Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Ahnold: cracking the code

NEW YORK, NY--Because tout le monde will be dissecting the Terminator's address to the Republican National Convention, your blogstress will avoid wasting too much HTML on it.

But speaking of code, she feels compelled to point out Ahnold's use of the "good people" line, which was no doubt a wink-wink to those disgruntled queers and freedom-loving women who resent their designation as perverts and baby-killers in the GOP platform. The Log Cabin Republicans had joined the Republican Pro-Choice Majority in trying to insert a "unity plank" into the platform, one that said "good people" can disagree on such issues as gay marriage and abortion. The measure failed, and though the platform committee inserted a bit of the language, it added a scrap so tiny as to render it meaningless.

Log Cabin Executive Director Patrick Guerrero told reporters that he had lobbied speakers to address the contention over gay marriage in their speeches; perhaps the California governor heard the call.

Or maybe he was just looking to offset that gratuitous little "girlie man" remark.

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What you didn't see in prime time

NEW YORK, NY--Once upon a time, your blogstress gave a certain grudging respect to Elizabeth Hanford Dole for having a achieved so many things unthinkable by most women of her generation--a law degree, a cabinet post, the helm of an immense non-profit and, now, a seat in the United States Senate.

Back when your cybertrix was but a young vixen toiling as a feminist, this Dole paid a visit to Ms. magazine, where we received her with genuine enthusiasm, thinking her to be a reasonable sort of Republican.

As of tonight, Dole chose to roundly throw reason out the window with a speech that could have been delivered by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Approaching the podium to the tune of Tom Jones' "She's a Lady", Mrs. Dole went on to carry water for the gay-hating, anti-abortion and ostentatiously evangelical wing of the GOP. Offering such utterances as: "Marriage is important because it is the cornerstone of civilization," Dole went on to imply the standard lie that queer people who want the right to marry seek to destroy the very institution of which they seek to be a part.

In speaking of freedom of religion--a right your blogstress, heathen that she is, truly reveres--Dole kicked the virtue of humility to the curb in order to tout her own piety. "Two thousand years ago a man said, 'I have come to give life and to give it in full,'" Dole said. "In America I have the freedom to call that man Lord, and I do."

And in America, your blogstress has the right to call 'em as she sees 'em, and she just saw a medicine show conducted by a vision in celery-colored silk (with matching pumps).

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Fair and balanced

NEW YORK, NY--In the convention hall, in the thrall of First Nephew George P. Bush (as Poppy onced called him, "the little brown one"), the delegates burst into a chant worth noting: "Watch Fox News!"

Now your blogstress must hightail it out of here, since they're about to do a lockdown for the primetime speeches. And she'd rather watch the Terminator ruminate from the comfort of her hotel room.

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Visuals: lies, jobs and alpha waves

NEW YORK (6th Ave. near 46th St.)--This morning, while prowling for coffee, your cybertrix, still sullen from the previous night's use of 9-11 as a psy-ops exercise, she came upon a site for sore eyes.

Attached to the back of a generic, perhaps rental, car, was a trailer labeled www.pantsonfire.net that featured an effigy of the president dressed in a flight suit with flames fashioned of nylon and wire shooting off the back.

Later in the day, on her way out of the hall, your Webwench saw a young Asian-American woman with a delegate's credential fashion a sign on the back of a CNN paper fan that read, "I work for cheap", then crossed out the word "cheap" and scratched in "free". She stuck it on the side of a building.

Then your cyberscribe came upon a a scruffy white-guy protester, clearly an army of one, who carried a piece of brown carboard scrawled with a diatribe that began, "Stop radio-controlling the people."

What's the frequency, Kenneth?

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New York's night

NEW YORK, NY--Oh, to be her blithely arch self, your blogstress cries. But tonight's doings at the Republican National Convention have left her bereft and at moments confused.

Even before this evening's confab a disheartening trend had commenced when the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay organization led by some very smart young men, tossed in the towel on the floor fight they had threatened, and then even gave up on the floor demonstration that one of their leadership had intimated was immanent, unless your cybertrix had just thoroughly misunderstood him.

The group did release an effective television advertisement, today, calling on their party to choose between the moderate and radical path. (See the Washington Blade.)

With former New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani as the keynote speaker, tonight was clearly 9-11 night at the RNC. (Of course, with the convention located in New York, every night could be 9-11 night at the convention.) The brief remarks by each of three women who lost family members in the 9-11 attacks were genuinely moving, and the extended moment of silent prayer was profound. Then, when all of Madison Square Garden began to sing "Amazing Grace", your blogstress found her customary ironic detatchment impossible, becoming pretty choked up. Standing nearby, singing with tear-filled eyes was New York Governor George Pataki, who stood next to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who looked pretty watery-eyed himself. Pataki, however, really seemed to be suffering, patting his pocket in an apparent search for a handkerchief.

Your blogstress can't say how the 9-11 theme will play in the heartland, but for New Yorkers, the wound is still fresh enough to have grown men--politicians, no less--lose their composure in public. Your écrivaine feels manipulated, but nonetheless in the throes, thanks to the GOP program, of real grief.

And once again, our grief is being marshaled to justify a war that had nothing to do with 9-11. Our wounds are being picked to raise a head of anger that makes it all seem justified--the thousand Americans killed in Iraq, the thousands of Iraqis bombed, the journalists who came under fire from U.S. forces on one day in three separate locations, a phenomenon that has never been satisfactorially explained.

And it just might work. Nine-eleven is no distant memory. And even more than a massive tragedy, it speaks to the moment when America became a land of mere mortals, proven vulnerable to despair drawn by heinous acts committed by men from cultures for which we have always had contempt. And that really pisses us off.

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Sunday, August 29, 2004

Goin' if I have to walk

NEW YORK--At long last, your blogstress has made it to the Land of Oz, that mystical city that served, if not as the place of her birth, the birth of your Webwench's worklife. At the age of 18, your cybertrix, then of long hennaed hair and a rust-colored Qiana body shirt, assumed her place at the reception desk of a fabric showroom on West 40th Street. But enough about her. (Yeah, right.)

Manhattan has been overtaken by the Republicans, their protesting nemeses and an assortment of law enforcement outfits. Fifth Avenue has never before seen so many Stetsons of the cowboy variety, leaving one to dread next season's imperative reinterpretation of Texas chic, a phenomenon that cries for a collaboration between Ralph Lauren and Arnold Scaasi--then to be, no doubt, sent up by Marc Jacobs and Isaac Mizrahi for Target.

While the string-ties prowl the East Side, Grand Central Terminal is watched over by soldiers in combat fatigues, wielding semi-automatic rifles. The forest fatigues do little to conceal their presence. One would have thought that SOME-one could have designed faux-marble-patterned togs that would have performed far better in that palatial environment. (Isaac Mizrahi, are you listening?)

Welcome, B-listers!

When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg throws a party, he obviously makes sure to know his clientele. His timing, however, is less precise. At least that seemed to be the case at last night's giant media bash at the Time-Warner Center, a new palace of consumption sprung from the ashes of the old New York Coliseum at Columbus Circle. In keeping with journalists' reputations as gluttons for free eats, miniaturized versions of various delectables flowed 'til evening's end, along with free booze and free magazines (courtesy of those nice People at Time-Warner). Entertainment ranged from the sages of Jazz at Lincoln Center to men in harlequin-patterned spandex, encased in blue neon and wearing some sort of newfangled curved stilts with jumping springs in them.

Despite her love for spandex, your blogstress could have done without the harlequin-neon-stilt-men, and arrived too fashionably late for the jazzmen (which really is a pity), but did take in a swell act by a troupe called "Street Beats." The Beats perform a variety of prettied-up street arts, from bucket- and trash-can percussion to a form of dance that brings together modern and break-dancing. However fun their schtick is, your cybertrix could not help noting that only one of the players, Earl the bucket-king, is African-American. She spoke for a moment to the group's founder, a young man who calls himself Zoilo, who grew up in Westchester County. That being said, your blogstress admits to having been raised in perhaps the most vanilla town in Northern New Jersey. And that hasn't stopped her from trying to sing like Sarah Vaughan.

As for the timing of things, His Honor was a day early and a few dollars long, as few of the pooh-bahs of Medialand had yet to take up their luxe digs in New York's finer hotels. Our good friend, media maven Mr. Winken Nod, tried to forewarn. "It's only gonna be a bunch of lame producers," he said. He was right. Well, except for Don King.

Though the food was quite good, your blogstress, being a woman of hearty appetites, is not easily satisfied with morsels, preferring instead a full plate of macaroni or, say, half a duck. So she amused herself in other ways.

For this special affair, your cyberscribe donned the classic little black dress to great effect. It never ceases to amaze her how certain iconic garments reflexively turn the heads of unwitting straight men. Old men, middle-aged men, men young enough to be your blogstress's--well, never mind (poolboy?)--they all seemed to take note. (Alas, the young women were notably less impressed.) Just goes to show you how distractible the other sex is by little more than eyeliner and a well-corseted figure. Straight men are easy, they say--except for those complicated, spiritual types. (You know who you are.)

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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Bloodless bath?

The New York City Police Department, always on the cutting edge of technology (your blogstress was among the first, one fine St. Patrick's Day, to be shackled by the Finest with plastic handcuffs), has plans to use something called a Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) as a means of crowd control.

A piece on ABCNews.com describes how LRAD is used by the military as a weapon:

When in weapon mode, LRAD blasts a tightly controlled stream of caustic sound that can be turned up to high enough levels to trigger nausea or possibly fainting.

Why say "Welcome to New York" with messy head-bashing, not to mention all that unsightly blood, when you can simply torture large crowds with a form of santized brutality?

In fairness, your cybertrix must note the the cops say they have no intention of using LRAD as a weapon. They just thought it would come in handy for giving orders to large crowds, they say. Your blogstress is all ears.

Thanks to Professor Soundman, Jim Mastracco, for calling your Webwench's attention to this item.

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You've got to give a little,
take a little

(And let your poor heart break a little)

All right, your blogstress has been very naughty indeed, leaving her readers in the lurch for several days without notice.

It's all those preparations for her attendance at the Republican National Convention that have gotten in the way--angling extralegal credentials, finding a well-heeled media type to shack up with (gratis, of course), hand-washing all the black spandex that serves as her wardrobe.

Today brings word of a defeat suffered by the Log Cabin Republicans in the GOP platform hearings when those non-hetero elephants attempted to insert, unsheathed, a clause that said good people can disagree with the platform's pronouncements against abortion and gay marriage.

