Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Guys and Dolls

I was under the impression that these life-like dolls were purely sex toys--I did not realize that people with social difficulties use dolls for relationships. There is a distinction between reducing women to things because they are viewed purely as objects, and entering in a relationship with a doll because one cannot achieve human companionship.

A must-watch if you have 46 minutes to spare.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

elementally, my dear Watson

I was talking to a friend yesterday about my previously shaved head, how I feel about having hair now, and my intentions of shaving it again ultimately.

I was trying to explain my experience bald and why I was so happy with it, saying something along the lines of "I can't really describe it, but I felt like I was myself. I felt that it was really me..."

"--Elementally," she interrupted.

Yes, elementally. That is exactly it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

an example of how weightism is extremely damaging--from the mouth of a fellow blogger

Bitch Ph.D. posted about a "morbidly obese" triathlete, who pushes the envelope with regard to notions of health and fitness.

Unfortunately, the attempt of greater understandings of topics of weight and athleticism went horribly awry. Sarah, the triathlete, shut down her blog temporarily, explaining:

The Fat Girl on a Bike blog started as a way for me to write about my experiences specifically related to biking. When I took the plunge for my first triathlon a little more than a year ago, I decided to write about it there because it gave my friends and family a way to follow me.

I’m painfully aware of how people can interact in a completely anonymous atmosphere, so I tried to carefully edit the blog because I didn’t want to constantly deal with two issues — diet and weight loss. I have a very low bullshit tolerance, and those sorts of conversations piss me off very quickly.

It disturbs me to no end to see how focused we as a society have become on those two issues. What the hell gives you the right to go up to a fat person and offer diet advice or ask if they’ve lost weight? On the flip side, what the hell gives you the right to go up to a naturally thin person and tell them they should eat something? Our bodies ARE NOT PUBLIC PROPERTY.

Here’s the truth about being fat. We’re told we’re unhealthy (but there is no real finite definition of the word), and we need to lose weight. We’re told losing weight is simple: eat less and exercise.

So we eat less and exercise. But when we exercise, we’re told we’re grinding down our joints and are going to hurt ourselves. So we’re supposed to slowly walk and subsist on rice cakes and Diet Coke.

And when we don’t lose weight, it’s because we’re somehow sabotaging ourselves, because we hate ourselves — otherwise we wouldn’t be this fat in the first place! And there’s only one cause for being fat — we just eat too goddamn much. So get off the couch, fatass, and exercise!

OMGWTFBBQ!1!1!11 Like a dutiful drone, I went and followed those instructions. I went and exercised. I had fun. I exercised for three years and then decided to do something a little unusual. I did a triathlon. And I liked it so much, I did seven more in one year. And wrote about it. And posted pictures. And talked about how I felt. And talked about how others made me feel. And talked about it from the perspective of the fat chick who’s usually last. And talked about the fun I had. And talked about the bad things. And I didn’t hold back.

Somehow, that became permission for every asshat on the web to dissect my entire life based on a picture or reading one or two blog entries.

Lately the bullshit barrage has been much harder for me than usual. I’m super stressed out from my own REAL life and I’m trying to handle a buttload of stuff on very little emotional reserve (surprise, I have mental health issues too!)

The last straw was a very lengthy discussion on another blog, specifically discussing me based on photos from the BMI project. That’s why I decided to take a break for a while by turning the blog private until I’m ready to face the intarweb again. I also asked Kate to remove my photos from the project, possibly forever.

The biggest reason I don’t discuss diet and weight loss with strangers is I lived for 17 years as a calorie-obsessed bulimic who spent much of my spare mental energy trying to see how many grams I’d be able to lose if I just puked up 4 percent of last night’s dinner. Constantly reading and hearing about eating, weight, obesity, etc., have recently rekindled all sorts of eating disordered thoughts and behavior and I will NOT let that happen to me again.

There are factors in my life that make weight loss much more complicated than you’ll ever know (as is common with many other people of varying sizes). So you know what? I stopped obsessing over it because I wanted to enjoy my life rather than be ill all the time. I’m not exactly thrilled with my size, but I’d much rather be a confident fat woman than a ridiculously insecure not-so-fat woman.

The thing that irritates me so much about this is that I just want to write about my racing habit because that’s how I remember and enjoy it afterward.

So why is my blog fodder for the whole internet dickwad population to come out and rip me to shreds and make theoretical claims about me and my body? Why is it important to pontificate over the definition of the terms “athlete,” “fitness,” “health,” “obesity,” “triathlete,” and generic “fatass”?

I never used to have a problem with people criticizing me, because my job always invited it. But I knew that criticism was based on my JOB, not ME. In fact, I appreciate job criticism because it helps me do it better.

But this shit is 100 percent personal, based on one fucking picture. Not a series of pictures, but one fucking picture. And people claim it’s not personal, by saying it’s not me they’re criticizing, it’s just my fat. Guess what, my fat is part of my body. And when you shit on my body, you’re shitting on me. And I’m not into that sort of freaky shit.

Based on those pictures, some anonymous fucktard can make a public assertion that I’m unhealthy, weak, sick, in need of medical attention, grinding my joints to a pulp, not an athlete, not a triathlete, lying about what I eat (which I never discuss online), lying about the levels of exercise I do (which I also don’t discuss in intimate detail), self-hating, and a whole host of other things.

While some say I should just ignore it and move on, I challenge you to see how you’d be doing in this sort of situation. I sincerely doubt you’d be able to ignore it that easily.

That said, the blog will be back, but not for a while. I need the break to focus on myself, not worrying about the constant distraction of buzzing flies ripping my life to shreds in ways they’d never say to my face.


I really am not going to comment. This all makes me very sad for Sarah. I can't imagine how it feels to be ridiculed and violated on such a personal level.

are you just a vagina?

I think that what I am about to post is extremely important for women to think about, regardless of whether or not they agree with me. I have dealt with this issue in the past, but since it just came up again today, I thought I'd throw it out there.

What is going on with this strange and dominant assumption that if you are a woman, men only have a vested sexual interest if you? That is to say, you are only a vagina, and not a friend or person. I even do this.

Relevant example from my life: As I frequent the gym, I have gotten to know a lot of the people who work there and, since I am rather chatty, have a few with whom I visit. One of them happens to be a male (who I am assuming is attracted to women).

Tonight at the gym was like any other night, and as I was leaving, Gym Guy and I had a few words, and Monika (who apparently glanced back), said, "Vanessa, he is definately talking about you."

It was at this point that I began to objectify myself, because I immediately start thinking: Oy vey, I should stop being so friendly and loquacious (a.k.a being myself). If Monika's assessment is correct, and I have every reason to trust her judgement, and Gym Guy does "like" me--what if he asks for my number? I would have to awkwardly make it clear that I am not "in the market" so to speak--which is such a weird conversation.

And this is when I think to myself: What the hell am I doing? Am I reinforcing this idea that I am just a vagina? So if someone can't, in the words of Borat, "gain entrance"--I am useless? What does that say about what I think about myself as a woman and as a human being?

Now that this comes to my attention, there is something really weird about the fact that if someone of the opposite sex approaches you (and we are assuming a heteronormative setting...or at least bisexual), talks to you, asks for your number--whatever--there is this assumption that there is a vested interest in your goodies.

Doesn't it make more sense that the default is friendship? Like, friendship until proven otherwise?

