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december 01 dispatches



12-20-01    craig: consuming children

Two things I've been thinking about since September are consumerism as citizenship and the deployment of mythic constructions of "childhood" to mobilize nationalism/militarism/racism. We buy things to "keep America strong" and send off soldiers to protect our innocent children (as opposed to their Other, untamed, children). I found an essay called Lunchbox Hegemony? Kids and the Marketplace, Then and Now by Dan Cook, at LiP magazine that talks about how the marketing of kid products obscures the means of production and the production of consumer desire itself. Cook writes:

What is troubling. . . is not just that kids demand goods by brand name as early as two years old. It's the habit of thought which conveniently separates children from economic processes, placing these spheres in opposition to one another, and thereby allowing anyone—including corporations—to position themselves on the side of "innocent" children and against "bad" companies or products.

Marketers and advertisers tell themselves—and will tell you if you ask—that they are giving kids what they "want," or providing educational devices or opportunities for "self-expression."

The children's market works because it lives off of deeply-held beliefs about self-expression and freedom of choice—originally applied to the political sphere, and now almost inseparable from the culture of consumption. Children's commercial culture has quite successfully usurped kids' boundless creativity and personal agency, selling these back to them—and us—as "empowerment," a term that appeases parents while shielding marketers.

Yes! I find the article compelling both for how it explodes popular constructions of childhood as a self-enclosed asocial sphere, and for how it connects with earlier cell phone conversations about the embodiment of capitalist impulses and purchasing power as self-expression. There looks to be cool stuff at LiP including pieces by local favorites Ward Churchill and Robin D. G. Kelley, so go persuse, you're not getting any work done anyway.


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12-20-01    dean: more letters

I just put up a few more letters to the Examiner.


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12-19-01    dean: sharp responses

I just put up some of our letters to the Examiner. have a look.


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12-19-01    dean: the bastards!

The angry letter-writing abilities of dean spade, so well honed in the last year, have been unleashed again in response to the latest journalistic violence against trans people to come to my attention. On Monday the San Francisco Examiner published "Girls to Guys--It's on the Rise". As you might guess, this misinforming, inflamatory drivel focuses on every transphobes favorite theme: "FTM transgenderism is a lesbian trend that all these youngsters will someday regret once they've mutilated their bodies with these fascinating and too-easily-accessible procedures." Enraged San Franciscans report that the article was accompanied by detailed graphic images of FTM surgical procedures which are not included in the web version. Please write to the Examiner to let them know what you think of the article. I'll post some of our fiery responses here, so copy me to your email if you want.


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12-17-01    craig: military resistance

I'm working at the computer, listening to the new compilation cd put out by AWOL, a rad group working to counter military recruiting in poor communities of color by exposing the truths about the GI bill (i.e., you'll never get money out of the Army to go to college) and the colonialist aims of militarization. They say:

The dictionary defines awol as "absent without leave. . . absent often without permission."

We go awol against this militaristic society; we go awol from imperialistic society. We are absent without leave from the business of killing and oppression.

We got the cd and their zine (featuring articles on how hip-hop mag The Source is funded with Navy ads, and on sexual violence in the military) at a screening of the video Military Myths put on by Paper Tiger last Friday. Always necessary, this work takes on a greater urgency as Bush sends young, poor people of color to murder Afghanis and destroy the homes and communities of survivors, in turn exposing themselves to harms that the u.s. government will no doubt cover up.


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12-14-01    Dean: transpain

In Excitable Speech, Judith Butler writes:

"To be injured by speech is to suffer a loss of context, that is, not to know where you are. Indeed it may be that what is unanticipated about the injurious speech act is what constitutes its injury, the sense of putting its addressee out of control. The capacity to circumscribe the situation of the speech act is jeopardized at the moment of injurious address. To be addressed injuriously is not only to be open to an unknown future, but not to know the time and place of injury, and to suffer the disorientation of one's situation as the effect of such speech. Exposed at the moment of such a shattering is precisely the volatility of one's 'place' within the community of speakers; one can be 'put in one's place' by such speech, but such a place may be no place."

