need
The article discusses what educators and social agents are trying to provide boys these days: special summer camps and same gender public schools. They argue that boys need to be free, use their hands, and have structured freedom so-to-speak.

Isn't this what all kids need? Since when do all girls like to sit on their asses all day and read fucking books? To argue that this is the best way for boys to learn is arguing that women can't be good at math, science, sports and the like, which we know isn't true. I believe in culturally appropriate approaches to learning, but to differentiate learning by gender is almost as bad as separate but equal tactics to education when it comes to race.

To every person that says boys need special environments in which to learn, I say go suck each and every one of their cocks, because I don't buy it. Don't all children deserve special and unique learning environments? I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but the education of our kids should be treated with special care. It's not like girls harbor some special force that allows them to transcend social barriers while boys sit and rot. Their ability to excel is certain areas is due to the fact that society is finally giving them the same fair shake at what men have always had.

This book should be banned and burned Fahrenheit 451 style
The Dangerous Book for Boys is some bullshit book that is all the rage among some educators, parents, and fathers' groups. It's all about teaching boys to be boys, light camp fires, learn about the solar system, insects, how to make things, etc.

Um, why are these topics limited to boys? Maybe Moxie wants to learn how to make a pinhole camera and pick out the best quotes from Shakespeare. This is some attempt to protect the masculinity of boys. To combat what feminists have done to the male ego. Boo fucking hoo. If I were a parent, I would purposely buy this book and make my daughters read it. You can never know too much about your enemy.

Also, there is this overall tone of homophobia in this search for masculinity. Is there something wrong with effeminate boys? Hardly. And some of the manliest men I know are big fucking homos.

I do suck at Math. My right brain is stronger.
So I do fit the stereotype for most women. Whatever, that is how fate and school wired me. This isn't to say that I don't know other women that can swim fast, do mental math, use a hammer or love cars like an Earnhardt.

When is society going to let it go and let girls and women succeed without hoopla around "protecting" the sanctity of the male bastion? When? When are we going to start looking at race seriously and deeply? When are we going to stop blaming feminists and start looking at class as the one thing that can divide or unite us over many fronts?

What about our boys? What about them? What about our girls? Their mothers? Their fathers? Their neighborhoods and communities? What about the big picture?

And starting off this week with something negative

You may have seen the quirky commerical for American Express' Member Project. It's a novel idea. Something like American Express will donate $1 for every member vote. Well word on the street is that Proctor & Gamble's Children's Safe Water Project is leading the finalists. Of course people were concerned that this huge company would be getting money for its charity. American Express responded with: P&G won't get the cash, Unicef will.

A response: "It feels like David and Goliath because not only is it a competition of ideas, but when you take into consideration that Unicef is a $300-million-plus entity combined with P&G — how do you compete with that?” says Neal Lurie, the marketing director at the American Solar Energy Society, affiliated with one of the finalist ideas.

Of course this critic is also a competitor in the contest, but his point is pretty valid. Of course, every charity could argue that it never runs short of needing more resources, but when you think about it, some are definitely better off than others. P&G is HUGE as is UNICEF. When the UN combines forces with a corporate giant, funds are not hard to come by. So what does a smaller, less-affiliated charity do? And when it comes to safe drinking water for children, I can't deny that it is a worthy cause, but shouldn't we want safe drinking water for everybody? Because if the adults can't have clean water, what good does it do the children? (Maybe my logic is skewed, but since this is my blog, it is not.)

I took a look at the other finalists and to be honest, they all look like a piece of shit. Is this what American Express card members have to choose from? Trees, some solar stuff, water and some mainstream educational charity? Really? That is it? Of all the things wrong in this world and this is what beat out the pack? Seriously? I have nothing against kids or trees, but I thought the average AE cardholder had loftier charitable aspirations. Note, though, that of the five finalists, three are environmental causes. Maybe AE members are tree huggers, too. Fucking limousine liberals with their Priuses.

Maybe other credit card companies will follow suit and offer their cardholders the opportunity to fund change. Better yet, all those people can make an online donation to their favorite charity....using their own credit card.

And as far as American Express donating $1 per member, how about waiving one month of each voting member's monthly payment, pooling it and donating that amount to charity. Now we're talking real money making real change.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Wrapping up the week with something positive

Awesome program that helps underserved students with average grades manage and succeed in the college application process. In one word: motivational.

I swear it wasn't me

Racist threats abound for interracial couple from Boise St. The couple, who will be married this weekend, got engaged on national television during a football game.

For the record, it wasn't me who sent the threats....this time.

7/30/07: They jumped the broom???? Are you kidding me? A sacred African-American tradition for these two? It was one thing when my interracial, queer women friends did it at their wedding, but this guy and his cheerleader? no way.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

New study on charitable giving trends

Revealing study recently released about charities and American giving habits based on income. The most striking point for me was the fact that the richest people give the least to charities that combat poverty.

Not only do the rich get richer, they certainly don't give a shit about the poor. In fact, the study revealed that poor people give the most to poverty charities.

Notes on Mediocrity

So CYBT is a math whiz and suggested that I put my wordsmithing skills to use and become an online tutor. I knew I would not be qualified, but in some self-flagellating attempt to pursue new heights I took the subject exam. Ha. After failing the only subject I could be remotely qualified for, I was reminded of my mediocrity.

Somewhere in my adult life, I came to the conclusion that I was mediocre. There was nothing special about me: I am not a unique snowflake. That news in itself wasn't bad...a mere observation....a nod to self-awareness. What deepens this is the fact that I am not really good at anything.

I guess this all started one day when I was asked the question, "What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies?" I avoided the question because I didn't have an answer. When I think of hobbies, I think of rock climbing enthusiasts, crochet, stamp collecting, gardening, pianists, breeding champion show dogs, etc. I do none of that.

On job applications and resumes there is always a space for special skills or talents. That is also left blank for me. I don't have any special skills and while some ex-boyfriends may claim otherwise, I can't put that on a resume and I am sure there are other women who can do it better.

So somewhere in all this, I realized that I am mediocre; lacking in hobbies, specialties and strong points. I can't tutor anyone because I am not that good at English. And based on the tutor test, I may be pretty bad. I had borderline ACT/SAT scores. I only made the Dean's List twice in college. I never pursued an advanced degree. For all intents and purposes, I am a person of average intelligence that may be getting dumber as time progresses.

Look at my job: I am a fundraiser. I raise money for other people to actually achieve missions. Those who can't, fundraise.

I exude vagueness of ability.

I have average tastes...in everything.

I thought I could argue that I am a Jack of all Trades, but I don't have that many trades. So that definitely excludes me from being a Master of Anything.

Unless Mediocrity can be counted. Then I would be a Master of Mediocrity.

My fantasies and aspirations of being above the pack are practically dissolved. And I guess there isn't anything wrong with that. I have discarded lofty aspirations to be remembered, honored, or recognized for greatness. I never thought I could change the world, but at some point I wanted to have an impact and I don't think that's going to happen. No buildings named after me or national holidays in my honor...not that I was expecting the Nobel Prize or anything.