The funny thing is that I have plenty of guy friends, absolutely adore them, and that is all well and good. But suddenly, out there on the open market, you suddenly feel like friendship is out of the question.

I have decided I am no longer going to humor such frameworks that posit me as a worthless sexual vessel and nothing more.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Since The Colonic is balanced and well-rounded...

The Baptist Press has a few words on ENDA. Somehow I don't think that sexual minorities are going to be up and running to work at bible-beating institutions and businesses.

Opponents, though, say the bill itself discriminates -- against people of faith.

"[S]mall businesses, schools, non-profit groups, hospitals, clinics, counseling centers, even certain religious institutions would be required to hire homosexuals...," Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council wrote in an action alert. "An employer's faith, moral view, the sensitivity of their work or service or the makeup of their clientele is of no consequence. Private schools, daycare centers, scouting organizations and quasi-religious organizations will not be exempt."

The bill does exempt some religious organizations, such as churches, but experts say those exemptions are narrow.

"It would not seem that Christian schools would fall under the exemption for ENDA," Maureen Wiebe, spokeswoman for the American Association of Christian Schools, told Focus on the Family's CitizenLink. "So ENDA could seriously affect the hiring rights of a Christian school."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Interview with Barney Frank

Logo hosted an online interview of Barney Frank regarding ENDA, its recent division into separate bills, and the politicial viability of a single bill.

What is not addressed is just how badly protection of gender identity will sink without the momentum of sexual orientation.

And you know what? MANNNYYYYY people with minority sexualities also perform non-heteronormative gender, so one half of their identity will be protected, but they are still vulnerable.


JK Rowling outs Dumbledore

So Rowling outted Dumbledore, declaring that he was in love with Gellert Grindelwald and blinded to Grindelwald's true nature by his affections.

Rowling then went on to describe her series as a "prolonged argument for tolerance" and urged her fans to "question authority."

OKAY ROWLING. You tell us that Dumbledore is gay when he died in the 6th book, the series is over, and there was nothing anywhere to suggest his orientation--and then you call it an argument for tolerance?

It doesn't even matter who Dumbledore is attracted to--but I think this whole thing is pointless, and if, as an author and creator of Dumbledore, his sexuality was something important to her, she could have included it in the book to actually have a message.

Radicalism has limits, even for me

Polyamory, pansexuality, hormone therapy, androgyny--wonderful, you have my blessings.

But what I simply WILL NOT accept(and this came up in class), is the idea that Americans are ridiculously obsessed with germs, to the point of neurosis.

Call it what you like, I prefer environments that are fully sanitized and quite enjoy coming home to the faint smell of bleach and other cleaning products. I wash my hands so many times a day that I have horribly dehydrated cuticles. If the day passes according to my wishes, I will have taken AT LEAST two showers, but three are not uncommon, I have done four (I feel better about the environmental impact because I tend to use only freezing water for a brief period of time).

Granted, I am a bit extreme, but with good fucking reason.

On a side note, apparently city-dwellers living in high levels of sanitation are more susceptible to allergies. That's me all right-- but I will take welts and sniffles over the immunity apparently gained by sitting on public toilets, eating off of contaminated utensils, putting fingers anywhere near my face after touching dog ass or public telephones, touching wet sponge, squeezing wet sponge without gloves, touching sponges in use longer than one week, snuggling with small children after they have been sweating, making contact with filth, breeding bacteria, and festering in community crapola during school hours, not taking a shower directly after the gym, and the like.

But I do share drinks with my friends. Then again, only the ones I consider clean. I suppose it is clear you have won my affections if I am comfortable with your germs, like your germs, or even love your germs.

As I said--I have my limits.

Friday, October 19, 2007

funny moment at the dance studio

After ballet on Thursday, one of the women in my class started asking about what I am up to in school. I replied that I am a double-major in gender studies and political science, to which she responded, "gender studies--what's that?"

Let me just add that at this point, I was in a tiny sitting area, and at this point I had the attention of the woman with whom I was speaking, her daughter (age 10ish), some other younger girls, a traditional Indian mother (I say she was traditional because she just finished vocalizing the horror of her daughter being tall) and her daughter.

I ran my usual line, and explained that it is the study of women and men, social constructions of gender, and how that shapes sexuality. This is where I think it gets funny (at least for me), because the woman asked me, "How did you become interested in this?"

It was in that moment, I ran through in my mind the potential upset of mothers upon hearing some adolescent go off on a personal anecdote filled with cultural taboos and sex nonetheless. During that instantaneous internal moment, I actually considered censoring myself lest I offend other notions of propriety in the room.

And then I weirded myself out. Why was I going to affirm the RIDICULOUS notion that female sexuality should be silenced? If any one finds an open and academic conversation about society offensive, that person small-minded.

So I let out with it: sometime during my senior year, I realized that I was conforming to an oppressive gender role that disenfranchised my livelihood--that for some reason I had wanted to shortchange my independence, marry young, and pop out a kid by LATEST 25--how I thought Prince Charming was going to bring my own happiness, and how I absorbed sexist and emotionally abusive/traumatic ideas that "if you are not a virgin when you get married, you won't get a good husband."

I couldn't help but be pleased with my decision afterwards. These young girls need to be exposed to alternative messages, even if their mothers are going to rush them in the car and tell them that I am a femi-nazi and dilute my monologue with the virtues of purity and family.

Feminists do it better

Feminism boosts sexual satisfaction for both men and women, a new study suggests.

(Is it that surprising that feelings of egalitarianism, empowerment, and liberation would create stronger relationships and more enjoyable sex? This is an important study in combating stereotypes portraying feminists as man-haters and ugly women...and it is also important in recognizing male feminists)

the male gaze

I realize that this idea that women construct their own image and present themselves in anticipation of the male gaze, and as objects of the male gaze, is extremely heterosexist.

Actually, I think that the idea of looking at grooming practices in relationships between two women, in absence of a direct male gaze (although one could argue that cultural ideas of femininity are predicated on the gaze, and therefore growing up WOMAN, not necessarily STRAIGHT woman inculcates certain male imaginations of the female body) is pertinent to understanding a desire to self-groom in excitement/anticipation of sexual partners/adoration VERSUS self-grooming as a straight, female response to unequal power arrangements and objectification.

I would argue that grooming practices like Brazilian waxing, for example, (which can be viewed as female compliance and pleasure derived from self-objectification) can also be present in relationships between two women, whether lesbian or bisexual--therefore this sort of self-regulation isn't necessarily a response to the male gaze, just a part of sexuality in general.

How does the concept of the male gaze function in gay and other queer relationships? I am sure at least one partner's self-objectification can be analogous to a mating call of sorts--ritualistic ways to attract/get in the mood for hanky panky.

I am not denying the prevalence of the male gaze, or undermining its affects on women. But I think this can be tied into a broader concept of excitement over sexuality, and how this affects one's grooming. If this is the case, the question would be how does the male gaze mediate and alter an otherwise present tendency.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I would like to go on the record and retract my own Sexual Manifesto.

Although I think it is still very rational, I have realized that refusing to name your sexuality by the only means possible--loaded, abused and stigmatized language with clinical and pathological implications--will only serve to keep sexual minorities in the closet.

