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Madame Ximon
During my last visit with my stepmother, we were talking about the upcoming presidential election with a friend of hers, and I was waxing cynical regarding the value of my vote in the primaries, as Rhode Island is not only a small state with a minimal number of electoral college delegates, but its primary election was late enough in the season as to seem inconsequential. My stepmother's friend got very serious and said "Don't ever disparage the right to vote." Having an inkling about her history of feminism, anti-war activism, and concern for social justice, I focused my response on the difference in the power of large, delegate-heavy states versus small states like Rhode Island, and the importance of voting in the local and state elections that set the stage for who makes it to the presidential races versus voting in the presidential elections themselves. But thinking about our conversation afterward, I realized that what I had not made clear was why my distress over the apparent futility of voting in the primaries (and indeed in the presidential election as a whole) is not a disparagement of voting, but indeed a deeply feminist concern over upholding and valuing the right to vote beyond just resting on the laurels of the suffragette movement's momentous achievement.

Recent revelations about right-wing attitudes toward women's reproductive rights have brought my thoughts into focus on this issue again, clarifying for me just why my feelings of futility in voting are not just a callous dismissal of the work of prior generations of feminists. Indeed, it is because I value that work and sacrifice that I am so concerned about the limitations on our voting options, the power imbalance in terms of the voting power of certain sections of the country, the vast amount of corporate money influencing our elections, and the need for us to not simply rest on the right to vote, assuming that it will actually have any effect. I still vote, whether or not I think it does any good, but I am not content to assume that my vote has done the work required to protect myself and other women from the intentions of Akin, Ryan, and a host of others like them.

If we are actually to keep the right to vote (and if women are relegated to the role of baby-machines I would be really surprised if we do keep that right), it will only be because we choose to fight for our rights outside of the voting booth as well as inside of it. Every attack on the voting rights of the poor, urban populations, and racial minorities is an attack on women too, and we need to recognize it as such. Every time that corporate money exerts more power than ordinary voters, that is an attack on women. These things affect us egregiously even if they are not labeled as women's issues; they affect our ability to use our right to vote effectively, and that makes it as if that right never existed in the first place.

It is not enough for us to assert our right to play in the patriarchal sandbox; we need to change the rules of the game, as voters, as feminists, and as human beings. This system abuses men and women both, so why are we so hell-bent on trying to be a part of it as it stands? Class warfare and oligarchy affect us all, and they will not go away no matter who we vote into office, so long as we continue to hide our heads in the sand and pretend that America holds free elections whose ultimate outcome is not determined by those with money, power, and privilege hidden behind the rotting facade of democracy.

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When does it end?

When do the bonds of love, friendship, and community cease to have value next to the need for self-preservation?

I've heard all about the need for establishing clear boundaries in interactions with friends, lovers, and business associates alike, but let's face it: I like to feel needed. I like to help people, and I like to see them happy. I hate the thought of letting someone else down. And therein lies my downfall.

I've come to a point where I have committed to so much on behalf of other people, that suddenly I've realized I have no commitment to myself anymore. No time to pursue my own goals, no sense of identity beyond what I do for others. And the stark realization that pulling back from any of those commitments has the potential to pull the whole house of cards down. This is where it gets ugly.

I don't even know where to begin, which thread to pull out of this tangled mess. I just know I've got to begin soon. And I dread the thought.
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Recently, I realized that I put in about 72 hours per week working at The Temple (the retail shop I co-own with Grant). Work on TempleCon (which people are already pushing me to get back to) is above and beyond that, though I can sometime dovetail TempleCon tasks into whatever I'm doing behind the counter at the shop.

This realization has had a predictably deleterious effect on my ability to focus on work these past few days...

And of course, now during tax time is when I can least afford to be goofing off on the job... :S

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I spent all night working on TempleCon preparations only to discover when I wanted to finally sleep that the roof had leaked all over my side of the bed...

Now I have a coffee in one hand and a tea in the other, and a long night ahead of me hosting Magic events at The Temple.

On the plus side, I have a potential intern coming in to interview next week, and his reading & writing skills already appear to be exceptional. If he works out that will be a serious blessing, as the more that TempleCon and The Temple grow, the more work needs to get done and there are only so many hours in the day... and if the weather dries out enough to fix the roof, I could really use some sleep. ;)
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Yes, it's that time of year again, when I am so thoroughly in the thick of TempleCon preparations that I barely have time to breathe, let alone write. Not that I am terribly consistent with LJ to begin with, despite good intentions...