Coincidentally, Vice President Dick Cheney today "broke" with the president,in what would appear to be a bit of a good-cop-bad-cop routine, on the matter of a constitutional amendment that would proscribe the bonds of holy matrimony for queer people (at least those who would like to marry a partner they enjoy having sex with).

Bloodless bath?

The New York City Police Department, always on the cutting edge of technology (your blogstress was among the first, one fine St. Patrick's Day, to be shackled by the Finest with plastic handcuffs), has plans to use something called a Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) as a means of crowd control.

A piece on ABCNews.com describes how LRAD is used by the military as a weapon:

When in weapon mode, LRAD blasts a tightly controlled stream of caustic sound that can be turned up to high enough levels to trigger nausea or possibly fainting.

Why say "Welcome to New York" with messy head-bashing, not to mention all that unsightly blood, when you can simply torture large crowds with a form of santized brutality?

In fairness, your cybertrix must note the the cops say they have no intention of using LRAD as a weapon. They just thought it would come in handy for giving orders to large crowds, they say. Your blogstress is all ears.

Thanks to Professor Soundman, Jim Mastracco, for calling your Webwench's attention to this item.

Swift boat veterans for Bush

If there was any doubt that the ads by these embittered blow-hards were coordinated by the Bush-Cheney campaign, the resignation of attorney Benjamin Ginsburg from the Bush campaign should lay those to rest. Seems Ginsburg was also advising that band of brothers on how to maneuver around the law.

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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Can you hear me now?

Yesterday, between 6:30 and 7:00pm, man on cell phone, waiting to cross street, at corner of 2nd & Constitution:

"I talked to Corzine, and he said he talked to Obama about that stuff, and Obama said..."

And then, alas, the light changed and he walked away.

The conversation sounded suspiciously like those your blogstress once had, during the extended period she likes to call her youth, on paydays:

"Chlo--talked to Izzy about the stuff...[and he said come by at 7:30; this stuff is really good.]"

In truth, the conversation was no doubt about something not nearly so interesting--money. Sen. Jon Corzine heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Rising Star (his official DNC titlte) Barack Obama is running for the Senate from the State of Lincoln.

Nonetheless, the senator from New Jersey (and likely the state's next governor), may wish to inform his bagman that discretion is in order, as one never knows where the blogstress may lurk.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Kill for Peace!

First, the religious right appropriated the tactics of the labor movement to create a formidable electoral bloc. Now, reports Newsweek, a pro-war group called Protest Warriors plans to appropriate the tactics of the anti-globalizers in order to "countermessage" the lefties expected to pour onto the sidewalks of New York.

Gotta give 'em points for creativity. However small their numbers, they're likely to get a lot of attention. Let's hope it's taken with the grain of salt the media would shake on something called, say, Hookers for Christ.

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Break out the planks

The Republican Platform Committee needs your help!

Your blogstress just found this nifty form on the official Web site of the Republican National Convention whereby all Republicans are invited to submit their suggestions for the party platform

Elephant for a day, anyone?

Here's the list of issues on the pull-down menu:


Culture of Life



Faith-based initiatives

Health care

Homeland security





Small business

Social Security


Tort reform



War on Terror**


Your blogstress notes no option for gay-bashing, homo-hating or fixing that queer-coddling, marriage-threatening U.S. Constitution. So perhaps there's hope?

Now, get in there, and stake your claim in the big-tent platform. Your Webwench predicts a rash of "Other" suggestions from AddieStan readers. Please don't disappoint her.

*Your cybertrix could be wrong, but didn't these used to be two distinct, sovereign nations in completely different parts of the world?

**Note this as a distinct category from Iraq/Afghanistan.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

An AddieStan exclusive:
Read the transcript of New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's address to a gathering of gay Democrats during the Democratic National Convention--two weeks before his coming out speech.

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Thank God for New Jersey - Take 2

In which your blogstress stands corrected

In an earlier post, your humble cybertrix, who is about to prove just how humble she really is, made a mistaken assertion about from which show the following quote (which she, impressively, got right from memory) actually came. (If your blogstress was a media reporter, she'd risk being "iced" by network P.R. meanies for making such an error.) The show was "Meet the Press" (not the "Chris Matthews Show", as reported), and the sage whose name she had forgotten was Jon Meacham of Newsweek, who said:

I'm a Southerner and Southerners always say, 'When it comes to political corruption, thank God for New Jersey.'

Regarding another assertion made in the same post, Frank Gilligan, your Webwench's partner in musical crimes, points us to the official site for the "Chris Matthews Show", which he was apparently able to find just fine.

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Memo to Senator Corzine:
Don't do it!

Washington is abuzz with word that New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine, the most ethical, compassionate man to ever buy himself a Senate seat, is about to cash in his Senate chips to make a run for the governorship of the Garden State, once it's vacated, whether sooner or later, by the fabulously besmirched current occupant of Drumthwacket.

Now, your blogstress understands the Senator's good, hero child intentions. He obviously hopes to save his state, the state he loves, from its hopelessly flawed character--a noble quest. But your cybertrix cries, "Stop the madness! Detatch with love!"

It's not that your Webwench wouldn't like to see the taxpayers' money treated with more respect in her native land, nor would she mind seeing the joint run by someone she could respect, someone who understands the vast range of economic players in that tiny state, someone who's run a company that oversees resources equal to the gross national product of a nation.

However, the Senate needs Jon Corzine. By staying in the Senate, he serves his New Jersey brethren at least as well as he could in the State House, with the added bonus of serving not just New Jerseyeans, but all of the American people. In short, even if the Dems win themselves a majority in the Senate, the American people still need Jon Corzine to do his work there.

Why? Because there's no one else like him in that esteemed body.

The Record, an excellent newspaper out of Northern New Jersey, offers this take from columnist Mike Kelly, who asks, "What Does Jon Corzine Really Want?".

To learn how the McGreevey-Cipel scandal adds up to a Zionist conspiracy (how did we miss this connection?), check out this incredible item on al-Jazeera.

And in a touchez! rejoinder, Nate Knows Nada posts this from the Weekly World News: "Al Qaeda's Gay Bomb!" (Your blogstress can't seem to figure out how Nathan's site works for providing the AddieStan readership with direct links to his individual postings. She promises it's worth the scroll down to his August 13th posts.)

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Monday, August 16, 2004

Queer, schmeer...

Your blogstress thought she might avoid posting a new McGreevey item today, but she just couldn't stay away, especially when she heard Steve Inskeep announce this today on NPR's "Morning Edition":

"New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's decision to resign after admitting to an affair with a man doesn't seem to have hurt his poll numbers. After his announcement, a poll found his approval rating at 45 percent--two points higher than before."

And your cybertrix was just about to suggest that Steve and Renee give up on trying to continue Bob Edwards' absurd-items intro to the news. Maybe not yet.

Thank God for New Jersey

You have no idea how much it pains your Webwench to direct any reader to the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, but John Fund does offer a probing look at, as Newsfeed slugged it, "Why New Jersey Is a Pit of Corrupution." (Because we like it that way, Mr. Fund!)

On the "Chris Matthews Show" his weekend, some sage from below the Mason-Dixon said, "When we talk about corrpution the South, we like to say, thank God for New Jersey." (I wish I could tell you who it was, but if you view any of the NBC Web sites, it's almost as if this show didn't exist, although Matthews' MSNBC show,"Hardball", is everywhere you look.)

Find CORRECTIONS to this posting here.

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Everbody to get from street!

This just in from the Department of Homeland Security (c/o Frank Gilligan, your blogstress's comrade in vigilance and partner in musical crimes):

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge confirmed today that Al Qaeda operatives have compromised the security of voting machines throughout the United States of America. The secretary warns of a massive domestic terror event that is imminent on November 2, 2004. According to credible and confirmed sources, a catastrophic attack can be triggered by selecting the names of candidates whose party affiliation is marked "D", or "Democratic". Security analysts believe that this is due to the limited knowledge of the English language of the terrorists, who have confused "Democratic" with "Democracy", an avowed target of global terrorist organizations.

The secretary warns all Americans to only select "R" or "Republican" candidates to assure their own safety, and the safety of all American citizens.

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When you were a tender
and callow fellow

Now we remember why we used to like--no, love--John Kerry. This weekend, while your blogstress was applying a fabulous faux finish to her living room walls, she was treated, via "Road to the White House" on C-SPAN radio*, to an airing of the "Dick Cavett Show" from June of 1971, on which the young Kerry of Vietnam Veterans Against the War faced off with Nixon water-carrier John O'Neill, author of the recently released book, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry (Regnery).

As O'Neill, fresh from a meeting with Nixon aides, sputtered, attacked and attempted to villify his opponent, Kerry cooly recited clauses from the Geneva Conventions ("You've heard of them?" he asked O'Neill), explaining that the "free-fire zones" designated by the U.S. brass were in direct contradiction to the conventions. He also courageously admitted taking part, at the behest of his superiors, in what he said were illegal acts, and told of how he and his comrades were flown to Saigon for a pep-talk about how such acts were in the best interests of the people for whom the sailors were fighting.

His demeanor was sure and steadfast; there was no backpedaling. His accent had yet to be Washingtonized; he sounded like the young Brahmin he was.

For your blogstress, the Kerry of Vietnam Vets Against... represented a merging of two ideas that had been deemed mutually exclusive at the time of the Vietnam War: peace activist and veteran. Before she was so deliciously jaded, your cybertrix was a person of conscience who wrestled with such questions. Hailing from a clan in which cousins were parachuting into the jungles of Indo-China, she was not inclined to buy into the idea of the villain soldier. Nor was she, unlike the family elders, willing to buy into the idea that this was some kind of just war. And so, in those grim times, Kerry offered a glimpse of sanity--one that entailed, alas, seeing the insanity of the war for what it was.

In 1992, your blogstress wanted to Kerry to run for the presidency. His thoughtfulness, especially on matters of foreign policy, appealled to her as America poised itself to pull further inward. She remembers lunching with William Shawcross, for whose editor your Webwench then toiled, extolling the virtues of this senator, who was then relatively unknown across the pond.

In short, before Kerry's time drew near for this presidential run, your blogstress found much to admire in him. It wasn't until July of 2003 that she began to turn sour on him, after his high-handed answer to her question on gay rights at an Independence Day parade in New Hampshire (see "Electable, Schmelectable!".