As opposed to the alternative--if enough people are open and brave enough to apply such labels to themselves and, through activism, friendships, and lifestyle examples, provide alternative perceptions of sexual minorities, it will no longer make sense to push LGBT-identified individuals to the sidelines, erase them, exclude them, humiliate them and/or demean them--because it will become obvious how unfounded these phobias, misperceptions, and social constructions are. WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT.

This also reinforces how important ALLIES are. We really need you.

Which just makes me feel once more so upset about what is going on with ENDA--and HRC. We need the momentum from the gay rights movement to help gender oppression--it CANNOT succeed by itself. Even if it sets the LGB back a year or two, we can't leave those with non-normative gender identities to suffer for WHO KNOWS HOW LONG. Why would we leave our friends behind?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Guess whose birthday it is today?

The Military Commissions Act turned one today.

Let's celebrate! Who needs habeas corpus? Human rights are so last season.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I want to explain my return to productive sanity through the concept of audiotopia--which is basically the fantasy world and/or escape one can create with music.

Every morning, I make the (at least) one-hour drive to school. If it weren't for my music, I don't know that I would be alive today. In fact, it is in that one-hour where my daily mood shift takes place. Each day, I wake up in disbelief that I actually have to move. I resentfully drag my limp body in the car (although this has been changed with my new hit single, Coffee Thermos)--in disbelief I actually have to go to school.

But then, with the aid of wind and coffee, I hit my soundtrack and BOOM, I achieve a sort of high, re-frame my mental outlook, and arrive at school, now functional enough.

Today's visit to my audiotopia was different--it was better. I almost want to tell run and tell Siddhartha that I experienced Om. I know I recently blogged about my chronic unmotivation, but somehow from my trip this morning, I have re-discovered my ability to excel, and more importantly, my desire.

I also defined my professional aspirations, which although have always been focused on civil rights, but have officially been narrowed down to transgender activism and policy. I am EXTREMELY disheartened by what is going on with the ENDA, and how the Human Rights Campaign turned its back on the T.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I have realized that I am very excited be "growing up". I have been thinking about this a lot since Dylan's recent bout with hysteria of aging, and reflected a lot about my historic phobia of the process.

I see now how the older I become, the more my achievements become my own. The older I become, the more my life becomes subject to my own will and discretion. The older I become, the more I can accomplish. The older I become, the more control I have over myself.

Being a child, although priceless, is an era of ignorance and illusion. I have decided that I am actually the child of Eve (no, not that I am easily beguiled), but that I much prefer knowledge over complacency and anti-curiosity, even if it is masqueraded as "paradise."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Los angeles queer studies conference 2007

Friday and Saturday, October 19-20, 2007
Royce Hall, UCLA
more info

LGBT vocab update

You learn something new everyday.

Biphobia--which is different than homophobia--a term used to describe the fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against bisexuality or LGBT people (or those perceived to be) who are bisexual or perceived to be bisexual.

Often, however, heterosexuals will add more stereotypes based on homophobia. Homophobes may think that bisexuals are gender nonconformist. Homosexual people will sometimes experience bisexuals as maintaining privilege and collaborating with the homophobes while simultaneously enjoying the LGBT lifestyle. Some consider the belief that people are either heterosexual or homosexual, and thus that bisexuality does not truly exist, to be biphobic.

One common motive for negative attitudes toward bisexuality may be fear for straight males and straight females that their husbands/boyfriends and wives/girlfriends may divorce them or break up with them for members of the same sex.

Some radical lesbian feminists think that bisexual women are giving in to patriarchy. Others say that people against bisexuals are insecure about their sexuality themselves, similarly to homophobia. It is fair to note many anti-bisexuals are also homophobic. A common stereotype is that female bisexuals are attention seeking heterosexuals, while male ones are just self-denying homosexuals too afraid to acknowledge their true orientation. (source)

Some more examples of biphobia

never thought HRC would let me down...

Here is the letter of resignation of Donna Rose, former board member of the Human Rights Campaign--which is failing to oppose a split in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would leave trans communities unprotected and vulnerable.

October 03, 2007

A statement from Donna Rosa in response to the recently announced Human Rights Campaign position on ENDA:

Community. Integrity. Leadership. Vision. These are the foundational pillars of Equality. These are the values that draw many of us into advocacy roles. Those tenets provide a clear roadmap when things like politics, expediency, agenda, and power cloud the picture as they so often do. They pave the way to the moral high-ground, and those who follow them with trust and patience will ultimately find their efforts rewarded.

My name is Donna Rose, and I am the first and only openly transgender member of the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign. I am the national co-chair for Diversity. I am the co-chair appointee-elect for the Business Council. I have spoken at events around the country on behalf of the organization, and I am a respected advocate for the transgender community.

My participation on the HRC Board has been a heavy burden. The relationship between HRC and the transgender community is one scarred by betrayal, distrust, and anger. I have become a focal point for much of that frustration and I accepted that responsibility with the hope that I could help to change it. In some very real ways I think I have been able to do that, or at least to help make that happen, and am tremendously proud of all we have achieved.

HRC has done some wonderful work to support the transgender community. Workplaces around the country are recognizing the unique challenges faced by transgender employees and are moving in record numbers to protect them as valued members of an inclusive workforce. Educational tools to help demystify our lives and to provide a human perspective have paved to way to a better understanding of who we are and our challenges. We have set high standards and we have held others accountable to them. The question at hand is whether we, as an organization, hold ourselves accountable to those same high expectations.

Transgender is not simply the 'T' in GLBT. It is people who, for one reason or another, may not express their gender in ways that conform to traditional gender norms or expectations. That covers everyone from transsexuals, to queer youth, to feminine acting men, to masculine appearing women. It is a broad label that cannot be confined to a specific silo of people. It is anyone who chooses to live authentically. To think that the work that we are doing on behalf of the entire GLBT community simply benefits or protects part of us is to choose a simplistic view of a complex community. In a very real way, the T is anyone who expresses themselves differently. To some it is about gender. To me, it is about freedom.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a core piece of legislation. It would guarantee that GLBT people will not get fired from their jobs because of discrimination and prejudice. It makes a strong statement that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, and it recognizes the critical role of employment and career as something more than simply a paycheck. It is a source of pride, of achievement, of belonging, of security, and in a very real way it is a validation of person-hood.

Unemployment and under-employment is the single most significant issue facing transgender people today. The high-profile case of Susan Stanton, city manager from Largo, FL who was fired early this year after an exemplary 17-year career there simply because she was outed as being transgender, demonstrates the continuing experience that many of us continue to face each and every day in workplaces around this country. Although workplaces have made tremendous strides in enacting supportive policy, bad things still happen and the overall message being sent is that we're somehow expendable. In years past these things happened quietly, going unnoticed. Those days are numbered.

That's why ENDA is so important. It is more than simply a statement that it's not ok to fire GLBT people for reasons unrelated to work performance. It's a statement that we are a community. It's recognition of people who may not express their gender in traditional ways does not affect a person's ability to contribute as simply another part of a diverse workforce. It's a validation of those foundational pillars that line the moral high ground. And, it's recognition that each of us has value, and none of us will be left behind.

The current situation regarding ENDA is nothing short of a politically misguided tragedy. A tool that could and should be a unifying beacon on the heels of the historic passage of fully inclusive Hate Crime legislation has been split. Transgender brothers and sisters again find themselves separated, isolated, and disempowered. People in positions of power have decided that their personal legacy and the promise of political expediency are more important than protecting our entire beautiful community. The time is here to make a strong statement to demonstrate to them that they are wrong.

