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Archive for November, 2012

After immediate survival, the number one goal of human beings is to be fruitful and multiply. This is true of humans everywhere on the planet, no matter the continent or culture. It has been so true that beginning in the 20th Century, humans have multiplied themselves right out of water, food, and land in many places. Including places in the US.

A couple hours ago this thought struck me: When humanity is threatened, women become incubating chattel.

This thought arrived in the middle of reading The Stand by Stephen King. I was reading about a situation in the book where four men were gathering their own little harem for private use in the aftermath of a devastating plague.

Post-apocalyptic situations in which population has been decimated and society completely breaks down are excellent fictional tools for highlighting all sorts of things about human nature and the human condition. And despite The Stand’s central focus on a supernatural war between ultimate good and ultimate evil, there is still plenty of time devoted to these interesting topics.

When I had that thought I posted above, immediately following was one of those moments when a connection snaps together in my brain. Two seemingly unrelated things suddenly have a bridge built between them. In this case the two things are:

1) When humans are concerned about building up the population, the equality of women suffers as a result. This is because women are not only necessary to the procreational act like men are, but they must also carry the fruit that is being multiplied. It’s not difficult to rationalize all sorts of limits on women when they are required for this fundamental job of insuring the continuing existence of the human race. When that job becomes less important, the lot of women improves.

2) In the United States the population is undergoing a significant shift. Demographers estimate that sometime around 2050 white people will become a minority in terms of absolute numbers in the US population.

The connecting bridge between those two things is the resurgence of the war on women in this country. Issues that most of us considered resolved once and for all a few decades ago are now being brought up for debate again. They are being debated by white men.

I’ve been shocked this last year as not only women’s health and abortion issues have been put up for debate, but that birth control is apparently now on the table for discussion as well. The ability to control reproduction and plan families, rather than leaving it all to chance, is what allows women to become equal partners.

As a society we have generally accept this as true. And because we aren’t worried about humans dying off any time soon, it has been easy enough to make changes in public policy that have made family planning not only possible, but an expected way of life.

Except, white people are now feeling threatened. Those brown people keep having babies at a higher rate, and keep entering this country at a higher rate, overwhelming us white folks who have been procreating more conservatively in recent decades.

I don’t think it’s coincidental that white conservatives are suddenly refighting old fights at a time when it is becoming clear that their days as a majority in this country are numbered. I doubt that this is done on a conscious level for most of them. It’s a reaction growing out of a fear that is submerged in the dark swampy areas of our brains.

Us white folk need to bring this all out into the light, where the fears and sense of threat can be illuminated and dealt with. The population shift is going to happen. We need to get over it. Returning women to the status of incubating chattel is not an acceptable solution.

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NaNoWriMo 2012

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So how’s it going all you Wrimos?

I’m doing…okay. Not great and not terrible. I’m about half a day behind in word count, but from past experience I know that’s nothing to get freaked out over. (I lost a full day of writing from getting all caught up in following the election results.)

I’m feeling really scattered this year and it’s showing in my writing. I’ve been able to move forward every day, but what I’ve written is a lot more meandering and unfocused than usual it seems. This story has been in my head a long time, so I’m surprised it’s turning out this way. But, it’s still only the end of the first week, and things can change at any moment.

If you’re looking for something to help with procrastination from writing, take a look at this: NaNoWriMo the Musical! It’s being done in weekly webisodes, and the first two are up on the site.

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Obama Wins a Second Term!

Yeah, everyone knows by now. I don’t really have anything of worth to add about that. But I will say that I’m giddy with relief. I think changing horses midstream at this point, especially to Mr. Can’t-hold-an-opinion-longer-than-two-weeks-and-forty-seven-percent-of-you-suck Romney, would have been disastrous.

Gains for women!

A record number of women will be representing American citizens in the US Senate. Currently there are 17 women serving, which was also a record. After the new senators are sworn in for the next session, there will be 19 women serving in the Senate. Possibly 20, if Heidi Heitkamp manages to pull out a win in her very close North Dakota race.

Even more exciting, Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay person to be elected to the US Senate.

It’s rather discouraging that after all this time women will make up only 20% of our Senate when we are over 50% of the population. But at least we’re heading in the right direction, even if agonizingly slowly.

Akin and Mourdock lost their races, giving women everywhere reason to breathe a sigh of relief. If the names don’t ring a bell: Akin was the astoundingly ignorant candidate who thinks women have mystical woo-woo reproductive systems that automatically shut down in the case of “legitimate rape”. Mourdock holds the repugnant view that a child conceived via rape is “a gift from God”.

We’re here, we’re queer, we’re gonna get married!

Well, okay, I’m not gonna get married. Not my thing. But lots of my brothers and sisters will be tying the knot.

Maine had an initiative put on the ballot by the people to legalize same-sex marriage. With 75% of the votes tallied, it is passing by 53%.

Maryland and my beloved state of Washington had referendums on the ballot. Our legislatures passed marriage equality laws earlier this year and people who didn’t like that gathered enough signatures to put the laws on the ballot for approval.

With 97% of the votes tallied in Maryland, their referendum is being approved by 52%. Washington is a bit trickier because our elections are done entirely by mail, and any ballot postmarked by the 6th counts. So only 51% of votes have been tallied so far. But the referendum is being approved by 52%, and I’m optimistic that will hold.

The state of Minnesota had a constitutional amendment on the ballot. The amendment would have banned same-sex marriage. With 97% of votes tallied, it has been rejected by 51%. That doesn’t mean gay people will be able to get married in Minnesota yet, because there’s already an existing state law against it. But it does mean that the discrimination will not be enshrined in their state constitution.

