11 March 2011

Links & Leeks

All right. It's 5:30 on Friday afternoon and I've had one beer so far, which is in no way enough to take the edge off the week I've had. So here are your links for the week, and if they suck do me a favor and don't tell me about it for twenty-four hours.

Feministing notes that the Obama administration has rescinded the federal regulation commonly called the "Conscience Clause". This has been mentioned before (STILL need to do a proper post about it, but don't hold your breath, I've got eight million Deep Thoughts I feel the need to share and this is only one). I will go ahead and say "Yay!" because this is practically speaking, a great step for feminism and equal rights.

Keep up with the whole Prop 8 debate over at the SCOTUSblog. (Yeah, I'm just going to keep posting those updates until stuff stops happening about it.)

Sociological Images has an article about how video game characters' breasts have gotten bigger and bigger as the games go through new versions and get more popular. (I'm tempted to joke that this is a link that women and men will find interesting. But that would be insulting and sexist. I will say merely that it includes some telling images.)

Okay, Arizona, I admit that I'm not particularly in touch with your culture. But after the shooting of several weeks ago, your new gun legislation baffles me (and this Slog writer, apparently).

This blog/FAQ post by an abortion doctor is a must-read, in my opinion. It's candid, fascinating, and both thoughtful and thought-provoking. (It's over at The Hairpin; I'm not sure what the status is on this writer and whether she has her own blog.)

Yes Means Yes has done two great posts recently about the studies done on men and women's different responses to offers of casual sex. Full disclosure: I haven't read through these fully yet (see above re: the week I have had) but I feel pretty confident recommending anything posted on that blog; I don't always agree with everything but I'm always interested.

And, because I don't have the energy to link to some of this week's more depressing stories (oh, you want your day wrecked? Okay -- TRIGGER WARNING ON THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH AND THE LINK: you know the story that recently broke about the 11 year old gang rape victim? Guess what she's being called! Gin and Tacos calls it a failure of journalism; I call it misogyny.)

That's all I've got for now. What are you reading?

07 March 2011

Back to Politics: Why Being a Republican Means Cutting Planned Parenthood Funding

I love Yes Means Yes generally – I own their book too; you should get it; it’s good – but this post especially made me smile.

After weeks of thinking about the conservative social movement, and how it relates to abortion in particular, I came to a very obvious conclusion that nevertheless felt groundbreaking for me.

Morality and consequences go hand in hand, and to try to limit behavior using one without the other is difficult, bordering on impossible.

Think for a moment about training people to do things: raising children, teaching classes, leading groups. There are a lot of different ways to do that. You can offer positive reinforcement, when someone does something you like. You can offer negative reinforcement when someone does something you don’t like. You can delay the reinforcements to the end of an arbitrary schedule, shifting them into rewards and punishments. You can refuse to associate with people who don’t do as you say. You can convince people to want to do what you say, or figure out what their motivation is behind their actions and use that to your own advantage. You can ignore behavior you don’t like (with the optional bonus of praising behavior you do like, when it appears). (Want to read more about that and how you can use it to your advantage? Don’t Shoot the Dog! by Karen Armstrong.)

All of these things (and modified forms) are what we use to get other responsive creatures (animals, friends, children) to do as we wish. Now let’s take that back out into social policy.

There is certain behavior that we want, that benefits society. Part of that is raising kids in stable and loving homes, with parents who are active and invested. That’s one of those great constants that liberals and conservatives agree on, mostly because if anyone comes out against it, everyone on the other side accuses that person of loving child abuse and being all about the whole serial killer thing.

So the disagreement comes from two places. One place is what constitutes a stable and loving home. The historical stereotype of that place is one where a mother and father are legally committed, have sex, make babies, raise babies together on account of the whole committed thing, and hopefully pay attention to said babies or get ruthlessly judged by the neighborhood carpool. Liberals often deconstruct that by saying that none of those elements individually (man and woman, legal commitment, sex, raising babies together, etc.) is actually a magic element that makes sure the kids are happy and stable. Conservatives often use that stereotype as an example of something that’s been historically successful, and therefore encourage families to be as much like that stereotype as possible, at least from the outside. They argue that those individual elements are necessary for a strong and nurturing home.

I could go on tangents about that all day. What I want to talk about is behavior, and how you influence people such that they choose that kind of relationship for their family.

What we want is stable homes for children. Historically that mandated controlling sex, on account of the whole sex makes babies thing. So in order to control the outcome, it was necessary to control behavior.

Sex is a very hard behavior to control. It’s hard to control on an individual level, and it’s hard to control on a group level. There are a lot of positive reinforcements built into the body related to having lots of sex as often as possible (either because God wants to tempt us or because evolution favors organisms that enjoy procreation). To control it, you need something stronger.

That’s where consequences and morals come in. What I realized after thinking for about it for a while is that neither of those things is individually strong enough to control sexual behavior. That may be obvious – actually, it should be obvious, because very often the two together aren’t enough to control sexual behavior – but it put some things in perspective.