In 2004 the HRC Board voted to support only fully-inclusive Federal legislation. That decision paved the way to my participation with the organization, and was a significant step in the healing process. Since that time we have worked together tirelessly towards a goal of Equality for all. Less than a month ago HRC President Joe Solmonese stood before almost 900 transgender people at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta to pledge ongoing support and solidarity. In his keynote address he indicated that not only would HRC support only a fully inclusive ENDA, but that it would actively oppose anything less. That single pledge changed hearts and minds that day, and the ripple affect throughout the transgender community was that we finally were one single GLBT community working together. Sadly, recent events indicate that those promises were hollow.

An impressive coalition of local and national organizations has lined up to actively oppose the divisive strategy that would leave some of our brothers and sisters without workplace protections. This effort has galvanized community spirit and commitment in ways few could have imagined, and it has demonstrated to those who would divide us that anything less than full inclusion is unacceptable Organization after organization has seized the moral high ground knowing that this is a historic opportunity that cannot be squandered, and that it is our moral obligation to ourselves and to generations that will follow to make a loud, clear, unmistakable statement that we are a community and we will not be divided. There is a single significant organization glaringly missing from that list. The Human Rights Campaign has chosen not to be there.

It is impossible to remove passion and emotion from what has happened. Indeed, those are the fuels that propel us. That being said please know that this entire situation has affected me deeply and profoundly. Still, I will not sling mud at the organization to who I have given my heart, my energies, and my trust. I will not give in to my frustration and disappointment that Joe's words of less than a month ago have proven to be hollow promises. This unfortunate turn of events has forced me to make some very difficult personal decisions about integrity, character, community, and leadership. Although I can find any number of logical and personal reasons to continue in my capacity as a board member, I cannot escape the moral implications of the decision before me. Using that as my guide, as difficult as it is for me to make, the decision is an obvious one.

I hereby submit my resignation from my post on the Board of the Human Rights Campaign effective Monday Oct. 8, 2007. I call on other like-minded board members, steering committee leaders, donors, corporate sponsors, and volunteers to think long and hard about whether this organization still stands for your values and to take decisive action as well. More than simply a question of organization policy, this is a test of principle and integrity and although it pains me greatly to see what has happened it is clear to me that there can only be one path. Character is not for compromise. I cannot align myself with an organization that I can't trust to stand-up for all of us. More than that, I cannot give half-hearted support to an organization that has now chosen to forsake the tenets that have guided my efforts from day one.

I align myself and my energies with the groundswell of community sentiment that has universally stood to oppose this divisive strategy. I wish my friends and colleagues from the Human Rights Campaign the best, and I expect that time will prove their decision to take a neutral stance and to fracture our community to be short-sighted and misguided. I accept the notion that we all want the same thing. It's just that I couldn't disagree more with this destructive strategy to get there. I urge the board and the leadership to reconsider their position and the join a unified community that supports a single all-inclusive bill.

History teaches painful lessons. Any celebration of rights gained at the expense of others is not a celebration. It is a failure of effective leadership. It is to offer the promise of a tomorrow that you know in your heart will never come. It is to choose to turn your back on those who need you most, who do not have the voice or the stature to speak for themselves.

The time is here for leaders to lead, for those who say they stand for community to act forcefully and with purpose. Anything less is to forsake the pillars of Equality for the empty promise of something less. The word that we have for that in our language is "Courage". It's the kind of courage it takes for GLBT people to show up for work each and every day, living authentically, wondering if that will be their last day. I call on my brothers and sisters at the Human Rights Campaign, for Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Frank, and for equality-minded leaders everywhere to lead by example and to do the right thing.

In Solidarity for Equality,

Donna Rose

A Colonic Recipe

I thought I would share my favorite food invention. It is super easy, as indicated by the fact that I make it for myself regularly.

1. Chop up tomatoes and onion, possibly throw in mushrooms
2. Pam up the pan
3. Throw on veggies
4. Mush/chop up tofu and throw it in the mix
5. Add crushed ginger and pepper (the ginger is key)
6. Depending on how hungry/impatient you are, cooking time can vary. It tastes incredible undercooked and overcooked. You know you are headed in the right direction when the tofu turns pinkish from tomato juice.

The beauty of all of this is that you can be mentally handicapped at chopping, and everything still comes out gorgeous.

I also have a vision of adding black beans, and even throwing it over some wheat noodles or rice. Or perhaps stuffing it in a whole grain pita.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

modern-day deity

Fine, I recognize that some things actually are divine.


Homophobia and Whole Foods Don't Mix

Imagine my dismay when purchasing my favorite wholesome snacks became a cultural exchange of emphasized masculinity, heterosexism and homophobia.

I was at the check-out counter, when the cashier told a coworker "I was going to get my eyebrow pierced last weekend. But I didn't because it looks gay."

What really bothers me is that we live in America, so clearly this complacent jack-off has the right to uncensored self-expression--but as an employee of a company in the service industry, I am appalled that offensive language is thrown around in front of paying customers.

I let him know how I felt. "Excuse me," I said. "Gay is not a synonym for stupid."

Even though his remark suggested something other than stupidity--it was referring to the cultural disapproval of a male gender performance perceived as somewhat or completely feminine--my response rolled off of my tongue in just that way.

Dip shit.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dance, Art and Politics

Last night I saw Bill T. Jones and the Arnie Zane Dance Company at UCLA, and I know this sounds really stupid and obvious, but I was reminded of how important art is. The performance was an outright political commentary on war, and I especially appreciated the bit alluding to soldiers as the most vulnerable people--young people working for minimum wage and getting swept up by the grandeur of the army.

Even though I love dance, because of my difficulties in remaining focused, it can be hard for me to watch modern for longer than an hour--but this piece was really something different. I can't express how profound it was, how completely captivating and engaging on all sorts of sensory levels, but I would suggest running on down to UCLA tonight and checking out the ticket availability.

My political dissatisfaction is so cerebral and academic and dry--it was nice to feel something.

Actually, what I really appreciated is the fact that Bill and the dancers held a discussion afterward for questions (although I did not get called on--I can't imagine why not, my hand shot up straight like an arrow at every chance). I felt like it was so important to unpack the experience of the performance and understand the nuance of everything the show had to offer.

Someone made a comment on the unique and beautiful bodies (because none of the women were particularly tiny or tall). Bill said something that was really great. He spoke briefly about Jackson Pollock, who it has been said splattered paint only after years of studying conventional forms of art. He then said I want to challenge this idea that my dancers need to look like ballerinas to legitimate what we do up here and substantiate a radical form of dance.

It's funny because this past week I have been trying to nurture my more creative side (which I do have, thank you very much), and this was the sort of thing I need to remind me how important that is. I feel like there is this idea that art is not productive, it's something extra. That is not how The Colonic feels.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Degree in Homemaking

If you want a good laugh--or a good cry--you should take a gander and just how pathetic institutionalized sexism can become in the face of biblical literalism.

God values men and women equally, any student here will tell you. It's just that he's given them different responsibilities in life: Men make decisions. Women make dinner.

This fall, the internationally known seminary -- a century-old training ground for Southern Baptists -- began reinforcing those traditional gender roles with college classes in homemaking. The academic program, open only to women, includes lectures on laundering stubborn stains and a lab in baking chocolate-chip cookies.

