no other way: why we should be anti-gun extremists

Something horrible happened on Sunday. 59 people were killed by someone with a gun. Hundreds of people were injured in the ensuing chaos. Terrifying. Unimaginable. But then, we aren’t unfamiliar with these stories in the United States. In the past 5 years, there have been more than 1,500 mass shootings (in which four or more people were shot). But we already know this. We know how the news cycle will go when a white man kills people. Calls for prayers, as if that will help. Calls to stop the politicization of death, as if death isn’t always politicized. Calls to band together as a country, as if that will change anything. Speculation about the mental health of the shooter. Use of the phrase “lone wolf.” Resistance by most politicians to any major political action. Mass shootings shouldn’t feel banal, but they do.

There is a concept called the Overton window that describes the relative acceptability of various political ideas. Ideas that fall within the window are generally acceptable according to public opinion. In a talk by Jaclyn Friedman, author of “Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World without Rape,” she urged progressives and leftists not just to hold the line of acceptable political discourse but to continually push it left, no matter how futile it feels. She said that to hold the line means to concede ground to those who would push it right.

Perhaps the financial power of the NRA combined with the passion of NRA superfan voters frightens progressives into taking timid, milquetoast positions on gun control. Perhaps Democrats truly do believe that “we can respect the rights of responsible gun owners while keeping our communities safe.” And increased regulation, banning assault weapons, and making it more difficult for people who are known to be violent (particularly with intimate partners) to obtain guns would certainly be better than nothing. But I think we need to push the Overton window further left. People who oppose gun violence must understand that there is only one way to end it: to eliminate all gun manufacturing and ownership. This is not a politically viable opinion in the United States right now, and it would involve a Constitutional amendment, something that feels like a nightmare to achieve. But most important things will take a long time and a lot of work. There is no other way. Continue reading no other way: why we should be anti-gun extremists

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be kind, not nice: how niceness marginalizes oppressed people and protects oppressors

This weekend, I had an experience with a dude that reminded me how much women are expected to be nice to strange men who give us no particular reason to be nice. On a hot night at a rooftop bar in Minneapolis that serves $3 vodka rail drinks (uh oh), I am sitting with four women friends when a stranger comes up to our table and starts making conversation. It is pretty clear that he is there to flirt with literally any one of us who will take him. Unfortunately, he is not especially interesting. He says nothing of importance. The onus is on us to keep the conversation moving along, and so we tease him about being boring. He calls us mean as a joke. I’m sure you can imagine how stupid the conversation is. One of my friends, who happens to be sitting across the table from the man and thus is ill-positioned to hear him in a loud bar, starts looking at her phone and talking to our friend who is sitting next to her. The man seemingly can’t take this, even though three other women are humoring his attempts at conversation politely. He says she’s being mean. He says she could just be nice. I tell him, as gently as I can, that what he’s saying is sexist and that she owes him nothing: not time, not attention, not laughter, and not conversation. He tells me I’m crazy, that he’s being nice and he just thinks someone should be nice, and that’s sexist?! In a perfect moment, another friend happens to arrive at the bar right as he’s saying this. She asks, don’t you have friends you can hang out with? He says yes. She says, then go hang out with them. The high of watching him angrily leave because he has been told to go is almost worth the low of having to listen to him talk for half an hour.

I know many other women have experienced nearly identical scenarios, perhaps with less happy endings. I also know that the expectation of niceness is put on other marginalized groups too: people of color and people with disabilities, especially. And it’s definitely required that marginalized people are nice when talking about their own oppression; being anything but nice is, in and of itself, grounds for complete and total disregard.  Continue reading be kind, not nice: how niceness marginalizes oppressed people and protects oppressors

away from the racist, classist center, democrats

I’m getting pretty fucking sick of cisgender, heterosexual, professional/upper class white dudes lecturing leftists on how shit our policies are and how little we’ve done for the Democrats. It continues today in the New York Times, in an opinion piece titled, “Back to the Center, Democrats,” by Andrew Stein and Mark Penn. Here is a taste:

Central to the Democrats’ diminishment has been their loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs. They saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.