There are too many people on this earth for everyone to have an impact. And don't give me that that "to the world you are one person, but to one person" crap because that's also a crock of shit. When you're mediocre, you're not remarkable to other people. They use vague references about you that reflect their ignorance of everything about you from eye color to last name.

I have been reading a lot of Brazen lately and Penelope is all about specializing and marketing yourself. Why market yourself when you have nothing to market? I am sure there is some path to knowledge that I can get on, but at this point in my life, shouldn't I be good at something? I can't market being funny, a good writer, or Black: things that I am sorta good at. Do you know how many funny, Black literate people exist in America alone? If I were smarter, I could actually tell you that number.

And it's not like mediocre people don't excel. Look at our administration. But those people have connections. And I don't have those. (See above about people not really knowing who you are.) And because I come from a long line of mediocrity, I also don't have any money to support my mediocrity.

All this serves to say that maybe, just maybe, I am good--nay--the best at being mediocre, excelling at being average and unremarkable.

I suppose that in and of itself is some sort of accomplishment. Hmph.

Is this why I don't have many friends?

A new study says that obesity spreads in social circles.

The researchers cautioned that people should not sever relationships with friends who have gained weight or stigmatize obese people, noting that close friendships have many positive health effects. But the results do support forming relationships with people who have healthful lifestyles.

It's an interesting study and scientists that work with fat people all the time are salivating at this new research. Moxie always attempts to find the personal in every piece of news and this led me to think, "Does my fat prevent me from maintaining and developing new friendships?" Do people not want to be my friend because I am a lard ass?

This is scary. But I can only imagine some poor fat kid's parents saying to him, "Johnny, dear....sweetie: Curtis doesn't want to play with you anymore because he's afraid he will become fat like you."

Nobody knew this was fact better than adolescent girls. I can recall my chubby days in grade school. Skinny girls were not my friends. Perhaps they already knew what it took researchers years to figure out: fat people are gross and they make you fat, too. The bastards.

The research in the study also says that this can work in reverse, that when one loses weight, others will follow suit. Adult women already know this: if one friend becomes skinnier, you need to become skinnier than her.

No one wants to be the fat friend. I'm always the fat friend, or the funny friend....or the Black friend. And now my excess body weight has been scientifically proven to be a social pitfall to not only myself, but others. I'm contagious.

Seriously, though, while obesity has serious health concerns, this country still has serious body image issues. Despite having gained a shitload of weight, I feel good about myself most days. Most days. But it's bigger (pun intended) than a "BIG is Beautiful" mantra, it has been a matter of plan ol' self-acceptance. A refusal to be ashamed to have a dress size in the double digits. The availability of cute and fashionable clothing has helped, too. I rock sexy underwear and my tits look great. Plump and precious. Zany and zaftig. Whatever. I can change the way I look, or accept that some things can't change. Or, I can ask: why do I need to change?

I remember going to Puerto Rico and at the time I was feeling really down about my weight gain. I had been experiencing this huge feeling of rejection from the opposite sex and I felt that it was because of my weight gain (though I know this rejection is more avoidance and that is whole different post). Then I was out on the scene there and I couldn't help but notice the lingering glances of men, the catcalls (I like catcalling sometimes), and the pick up lines and such. It was great being harassed at the club again! I felt pretty. Seriously, I felt pretty. AND I noticed that there were big girls everywhere. And they looked GOOOD. Stiletto heels and all. They looked fabulous and the men appreciated them, too.

This is mostly cultural, I know. But it was so affirming to be around people who saw beauty in everyone. It was great. And that was when I began to realize that no matter what size I am, I need to find my beauty. I can't wait to be pretty at some other size. I can't hope that one day I will be a size I will never be again. The reality is I will hover around this size for the rest of my life unless something dramatic happens to me. There is a fine line between striving to be a healthy weight for your body and being thin according to everyone else's standards and I just don't want to teeter around that line anymore. And it's freeing. Really.

So based on this new study, I should be on social quarantine, but I guess I don't give a shit anymore. Meanwhile, I need to take more trips to PR while I'm at it. Get a man. Or, move to Long Beach and hang out here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Hidden Half

Breathtaking photo essay about women in Afghanistan by Lana Šlezić.

Sparse pickings

More proof that Obama's too inexperienced and Clinton's a sell-out.

Evidence that Giuliani needs to stick to SNL skits.

Madam President

India elected it's first female president. Today she was inaugurated. I applaud yet another country having the ability to elect women into top leadership positions. Especially when the United States is slow to do it. This is a day for women across the world to celebrate....cautiously, however.

''She was chosen for her loyalty and has moved from one post to another because of that same loyalty,'' said Madhu Kishwar, the editor of Manushi, a feminist and human rights magazine. ''I have always believed that it's not everything to just have sari-wearing creatures in politics. It's more important that politics stands for and enables honest, upright people to survive. But sycophancy is the only token that works,'' she added.

Which further proves my philosophy that having a vagina doesn't necessarily mean you're pro-woman.

Happy(?) Constitution Day

Minus a few sentences, this article could have easily been written this year instead of 2001. The debate over Puerto Rico's status still wages on with no definite answer coming anytime soon. Nevetheless, as is the case of many national holidays most people are just happy to have the day off. Hopefully, though, boriquens are taking some time to discuss the politics that are shaping their lives and maybe, just maybe, taking some action to raise their voices in the debate.


Holidays A Stage For Ideological Battles
by Robert Becker
July 27, 2001

Copyright © 2001 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

The end of July traditionally ushers in a holiday mood in Puerto Rico. July 25 is Constitution Day, a legal holiday which celebrates the adoption in 1952 of the Commonwealth Constitution. Supporters of the Popular Democratic Party annually gather to celebrate Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status and to tout its ‘best of two worlds" advantages -- its close ties to the United States and its cobbled-together "autonomous" nature.

July 25 also resonates because on that date in 1898 U.S. troops landed at Guanica and took Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans are as deeply divided in how they view this event as they are on political status and a host of other issues. Many Puerto Ricans then and now saw the U.S. invasion as a liberation from the stifling, class-conscious rule of imperial Spain. Others, particularly the criollo elites and their modern-day successors in the independence and autonomist movements, viewed the invasion as an act of conquest and military occupation that lasts to this day.

On July 27, it’s the statehooders’ turn. They celebrate the birthday of José Celso Barbosa, the early 20th century advocate of Puerto Rico’s annexation to the United States who is considered the father of the statehood movement. It’s a day when supporters of the New Progressive Party gather to wave U.S. flags and extol statehood as the best way to guarantee social progress, economic parity with the United States and permanent U.S. citizenship.