... "My created purpose as a woman is to be a helper," Felts said firmly. "This is a college education that I can use."

...For the rest of the nearly three-hour class, guest lecturer Ashley Smith, the wife of a theology professor, laid out the biblical basis for what she calls "the glorious inequalities of life."

Smith, 30, confided that she sometimes resents her husband for advancing his career "while I'm changing diapers and getting poop all over me."

But then she quoted from Ephesians: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." And from Genesis: God created Eve to be a "suitable helper" for Adam.

"If we love the Scripture, we must do it," said Smith, who gave up her dreams of a career when her husband said it was time to have children. "We must fit into this role. It's so much more important than our own personal happiness."

Civil rights for LGB...and T

By Christine Daniels
October 10, 2007
The basketball expression for it is "low-bridge." It is the dirtiest foul in the sport, the act of suddenly taking out a player's legs as he or she leaps for a rebound, pass or jump shot. It's a cheap and devious move, in that it may look spontaneous but is almost always premeditated -- and almost always a prelude to a fight.

That's what happened to the transgender community on Sept. 26. We were low-bridged. By -- of all people -- Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But, in a shocking upset, the transgender community picked itself up, rubbed its newly scraped elbows and fought back. Frank, Pelosi & Co. didn't know what hit them.

The impetus for this brawl was the struggle over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that is the proud product of some hard battles won by a unified coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists and advocates. ENDA seeks to protect civil rights so fundamental -- and so fundamentally American -- that it seems absurd we are still haggling over this in late 2007. ENDA would make it illegal to fire or refuse to hire or promote anyone based simply on the employee's sexual orientation or gender identity.

On paper, Frank, an openly gay Democrat, seemed the right person to lead this game plan. But as September rolled on, surveys of House members showed that ENDA did not have the votes to pass if it protected transgender people, but it did if it just covered gays and lesbians. So Frank huddled with Pelosi and other Democratic leaders and decided to play Solomon with ENDA -- only with half the wisdom. On Sept. 26, Frank announced his plan to split ENDA into two bills -- one bill protecting sexual orientation, which would get introduced immediately to Congress, and another bill protecting gender identity, which Congress would get to somewhere down the line. Maybe in a year or two. Or six or seven.

Ordinarily, self-interest dominates everything and everyone in Washington, and it often rolls right over decency and ethics. With ENDA, congressional thinking seemed to go: "This boat is listing. We better do something! But what? We really have no stomach for this sort of fight ... so let's throw the transfolk overboard! So what if they are the minority that needs ENDA's protection the most? Nobody knows a transgender person anyway; decades of intolerance and ignorance have kept them closeted. Who'll miss them in this bill?"

Big miscalculation. The strategy did not yield the usual we-got-ours run for safety. Lesbian, gay and bisexual activists stood alongside their trans sisters and brothers, and together we raised the roof. It was a beautiful noise, let me tell you.

It was so much noise -- about 140 gay and trans rights groups told Pelosi in no uncertain terms that protection for the transgendered needed to stay in the bill -- that she and Frank consented to delay a House vote until later this month. In these intervening weeks, Congress and America need to hear from the transgender people who live and walk and work among them -- you're reading one now -- and listen to what Barbara Sehr of the Ingersoll Gender Center told me last week.

"Until now, the problem has been that nobody has ever seen a trans person," Sehr said. "Before, the thinking was, 'Oh, they're just men in dresses and girls with beards. They're not worth the effort.' In their minds, this was not a civil rights issue. People saw it as a totally sexual thing, when nothing could be further from the truth. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender identity."

This generation, Sehr said, has more experience with the issue because more transgender people are being public about it.

"The same thing happened with the gay community. Twenty or 30 years ago, not that many gays were out, and people didn't realize they might be living next door to a gay person. Once people realized that the gay agenda included doing their laundry and driving their kids to school and getting their hair done, the thinking changed to, 'Hey, they're normal! They deserve civil rights.' "

You are reading this right now, in no small part, because in 2003 California passed a state version of ENDA, the Gender Non-Discrimination Act. In early March, I scheduled a meeting with a person in our human resources department to do some exploratory research about transitioning at The Times. I was told: "Well, The Times cannot discriminate against you because California has a law in place."

Well. That was worded somewhat more bluntly than I wanted to hear. But it also was comforting. I had protection. I could be myself, and I could continue to draw a paycheck. From those crude beginnings, I was able to work with HR and my editors on a transition strategy that enabled me to keep my job, change my byline and, as it turns out, boost my career to a new level of personal fulfillment. I now write three or four columns a week for The Times' Sports section along with two blogs, including Woman in Progress, about the experience of transitioning from male to female.

I realize I am lucky. California is one of nine states that currently bar discrimination against transgender employees. My friend Susan Stanton did not have that kind of protection in Florida. In February, she lost her job as city manager of Largo despite a long and outstanding record of public service.

So I have a personal and professional stake in what's happening to ENDA right now. So do you, if you care about the most basic rights being extended to a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend who might be transgender but afraid to tell anybody because a national ENDA is still but a concept being picked apart by some shortsighted political opportunists.

let's get real--just how fake are you?

All done. I look in the mirror and sigh with relief as I exclaim to Lisa how much better I look with my brows tweezed and filled in.

Perhaps because I got extensions yesterday...
Perhaps because I watched a documentary on plastic surgery last night...

I have spent quite some time today reflecting on how incredibly altered I am. In fact, my personal list of unedited, unembellished--just plain natural--attributes are admittedly few.

The funny thing is, I have taken pride in how much I adore my "natural" self simply because I don't cake on foundation and scribble on eyeliner to walk out the door. I am fooling myself if I think that refraining from some glob means that I do not partake in high levels of grooming. I might have some exotic Persian DNA, but this olive-complexion has had help.

The truth is, for as laid back and carefree as I am, I am far from all-natural (although my unbrushed hair, distressed boots and haphazard look might suggest otherwise). Ooh, I let my nails chip. Ooh, I haven't shaved my legs in a while. I am so fucking rugged.

Let's get real--I have microdermabrasion once a month, undergo obsessive daily moisturizing, exfoliate like it's my part-time job--and honestly, I list those only because they are minor. The funny thing is, the better you are at being fake, the more natural you look. So why not have an honest discussion?

The real question is, what difference is all of this making? How much of my attention to minutiae is an honest to god result of growing up in Los Angeles? I vividly remember questioning the judgment of a boyfriend because he could not differentiate between my pre- and post-tweezed eyebrows. Was it some sort of visual deficit he had--or can I liken it to the way I react when Monika nags that her eyebrows are disgusting, and I think there could not be more than 3 hairs to pluck. The only difference is that I am pretty much the eyebrow police--so what the hell is Monika smoking?

There are two themes here that must be reckoned with. How appearance is taken for granted, when it is actually the cumulative effect of innumerable alterations, continuous work, and ridiculous resources (fuck the money, I am talking time and energy). But perhaps more interesting is the threshold between noticeable and superfluous grooming--when looking refreshed becomes an endless pursuit of fixing things only you can see.

Truth be told, I have an exquisite eye for detail. And if you don't see something that I see, it is because you are not a connoisseur of nuance. But it is entirely plausible that the joke is on me, because there are a shit load of things I could be doing instead of refining subtleties.

