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The Name Game May 10, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality.
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OK, white comedians, got it out of your system yet?  Good, because it’s time to stop making fun of Faisal Shahzad’s name.  There’s already 92 Google results for “Faisal goes west”  and it wasn’t funny the first time.

If an American citizen tries to kill vacationing civilians in Times Square and locks himself out of his car bomb, fails to detonate that bomb and then gets caught 53 hours later and the only way you can think to go after him is some fucked up, racist, ad hominem attacks about his name, then you’re the punch line here.  You’re the unfunny, uncreative, ignorant American slandering everyone in the world with a name that isn’t sufficiently Anglo-Saxon for you.  You the one mocking millions because this one guy was an asshole and you have the privilege to get away with it.

And that makes you a hateful, close-minded bully just like the people who inspired Shahzad.  You’re part of the problem.  So, please, shut the fuck up.

(By the way, I’m not a terrorist sympathizer or anti-American or defending Shahzad just because I’m disagreeing with you.  It’s just that your jokes are hackneyed and there’s nothing hilarious about “ethnic” names.)


I wonder what the white people think? April 24, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality, we're only gonna die.
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Today’s new racist, xenophobic law in Arizona has led to a lot of white people on TV and online talking about race and immigration.  That never ends well.  The only time I open my mouth about race is to tell my fellow white folks to shut the hell up. Let’s begin with a visual aid, shall we?

Let’s say this line represents the discourse on race in this country:


This part:


That’s white discourse on race in this country.

Dear white folks:

Shut up and listen for a change!

No matter how elegant or smart or radical what we want to say or write about race, I can guarantee that a person of color has already said or written it much better.  There is absolutely no reason I should turn on cable news and see two white people debating race and immigration.  NONE.

No white person in this country is an expert on race.  We’re just not.  White privilege is like living with blinders on.

The two most important things we as white people can do to fight racism are to educate ourselves and act right.  In short, “know your place, whitey!”  It sounds harsh, I know.  We want to save the world and we want to “stand up for the oppressed” and all that kind of crap proves is that we’re going to fuck things up.  Taking responsibility for having privilege means not getting what you want for a change.

And we’ve already had 500 years of white discourse on race in America and this is where it got us.  It would be great if white people knew how to fix the mess we caused, but if enough white people were not actively being racist, not actively exercising privilege, not actively silencing people of color, it would change the world.

P.S. – None of this is original thought either.  It’s been said before and it’s been said much better.  It’s only being repeated here because sometimes privileged voices must be raised to shout down other privileged voices in order for the real conversation to be heard.

What really ticks me off April 10, 2010

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality.
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There’s a lot going on in the controversy around Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives.  I’m a trans woman.  I’ve seen the film.  I’ve discussed it with some smart people.  Let’s try to break it down.

1.) Boycott = censorship? Nope.  A boycott is a boycott and some people are calling for just that.  Other people are calling for it to be censored though.  While it’s true that censorship requires an amount of power that the trans community lacks, the organizers of the Tribeca Film Festival do have that kind of power.  If the organizers are convinced or coerced or just plain shamed into pulling the film, the result is still censorship.

Censorship is bad.  It’s always bad.  It’s bad precedent.  It’s bad activism.  And it gets used to suppress our voices all the time.  If you don’t get why oppressed people should always be opposed to censorship, well, I just don’t have the time or energy to try to convince or educate you.

2.) It sucks when queers spend their energy fighting each other. While we were discussing the film, a really smart guy asked why we were all there arguing about some movie instead of doing other activism like maybe around any of the recent real life hate crimes against trans people.  My answer is basically that it’s safer and it’s easier to trade flames with another queer online than it is to take to the streets and become a target for cops and transphobes.  But all the time we waste yelling at each other, protesting each other, even making shitty movies about each other with unchecked privilege, it’s all just wasted energy and it sucks.

3.) The film equates violence by trans women in self-defense with the hate crimes of their attackers. Long before the standard role of the trans woman in media was that of the victim, it was that of the villain.  Dating back to Frankenstein Created Woman and Heinlen’s I Will Fear No Evil, on through Myra Breckinridge, Dressed to Kill, Sleepaway Camp and, famously, Silence of the Lambs, right up to today’s TV shows like Nip/Tuck and NCIS.  In the common horror trope of the trans woman slasher, a knife is a clumsy metaphor for a penis and plays on men’s completely irrational fear of being raped by trans women.

Far from being liberating, the revenge fantasy in this film plays into this tired old trope and only further instills in the cultural consciousness that trans women, when they’re not to be pitied, are to be feared.  Sadly, Ticked-Off Trannies isn’t even the first to portray trans women as simultaneously the victim and the villain, but it’s still pretty messed up.

4.) Most of the people arguing about this haven’t seen it, don’t know what they’re talking about and should probably tread lightly.

