E.J. Graff

Pee in Safety!

As I've written here before, bathrooms are the ground zero of the transgender social movement. Talk to a transman or transwoman—or to many "gender nonconforming" folks ( i.e. , women who are very butch and men who are very fey)—and you'll hear about the fury, hostility, threats, and assaults that can result from using either bathroom. Go into the women's, and you can get yelled at for not being a real woman. Go into the men's, ditto. To avoid risking the hostility and the threat of attack, many end up "holding it" for long periods of time, day after day, resulting in kidney and bladder infections. Wouldn't you want to be able to go potty without being threatened, assaulted, or raped for looking a little different from every other guy or gal? When you really, really have to pee, you don't necessarily want to have to do Trans Education 101: You just want to use a toilet. Well, here comes another reason to love Planned Parenthood: Its Ithaca, New York, chapter has created a "pee in peace...

Martin Luther King Jr. and Intellectual Property

Just a few years ago at TPMCafe.com, I linked to a video of the "I Have a Dream" speech for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But that video is no longer available online ; you can pay $10 to get a copy. And so here's a link to the radio show On The Media 's segment called " Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Public Imagination ." Producer Jamie York examines the oral tradition within which King was working when he created his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech—and the capitalist tradition in which it has been trademarked and licensed. The segment made me think of Lewis Hyde's book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property , which once upon a time was must-reading for certain arts and intellectual types. Hyde's beautifully and movingly written book contends that art and inspiration must circulate freely, not be owned but passed on, which clashes with a property-based society in which we all need to be paid for our efforts. That clash lives with us today in many ways: mixes and...

Friday Miscellany

Good lord, the week goes by fast, and I don't get to comment on 10 percent of what's interesting out there. So here are a few items not to be missed: Jerry Sandusky . Sara Ganim, the amazing young reporter who tracked down and revealed the sordid story at Penn State, reports on the back story behind the investigation and indictment. It's a fascinating article, with between-the-lines suggestions that either someone held the police back or that they were amazingly clueless in investigating the former Penn State coach's serial child molestation, abuse, and assault. She also gives hints to how one victim's mother took the lead in showing police who else might have been molested—by going through Sandusky's creepily titled book Touched. The mother said that the boys had to be subpoenaed before they would testify. The whole piece is worth a read, but here is the opening: The investigation of Jerry Sandusky took three years. And it took Sandusky himself—through the pages of his autobiography...

What Do We See?

They’re starting to run together in my mind. Jerry Sandusky. Silvio Berlusconi. Herman Cain. U.N. peacekeepers. Arnold Schwarzenegger. USA Swimming coaches. Roman Catholic priests. Here’s the shared story line: A powerful man—or a man in a powerful hierarchy—preys sexually on those in weaker positions. Folks around him have seen him swooping down on vulnerable or naïve young women. Or half-noticed that he always travels with troubled boys who share his hotel room. But because he doesn’t look like a monster, because he’s brilliant at his job, because if he’s doing anything wrong it would embarrass the group, their minds back away from the insight. That’s just Jack being Jack, they think. He’s basically a good guy; he couldn’t really be hurting those kids. What are you gonna do? Institutions and families are powerful things; we need them to survive. It’s frightening to rock the boat—especially if you want to keep your job or care deeply about the football program. No one likes the...

Women, War, & Peace

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
I'm not a gender essentialist. I don't believe that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. I suspect strongly, in fact, that women and men are the same species and might even be able to reproduce. At the same time, it's true that women and men—on average, in general—tend to behave differently. You can't predict any individual woman's or man's behavior based on sex; as we've discussed here before, some boys want to be princesses, and some girls are hard-core jocks with a fabulous swagger. Yet at the same time, the international policy community knows that, on average, women tend to invest in their families while men spend their money on themselves. And that if women are involved in peacemaking and national rebuilding, that peace is more stable than if it were all organized by men. Last month, Hillary Clinton gave an extraordinary speech that got little attention, buried as it was during the holidays. In it, she discussed: ... the growing body of evidence that shows how women...

Peace, Wild Wooddove

That last post reminded me of one of my favorite poems, Gerard Manley Hopkins' " Peace" : When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut, Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs? When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it? O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite, That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo, He comes to brood and sit.

Do Women Ask for More?

About a month ago, I urged women to do our part to help close the gender wage gap by learning to negotiate for more money, noting that it's a well-established fact that women don't ask for as much as men. I made the point that that's not the only, or even the primary, reason for the wage gap—but why should we help keep our income down? Commenters made some other important points, including the fact that women do get punished for being assertive, far more than men do. That's also been well established, which only means that women have to work harder to find the appropriate strategies for us. In the wages-and-salary game, you can't win if you don't play. Nevertheless, I raised my eyebrows when, at The Washington Post , Nancy Carter and Christine Silva of Catalyst wrote : Our recent Catalyst report, The Myth of the Ideal Worker , reveals that women do ask for raises and promotions. They just don’t get as much in return.... Our findings run counter to media coverage of the so-called...

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

In The New York Times this weekend, John Schwartz asked the real question we've all had: If I can't beat 'em, how do I join 'em? We’ve all been hearing about the 1 Percent—you know, the nation’s fat cats. ... Camping out in Zuccotti Park apparently didn’t beat them. They appear to be rather entrenched. ... Now I’m left with just this question: How do I get in on some of that sweet 1 Percent action? He interviews experts for advice and comes to some interesting conclusions, among them: He gamely told me that in order to make it in the world of truly enormous wealth, “money has to be the single most important thing in your life.” The very wealthy, he said, “live in a culture of affluence: your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues, your associates are all vastly rich.” I pondered this for a moment, then wondered aloud: “Does this mean I have to upgrade my friends?” He answered somberly, “I think you have to upgrade your friends.” What about my parents? I asked. “It would be very...