Recently, my mother managed to drive it through my thick skull that a little (incomplete) communication here and there is often more effective than lengthier (more complete) communication infrequently maintained. Odd, but true - I spend so much of my life trying to focus my often scatter-shot mode of operation that I get hung up on trying to be more thorough, more in-depth, more complete, when perhaps instead I should be more tolerant of my dragonfly tendencies and flit through a few more of my old haunts, even if only to briefly dip my wings in some shimmering surface...

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October is upon us, and everywhere I look I am bombarded by a flood of pink merchandise, not to mention a plethora of pink-themed events demanding my attention and financial contributions. And while I appreciate the well-meaning efforts of so many of my friends who do put time and money into such events and purchases with the intention of combating breast cancer, I cannot join them.

Why?

My grandmother had breast cancer, on two occasions, and eventually died of cancer. I have lost multiple family members to cancer, meaning that I have a high risk for this disease, especially since I have never had children, so battling this disease is very near and dear to my heart. What's the problem then? The problem is the politics behind the breast cancer cause.

Please bear with me on this, as this will no doubt make for a lengthy post.

A little background is in order here: Aside from genetic factors and increased risk for non-childbearing women, elevated risk for breast cancer has been linked to environmental and dietary factors such as pesticide and herbicide exposure, ingestion of milk from rBST and rBGH-treated cows, exposure to chlorine-based chemicals, and oestrogenic environmental contamination caused by oral contraceptives. Unfortunately, the same transnational corporations that produce carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides and synthetic hormones also produce mammography equipment and the drugs currently used for cancer treatment. This means that the same corporations that help cause breast cancer have a vested interest in continuing cancer, so that they can continue to sell mammography equipment and cancer treatment drugs. Even with the best of intentions, this cycle is perpetuated because, as Upton Sinclair once said "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding." And part of what keeps this profitable cycle going is the partnership that these companies have developed with the American Cancer Society to focus public "awareness" and prevention funds on mammography rather than on risk prevention, and as a result the ACS maintains a deafening silence on the subject of environmental and dietary carcinogens even as it publicly joins in the pink ribbon frenzy each October.

To add insult to injury, the founder of "National Breast Cancer Awareness Month" is AstraZeneca, owned by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), the creator of tamoxifen, which is the standard drug used in breast cancer treatment. ICI is also a leading manufacturer of industrial chemicals and known carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides, as well as the plastic ingredient polyvinyl chloride, which has been directly linked to breast cancer. AstraZeneca also manages the operation of numerous comprehensive cancer care facilities throughout the United States via their subsidiary Salick Heath Care, so on either end, their paycheck depends on their "not understanding" causality and prevention in relation to breast cancer. It should be noted that in May of 2000, tamoxifen was listed as a "known human carcinogen" by the National Toxicology Program of the US government. Yet the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which receives educational grants from AstraZeneca, has endorsed tamoxifen as a preventative treatment in high-risk women, despite vehement opposition from other breast cancer groups.

On top of that, the focus on mammography as prevention increases the likelihood and frequency of women's exposure to potentially carcinogenic doses of x-rays, while doing little to actually prevent the disease, which the American Cancer Society admits is self-diagnosed in 90 percent of breast carcinoma cases. Nonetheless, the American Cancer Society continues to emphasize mammography as the first line of defense against breast cancer. Notably, five radiologists have served as ACS presidents, and the mammography industry donates funding to and conducts research for the ACS.

What does all this mean? Am I saying that we should not participate in any National Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities or events? Not necessarily. What I am saying is that I am unwilling to contribute resources to organizations claiming to support cancer education and research if they do not include a non-mammography preventative component. I am unwilling to contribute resources to an event or organization without knowing who those resources are going to support - exactly whose cancer research is being funded, for example, and what percentage of funds contributed actually goes toward that research. I am unwilling to contribute resources to events that do not contribute a significant portion of funds gathered to breast cancer organizations that include non-mammography preventive education and other useful information that does not have a significant corporate bias. I am more amenable to contributing resources to breast cancer organizations and events that operate on local levels, despite the fact that many of these organizations and events partner with larger organizations that I am directly opposed to, so long as a significant portion of their funding goes directly to local (non-mammography) patient services and support.

And because I don't like offering a complaint without offering a remedy, a good example of an organization that helps to balance the pro-corporate bias of the ACS is the breast cancer survivor's group Breast Cancer Action: www.bcaction.org. Breast Cancer Action is dedicated to changing the national dialogue about breast cancer to emphasize patients' rights and prevention without corporate bias. For people wanting to contribute to an organization helping to combat this horrible disease, this is a good place to start.

