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Archive for February, 2012

A while back I posted this long piece about my frustration with the state of feminism. So when I saw a link to an article by E. J. Graff  while web wandering a little bit ago I clicked and read with interest. She was pointing out that it’s a bit of an odd time to be a lesbian. We’re making a lot of progress for gay equality, while at the same time antagonistic pressure is mounting against women.

One thing that made my eyes pop, or synapses fry, as Graff put it, was this little tidbit she mentioned and linked to. Did you know that The United States ranks only 71st in the world (tied with Turkmenistan) for percentage of women elected to parliament/congress? Yeah, I didn’t either.

A lot of the countries doing better than us don’t come as much of a surprise, countries like Finland, Australia, Germany, and Sweden. But did you know that Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Uganda are all at least 40 ranks higher on the list than we are? Yeah, I didn’t either.

Now you know, and so do I. If you could see me right now, you’d see a big frownie face.

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Okay, so maybe that title is a bit over the top. Online communication hasn’t exactly been ruined. But it has drastically changed.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a loner. I really enjoy socializing with people in the real world, but in regulated amounts. And it’s not just that, there are certain issues which hinder my social life. But a lot of that never mattered because being able to communicate in a virtual environment with other people around the world fulfilled much of my socializing needs and desires. Once I got my first computer with a modem people were right there, any time of day or night, literally at my fingertips.

I started out on a local BBS where a regular group of us gathered late at night to chat, often about completely silly stuff, but sometimes serious stuff too. The whole gang even got together a few times in RL. Then I moved to AOL and an online game, through which I gained a lot of very good friends, many of whom I also ended up meeting in real life at large gatherings in distant cities.

My online socializing (outside of gaming) has consisted of two main components, message boards and live chat/instant messaging. Both have their place, though each is different from the other. But on any given night I could expect to engage in many written discussions with virtual acquaintances and strangers, and live chat with acquaintances and friends. Sometimes the chats were very brief, but there was rarely a night that went by I didn’t at least exchange “hiyas” with someone.

That’s not true anymore. Sure some of it is due to the nature of relationships, whether RL or virtual. People drift apart over time, lose a commonality that bonded them, or their lives change, affecting how much online time they have, etc. But a lot of it is directly due to how online communication has shifted from chat rooms and instant messaging to social networking platforms.

In the past I’ve had hours long instant message conversations that were as involved as any face-to-face conversations I’ve had. Sometimes they were better, because the physical barrier that virtual communication provides can encourage honesty and self-revelation. Discussions ranged from the extremely silly, to politics, to life experiences and problems, to books, music, and movies. Conversations with depth are part of what distinguish real friends from acquaintances, both in real life and online.

The problem is, no one seems to use instant messaging anymore! I feel like a dinosaur when I say my buddy list still automatically loads every time I log online. My mom is the only one I have chatted with online in months. (And she rarely does that.)

All my old online acquaintances and friends have stopped (or mostly stopped) logging into AIM or other clients, and instead spend their time Facebooking and Tweeting. Every single one of them. This is even true of my real life best friend. We used to chat online several times a week. Now if I want to talk to her I have to call her on the phone. Which seems like a technological step backwards. She’s still online a lot, just not on AIM.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Facebook is great for keeping in touch with family and friends, and for tracking down people you knew years ago. Twitter is good for quickly sending out brief opinions or news. (From what I know of it anyway, I’ve never actually used it.) Blogs are great for limited discussions around a specific topic.

But social networking platforms completely fail when it comes to true conversation. By design, it is a one-way form of communication. The “speaker” broadcasts a statement and others wander by at various times and read it. A few may choose to respond and broadcast their own statement. While two or more people may be online at the same time and engage in some amount of back-and-forth, it’s a stunted imitation of dialogue.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, except to say that I miss the “good old days.” The shift, while dramatic, was not overnight. It was a slow transition, which means things changed before people even realize on a conscious level that they have indeed changed. People have adapted to the new way of doing things and I wonder if they even give any thought to what they have lost. Or do they even think they have lost anything? I don’t know.

I’ve lost something. It’s a pretty safe bet I won’t be driving downtown or hopping on a plane to visit someone from a blog or Facebook wall. I miss all those long, deeply absorbing conversations. There is a void in my loner-style social life. And I’m feeling kinda bummed about that.

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Lezzie Books Update

I’ve done some more updating to my Lezzie Books section (tab at the top of this page) for lesbian book reviews:

I added the publisher’s book descriptions to all existing reviews.

I created a Lezzie Books History page. The link to it is near the top of the Lezzie Books page. This will provide a running update history to make it easy to see if any new reviews have been added since a previous visit.

I added two book reviews that were accidentally left out when I was originally setting everything up. Click the link to the history page above to access them.

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On Tuesday, February 7th, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals struck down California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional in a 2-1 opinion.

For those not familiar with Proposition 8, it was a ballot initiative in California in 2008 which amended the state constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. When the proposition was enacted into law 18,000 same-sex couples had already married in the state. Those marriages were left intact.

The 9th Circuit decision was narrowly tailored to apply only to California, but it still has the potential to positively effect future marriage equality court cases because of the published reasoning.

Proponents of Proposition 8 now have to decide if they want to request an en banc hearing of the 9th Circuit or appeal the decision directly to The Supreme Court.

My suspicion is that they will request an en banc hearing because doing so will keep the stay in place that is preventing gay Californians from getting married at this time, and it draws out the process by another couple of years. Delaying tactics are really the only thing they have going for them at this point. (Though, with how quickly US opinion is shifting on this issue, time is their enemy in the end.)

Appealing directly to the Supreme Court would speed things up, likely resulting in a final decision next year at the latest. Because of how the 9th Circuit decided the case, there’s a good chance the Supreme Court will refuse to hear it, or if they do take the case, that they’ll uphold the 9th Circuit decision.

I have been following the case ever since it went to trial before Judge Walker in 2010, and it has been a fascinating experience. I’ve read trial transcripts, briefings, and lengthy court decisions. The whole thing has given me a new awareness of how our judicial process works and the intricacies of constitutional law.

For anyone interested in Proposition 8, or news concerning marriage equality in general, I highly recommend taking a look at this site. In addition to posts whenever there were new developments, and posts discussing legal strategies and comment, there are links to a timeline of events for anyone wanting to get caught up on the history. You can also read many of the court documents, including the decision striking down Prop 8.

The other happy development is here in my own state. Last week, on February 1st, the Washington State Senate passed a marriage equality bill that will allow same-sex couples to marry. Yesterday, February 8th, the House passed the bill. Since Governor Christine Gregoire was the one who introduced the legislation and helped to assure its passage, she will be signing it into law.

Unfortunately, that most likely won’t make marriage equality in Washington a done deal. Conservative religious groups are already gearing up to collect enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot this coming November. They’ll have about three and a half months to collect signatures and experts believe they’ll be able to meet the early June deadline.

I wish these zealots would pay attention to the thoughts expressed by Senator Mary Margaret Haugen from Camano Island. Despite her strong personal religious convictions, and being a Democrat senator up for re-election in a Republican-leaning district, she became the 25th vote for the bill, which guaranteed that it would pass in the Senate. Her full remarks can be read here. I can’t help but admire her dedication to the American ideal.

Just for the record, I have zero interest in getting married personally. I’m a confirmed loner. But marriage equality is important to me for two reasons. The first being the obvious, that all citizens of the United States should have the same rights. The second being that, while marriage is not something important to all gay people as individuals, it is important to gay people as a whole because equality in that area will directly and positively impact and improve equality in other areas.

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