Saturday, March 28, 2009

Resexing Militarism for the Globe by Zillah Eisenstien

Kanako's Notes (the personal is the political):

1989. 3 pm, One dry hot day in Ft. Bliss TX, one of the worlds largest army bases, stuck between the south side of El Paso and northern slums of Juarez MX, is where my dad pulled the car over because Taps was playing over the base's loud speakers. He saluted towards the location of the post's 500 sq ft American Flag in his heavy camos leaving the engine running, the driver's door open and me and my sisters and our brother in the car. This happened everyday but on Sunday. No matter what any uniformed officer was doing, when taps was playing they all had to stop and salute in silence. Anyway, this one dry hot day my dad, after saluting to the flag that we couldn't even see from where we were mind you, bragged, " The Military is the first place that people from all races could work as equals, women too. I work with black, Mexican, Korean, all kinds of people. Isn't that neat?" I rolled my eyes and smashed my forehead against the car window until it hurt a little and stared at my weirdly angled reflection, my fist pressed against my chin, one eye squinted shut, and a big ol' frown on my lips. I knew deep inside that there was a catch. That getting to work for this army sucked hard and that most of my friends parents joined because they were broke and it was the best possible solution to their disenfranchised lives. I also didn't (this is my 14 year old brain) think this shit was equal for women, they were totally out numbered and not allowed to fight on the front lines as of yet.

Eisenstien breaks women's "equality" in the military down in her article like this, "Women in the military may make the military look more democratic as though women now have the same choices as men...(but) this is because there is less democracy, if democracy means choice and opportunity...this stage of patriarchy often requires women to join the army in order to find a paying job or a way to get an education..."

Eisenstien then goes on to break down some percentages of women in uniform. The largest percentage of women present in a current military are Nepalese women in the Maoist movemen (30 percent). I personally support armed resistance against violent oppressors, especially for women, I'm not sure where Eisenstien stands on that one.

Eisenstien then briefly touches on the fact that in Iraq, so many men are held hostage by US forces that women now must do men's work and attributes the fact that women lead many city councils now in Rwanda due to the massacres.

Eisenstien goes on to inform us that reports of domestic violence and sexual abuse from military families doubled after 9/11.

Zillah dissects the way war is masculinzed, preached as by dudes for dudes... then states, "If we give up the fixedness of both sex and gender then we are left to examine the changeability of sexing gender and gendering sex. This does not erase sex of gender but rather demands an accounting of their politicized contextual meanings...the practices of gender will change even though the authorized essentialized views of femininity and manliness can remain static", in relationship to the way women participate.

Zillah also investigates how the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are sold to the masses partly by being marketed as a way to "liberate" the women there. Zillah calls bullshit on that notion, since the women there are now dead or with less/no ability to move about and I'm as freaked out by her the way "feminist" notions where appropriated by the US killer's marketing machine to pull the blinders on folks. I would also like to add that the environmental toxification of the Iraq and Afghanistan's peoples' homeland by these attacks are irrevocable and that these women and their children's health will suffer indefinitely.

The section on rape in war made me barf. Eisenstien describes the way in many cultures how the victim of rape is shamed/blamed after the heinous attack and the act also affects the women's father and brother by emasculating them. Eisenstien explains "The enemy nation is demasculinized while the victor is remasculinized." Then Eisenstien gives a slew of statistics such as "Over 500,000 girls and women were raped in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Tens of thousands of girls and women have been raped in Bosnia, Sierra Leone, and East least 37 service women had sought sexual trauma counseling from civilian rape crisis organization after returning from war duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait."

Patriarchy, suicide bombers, and war

In this section Zillah describes the the way female suicide bombers are judged differently then men, i.e. "It is assumed that politics cannot sufficiently describe the action of women so there must be something else to the story, some other reason for their action. So their acts are described as ones of 'personal despair'...Whereas male suicide bombers are explained in terms of 'psychosis of martyrdom' given the ...'hopelessness of deeply stagnant societies,' female bomber as explained in terms of jilted love, and failed marriages." Zillah thinks this double standard is inappropriate and believes "The female suicide bomber denies traditional gender essentialism; she denies hetero-normative gender in its usual construction."