I won't even begin on the gendered implications...or how perverse it is that I do this in complete awareness.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I will injure the next person who...

tells me that Chipotle is "bad" or "unhealthy" and then rattles off about the "1,500-calorie burrito"

a) Are you telling me to get on a diet?

b) Are you assuming that I am already on one?

c) Do you know what the fuck I order at Chipotle, and how I order it?

d) By the way: healthy food and high caloric foods are not mutually exclusive. Something can be good for you and have a lot of calories, like nuts and avocado (I am in NO WAY supporting the sour cream at Chipotle. Sour cream should be obliterated, along with mayonnaise, butter, cream cheese and the like). Example: I prefer VEGAN cookies, which generally have MORE CALORIES or a comparable number to regular cookies. FAT content and calories are different. I can have the same caloric intake as someone else, but my cardiovascular health can be better because of the types of food I eat (and perhaps more importantly, the types I don't eat). A person can also consume less calories than another, and be much unhealthier, because they are getting their calories from shitty places (like regulated crap snack food all day instead of well-rounded meals...or how about image-oriented people who replace meals with frozen yogurt?).

I am going to take this in another direction now, but I feel like the idea of weight and health have been conflated in ways that are actually detrimental. FAKE SUGAR IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU--if you say you drink Diet for health reasons, your head is up your ass. There are other cultural reasons you are ingesting toxins, and it ain't for the well being of your body.

Monday, October 8, 2007

pseudo gynophobia

I have articulated a particular mental framework of mine, that I have appropriately coined pseudo gynophobia, and potentially pseudo misogyny, or an interesting combination. Actually, while this state of mind has had its roots in my head for some time, I find that it has been in critical acceleration these past fews months. I will explain.

This realization came to me as I was piecing together several internal beliefs that I hold as Vanessa truths. The first component is very physical. "Womanly" curves bother me (let me clarify--only on myself, not on others...which in and of itself is interesting), I have a personal vendetta against my birthing hips, would flip the fuck out if my boobs grew (unlike many other women), and fantasize about removing my uterus and/or ovaries every month.

The second component is reproductive. A few weeks ago, I saw a picture of a mother breastfeeding a new born in an anthropology book, and I literally (no sarcasm), gagged in disgust. That is actually something recent--in my younger years, I couldn't wait to suckle offspring like a cow. I thought my upchuck was strange...but let it go. Until last week I found myself in Whole Foods, and a woman was holding her tiny infant (it looked like it just burst out of her vagina yesterday). I happened to glance upon it, and accidentally (I swear, it was an accident) scowled and may have murmured "ehhhhhh". What was more uncomfortable is that the mother saw...and so I swiftly switched aisles. This is also an interesting turn--never before in my life have I considered newborns to be ghastly aliens, devoid of character, grossly dependent, and utterly repulsive (I like them at around 6 months and older. I am in love with toddlers).

The last component is psychological and emotional. I find myself alarmed at the thought of emotion and needs. To combat this fear, I pretty much deny or re-route my own, and aspire to be, in my word of choice, a machine (I mean this in the sense of working hard, adhering to a strict schedule, having top physical stamina, and maintaining strong goal orientation, ambition, and even aggression). Of course I still HIGHLY value relationships, but I expect that I let go and relate to others with a specific amount of control.

Curves, needs, babies...EWWWW--keep them all away from me. I want none of those things. What I WANT is to be intellectual, highly productive, adaptive, innovative, unlimited, unbothered, self-determined, independent, empowered, experienced, energetic, rational, objective, UNDAUNTED.

However, this is where the "pseudo" comes in...because curves, needs, babies and the like are not inherent in women--in fact, they are culturally implanted in the social construct of women. So what sickens me is nothing innately female--I think I am just really alarmed by constructions of femininity and offended by the way in which social institutions seriously wronged me for the first 18 years of my life--and continue to affect me, although I have the advantage of awareness. (Perhaps one could say that hips are a feature common in women because of reproductive capacities...but hips in no way define a woman, and there are plenty of women with small hips and breasts)

And before any one tries to say that I strive to be a "man," let me throw out one of my favorite quotes:

" is defined as a human being and woman is defined as a female. Whenever she tries to behave as a human being she is accused of trying to emulate the male"
--Simone de Beauvoir

apparently I am also a movie critic

I just watched Feast of Love, and I have to say, although it was at times offensively heterosexist, sexist and supported certain concepts of love and babies that I find abominable, I really enjoyed the film. I think because it did a good job of conveying emotion.

I recommend going only under two circumstances: 1) after you leave the theater, you can go directly and make out with someone you care about, 2) you need to cry

Clearly, I was there by myself at 10:35 pm on a Sunday night, I was going for number two. You know when you're beginning to wonder if you are a robot, and no matter how much you beg your tear ducts to just let go, nothing happens? Well then, this is the movie for you.

I found myself rather in need of just that kind of thing after a) being alive for 20 years, and b) Dylan was crying hysterically that he never wants to grow up and wishes he were young again. I am still sorting out some talking points for our conversation tomorrow. This makes me really sad.

Aside from Dylan, this might sound really lame (but I will say it because I have embraced my blog as a journal of sorts) I am really thankful that I am alive and well. And even though I am not exactly jumping for joy over a few things right now, I am really excited for the way my life is unfolding.

Similar to the way in which a weight lifted from my chest the moment I realized I do not believe in god, I am so happy that I once and for all got rid of the silly notion that things are "meant to be."

How could I ever enjoy the randomness of life if I were convinced it were part of my path? I have said it once and I will say it again--the best things that have ever happened to me were up to chance. My prospects became so much more exhilarating once I owned the fact that everything is up in the air.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

hole discrimination

No, I'm not referring to anal sex (are you disappointed?)

I am talking about idiotic social standards that posit TWO holes, one on each ear lobe, as acceptable and even wonderfully feminine (and upper-class if adorned with pearls or diamonds)--and at the same time condemn ONE hole on the nostril, or belly button, or eyebrow, as distasteful, degenerate, low class, et cetera.

The issue is clearly not about the quantity of bodily punctures--then my family would favor my one nostril hole over two ear holes. So the judgment is based on nothing empirical or rational, but rather the subjectivity of social norms (what holes are "good") and prejudice (what sort of people look "bad")...A.K.A. ignorance, which I can also call under-developed thought, pathetic complacency, disinclination to think, reluctance to question or self-examine...all which boil down to unreliable judgment.

Either you have a problem with the concept of needlessly stabbing yourself, or you don't. Once you begin ascribing value to body parts, you lose credibility.

Glad we sorted that out.

Across the Universe

The only good thing to come out of Across the Universe was a small segment in which one of the main characters describes procreating as narcissistic.

Other than that 30 seconds...what a waste of my life.

And might I add, I was very excited for this movie.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

what a clip

I found this on the blog of a dear friend, Oh Kermie

I am unable to unpack the content of the clip--perhaps unwilling. And so I won't. But I will speak to the business aspect, because it is interesting that Dove is jumping on this campaign. The marketing is brilliant.

Oh, you know me--I don't mind some exploitation here or there to promote a good cause. However, I have a little beef with Dove because of an ad they pulled 2 years ago, when they were jumping on this whole "love your body" shtick. I actually wrote a paper on it...which I should dig up from the ol' archives. Anyway, it was using bigger (and by bigger I mean average and a bit above) women in their underwear to sell THIGH FIRMING CREAM.