Note to Kerry Campaign: Have your candidate review the tape of his performance on Cavett; then act accordingly.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Your blogstress has donated what for her is a tidy sum to the Kerry campaign, despite the fact that they revoked her blogger convention credentials and have generally treated her like cr*p. She suggests you do the same--donate, that is; not treat your blogstress like cr*p.

Sgt. O'Grady's Fire Fizzles

Remember the name Scott O'Grady? He's the guy who survived being shot down over Bosnia by eating locusts or somesuch. Pretty impressive. But he's also let the righties butter his bread since his return. Your cyberscribe recalls seeing looking a little lonely in a San Diego eatery after his appearance before some right-wing confab in conjunction with that year's Republican National Convention.

Anyway, it seems he is accusing the Democratic presidential contender of treason. It's a word the righties like to bandy about a lot--except when it comes to their own. For example, what exactly did Oliver North commit when he defied the Constitution of the United States to funnel money to armed thugs in Nicaragua?

Check out the blog of Phil Coons, a retired U.S. Navy Master Chief Petty Officer for a running account of the right-wing-vets verses Kerry drama. Here's his piece on O'Grady.

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Pimping under the dome

Washington has been abuzz for weeks about the firing from Rep. Mike DeWine's (R-OH) office of one Jessica Cutler, a hottie who says she took cash for sex from politicos with whom she was set up on "dates" by members of the congressman's staff. In D.C., the focus remains n the girl, while the men who pimped and schtupped her apparently still have their jobs. Check out Jeralyn Merritt's smart item on this on TalkLeft.

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Friday, August 13, 2004

A hero for our times?

For those among your blogstress's peeps eager to lionize McGreevey, check out Wonkette's take. It's remarkably sober and should give one pause.

This Washington Blade piece features a concise chunk of the backstory, proving they're not about to jump whole-hog on the McGreevey bandwagon.

For a not-so-sober but hilarious take, check out Tom Burka's Opinions You Should Have.

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Convention recap
Did the governor tip his hand?

McGreevey at the Stonewall Democrats luncheon

At the time, it struck your blogstress as the tiniest bit odd, New Jersey Governor James McGreevey being the only "straight" speaker among a good half-dozen on the menu at the luncheon sponsored by the Stonewall Democrats in Boston on the last day of the Democratic National Convention. (Remarks transcribed below this post.) However, your cyberscribe's home state being among the latest to pass domestic partnership legislation, and the queer community being so legendarily moneyed and fabulous, she saw the thing as generic opportunism from a well-known opportunist, overlooking what she now sees as either a slip or a wink to the assembled crowd from the chief executive of the Garden State.

"My friends, we are engaged in a great debate within our nation," said the governor. "What we are looking for is workplace protection, equal rights and equal opportunities."

Of which "we" did the governor speak, one might ask. The royal "we"? The editorial "we"? The one-nation-indivisible "we", or the just-among-us (wink-wink) "we" in the room?

Okay, so maybe we're reading a bit too much into this. Or maybe not.

A well-laid plan?

Given his stunning debutante turn yesterday afternoon, however, it does seem that McGreevey was positioning himself to take his place in our legendarily moneyed and fabulous community. (Your blogstress, alas, has achieved only the latter of those two laudable attributes.) Although your Webwench was authentically moved by the governor's confession yesterday--especially his utterance of the glorious sentence, "I am a gay American"--its execution bears the mark of something rather calculated. McGreevey's actions were obviously forced by some unexpected (at least by him) events--a sexual harassment law suit filed against the governor by a male former aide, and revelations to come about a boyfriend that may prove to be something of an international incident. But leave it to McGreevey to find real opportunity in self-created crisis. Now, there's a real American!

Who's shoving it now?

While Teresa got herself in trouble with an acolyte of Richard Mellon Scaife for declaring the actions of an opponent to be un-American, McGreevey, speaking of gay issues, wound up his remarks before the Stonewall crowd with the same epithet.

"As much, God willing, as we have done," McGreevey asserted, "we have so much more to do to [rally] America and bring America to the side of decency in repudiating this administration, whose position on these issues is simply a matter of hate, and among the most un-American positions ever taken by any federal administration."

For your viewing pleasure...

...your blogstress forwent a planned evening of musical debauchery to transcribe (an act of tedium if there ever was one) the governor's remarks from the Stonewall gathering. (See below.) It was a most generous sacrifice on her part, seeing as no one born outside the state could have possibly made sense of those remarks, and even she had difficulty deciphering her native accent rendered through a charmingly low-end, shabby chic tape machine, not to mention the danger of tripping over all those dropped consonants littered around her dainty feet. (State secret: the reason Jersey folk talk so loud is that they think it will make them understood.) It all made her grateful for the elocution lessons she received via the high-quality recordings of one Francis Albert Sinatra, who really knew how to turn the dialect of his Hudson County homeland into a language for the masses.

The reader will no doubt take pleasure in learning that Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who hosted the Stonewall event, was born in the Great State of New Jersey, which certainly explains a lot of things.

*See Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial page editor Colin McNickle's name-dropping, self-laudatory memo for his heroism in standing firm in the face of mean rich lady. If you've come in late, you'll find it under Romenesko's miscellany, posted 8/12/2004 3:57:47 PM, under the title: "Trib-Review staffer McNickle's note to colleagues".

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Remarks of N.J. Gov. James McGreevey
Before the Stonewall Democrats

July 29 - Boston, Mass.

BARNEY FRANK: Let me begin with our first speaker, who represents a part of my past, but it's the least interesting part of my past, so don't get too excited. ..But he is a man who has distinguished himself by his advocacy of fairness on our behalf. And he is one of the statewide-elected officials in this country who has done more than almost any other to get across the point that we are entitled, as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, to be treated fairly and equally. So I am very proud to present to you the governor of the state of my birth, Governor Jim McGreevey of New Jersey.

GOV. JAMES McGREEVEY: To the infamous [unintelligible] leader, Congressman Barney Frank, born in the sacred soil of New Jersey, let me say, on behalf of a grateful nation, thanks to the congressman for his leadership, his courage and his strength on all issues of civil liberties in the House of Representatives [in] very challenging and difficult times.

First I'd like to recognize Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg from the State of New Jersey who sponsored our Domestic Partnership Act--Loretta? She was the [unintell] without whose leadership the bill would not have become law.

When we look to the issues that confront our nation, tragically, we confront a federal administration that chooses to ignore the economy and education, and the environment, and the havoc they have wrought upon our nation, and instead attempts to divide America. And whether it's on reproductive rights, on civil liberties, on issues that are important to Stonewall Democrats, the irony is the Constitution of the United States, of this nation, has always been about furthering the cause of civil liberties. It is tragic--it is fundamentally wrong--that this administration is attempting to take the Constitution, which for 255 years has been the framework for granting freedoms, and now, ironically, twisting it in a perverse way to engage in gay-bashing in an attempt to fulfill its own political aims. All Americans need to be engaged in this debate, need to understand the fundamental wrong that is being wrought [by] this administration.

Now, I believe Americans don't want this type of wrong-headed direction. And I'm proud of the fact that New Jersey is among the first states in the nation that stepped forward with domestic partnership legislation--to take a stand for fairness, to take a stand for dignity, and to understand that same-sex couples understand the importance of basic liberties and basic rights. I signed New Jersey's domestic partnership legislation because it was the right thing to do.

When it's visiting a loved one in a hospital room, filing state income tax deductions, inheritance tax exemptions, or granting, under the New Jersey state workers eligible to receive certain health care benefits and retirement benefits, and, most importantly, I'd like the Stonewall Democrats to know that couples today in New Jersey now have protection against prejudice under New Jersey's law against discrimination. This important legislation would be threatened by the Bush administration's advocates.

My friends, we are engaged in a great debate within our nation. What we are looking for is workplace protection, equal rights and equal opportunities. The Kerry-Edwards ticket will fight for these protections--[and] the importance of a wide range of health-care protections. And I would argue that any administration that attempts to divide American along these lines not only needs to be repudiated by the Stonewall Democrats, but needs to be repudiated by all thinking Americans.

Congressman Frank, I want to thank him for his leadership--I want to thank you for all your of your support in New Jersey for our domestic partnership legislation. I want to thank those legislators who were willing to come forward in the New Jersey State Legislature to make a stand for courage and decency. As much, God willing, as we have done, we have so much more to do to [rally?] America and bring America to the side of decency in repudiating this administration whose position on these issues is simply a matter of hate, and among the most un-American positions ever taken by any federal administration. Thank you very much.

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Thursday, August 12, 2004

F'n A!

Governor McGreevey Comes Out; Steps Down

Holy Cannoli, Batman! Your blogstress could barely believe her ears, listening to the governor of her home state come out, at the age of 46, on national television (video here).

No, James McGreevey is not the first politician to admit to being gay when the wolf was at the door (with some sort of seedy evidence, no doubt, of a same-sex tryst). But it's a first for Jersey, where your cybertix knows from personal experience that ethnic queers generally marry members of the opposite sex in order to stay members in good standing of the quaint, foul-mouthed, family-centric, corrupt, congested, multi-cultural culture that has spawned such fantastic figures as Queen Latifah, Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan, to name a few.

Now, your blogstress never was a big fan of McGreevey's, though she did appreciate his support for Jersey's domestic parnership bill. You see, she spent much of her adult life in the county of her birth--Hudson County (pronounced 'Uds'n Counny)--and came to have a certain affection for the Hudson County Democratic machine. (Even dated a guy who was one of the machine's better machinists--see what I mean?)

When McGreevey came into office, he didn't forget that the Hudson County boys weren't too keen on him earlier in his career--even though they did help him win the governor's mansion--so he put them all out of business when they finally won back the majority in the legislature, and replaced them will his fellas from the Middlesex County. (Full disclosure: your écrivane spent the first half of her idyllic childhood in Middlesex County.)

So, like, after spending those eight Whitman years in the minority wilderness, your cybertrix's ex-boyfriend winds up pushed out of government just as his side wins. I mean, that'd piss anybody off, right?

But tonight, watching the governor discuss, up front, his "confusion" about issues concerning his "identity", your blogstress sat clutching her heart. When he spoke of his marriage being founded on love and respect, she believed him. Hers had been, too. When he wondered aloud whether, at 46, it was too late for him to come clean, she recalled her realization, at last, at the age of 42, that she was not a straight girl.

