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Wanna hurt Hobby Lobby? ORGANIZE THIS:

"Your Reason Not To Shop Here" boycott.

This is how it works:

You print up TWO sets of flyers, and you set up a webpage or blog with info on it.

Set One:
Includes a brief statement about how HL owners are fucking over female employees and chipping away at Church/State separation rights by denying women health benefits based on the owners' religious beliefs.

Includes a list of LOCAL alternative places to shop for crafting and decorating supplies.

Set Two:
Includes information about the HL retirement plan investments in companies that manufacture "abortifacients" (contraceptive pharmaceuticals and devices.)

Includes a list of LOCAL alternative places to shop for crafting and decorating supplies.

Then you run a no-buffer zone boycott protest as close to the door of the Hobby Lobby as you can get. On one side, the signs have crosses and pro-life slogans, and the protesters hand out Flyer Two. On the other side, the signs have 1st Amendment and equal rights slogans, and the protesters hand out Flyer One. On EACH side is the banner: "Your Reason Not to Shop Here."

Setting up protest coverage for something like this is a lot of work. Start by identifying volunteers. You're looking for two- to four- hour shifts, at least 2-3 people in each group (so 4-6 people) throughout opening hours at HL.

But if you're serious?

If this happens in DOZENS of cities, if it goes on for a couple of weeks, you WILL hurt HL.

Do not engage in in-store actions or stuff that makes life difficult for the low-wage employees that are already getting screwed over.

You know what will chap HL management asses? Seeing those HL employees standing around in a just-cleaned store with fully-stocked shelves, DOING NOTHING.

Yes, some employees will be RIF'd. That's inevitable. With luck, they'll be able to find jobs at the competing shops that are getting more business. And better benefits.


Misogyny and Homophobia: Chickens, Eggs, and Opposition to Marriage Equality

I thought long and hard about the title for this post.

The "money shot" is really the last two words: "Marriage Equality."

First, let me confess to a couple of dirty little secrets about myself:

One: (Of this, I am not ashamed.) I'm a cis-woman, but my sexuality/orientation is "bonobo." I don't 'get' how the shape of an individual's naughty bits is supposed to influence whether I think a person is hot, whether I'd like to have sex with them, or whether I could have a long-term intimate partnership with them. I never have. I find it utterly mystifying that it matters to others, but a lifetime of cultural conditioning has taught me the norms and expectations, even if only from a purely intellectual standpoint.

Two: (Of this, I am deeply ashamed.) That same cultural conditioning led me to regard the institution of marriage as something relevant only from the standpoint of the specific legal and economic benefits appertaining thereunto. Thus, for a number of years, I supported "civil union equality" but wrote off marriage equality as not worth offending potential allies who might have religious issues over. (I SAID I was deeply ashamed, and yes, I've learned better, and am working to make amends.)

So the marriage equality fight is mine, now, in a very visceral way, based partly on that shame and need to make amends (which is the only positive thing you can do with shame) but also from another reason that I hadn't really grasped until very recently.

Let's put it out there first and foremost that the REAL driver behind the anti-marriage-equality effort is the same culprit behind most of what's wrong in our society today: The need of Our Beloved Oligarchs to keep us at each others' throats so that they can keep emptying our pockets into their offshore accounts.

Our Beloved Oligarchs have no real moral convictions about whether homosexuality is right or wrong because, let's face it, they have no moral convictions. Period. They have only the utterly pragmatic need to maintain and increase their own power and wealth.

That being the case, they work through their paid shills and grifters (some of whom have genuine, if revolting, moral convictions, and some who merely cynically exploit the demand) to find highly divisive issues that are broadly congruent with their real goals of maintaining control.

Marriage equality is a made-to-order banquet for them, from that standpoint.

Yes, the opposition to marriage equality deeply rooted in homophobia and the whole ignorant, "ick factor" fear of Teh Gayitude among the flocks shepherded by those shills and grifters.

But the other, less-obvious roots go just as deep, and focus in on the "E" word: "Equality."

We can see it in the escalating volume and venom of the misogynistic attempts to keep women fearful, keep our bodies under their control, keep us in our second-class status in a whole array of social and economic areas.

You know how they've been saying that letting gay people marry will "destroy marriage?"

They're RIGHT.

They are absolutely, one-thousand-percent spot-on accurate with that.

Because the institution of marriage has never been notable for equality.

One side of the heterosexual marriage equation has ALWAYS gotten the fuzzy side of the lollipop. (Oh, and-- MRA trolls? Fuck off with your 'women have had it easy because they didn't have to go out and win bread' crap, okay? Just fuck off with that.)

So, what happens when we can no longer identify the "less equal" partner in a two-party marriage, by the shape of their naughty bits?

Marriage becomes a different institution. A mutual arrangement between two equal parties, for the support of themselves and their offspring, bolstered by a social infrastructure. (Yeah, SURE it always was that. Say "hi" to your pet unicorn for me, too.)

So, which reason ("icky gayness" or "uppity wimmin" is the most fundamental, important core of the anti-marriage equality effort?

That's where the chicken/egg part of the title comes in.

This is the fight of every human being who cares about equality.

It is my fight.

I have a LOT of skin in this game.

There will be no compromise, and no stopping, short of total victory.