So celebrate and love your natural self, but just make sure your natural self doesn't jiggle. And if you can't achieve the impossible (I don't know about you, but my fat is not rock hard)--buy our shit!

I have had my eye on Dove since that ad and have yet to be offended again (although I don't particularly read blatant sexist propaganda for leisure anymore).

Whatever, I like the clip. It makes me sad. It sucks what you get signed up for merely by having a vagina.

Friday, October 5, 2007

west hollywood

So I went with a friend to a lesbian bar, and I was struck by three things:

1) The delightful absence of skeezy men, sexual harassment, and related discomfort
2) A spectrum of female gender performance
3) Gender-neutral bathrooms

documentary: for the BIBLE tells me so

Synopsis: Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate? Director/co-writer Daniel Karslake's provocative and entertaining documentary brilliantly reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture, and in the process reveals that Church-sanctioned anti-gay bias is based almost solely upon a significant (and often malicious) misinterpretation of the Bible. Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families—including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson—we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child.

For those who live in Los Angeles, you can see it at the Landmark theater:
11272 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 281-8223

It is only playing there for one week, beginning on October 12th

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wake up skank: a follow-up

I recently posted on my "wake up, skank" alarms and explored this idea of referring to both unfavorable females and female friends as bitches, hos, etc.

Well, I am happy to report that "skank" has been replaced with "brainiac" in my vocabulary. Yes, my new alarm is "wake up, brainiac." The implications are a bit different when referring to the unfavorables...but it actually becomes humorous when I talk about the brainiacs that I can't stand.

Although I must confess, I have not given up "cunt" yet. There is just something so satisfying in calling someone a dumb cunt. I know, I know--completely sexist, unfounded, and self-denigrating. Why would I diminish my own vagina to an insult? I'll get there thing at a time.

New Rule

"How are you?" is not the new "hello"

You do not just say it in passing and immediately look the other way. If you don't give a shit how someone is, don't ask.


This is a short clip on the mini-conference I attended. It occurs annually--so I encourage those interested to look into it for the upcoming summer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Jewish history, nation formation, and the first Jew

There is no simple way to understand Jewish history. Even terminology limits the discussion, as the adjective "Jewish" was invented after the completion of the Hebrew bible and the word itself is not found in the biblical narrative. Therefore, it must be understood that Jewish history is an umbrella term which implies Hebrew history and its correlation with the nation of Israel--all of which tie into a tradition later pronounced Judaism.

The question of Jewish history turns the inquisitive eye toward the Hebrew bible; however, the inconsistencies and unsubstantiated claims of the Torah fuse myth with history and provide only a single source necessary in a multi-faceted approach to discovering the origins of who we now call the Jewish people. At the same time, without the Hebrew bible, historians and archaeologists would have no reference point with which to skeptically examine the ancient world. In other words, the Torah provides initial direction in examining the past, and without biblical input--accurate and unfounded--modern day scholars would have no basis to reckon historical fact.

Therefore, to establish the origins of a working Jewish history, the process is three-fold. Primarily, one must over-rule the option of biblical literalism through examining the construction, content and influences of the five books of Moses. Secondly, modern scholarship must tease out moments of historical feasibility and examine them in conjunction with extra-biblical corroborating sources to create a factual framework of the Near East and the biblical era. Lastly, academic understandings of nation formation must be fused with the operations of ethnocentrism and tradition in preserving a people.


In order to over-rule the option of biblical literalism, one must breakdown the credibility of the bible at face-value. From a religious standpoint, it is accepted that Moses authored the five books, despite the fact that this includes the particulars of his own death. Furthermore, the bible’s linguistic composition is at odds with single authorship, as “scholars pointed out to what appeared to be different versions of the same stories within the books of the Pentateuch, suggesting that the biblical text was the product of several recognizable hands,” (Finkelstein, p 11). Another red flag of multiple authorship is the recurrence of doublets in Genesis, Exodus and Numbers—meaning the writing includes:

Two conflicting versions of the creation (1:1-2:3 and 2:4-25), two quite different genealogies of Adam’s offspring (4:17-26 and 5:1-28), and two spliced and rearranged flood stories (6:5-9:17). In addition, there were dozens more doublets and sometimes even triplets of the same events in the in the narratives of the wanderings of the patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, and the giving of the Law. (Finkelstein, p 11)

Despite repeated accounts and the variation, there is an undoubted cohesion to the stories. Yet this cohesion is marked by distinctive differences in diction to refer to the god of Israel. While some stories utilized the tetragrammaton YHWH, another set referred to god as Elohim or El. YHWH seems to be used in reference to the tribe of Judah, while El operates in describing the northern tribes. Scholars have described the use of YHWH as J text, the use of El as E text, the “distinctive style” of Deuteronomy as D text, and the sections that are neither J, E nor D as P text. Finally, the compilation of these texts together, complete with transitional sentences and asides, creates yet another distinct author known as the redactor, and his work referred to as R text (Finkelstein, p 12).


The mythos of the Hebrew bible has political functions in preserving unity and encouraging theocracy, but it also contains elements of historicity. In fact, the Hebrew narrative has helped modern day scholars understand the topography of the ancient world. Biblical reference and archaeological remains allowed American Congregationalist minister Edward Robinson to identify “historically verified biblical sites” and to “identify dozens of ancient mounds and ruins with previously forgotten biblical sites,” (Finkelstein, p 15). Moreover, excavations have unearthed datable artifacts that allow researchers to construct the “archaeological context into which the bible must fit,” (Finkelstein, p 19). In addition to geography, the bible reinforces scholarly understandings of ancient legal frameworks. For example, the “Laws of Hammurabi” were compiled during the rule of a Babylonian king circa 1792-1750 B.C.E, formulating the legal practices of the time that are in line with the way in which Jacob “made good” the loss of Laban’s flock, (Hallo, p 11). This also illustrates the ways in which biblical content is influenced by other sources and civilizations.

While location and codes can be traced through time, many areas of the narrative remain gray and unsubstantiated from a historically sound perspective. Although there is no extra-biblical corroboration of the Exodus, hieroglyphics and cuneiform circa 1600-1200 B.C.E. in the Near East speak to the existence of the Habiru (or Hapiru)—persons of “diverse ethnic affiliation…[and] a common social status as outcasts and aliens, uprooted from their homes homes…by newer populations,” (Hallo, p 14). While Egyptian records do not describe the enslavement of Hebrews during the period before the Exodus, they do preserve “general descriptions of border-crossings by nomadic tribesman from the east, their recruitment into labor gangs for construction projects, and the provisioning of these gangs with carefully allotted rations,” (Hallo, 15). Simply because scholarship cannot confirm events in the bible does not mean they did not happen, and it is entirely plausible that the Habiru are the same people we today call “Hebrew,” especially considering the enslavement of nomadic peoples is a documented fact—although exactly who these slaves were is unknown.

Additionally, the historical feasibility of the Exodus must also take into account the political fragility of Egypt during the same time period, and therefore it “fits well into the general picture of Egyptian weakness and preoccupation with the onslaughts of seaborne invaders at the end of the thirteenth century B.C.E.” (Hallo, p 16). Regardless, the actual existence of Moses is doubtful, although the abandoned infant who returns to challenge the king is a common theme in folklore, (Hallo, p 16). The fusion of myth and history is highlighted in the interconnections among the downfall of the Egyptian empire, the legendary persona of Moses, and divine guidance. In fact, the first extra-biblical source to confirm Israel as a nation with any relationship to Egypt occurs between 1220-1211 B.C.E., when Israel is mentioned on the Merneptah stele “in the context of settled cities and peoples on Egypt’s Asiatic frontier, (Hallo, p. 20).

