30 November 2007

La faute?

I'm a few days late on this one, but I read this morning that there has been another "national tragedy" in France involving a police officer and two young children. France has since been in upheaval, responding to judicial findings that the police were indeed not at fault for the deaths of the two children.

What's interesting here, more than the French love a good riot, is how this incident brings to the forefront all the social issues present in contemporary France. Immigrant peoples are flocking to France, setting up camp in the banlieues of larger cities and struggling to find work. France's unemployment rate is staggering: its destroying their economy while causing stress among the people.

This is not new. Look at the Revolution. France has a history of a wavering economy and the people have shown their violence. This incident is about more than two boys killed in an auto accident. This is about people who are economically oppressed, forced to live in unacceptable housing while working dead-end jobs that do not cover the cost of daily living. France's society needs to re-evaluate its structure and allow for full integration of immigrant peoples. This means that France must do away with it hierarchical elitism and learn to view all peoples as equal. This means that France must revision its policy on work while seeking to create new jobs that provide the opportunity to advance while paying enough to meet the needs of life.

The people of France have every right to be outraged. Perhaps no one is at fault in this specific incident, but the deaths of these children have become a national symbol of the mistreatment of the "other".

29 November 2007

The writer within

As finals approach, I've been amazing myself with my ability to beautifully organize complete bullshit into a decent paper. And sadly, most of my professors are happy, even surprised, by my bullshit. Which leads me to wonder: Is this what college, and by extension life, is really about? My (in)ability to organize shit into something that isn't superficially shit? If that's the goal of college, then I've succeeded.

But all of this writing is also causing me to questions my future. It seems like I just moved to Louisville, and I'm just now getting used to the city, but it's already time for me to be thinking about going to grad school. The GRE is next fall and I'll have to begin the application process in October. Not only does the immediacy of grad school scare me, but the fact that I have no idea what I want to do horrifies me.

I know that writing is going to be a huge part of my future - but in what way? Do I want a PhD in English? Gender Studies? Something that combines both areas? Or would I like to be a critic? Someone who works heavily with literary theory?

And then there's a small part of me that wants to just quit and get a job now. Do I really want to continue with school when the job market for teachers is already so saturated? Do I really have what it takes? Moreover, what would a man be doing in Gender Studies? I'm afraid that I would become the epitome of the "glass escalator" in that field. Because I'm a male feminist, I would be pushed further in the field - and I'm not entirely comfortable with that.

So many things to think about.

19 November 2007

Fleeting vestiges

Lately I've been reading a lot more for pleasure. The semester is winding down and I finally have the time to pick up some of the long forgotten books that have littered my bookshelf since last year. And fortunately, a couple of friends of mine have lovingly made a few additions to the list. Unfortunately, however, this has caused me to read in small spurts, picking up this book only to be come bored enough to pick up another one. I guess I've lost some of my attention span that I worked so hard to cultivate in high school. And since I'm constantly connected to the internet here at school, I've been more involved in the blog world, reading what all my friends can write - which usually ends in a bit on envy...

By far the most fascinating reading of done this past week was reading the memoirs of Virginia Wolf. Her prose is enveloping and leaves you with a sense of wholeness that I cannot explain. Most notably I love how she proceeds to describe the people of her memories. For her, you can never truly describe a person as they were; it is not possible to create a photograph of words that can accurately capture a person for one moment. Rather the author of the memory is only able to provide an acute approximation, a description of an outer shell, a fleeting vestige of the person that once was. This poignantly gestures to the persons wholeness and humanity while providing a sense of nostalgia for the person as they were present in the memory. Wolf notes too how the nostalgia can cause romanticized versions memories to replace the actual/factual ones.

I guess I rather like this view since I have been thinking of my father a lot lately. I have some very fond memories of him, and yet I feel like I fail in accurately telling someone about him each time he is brought into conversation. I miss him much more than I thought I would; I thought I would be okay, yet his death has left a hole in my being that I cannot quite explain and that I think will never fully mend. And I guess in a way, I think back on my relationship with my father with regret. I wish that I had been more forward with him from the beginning. When I came out to my family, he was the accepting one, he was the one that loved me without reserve. Why was he taken from me so soon after? There are so many things I wish I could have said, so many things that I wish I could have done: but I can't.

Memories are all that I have left. And with each passing day, those are becoming more obtuse, distant and fuzzy. They are something that I can no longer control, form, and recall at will, but rather dizzying images that seem to come from nowhere, causing moments of an intense sense of loss.