This is all very big news. The fact that it’s a clean sweep is rather startling. Especially since polls leading up to the election in Minnesota were not very encouraging. Up until now, marriage measures, whether initiatives, laws, or amendments, have always failed when put up for popular vote. (There’s one exception, but it was turned back later in a followup vote.) Not only has that string of losses been broken, it was broken four times in one day.

But the other more subtle thing that I find interesting, and it’s a portent of real change, is the final vote percentages. Up until now there has been a significant tendency for people to misrepresent how they were going to vote on gay issues when being polled. (Many people would tell pollsters that they supported an issue, when they obviously ended up voting against it.) Also, most of those who stated they were undecided when being polled usually voted against the measure. What this meant was that you needed to add anywhere from 6-10% to the anti-equality poll numbers to get a closer reading on what was likely to actually happen at the ballot box.

A lot of that disappeared this time. It was still somewhat evident, but now falling more within the margin of error. The polls did a fairly good job of predicting the outcomes, or even in the case of Minnesota, underestimating support in the final days. This is a good sign for the future.

Reefer Madness!

Washington and Colorado have become the first two states to legalize marijuana. Not just decriminalize it, and not just allow medical marijuana, but legalize pot for personal recreational use for adults age 21 and over. It will be regulated by the state in a manner very similar to alcohol. (Colorado did it by amending their state constitution.)

The ballot measures passed by substantial percentages in both states, and not only in traditionally liberal areas either. It will be interesting to see how the federal government reacts. I have a feeling this issue will be heading for the Supreme Court eventually.

Passage in two of the three* states voting on the issue is a sign people understand that prohibition not only doesn’t work, but ends up costing us as a society. Both financially, and in the loss of people to the criminal system who don’t belong there.

* Oregon also had legalization on the ballot and I’m surprised at the results. They rejected the measure by the same percentage that it’s passing in Washington. Yet it usually seems like Oregon is on the forefront of these sorts of things. I haven’t looked into it at all, but it’s possible that there were problems with the specific law that people rejected, rather than the idea itself.

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The Long Trail by Penny Hayes

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10/25

I decided I wasn’t quite ready to leave the world of Leadville, Colorado, so when I looked up Iron Ties by Ann Parker and saw that the ebook price was only $2.51 I bought it and started reading. Reading this one closely mirrored my experience of the first. I found that the story itself wasn’t what most interested me. Parker is competent at crafting a mystery, but not necessarily one that truly grabs me. (A personal taste thing.)

What she is excellent at is creating believable characters and evoking a distinct sense of place and time. And it’s that latter that keeps me absorbed in the books.

Parker also did a great job of incorporating the aftermath of the Civil War in this one. It’s far enough in the country’s past now that it’s easy to forget that the end of the war left raw, gaping wounds in the people who lived through it, on both sides. I’m not a Civil War buff, but I did find that aspect quite interesting, primarily because it’s rarely discussed.

Again Inez was an intriguing protagonist. She’s often self-righteous, which then comes across as hypocrisy given her occupation and extra-curricular activities. She’s complex, not always likable, but interesting to read about.

After I finished that one I was ready to leave Parker’s Leadville, but not necessarily the Old West. Bella Books was having a sale on select books, and one of them was the ebook edition for an old favorite of mine, The Long Trail by Penny Hayes. So I bought a copy for my Kindle and read it.

The Long Trail was originally published in 1986 and was one of the early volumes in my very small, but growing, lesbian library. It’s a story of two women in a tiny town in Texas, not long after the Civil War, who are incredibly unlikely to become friends, but do anyway. Not yet realizing they’d been falling in love, they decide to leave their town and make their way back East. Which makes this sort of a reverse of the usual story, in which the intrepid characters head out on a long trail west.

Because the book has a special place in my heart, I tend to overlook the book’s flaws. If I were reading it now for the first time I probably wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did when I first discovered it. But even with the flaws, the characters are well-drawn and their story is touching and adventurous.

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10/31

A year ago several of Lawrence Block’s old pulp novels written under the pen name Jill Emerson went on sale for 99 cents each. I bought six of them at the time, and just now finished reading Thirty, which is the third of them I’ve read. (The other two were Threesome, which was excellent, and Enough of Sorrow, which I didn’t think was very good.)

Thirty is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s written in diary format, and is the story of a twenty-nine-year-old housewife who abruptly leaves her husband, moves to Greenwich Village, and embarks on a series of sexcapades.

The writing was very good, with several insightful observations about people and life. But Jan, the woman writing the diary, isn’t that sympathetic. Not that I think she’s intended to be, the purpose for this type of novel was mostly to titillate, and possibly shock, readers.

A nitpicky thing that bugged the heck out of me was Jan using the slang term “balling” to refer to sex. Block has used that in the other books also, and it’s obviously his phrasing sneaking into the narration, rather than a reflection of the character’s speech. It’s a male term, rarely used by women, and even back then I don’t think many men used it either. So it undercuts the female voice of the narration, especially when it’s not just a slang quirk of one character, but used by several different women.

One section was troubling and distasteful, because Jan comes under sway of a predatory, manipulative man, who is also involved with a young girl. The girl is only fifteen in the novel, but he first seduced her when she was twelve. Worse, Jan is also involved with her.

The book is dark, with Jan frequently feeling depressed and suicidal. And it has no ending to speak of, in which the reader can feel some sense of resolution. Instead it just stops on a somber note. Still, I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it, at least partly because I love reading books written in the time period of the 50s and 60s. (This one was originally published in 1970.)

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