A message from an imperfect male feminist.

May 10th, 2012

Trigger warning for rape.

My name is Dan. I am a feminist. I support equal rights for all people regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or any other group who does not currently benefit from privilege. I seek to eliminate things such as rape culture, male privilege, white privilege, cisgender privilege (look it up if you don’t know), heterosexual privilege, and discrimination in the workplace, in government, and just in our everyday lives.

I do not have all the answers and I may very well have a lot of questions. I am an imperfect being in an imperfect world. I am both trying to better that world for my family and better myself so that I can be better at improving this world.

I also just speak for myself and nobody else. It is possible that others may agree with some or even with all of what I am about to say. If they do, great. I will know that I have some kindred spirits out there.  But I do not presume to speak for anyone but myself. But this is coming from my heart. So here it goes.

Sometimes I feel that male allies of the feminist movement are held to an impossible standard by some in the feminist movement when it comes to what they should believe in order to be considered to be a “good feminist”.  This is not to say that most feminists do this. I have had some very good experiences with feminists.

Here is an example. I can agree with someone that we need to combat rape culture. I agree that society does too much victim blaming (believing that what the woman was wearing, where she was walking, or if she was alone had anything to do with her being raped). I agree that we need to do a better job with explaining that the majority of rapes come from people you know.   I agree that we need to, as a society, put the responsibility on people who would rape to not rape instead of putting the major focus on explaining how people can avoid being raped.  However, I might also suggest that because not all rapists will listen to any messages about how to not rape because they don’t care about consent, that it is reasonable to give some general safety tips (like always watching your drink when you are out).

Now, to those who believe the last statement is victim blaming, it could go two ways.  Some could just say “While I disagree with that last statement and feel it is victim blaming, it is good we agree on most of the other points. Let’s work together on all those other things”. Unfortunately, too many times recently, I received the other possibility, which is people who insist on focusing on the one area where we disagree and claim that I must be some sort of rape apologist, mens rights activist, or some other label that clearly isn’t me just because I believe something a little different than the other activists.

This is where I get confused. Nobody in a movement is going to agree on every little thing that would make this world a better place. Hell, in one of my more recent twitter discussions about this very issue, several feminists disagreed on what exactly such safety tips meant. So if someone is in agreement with you 95%, why would you attack them for disagreeing on the last 5%? It doesn’t make sense to me.

“You have a penis, so you cannot understand privilege”.

Then there is the issue of needing to tell male allies of feminism that they cannot understand certain things because of privilege. Male allies of feminism understand privilege, some more than you might know. Take me for example. I am Jewish in a country that constantly seeks to push Christian values on everyone. I am also a big man in a country where skinnier people have advantages. Those are two areas where I am not in the privileged group. My life has been impacted in several ways because of my lack of privilege. I may very well not see certain things because of the privileges I do have. However, comments like “hey, your privilege is showing” in conversations about feminism towards male allies of the feminist movement are not helpful. The reason is that those allies understand that they privileged and are working to fight that privilege. An ally will be willing to understand why they are seeing things with privileged glasses without having to be beaten over the head with the “you are privileged” stick. Often times the label of privilege is thrown around as a negative descriptor and why are you seeking to label your allies in a negative way?

“Hey priviledged guy, shut up and listen!”

In dealing with some activists I have also have heard that people who are privileged who want to be good allies should sit down and shut up and just listen. Well, I am not someone who learns best by listening. I question things around me, all things. If something doesn’t make sense, I am going to wonder why. There was a time where I rejected that we lived in a rape culture. I now acknowledge that we live in a rape culture. Had I just listened to those who would have me shut up and listen I would have likely never agreed. However, because I questioned and involved myself in discussions with others about the topic, I was given an argument that I could not refute and as such I changed my mind on the issue. So the idea that people should just shut up and listen is flawed as not all people learn by simply listening.

“You were falsely accused of rape and brought  it up, you must be a Men’s Rights Activist (MRA)”

I was falsely accused of sexual assault. You can read the short story here. I acknowledge that false accusations are rare. I also do not believe that just because something is rare that it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be dealt with. (For example, women who abort their pregnancies because they were raped make up less than 5% of all abortions. However, just because it is rare it doesn’t mean we should ignore it in abortion debates).

MRA tend to be very loud about false accusations of rape. They tend to give undue weight to the subject as compared to rape. They tend to try and equalize the two as being the same sort of injustice with the same frequency (and they are obviously not). One “well known” MRA even suggests that we should participate in jury nullification in rape cases and not convict the accused until society deals with false accusations of rape.