No church, no sensible woodchucks, no pragmatic temporizing will deter me.

I see the possibility, I see the future. I see equality on the horizon, and marriage equality is a shining road to get us there.

No way am I gonna let anything run me off this road.


Divided by a Common Language

Let's start with the assumption, I think widely agreed with (but often for reasons that are individually divisive, alas...):

Our culture is at best dysfunctional, and more accurately pathological, when it comes to gender, gender expression, sexuality, and sexual expression (Which, by the way, are all different things. Not dealing with that is part of the dysfunction/pathology.)

We've made progress. Great progress, amazingly fast in historical terms, but agonizingly slowly in terms of individual lives.

Speaking of "in historical terms," perhaps one of the oldest and strongest tools that retards progress, is also one of the most indispensable elements of human life and culture: language.

Here in the US our primary languages are mostly Indo-European derived. Let's stick with English since it's the basic language of this message board. Modern English carries no grammatical gender; that is, we do not assign gender-based construction elements to nouns or other parts of speech.

Old English, which split off from Germanic/Saxon centuries ago, carried grammatical gender and the remains of this are visible in our pronouns: We have pronouns for three genders; masculine, feminine, and neuter. Or, "he," "she," "it."

Straightforward enough on that level, but then layer in the baggage of our confusion around gender, gender expression, sexuality, and sexual expression-- the fruit of myriad cultural elements including religion, economics, and various sociopolitical constructs. All of which essentially devolve to "norms."

Norming is a tool we use to build and reinforce communities. Language is a key element of norming.

As we try to work our way out of the dysfunction, we smack our noses against language-related social norms. This thread illustrates some of the issues.

The first practical issue raised in the thread brought me up short. I'll paraphrase: "But I work in customer service, and we are required to address people politely, using 'Sir' or 'Ma'am,' and adding 'Mister' or 'Ms.' If it's insensitive and rude to ask someone about their gender, I can't do my job."

Setting aside, for the moment (it DOES matter and should be part of a larger discussion) the cultural norms around adding honorifics as a signifier of politesse, the thing that occurred to me was this:

First, we bump up against the deeply-engrained contemporary prejudice that dictates "neutral" pronouns are so hostile and dismissive that they completely dehumanize the object thereof: ("OMG, check out what just walked in the door! Is it alive?" We also smack into the reality that we're backed into a lose/lose corner that only gets worse as we attempt to expand the language artificially to reflect the reality of the gender/expression spectrum.

That is, while it may be practical to develop new pronouns (hir, shim, etc.) not only is norming their use a formidable challenge, it represents an ephemeral response to a rapidly-evolving reality, and one that presents powerful backlash issues.

(Yes, I know we can't allow backlash to discourage us. It will always be there. We overcome it, again and again. But it slows progress, in some cases significantly.)

As our understanding of the gender/expression spectrum evolves, we are realizing that there is a growing number of general classifications we identify with.

Because that, at the root, is the issue: Identity.

I have it, I want you to recognize it and respect it.

I want how you interact with me to demonstrate that.

Language is part of how you interact with me.

Making language into a flexible tool that allows us to do this freely, without placing each other in difficult/uncomfortable states, is essential. Whether it's the chicken, or the egg, it's an important strategy that will ultimately be critical to progress in human relations and human rights.

In the mean time, we're in this awkward space where we want to recognize each others' humanity and respect each others' identities, even when we're in unfamiliar territory as regards gender/expression, and sexuality/expression.

To complicate matters further, we're also up against those who are strenuously opposing social and cultural evolution, and who will push to subvert, invert, and pervert any efforts to achieve useful consensus.

I don't know any answers.

But sometimes it helps to think about and discuss the questions.


Reality Check Here, Please

First-- The facts I as I know them:

At some point in mid-2009, Army Private Bergdahl went missing from his unit in Afghanistan. Shortly thereafter, units of the Taliban claimed to have captured him, and the Army verified that he was a prisoner.

Between 2009 and 2011, while he was still prisoner, the Army promoted him. Twice. Once to Specialist, and then to Sergeant.

Sometime in 2012, official US Government channels confirmed that they had engaged in negotiations with the Taliban to free Bergdahl.

In February of this year, the government again confirmed that negotiations were underway "via intermediaries" to obtain Bergdahl's release.

A few days ago, President Obama announced that Bergdahl would be released, and that five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay would be released to Qatar.

Since then:
  • Various elements of Congress have gone ballistic, claiming that they were "out of the loop,"
  • Various elements of the US media and a swathe of the punditry have been having major pearl-clutching attacks about "negotiating with terrorists"; and
  • Allegations are flying about Bergdahl being a deserter, mentally ill, a criminal, etc.

Are those facts substantially correct?

May I ask one question, please, particularly aimed at the active-duty and veteran military service members on Democratic Underground?

How would you feel about the next time you have to head out into enemy territory, if the consensus of opinion generally resolves to "We should have let the crazy bastard rot there, and kept the terrorists in Gitmo"?

I'm just wondering.

Because, as far as I can tell, once again this Administration has been making difficult choices in a delicate situation, attempting to balance security and transparency, keeping options open and an over-riding priority in view, and has achieved that priority.

Who is most likely to regard that as a Worst Case Scenario? And why? And what are the implications for our active duty military in hostile territory?


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