Friday, July 10, 2009

Do you read a newspaper?

Tell the truth now, mes amis. (Your blogstress doesn't like it when you fib.)

Now, change your ways! Here's why:

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Michael Jackson: the legacy of child-abuse

So much has been written about Michael Jackson's life and death that there seems little else to say. But as the crowds gather today at L.A.'s Staples Center for his public memorial, I think it bears noting that the bizarreness of his life had a cause, and that primary cause is likely the abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his father. A secondary cause is likely the internalized racism that his abusive father apparently absorbed from the culture around him.

It is not my intention to make excuses for Michael Jackson's creepy relationships with other people's children (whether or not they were pedophilic remains an unanswered question) or Joseph Jackson's horrific treatment of his own children. I do however, ask readers to consider how people become the way that they do, and to examine our culture as one of enablement.

In a sane world, Joe Jackson would have been jailed for what he did to his kids. Anyone who has watched Martin Bashir's documentary, Living with Michael Jackson, knows that MJ said his father "practiced us with a belt in his hand" and "he would really cut you up". When Bashir asks MJ if his father ever used anything more than a belt, you see Michael nearly dissolve, unable to speak for a moment. Then he says that his father would throw at the children whatever was handy, or just throw the children themselves against a wall. Michael says he was often used as the example of how to do a dance step correctly, and had to watch while his siblings were abused for not being able to dance as well as he did. Imagine what that does to one's psyche.

But it's the emotional abuse MJ received in adolescence from his father that seems to have pushed him over the edge. Just as he was at that awful stage in his development when he was no longer the adorable "Little Michael" who had won the hearts of America, Joe Jackson, by MJ's account, ridiculed that shape his son's adult face was taking, especially his African nose. "You didn't get that from my side," MJ says his dad told him. Because of that, he hated being seen in public, Michael tells Bashir. "I would have rather worn a mask," he said.

And so Michael Jackson created his own mask. In his work, he never stepped back from his black identity, even as he engaged plastic surgeons and dermatologists to eliminate the traces of his heritage from his face -- to destroy what had been a truly beautiful face.

But the theme of the mask in Michael Jackson's life and work extends beyond the wounds of racism. His own children look white, and he put feathered masks on them when he took them out in public. According to biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, Joe Jackson once donned a fright mask and climbed through Michael's bedroom window while the boy lay sleeping, shouting and terrorizing him. In the film short, Thriller, Jackson himself dons the fright mask, morphing first into a werewolf, and then into a zombie-like creature, terrorizing a young woman he asks to "be my girl." In between the morphs, he's a sweet, adorable Michael Jackson. The obvious suggestion is that within Jackson himself, a demon lurks. The lyrics, to my ear, recall the terror of an abused child:

You hear the door slam and realize there's nowhere left to run
You feel the cold hand and wonder if you'll ever see the sun
You close your eyes and hope that this is just imagination, girl!
But all the while you hear the creature creeping up behind
You're out of time
In Beat It (a song I always took to be about MJ's father), Jackson suggests that the way to deal with abuse is simply to get out of the way:
You have to show them that you're really not scared
You're playin' with your life, this ain't no truth or dare
They'll kick you, then they beat you,
Then they'll tell you it's fair
So Beat It...
And so Michael Jackson has at last beaten it. He's released from his torment. He suffered a great deal to give us the genius of his work. He probably made others suffer, too. But his story is one about our society, not about his weirdness. May we all look within.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Stop the sexist rants against Palin!

cross-posted from The Huffington Post

The ascent of Sarah Palin to the national political stage has yielded no shortage of material for legitimate criticism -- even legitimate derision. There's her famous lack of intellectual curiosity, her tortured syntax, and her alliance with a group of Alaskan secessionists, to name just a few.

But whenever Sarah Palin makes news, as she did big-time with her decision last weekend to resign her office as governor of Alaska, more than legitimate criticism hits the airwaves and the Web. Seeping through the Web's meshes and wafting through the airwaves is the acrid stench of sexism.

I'm hardly the first to notice this trend. At Jezebel, Megan Carpentier has been on the case since the presidential campaign, when Palin burst on the scene as John McCain's wild-card pick for his vice-presidential running-mate. So, too, has Melissa McEwan at Shakesville. But this latest burst of fresh hell leads me to take another approach: I'm asking readers to Tweet any sexist coverage they see on Palin with the hashtag: #palinsexism.

Why? As blogger Echidne of the Snakes observes, the takedown of Palin following her resignation of her office "may be mostly justified, but it allows the misogynists to join in, and they are not just attacking Palin, my friends: They are attacking women in general."

Just look what happened on CNN just moments after Palin's resignation broke into the airwaves: anchor Rick Sanchez speculated that Palin might be pregnant again. As if women don't work when they're pregnant, or make sane decisions while in the family way; as if Palin hadn't already worked through one pregnancy.

Michelle Goldberg observed that in Todd Purdum's Vanity Fair profile of Palin, several sources pegged Palin as having a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder for exhibiting exactly the same kind of self-centered traits demonstrated by male politicians who are presumed to be sane.