Puerto Rico traditionally grinds to a halt for these two politically-charged holidays, and this year was no exception. By Wednesday, it was impossible to get anyone to answer a phone in government or business offices, and traffic thinned out noticeably on the highways. Most Puerto Ricans, particularly government employees, took the opportunity to turn the July 25 through July 29 stretch into a five-day weekend. The only people not taking the days off were the militants from the two major parties, who used their respective observances to advance their status agendas.

For all of those reasons, the July holidays always raise Puerto Rico’s political temperature, and this year political passions are running high. What these holidays are really about is how Puerto Ricans see themselves vis-a-vis the United States, and that divide is cut even more deeply this year by the Vieques issue. "Vieques’ has now grown to mean not just the U. S. Navy’s future on the offshore island but it has become a line in the sand over one’s loyalty to the United States.
And as if all that weren’t enough to keep the pot boiling, Vieques voters go to the polls on Sunday the 29th in the so-called criollo referendum on the Navy’s future.

While the local referendum is not legally binding, it is an important battleground in the propaganda war.

The Vieques issue has moved into the status debate because the statehooders have successfully redefined it as the litmus test of one’s loyalty towards the United States. They first realized the emotional power of the issue with their skirmishes over raising the U.S. flag around the 4th of July. Now, Vieques means - do we want the United States in Puerto Rico or not? Calderón, not to be left behind, used her July 25 speech in Humacao to call for a tri-party conference to work out status alternatives to present to the federal government.

The clearest example of how the Vieques issue has morphed is the curious turn-about of former Gov. Carlos Romero Barceló. Romero has long been a Navy critic, and he has also been a steadfast supporter of the congressionally-sponsored referendum this November on the Navy’s future.

Yet, Romero off shock waves when he announced that he was going to Vieques on Constitution Day to campaign for Option 3, which would allow the Navy to remain indefinitely and use live fire. I asked Romero about his sudden turnabout. Romero said he still supported the November referendum, but was campaigning for Option 3 as a way of discrediting Gov. Sila Calderón’s criollo referendum and of rallying people on Vieques to a pro-U.S. position. When he arrived on Vieques he was greeted by rock-throwing thugs.

It was not just statehooders who have become unhappy with Calderón’ s radical anti-Navy stand. A PDP insider told me many of the party’s Old Guard were increasingly uncomfortable with Calderón’s Vieques stance, believing she has been coopted by the island’s tiny independence movement. They are watching, with deep apprehension, as the White House and many in Congress are viewing Puerto Rico in a more questioning light.

Robert Becker, Managing Editor of The San Juan Star, writes the weekly Puerto Rico Report column for the Puerto Rico Herald. He can be reached directly at: dkarle@coqui.net

How to save a drop-out...

...give them bribes. At least that is what Mansfield Frazier wants the schools to do with newly allocated TANF funds.

Specifically, we're talking about Black boys who are on the brink of dropping out of school. The Governor along with State Senator C.J. Prentiss is paying special attention to this demographic and is putting his (our) money where his mouth is.

There are all sorts of ideas on how to spend this money--$20 million--throughout the state of Ohio. And local columnist, Mansfield Frazier, suggests that we "bribe" students into staying in school.

If I read correctly, Frazier estimates that this money would amount to about $2,000 per child. And he argues that education and the pursuit of knowledge won't work on poor Black boys because they are part of a bigger societal weakness: poverty and it's gripping cycle. So, he says, give them money. Cold hard cash and that will encourage them to stay in school.

I like Mansfield most of the time, but today I am laughing because that has got to be the biggest crock of shit I have read to date this week. If you want to argue that these underserved kids are part of a bigger problem, then you would understand that giving them cash will only put a band-aid over a gunshot wound.

He says it works in New York. Everything seems to work in NYC. But I would want to look at the complete picture. Are New York schools just passing out checks, or is this coupled with quality programming with realistic objectives?

Hell, I can blow through $2,000 in a week if I really wanted to. If I were a 9th grader again, give me three days. Look, I understand what he is saying. (White) School administrators don't get it. Let me further clarify: middle class, educated administrators don't get it. They don't understand the pull that these boys have to fight to stay in school. That is why many of them don't stay; the pull is too strong. So when they come up with these preventative measures, they often reflect programming that fails to take into account what it means to be Black, male, and poor in Cleveland.

But where I begin to diverge from Mansfield's path begins when he attempts to solve the problem without yanking it out by the roots. To bribe them with cash also assumes that young Black boys don't care to learn, and that they are too dumb or too troubled to learn. I refuse to accept that young Blacks don't want to learn. Realistically, most of these young men won't go to college. But they have so many options....if they truly understood what it meant to be educated in this society, there's the motivation.

Mansfield points out that we as a society often equate education with money. Your high school diploma earns you this....your bachelor's gets you that. We need to stop doing that. When you look at what education meant to my parents' parents' parents' parents', you would understand that education meant a certain freedom. The ability to be mobile in whichever way you felt. Early Black Americans weren't thinking about how college degrees would earn them more bling, they saw it as a way to liberate their people, fuel the abolitionist movement, earn a place in the civic discourse.

Somewhere along the lines, we forgot that part. And here we are with a Black man advocating that $2,000 will keep a Black boy in school. It won't. Until we really look at our communities, out laws, how we support single mothers and how we educate our youth, those boys will still be on the street and that $2,000 will be spent. Their parents will still be poor and undereducated, and the state of Ohio will short $20 million dollars.

Try again, Frazier.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday Tune

To Integrate Society, Re-Engage the Community

by C. Eugene Steuerle, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute

Louisville, Kentucky, is a nice town. I'm biased — I grew up there. It's not South, North, East, or West in makeup, but a bit of all four. It is home to horse racing and bourbon, but also to the world's largest producer of Braille books and the Louisville Slugger baseball bat.

Louisville is back in the news these days because its plan for integrating schools, like Seattle's, was overturned recently by the Supreme Court. However divided is opinion over this decision, it should force us to look more deeply into what a well-integrated society means and requires. Public debate should range far beyond the use of race as a factor in determining which kids can go to which schools. Besides school systems, we should be challenging institutions ranging from universities to charity and corporate boards to governments on ways to diversify that go well beyond simple ratios of blacks to whites or females to males.

Return to Louisville. In 2000, it achieved what many major cities around the nation must envy. It integrated into a single jurisdiction the former city of Louisville, with its one-third African-American population, with the surrounding Jefferson County, which has a much larger concentration of whites. That's right. They merged, and the suburbs basically agreed to work with the inner city on issues ranging from school integration to money per pupil to access to government support services. Now this may only be one step, but it could matter more to minorities in Louisville than whatever change in its schooling formula the recent Supreme Court decision might trigger.

Schools can be integrated in many ways besides racially. In Alexandria, Virginia, for instance, the high school integration problem was solved simply by merging all the high schools into one. A 2000 movie named Remember the Titans chronicled that event (at least as well as Hollywood could do it; Alexandria, next to the nation's capital, was described as a small Southern town where football was a way of life).