Stay with me for a second here. Consequences (by which I mean pregnancy, in or out of wedlock), with no moral stigma, are not enough to control behavior. First of all, the consequences come a lot later than the decision; second of all, people deal with consequences all the time. Maybe they’re inconvenient or difficult or unfortunate, maybe they’re wonderful and sweet and charming, but people find a way of dealing with them because that is the only option. Moral stigma makes consequences a lot more difficult, and it shores up the decision-making part of the process; it takes up the slack.

Now let’s look at the other side, which happens to be the world we live in now. Birth control, abortion, reproductive health, gay sex – all of these take the immediately visible consequences away from sex outside wedlock. (There are diseases, but many of them are not immediately discernible to the general populace. Babies are, especially in smaller communities.) Suddenly, there aren’t visible consequences, and that takes away one of the two major cornerstones of attempts to control sex. If even both of them together exert only a very tenuous control over sexual conduct (and it is tenuous, even for people for whom both of those are very strong motivators), think for a moment about what happens when one of them is removed.

Yeah. So what does this mean? Of course conservatives want to limit access to abortion, birth control, and reproductive rights. If we get the consequences back, it’s hella easier to control the behavior than if we’re just relying on morals! Especially since those damned liberal jackasses are all “morals should be an individual decision,” like whatever, let’s see them run the country and drag their opponents through the mud if they’re not willing to judge like an angry God!

The funny thing is that they’re using their moral convictions as arguments about bringing consequences back in. As in, they are explicitly using that language. That’s why feminists are all throwing out words like “paternalistic,” because the double-whammy of you-shouldn’t-do-this-because-it’s-wrong and here-are-the-consequences-for-doing-that is how you raise children. That's why it sounds condescending when people are like, it's wrong that you had sex (I'm judging you; there are morals at work) and you have to keep your baby and carry it to term and take care of it (there are physical consequences at work). The unspoken addendum is, next time I hope you'll show better judgment and make a wiser decision!

The thing about raising children is, often (not always) getting angry is a negative consequence. Children get very upset when their parents are mad. Thus the moral judgment is itself a negative consequence in addition to the physical consequence of "baby." That doesn't necessarily hold true politically. Republicans getting angry at women, or gay people? Pshh, when are they not? This isn’t a parent-child relationship, and a lot of liberal people have figured out that the trick is to not care. Not care and fight back.

So what is the only way of reestablishing that control? By removing the factors that limit or remove physical consequences, because if the moral judgment doesn't help people decide, then having to change diapers for twenty-nine months will, by golly. Bye bye, Planned Parenthood funding.

06 March 2011

something to keep in mind

As you probably all know, I've been dealing with depression. Or Depression (capital D now that I'm on meds for it)

Over my birthday (happy birthday me!) I actually ended up getting a little depressed, and it was weird because it wasn't my usual brain-chemical depression, it was my good old friend Low Self-Esteem. I haven't seen this particular friend so cleary for such a long time that it took me two whole days to realize who it was that had me feeling so fragile the whole time.

With that being the background, here's what I came to say:

Everything takes practice.
When you have overcome a challenge, it is a victory. When you fail the same challenge later, your previous victory is not erased.
when you continue to flail and fail and spin out of control, it does not take away the fact that you have been here before, and you got out ok.
you will get out ok again.

this all takes practice.

Even after mastering the challenge and beating it time and time again, if you fail one time - it's ok. Everything takes practice.

Even if you are a pro, sometimes you still fuck up and that's ok.

This is true for probably mostly all things: Playing musical instruments, cooking, coping with mental illness, irrationalities, insecurities, inanities and insanities.

It's ok to be a beginner, an intermediate, a pro.

It's super-great if you get to pro right away. good on ya.
it's totally fine to start as a noob.

It's totally fine to take your time getting better.

It's totally fine to be really good, not practice, and then realize you suck a bit more then last time you tried it.


In short - it's been awhile since I've seen my insecurities so clearly - I'm not going to beat myself up for being back where I started. I'm going to give myself credit for the work I know I've done. I'll bookmark the fact that I still have more work to do.

And now, fuck this shit, I'm-a go watch Rupaul's Drag Race.

I Think I Might Leave the Country Again

Face, I'm not sure you've met palm. Let me introduce you. (Thanks -- I guess -- Slog.)

UPDATE: It's been pointed out to me that the video is only available in the US and thus our international readers are KSOL. Allow me to explain. (If you haven't seen Jon Stewart before, he's a leftist political commentator/comedian.) The U.S. is in a budget crisis and all sorts of ideas are being flung about to try to fix that. What's on the docket now is cutting pay and benefits for teachers, because, you know, they don't do anything important. Teachers usually make roughly $50,000 a year, often less. The same political commentators that suggest cutting these people's salary and benefits on the grounds that they are paid by taxes, and so the government has every right to give them a pay cut. They are at the same time saying that Congress should not make any ruling about any kind of restrictions on CEO pay and bonuses for the guys on Wall Street, who, you know, got us in to the financial crisis in the first place and were bailed out by government money. Justifications included the ideas that CEOs work harder than teachers, because teachers get summers off; in order to attract "real talent" it's important to pay CEOs "what they're worth;" and $250,000 a year -- a CEO's salary -- isn't really that much when you have kids to send to college. Stewart, in what has become his trademark, doesn't so much take the time to logically refute this nonsense as he does just sort of put on the air with a "Really? I'm really hearing this?" look on his face.