Friday, May 15, 2009

On Double X

Yesterday Campus Progress put up my thoughts on the new Slate Double X site:

A bunch of feminists, myself included, were really excited about the May 12 launch of Double X, Slate’s new site “about politics, sex, and culture—that both men and women listen in on.” After all, the site features a long list of some of the top feminist writers, including The Nation’s Katha Pollitt, former Jezebeler Jessica Grose, Slate’s own Emily Bazelon, the illustrious E.J. Graff, and The Root’s Dayo Olopade. What’s more, after years of drivel-like articles that declared feminism dead and the journalism industry in crisis, it was a reassuring sign that Washington Post/Newsweek International saw potential profits in a woman-focused site.

Then, on Tuesday, Double X went live with articles titled “Whine, Womyn, and Thongs: How Feminism Has Failed,” “How I Got Bored With Feminism,” “Yes, Virginia, Feminism Really is Dead,” and “What’s the Problem Now? Feminism’s Dilemmas.” It’s enough to make all those feminists who eagerly anticipated the site’s launch—again, myself included—want to pull their hair out. What’s more, Double X seems to be trying with all its might to stoke a divisive generational flame war among feminists. This war, characterized in part by accusations from older feminists that younger feminists are somehow betraying the “true” spirit of feminism, is best summed up in the words of Deborah Dickerson in Mother Jones earlier this year: “Today’s feminists need to blog less and work more … I gotta say: Pole-dancing, walking around half-naked, posting drunk photos on Facebook, and blogging about your sex lives ain’t exactly what we previous generations thought feminism was.”

Sotormayor on Abortion

Over at SCOTUSblog, Tom Goldstein actually reviews Sonia Sotormayor's opinions. First and foremost, he addresses her opinions on abortion:
Abortion Rights: Although Sotomayor has not had a case dealing directly with abortion rights, she wrote the opinion in Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, 304 F.3d 183 (2d Cir. 2002), a challenge to the “Mexico City Policy,” which prohibited foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or supporting abortions. An abortion rights group (along with its attorneys) brought claimed that the policy violated its First Amendment, due process, and equal protection rights. Relying on the Second Circuit’s earlier decision in Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. v. Agency for International Development, which dealt with a virtually identical claim, Sotomayor’s opinion rejected the group’s First Amendment claim on the merits. Turning to the plaintiffs’ due process claim, Sotomayor held that they lacked standing because they alleged only a harm to foreign organizations, rather than themselves. Sotomayor held that the plaintiffs did have standing with regard to their equal protection claim, but she ultimately held that the claim failed under rational basis review because the government “is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position” with public funds.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sarah Haskins on Michelle Obama's Guns

Executively Repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Aaron Belkin at HuffPo reports that there's a "middle ground" to Don't Ask, Don't Tell thanks to af forthcoming military law study. Obama can use his position as commander-in-chief to issue an executive order to stop enforcement of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Stopping enforcement is the same as repealing it, so there really isn't a "middle ground" so much as getting around the annoying process of actually passing a law.

This all comes about because the military fired yet another Arabic-speaking linguist because he came out as gay. The reasons for continuing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy become increasingly nonsensical. It is both wildly unpopular with the general public and actually serves as a detriment to the military's ability to attract the best and most qualified people.

Although legislation has been introduced to repeal the policy, not much has happened with it. Don't Ask, Don't Tell started as an executive order that was later codified into law. Perhaps the repeal will start the same way.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Obligatory Star Trek Post

I have a short review of Star Trek coming out on Campus Progress' Under Review tomorrow (catch it every Friday!) but in the meantime I really enjoyed this articles today:

"Obama Is Spock: It's Quite Logical" by Jeff Greenwald [Salon]

"There Are Four Lights!" by Mr. Abrams doesn’t venture into politics as boldly as Mr. Roddenberry sometimes did, though it’s worth noting he does equate torture with barbarism.

I would say that it's extremely difficult to make good political commentary in film. Some do it, and do it well, but television has greater flexibility to do this. Here's why: with events unfolding rapidly in mainstream politics, it's difficult to carry good political commentary into film because it simply takes a really long time to make a film. Television has a shorter lede time and can be more quickly adapted to current events.

Today's Quote

During perhaps the panel's most bizarre moment, Panettiere forced a girl in the audience to tell her "what she feels most sexy, most comfortable in" and then, for our information, let us know that she herself feels more comfortable and confident the more clothes she puts on. Is this "What Not to Wear," or teen pregnancy prevention?

Emily Douglas reporting on a town hall with Bristol Palin

Activists and Local Journalism

I'm a big fan of David Simon's series, The Wire, as most of you probably are. I don't, however, really think that members of Congress should formulate policy about the future of journalism on Simon's opinions. Simon is a brilliant and talented writer, but he's not really a good person to weigh in on the subject for a lot of reasons. Even Simon doesn't think you should listen to Simon.
Ideally, rather than listening to me, you should be hearing from any number of voices of those still laboring in American journalism.
Simon hasn't worked at a newspaper since 1995. Journalism and media has changed a lot in that amount of time. Simon's opinions seem to suggest that he doesn't necessarily have a good grasp of what's going on with media today.

He dismisses "new media" because "bloggers contribute little more than repitition, commentary, and so forth." (Arguably, that is the role of this particular blog, but there are many blogs that contribute original reporting and simply use the blog as a medium.) David Simon sees value in paying real professionals to cover beats in the city. I agree that sometimes important things don't get covered because they don't have a full-time reporter writing about it. Still, I think I agree with Kevin Drum's response to the argument that local news coverage is suffering:
The fact is that most communities have a pretty hard core of activists who do go to planning board meeting and city council meetings and so forth. And 99% of the time, they just do their thing and the local paper does no more than print short blurbs about what's going on. And the rest of us ignore it.