I am not an MRA. First of all, I do not hate women (and that seems to be  a prerequisite). I also like to let facts, logic and reason dictate where I stand on issues. If you embrace facts logic and reason you would acknowledge that rape is more rampant in society than false accusations of rape. Finally, MRA tend to be trolls by bringing up false accusations of rape in every discussion of rape they participate in.

Me? I only bring up false accusations in general (or my accusation in particular) when relevant to the conversation. If you wish to see me dealing with an absolutely ridiculous person as it pertains to false accusations, see this blog post (about false accusations) over on the Yes means Yes blog and look for the conversation between myself (Daniel Z) and Ginmar.

I could go on and on, but I fear some people might invoke a tl;dr. I will end with this. I am not perfect and I never will be. But I will try my best to do what I can to help promote feminist ideals because at the end of the day laws that require equality will benefit all. We may not always agree. However, does it do us good to argue over the 5% we disagree on or does it do us good to work on the 95% of which we agree on? My answer will always be the latter. I hope yours is as well.

Equality for -insert group here- is redundant.

May 3rd, 2012

There have been times where I have said that we need equality for women or equality for people who are LGBT. But do we really need to add the grouping at the end?

If we achieve equality for women but not for other groups, then can we really say that we have achieved equality?

The moment we make exceptions for any group while seeking equality is the moment we have failed to achieve it.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t point out how individual groups are treated unequally. This doesn’t mean that addressing those inequalities is a rejection of other groups. We can still target the inequalities that only impact certain groups and seek to eliminate them. It just means that the fight for equality requires no other clarification because when we achieve it, it will simply apply to all.

So, from this day forward, I will just say “I am for equality”.

 

On Benefits and Birth Control

February 9th, 2012

There is a big argument going on now about the rules that would require all health insurance plans, even group plans for people who work for religious backed organizations, to cover the birth control pill at no cost. Some are framing this as a freedom of religion issue. They are wrong. There are three reasons why this is not about freedom of religion. There is the simple reason. There is the hypocrisy reason. And then there is the reason that I feel is being missed and is the main purpose of this blog post.

The simple reason is that health insurance covers many items that others may not agree with or use. The insurance that covers the male coworkers in my group covers birth control pills. They will never use that benefit. The insurance that covers female coworkers in my group covers Viagra. The women will never use that benefit. So the idea that a benefit is being offered does not mean it has to be used. And as many have said, Catholic women who choose to not use oral contraception are not forced to do so just because the plan offers it as an option. So nobody’s freedom of religion is being trampled on because everyone pays for items in their insurance plans that they will never use. The only time ones freedom to practice one’s religion would be trampled on would be forced consumption of oral contraceptives. That is not even an issue here. But many have dealt with this first reason, so lets move on.

The second reason is a bit of hypocrisy here. The compromise that allowed the healthcare bill to go through included a prohibition on these plans from covering induced abortions in cases other than rape, incest, or the life/health of the woman. So abortion in the case of rape is being covered in these plans yet we do not hear a peep out of the Catholic Church about them being forced to pay for those services as well. The Catholic Church does not consider rape a good enough of a reason to terminate a pregnancy. But they only complain about birth control pills. So there is some hypocrisy there. They are just picking and choosing their battles and I feel that is just a matter of politics. But this is also not the main reason I made this post.

The conversation we should be having here is about the nature of benefits as a whole and what does it mean when someone works for a company. When I was hired by my company, the human resources department did not just base the decision on if I could be hired by just my salary alone. There is a cost to employ someone that goes beyond the base salary of the employee. Let’s hypothetically say that for an employee making $50,000 a year the cost to employ would be $60,000. For simplicity’s sake we are going to drop all the other benefits that an employee might have and just deal with insurance. Let’s say a family plan costs $10,000 and that makes up the difference between the annual salary and the cost of employment.

The Catholic Church is arguing that it is paying for the cost of insurance. It is arguing that IT is paying $10,000 out of its own pocket to cover the insurance costs. But this is incorrect. It is the work that the employee contributes to the employer that purchases the benefit. The moment that an employer pays the employee a dollar in salary the employer loses all say in how that money can be spent. It now belongs to the employee. In this case, the woman employee has her pay and now has her say on how that money should be spent.

