Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Today, I Hate Men

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

I used that title in my blog last month, and could have used it several times since. Why not? It gets your attention. Responds to the most common message out there, unspoken, and hidden between the lines, declaring, "I Hate Women. Always."

In South Africa, it's written large in sexual violence. Lesbians, especially, are raped to "cure" us of our sexual orientation, and keep us in a female's place which is somewhat lower than the sole of the masculine foot. On par with the worm. So often relegated below ground to the grave the violent deaths of women look like a slo-motion genocide. It's actually picked up speed since lesbian activist and former soccer star, Eudy Simelane, was gang-raped and stabbed to death last year.

The rapes and murders of all black females have accelerated in South Africa, though you wouldn't know it, what with the government and police responding with an inverse passivity doing almost nothing for dykes. Nothing even for straight females. Leaving rapists and murderers free to do their thing.

Carrie Shelver, an activist with women's rights group Powa, told Britain's The Guardian, to blame "the increasingly macho culture, which seeks to oppress women and sees them as merely sexual beings. So when there is a lesbian woman she is an absolute affront to this kind of masculinity." Call it what you want, the perpetrators are men. And I do hate them.

Like in Brazil, where there's an epidemic of stupid, vicious, criminal rapists otherwise known as fathers, stepfathers, brothers, grandfathers. Last month's big fuss over a 9-year-old girl who aborted twins after her stepfather raped her, wouldn't have existed at all if not for the fact that some idiot local priest summarily excommunicated everyone involved, including the doctors who performed the surgery, and the woman that tried to care for her abused daughter.

So the priester made the headline, along with the Vatican's jockeying afterwards. Only as an afterthought did The New York Times offer a report revealing that a sizable number of Brazil's legal abortions were for under-aged girls who had been raped by men in their family. Even younger ones are raped, used as blow-up dolls at six or seven, but don't turn up in the statistics because they're too young to get pregnant. No fodder for the anti-abortion activists and priests. No media hook.

Yep, today again, I'm hating men. Enough to be trembling. To fall silent. Thinking of all those little girls out there facing this man's world. Once, twice or a hundred times a day they'll be reminded of what they aren't. What they don't have. Or should be. Men will rape it into them, or beat it, or just sneer it in. Even me in my protected cocoon of enlightened societies and the verge of middle age, have a bull's eye on my face. There was that guy I chased down the street after he almost ran over me on his motorcycle. I called him an asshole. He came right back with words he meant to wound, "woman" "lesbian." Oh, and "foreigner."

After a couple minutes of that, the passersby laughing, with amusement at first, then discomfort, I wanted to smash his face in like they do ours, while shouting, "fucking man, fucking man." I wanted to rip his cock off. I didn't, though, just screamed and sounded ridiculous. Angry females always do. Ridiculous and shrill, not because of a naturally more high-pitched voice, but because that's the sound humans make when you thrust pins in their heart, stick bamboo under their delicate nails and grin.

There was that trial on the TV news a couple weeks ago. North African guy got a couple years in prison for spraying acid on a girl's face out in one of Paris's suburban housing projects, if I remember correctly. And on her upper body. He didn't like her uppity ways at the time, but is sorry now, and told her so in court when it came to sentencing.

He's not as sorry as the girl who had half her face melted off and needs the neighbor's help to put a pot on the stove and take it off.

All those men doing what they can get away with. You, too. Indifferent to the violence. Indifferent to our invisibility and silence. How many females write for anybody's press? How many sit in the Senate? How many run the investigations that solve rapes and murders? How many make the laws that bind us? Should we have to beg for equality?

Yes, apparently. You've done enough. Your conscience is clear. Which is why I write, and despite all signs, why I'm often at a loss for words to tell the truth. To rouse you. I so clearly need more. Hardware maybe. Steel-toed shoes at least for that well-placed kick to the groin.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spreading the Love in Health Care Reform

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

You want health care reform, you better just pack your bags and move to France, or maybe Sweden. You'll have time to learn the language, turn old and grey, and maybe kick the bucket before any real reform takes roots in the States, despite the love-fest at Obama's recent forum on healthcare.

Did you see that saccharine nonsense? Democrat Charles Rangel announcing how well he works with counterpart Republican Dave Camp on the Ways and Means Committee, while Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa seconded Obama, "If you aren't ambitious on a major problem like this ... it will never get done." Another Republican, Representative Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri, added, "All of us have to be willing to give a little."

Great. Put a reform bill on the agenda. Let's call for a vote. Get those 87 million uninsured Americans plans they can afford, new doctors trained, hospitals repaired, drug companies reined in, so we'll no longer be ashamed to show our faces to our Canadian neighbors that used to spend their days smirking as we snuck over the border to buy our prescription meds and bargain basement cigs.

Let's research not just cancer and stem cells, but AIDS, remember that? And cardiac disease in women since that's mostly what's killing us. Let's reinvigorate nursing, raise pay, and teach both doctors and nurses to respect all their patients, including poor people, and women, and queers.

Unfortunately, that jovial, harmonious tone at the forum was less due to a bipartisan commitment to improving healthcare than a joint determination to take credit for reform while actually watering it down as much as hospital coffee.

The first problem is the political sleazeballs that have accepted $1 billion in lobbying love from the insurance industry and big Pharma just in the last two years. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky who told Obama he was "among those interested in seeing us address entitlement reform" pulled in $425,000 since '05. That straight-shooting reformer McCain swallowed $546,000. The head of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, a Democrat of Montana, ate up $413,000.