Many school systems also can use basic statistics better to ensure the well-being of all students. The new court decision doesn't prevent school districts from tying admission or access to alternative schooling to family need or income or homeownership or housing value — replacing racial integration with class integration, but almost certainly promoting racial equality in the process. Even more to the point, districts should be measuring the improvement of every student in every environment, constantly re-jiggering requirements, school structures, quality of teachers, number of teachers' aides, early childhood education, and whatever is under their control to serve all our children.

We'll never integrate society solely by pressuring primary and secondary schools. That's why major universities that claim to have integrated are now coming under greater scrutiny. Harvard or Yale might have little problem taking in the children of doctors and generals and lawyers who also happen to be minorities. But, even with all their intellectual firepower, most elite schools provide little data on their record in serving those from poorer or disadvantaged households. Some recent studies, for instance, point to the low percentage of students at these schools who were admitted with income-related Pell grants.

If we really want an integrated society, we should re-engage the working world, not just schools, to meet that challenge. Consider boards of directors. My colleague, Francie Ostrower, recently chronicled the low participation of minorities on charity boards — even some of those serving minorities. As for corporate boards, the glass ceiling is well noted; but even when it is cracked, boards often tap the same minority person or woman over and over again rather than reach out to more people from largely excluded classes.

Closer to home, residential segregation lives on, thanks to various ordinances, such as minimum size housing or lots. Some rules prevent two families from moving to a single house in a neighborhood where schools are better — even when their combined families might have fewer total members than a single family in a similar home. How about zoning that encourages McMansions to be built in high land-value areas to the exclusion of high-density developments that the middle class could afford?

Moving toward a truly integrated society — like combining Louisville and Jefferson County into a single jurisdiction — requires hard work, creativity, and a reshuffling of resources as opportunities arise. A single statistic or ratio can't be the measure of success. Whatever else the recent Supreme Court sets in motion, let's hope it catalyzes a real public discussion of the many dimensions of an integrated society and how to promote opportunity for all.

— C. Eugene Steuerle
Senior FellowUrban Institute

C. Eugene Steuerle is a senior fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. During the Reagan administration, he served as deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis at the Treasury Department. The Urban Institute gathers and analyzes data, conducts policy research, evaluates programs and services, and educates Americans on critical issues and trends.

White Bias and the Negro Image

Fascinating article/commentary about the Newark Riots and post-Katrina New Orleans. It draws parallels between the media coverage in 1967 with the media coverage of the hurricane's aftermath. Specifically uncovering how numerous false reports propagated by White media bias led to civilian deaths and abuses by law enforcement.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Couldn't have said it better myself

I got this email from a dear distant friend about her new job. She and I are friends through other friends kinda so it's not like we talk often or in great detail. However, her email so clearly articulates how I feel about my job that I had to post it. She's smart, so she totally communicates better than I do.
Hello, my much esteemed friends and family --

After six months off the clock, I'm happy to announce that I have a new job working for the [ABC Nonprofit]. Because some of you have heard all about it and some haven't heard from me for a while, I'm writing this as a little diorama into what's going on with me. Consider it a job-focused annual-holiday-letter or a travelogue, and if that kind of mass emailing annoys you, you've already seen the lead and can go on with your day. But if you've been sending me good thoughts and prayers and wondering after my welfare in my unemployment, here ya go with some satisfying updates to chew on.

I've been working for the [ABC Nonprofit] folks for a week now. Basically my job is to be the keeper of the enormous database [description deleted]. This work has more in common with being a librarian and resource broker than being a counselor, so it's a totally different direction in the social work world. No crisis. No one cries, not all day. No one really laughs either, or stretches, or burps, or talks about her period -- it's just a weirdly bland office job.

Honestly, that's suiting me just fine. It's boring but easy, and they pay me enough to start working down my debt and go to the movies every now and then. I'm in a kind of in-between resting place, not sure in what direction I want my professional life to go. It's a good place to hang around and figure it all out without the urgency of rent pushing on my decisions. It's a temporary 3-month position, but this is a "once you're in, you're in" kind agency and it seems likely I'll get absorbed by this or another project when it's over. I am happy for the stability, after having traversed some uneven ground of the recent. It's also kind of nice to have a job that is not my passion, it's easier to draw boundaries. But it's not going to satisfy me forever, it's clear that I was made for different work in the world -- and made for work that fewer people can do well, I'm certain that in time I'll feel my heart called by the need for me again. But until then it's pleasant enough -- I can see doing a couple years here.

Working for a huge corporate nonprofit is FASCINATING, if not entirely comfortable. I've worn makeup and a girdle every day (I skipped it today, it's "casual Friday"), but I've still been tagged as "funny" and "colorful", though to my estimation I've been neither. I have an office, but most of the floor is a cubecity -- it looks like a rabbit warren to me, an elaborate network of underground tunnels where everyone is busily workingworkingworking with no discernable product. 78 people work here, and I am dispatched to see "[name deleted] in Finance" or "[name deleted] in HR" on the regular. I am the only (ONLY!!! really????) openly queer person in the agency -- hence the makeup in the attempt to mitigate my coworkers' under-exposure and not get too deep in gossip. It also helps me feel a little more armored, a femme trick [name deleted] has instilled in me. My job doesn't really need to take 40 hours (actually, company workweek is 36.25 hours), but I'm of course going to make it do so.

We have a written "casual Friday" dress code, which includes no jeans or t-shirts or tennis shoes -- what else could casual mean, I'm unclear. The people in my office are not mission-motivated, are mostly Christian and suburban, and talk about their diets quite a lot. They say things like "she dropped the 'F-Bomb'" or "I'm going to go home and watch TV...in my underwear [scandalized whisper]." They're certainly nice enough to me, I'm not trying to put them down. It's just a big change from work where everyone had a body and that fact was acknowledged, where the word "pussy" was part of my professional language, and where I wouldn't think of working without a box of tissues on my desk.

I'm not sure they're ready for me. So I'm trying to do a little stealth, find allies, do my job in an exemplary manner, and acclimate the office to me and me to the office a little at a time. I told them I'm playing a Gnome in an Artscape (huge local arts festival, non-[colloquial city alias deleted]) exhibit, they're still taking that in with much giggling and head shaking. One thing at a time. If nothing else, this job is an excellent immersion experience in a sociological experiment. What is the lifecycle of the Office Worker (corporatus wonkius) in her natural habitat? Who are her predators and prey? How will I assimilate, how will I resist, how will I engage this place in a way that feels authentic but doesn't make me a dimissable curiosity? That's the point of the research, I guess we'll just see.

In the meantime, I'm proud and grateful to be employed. I think you for your care and support as my community, it's meant a lot to me. Blessings to you all, be well.

Super Smart Long Distance Friend

When every penny counts

Women Learn to Make Change Count After Abuse
Run Date: 07/17/07
By Sharon Johnson
WeNews correspondent

(WOMENSENEWS)--The bruises were a constant reminder of the need to escape. But Regina ignored the pain because her violent husband controlled every penny.