In reality, more than a a realization, it was a sense of resignation to a fate she never wanted that drove your blogstress. But for her to get there, she had to leave New Jersey, which was not anything she had ever really wanted to do. Now that he has gotten there, one suspects that Gov. McGreevey may leave our besmirched but beloved homeland, as well, but likely to attend to greener pastures.

For as moving as the governor's confession was, it was a brilliant move, as well. If there was ever a moment to be a gay politician--a gay anything, for that matter--it's now. By stepping out in front of the news, McGreevey becomes a de facto spokesman for a thriving movement. We haven't heard the last of him; of that there's no doubt.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

On the rag

As promised, more from the president's appearance before the Unity conference of journalists of color.

(Astute readers may recall that your blogstress noted this one in her initial report on the president's remarks, but it's so good that it bears repeating. And your cybertrix promises to pull out a fresh one later in the day.)

"Look," said Mr. Bush to the journalists assembled before him, "you can't read a newspaper if you can't read."

Which would appear to explain why our president does't read newpapers...

NOTE: Scroll to almost the end of Brit Hume's exclusive Fox News interview with the president, linked above, for his answer to Hume's question, "How do you get your news?"

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Bush on tribal sovereignty:

This just in from Indian Country

For the Native perspective on Bush's fumble on tribal sovereignty (reported by AddieStan on Friday), go to Indianz.com. There you'll also find links to video clips of the Bush appearance before Unity, as well as to the whole banana.

Many thanks to our dear friend, Marlon Fixico, for steering your blogstress to this informative site.

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Brilliant person

Your blogstress begs the reader's forgiveness for having fallen down on the job of deconstructing the president's remarks to the Unity conference, a gathering of journalists of color, last Friday in Washington, D.C.

The reactions of the audience of journalists to both President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry the day before have become a matter of some controversy, seeing as Kerry received more than polite applause, while the president received some unstifled titters. So, a debate rages on Romenesko, the site by which journos live and die.

Because a rigorous desconstruction of the Bush remarks now appears to require the effort of a doctoral dissertation, your blogstress will simply highlight one quote each day, until all the good ones are exhausted. So here's the Bush Unity quote for August 10th:

"You look at my administration, it's diverse...When I see Condi [Rice], I think 'brilliant person.'"

When your blogstress sees Condi, she thinks, can I help you find a tailor and a decent hairdresser?

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One thing perfectly clear

Now, listen up, because (hopefully) I'm only going to say this once. And, in homage to our bescandaled 37th president, whose resignation was recalled in a previous post, your blogstress will borrow Nixonian syntax in order to make a rare lapse into the first person:

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not a terrorist.

Why, you may ask, would your cybertrix feel the need to make such a statement?

You see, dear reader, a blogstress will do many a shameful thing in order to support her writing habit, and yours, alas, worked at the World Bank for a year, beginning in 1998--not long after her return from Peshawar, Pakistan.

Talk these days in D.C. is all about how the F.B.I. intends to comb through the employment and contracting records of the World Bank, and cull those that jibe with "suspicious travel," according to Pierre Thomas of ABC NEWS. And having traveled to Pakistan's border with Afghanistan just months after bin Laden's fatwah against all things American--including Americans themselves--your Webwench fears her journey could qualify as suspicious. (Certainly the Pakistani police who interrogated her at the Lahore airport thought so.)

So, what was she doing over there? Oh, just what bleeding-heart, do-gooder, guilt-ridden Yanks do among the starving everywhere--attempt to asuage our consciences. One goes to do good and winds up doing little but raising the expectations of people who have already been bled of any reasonable hope. It's a terribly cruel game.

Your écrivaine had gone to talk with Afghan women in refugee camps, particularly devout Muslims engaged in a fight for women's rights. Yes, Muslim feminists do exist--even in Afghanistan, even in Pakistan. The women she met were fierce and generous and extraordinary. She wonders how many of them are still alive.

So, given this personal history, a vaguely exotic last name, and a three-year-old article about the current, civil rights-adverse attorney general circulating in the blogosphere and fast becoming a cult favorite of oppo types, your cyberscribe thought it wise to issue this disclaimer:

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not a terrorist.

Okay, it's been uttered twice.

Should this blog go suddenly silent, please send your cybertrix a postcard, c/o Gitmo.

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The politics of terror

Slowly making its rounds through the tunnels of the internet is this amazing story of how the Bush administration burnt computer expert Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, the undercover al Qaeda source for its latest production, the August surprise.

You'll recall that The New Repubic had predicted that the Bushies would capture an "important" al Qaeda figure and trot him out in a July surprise during the Democratic National Convention. And so reports of the capture of a high-value person of interest, one Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, appeared as predicted, just before Kerry's speech.

Not content with its less than bouncy bounce out of its apparent coup, the administration announced, in the personage of First Toady Tom Ridge, an impending major al Qaeda attack, based on the computer records of Khan, another captured high-value person of interest, whose July arrest may have led to the apprehending of Ghailani. Ridge's announcement, in which he lauded "the president's leadership" came just as Kerry and Edwards hit the road on their post-convention tour--in fact, on the very Sunday that Kerry and Edwards themselves appeared on all of the Sunday talk shows.

Just a coincidence, of course.

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Monday, August 09, 2004

More beatin' 'round the...

Your blogstress asks your forbearance in keeping her promise to deconstruct the whole of President Bush's remarks last week to the Unity Convention, a gathering of journalists of color at which the president dumped a motherlode of material for late-night comedians and mean-spirited cybertrices. There's just so much that your humble écrivaine finds herself a tad overwhelmed.

And then there's that little problem of earning a living that keeps getting in the way. Unfortunately, a suitable patron has yet to be found for the bohemian, blog-centric lifestyle to which your gateau-de-cup aspires.

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Those good ole boys were drinkin'
Whiskey and rye...

Thirty years after Richard Milhous Nixon resigned the presidency, your blogstress found herself moved to a profound and wistful melancholy when the deep, manly tones of the Nixonian swan song came wafting through her radio last night as she rolled paint onto her living room walls.

It was a sound that transported her swiftly back to the day and place when she learned of the deal--the way the scent of a bar of Palmolive soap brings her back to her grandmother's pink-and-black tiled bathroom.

As the voice of the Great Disgraced began his farewell address, your Webwench could feel under her nails the yarn of the cherry-red wall-to-wall carpet of the family living room in Clark, New Jersey, where she sat on the floor in front of a dated, tube-set high-fi, breathless and bewildered at this latest turn of the national screw. Dressed for a date, her long hair, ends curled on hot rollers, artfully splayed across her shoulders, she found herself suddenly in no mood to go out.

Not that she was any fan of the Quaker from California--but the Nixon drama was one that crystalized the generational divide in her household, and there's nothing so awful as seeing the father figure crumble.

Last night, listening to Nixon's disembodied voice emanate from her boom box, your blogstess could not help but note that, despite its self-serving spin, Nixon's address spoke to some high-minded ideals that seem to matter no more in American politics--notably, world peace and constructive engagement with former enemies. (Not noted in the speech was the overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende, engineered by the Nixon regime, which resulted in the brutal murders of tens of thousands of ordinary people.)

For a moment, your cybertrix lost her will to be flippant, feeling only the weight and confusion of a terrible moment in a blood-soaked decade.

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Friday, August 06, 2004

Flubbo op

President Bush unscripted

In a Q&A before thousands of journalists of color today in Washington, DC, President Bush proved why his handlers avoid, usually at all costs, putting their man in any situation that requires spontaneous speech. Though the crowd, gathered in the nation's capital for the annual Unity journalism conference, was largely polite, some of the president's answers to questions posed by a panel of four journalists were either so awkward, empty or preposterous that they drew snickers of disbelief.

And it seems that, under the artful questioning of one journalist, Roland Martin of the Chicago Defender, Mr. Bush inadvertently called for the end of college legacy admissions of the sort that enabled him to attend Yale, based not on his lackluster academic history but, rahther, on his family history. (Question of the day: will he try to back-pedal on this newfound stance?)

The president opened his remarks by telling the assembled crowd that he knew a bit about their profession, and that it was an important one. With what he called "my press corps," he said he enjoyed a "cordial and professional relationship."

"That's how I feel about coming here," he explained, repeating a call to be "cordial and professional." One wondered if he were issuing a plea.

In his opening statement, a somewhat scattered assertion of his administration's accomplishments, President Bush segued to a riff on the "No Child Left Behind" measures by stating, "Look, you can't read a newspaper if you can't read." That served as lead-in to his one good piece of oratory, assailing "the soft bigotry of low expectations." He claimed high percentages of African-American and Latino children "narrowing the achievement gap" since the law took effect, but gave no explanation as to how that gap was measured.

On his quest for tort reform that would prevent so-called frivilous medical law suits, the president quipped, "I don't think you can be pro-doctor, pro-patient and pro-trial-lawyer at the same time." Hear that, Breck girl?

So far, so good. (Well, kinda sorta; the newspaper line drew some unintended titters.)

Gee, baby, ain't I good to you?

Given the nature of his audience, Mr. Bush then moved on to the subject of diversity, giving himself a gold star for having a cabinet that included the likes of Secretary of Education Rodney Paige, whose miracle-working in the Houston public school system now appears to have been a statistical ruse; Secretary of State Colin Powell (of course); and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who has presided over the rewriting of labor regs to deprive millions of hourly workers the right to time-and-a-half for overtime.

He went on to remind the crowd that many of the people who advise him daily are not white. "The people who walk into the Oval Office and say, Mr. President, you're not lookin' so good today--they're diverse," he said, drawing uncomfortable laughter. "They're from all walks of life."

Lip-smackin' good

The most delicious moments, however, came in response to questions put to the president by a panel of four journalists: Joey Chen of CBS, Ray Suarez of PBS's "NewsHour", Roland Martin of the Chicago Defender, and Mark Trahant of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Early in the questioning, Mr. Bush was clearly stumped when Mark Trahant, a past president of the Native American Journalists' Association, asked the president what he thinks tribal sovereignty entails.

"Tribal sovereignty means just that--that it's sovereign," said the president. "You're--you've been given sovereignty and you're viewed as a sovereign entity." Unfortunately, he didn't let it end there. "And therefore," he continued, "the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities."

More to come...