5.) Tranny 101: Half of the people arguing about this are actually still arguing about A.) who gets to use the word “tranny,” B.) if the word is offensive, and/or C.) the difference between trans women and drag queens.  Now these people I can help.

Google the word “tranny.”  No, really, do it.  Over 18 million results.  Almost all of them porn featuring trans women.

Now, ask yourself if you’ve ever been called a tranny in a situation where you feared physical violence.  Ever seen that happen to some one else?  Who gets called a tranny with hate, with malice, as a slur, as an epithet?  It’s almost always trans women.

So, is it offensive? Hell yeah.  Who gets to say it?  Mostly trans women.  Why?  It’s inextricably linked with trans-misogyny.  If you’re not a trans woman, you should probably question if it’s your word to reclaim.  Mostly, though, it boils down to this: Before transitioning, I’d been called a “fag” by some one who was punching me in the face, and I’ve been called a “fag” after transition too, but I wouldn’t use the word now because it doesn’t feel right; it’s not my word.

By the way, saying you’ve heard trans women use it for each other doesn’t give YOU permission to use it.  Neither does the fact that lots of other people use it who shouldn’t.  I’m totally up for having a completely civil conversation with trans men who’d like to discuss their use of the word, but I think we can all agree that when Israel Luna uses the word “tranny” it’s just as bad as the 18 million other exploitative Google results.

As for the difference between a trans woman and a drag queen, sometimes there isn’t any, sometimes there’s all the difference in the world.  Some women I know used to identify as drag queens but would be insulted to be called drag queens now.  But that whole discussion is best left between drag queens and trans women.

That’s what really ticks me off.  The way every one else talks for trans women and about trans women until the few voices of our own out there mostly get lost in the din.

There’s a scene in Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives, a film by a cisgender man, where a trans woman (played by a trans woman) has been left unable to speak following a brutal hate crime.  And that was, unintentionally, the only poignant moment of the whole trashy flick.

Other queers speak for us.  Our friends and partners speak for us.  Other trans people speak for us.  The result is that when trans women speak for ourselves, we’re often in the minority and a handful of voices, often the most privileged or just the loudest and willing to take up the most space, are left as the de facto voices for all of us.

Trans women don’t have a canon of films yet.  Even when the role of a trans woman is played by a trans woman, it’s almost always speaking some one else’s words in some one else’s film.  Maybe there will be room for films like Ticked-Off Trannies after a few feature-length non-documentaries by trans women about trans women have been made, but right now, Israel Luna is just one more voice taking up space that few if any trans women have access to.

Yes, he showed us trans women playing trans women.  Yes, he showed these women just talking.  He also put his words in their mouths to tell his story.  As an exploitation film, it’s predicated on the reality that trans women can’t get other parts in other films.

On the other side of the controversy, though, GLAAD is no better.  When several groups of trans organizations here in New York City asked GLAAD for a liason, they had to send us a cisgender man because they didn’t have a trans person to send.  While he was personally a great guy to work with, the fact remains that GLAAD, like most big, influential gay and lesbian organizations isn’t really inclusive of trans people or trans issues.  So, when GLAAD supposedly takes up our banner and asks for a film to be censored, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

If the filmmaker or GLAAD or most of the people arguing about this film and fueling this contention would step back and allow trans women’s voices to speak for trans women, none of this in-fighting would exist right now.  I can’t help but feel solidarity with the trans women who acted in Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives and I’m sickened by some of the things I’ve seen or heard people say about them.  This was supposed to be their 15 minutes and I know they worked damn hard to get here.

Even in our own controversies, trans women are still just bit players.


The answer is access as capital June 5, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality, we're only gonna die.
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A lot of people are shaking their heads watching Dick Cheney  and his daughter Liz do their seemingly never-ending media tour, and watching the former VP’s once-dismal poll numbers steadily rise, and can’t understand why it’s all happening.  Why are they being granted all the airtime they want?  How is their message actually working?  What’s wrong with this world?

Here are your two simple answers for why they’re allowed so much airtime:

#1 – Dick Cheney’s appearances rally a thoroughly depressed right wing base at a time when little else is going their way, while simultaneously outraging the left wing base.  So-called cable “news” shows rely on TV ratings, pure and simple, just like any sitcom or Jerry Springer.  They know that getting both bases to tune in and pay attention not only increases viewership while the former VP is on, but it energizes the entire news cycle, and ultimately, they hope, increases ratings.  So, they all, even MSNBC, invite the Cheneys on as often as they’d like to appear.