Barack Obama himself raised more than $2 million from the insurance and pharmaceutical sectors during his record-breaking presidential campaign. The donations were all from individuals, and not PACs, so I guess they won't have much influence. Obama's certainly acted "independent" of LGBT people who dropped a boatload of dough on his campaign and got absolutely nothing in return. But queers are known for being suckers. Big Pharma, not so much.

Besides corruption there's the related problem of process. Obama declared that, "If we want to translate these goals into policies, we need a process that is as transparent and inclusive as possible." Couldn't agree more.

Too bad Obama's committee for "Healthcare Reform Dialogue" is pretty much restricted to heavy-hitters in the healthcare and Pharma industry. Worse, the meetings are held in secret, so we don't know exactly why two labor unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union apparently walked out of the last one. Perhaps they want their money back, too, after spending so much to get Obama in the White House.

There's window-dressing, of course. Characters like 24-year old firefighter, Travis Ulerick, are allowed to hand Obama a summary of all those thousands of community meetings held to discuss the health care crisis so he can use the moment to claim to be responsive to "the concerned citizens, like the folks on this stage."

Snarking aside, the biggest problem is that even if our glorious leaders had clean hands, and were acting in good faith, nobody knows how to untangle the mess.

American health and care is in as bad a shape as the economy, and like with the economy, experts have equally few ideas on how to set right something intertwined with finance, with culture, with infrastructure, education, hell, even the air we breathe and food we eat. And if they suddenly saw a burning bush showing them essential changes to make, they wouldn't dare implement the half.

The healthcare industry can't be attacked right now, not just because they lobby like mad, but because they're the only industry hiring as unemployment goes through the American roof. And who's going to take on Pharma when they have almost the only stocks holding most of their value in the diving market?

All Obama's tepid ideas that the Republican fringe nonetheless calls "radical" or "socialist" don't amount to much more than tinker and patch while insurance premiums rise and quality of care falls. There's little enough to fight over, little to dispute, though we no doubt will, mobilizing millions before both sides claim victory offering a few more people access to healthcare that won't be either cheap or good.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Imams -- and priests and pastors and monks -- are mostly just a bunch of power-hungry goats, and I better say it while I can. Our right to speak freely about religion is disappearing almost as quickly as chances the world will pull out of this "recession" any time soon.

This week, the UN will consider resolution 62/154, on "Combating defamation of religions," an annual motion supported by the Organization of the Islamic Conference which wants to put limits on speech "necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs."

What it really means is that feminists, LGBT people, and political dissenters can be squashed like flies and nobody can say anything, least of all us.

The resolution is nonbinding, but every year I feel it closing in. This year more than ever with surging faith-based programs in the U.S. matched only in idiocy by the politically correct left which censors selectively when it comes to religion.

Cartoonists can make fun of Rick Warren, but not of jihadists like in Denmark. For that, multiculturalist fascists are much more likely to pillory the cartoonists from one end of the pathetic Western world to the other than condemn the death threats. After all, sensibilities were offended.

The problem is that only the sensibilities of certain people count. Mostly heterosexual men. Who cares if I, for instance, am offended when straight people sit next to me on the subway and start sucking on each others faces? Who cares if girls cry their eyes out in Pakistan's Swat Valley because they're locked up at home when their brothers head off to school?

I remember the leader of one international gay group refusing to condemn the execution of gay men in Iran because the government said they were pedophiles, and conditioned by all that multiculturalist kowtowing, that was good enough for her.

This false cultural and religious tolerance distorts our priorities and erodes our common sense.

What's most worrying to me lately is how the UN's Rapporteur on Human Rights has been totally undermined. Once, they used to defend free speech. After a decade or so of pressure from a coalition of Islamist fundamentalists led by Saudi Arabia, the job description was recently changed to force the rapporteur to pursue "abuses of free expression" including "defamation of religions and prophets."

Americans usually ignore the U.N., unless they are blasting it, but the rest of the world relies on them to guarantee free speech. And if the Rapporteur is forced to privilege conservative religious ideas, how can anybody speak out against genital mutilation, child-brides, slavery, the electroshocking of lesbians, the executions of gay men? Now, any liberation movement can be seen as defaming a religion, or contradicting a prophet.

A journalist for Britain's Independent, Johann Hari wrote, "Instead of condemning the people who wanted to murder Salman Rushdie, they will be condemning Salman Rushdie himself ... Today, whenever a religious belief is criticised, its adherents immediately claim they are the victims of "prejudice" – and their outrage is increasingly being backed by laws."

As global protections fall, and the Church - State divide crumbles in the United States, I'm beginning to have zero tolerance for believers, even queers.

When I was editing The Gully, I would solicit articles by queer Catholics, queer Muslims. It seemed important that the LGBT community get a look at our diversity. And in terms of sheer political logistics, I thought we needed to support them as activists. Better if we had a finger in every pie, forces for change in every camp than to concede such important ground to the enemy.

I wouldn't do it again. They put a sheen on something that doesn't have one, and in the gay community, especially, there's almost nobody answering back when they join so-called religious moderates claiming, "Islam's a religion of peace," "Christianity's all about love."

While religious queers can certainly find texts to support their claims, what about all the other sections that support the contrary? When we're talking about knowing the unknowable mind of God, you can say the bigots are wrong, but you certainly can't prove it. Religious texts aren't wills, with codicils revoking all previous statements, and witnesses prepared to swear the author was sound in mind and body at the time of the change.

And with so much homophobia out there, so much misogyny, and the currency of god rising faster than the national debt, queers should keep a sledgehammer in one hand knocking down religion, and a trowel in the other building up the wall between Church and State.