NOTE: Your blogtress, being extremely busy and in demand, is writing this post in fits and starts, in between engagements. So rich is the material, that she will continue to dissect it throughout the next 24 hours, and post her findings as she finds them. In the meantime, though, you can find a more concise narrative of this event in Elisabeth Bumiller's story in today's New York Times.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Check-point city

Code Orange living

Living, as she does, within blocks of the headquarters of two of our three branches of government (the Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol), your blogstress finds her neighborhood resembling Berlin before the wall fell.

Though no wall yet exists--just lots of fencing and jersey-wall barriers--checkpoints abound, with every car being stopped on virtually every block within a ten-block radius of the terrorists' presumed high-value targets. People with guns sport a variety of official costumes, the most common of which is a navy blue shorts outfit, dayglo yellow vest and a 9mm pistol. Not particularly attractive.

Note to self: remember to wear an ID badge while walking through nabe. Any kind of ID badge is preferable to none--unless, of course, one sports an employee ID issued by the Arab-American Anti-Defamation League.

The walk from East Capitol Street, on which the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress sit, to Union Station, has always been a lovely, meandering stroll through a patchwork of greenery seamed with footpaths. Today, at the small, charming flight of concrete stairs that marks the end of one path, your blogstress found a large concrete barrier around which she had to step through a 1-foot opening left between it and the barrier placed right next to it.

Note to self: keep passport current. Carry at all times.

The traffic back-ups serve as a reminder that, if the hood is hit, there's no getting out by motor vehicle.

Note to self: keep bicycle tires inflated.

Yesterday, we learned that the administration forgot to tell us that the current alerts are based on information compiled by al-Qaeda prior to 9/11. The adminstration is indeed correct that al-Qaeda works years in advance of its attacks, planning in meticulous detail. Yet the current frenzy, at least in this neighborhood, wreaks more of a show of force than an actual attempt to find potential terrorists.

Note to self: be vigilant.

Today we learned that Capitol Police have received training on how to shoot a suspected terrorist in the head. No word on what qualities define a suspected terrorist.

Note to self: wear nothing exotic. Wear helmet.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Don't know much about algebra...

Ordinarily, your blogstress, who prides herself on making self-induced poverty look glamorous, is in no position to advise the less glamorous on financial matters. However, this AP report about Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's impending resignation counfounds her:

Ridge, 58, has explained to colleagues that he needs to earn money to comfortably put his two children, Tommy Jr. and Lesley, through college, officials said. Both are now teenagers. Ridge earns $175,700 a year as a Cabinet secretary...

Ridge owns an $873,000 home in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife, Michele, which they bought last year with a $784,800 mortgage, according to property and banking records. Ridge's most recent financial disclosure reports, filed in early 2003, showed that he owned between $122,000 and $787,000 in stocks and funds, including modest ownership in The Walt Disney Co., General Electric, Nike, Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp.

Memo to Secretary Ridge: Sell the house, and the kids go to Harvard. (Your blogstress knows of a nice living space above a bodega.)

Special thanks to my favorite soundman for the conversation that led to this post.

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The first in an occasional series whereby your blogstress singles out for note a sentence for nothing more than the quality of its craft.

Sentence of the day

From David Remnick's analysis in this week's New Yorker of John F. Kerry's speech to the Democratic National Convention:

The greatest similarity between the first J.F.K. and the current one lies not in their Ivy privilege or clambake geography but, rather, in the fact that both built a Presidential campaign narrative from acts of Navy heroism.

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Monday, August 02, 2004

What goes with orange?
Dressing for the apocalypse

You'll be happy to know that your blogstress's knee is healing nicely after the escalatorcapade on which she embarked while evading security personnel at the Democratic National Convention. Though she spent the weekend limping around, her undulant gait has, as of today, returned to normal, allowing her to, once again, swing so cool and sway so gently.

As it turned out, the icky wet spot on the knee of her spandex-blend pants was indeed blood, so her knee now sports the scabrous imprint of the tread from the moving stairs. Curiously, while her knee was cut by the stairs, her tech pants by Isaac Mizrahi for Target remained miraculously in tact. Well worth the $29.99 they set your Webwench back.

With orange apparently set to be the big color for fall, one suspects your cybertrix will sporting those trousers often. If one runs the everyday risk of being blown to smithereens here in our nation's capital, clothing that looks sharp on bleeding flesh would seem to be the order of the day.

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Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Porn Wars

The following is an excerpt from “Feminism and the Culture of Sexuality,” the introductory essay of Debating Sexual Correctness: Pornography, Sexual Harassment, Date Rape, and the Politics of Sexuality, by Adele M. Stan.

The rise of the New Right in the late seventies and early eighties kept feminists busy and on the defensive. Feminist efforts to expand female horizons gave way to the more immediate concerns of protecting the gains already made, especially the legalization of abortion, which suffered a renewed, relentless attack. In this poisonous climate the quest for a politics of pleasure appeared to have fallen by the wayside, especially as the right sought to brand feminists as the immoral destroyers of the nuclear family and the murderers of “unborn babies.”

In 1982, a diverse group of feminists attempted to return to an exploration of sexual issues in a conference called “Toward a Politics of Sexuality” held at Barnard College in New York City. The concept paper for the conference, written by the program’s academic coordinator, medical anthropologist Carole S. Vance, acknowledged the success the New Right enjoyed in limiting notions of female sexuality to its reproductive function, and urged feminists to seize back the agenda. The conference, part of Barnard’s acclaimed “Feminist and Scholar" program, sought to explore the gamut of female sexual experience, including such controversial subjects as “politically incorrect” sex and lesbian “butch-femme” roles. Among those presenting papers were several women known for their critiques of the antipornography movement.

In the anthology Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality that emerged from the papers delivered that day, editor Vance tells a harrowing tale of harassment and obstruction that led up to the conference, conducted not by the New Right but by antipornography feminists. According to Vance, antipornography activists alarmed Barnard administrators with accusatory phone calls about the harm that would come to women as a result of the conference, to the point whether Barnard President Ellen V. Futter confiscated the conference handbook intended for distribution at this sold-out gathering of some 800 participants. As a result of the controversy, the Helena Rubenstein Foundation dropped its funding for Barnard’s Feminist and Scholar series.

On the day of the conference, Vance writes, members of Women Against Pornography leafleted attendees with a flyer that not only decried and mischaracterized the conference but made allegations about the sexual practices of some of the speakers, calling them by name. This action, Vance claims, caused lasting damage to those defamed, derailing careers and causing much grief. “These tactics were McCarthyite,” Vance writes. “[They were] cowardly, surreptitious, dependent on slander and sexual panic for their power.”

In the wake of the Barnard Conference, American feminism appeared poised for a split, and it cam the following year with the introduction of a new antipornography statute in Minneapolis by Andrea Dworkin and legal scholar Catharine A, MacKinnon. Years of grassroots organizing among feminists and neighborhood groups paid off in the hearings that led up to the vote on the ordinance, at which a diverse group of academics, health care professionals, women’s rights advocates and everyday people testified to a link between pornography and sexual abuse. Women spoke to the harm caused them by pornography, harms that Dworkin and MacKinnon would later list to include “dehumanization, sexual exploitation, forced sex, forced prostitution, physical injury, and social and sexual terrorism and inferiority presented as entertainment.”

The Minneapolis ordinance addressed pornography as a civil rights issue, allowing anyone who had been harmed by a particular piece of pornography, in accordance with the causes of action specified in the statute, to sue for civil damages. [See Appendix A, “The Dworkin-MacKinnon Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance (Minneapolis),” items (l) through (o) for specific causes of action.] Arguing that, rather than a form speech, pornography is something that is done to women, Dworkin and MacKinnon explained, “Under the ordinance, pornography is what pornography does [emphasis theirs.]” Although there was no provision for prior restraint, the ordinance did allow for the removal from stores of material that had been proven harmful. Once the censorship question was called, the double helix of sexual protection and liberation untwined into two strands; the simple mixture of the xx chromosome and a desire for positive change was no longer enough to bind the complex organism the movement had become. Feminists appeared to split into two camps, the so-called protectionists vs. the free-speech advocates.

I was a junior editor at Ms. magazine when this conflict arose, and it made for some high drama. Dworkin and MacKinnon came to the magazine’s offices with several activists (including one who had worked in the sex trade) to make an impassioned presentation before the editorial staff, followed later that day by the women of the Feminist Anti-Censorship Task Force (FACT), led by Carole Vance, writer Lisa Duggan, attorney Nan D. Hunter, and filmmaker Barbara Kerr.

By the time the two sides held their separate teach-ins for the assembled Ms. staff, the ordinance had failed in Minneapolis after winning the vote twice in the city council, the result of mayoral vetoes. Soon thereafter an amended version passed into law in Indianapolis, thanks, in part, to the support of a right-wing constituency. Dworkin and MacKinnon took a lot of heat for appearing to make common cause with Indianapolis councilwoman Beulah Coughenhour, described in the page of Ms. as a “Stop-ERA, antiabortion Eagle Forum member.” who introduced the legislation for vote by the city council. (the Indianapolis statute was ultimately overturned in Federal Court on First Amendment grounds.)

Dworkin and MacKinnon’s model ordinance soon took on a life of its own, as politicians more concerned with moral decency than women’s rights began tinkering with the model to suit their own purposes, causing alarm among both antipornography and civil libertarian feminists. The most notable example occurred in Suffolk County, New York, where a right-wing county legislator rewrote the ordinance to reflect his political agenda, despite the opposition of both Dworkin and MacKinnon, and the New York chapter of Women Against Pornography, whose members testified against it. “I don’t want to tell anybody what to do as long as they live by the Ten Commandments,” asserted Michael D’Andre, sponsor of the Suffolk County measure. A new wariness set in over the right’s easy co-option of the pornography issue.

Although the Suffolk measure ultimately failed, at the time each of the warring parties assembled before us in the conference room, the county legislature was considering D’Andre’s measure, and the jury was still out on which way the vote would go.

It was one of the most difficult days I ever experienced at Ms.. As it wore on and we asked more and more questions, the volatility of the issue began to flower, as some women on the staff bravely stated their political discomfort with their own sexual fantasies, and others took emotional objection to the belief stated by one of the FACT members that freedom of expression had to extend to everything in the realm of human experience in order to sustain itself. You see, if you took the Dworkin-MacKinnon position, pornography was not defined simply by its content, as in obscenity law, but by its role as an agent of discrimination against women. MacKinnon’s very definition of pornography refers to material that combines “the graphic sexually explicit” with activities that are “actively subordinating, treating unequally, as less than human, on the basis of sex [emphasis mine].”

