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.

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.

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:

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

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.

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?        


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. 

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:

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.

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.?

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.

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:

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.

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:

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.