"I felt hopeless," Regina Davis-Sowers said. "I had no job and couldn't support myself and the four nieces and nephews I had adopted after my sister's death. My husband loved to party. I was terrified every day that there would be no money to feed the kids because he had prevented me from knowing anything about our finances."

After six years of marriage, Davis-Sowers got a break when a welfare check for the children arrived while her husband was away from home. Trembling inside, the 24-year-old devised a daring plan: She would use the check to buy a one-way bus ticket from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Atlanta, Ga., and give the remaining money to her mother for the children's care until she could send for them.

"That was 1974 and the beginning of a wonderful new life for me and my kids," Davis-Sowers said. "An old friend put me up; three weeks later, I found a job at the telephone company that paid $129 a week. I thought I had won the lottery because it was my first step towards self-sufficiency."

Once she gained a footing in the job market, Davis-Sowers faced an array of interlocking challenges: setting up a budget, finding affordable housing and moving the family.

"There was so much I didn't know about saving and investing but I learned along the way," she said. "In addition to buying a home and building a retirement fund, I set aside funds for the education of the kids and me. It took me nine years to complete my bachelor's degree because I worked full-time."

After 22 years at the phone company, Davis-Sowers retired early and earned a doctorate. Today she teaches sociology at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

"I stress the importance of financial empowerment in my classes," she said. "Being able to earn a living and manage money provides self-respect, so that people don't get into bad relationships. It also ensures that people can leave--if necessary--and establish a better life."

New Emphasis on Money
The economic challenges faced by domestic violence survivors like Davis-Sowers are receiving more attention, according to Sue Else, president of the Washington-based National Network to End Domestic Violence Fund, an arm of the National Network that provides training and technical assistance to state domestic violence coalitions and advocates.

"The problem is pervasive," she said. "Survivors from all socioeconomic levels often find themselves without financial resources to meet their immediate needs; others spend years paying off crushing debts created by their abusers."

For some survivors, the economic challenges of building a new life are so daunting that they return to their abusers out of necessity.

Pat Blackstone, program coordinator of the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Little Rock, said multiple factors impact victims. "Safe, affordable housing is in short supply in cities and suburbs; transportation and child care may be unavailable in rural areas. Paying for these necessities is extremely difficult for many women, especially those who earn the minimum wage."

Self-Sufficiency Lessons
To help survivors meet these economic challenges, the National Network to End Domestic Violence Fund and the domestic violence program of the Allstate Foundation in Northbrook, Ill., created in 2005 a "financial empowerment" curriculum that teaches safety, such as planning for the higher costs of housing that offers enough security to prevent attacks, and self-sufficiency.
"The curriculum covers topics such as credit that are important for everyone but looks at them through the lens of survival," said Angela Cobb, domestic violence program manager at the Allstate Foundation. "It provides information about the use of special pin codes and passwords that can be useful in securing private information during the first few weeks after the survivor has left the abuser, as well as strategies to repair a damaged credit rating over the next three years, so that the survivor can obtain a mortgage or achieve another long-term goal."

The curriculum's five workbooks are designed to be used in a variety of local settings: emergency shelters, temporary housing units and in nonresidential programs that serve immigrants, people with disabilities and other groups that are at high risk for domestic violence. For example, survivors learn how to make budgets, open bank accounts, establish credit and qualify for mortgages. Because these tasks are stressful for many, the survivors work with advocates who have received special training in financial matters.

To determine its usefulness, the curriculum had a test run with 207 survivors in five states from October 2006 through January 2007.

"The vast majority of survivors rated the curriculum as extremely helpful or very helpful," said Shawndell Dawson, the fund's economic justice specialist. "They suggested adding worksheets, so we are in the process of putting together an additional booklet before making the curriculum available through all the state coalitions of the National Network to End Domestic Violence Fund later this year."

Career Grants
In addition to the financial curriculum, the Allstate Foundation awarded a $75,000 grant in August 2006 to help survivors begin or continue their education and secure or keep a job by providing individual grants of up to $1,000 each to offset the cost of tuition, school supplies, books and other expenses.

"A $500 grant to buy new tires for a car and update computer skills makes a major difference in the life of a survivor who has crushing debts and has been out of the work force and lives in an area where there is no public transportation," said Jill Richard, economic justice project coordinator of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence in Montpelier. "It also enables the survivor to support children and other family members."

Advocates across the nation predict that programs that teach financial skills will become more common.

"Financial empowerment programs are the next step in meeting the challenges of domestic violence," said Krista Del Gallo, policy coordinator at the Texas Council on Family Violence in Austin. "Public awareness programs about the signs of domestic violence and programs to solve the legal problems are in place; now we must ensure that survivors have the knowledge, skills and economic resources to achieve a satisfying new life."

Sharon Johnson is a freelance writer in New York.

This series is supported by a special grant from Mary Kay Inc.
Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Op-Ed Contributor - New York Times
Final Period
Published: July 17, 2007

IN May the Food and Drug Administration approved a new birth control pill, Lybrel. It is as effective at preventing pregnancy as the other pills already out there (about 98 percent) but boasts one advantage: Women who take it will never get their periods.

Lybrel is landing on pharmacy shelves this month. And now war has been declared on menstruation.

Already the first few volleys in this battle have been exchanged. Gird yourselves, women, for a barrage of advertising and research highlighting the debilitating effects of periods and the joys of menstrual suppression.

After all, periods and their mood swings are bad for family values (who wants to have a stay-at-home mom when she’s so darn cranky?), bad for women’s health (women were never meant to menstruate so much; natural selection designed their bodies for back-to-back pregnancies and breast-feeding), bad for the fashion industry (how can beige be the new black if women won’t wear it all month?) and bad for the economy (everybody knows women take to their beds at the merest whisper of “cramps,” fueling the nation’s employee-absentee rate). Western civilization, it seems, hinges on our ability to wrangle our messy cycles to the ground and stomp ’em out once and for all.

Sound absurd?

In a presentation by Lybrel’s maker, Wyeth, to investors and analysts last October, Dr. Ginger D. Constantine, the company’s therapeutic director for women’s health, laid the groundwork. Citing company-backed studies, she reported that menstruating women feel less effective at work and take more sick days. Not only that, but they don’t exercise and they wear dark clothes more often, she said.

Suddenly, news articles are weighing the pros and cons of our monthly cycles. And while it’s great that the American news media are, for a moment, challenging the culture of concealment that typically surrounds the topic of menstruation, history shows that such debates are, well, cyclical.

It seems every time women start demanding access to this or that, there is a rash of studies “proving” that menstrual cycles render them unsuitable. In the 1870s and 1880s, when Americans were debating the value of higher education for women, a flurry of research asserted that women’s cycling constitutions made them unfit for sustained mental and physical labor. Henry Maudsley, a British doctor, reflected popular opinion — dressed up as “scientific truth” — when he observed that menstruation doomed girls to failure in college.