I would add that having to go through the world knowing that at any moment such injurious speech may occur and I may be "put in my place" is one of the most difficult aspects of my trans experience. This week, I was harrassed by two groups of men (changing into my uniform, and changing out) in the men's dressing room at my tae kwon do class. "You look like a girl to me."–-snicker, giggle, snicker–"Are you sure you're in the right room? I really thought you were a girl. You really look like a girl."–snicker giggle. At the doctor, after writing "transgender-male" in the gender section of the form, and writing "CALL ME DEAN" in the name section, explaining that my insurance says my old name, I was announced to the waiting room as "Jane Spade," reminding me that no one is required to comply with my wishes. At work, on the phone, my stomach in knots, I informed yet another attorney "actually, it's 'Mr.Spade,' not 'Ms. Spade'" and was greeted with nervous laughter. And yesterday, dressed in my "short men's" suit, I attended a birthday party for the judge in the chambers that neighbor mine, and the gay clerk who works there and with whom I've discussed my transgender on many occasions (my ally?), greeted me in front of a room full of strangers with "You look so Isabella Rosalini!" fixing my gender presentation as female for a room full of people I'll be working with for the next two years, so that I will have to un-do his comment again and again.

Butler rightly points out that we become and know ourselves through language, and others know us through language. To be undone by language, or displaced, is a decontextualizing violence, an erasing. To be a person who does not look to others like the gendered language I identify myself by is to enter a lingual field where erasure is constant, and to be told repeatedly that that erasure is trivial, unintentional, blameless. I am not entitled to have gender that is at odds with some aspects of my appearance. I am naive to ask for recognition, I am only getting what I asked for, I am making everyone uncomfortable.


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12-5-01    Eden on the reported "Siege on Israel"

Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, 838 Palestinians have been killed and 16,685 Palestinians have been injured in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 60% of those killed were killed indiscriminately; they were not involved in demonstrations or clashes. During the same period, 222 Israelis have been killed. But these numbers don't reflect the enormity of the war against the Palestinian population by the state of Israel. Collective punishment of Palestinians for suicide bombings and other attacks has resulted in extensive damage (through shelling) of over 4,000 homes, mosques, water wells and schools. 25,000 olive and fruit trees have been uprooted and 78% of Palestinian-owned farmland has been razed. Every day, through roadblocks, curfews and town closures, Israel prevents 125,000 Palestinians from going to work, with a combined daily income loss of \\$6,250,000 (u.s.). 1.3 million Palestinians now live in poverty (earning less than $2 a day); this number has doubled since the beginning of the current intifada. A cursory look at the numbers reveals which population is actually under siege.

Why would the u.s. media accurately cover a war which the u.s. government supports and funds? We know all this already. And the recent coverage of the suicide bombings in Jerusalem and their aftermath-- the missile attack on Arafat's base, the indiscriminate killings, the total road closures and curfews -- is as content-free as usual. Palestine "attacks," Israelis "retaliate." An article in the London Times yesterday reported on two funerals: one for a "cold-blooded killer," the other for his "innocent Israeli victim." An article on MSNBC.com this morning featured a prominently displayed pullquote from Ariel Sharon, explaining that Arafat is currently the greatest obstacle there is to peace in the Middle East. Below it was a picture of a bloody Israeli on a stretcher. There were no other pullquotes or photos in the article. A piece on iwon.com about the attack on Arafat's base briefly referred to 17 "lightly wounded" Palestinians.

The current international investigation into the extent of Ariel Sharon's responsibility for the 1982 massacres at Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon has gotten virtually no coverage in the u.s. media, so most Americans aren't questioning Sharon's authority to determine who is and who is not a terrorist. As James Goldsborough wrote in today's San Diego Union-Tribune, "When do terrorists become statesmen? When terrorism succeeds."

Two weeks ago, Colin Powell urged Palestinians to arrest and punish "perpetrators of terrorist acts" against Israel, and told Israel to "end its occupation" of Palestine. Are acts committed against an occupier acts of terrorism or of resistance? Who gets to say, and who gets to hear it?


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