Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Great Books?

Minnesota Women's Press has released its "2005 Great Books" list -- voted upon by women readers who participate in various MWP reading groups. Despite my recent increase in pleasure reading, I have to report that I've read not a one of these books. And given the descriptions (many of which give off the woman-on-a-search-for-self-journey vibe), I'm not sure I want to. There are a few that I may give a shot: Haweswater by Sarah Hall and Ursula K. Le Guin's The Telling, and...oh wait, that's it.

I know women are writing books that interest me: Nevada Barr, Sara Paretsky, Dana Stabenow, Dorothy Hughes, Ann Bannon, Ariel Schrag (!)...where are they on the list? Do mysteries and graphic novels not count as books?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Watson & Crick on Radical Feminism

In the latest Bitch issue, there's a fascinating interview with history-minded feminist Vivian Gornick, who offers this excellent answer to a rather broad and ridiculous question:

Q: In the 1990 New York Times Magazine article I mentioned earlier, you wrote, "Radical feminism is not wanted this year, perhaps not this decade." What do you think a contemporary radical feminism would look like, and how might it be galvanized?

A: The thing is, what radical feminism did in our time was put the terms in place. A good analogy would be when DNA was discovered by Crick and Watson. In the 1980s, I did a book on women and science, and I met many biologists, women and men alike, who all said that DNA was the great, astonishing, explosive discovery. They said, after that, it was all just putting the markers in place - the map was there, all they were doing was filling in the map. For some people, that was a way of explaining that they felt cheated at not being able to have won the Nobel Prize for themselves for this; some people felt demoralized; some people felt that now the drones would take over. And other people understood that if you kept on working hard, without the glamour of knowing you could win a Nobel Prize for figuring out DNA, you would make significant discoveries. And that, of course, is exactly what has happened in the past 25 years: All kinds of things have been [done] in science that they never dreamed of doing when they said, "Oh, it's all been discovered already."

That's the only thing I can offer you [laughs], that analogy. What I really mean is, keep on pressing thought to its deepest conclusion. Whatever insight anybody has into how women's rights somehow exemplify the human condition, existentially and politically and culturally, to that extent you do good work and you live a good life. Who knows what will be the next contribution that opens up another few hundered people to deeper thought about all this? That's my idea of radical feminism: Just think as deeply as you can about the usage that inequality for women has been put to. There are reasons for all the anxiety [about feminsim], and there are interesting questions to ask: Why is there such resistance? Why is it so unwanted by so many, men and women alike? Why is it so feared? What's really behind it?

Those are the things that Stanton turned to toward the end of her life when she got bored with suffrage [laughs], like we get bored with abortion.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dying of Thirst

This is some pretty shitty stuff.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview. It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

Yeah, Karpinski is the former commander of Abu Ghraib, but why would she lie about this? Or about the lack of support for women soldiers reporting sexual assaults?

"It was out of control," Karpinski told a group of students at Thomas Jefferson School of Law last October. There was an 800 number women could use to report sexual assaults. But no one had a phone, she added. And no one answered that number, which was based in the United States. Any woman who successfully connected to it would get a recording. Even after more than 83 incidents were reported during a six-month period in Iraq and Kuwait, the 24-hour rape hot line was still answered by a machine that told callers to leave a message.

Murder by dehydration, maybe that's their game, hmm?* Seriously, this is messed up. Women afraid to drink water in the desert so they don't have to pee in the middle of the night and face rape from their peers? Ain't the military wonderful?

[*Frivolous M.B.D. reference.]