Comparing boys and girls, Maudsley insisted in an article, was “not a question of two bodies and minds that are in equal physical condition, but of one body and mind capable of sustained and regular hard labor, and of another body and mind which one quarter of each month, during the best years of life, is more or less sick and unfit for hard work.” Maudsley’s definition of “hard work” was unclear: no one worried that the fragile cook, servant girl or farmer’s wife was being overtaxed during any time of the month.

After women pressed ahead, attended college and excelled in the halls of learning, the debate about menstrual cycles shifted from their suitability for higher education to their suitability for public life in general. When the suffragists asked to participate in the political process, experts retaliated with more research proving that women belonged in the domestic sphere; menstruation figured prominently among the reasons.

Once women won the right to vote in 1920, the menstruation-equals-inadequacy debate ebbed for a while. In fact, two decades later, new proof arrived that women were perfectly fit and capable — even when bleeding — and therefore should step right up and join the war effort. When Rosie the Riveter was needed in American factories and recruits in the Women’s Army Corps, the War Department produced films telling women of the abundance of scientific evidence proving periods are no big deal.

A 1942 American propaganda film, “Strictly Personal,” for example, coached novice Wacs on nutrition, rest and exercise. In one scene, a soldier lies listlessly on her cot — “I can’t drill today, I feel unwell,” she whines — but a fellow Wac tells her to buck up. And a voiceover “doctor” explains: “That’s Victorian stuff. And so is that trash about nerves and sensibility during this period.” Menstruation, he says, “is no excuse for absenteeism and self-coddling.”
But then the war ended, and Rosie and the Wacs were retired — and shown a fresh batch of studies proving that children need their moms at home, that the workplace is potentially hazardous to women’s unborn children and that women’s cycles make them less efficient workers than men. By 1953, the affliction premenstrual syndrome turned up in the medical literature.

Someone cynical might suggest that research highlighting menstruation’s distressing consequences bubbles to the surface every time the public feels anxious over women’s expanding roles. (Say, the possibility that there might be a menopausal woman in the White House — and yes, you can’t win for losing here, given that our periods allegedly drive us to distraction and their cessation does the same.) So take today’s hoopla over menstrual suppression with a grain of ibuprofen.

While it may be good news for the 8 percent of women who have debilitating periods (a constellation of symptoms known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder), the rest of us may be puzzled by the fuss. Sure, getting our periods can be a bother sometimes, but after the traumatic moment of menarche — “How can this be happening to me when the sixth-grade pool party is tomorrow and I have no idea where that tampon goes?” — most of us get used to it.

It just is.

This is not a particularly profitable attitude for Wyeth, angling for its share of the $1.7 billion annual American market for birth control pills. It’s also not terribly useful for Barr, which makes Seasonale, an oral contraceptive that reduces women’s periods to once every three months. Nor for Watson, which sells a generic equivalent.
So what’s a poor company to do? Re-conceptualize menstruation as a disease in need of treatment.

And what’s a poor menstruating woman to do? Get cranky with the prophets who offer to cure us of menstruation; who minimize the complex interplay of hormones and their many roles in our bodies; who gloss over the still unknown long-term effects of menstrual suppression; who promise that cycle-free women are better lovers, mothers, workers.

Or just don’t buy it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Signs from God that I should not attempt to date whites or lesbians or any combination of the two

Finding two schweet purses at an indie boutique: $46

Viewing some amazing art by 19 different artists: Free

Dinner and pome-a-politan at favorite hang out: $31

Getting dressed up in sexy, yet uncomfortable shoes in hopes of asking out some apparently 40-yr old guy with the social skills of a 2 yr old molested child who you don't even see the entire night and instead spending it with two couples who are happily in love eating off of each others plates and being hit with the cold hard reality that you have spent all of 2007 chasing after the most impossible/unavailable/unrealistic people and that life really doesn't go your way, so stop trying to control everything: Priceless.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Vice Versa: CAC

The Cleveland Athletic Club may have to shut its doors due to huge debts. Part of this is due to the Euclid Cooridor Project.

On one hand, this is yet another example of the this stupid project is killing what remains of Euclid. And no one--I repeat no one--that I have talked to, Average Joe, Professor Smarty Pants, Native Clevelander, Yuppie, etc. knows what the hell this project is designed to accomplish. All anyone knows is that it costs a ton of money and has created a traffic nightmare for Clevelanders.

And this project that is supposed to make Euclid flourish is driving businesses away. Hence, part of CAC's problem. It's been around for almost 100 years and now it may need to close.

On the other hand, while the CAC is an historic landmark, it also represents the beacon of closed-door, old boys network that has characterized Cleveland's power structure for the past several decades. It's racist, elitist, sexist, change-ist. So maybe this new project symbolizes out with the old, in with the new.

Caution: real activist at work

Samantha Grace wrote about the useless burial of the "n-word" at the NAACP convention last week. I lamented with her that real Black activism is dead.

Then I read this story today. A local activist is camping out (in an actual tent) in a high crime neighborhood (not far from where I grew up) to really see what the fuss is about. While he is there, banners are posted with a reminder about the arson who still at large for causing one of the deadliest fires in Cleveland history, which took place in the same neighborhood. He is blasting speeches by MLK, which is drowning out the crude rap music that plays all through the night.

This doesn't get more gritty than this. What a real get-to-the-heart-of-the-matter way to raise awarness about the plight of Cleveland's poor neighborhoods.

Go ahead and bury words in pine coffins if you want to, but Black organizations need to take a hard look at Art McKoy and start getting real with their leadership.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Not quite a quaint quotable, but pretty darn close

"Maybe it’s because I look like a wacko, but I’ve always thought that, somewhere inside, [he]wants to do the downward dog with a dude."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cleveland Plus Gets Bushwhacked

G-Dub was in Cleveland Plus today. As I write this, he should be on his plane headed for wherever.

He managed to stop by Slyman's, a popular deli spot, for a sandwich. Ironically, the deli is located in a part of town made worse because of G's bullshit political ideologies. And of course, his presence here fucked up traffic, shut down the airport and all that jazz.

And in good news, while he spent his time here, his approval rating sits comfortably at 29%, an all-time low for him. Surprisingly though, I didn't hear anything about any demonstrations. Maybe people have just called it a day on him.

Meanwhile, I was at Corporate Club today for their speaker series, which was all about Cleveland Plus. Most of it was baloney and malarkey, but some of it was encouraging. The salmon was nice. When this white man brought up the issue of diversity (he pretty much called them out), the panelists gave some vague ass answer. Afterwards, I thanked him for asking the question and I swear other Black people there did the same. As my boss and I walked out, she said that it's true what he asked: too many white men spoil the pot with our leadership in this town. Another man (who I think was white) overheard her and said to us, "You're right. It's got to change."

That was the best part of the program.

It's the Delusional Show starring Moxie Lady!