Zillah is aware of the complexities and differences that exists within a race or a gender, but when a brown women is on a poster for air force advertisement she becomes a "decoy for imperial and fascistic democracy." Eisenstien ends by stating, "Domestic violence and sexual rape are gendered constellations of a politics of war and terror. So are the new diverse gender expressions of women lives in all colors. Without naming and seeing these new configurations of racial and sexual inequities, the resexing and gendering of war cannot be uncovered in its newest forms. Until then the bartering of democracy in the name of women's rights and freedom will continue to mask the destruction of democratic possibilities."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Punk Rock: An Oral History by John Robb

i have read about two hundred pages of this in the past week and i have to say, it's one for the fans!

you don't get a lot of second-hand analysis of what it all meant, but rather a reflective play by play account of how it all went down by those who were there.

in case you don't know who john robb is, he was in the membranes, this is about the english punk scene...

as with any oral history, my favorite part is listening to those involved track their influences. studying aesthetic lineages in punk is one of my favorite pastimes. it involves hours of research and hanging out, studying the private record collections of people who have been around longer than you, asking them questions, listening to how they discovered what means the most to them and learning how what they unearthed evolved into their own art and how it provided them with the tools to create a meaningful existence and try to change things via be more than a realize your place in history....that history forms you ...and then to try and use that same methodology to impact future use being in a band or making a fanzine as a way to create the world you want to exist...and to recognize that this is totally possible because it has happened before and it will happen again.

there is something i miss about the pre-internet times. people used to come over and hang out because i have a lot of records and they were interested in the stories behind them. now i post anecdotes online for whoever to read, but i am less upfront in some ways, because who wants to share intimate details and acquired knowledge with faceless strangers? i used to have entire friendships based on talking about records. now it seems like people are vultures, waiting to get 'your list' so they can go home and secretly download it and wait to mention it to you again after they have read the wikipedia page!!!! like, 'hey have you heard this'...hmmmm, maybe (quickly google) then they come up with some kind of 'informed anecdote' and formulate an opinion based on being indifferent and detached...i feel like people are so dismissive these days. i hear people dismiss the sex pistols (johnny rotten, so amazing!) or subway sect (Vic fucking Godard!!) or the damned (the Captain!) or sham 69 (jimmy pursey's first sentence in this book: I Was Born Punk!!!!!) or generation x (Tony James!) or the ramones or patti smith even and i'm like, seriously get over yourself! what Do YOU LIKE? duran duran? donovan? the shirelles? i like (some of) that shit too, but it does not compare to punk! i mean, if they are young kids in groups starting their own scene then this would be a healthy rebellion, but most usually they aren't. they are just consumers who aren't in bands. or if they are in bands, they don't challenge the status quo, they uphold it. that's not punk. it's poser.

i'm not saying that pop music isn't ever transformative or meaningful...but it is punk that gives us an entry point into the culture. pop keeps us on the outside looking in, fulfilling our prescribed roles as punk demands that we act and question 'the way things are' get out of the audience and destroy the stage! at its worst it's cacophony and aimless, ignorant rebellion. at its best a means of active resistance, a meaningful life, community, participation. you win whether it's good or bad then, innit. as a style it might be tedious, but as a method it's always fresh because it allows the dispossessed, often in the form of the kid, to intervene in the world (i.e. start a band) however they see fit at the moment they are alive.

anyhow, there are still aesthetic evolutions, but they are less linear and the chronology is sorta confusing, in that anyone can reference any tradition from any time period sorta instantly....which is really overwhelmingly exciting yet simultaneously so daunting as to make you not even care enough to try...well that is sometimes how it makes me feel. i wrote about this recently, but who cares how many mp3s you have on your hard drive if you can't even listen to them? the upside is we get these extreme trends like all the awesome screamers-influenced bands of the early 2000's. but sometimes it just comes off like pastiche or tribute bands.

and what will future oral histories have to tell us?

"I remember when that one blog said bla bla bla and then I downloaded bla bla bla and that's how it all started"


so this book is reminding me that the stories and how we tell them to each other are what it's all about....if we don't do anything except check email or listen to 'demos' on myspace and watch everything on youtube and occasionally see people we know at 'the bar' then really, what is happening?

i want to use the internet for storytelling, i try to do that, but it seems like people are looking for instant gratification rather than impact. i have a lot to say, all the time about everything...i want it to sink in. i think books are best for that kind of storytelling. but friendships can be good for that as well...

"remember that time we all drove to portland to see unwound and then the car broke down.... and someone had a gun in the back yard and the cops came.... and then your mom got pissed because we were late but she didn't know that we lied to her... and then i bought the zero's record but left it at the 3rd street house and then the frumpies wrote that single based on 'cosmetic couple'..." etc so much better than 'remember when we checked our email and then went to work and then went to the bar and then came home and checked our email again'.

i like the idea of doing stuff just so that you can have something to remember later...that has always worked for me as a motivating factor. pretend your life is a movie and you are a fictional character. that is what this book is reminding me...the difference between real life and a mediated, virtual existence. punk to me=real life living. to be alive, to be open, to care enough to fuck shit up.

oh, and that i fucking love the clash:

let fury have the hour/anger can be power...don't you know that you can use it?