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There's been quite the hullabaloo going on these past few days about Skip Gates and his encounter with the Cambridge police. Even more noise about one choice word spoken by President Obama in reaction to that encounter: "stupid." People all around the country have been all fired up against Obama for that one little word, to the point that a CBS poll shows 89% of Americans think that it was wrong of Obama to call that officer stupid. Let that sink in for a moment. 89% of Americans think that the United States Commander In Chief was wrong to call a police officer, his lowest subordinate in the Executive Branch, "stupid."

I got an earful about it when I walked into the local bakery. "Can you believe our President called a police officer stupid?!" The woman's outrage was palpable, and she was even more disgusted when I did not mirror that outrage.

To me, this issue has nothing to do with whether the officer was racially profiling Mr. Gates, or whether his neighbor is a bigot, or whether Skip Gates was a belligerent asshole on his own property. It has to do with the notion that the head of the Executive Branch of our government cannot criticize a subordinate member of that branch, particularly when what that subordinate did goes against standard police procedure. Several honest cops since that incident have come forward stating that what the officer did that night was not standard procedure, that he escalated the situation when his job was to de-escalate it. He pulled a power trip in response to what he saw as a citizen getting uppity and personally insulting, and now his thin skin has been extended to encompass the entire Cambridge police force, and far beyond it.

If police officers cannot handle the word "stupid" being leveled against one of their members, what else can they not handle? What about the word "corrupt?" What about "power-hungry?" What about just plain "wrong?"

I understand the political position that Obama is in now as a result of all this popular outrage over him criticizing the officer who arrested his friend. I don't like the fact that he apologized for his statement, but I understand it. What concerns me now is that the police have just exercised a silent coup, giving themselves carte blanche to do what they like to ordinary citizens without fear of public criticism by their boss. And considering what the police have been up to in recent years in terms of increased beatings, tazering, random roadblocks, and so forth, that carte blanche is a lot more dangerous than anybody but a tin-foil-hat-wearer like myself is willing to admit.

And that much-vaunted change that Obama and his supporters were talking about during the election? Bullshit. 89% of the country is up in arms over the word "stupid," but can't recognize "stupid" when they see it. Nor, apparently, do they recognize "police state." The vile behavior engaged in by the Bush administration, the erosion of our rights, the increase in police power (and armaments) - I now realize that all of these things were signed off on by the American people. They weren't mistakes. They were the natural end result of people thinking that the police are above reproach, and uppity citizens have no business saying otherwise.

I have never been so ashamed of my country as I am at this moment.

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In my recent quest to keep informed about the current situation in Iran and relay information regarding the Green Revolution there, I was reading an interview tonight with a noted feminist author and American professor of politics discussing the role played by women activists in recent Iranian protests. After slogging about halfway through the bloated academic tripe this woman was spewing, I found myself increasingly aggravated at her assumptions about feminism going hand-in-hand with non-violence, and thus I am in need of a rant to a (hopefully) willing audience. Guess what? You've been volunteered...

You see, she's not the first feminist (or anti-war activist) I've heard this sort of thing from. Now, while I consider myself a card-carrying feminist (albeit of dubious pedigree - I like Camile Paglia, after all), and while I have been known to engage in anti-war activism, I do not believe that women are by nature anti-war. However, I am endlessly being told that we are, often by well-meaning anti-war feminists who think that women are the key to ending global warfare. Boy, are they naive.

Shortly after 9/11, I had the dubious privilege of arguing a path of non-violence to people who wanted to turn Afghanistan into a glass parking-lot. Foremost amongst them? A woman. Time and time again, I hear women arguing in favor of war, even if they themselves would never dream of sullying their own hands on violence. If they won't fight themselves, they'll egg their men on to do so.

When I was a teenager, I was a pacifist and a budding young anti-war activist, raised to be that way and thus raised to be a target. Growing up in Boeing's backyard, needless to say, my opinions were not welcome, and I spent a fair amount of time getting beat up on by kids with no such philosophical limitations. Funny thing is, once I dropped the pacifism and learned basic self-defense, I no longer found myself the target of such violence. The more I learned about how to dish out violence, the less need I found for it.

What I do see a need for is for women to stop being told by well-meaning feminists that they should identify with a lack of willingness to fight back. Endlessly being told that women are anti-war belies our genetic capacity to fight (and to fight dirty, if need be), and makes far too many women into victims. Bullies go for easy targets, and if you're an easy target, you'll be dead before your non-violent principles get you anywhere. Plus, it's easy to be non-violent when you're not getting shot at, mugged, or raped. Academics preaching non-violence need to put themselves in harm's way before I'll be convinced by them.