Color me delusional. I always have been. I attribute this to being raised as an only child and being forced to create my own entertainment most of the time. This provided me with a huge imagination. When you're little, imagination is cute and exuberant. When you get to be my age, it's called delusion.

Case in point: Crush #1,456,567
Name: Michelangelo Scorsese

He's an artist and a filmmaker. He works for corporate during the day. He shops at thrift stores. He drinks Hoegardens. He laughed when I made a bukkake joke.

To a normal person, this means nothing. He's just another interesting human being. But to a delusional person this can only mean one thing: He's The One.

And when I say "The One" I don't mean like Jesus is the one for me, I mean the man of my dreams. Believe it, people, Moxie is Barbie and she has envisioned the perfect Ken. And this Ken is so cuuuuuute.

All crushes are. That is why they are crushes. I remember my first crush. His name shall remain nameless, but his last name fell right before mine in the class roster. He and I were in the same classes a majority of elementary school. Because our names fell sequentially in the roster, I found myself assigned to either the same desk row, or reading group, or recess group with him. We even got in the same line for lunch. He was perfect. Great smile. Beautiful smooth skin. Big, brown eyes. Small problem: He made fun of me all the time. I was a total loser to him. He "dated" the cooler girls in class. But that didn't stop me from daydreaming and fantasizing about the day he would wake up and realize how awesome I was. At some magical instant (and it was always different depending on what I felt like), whether it be afterschool, or during reading circle, he would pass me a note and ask me to be his girlfriend. Ultimately, my keen reading skills and sweet lunchbox would win him over.

It never did. Ever. I remember running into him years and years later. I was downtown. He was waiting around the square with some friends. I recognized him instantly and before I knew it, I was walking towards him. I said,"You don't remember me, maybe you do. But your name is ____ and I went to school with you. I remember I used to be absolutely in love with you and you always made fun of me. Now you look like such an asshole. I don't know what I was thinking." He just looked at me. Turns out he did remember me and he thought I was cute...now. Well, too fucking late.

I remember the times when the people of my dreams did realize how awesome I was and we dated. Obviously, none of those people are in my reality now and they were more nightmarish than dreamy. There is one ex in particular that I have delusions/fantasies about. He's married now. But I still picture the day when he will come to the conclusion that his wife sucks and he looks me up. He will ask me out for coffee and he will break the news to me that he and his wife divorced. I, of course, will look fabulous (I have had this delusion for years, so depending on the season, I have on various outfits or wear different hairstyles) and I will coolly say, "Oh, that sucks to hear that. Why are you telling me?" And from there, he will ingratiate himself and confess that I was the one for him the whole time. I haven't decided yet if I will take him back, leave him at the coffee shop, or keep him around for sex (because that part was really good).

There is the alternate one where I can become famous for some reason--a book signing or autograph signing--and he comes to see me. He tries to get up close, but security won't let him. And he tells them his name and claims to know me. I see him struggle with security and he yells, "Moxie, tell them you know me! We go way back!" And I sigh and walk over and tell security, "Yes, I know him." And he will get smug like he always has been, but then I go, "And you are to never let him near me. Ever." And like five bouncers haul him out and throw him to the ground. Then this is followed up with an appearance I make on either Conan or Leno and I make fun of him and say what a douchebag he was when we dated.

My delusions about crushees follow a pattern: I meet them or see them for the first time. Something sparks in me (like they say "hello" to me) and I am hooked. Then every piece of information that I learn about them becomes fodder for my fantasies. I picture the moment we first kiss. Maybe I will think about the first time we have sex. Then I think about the moment when we decide to be together forever. (I don't necessarily have a wedding fantasy for each person. I have engagement fantasies. I have a set wedding fantasy in which the crushee is then placed.)

And I can do all this within a matter of minutes, hours, days of meeting them. Now, I will stop and say that many women do this. It's crazy, but it's the result of screwed up socialization. But what makes my fantasies slightly more deranged is that I also fantasize about the arguments, even the one where we almost break up. Their parents and how we will have a disagreement about which side dish to bring to this year's Thanksgiving dinner. Detailed delusions.

Now take Mike Scorsese. So far, I have only met him THREE times in the span of THREE months. Once per month. This has not afforded me the opportunity to build much of a fantasy around him because I don't know that much about him. But so far, I have attended the screening of one of his films. Go to all his art shows. We've definitely made out. We go for coffee a lot. He has visited me at work. Oh, and I skipped over a bunch of steps and we're looking at an old Victorian that is some sort of rustic red. We hold hands a lot. We laugh a lot. Three times over three months and this is how much we've progressed: we have a mortgage.

And as with every delusion, there comes a time when they come crashing horribly to the ground. When reality is the cold shower, cool hand slap, and steaming hot cup of black coffee that wakes you up. For me, this is either the break up, meeting his/her girlfriend/wife/fiancee, the crushees professed dislike of me...stuff like that. All those brain hours wasted.

The sad part is that the reality phase is simply followed by revenge/vindication fantasy. That will continue until a new crushee appears. Sometimes *whisper* sometimes, the new crushee becomes part of my revenge/vindication fantasy. Because they are better so the ultimate revenge is seeing the old crush and you're looking fabulous AND with a new hottie...looking at Victorian houses. Whatever. Like, Miss Fixx-It: the emotionally unavailable lesbian. I will see her and I will be with Mike Scorsese and because lesbians sometimes feel inadequate standing next to a real man, I will simply say, "Oh, hey. This is my boyfriend Mike. He has a real penis. Something no lesbian has ever been able to give me." And he will go, "Hi." And she will run out of the room/bar/party crying, drowned in her inability to measure up. Take that!

I would spend more time waxing poetic about Mike Scorsese, but I don't even know enough about him to tell you. We exchanged an email, which I am proud to say I've only read it five times. I have, though, fantasized about my next encounter with him at least 15 times. Not too bad....I'm not sure when the reality moment will hit. I'm thinking it's going to be when he turns me down cold when I ask him out. But how that will happen is still wide open for creation.

But, But, BUT, what if he doesn't and we do end up going out? What do I wear? Will I spill wine/coffee/water all over my dress/jeans/pants? When we kiss, will he like my lip gloss/Burt's Bees/lipstick? Will we be at my house, or his house when we have sex? When we merge Netflix queues, what if he picks bad movies? What if his parents don't like me????

Are we on the same page about kids? I hope he likes dogs....what if he's a cat person, or a Leo?

What if, we get far along and I share my blog addy with him and he reads this post?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Happy Birthday, Papa Moxie!

Today is Papa Moxie's birthday. This makes him a cancer. Ironically, he died of cancer. He would have been....I dunno, 70? 69? I can't remember. The ages of my parents are some sort of mathematical equation that I never bothered to figure out, sorta like long division.

I have few, but precious memories of Papa Moxie. This is because he was so busy cutting the games that he didn't have time to create precious memories with his favorite child. In fact, I feel as thought I have more moments shared with Papa Moxie when I was holding him in a seal tight box during my journey to return him to his homeland than I do when he was alive.