The historical foundation of the Hebrew narrative is complicated by the fact that much of the text is written thousands of years after occurrences it describes. The bible is understood to be more reliable approaching 922-300 B.C.E. for two reasons: events begin to be recorded at the time they are taking place, and extra-biblical corroborative sources begin to confirm the kingship, Jewish commonwealth and construction of the Holy Temple. At the same time, history as understood by contemporary scholars cannot fully prove or disprove all of the events in the world of the Hebrews.


Just as the seven-day period of creation coincides with the archaeological emergence of civilization throughout a span of time, the instantaneous appointment of a single man, Abraham, as the father of a nation is representative of a longer period of time that shaped the Israelites as a people. Thus, the Hebrew bible reduces formative spans of time and translates them into instantaneous metaphors for the sake cementing a legacy and producing a cohesive narrative of national unity. Taking such literary devices into consideration, Jewish history is best understood through understanding how a nation is born.

In the world of the Hebrew bible, a nation comes to life simply through the word of god. This is at odds with historical thought, which asserts that individuals do not create nations, but that nations form with many people over time. Particularly, nations emerge as ethnic identities are crafted. “Recent research has demonstrated that culture and ethnicity are more matters of belief and custom than they are proof of common descent,” (Hendel, p 47). In his work Israel Among the Nations, Hendel makes a provocative but sociologically-sound claim that the land of Canaan was occupied by several rural groups and West Semetic cultural traditions. Therefore, being an Israelite is not profoundly different from being a Canaanite, an Ammonite or a Moabite.

Even if some or many of these formative events did not really happen in the way that they are told, they were—and still are—felt and understood to be a shared memory of a collective past. Such stories of an epic past function as a symbolic shaper of community, joining people together around a common ethnic, cultural and religious identity…Jewish identity, from its beginnings to the present day, is formed in no small part by the recitation of these stories (p 47).

As a culture and people are born, the boundaries of a nation are regulated by a shared past (whether real or imaginary), ethnocentrism, and perpetuation of an “us” versus “them” binary. Therefore, distinct characteristics must separate those inside the group from those outside the group. A strong connection with the Hebrew narrative as a guiding text is only one example. Hendel argues that Jewish tradition utilizes three ritual boundaries: the body, food, and time. While circumcision is considered a “sign of the covenant,” the practice was carried out by both Israelites and their neighbors. In fact, the only immediate neighbors that did not carry out this tradition were the newly arriving Philistines, who were becoming “the dominant political and military force of the region,” (Hendel, p 59). Therefore, the Philistines served as the Other, and “in the biblical stories about this period, the term ‘uncircumcised’ is often used as a synonym for ‘Philistine,’” (Hendel, p 60).

Food operates in a manner similar to circumcision. Also like circumcision, food laws become prominent factors during the era of “Philistine hegemony.” Archaeological excavations reveal the dietary polarities of the two peoples, with excessive pig bone findings in Philistine dwellings, and little or none in Israelite dwellings. Lastly, time remains a significant factor of Jewish observance, as the “institution of the Sabbath” creates a clear demarcation of weeks and provides the “growing system of ritual practices that served to display the inclusions and exclusions of Israelite cultural identity,” (Hendel, p 63). Thus, a nation emerges over time as groups of people come together with common practices and identity, distinguishing themselves with non-members through belief and custom.


A historical perspective of the Hebrew bible differs from a literalist view in content and in certainty. Frankly, a biblical literalist has all of the answers because divine inspiration has provided them explicitly through the Torah. History, on the other hand, is not so clear. What is certain is that the bible is not a reliable source of fact, although certain aspects of history can be extrapolated from it. Considering how a nation comes into being, it is likely that many groups found their way into Canaan and, over time, similar lifestyles fused multiple peoples into a nation, set apart by a unique history and ritual boundaries. That unique history, also known as the Hebrew bible, is likely a combination of different aspects of the multiple histories from some or all of the groups in Canaan, contrived thought and symbolic mythos influenced by other ancient works and civilizations, as well as the actual experiences of the now nation of Israel through its evolutionary stages. At the same time, the Exodus is likely an embellishment of the experiences of one or more of the groups of Canaan in Egypt, who feasibly found their way to the “Promised Land” after leaving enslavement by whatever means. All things considered, there is no “first Jew,” and Jewish history itself must be viewed as a process, not a moment, in which religious tradition must be explained alongside historical fact to create a context for truth, mythos, and uncertainty.

Works Cited

1. Finkelstein, Israel and Silberman, Neil. The Bible Unearthed. New York: Simon and

2. Hallo, William and Ruderman, David. Heritage, Civilization and the Jews. United States
of America: Prager Publishers

3. Hendel, Ronald. "Israel Among the Nations: Biblical Culture in the Ancient Near East."
Cultures of the Jews.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

framing political viewpoints

This comes to mind, especially when I consider gay Republicans...

Why would one say "I am a socially liberal Republican" as opposed to saying "I am a fiscally conservative Democrat/liberal"?

I am wondering what thoughts go into this framing, and what the implications are...

this is still NOT a diary

I don't even know how to talk about this--I NEVER have this problem.


I realize this sounds very typical, and for many perhaps this is a way of life. But for me, school is like a third arm--it's an operating and lively appendage of my body. Studying is a compulsion, a reflex, my pride and joy. It is my privilege to learn. It is like breathing--I don't think twice.

So what the fuck is going on with me? I am in a state of alarm thinking about this. Especially because my regimen of work is strict and consistent--the way I have always preferred it--and so now enforcing it on my reluctant and flaccid body is painful.

Let me sort out the reasons:

a) The Hot Pocket (arrangement of friends I have lived with for 2 years) is dissolved.
b) I would say living at home is the problem, but I have no desire to live with anyone on campus (until senior year when B Dog returns and we will reunite with J in heavenly glory)
c) I find myself relating to people less, and isolating more.

but most importantly


Glad I got that out. So one abroad application to South Africa is in, and the other application to Washington DC is on the way to being complete. The only obstacle remains a parental stamp of approval. Since my parents have absolutely no idea who I am, what I want from my life, what my goals are, or how I value my own self-determination, working this out will sort of be like banging my head against a wall over and over and over again.

In the mean time, the only reason I remain operational is because a) I laugh (although cynically) at everything going wrong; b) I sing in the car (a lot); c) I purchase Divine Grape Kombucha and espresso chocolate chip vegan cookies when I need a boost; d) I work out my anger at the gym; e) I am still passionate about life (although not Los Angeles); d) Dylan is amazing; e) I don't have to clean anything or wash clothes; f) There are people I care about; g) I know I have gone too far to give up now; h) I am too smart to act dumb (although I really wish I would be such a nice change...); i) I really am a happy person with the best of intentions; j) I like challenges

bajl fbncesjlfbndgbsrfjekghsrjkledgnskdlgnrsjekle

I have a midterm this week, and I am having such a hard time being productive. I don't even know why I keep blabbing on this post. And guess what? I refuse to proofread.

My only saving grace is that my next class is on female masculinity, lesbians, and transsexuals.