Someone who has put herself in harm's way repeatedly in the name of non-violence is Starhawk, who I greatly admire. And yet, I do not see myself ever being willing to die in the hopes that some thug will feel guilty enough over killing me that he (or she) will stop oppressing my fellows. It is notable that in the wake of reports from Iran about armed Basij killing unarmed protesters, Starhawk has been strangely silent.

Though I admire the willpower required to stand against one's oppressors non-violently, and though I agree with George Bernard Shaw, who said that "the first man to raise a fist is the man who has run out of ideas," nonetheless, I rage against those who think that violence is solely the domain of patriarchy. Warrior genes don't discriminate by gender, and neither does death. And I'll not deny my innate will to protect myself and my own just so I can look like a better woman to people who clearly have no clue what a woman, and a feminist, truly is.

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I'm not usually the type to be bored, and I generally have a very clear idea of what I want to do on any given day (or night - I'm usually thoroughly nocturnal). But tonight, something's off, and I can't quite put my finger on it. I set out to work on something, and I can't seem to focus, so I try something else, but can't keep my mind on that, but I'm in no mood to play, either. I've got a whole score of projects lined up and demanding my attention too, so it's not like there's not plenty to choose from if one doesn't suit at the moment. Hopefully I can stop spinning my wheels soon - this just isn't like me, and it's driving me nuts!

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...at the way this event is coming together.

Event coordination is like an extended case of stage fright. Months and months of it, slowly coming to a boil in the weeks and days leading up to the event, until you're there, and all of your skill and experience and preparation take over, so that the fear is replaced by this Zen state of supreme competence and exhaustion. Sarah Bernhardt, the French theatre's equivalent to Napoleon Bonaparte, once said that you are no true actress if you don't get stage fright (she suffered from "the terrors" before every performance). So, I accept the fear as part of the price to pay for an extraordinary performance, whether I'm the one on stage or the one coordinating a whole slew of others on stage.

And right now "the terrors" are frothing in this bizarre admixture of fear and elation...

Somehow, in my relentless push over the past few months to expand the steampunk element of TempleCon and make this event more than "just" a gaming convention, I managed to pull in just enough of the right people, the right events, so that suddenly people and events started pouring in, and not just any people or events, but the exact kind of people and events that are turning this into the mind-blowing spectacle that I had envisioned, and then some:

Steampunk and fin-de-siecle themed performances by The Ocean State Circus Performers, Ameena, Rachel and Diana of Moirae Bellydance, Little Red Coquette, and Aepril Schaile; a tribal dance class by Rachel and Diana, and a Raqs Victoriana class by Aepril Schaile; panels on steampunk culture, steampunk prop-making, and upcycling in steampunk costuming; a writer's panel by CJ Henderson with a reading of his work; two blocks of short films graciously offered by the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival; an appearance by the Rhode Island Pirate's Party; a weekend-long steampunk costume contest with the grand prize of an amazing steampunk ray gun and crazy apparatus (a.k.a. "The Thing Needed to Kill The Baddy"), concocted by Ken Beauchemin of Graven Images; tons of vendors, guest artists, and gaming industry luminaries; and oh, yes, the games...

Demos of a ton of new games, including the much-talked-about Arena Deathmatch, Heroscape, Monsterpocalypse, Infinity, Alkemy, Tannhauser, Memoir '44, Dungeon Twister, Steve Jackson Games demos by the Men in Black (i.e., various permutations of Munchkin), WHE Games, Shadowfist, Uncharted Seas (by the guys from the D6 Generation Podcast), and more...

A North American Diplomacy Federation Grand Prix Tournament, the Vampire: the Eternal Struggle Northeast Regional Qualifier, the Shadowfist Rhode Island State Championship, a Flames of War Regional Qualifier Tournament, Privateer Press' exclusive HARDCORE WARMACHINE/HORDES event, a Magic: the Gathering Conflux Release Tournament and other Magic events throughout the weekend, Heroscape tournaments throughout the weekend by the North East 'Scapers Association, the premier of the "Up the River" campaign for the Unhallowed Metropolis role-playing game led by the campaign's writer and TempleCon Guest of Honor Simon Berman, a Call of Cthulhu for 30 game led by Guest of Honor CJ Henderson, Pathfinder system role-playing events throughout the weekend, a steampunk-themed One World By Night Vampire: the Masquerade LARP, an insane line-up of board gaming events and a huge open board gaming library, Warhammer 40K and Fantasy tournaments throughout the weekend, a LAN Room with Xbox 360 and Wii tournaments running throughout the weekend including Gears of War 2, Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, and Smash Bros. Brawl, and so many more games I can't list them all...

Pardon me for bragging a bit, but this thing is monumental! And we're bringing it all together to happen at the Biltmore this weekend.

I think I'm gonna faint...

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