Yes, It's "Rape" Rape

Last week I heard two pieces of good news about rape—one local, one national. The local news: While Boston's serious crime reports dropped by 8 percent overall, rape reports spiked by 12 percent, according to police; the rise was especially dramatic in some lower-income sections of the city. So why is that good news? Well, no one believes more rapes occurred—primarily because there was no increase in reported rapes by strangers, which are most likely to be reported but only make up an estimated 20 percent of all rapes. Nope, the good news was that Boston women decided to report it when acquaintances, boyfriends, dates, friends, and family members forced them to have sex. Public-health and criminal-justice statistics folks know that's happening; according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recently released sexual violence survey , nearly one in five women is raped in her lifetime, and more than one million women are raped each year. Far fewer are reported to police...

Outsiders Everywhere

"Why do you stay in the U.S., then?" I asked the German-born historian whose last professional job in Germany ended two years ago. Since then, she has been doing piecemeal work and relying on a much thinner social safety net in the U.S. than she would have in her country of origin. There, she'd have her family, health care, lower housing costs, and other social and economic guarantees. She had just told me how much Germany had come to life since her youth: instead of "don't walk on the grass" signs, there's a lively public culture; instead of beige houses, there's an explosion of color; instead of the grim and clenched authoritarian culture for which Germany was once famous, there's playfulness. So why stay in the U.S.? I wasn't challenging her; I was genuinely curious. It takes a certain kind of person to leave your culture behind and be unfamiliar with everything forever after. No matter how long she's been here, she can never be part of certain shared cultural conversations, which...

International Adoption or Child Trafficking?

Maria Fernanda Alvarado lies at the center of Erin Siegal's true-crime investigation into the Guatemalan adoption system. Photo by Erin Siegal.
Between 1998 and 2008, nearly 30,000 Guatemalan-born children (mostly infants and toddlers) were adopted by U.S. parents. In some years, that meant that an astonishing 1 out of 100 children born in Guatemala was adopted by an American family. For most of that time, everyone but the prospective adoptive parents knew—or in some cases actively chose to “ unknow ”—that the country's international adoption system was a cesspool of corruption and crime, and motivated by money. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and news organizations reported in detail, repeatedly, that the country's babies were systematically being bought, coerced, or even kidnapped away from families that wanted to raise them. But because healthy babies and toddlers kept on coming at a regular pace that kept up with demand in America, and because powerful Guatemalans were getting enormously rich off the baby trade, the system did not shut down until January 1, 2008. Finding Fernanda is a true-crime page-turner about...

You're One of the Richest People in the World. You.

CNN Money delivered some startling news yesterday. Reporting on World Bank economist Branko Milanovic's book, "The Haves and the Have-Nots," you are one of the haves. Here's the deal: It only takes $34,000 a year, after taxes, to be among the richest 1% in the world. That's for each person living under the same roof, including children. (So a family of four, for example, needs to make $136,000.) ... In the grand scheme of things, even the poorest 5% of Americans are better off financially than two thirds of the entire world. Do check out the chart : I could be wrong, but I'm guessing that you're in the global one percent, or close to it.

While You Were Out

Yes, more has been happening in the world than the Iowa caucuses. (Am I the only one bored out of my mind by horse-race coverage? Do we really have ten months to go? ) Some other recent news includes: Spain's same-sex-marriage law makes politicians proud : Newly departed Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says that the ruling he’s most proud of from his nearly eight years in office is the passage of full marriage rights for his gay and lesbian countrymen. The Mexican state of Quintana Roo joined Mexico City, where more than 1,000 same-sex couples have married, and will marry same-sex couples. Thanks, capitalism! Cancun and other resort areas on the Mexican Caribbean will have a new attraction for gay and lesbian couples from the United States, Canada and Europe, allowing them to legalize their unions thanks to a quirk in the local civil code. ... “This market niche ... is very attractive for European, Canadian and American (homosexual) couples,” said the spokesperson...

Catholic Bishops versus Tolerance

While you were away from your computer over the holiday break, Catholic bishops escalated the latest tactic in what we once called "the culture wars": accusing pro-diversity and gay-equality forces of religious intolerance. Here's how it works. A government—state or federal—implements a nondiscrimination law and requires all of its contractors to abide by it. But some of those contractors are religious groups—say, Catholic Charities—and refuse to abide by a nondiscrimination policy that would require them to consider same-sex couples as prospective parents for foster care or adoption. Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times notes : For the nation’s Catholic bishops, the Illinois requirement is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops,...

Up With "Progressives"! Down With Socialists!

So here's some good news to start off 2012. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, a nonpartisan polling source and a reporter's default source on almost everything, released a report last week on how Americans feel about various political labels. The most liked term: "progressive," which 67 percent react positively to, while only 22 percent have a negative response. But don't get too happy: "Conservative" is a close second, with 62 percent of Americans reacting favorably and 30 percent disliking it. Since these are highly contradictory results, we're obviously talking about feelings, not thoughts. (Let's see, where might most Prospect readers land in that poll?) But here's the most dangerous term: "socialism," which makes 60 percent of Americans reach for their guns. (OK, maybe I'm interpreting this somewhat colorfully.) Especially when it's promoted by a Kenyan-born Muslim. Guess what term Romney et al. are tossing around, um, liberally?

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