Ohioans for Choice Launched

Due to the total lack of media coverage on the Feb. 26th Walk for Choice Ohio, I’ve joined with other local activists in the creation of Ohioans for Choice. OFC is intended to be a group-run multimedia project that will act as a networking tool for activists and a source of coverage for our demonstrations against recent anti-choice legislation. The site is here: http://www.ohioansforchoice.tumblr.com. Feel free to visit and participate.

Additionally, I had the privilege of appearing with Gary Dougherty of Planned Parenthood Affiliates on Fight Back with Connie Gadell-Newton and Bob Fitrakis to discuss Ohio’s spate of anti-choice bills. If you’re interested you can listen to the show here:  http://wcrsfm.org/audio/user/157.

Back to the subject of Christian patriarchy this coming week! It’s particularly relevant as the GOP slips its social agenda into legislation across the country. If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to cover let me know in the comments.

I don’t even know what to say.

This is so awful that it’s actually brought me to tears: Sen. Martin Harty, R, of the New Hampshire legislator, has admitted that he informed a constituent that the mentally ill, the physically disabled, addicts and the mentally challenged (I’m sure you can imagine what word he actually used for this last group) should be sent to a Siberian camp to freeze to death. His raison d’etre: the word has too many “defective people.” Direct quote. Story here.

It’s rare that I find myself moved to tears over a news story. I’m a news junkie to the extreme: I begin my day with the BBC and I have a list of about seven news sites that I check periodically throughout the day. I keep up with local news, state news, national news, international news. Consequently, I am extremely well-informed. I am also equally desensitized. The news can make me angry, occasionally it can shock me. It often does overwhelm me. But I don’t cry over it. Especially over political news. Generally, I expect politicians to say very stupid things.

But this? This hurt me deeply. I have two chronic medical conditions, hereditary spherocytosis and bipolar II. And Martin Harty thinks I should freeze to death in Siberia. I’m a white ciswoman who appears straight, so this is my first experience with an American politician actively calling for my demise. And it’s so fucking horrifying that I don’t even know what to say about it. I am genuinely shocked to the center of my being.

I may be shocked, but I can tell you what I am going to do about it. First, I’m going to let my Republican parents know that one of their party’s senators has decided that their children are defective and should die in Siberia.  Second, I’m going to fight. I believe, for multiple reasons, that membership in the Republican Party, has become indefensibly unethical. As it stands right now, the GOP is responsible for a heinous leglislative assault against female-bodied individuals, GLBTQ-identified individuals, the economically underprivileged, and religious and ethnic minorities. Sen. Martin Harty’s remarks were not strongly condemned by the Republican House Speaker, who praised Harty’s “long-standing commitment to protect the values we cherish.” By “we,” I can only assume the Speaker meant able-bodied straight white males.

It’s time to fight back. Time to hit the streets and let the Republicans know just how grossly they overestimated their public support for such horrendous legislation. It’s time to be angry, it’s time to write letters, and demand explanations. A party that can tolerate a cancerous influence like Martin Harty does not deserve the power it currently enjoys.

Bloggers v. journalists: my take

Jay Rosen of PressThink just posted an excellent open post regarding his SXSW presentation on the conflict between bloggers and journalists. As Rosen states in his piece, many regard this as a tired theme. In fact, Rosen’s current post mentions his 2005 essay on the end of the argument: “Bloggers v. Journalists is Over.” Six years later it’s clear this isn’t the case. I draw that conclusion not only from Rosen’s piece, but from the research I conducted on new media for my undergraduate thesis and my own experience as a blogger and journalist.

Allow me to repeat that: I am a blogger, and I am a journalist. And I see no contradiction inherent in claiming both because I see them as intertwined pursuits. That’s not always the case for bloggers; you can blog about quite literally anything and there is no set of professional standards for bloggers, though attempts at creating one have been made (Jonathan Dube’s “Blogging Code of Ethics” is an example). Lack of professional oversight is both boon and curse to the blogosphere because it means that accessibility is universal. You don’t need to go to school to be a blogger. You don’t need an internship, though blogging internships do exist, or an apprenticeship, or professional experience of any kind. This has its benefits. Professional journalism thrives off privilege: privilege of class, privilege of gender, and privilege even of press freedom. It remains a male-dominated field. If you had any doubt of that I remind you of Nir Rosen’s response to Lara Logan’s tragic assault. It’s a classist field. It requires money to get a degree in a relevant subject, and it requires even more money to take undertake an internship or apprenticeship in journalism that is likely unpaid. And if you live under an oppressive regime, professional oversight equals repressive censorship.

Blogging bypasses those elements of privilege. The drawback is that no standard of quality exists for bloggers. Therein lies the major complaint of many journalists. Rosen quotes Jeremy Peters, a reporter for the New York Times, decrying bloggers’ failure to adhere to the reporting guidelines set forth by the White House during a day of policy briefings. “Some of the bloggers apparently felt unbound by the rules,” he wrote, with the snide implication that a venerable institution like the New York Times would never be so lax in its attention to the high standards of professional journalism. Jayson Blair and Zachary Kouwe might beg to differ. Rosen also quotes the BBC’s Andrew Marr’s unflattering description of bloggers as “socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy young men sitting in their mothers’ basements and ranting.” As I am not pimpled, seedy, single or even male (socially inadequate is, I suppose, a matter of personal opinion) I can only marvel at Marr’s broad and insulting portrayal, then point him toward a six year old article by Richard Posner. In a 2005 piece for the New York Times, Richard Posner declared that “the latest, and perhaps gravest, challenge to the journalism establishment is the blog.” The reason, Posner wrote, is not that bloggers lower the standards of journalism. The concern is economical, and the preservation of professional pride: “Having no advertisers (though this is changing), he has no reason to pull his punches. And not needing a large circulation to cover costs, he can target a segment of the reading public much narrower than a newspaper or a television news channel could aim for. He may even be able to pry that segment away from the conventional media. Blogs pick off the mainstream media’s customers one by one, as it were.”