Divisions in the staff became manifest, it seemed, in an instant. Letty Cottin Pogrebin attacked the notion that “anything goes,” arguing that although holocaust pornography set in concentration camps may be based on fact, that doesn’t mean it belongs in the public consciousness imbued with erotic meaning. Though not present at these discussions, Gloria Steinem, who had long ago made a distinction between erotica and pornography in a much-reprinted article, had already given her blessing to the Dworkin-MacKinnon ordinance. At the helm of the editorial ship, Suzanne Braun Levine mediated what at times came close to being a free-for-all. “I’d always believed that on any issue, despite our diversity, that a consensus feminist position could be arrived at, at least within the pages,” she recently told me, “until this one came along.”

Levine had set up the presentations for the magazines coverage of the debate. Among ourselves, we handled the issue gingerly, arguing politely with each other, suddenly aware of the potential the pornography problem had to blow us apart. In private, the more libertarian among us (myself included) made cracks about the “feminist thought police,” while the debate raged internally in the form a private campaigns waged in the hope of influencing the coverage of this feminist family feud.

The story was assigned to contributing editor Mary Kay Blakely, a thoughtful, mild-mannered reporter who happened to be newly arrived in New York, fresh from the Midwest. The assignment had barely been made before Blakely was cast under a cloud of suspicion by both sides. Dworkin was annoyed that her words would be set into Blakely’s narrative. To Blakely, the women of FACT seemed convinced that she had been co-opted by the antipornography side in her discussions with Dworkin and MacKinnon, though they had no direct knowledge of her interviews.

Before Blakely wrote a word of her piece, nearly every editor on staff was fielding phone calls from colleagues outside the magazine, as feminists lobbied their contacts for a shot at determining what tack the story would take.

Later, parts of one of Blakely’s drafts was leaked out, and the fracas caught fire. The attacks became intensely personal; there wasn’t an editor not affected. “Everyone had an agenda,” says Blakely, looking back on it now. “There were excesses on all sides.”

The resulting cover story, “Is One Woman’s Sexuality Another Woman’s Pornography?”, elicited reams of reader mail, both angry and appreciative. (Even the title of the article was a matter of contention.) The magazine’s coverage still angers Andrea Dworkin, who feels that in giving the two sides equal treatment, Blakely’s large piece lent FACT, a group of 30 or so New York-based journalists, artists and academics, political legitimacy that was undeserved when compared with the grassroots efforts that brought forth the Minneapolis and subsequent ordinances. But Vance is quick to point out that events organized by FACT often drew more than 100 participants, and that FACT chapters existed in at least four other cities where antipornography legislation was under consideration.

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Women Warriors

by Adele M. Stan

This piece originally ran on the New York Times Op-Ed Page
on December 17, 1993.

WEEHAWKEN, N.J.--Were it not for an event in my own life, I might view the current debate over date rape and the rape crisis movement with detached amusement, the way one does whenever opposing pockets of the intellectual elite have a go at each other. But for me, the issue runs far deeper than that, and it seems to me that neither side has really got it right.

In 1978, I was raped by an acquaintance in my college form room. This was no murky instance of date rape; I was asleep when the perpetrator, a guest at a party my roommate was giving in our campus apartment, let himself in, gripped my arms over my head and bored his way into me.

Of course I protested, but I was afraid to do so too loudly, for just outside the door lurked the beer-soaked players of an entire hockey team, and I had heard too many boasts from athletes about girls who had “pulled the train” for a team, who had serviced 10 or 15 members in a single night. So I resigned myself to my fate, taking the advice of police experts on violent crime against women: “Resistance only excites them.”

Today’s debate is fueled in part by Katie Roiphe’s book, “The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus,” which argues that young women are being whipped by feminists into a frenzy of fear about a rape crisis that doesn’t exist.

Revisionists like Ms. Roiphe often point out that some women are categorized as rape victims in studies even though they do not identify themselves as such. But if you asked me, even several years after my dorm-room horror, if I had ever been raped, I doubt I would have said yes. It was years before I told anyone about the assault; the experience was too painful, and the guilt at not having resisted harder was overwhelming. Revisionists who believe they would have been more forthcoming could at least show a little gratitude to the women’s movement for their untroubled psyches.

On the other side are the protectionist feminists, those so focused on shielding women from harm that they inadvertently encourage us to exalt our status as victims. In their advocacy for anti-pornography legislation, Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin often refer to the powerlessness of women as if it were innate.

I resist the notion of women as sexually pure damsels in need of special protections. In the 1980’s, when I was working at Ms. magazine, I heard an editor express concern about her politically incorrect sexual fantasies, and was shocked by the puritanism I saw creeping into the women’s movement. More concerned with reality than fantasy, I came to this movement for sexual parity, not sexual purity.

The revisionists and the protectionists cling to one or another clause of the old social contract between the sexes. Though Katie Roiphe acknowledges the widespread problem of sexual harassment, and she rightly insists that we are each responsible for our own actions (e.g., having sex with someone because you’re tipsy doesn’t mean he raped you), she implies that nearly any level of aggression visited upon us, short of stranger-rape at knife-point, is no big deal.

On the other hand, what are we to make of Andrea Dworkin’s statement that women’s silence over the dangers we face at the hands of men is “that silence into which we are born because we are women”?

I reject both assumptions. Since being raped, a remarkable thing happened to me--I became violent, and in this violence found liberation. I have been grabbed several times by strangers on the street, and I never let the culprit go without physically attacking him. When a vile remark is shouted at me, I shout back something equally vile.

Yet feminists often discourage women from such behavior. Some six months ago, Newsday ran a front-page article on a women who wielded a kitchen knife to foil a would-be rapist who broke into the apartment. The next day, a number of experts, including the sex crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein, cautioned readers not to try the same thing--you could get killed. Isn’t it time we applauded women who defend themselves against attack? Why assume that women don’t have the judgment to assess their chances of success?

Likewise, we must reconsider how we raise our children. I believe that the pattern of sexual harassment that begins in grade school could be altered if we taught our daughters to fight back when attacked by boys. We expect girls to be comforted with the admonition not to pay them any mind; boys are like that. In other words: get used to it.

If more boys received more negative reinforcement at the hands of girls, the offensive behavior might be discouraged. At the very least, girls would feel less powerless. If their really is a war against women, then we ought to be raising women warriors.

Until all feminists are willing to rethink the social contract--including the provisions that cede our well-being to the good will of men and that proclaim us to be, like cows, one of nature’s mute and gentle creations--we will be left to the task of laying blame when we could be seeking real solutions.

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Orange ya glad

for the president's leadership?

It's one thing to use past tragedy for political gain, but quite another to use the president's homeland security director to laud "the president's leadership in the war against terror" when turning up the terrorism alert in the midst of a presidential campaign. (See full quote, below.)

It's been a while since the alert was kicked up to orange, so we surely were due. I don't doubt that the New York Stock Exchange or the World Bank are in the terrorists' sights. And if, indeed, an imminent attack is averted by the vigilence of citizen, official and law enforcement officer, that's a laudable accomplishment.

But to have Ridge, the man entrusted with the nation's safety, using a threat against American lives to tweak the president's poll numbers, well, that's just despicable.

Ridge has been reportedly telling colleagues that he's ready to step down, weary of the work of combining 22 government entities into one. Perhaps he's also weary of being the president's number-one toady.

Campaign Aid from Tom Ridge:

"But we must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror (emphasis added), the reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan."

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The Call to Dissent

by Adele-Marie Stan


This piece originally appeared in the December 1985 issue of Ms. magazine.

Their Christian values compel them to challenge the church, say Catholic feminists.

It is a church rife with powerful and mysterious symbols, symbols that have, throughout the ages, captured the imaginations of even those from other religious traditions. Artists and writers have long been intrigued by the Roman Catholic Church with its taboos and secrets, and the church has always provided the world with entertaining theater; its secret sensuality--the smell of the incense, the taste of the wafer, the sound of its glorious music, the elaborate settings of its altars, the silk and velvet vestments--provides the means through which the congregants are seduced from childhood. Yet despite the ceremonial indulgence, it remains an institution that makes grave distinctions between the needs of the spirit and the flesh.

The church is an immensely wealthy institution that counts among its faithful many of the world's poorest citizens. It is an institution that has come, in recent years, to speak out against racial discrimination, yet it denies full participation in its structure more than half of its faithful on the basis of gender. And those excluded on this basis compose the bulk of the poor to whom the church claims to be committed;it is they who suffer the results of the church's highly restrictive policies on human sexuality. The pervasive duality of the church on issues of human dignity has led to what may well be the most dramatic challenge faced by its leaders in modern history--the challenge of its women.

Mutually exclusive?
There are many who ask if it's possible to be both a feminist and a Catholic; indeed about a million and a half practicing Catholic women do not attend church regularly, according to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center, because they apparently feel that the church isn't really theirs. Yet the American Catholic Church is still made up of more women than men, and among those who have stayed are some ardent feminists. To them, the question of whether or not one can embrace both Catholicism and feminism makes little sense. After all, American feminists have long fought for participation in this country's political system, even though democratic institutions have, throughout history, discriminated against and oppressed women.

"You look at the younger women," says Sister Margaret Ellen Traxler. "They're either getting out or they're staying in and they're howling."

Traxler knows a howl when she hears one; it's a noise she's often been accused of making herself. In 1969, Traxler, a Sister of Notre Dame, formed the National Coalition of American Nuns, an organization that has become an advocacy group for for some of the most activist sisters the church has ever seen. She is among the 24 sisters whom the Vatican threatened with expulsion for signing an ad that appeared in the New York Times calling for a dialogue in the church on the issue of abortion. (see "Sister Margaret Traxler and the Vatican 24," by Carol Kleiman, April, 1985.)

Traxler and her colleagues have been branded "radical nuns" by many in the hierarchy. But she is quick to point out that the label has been conferred upon women who have merely requested a dialogue with church officials on their concerns, women who ask for inclusion in a leadership that makes moral decisions for at least as many women as it does men.. "If we were radical," says Traxler, "we would get out of the church; we would get out of our religious communities...we would cut off at the root anything that we do not find consonant with our philosophy,"

Traxler is a sturdy woman of some 60 years. She has a talent for storytelling and is not above using either a shout or a whisper for dramatic effect. Some find her boldness off-putting: her working-class style of speech is nunlike. But to her, her style is as much a commitment as her religious vows. Wide-eyed, with expressive hands, she slowly quotes Flannery O'Connor. "'To the deaf, you must shout! And to the near-blind, you must draw large, wild pictures.' And that's why I am considered strident, radical," she explains. "They don't know how else to label and old nun who give all of her time to the poor."