Now, consider insurance. Let’s say that instead of paying the employee a $50,000 wage and a $10,000 health insurance plan that the employer pays a $60,000 wage and contributes nothing to a group plan. However, the employee can pay the $10,000 towards that group plan and buy the same insurance. Because of the way that the tax code is set up, all $10,000 in premiums would come off the top as a pre-tax deduction. So the net result would be no difference. In this case we would all agree that the woman is paying the insurance with the work generated to create a salary of $60,000 and then buy $10,000 in insurance. So why isn’t it exactly the same thing if the woman is given $50,000 in salary and $10,000 as a benefit. The moment the benefit is paid it is hers, paid for by her work, and the church should have no say in what is provided in that benefit. It is her pay, and her say.

Now, I tried to explain this on twitter earlier and because of the character limit I could not adequately explain what i was meaning by my hash tag #herpayhersay. So to anyone who read my twitter posts earlier, this is what I meant when I said there was no difference between her pay paying for insurance and her insurance being directly funded by her labor and provided as a benefit. At the end of the day, she still has the same net salary. At the end of the day it was her labor that provided the entirety of the benefit package that is awarded to her. So at the end if the day it is not the churches money that is paying for any of the benefits provided in the pay package provided to her.

And because it is her pay, it should be her say as to what benefits she wants to take advantage of in that plan. #herpayhersay

Hostilidays 2011 part 2

December 25th, 2011

This makes the last entry look amateur.

Hostilidays 2011

December 25th, 2011

A late entry this year.

Bobby Jindal and corruption

October 25th, 2011

When John Alario last ran for the Louisiana State Senate as a Democrat, the Louisiana GOP sent out a flyer that stated:

 If you care at all about ending corruption in our state then we need your help!
The Republican Party is launching a massive effort to remove one of the most corrupt politicians our state has ever seen. . . John Alario. For more than thirty years, he has controlled the mechanics of our state government with a liberal, iron-fist. And now term limits have forced him out of the House and he running for a State Senate seat.

Bobby Jindal has now endorsed Alario to be President of the Senate.

I have no words.

2004: The point where the Louisana Democratic Party started failing

October 22nd, 2011

Look at where the Louisiana Democratic Party was in 2004. We had a Democratic Governor. We had two Democratic Senators. We had a Democratic Lt. Governor. We had a Democratic Attorney General. The party controlled the legislature. What went wrong?

One of those Democratic Senators, the senior one, decided to not run for reelection. David Vitter ran and could run on the sentiment that he would support the incumbent President George W. Bush. This was a blow to the state party but it was not the turning point.

The turning point was the LA-01 election. LA-01 has always been a conservative district. It would have been hard for any of the candidates, myself included, to have defeated Bobby Jindal. So the Democratic Party decided to stay out of that race. But to me, that was the beginning of the end. By doing so, they not only allowed Bobby Jindal to win without a fight, but it allowed him to spin his version of the story on many issues without any sort of challenge to his claims. It also allowed him to take the funds he should have spent in Louisiana and spread it around the country to gain whatever influence he could. As such, he was elected president of his freshman class.

Building on his 2004 victory, the State Democratic Party (knowing that Bobby Jindal would likely be running for Governor again in 2007) chose to again sit out of this election. This allowed Bobby Jindal to establish more lies like the one that he secured more funds from offshore oil revenues (Landrieu’s bill was the one that did that) and that he supported ethics (he voted to weaken House ethics standards during the Tom Delay scandal). But even more than that, Bobby Jindal was able to do something else. Since the Democratic Party refused to force Jindal to spend money within the district he was running in, he was able to spend money statewide to “fund raise”.

Why do I put “fund raise” in quotes? Well, he sent out fliers to request money from around the State of Louisiana using the platform of “ethics reform” as the reason why Bobby Jindal should be re-elected. He was basically establishing himself statewide to position himself for his run for Governor on a platform of ethics reform. His own campaign even stated that he was running from Kentwood to Ruston and everywhere in between. Well, most of the area between Kentwood and Ruston is not in LA-01.

Now comes 2007. Bobby Jindal runs for governor, having 2 election cycles of media coverage with no Democratic Party challenge to his claims. Basically, people believed everything Bobby Jindal had to say when it came to his past. So there was no reason for the voters to doubt him because the Louisiana Democratic Party just sat back and let Jindal establish his story as being the truth.