As long as mainstream journalism is perceived as biased and incompetent, the popularity of blogging will climb. It is difficult to defend the journalism industry when American news outlets focus on entertainment and human interest stories, preferring the tragicomic decline of Charlie Sheen to the civil war in Libya. The activism of bloggers fueled much of the coverage of the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. During the riots, bloggers were as much at risk as journalists. That trend is not merely contained to the most recent unrest. They are subjected to censorship, like journalists, and they are arrested and sometimes executed, just like journalists. Internationally, journalists simply don’t have the grounds to belittle bloggers. They get the scoops and they suffer for that, no professional credential required.

That applies domestically as well. The Ohio media has not failed to report on the existence of anti-choice legislation. The antics of Rep. Lynn Wachtmann and Janet Folger Porter, which I covered in my previous post, have not escaped the media’s notice. The fact that men and women have organized to resist those antics has, however. I am the author of one of only two articles in the entire state of Ohio that mentioned even the existence of a highly attended Walk for Choice in Columbus two weeks ago. Walk participants far outnumbered participants in a MoveOn rally against the Ohio GOP’s attempts at union busting, but only the MoveOn rally received front page attention in the Columbus Dispatch.

That’s unacceptable. It’s equally unacceptable that mainstream outlets have ignored the fact that a $121 million surplus vanished under Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker prior to his own attempts at union busting. As long as professional journalism ignores stories, twists facts (Fox, I’m looking at you) and, in less free states, merely regurgitates government propaganda, then globally, the journalism industry will not be trusted and blogging will continue to gain popularity. Domestically and abroad, the popularity of blogging is a well-earned indictment against the failures of modern journalism.

I combine journalism and blogging in my professional life for this reason. While I acknowledge that blogging could stand to benefit from some sort of quality standard, I believe that the journalism industry has failed to live up to its own. Furthermore, the industry seems more interested in glorifying privilege with its incessant coverage of celebrities and scandals than in addressing the ways that privilege, and the lack thereof, influence the creation of news. That’s why I began blogging. That’s why I continue to blog in addition to my contributions to other publications. Pimples and my mother’s basement have nothing to do with it.

Thanks for the dig, Tiger Beatdown.

I’m referring to this tweet: “Porter Schedules Fetus To Testify in Favor of Heartbeat Billhttp://bit.ly/eWtfu6 BEHOLD: “Bible College” Science.”

Some background. TB is referring to Janet Folger Porter. She’s the president of Faith 2 Action and is in fact crazy. How crazy? Well, aside from being a Tea Party enthusiast (strike one!), a birther (strike 2!) and the president of an anti-gay, anti-choice organization (aaand 3!), she just had two fetuses “testify” in defense of the Heartbeat Bill, a flagrantly unconstitutional piece of legislation designed to forbid all terminations after the detection of a heartbeat. Proposed by Ohio Representative Lynn Wachtmann, the bill is so unlikely to survive a legal challenge that Ohio Right to Life has refused to support it. Yes, dear readers. You read that correctly: Right to Life considers Wachtmann and Porter too extreme.

So, crazy. We can agree here.

What bothers me about TB’s tweet is the dig at Bible colleges. I realize that America’s Christian colleges and universities do leave themselves open for this sort of derision. The majority promote policies that are vehemently discriminatory against the GLBT community. They deny a woman’s right to choose, they severely limit the rights of an individual to, well, be an individual. If you choose to attend one of these schools you’re aware that you’re signing on for this, though the impact of these rules is difficult to anticipate until you’re actually on campus. That was my experience at Cedarville, at least.

But despite those rules, despite the discrimination and the blatant hatred so many of the students and faculty possess for anything they consider “liberal,” Cedarville is where I came into my own as a feminist. It’s where I became pro-choice. It’s where I met my first openly gay man, and my first transman. It’s where I learned to accept the woman I saw in the mirror, and truly love myself, even if my university wanted to deny that I existed. It’s where I exchanged religion for faith.

And I am not as much of an anomaly as you might believe. As I’ve said before on this very blog I did not operate in a void. I have very dear mentors, and dear friends, that  consider themselves Christians. And went to Bible colleges, and teach there, too.

I went to Bible college, Tiger Beatdown, and I’m a feminist. I’ve got a minor in Bible and I’ll argue with a Calvinist until one or both of us snaps. And I’m pro-choice. I took those Bible college science classes and you know what? I am not Janet Folger Porter, I am doing just fine. So are my friends.

So don’t erase me, Tiger Beatdown. Show me the same respect you show the rest of the feminist community. People read that blog, they read your tweets. How many of your followers have retweeted your attempt at humor? Feminists of faith are already too often disenfranchised by both their religions and their movement. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t join in the fun. Especially since I actually live in Ohio and will be directly affected by the Heartbeat Bill. My activism will contribute to the activism of others, and by our powers combined I really do believe we can defeat Porter, and Wachtmann, and whoever else tries to strip us of our rights.

Clear?