Opening the church windows
Nuns of Traxler's ilk are largely products of the tumultuous 1960s. In 1962, Pope John XXIII called the church's highest ranging prelates together for the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in an effort to "open the windows of the church to the modern age." Among the sweeping changes yielded from the three-year assessment were the translations of the Mass from Latin into the vernacular, loosening of the strict rules pertaining to fasting, participation of the laity in the Mass, and an altar turned around to face the people rather than the rear wall of the church. While such changes seemed vast and sometimes disturbing to the congregants, it was the spirit of Vatican II that set up the most cataclysmic changes within religious communities.

Since the spirit of the Vatican II encompassed broad issues of social justice and peace, religious communities were called upon to return to the original vision of their founders and adapt it to modern circumstances. American sisters, whose orders were founded as service communities for the poor and the sick, poured out of the parochial schools and convents, and into the world of the starving, the suffering, marginalized.

Sisters were also urged to get educated. So, the first stop for many, before hitting the streets in their war on poverty and injustice, was the university. In fact, today 43 percent of all American sisters hold masters' degrees. (Among the bishops, only 31 percent have masters' degrees.)

So, with the revelations born of academic life and their daily work with victims of life in the real world, the nuns often find themselves at odds with a comparatively cloistered male hierarchy that is educated in little other than church doctrine.

Is democracy a heresy?
Aside from the issues the nuns have embraced, the modifications they have made in the very structure of their communities have been an affront to the Roman hierarchy. Titles like "Mother Superior" and "Mother General" have been dropped, and nuns elect their leaders instead of having them appointed from the top.

But because they still answer to, and are indeed a part of, the ultimate in hierarchical institutions, conflicts frequently arise. The Sisters of Mercy have faced off with the Vatican more than a few times in the past several years. During John Paul II's historic visit to the United States in 1979, Sister Theresa Kane, then president of both the order and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, publicly confronted the Pope on the church's exclusion of women, paving the way for similar confrontations between the Pontiff and a Dutch and a Belgian woman during during John Paul's visit to the European Low Countries. (See "The Unexpected Things I Learned from the Woman Who Talked Back to the Pope," by Mary Gordon, August, 1982.)

And in 1982, sister Agnes Mary Mansour, Ph.D., became just plain Dr. Mansour after Rome's Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes decreed that she either give up her job as Michigan's welfare administrator or leave her order. (See "The Nuns' Revolt," by Mary Kay Blakely, September, 1983.) The Pope's bureaucrats objected to the fact that a small part of Mansour's job was to handle public funds designated for abortion.

Because of the Vatican's recent enforcement of longstanding canon law prohibiting all clerics and religious from holding public office, Sister Arlene Violet left the Mercies last year to become Rhode Island's attorney general.

A plea for mercy
But perhaps the most tense confrontation between the Holy Father's legions and the Mercy sisters challenged their autonomy in the administration of their numerous Mercy Hospitals, a not-for-profit network rivaled in size only by the Veterans Administration. since in many areas of the United States the only hospital around is a Mercy Hospital, a committee of Mercy Sisters decided in 1977, after authorizing a study of community need, that they had an obligation to consider the rights of patients in determining hospital policy on sterilization; and after laborious study, they agreed that tubal ligations should be made available to certain women under certain circumstances.

The Vatican didn't agree. According to an informed source, Rome essentially threatened to remove the Mercies' executive team and replace it one hand-picked by the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes if the sisters allowed sterilization procedures to be implemented in their hospitals. The sisters dropped the issue, and all procedures intended to control human reproduction remain banned from Mercy Hospitals.

The role of women
Sister Margaret Farley, Ph.D., an ethicist and professor at Yale Divinity School, participated in the Mercies' study on the tubal-ligation issue. She is among the many women in the church concerned about the close timing of three major upcoming Vatican-ordered treatises: a study on religious orders; the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' (NCCB) pastoral letter on the role of women; and the conclusions drawn from a special international synod (currently in session) to reassess the results of Vatican II "in light of new needs," according to Pope John Paul II.

The bishops' upcoming pastoral, scheduled for release in 1988, is perhaps the most troubling of the three, since the purpose of a pastoral is to instruct the flock. No women will be directly involved in the writing of the letter. NCCB will conduct no open, public hearings. The hearing of Catholic women was by invitation only. And of the five women serving on an advisory panel to the prelates, one, Ronda Chervin, is often referred to as "a Catholic Phyllis Schlafly," and another, Anne Carr, resigned earlier this year after her signature appeared on the notorious New York Times ad.

The bishops have already stated that their letter will pose no challenge to the church teaching on ordination, and they are not expected to deviate from the dogma concerning reproductive issues. In a recent report prepared for the synod now in session, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said: "Particular attention must now be given to women, both lay and religious. Their role in the church and society must be clarified, their rights and dignity must be affirmed, and their advancement to positions of leadership and decision-making must continue." But the report, to no one's surprise, fell short of recommending ordination. It also called for the church to "define an appropriate Christian stance toward the secular feminist movement" and "the allowable limits of dissent," statements that some feminists feel hold ominous implications. The report also attributed the rise of dissent in the American Church to what it terms cultural factors, namely, "exaggerated individualism" and "exaggerated secular feminism."

"On the one hand the church should try in every way to utilize women's gifts and talents," William Ryan, associate secretary of public affairs for the Conference, told a newspaper reporter, "but not through their ordination. It is meant that they should be advanced as much as possible within the confines of church discipline."

The bishops writing this pastoral are not willing to talk about it. Bishop Joseph Imesch (Joliet, Illinois), head of the committee that is framing the letter, declined an interview with Ms., as did three other prelates.

With the bishops' pastoral so severely self-limited, is there any hope of some good coming out of it? Only if, in the letter, says Margaret Farley, the bishops urge the church to use the same criteria for assessing the role and needs of women that the bishops used in their previous pastorals on the nuclear threat and the economy. In those letters, the bishops based their arguments on "principles of respect for persons, attending to the marginalized, and...the need for institutions to be just in their structures," according to Farley.

Those troublesome nuns
With study on religious orders, the bishops are in a difficult position. The study was demanded by the Vatican in an effort to address what it sees as a lack of discipline among religious in the American Church, particularly among the sisters. But it was partly at the bishops' insistence that the sisters expanded their ministries.

Just how far the bishops are willing to go in the sisters' defense, though, remains to be seen. The Vatican 24, for instance, found little support among the American hierarchy. Jay Berman, spokesperson for the Archbishop of Detroit, called the sister signers "an embarrassment to their orders." A lecture by signer Sister Marjorie Tuite, a Dominican from Chicago, was canceled by San Diego Bishop Leo T. Maher after the Vatican responded with the expulsion threat. (Ironically, Tuite was slated to speak on economic justice.) A monsignor urged Catholic institutions to boycott a home for transient women run by another signer. "They're just pitiful little adolescent boys," Traxler says of what she calls "the mean bishops."

"We're all laywomen"
"It was out of the benevolence of the patriarchy that democratization and activism in the convents took place," insists Dolly Pomerleau, cofounder of both the Women's Ordination Conference and the Quixote Center where she currently serves as a codirector. "The moment that benevolence is removed, which we're seeing happen a little bit at a time, we see that nothing has really changed."

Mary Hunt, Ph.D., codirector of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a handsome woman whose stature and short dark hair lend her the look of a stern but fair schoolteacher. She believes that what was perceived and experienced by the sisters as real change was really contingent upon the communities' post-Vatican II leadership, elected during an age of liberalism. "but now what you see," she explains, "is that some of those women have been replaced, almost person for person, by more conservative people whose magnanimity and openness and personal courage is not quite the same...This is where you see that structural changes have really not taken place; so that you still have a Mother Superior whether you call her President or I call her Suzie. She's still structurally, in the eyes of Rome, Mother Superior, head of the congregation."

Lay activists like Hunt and Pomerleau are often frustrated by the willingness of their compatriots in the convents to play ball with the Vatican. "One of the things we have to deal with very seriously as Roman Catholic women," warns Farley, "is to not let division continue or escalate between all women in the church and women who happen to be members of religious communities. It's even a problem of using the traditional language: 'nuns' and 'laywomen.'"

Especially since, as Traxler sees it, "We're all laywomen, honey." What she means is that since nuns have no clerical status within the church, they are still considered "lay" by the hierarchy.

"I think one of the threats the women in religious communities pose to the Vatican right now is the process of reclaiming womanhood," explains sister Maureen Fiedler, codirector of the Quixote Center in Mount Rainier, Washington, an advocacy organization for women's equality, peace in Central America, and other "justice-oriented" issues. "Virtually every element of the old days, the old life, was an attempt to deny it, as in the habit, which denied the bodily shape of a woman and also secluded her almost like the purdah of [South Asian] countries. But I think the threat is especially in reclaiming our solidarity with women on a broad range of issues. Particularly, I think, one of the reasons why the New York Times ad was so threatening was that you had women in religious communities, who don't normally face issues like birth control or abortion in their own lives, making common cause with 'laywomen' or married couples who do."

Recent surveys have shown that as a whole, Catholics differ very little from the general public in their views on abortion, with 79 percent accepting it as a moral choice in certain circumstances, according to a 1983 Gallup poll. The National Opinion Research Center also found that 73 percent of single Catholic women between the ages of 18 and 24 engage in premarital sex and use a form of contraception not sanctioned by the Catholic Church.

Bridging the gap
One group that bridges the gap between women religious and secular women is the Women's Ordination Conference (WOC), an organization formed 10 years ago as an advocacy group for women who want to be priests. In its early days,the group was composed primarily of nuns, but now its ranks include almost as many 'laywomen' as sisters. But lobbying the church for women's ordination is only part of WOC's function; in essence, many of its members act as ministers to the greater Catholic feminist community. Most stop short of calling themselves priests, though, and have instead adopted the moniker "priestly women." According to Ruth McDonough Fizpatrick, a member of WOC's National Coordinating Team, inclusion in the hierarchy is not the aim of her organization; rather it seeks to build a "renewed priestly ministry, which essentially means a transformed church," one with a structure more reflective of feminist principles.