#2 – Since it’s well known that Richard “Go %*!$ yourself!” Cheney doesn’t like to be questioned or challenged, the networks allow him to trade access as capital.  Like most well-known politicians, he’ll only come on if he’s not going to be challenged, say by playing a gotcha tape of him saying the exact opposite of what he’s saying now, which is readily available and some networks will play later.  They want the ratings that come with his appearances, so they allow him to buy their silence in exchange for access to him, for what little that access is worth if you can’t, you know, actually question him.  Trading access as capital is how the talking heads allow politicians to control news cycles and get their messaging out unchallenged and it’s what stops cable “news” from being real news.

In case you think I’m making this stuff up, check out this brilliant gem TPM Muckraker‘s Zachary Roth picked up about MSNBC’s Morning Joe:  MSNBC’s obvious left-slant during prime time is meant to be balanced out by former Republican Representative Joe Scarborough.  Joe’s a basic party hack and all-around crank, so he’s clearly not going to challenge Liz Cheney’s attempted defense of her father’s seemingly indefensible support of torture of US detainees.  The closest to balance they’ll offer is also bringing on the Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson, a liberal, but not much of a fighter.  However, rather than even letting Robinson say his piece in peace, Cheney invites herself to stay in order to ambush Robinson.  At one point, co-host Mika Brzezinski actually has to stop everyone else from speaking over Robinson and say, “We keep cutting Eugene Robinson off, go ahead Eugene.”  When the co-host has to act as referee in order for you to get a word in during your own segment of the show, the part you were specifically invited for, you know you’ve been ambushed.  It was revealed by Morning Joe Producer Chris Licht on Twitter that this was Cheney’s idea though.  “Cheney asked to stay on set to talk to Eugene..  glad she did. [sic] Great conversation.”  The “conversation” is a verbal bloodbath, a second generation attack dog versus a quiet intellectual.  Poor stammering Robinson, relegated to sharing a split screen with the previous guest,  never stood a chance.

Morning Joe has a decent get (TV term for high-value guest appearance) to compete with the conservative ratings leaders, CNN and FOX.  But it’s a double win for MSNBC as a network, because later in prime time, both Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow will discuss the confrontation and possibly play a clip, along with one of those gotcha clips they chose not to air earlier.  The left-wing base is fed and then the drama goes up another notch and drags on through another news cycle.   In effect, MSNBC manufactured it’s own “news” to cover.

This is just one example of how the cable “news” industry is complict in allowing the news to be controlled using access as capital.  Access to Eugene Robinson is worth very little, much less than access to Cheney while she’s discussing her father.  She used that access as capital to shut down the other side’s access.  Robinson could hardly get his opposing message out, while she doubled her own airtime.  As long as the so-called cable “news” shows allow that, they’ll never be factual, fair, balanced, informative or, you know, news.

Script notes on the Gitmo debate May 28, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality, two rights make a wrong, we're only gonna die.
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Media: Stop repeating the assertion that the people being held in Gitmo are terrorists.  (It’s not your job to help them repeat it 62,400 times.)  They’re “suspects.”  Say it with me, suhs-pekts.  Switch it up, try using words like “alleged” or “accused.”  Just keep in mind that the same administration that told us they were all terrorists also told us Iraq had WMD’s, they had no idea who outed Valerie Plame, and the Earth is only 5,000 years old and we didn’t break it.  Until they get a trial, they’re called suspects.

Republicans: Stop pretending we’re all afraid of terrorists, the Taliban or al-Qaeda.   Maybe they scare the shit out of you, but some of us live in NYC, lived through 9/11, and know they can’t kill us all.  And you know what, having seen it with my own two eyes, having been out on the streets that day huddling around a cab with strangers just to hear some news, seeing what this city is made of, what the people I ride the subway with everyday are made of, I’m not worried.  And if there is a mastermind or twentieth hijacker down there, I still think he deserves a fair trial to prove it.  In this city at least, we know we’re strong enough to make it through future attacks, these wars and, yes, even trials.  The US has made an industry of locking people up for life, I think we can hold the folks you kept secure in Camp X-Ray, which you threw together in a couple of weeks.  Hell, bring them to Rikers here in NYC and let them experience the next one with us.  Maybe they’ll get a better feel for what they’re up against.

Democrats: Stop repeating everything the Republicans say and grow some spines.  (I feel like I give this script note to the Dems over and over…)

Actual liberals: Please stop saying that the US once lead the world in human rights unless you can show me when this magical time was.  Was it when we kept slaves?  When women couldn’t vote?  When our civil rights leaders and presidents kept getting gunned down?  When we locked up 1% of our populace?  When was it that we held this moral high ground?