This piece is full of useful advice for Democrats, such as, “restore the sanctity of America’s borders,” “reject socialist ideas,” “give up on both building walls and sanctuary cities” (side note: pray tell when progressives were into building walls; pretty sure that was all conservatives, and frankly, fuck you both for equating xenophobic walls and sanctuary cities), be nicer to the Catholics, and back tougher anti-crime/pro-police bills. You know, if I were going to write a parody of the asinine think pieces about how Democrats really need to get back to the center, it would look a lot like this loose stool Penn and Stein managed to squeeze out. Continue reading away from the racist, classist center, democrats

4 tips for avoiding foodie cultural appropriation

My bf made the above video to go with a script I wrote! I think it’s safe to say most of us have, at some point, felt unsure about whether instances of potential cultural appropriation really were that. This video is about food, in particular, but the lessons can apply across many types of cultural expression. A longer version of the script (which hopefully will clear up questions that anyone may have after watching) is below. Enjoy!

Continue reading 4 tips for avoiding foodie cultural appropriation

why i have trust issues with vegans

Recently(ish), I wrote about how primarily animal-centered activists and  primarily human-centered activists can and should be working together towards a future without oppression, violence, or systemic hierarchies and dichotomies. Despite the rampant racism, classism, and sexism in mainstream animal rights activism, I think that the principles underlying racial/gender/economic justice movements are present in some food justice and animal rights movements, and that those coalitions should be expanded.

I still believe that, but I want to provide a (semi-)topical example of someone who makes that kind of coalition-building difficult.  Casey Affleck, Oscar winner, (alleged) sexual harasser and assaulter, and vegan/animal rights activist, represents a lot of the problems with mainstream animal rights activism and food-based social movements.  It’s very hard for anti-racist and feminist activists to be open to food-based social movements that are truly progressive and radical when Casey Affleck and others like him continue to be the most public faces of veganism and animal rights activism.  Casey makes this particularly difficult, both because his activism is simplistic and oppressive and because of the interpersonal violence he himself has perpetrated. Continue reading why i have trust issues with vegans

fuck a fake leftist

Thanks to Cosmo’s prolific readership, many of us may have already read at least one analysis of the two progressive white men who recently commented on the politics of abortion and reproductive justice, arguing that, to win elections, Democrats should back off on abortion to appeal to segments of the population that typically vote Republican. One of these men was a professor of theology* at Boston College (and is from Ireland, a notoriously anti-abortion nation); the other was Bernie Sanders (who is from America, also a notoriously anti-abortion nation) (LOL!).

But these are just a couple of misguided left wing white guys! It doesn’t mean there’s a deeper problem.

Sike!!!! Racism and sexism have been problems in leftist movements led by white men since modern leftist movements have existed.  Leftist movements were supposed to be spaces that were supposed to be more progressive than the “real world.” Unfortunately, it turned out to be impossible to leave the real world behind, especially when the power structures of that world were recreated within the movements, with white men leading and expecting people of color and women to do caring labor without credit. Identity politics were created in response to the oppression that existed within those movements.
Continue reading fuck a fake leftist

review: “get out” and the myth of interracial liberation

Nobody needs me to write about how great Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is (it’s been done, better than I could have). But holy shit, it is incredible on every level. Powerful and nuanced political messages, well-developed characters, an exciting and emotional narrative, just the right number of jump scares, gut-twisting suspense. It’s got everything. Go see it.

Beyond the obvious merits of the film, one thing that I loved was its pretty clear assertion that interracial relationships (and, implicitly, interracial mating and babies) cannot be counted upon to liberate anyone.  I think it is becoming increasingly clear that putting all hopes for an anti-racist future in interracial coupling and multiracial babies will assuredly lead to failure, but it is still a pervasive myth that having interracial relationships and giving birth to multiracial children are, in themselves, anti-racist actions.  Rates of interracial marriage are often used as a proxy for racial progress (always focused on white interracial marriage); the beauty of multiracial babies is touted as some sort of hallmark of both physical and social evolution. Continue reading review: “get out” and the myth of interracial liberation