I miss him.

13 November 2007

Prehistoric Fassion?

I may be developing a proclivity towards reading MSNBC.com, but I was intrigued by and article published today that announced that prehistoric women had a passion for fashion. All assonance aside, I believe that this article is anything but believable.

The author writes that " 'According to the figurines we found, young women were beautifully dressed, like today's girls in short tops and mini skirts, and wore bracelets around their arms," said archaeologist Julka Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic.' Fallacy number one: both the author and the archaeologist just evaluated a past culture based on our contemporary ideas of what culture is.

Moreover, this article disturbs me because it seems to give a prehistoric notion that women were indeed meant to care about fashion. And interestingly the author quips that this culture was "[a] community was especially fond of children. Artifacts include toys such as animals and rattles of clay, and small, clumsily crafted pots apparently made by children at playtime." Again, women are characterized as having always already been mothers, which serves as another justification of sexism today.

This article serves only to perpetuate sexist notions of the feminine and tells us nothing of value about this past culture. I would argue that both the author and the archaeologist need to ask different questions about their work while being wary of sexist ideology within in their own interpretations. What power structures were present that called for these women to wear such clothing? Why are they pictured as mothers? Why would mothering be relevant to fashion?

Perhaps I need to rethink from where I get my news. Or if anything, I'll continue to write about these articles that are continuing to marginalize women.

Article can be found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21758213/

11 November 2007

A reluctant reaper

In a recent article on MSNBC.com, it was reported that the national average of executions has gone down over the past few decades. The report notes that even the numbers in Texas, a long-time record holder for executions - killing sometimes more than one inmate in a week - is on the decline. So why are these number falling? Why is our judicial system sentencing fewer criminals to execution?

MSNBC.com says that the falling numbers of execution is part of a historical trend - "What is acceptable in theory seems less and less tolerable in practice." Here we see that what is mandated is often not in line with the reality of death. Moreover, I believe there is much more to this than the executioners suddenly developing a weak stomach.

The masculinity of death is faultering. In fact, you might go as far as to say that some executioners are being feminized. Beware, emotions are running rampant in the courtroom! How could we as men be emotional about the condemned? How could we care a criminal's life when he as done such terrible things?! This hyper-masculinity that has for along as we can remember prided itself on its ability to be impartial and unemotional is no longer holding under the realities of death. The executioners are seeing just how brutal, how gruesome death really is.

And as emotions are seen as feminie, judges and executioners alike are seen as soft and losing touch with their job. Bullshit. Emotions are not feminie, but rather have been characterized as such. Forget it! Lose your stone-faced attitude and look into the face of reality! Death is not pretty - nor should it ever be reduced to a number on a page. Once again, I say we need a revisioning of masculinty that allows for men to be emotional, that allows emotions to help in the decisions we make.

I applaud these men in our courtrooms that are choosing to let their emotions guide their rulings, and for looking at death as a reality, not a distant objectivity.

06 November 2007

A Time To Kill?

I just read on MSNBC.com that 2007 is the deadliest year for American's fighting in Iraq. As out news media continues to print these staggering figures, printing more and more death tolls each day, I wonder how it is possible for us to continue to "stay the course". Is there not a certain point at which you decide that it is no longer worth fighting, that the loss of life does not justify the desired outcome?

Maybe I'm losing my identity as a man here, but let's stop and think about what's going on here. Those numbers reported are numerical vestiges of someone's life. A real human being. Shot, killed. Numbers are simply a method of being objective about death and do not accurately represent what death on the battlefield is like. Let's take out the numbers; let's put some emotion back into this thing call war and death. That person had a family who will miss him terribly. She had a life, one that will no longer exist. I don't doubt that fighting for one's country and dying for one's country is a high honour, but there comes a time where common sense must rule.

We need to call attention to the individuals fighting this war. I recently watched a television broadcast of a memorial ceremony for the Iraq war. Each individual name of killed American was read aloud. This is a start, but not enough. We need something that will give all of us back home a loud wake up call. This war is not something that we can hide in numbers on a page, but rather something that we should measure by the individual.

Then, I believe, we will realize that this war is not worth fighting. That staying the course is a bull-headed ploy and that we need not just a new direction in Iraq, but a full removal from Iraq. The damage done is, at least for the time being, irreparable.

Think of your daughter blown to bits, body parts scattered across a field. Then ask yourself when it's time to pull out of this war.