Fitzpatrick, a 52-year-old mother of three children, discovered the left wing of the church while attending Georgetown in the 1970s as a returning student. On the coordinating team with her are Marian Kelley and Sister Margaret G. Smith, both 72 and lifelong dissenters.

There's been some talk in the church lately of ordaining women into the permanent diaconate, a service role that was revived in the last 20 years to fill the gap left by hundreds of fleeing priests, and the lack of fresh seminarians. A permanent deacon (not to be confused with a transitional deacon (who is a future priest), is usually an unpaid minister of most of the sacraments; he is forbidden to hear confessions or consecrate the Eucharist.

The WOC leadership has taken a stance against women in the diaconate because they see it as an attempt to merely placate feminists without addressing the issues of church structure. But not all WOC members agree with their leaders. There are a number of WOC members who, if directly asked, would see the organization's acceptance of the diaconate as a good strategic move and would be ordained permanent deacons.

Mary Hunt, also a WOC member, believes that in the interest of maintaining the current structure of the church, allowing women into the permanent diaconate would probably prove to be a smart and appeasing move on the part of the hierarchy. "It's what I always call the sinister genius of the Roman Catholic Church--to hold many things in tension at once and then homogenize them. And that's what the discussion of bringing women into the diaconate is all about."

When the bishops were holding their closed hearings on the pastoral on women, WOC was among the groups invited to testify. Diane Neu, a writer of feminist liturgies and coordinator of WATER, used the occasion to show how the reproductive issues and the issue of ordination are intertwined, and by describing her role in the dissent community to present it as a model for the "renewed priestly ministry" touted by WOC.

Neu testified that part of the ministry she's created for herself is to counsel women who have had abortions. "As a priestly woman," she explained to the bishops, "as a woman who is already ordained by the community, I must stand with people who do not have a voice; I must be pastoral with the choices that people are making. I cannot judge; I must simply be present."

Dolly Pomerleau concurs that the issues of ordination, reproduction, and church structure are inseparable for Catholic feminists. "If the bishops think that all we're talking about is ordination," she says, "they haven't been listening."

Natural resemblance
Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice (fondly referred to as Frances "Cardinal" Kissling by her colleagues) not only sees the church's stance on ordination and reproductive issues as inseparable; she believes the issues feed off each other. The church justifies its exclusion of women from its leadership through a doctrine called the natural resemblance theory. In essence, she explains, the church contends that since Jesus Christ was the man, and since all of our imagery for God is male, that men are the natural leaders. Now it could be argued, says Kissling, that women are the natural creators with their ability to bear life, but their ability to create has, in the past, always been tempered by the randomness of nature.

"But what happens," she asks, "when women are not only capable or creating life, but are able to choose how, when , and why they wish to do so? A woman in control of her reproductive powers is even more Godlike than a man, The chutzpah of women taking that control is women saying in some way that they are God...and that's a real challenge to the patriarchal structure of the church."

Kissling doesn't buy the hierarchy's reliance on "the sanctity of human life" in its anti-choice argument. "We are not a pacifist church," she says. Indeed, even in the bishops' pastoral on the nuclear threat, they spoke of their belief in "a just war."

Kissling history is not atypical of the journeys between religious life and secular activism experienced by many dissent leaders. As a young woman, she entered a convent, only to leave before making it to novice. From there, she found the secular women's movement and after receiving her bachelor's degree in literature from the New School for Social Research, she became involved in the women's health movement, and eventually ran a private abortion clinic.

And while the call she answered as a young postulant may have been a false alarm, the call of one of the more powerful phenomena to rise out of the dissent movement, Women-church, feeds the fire in her.

The church has left us
Women-church is a broad national (and fast becoming international) network of Catholic feminists, many of whom have histories of activism in ares of social justice, and some of whom belong to religious communities. There was a time when many of these women, at least those whose work has been in the secular arena, described themselves as ex-Catholics, until the longing for their culture and tradition brought them to this movement. And it is they who pose the most serious threat to the institutional church, because they have taken worship into their own hands.

"You see, we say that the church has left us," Mary Hunt explains. "The whole point of the Women-church movement is to say that women as women cannot be full religious agents in the patriarchal church and, therefore, the only way we can be church is to be Women-church."

Because Women-church initially jelled in 1983 as a coalition of progressive organizations, most with commitments to issues of social justice and peace, it, like the secular women's movement, embraces issues that seem to some to go beyond appropriate bounds. (Today these coalitions exist as Women-Church Convergence.) Among the causes that eh Women-church movement has allied itself with is the Latin American movement for liberation theology, a movement the suffers from papal repression.

"We cannot separate any of these issues from the larger global economic and political repression," says Hunt, herself a liberation theologian who has done extensive work in Latin America. "Hand in glove go Reagan and the Pope. That has to be underscored because it is no coincidence that [repression of progressive religion and women's rights] has really revved up on both sides during the Reagan administration."

We are all Ferraro
When Archbishop John J. O'Connor of New York went after Geraldine Ferraro on the issue of abortion in the 1984 presidential election, many members of Women-church took it quite personally; they saw themselves in Ferraro and believe that her philosophical resemblance to Women-church members accounted for the force of O'Connor's response to her candidacy.

The New York Times ad sponsored by Catholics for a Free Choice, developed by a committee of concerned Catholics and theologians, ran counter to O'Connor's statement that no Catholic could, in good conscience, vote for a candidate who was pro-choice. (Although the 24 nuns who suffered the Vatican threat got most of the media attention, the advertisement was signed by 97 people, most of them members of Women-church..)

But those involved refuse to define their movement as a schismatic one, even though they create their own liturgies, presided over by priestly women and participated in by all present. Why do these women insist on defining themselves as Catholic when they abhor the institutional structure, forsake the sanctioned liturgy, and challenge dogmatic moral teaching? Because their Catholic identity is inseparable from their cultural identity, some will tell you. Because, say others, as Christians, they have a responsibility to speak out against injustice and correct it, especially injustice done in the name of Christ. Or, says Margaret Farley, despite all the injustice," there is some great truth there." It is Farley's contention that the very values she learned as a young Catholic are those that compel her to dissent.

Religious expression
The need for appropriate religious ritual has led to a growing body of work in feminist liturgies--Christian rites that speak to women and their experience.

There are some comparisons to be made between the celebrations of feminist liturgies an the rites of goddess ritual that have grown out of one segment of the secular women's movement. Both rely on nature symbols--tree branches, flowers, and apples are some of the symbols that turn up in the Christian rituals--and from each have come new songs or hymns, and fresh prayers or incantations. And, ironically, at a time when most parishes have forsaken the "smells and bells" of the Mass or yore, feminist liturgy seeks to return such sensual texture to religious celebration, and to allow room for personal expression in it.

Margaret Ellen Traxler asserts that "we don't always celebrate in the same way. When you have a birthday in your family, you don't always do the same thing, the same way, the same songs, the same words. It's a birthday, a coming together, a celebration. Now this [the Mass] is the celebration of the Eucharist. It does not have to be absolutely uniform. And the priest should be chosen from among the people; that's from the Gospel."

Much of the dissent in today's church was precipitated by groundbreaking works in the field of feminist theology. It was only two years after the 1973 release of Mary Daly's radical tract, Beyond God the Father, that the first meeting of the Women's Ordination Conference took place. Over the years, the movement has been fed by the scholarly work of women like historian Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and biblical scholar Rosemary Radford Ruether. "The fact that all the fundamental questions are being raised again," says ethicist and theologian Margaret Farley, her voice becoming impassioned, "and being raised in a way that is filled with life--I think it's terribly exciting."

Bearer of symbols
The bishops are not unaware of the importance of the Catholic women's movement. "I feel we are at a moment that could be compared to the doctrinal and theological problems represented by the admission of the Gentiles to the church in the apostolic age," said Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco in an interview with the Boston Globe.

Quinn's comment is of special significance not only because he is heading the study on religious orders, but also because he is comparing this time in church history "with one of the earliest and most decisive changes in church history," according to the Globe's religion columnist, James L. Franklin.

But there's another layer to Quinn's comment that bears some discussion. The problems faced by the early church with the admission of the Gentiles had much to do with the pagan nature of the religions from which they came; their not in of God had little to do with Hebrew ideals--instead they came from systems of multiple deities, many of which took female forms. So, it is hard to overlook the importance of the archbishop's choice of analogy when one is trying to discern just how the church views its women. Are women still dangerously pagan and frighteningly mystical in the eyes of the patriarchy?

Responding to feminist insistence on the need for nonsexist translations of the Bible, Father Lorenzo Albacete, a former staff theologian to Archbishop James A. Hickey of Washington, D.C., told the right-wing National Catholic Register, "I think that this has the capacity to destroy biblical revelation and land us right back in a pagan religion. In the natural religions, the ultimate life force was generally feminine."

Margaret Farley feels that "pagan" is a bit too strong a word for the way in which women are viewed by the hierarchy, but she does believe that the Holy See finds in women a nightmare of the unconscious. "I have often argued," she explains, "that at an unconscious level, at least, there is a symbol system still operating in Western civilization generally, and in the Roman Catholic Church, which does tend to associate women with symbols of evil. They may not be considered pagan, but they are considered temptresses, and still more closely associated with bodiliness than men are. And Christianity hasn't dealt very well with those questions.

This is why I think the religious questions and the theological questions are so important for the [secular] women's movement generally," she explains, because "in a culture like ours, the symbols are still importantly inclusive of religious symbols. We may not recognize it, but [the religious symbols attributed to womanhood] are partly what we think about when we think about electing a woman vice president."

One gets the feeling that as the only tenured woman on the faculty of Yale Divinity School, Farley has thought hard about this problem. And because of her belief that "the Roman Catholic Church is still the bearer of profound symbols for all the churches," she contends that the work toward equality in the church is more than just a Catholic women's issue.

It matters, then, to all women that in many parishes, women are still serving Communion, despite John Paul II's admonishments against such indulgences of the feminine ego. And it matters that in one working-class parish in urban New Jersey, the priest ends the Gospel reading by saying not the liturgical "This, my Brothers, is the Word of the Lord," but rather, "My Sisters and Brothers, this is the Word of God," that, according to the National Catholic Register, instead of reciting the traditional "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," several priests at the daily Masses held on the campus of Catholic University of America routinely make the sign of the cross "in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier..."

Adele-Marie Stan is a "Ms." editor who belongs to a small parish in New Jersey. Special thanks to Linda Bennett for indefatigable research and provision of news resources.

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