Somehow it became my right, honor, and duty to return PM to the waters of the Atlantic. Lake Erie--to him at least--was not real water. It was a fake substitute for the vastness of the ocean. I used to think he was exaggerating when he would talk about "the ocean back home". Then I got there. I was lucky to stand in the same place where his childhood home stood. It was a beach. An actual beach. There were dingy row boats lined up on the shore. And where the house was, stood nothing but sand. The house--I was told--was actually open on one side on the first floor or something. So that, you literally turned and the beach was right there. So when he would talk about the oceans and all the swimming he would do every day, he wasn't bullshitting.

Picture it....Arroyo, November 2006. It was the one year anniversary of PM's death. I finally was able to go back to PR and spread his ashes. I had the assistance of my ex-girlfriend who grew up there and she accompanied me to his hometown. I wore this white, linen dress for the occasion. PM didn't wear much black and it would have been hot as hell, so a white dress it was for the "funeral". We read some appropriate passages from the Bible and then I opened the box and dumped out the contents. Papa Moxie was home again. In the water....despite the wind blowing some of him back against my feet. And for the record, he was heavy. You always think about ashes being lightweight, but I guess condensed bone and flesh of an adult male should be heavy.

I scoop up some sand from the shore (which grossed me out because it's nature and all and the water has a funny smell to me...all watery and natural) and put it in the box. I keep just sprinkles of his ashes in the bag inside the box and now it's mixed with the sand. Symbolism, I guess. There are people fishing farther down. Wading in the waters. Some of them look at me and my ex like we're taking part in some santeria ritual. We were wearing all white, which is what santeros wear. And we were Black, which is what santeros are.

The sun was shining and it was relatively quiet. PM liked quiet. It was sometime in the afternoon. I stood there for what felt like forever in the sun. The water was so warm and I let the waves lap around my feet. Random ocean debris floated past me, touching my toes. At first I was creeped out. Then I remembered that my fear of the "creepy ocean" annoyed the hell out of PM because he loved it so much, he expected the same of me. I still don't know how to swim. So I stood there as my dress started to get wet along the bottom. Holding the box. For a brief, brief moment, I wanted to swim....follow the water as it coaxed the ashes from the shore. My ex kept telling me I had to go in farther so that the ashes could be swept away. But I was actually afraid. The ocean looks to have no end. There was nothing for me to grasp. I would drown. I finally let go and moved further in. I don't know if it was the fact that was surrounded by water and my father's remains, or fear or both, but I started to cry. The kind of crying that feels good. Mourning crying that comes from knowing that it's finally all over. The sickness, the death and the return. Hospice, cremation, flight to PR and then, ocean. That is all Papa waited for in those final days, was the ocean. He talked about it a little with me...in some ways to remind me that he expected me to get this job done.

I had always got the little things wrong in his opinion. The way I wore my hair. The job I chose. The way I completed a chore. But he trusted me to bring him back home. In the big picture, I got something right, but he'd be damned to tell me so. He told my mother instead and she told me. "Your father told the doctor today that you're the only child he has. He talked about how proud he was of you." Then she would cry all over again. That was the doctor visit when they told him that wasn't anything they could do for him.

After some moments, we departed from the beach. From there, I met my cousin (PM's favorite niece) and ate dinner. We had never met before, but we had heard of each other. We talked as I guess two women would who were related, but lived isolated from each other for decades. Then she took us on a tour of his hometown. She had all sorts of stories; she was the ultimate tour guide. She took us to PM's birth home and not to far across from it was this dilapidated old house. She walks up to it and calls out in Spanish for someone. Our uncle walks out. Papa's youngest brother.

This all happens in a weird sequence: she is calling out for him and she walks to the other side of the house to look for him because she doesn't get an answer. My ex and I are standing there in the front waiting. He comes out the front door and misses my cousin. He stares at us as if we were the ones who called him. It was scary-strange for a lack of a better word. The man standing in front of me was Papa Moxie. He was a gruff older man wearing a tattered shirt that looked to be older than me, shorts, socks and sandals. After taking him all in, I realized (and accepted) that my father's strange fashion sense was cultural and familial. He had the same color, eyes and hair as my father. He was just taller and skinnier.

He frowned, using the same forehead muscles that run in the family. Frowns so deep that the creases are there even when you don't frown. My father had a tattoo on his back of my grandmother and she had the same frown. The tat on his back included the frowns! He looks at us and in Spanish goes, "Who the hell are you? My Puerto Rican (which is different than Spanish, I swear) is rusty, but I know confrontation when I see it. I just blink and my ex goes into this dialogue with him about why we're here. Sometime during this, my cousin managed to come back out front. She gently introduces us. So there was me and my uncle facing each other, flanked by my cousin and my ex. He stares (down sorta) at me and says, "Where is my brother?" And I don't think I was still carrying the box at this point, so instead I look towards the water and point. He follows my gesture and then his eyes return to me. He asks me why I put his older brother out there and not in the family plot.

By this point, I am annoyed at him. Annoyed (not surprisingly) like I would get with my father when he spared no pretense. So in meeting Tio Moxie for the first time, I have been asked for identification and the whereabouts of my father. Oh, I'm fine, Tio, thanks for asking. I calmly assert that PM wanted no part of the family plot and that he insisted on his ashes being spread in the water. I certainly wouldn't let him down simply to please a family he didn't even like and one I didn't even know.

I frown the family frown. Then he takes a step back, crosses his arms and asks my cousin where I have been all this time. And by "all this time" he meant the past 24 years. I was peeved that he was now talking about me in front of me, but then I realized that my Spanish annoyed him. I sounded in Spanish like my father sounded in English. Maybe a little worse. Prima Moxie knows the answer is a long one and instead suggests that they show me around. So he goes inside--he first asks her where the food she promised to bring was--and comes back out a few minutes later dressed in pants and the same shirt. And a hat. Again: that family fashion sense.

He starts walking towards the water and tells me about how he and his older brothers grew up. And how my father went to the States to work and later sent money back home so that Tio Moxie could come to New York with him.

Papa Moxie never spoke to me about Tio Moxie. He never really talked about my cousin. Hell, he barely spoke to me. But I knew everything there was to know about Papa Moxie and Tio Moxie just from that little piece of information. PM worked hard and that is how he expressed himself: through hard work. And he just sent the money. There was no expressive conversations about how he missed his little brother. No. Work. Send money. And you join me and work hard, too.

That was Papa Moxie love. Get a damn job.

Tio Moxie also proved that my father came from a place where love--while existent--manifested itself in raw, rare occasions. I say this because as we bid him adieu to explore more parts of the town, he said to me, "Many blessing to you and may you return sooner rather than later." I'm not even sure he hugged me, let alone shook my hand. He just parted and returned into the house.

Kind of like Papa Moxie. Not many words, but when spoken they were memorable, and then he left us and returned home.

Happy Birthday.