But every once in a while, something becomes a big deal. Not because the Times or the Post does or doesn't have a reporter at a board meeting, but because the activists suddenly start screaming louder and the community gets up in arms about something. Then the local press starts to pay attention.

See, before it was really important to have reporters dissemenate the information activists gave them to the general public when something was really important, but (and here's where Drum and I diverge) now activists have their own means of publishing information and getting it out to people in the community, the local paper's role is sort of redundant. Rather than transcribing what the activists say, the activists can get it out there themselves. (Possibly at the cost of proper grammar, but in my experience what makes a good activist isn't necessarily grammatical skills.)

In a weird way, what we're seeing, after decades of trying to professionalize the industry of journalism, is a sort of de-professionalization. Anyone has access to publishing information, and those with things of value tend to get attention. That's not neccesarily financially sustainable, but it is the beast that we are dealing with now.

I also don't necessarily think that Simon's suggestion that media deregulation is the way to go. In fact, Simon himself was a casualty of media consolidation. What's really important is that what's profitable (gossip columns, specialized trade information) will remain profitable. The other stuff has to figure out another model. It might be that non-profits (which are acitivists in their own ways, even if, like with the Center for Independent Media, journalism itself is the cause) will end up subsidizing the production of information they feel is important. In the end, that's the role the local reporter filled anyway, they just didn't happen to be raising the rukus themselves.

Conservatives and a Gay Justice

I sort of disagree with Richard Just's take on the right's reaction to a potential lesbian nominee. While all of the things he says about the right's arguments about gays are true:
As the gay rights battle has come to center more and more on the specific question of marriage, conservatives have frequently insisted that they are not anti-gay, just opposed to gays getting married. Conservatives are attached to this distinction because they know that, without it, they end up looking like bigots. But if they decide to make an issue of a Supreme Court nominee's sexual orientation, they would effectively be conceding that this distinction was a lie.
I'm not sure the right will see it that way. It seems pretty clear that the opposition to Obama's nominee is building already, even though Obama probably doesn't even have an official short list. They will not only pile on all the old arguments about "activist judges" and the like, but they will likely adopt Just's line of reasoning:
Of course, conservatives could try to have it both ways, and argue that they oppose a gay nominee because of gay marriage--that is, because it would bias the justice's vote should gay marriage ever come before the court.
To conservatives, they're willing to fight acceptance of gays in public life any way they can. They definitely don't want someone who is pro-gay like Elena Kagen and the same argument will be applied to Pam Karlan and Kathleen Sullivan, both of whom are openly gay. To them, those that are gay and those that advocate for gay rights are the same. They won't think anything of opposing a gay nominiee, much as they won't think anything of opposing a straight nominee that would be sympathetic to gay rights.

It's certainly nice to think that anti-gay conservatives have founded their arguments against gay marriage on logic and sound reasoning, but I think that might be giving them too much credit.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Talking Naomi Wolf

Today over at Campus Progress I had a response go up to something Naomi Wolf wrote in the Washington Post over the weekend:

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that a review of Helen Gurley Brown, founder of 100 ways to please your man Cosmopolitan magazine, prompted Naomi Wolf, a sort-of feminist writer who we’ve locked horns with before, to proclaim that “sexy” feminism has won out over humorless, hairy armpit feminism.

“[W]hen it comes to women’s rights,” Wolf wrote in this Sunday’s Washington Post, “Americans have clearly matured. What has helped that process along is that stealthily, quietly, second wave feminism — the movement personified by Betty Friedan and her 1963 bestseller, The Feminine Mystique — has been supplanted by ‘third wave’ feminism, with its more upbeat and individualistic signature.”

Much of what Wolf writes suggests she’s far out of touch with what’s going on in feminism today, and she seems to forget that feminists are actually doing things of value these days. The National Women’s Law Center is pushing to make women’s voices heard in the health care debate. The first bill that President Obama signed into law was legislation that helped women sue for pay discrimination, thanks to many women’s coalitions. Not to mention all of the volunteer work women are doing on campus, staffing emergency hotlines to aid victims of domestic violence. As the work of modern feminists shows, there are plenty of women that fall outside the narrow stereotypes Wolf presents.

Go ahead and read the whole thing.

Souter retires, women dare to hope

Today over at RH Reality Check, I have a wrap-up of what Justice David Souter's retirement means for women's rights:

Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The Nine, his definitive book on the Supreme Court, that for the past several decades, "There were two kinds of cases before the Supreme Court. There were abortion cases--and there were all the others." And now with Justice David Souter announcing his retirement late last week, it is the first time a pro-choice president has had the opportunity to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court since Bill Clinton appointed Stephen Breyer in 1994.

Souter has maintained a position as an ally of reproductive choice during his time on the Court, despite the fact that he was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. He voted in to uphold laws that maintained buffer zones for protesters around abortion clinics and dissented in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, a case that opened up states' ability to place restrictions on abortion. Most recently he dissented on the Court's decision to uphold the partial birth abortion ban. But Souter, despite defending abortion rights, recently said he thought it might be reasonable for a principal to decide to strip-search a 13-year-old girl in an Arizona school district in a recent case.

"At the certain point only women get women's stuff," said Ann Bartow, professor of law at the University of South Carolina and administrator of the Feminist Law Professors blog. Her sentiments are echoed by Joan Walsh in Salon, writing that, "no president has had a better choice of female picks than Obama does."

Janet Crepps, deputy director of the U.S. legal program for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that while her organization would likely not take a stance on whoever President Obama ends up nominating, "We need someone who is not just a vote but a voice."

Go ahead and read the whole thing.

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