Then came the big gaffe of the election for the Democratic Party. They attacked Bobby Jindal and his religious writings. Now, the Democratic Party could very well have hit a home run with the website and commercials. However, they didn’t even accurately state what Jindal wrote in his writings. This allowed Jindal to claim what the party was saying was untrue and then run advertisements stating that he was a “Born Again Christian” in North Louisiana (even though he is a Catholic).

Now, not only has the Louisiana Democratic Party enabled Jindal to establish the narrative, it also discredited itself with the “Jindal on Religion” ad. Jindal had all the political capital and was able to cash in. Other state offices fell to Republicans. Both houses fell to the Republican party via election victories or party switches.

So, how does the Louisiana Democratic Party turn itself around? Well, it cannot do so operating in the way that it has been operating, that is for sure. Some fixes I see include:

  • Do a better job fighting the rhetoric. Challenge every false claim by Jindal and others.
  • Help out all candidates who qualify as a Democrat. Give them access to the voter list without question.
  • Invite all candidates who qualify as Democrats to all endorsement meetings.
  • Do not desperately support just anyone because they have a D behind their name. Many Democrats fell in line behind Hollis because she declared early. But she was just a Jindal-lite.
    We are Democrats for a reason. Democrats and independents need a reason to vote for the candidates representing our party. Does that mean we oppose candidates who are not perfect? Absolutely not. But there has to be a point where the candidate is just too conservative.
  • Work on improving get out the vote measures and implement precinct captains in every single precinct in this state. I know for a fact that we do not do that now. Why? Because I do not know who mine is.

This is not an exhaustive list. There is much more that can be done to help improve the state. But it is pretty much safe to say that if we havn’t hit bottom we are fairly close. It is time to start moving back up.

Why I am voting for Niki Bird Papazoglakis for Governor

October 20th, 2011

Her main platform is that of Foster Campbell in 2007, that of an oil and gas pass-through tax that would replace all existing taxes on the books. It would fund the state well beyond the current budgets and could do things like fix infrastructure and plug unfunded liabilities.

Niki has worked in the private sector on the technology side of government and she has also worked as an advocate for victims of sexual violence in government helping to not only reform but to educate those in law enforcement on how to better deal with cases of sexual violence.

In the gubernatorial debate, she outshone her opposition with confidence, intelligence and a wealth of knowledge on a wide variety of issues. On the issue of drug testing people on welfare, the popular comment on stage was to test the legislators first. Niki, instead, suggested that we work on fixing the problems of poverty and our insanely high incarceration rate in this state.

Many progressives have chosen to back Tara Hollis. But Mrs. Hollis is no progressive. Mrs. Hollis sounds more like Jindal-lite. Many of the bad ideas with none of the experience working with government. Mrs. Hollis supports our existing anti-choice laws signed by our governor. She supports allowing creationism to be taught in public schools. She supports firearms on our college campuses. She supports medical malpractice caps.

Niki Bird Papazoglakis gives us the best chance to win. She is the candidate who I believe is most likely to be able to go toe to toe with Jindal in a debate and come out victorious. She earned my vote, I hope she earns yours as well.

Tara Hollis: No Progressive

October 20th, 2011

Which candidate for governor:

  •     supports archaic anti-woman / anti-choice laws
  •     supports the teaching of creationism in science classrooms
  •     supports limiting patients’ access to the courts and caps insurance companies liability
  •     supports allowing guns on school campuses

Sound like Bobby Jindal?  It’s Tara Hollis.  She’s not a progressive, she shares Governor Jindal’s bad ideas, and she lacks the experience needed to lead Louisiana.

Tara Hollis campaign accused of violating intellectual property rights.

October 16th, 2011

This is my intellectual property…

I designed it in 2007. It may not be a difficult piece of graphic design. However, that doesn’t make it any less mine. I have used it on cafepress.com for four years to try and earn a profit. I may not have sold a lot of shirts or bumper stickers, but that doesn’t give anyone else permission to use it without my consent.

Unfortunately, some people seem to not respect intellectual property. I have recently written a press release about how the Tara Hollis campaign page on Facebook has been advertised using this very image that I created. The image has been used without permission or compensation. The campaign first claimed to have stopped using the image at my request. However, later the campaign claimed to not know about the image in  the first place. Of course, one must ask how one would take down an image that one knew nothing about. It seems to me that the Tara Hollis campaign is being dishonest. If they cannot be trusted to respect the intellectual property rights of the people of Louisiana, how can they be trusted to fix the ethical problems that Governor Jindal has left us with?