Faking outrage May 14, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality, we're only gonna die.
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Piece Apart is shocked and saddened that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) ordered the brutal torture of so-called high-value detainees in violation of the Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention Against Torture and US law and fully supports charging the Speaker with war crimes–

What’s that?  She didn’t order the torture.  OK, OK, so she was “just following orders” when she waterboarded one prisoner 183 times in one month and —

What?  Oh.  She didn’t actually torture any one.  Still!  She was there watching it take place and knowingly —

Oh.  She wasn’t present and didn’t know the full scope but was maybe briefed once about the administration’s stance on the legality of these interrogation tactics but the CIA can’t recall exactly?  Still, she didn’t speak out about this horrific abuse of —

She couldn’t speak out, you say?  Illegal?  Top secret CIA briefings?  Oh.  Um.  Still though, she maybe knew almost as early as all those Republicans who actually committed the war crimes and then faked outrage later because she represents a very liberal district and knows this could totally be used to weaken her and most of the people talking about this were badmouthing her everyday before anyway and being the first female Speaker is like she has a huge target painted on her.  Still.

I mean, I know it’s not illegal to know about these crimes and we’re all completely ignoring the people who actually committed them and haven’t faced any consequences to beat up on her and she’s being unfairly singled out, but, you know.  C’mon.  Faking outrage?  What kind of politician does that?!

Venting on the economic news September 23, 2008

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in cult of lack of personality, the ends justify the means of production.
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  • I’m tired of hearing about how the housing crisis is the fault of lower income borrowers who should have known better than to borrow more than they could repay. How dare you talking heads and partisan hacks sitting there in comfort and safety and swimming in privilege question why some one who may not have been able to pay their rent under Bush’s economic policies would jump at the repeated TV commercials and direct mailings that offered them the money to buy a house. How fucking dare you blame the greedy excesses of Wall Street and the folly of Washington fatcats who were bought by the wealthy in exchange for deregulation on the people who are now loosing their houses while you worry about the current dent in your fucking stock portfolio? If you’re in a hard spot financially and some one offers you the money to help your family, you take it and hope for the best; you don’t turn it down because you should have known Bush would get reelected and the financial sector would keep screwing you and you wouldn’t be able to pay it back. You take the money and put your family in a safe house in a decent neighborhood. The people who did so should never even be mentioned in the same breath as… *period, doublespace, new sentence* …the rich fuckers who made the bad loans and knowingly sold the bad debt and then didn’t fucking pay any taxes on it and hid the profits in offshore accounts and may not be able to summer in the Hamptons this year, boohoo.Victim blaming is wrong in any context and to bail out the Capitalists while point fingers at the Proletariat is fucked up.
  • Also, one third of households rent, they don’t own. So the Republicans want to help the top third with bail outs and the Dems want to help some of the middle third by lowering rates and offering middle class tax cuts, but as usual, no one is even thinking about the bottom third. One third, as in 100,000,000 people (a one followed by eight zeros).
  • The other thing I’m tired of hearing? Anything about conservatives or Republicans being good with economic matters. It isn’t true now and never has been. Any one having even cracked a history book can see that the facts just don’t support it. Supply-side or trickle-down economics doesn’t work. It causes recessions and makes the class divide more stark than ever.
  • And, oh yeah, if you’re writing about McCain and the Bush tax cuts and you keep repeating how Clinton also lowered taxes on the highest 20% more than the lowest 60% and you don’t ever mention that this was a compromise with the Republican-controlled Congress who wanted FIVE TIMES higher cuts for the rich, that’s a lie of omission and you are a goddamn liar. Plain and simple. You can’t blame a party getting a decent compromise from their opponents for the bad result of their opponents’ agenda. The Greedy Oligarchs and Plutocrats filibustered like mad and shut down the entire federal government when Clinton didn’t give them their way and you blame everything on him? Fuck that and fuck you for repeating the Right’s talking points.
  • Seven hundred billion dollars ($700,000,000,000; a seven followed by eleven zeros) are about to be handed to rich white men on Wall Street, with no oversight from Congress or the courts, in shady backroom deals between cronies with financial firms as advisors, by ex-IMF, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Wall Street insider Hank Paulson, while ordinary taxpayers get left holding the bill and regular people continue to lose their jobs and houses and their pension plans go kaput. When control of a war-mongering, increasingly authoritarian government, like our current situation, is taken over by the corporations, this is the definition of FASCISM. Mussolini’s regime also began with laissez-faire (free-market) policies, cutting taxes, deregulating and lowering trade restrictions, racking up a massive deficit. And a few years later the economic decisions were being made by Italy’s National Council of Corporations. Does this sound familiar? Did it work out well for Italy? Were they doing OK going into the war? Does any one have any cogent arguments to make that this will be a good thing for us in the end?
  • I usually blame people for being stupid and not knowing what’s really going on, but I consider myself very informed and I don’t see any one, right or left, telling the whole story on economics right now. It’s scary. We’re going to be living with the results of all of this for, well, certainly the rest of my lifetime. As an unemployed, broke, queer woman I’m pretty pissed about how all of this is playing out, but, you know, I’m still white and college-educated (i.e. pretty damn lucky), so a lot of other people should be way more pissed than me and I hope they’re registered to and will vote.