Even on The Huffington Post, blogger Andy Ostoy referred to Palin as "the most famous MILF in America".

But Ostoy's narcissistic crudeness (like I really care who you'd like to do, Andy) is nothing compared to some of the comments made by readers of otherwise fine, upstanding liberal blogs. The intrepid Echidne went wading into those slimy waters (so you and don't have to), protesting as she did:

I hate McCain for what he did to me as a feminist, by putting me in the position of having to wade into the sewers of lefty blogs to find out what sexist crap might be floating around on the topic of Sarah Palin. I do that not to defend Palin but to defend the women of the future who might one day run for the office, and I do it with great bitterness, because I'm going to be told off for spending time on someone like Palin by all those who don't see that certain comments are not just about Palin but about women in politics in general.
And here's a taste (blech!) of what she found in the comments sections of Eschaton and Democratic Underground:
Let's put it this way.

Sarah Palin is probably a sexual object in the sense of most porn starlets.

Good sex (there is no other kind) but you want her out of your bed before the cock crows, because the thought of having to make small talk with her over breakfast repulses you no end.


Palin's not hot. She's actually pretty dick deflating, in an ignorant-stupid-moralistic way. Sorry, but she's a typical 40 - something GOP woman that thinks with that push-up bra, tummy tuck panty hose, and makeup from hell that she still has it.

she doesn't.


she gets on national tv and rambles for 20 minutes...
And do we get a great shot of her tits? NO!!!!!


I could've straightened her out with a good, hard spanking, but Cindy wouldn't let me.

Now look what's happened . . .

--John McCain Editorial note from your blogstress: of course, that's not really John McCain writing


palin's pregnant with levi's love child.


I hope she can become a spokesperson for drilling in ANWR now, and helping this country become independent of foreign oil.

She should pose naked on a drilling rig.


she thought she was pulling of a cunning stunt with her announcement.


This asshole is going to be a constant reminder of what you can do with NO qualifications

Goodbye you whore.
Enough already! Whether it's a news anchor, an unnamed source, a blogger or commenter, it's time to put a stop to this barrage of gender-based hatred. It's not only right; it's smart. There's plenty to criticize about Sarah Palin, her latest gambit, and others who share her politics without stooping to the lowest forms of name-calling. Keep the critique on the up-and-up, and you'll have more credibility.

So please join me in helping to put a stop to what really amounts to a war on all women: When you see or hear a sexist quote about Palin, Tweet it, and add the hashtag: #palinsexism.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Sarah Palin Will Be Back

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

There's nothing surprising in Sarah Palin's decision not to run for re-election as governor of Alaska. After all, if you've got a shot to become leader of the free world, it helps to have nothing but time to give the people of Iowa and New Hampshire in the year leading up to their caucus and primary, and that's hard to do if you have to run a state from which you can see Russia.

But Palin's decision to step down this month from the governor's mansion? Now that's a whole 'nother kettle of wild salmon.

Today we heard and saw Palin as we never have before. No, I'm not talking about the incoherence of her resignation statement; her incoherence in the infamous Couric interviews became the stuff of legend. Yet with all hectoring she took for her not-ready-for-prime-time performances during the campaign, her confidence never seemed to flag. But today brought us a different picture: Her voice quavering, Palin seemed unsure of herself as she sought to explain without explaining her reasons for stepping down before the end of her first term as governor.

Granted, Sarah Palin has had a very tough week, what with Todd Purdum's takedown in Vanity Fair, and the release of a testy e-mail exchange between the former vice presidential candidate and McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt.

By her own account, however, the week from hell is not what drove today's announcement. The decision had been in the making for a while, she said. But why? As her reasons, Palin noted the meanness of the media, and the hail of ethics complaints filed against her (in a state in which the bar is quite low for the filing of such complaints). Yet none of the complaints filed so far have stuck, so what gives?

The governor mentioned a resulting half million worth of legal bills for her and husband, Todd, but that should be chump change with someone with Sarah Palin's standing among the G.O.P. base. Surely, she could raise that with a legal defense fund.

Palin basically said she was getting out of the way in order to take one for the team:

Let me go back to a comfortable analogy for me -- sports... basketball. I use it because you're naïve if you don't see the national full-court press picking away right now: A good point guard drives through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her eye on the basket... and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win. And I'm doing that, keeping our eye on the ball that represents sound priorities: smaller government, energy independence, national security, freedom. And I know when it's time to pass the ball -- for victory.
For some reason, the very ambitious Sarah Palin finds the need to take herself out of public view. It's hard not to speculate that there's another shoe yet to drop. But don't count her out; she's as tenacious a political fighter as I've ever seen. She'll no doubt put the time gained of her early exit from the governor's mansion to good use -- perhaps studying up on issues for her visits to the people of Iowa and New Hampshire.

When I first speculated that she would be John McCain's vice presidential pick, people said, Sarah who? Despite colossal missteps, she emerged from the 2008 presidential election as the darling of the Republican Party, her running mate returning to the Senate as a has-been. Mark my words: She'll be back.

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