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

library books

Two new books arrived for me today through interlibrary loan. This is what I am hoping to be reading in the next couple weeks:

Networking Futures: The Movements Against Corporate Globalization - Jeffrey Juris


Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists and Vacant-Lot Gardeners Are Inventing the Future Today - Chris Carlsson

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Girls Like US

hi i just started reading this over the weekend, the only good thing about being sick is getting around to all those books stacked up next to the bed. so far it's really interesting despite the human interest feature writing style. probably more to say later.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Vocabulary for Feminist Praxis by Angela Davis (Feminism and War, CH1)

here are my notes on chapter one,a vocabulary for feminist praxis: on war and radical critique by angela davis. i am paraphrasing some of her language here without decoding, please let me know if there are terms that you don't know the definitions of and i can try and help with that, chapter one notes:

how can feminism help us meet the challenge we face in translating widespread dissent against the wars in the middle east into 'a sustained movement that can effectively counter the imperial belligerence of the USA'?

-the school of feminism she belongs to is interested in questioning the 'tools we use' to critique and transform. this tradition comes from social movements against racism, imperialism and supports labor struggles, etc

"it is now important to imagine a world without xenophobia and the fenced borders designed to make us think of people in and from a southern region outside the USA as the enemy. it is now important to imagine a world in which binary conceptions of gender no longer govern modes of segregation and association, and one in which violence is eradicated from state practices as well as from our intimate lives--from heterosexual and same sex relationships" she adds that we must also imagine 'a world without war'.

next claim: idealism is necessary, but not enough.

in her version of feminism:

"Feminist critical habits involve collective intervention as well. The feminist critical impulse, if we take it seriously, involves a dual commitment to use knowledge in a transformative way, and to use knowledge to remake the world so that it is better for its inhabitants--not only for human beings, for all its living inhabitants. This commitment entails an obstinate refusal to attribute a permanency to that which exists in the present, simply because it exists. This commitment simultaneously drives us to examine the conceptual and organizing tools we use, not to take them for granted" (20)

Claim: this version is more radical than the imperialist Laura Bush version.

This more radical feminism is a feminism

-that does not capitulate to possessive individualism

-that does not assume that democracy requires capitalism

-that is bold and willing to take risks

-that fights for women's rights while simultaneously recognizing the pitfalls of the formal 'rights' structure of capitalist democracy

this means we are not fighting for the equal rights for women to fight and die in war or to torture, but that we can advocate for the equal right of men and women to refuse to participate in the military. we can fight to dismantle the military machine as part of our feminism.

next she asks:
what is the relationship between individual and collective accomplishments? she claims it is a mistake to view the career success of someone like C. Rice as a collective success for feminism

at the top of page 22 she talks about emphasizing "feminist methodologies" rather than abstractions. she is talking about 'woman' as an abstraction, referring to the racist, classist feminism of the 20th century that isolated gender from race, class, nation, sexuality--as if that is even possible. she is suggesting that we need to emphasize the practical application as grounded in the material, historicized realities of women's lives as they are lived. no one is female without having a race or class identity, so why theorize as if that is the case? it results in universalizing a privileged experience, as those who are racially privileged do not have to examine 'whiteness' in order to survive, those who are materially privileged to not have to examine'richness' in order to pay rent, etc.

she then encourages us to "inhabit contradictions" and discover "what is productive about those contradictions". i wish she would give an example here of what this would look like. any ideas?

her next assertion is the most compelling to me. in comparing the Vietnam War era to our current era, she uses the My Lai massacre and Haditha as examples, she claims that it is not enough to assume that things would change if we could simply get the truth out to enough people. she recognizes that with embedded journalists, it is true that we are not seeing pictures of the atrocities to the same degree that people were during vietnam, but using the photos of abu ghraib as an example, she argues that it is a mistake to assume our project is to simply get the right information out there to the american public. she ties this mistaken assumption to a critique of the enlightenment. tracing this problem back to philosopher Immanuel Kant, she writes "the problem to which I am referring emanates from the assumption that rational communication and publicity are sufficient".

so, if we agree that it's not enough to get the truth out to the public, because the truth will not have the necessary impact on u.s. foreign policy, then what is to be done?

hmmm. she talks about the reaction people had to images of torture at Abu Ghraib asking 'how could this happen' thinking this is an aberration, rather than being consistent with U.S. foreign and domestic policy. we are asking the wrong questions then?

she then goes back to claim that as feminists, we must be vigilant in our critique of "conceptual tools". i take this to mean she is asking us to engage in a sustained critique of enlightenment thinking (as her earlier mention of 'equal rights' also seems to evoke)....but if people don't know the history of political philosophy or western intellectual history, they don't know what this means exactly--quickly, this is the point in history when Reason replaced God. she is saying that the intellectual tradition that stems from the enlightenment is giving us the wrong conceptual tools, that we can't count on people to be rational and do the right thing once they know 'the truth' about the war in Iraq. Her example of Abu Ghraib then is useful: once people know what happened, they still don't see the big picture. how do we get them to see the big picture? Is that even the goal in her view?

She claims we must make connections between what happened at Abu Ghraib and what happens in US prisons domestically. I would guess the history of US use of torture in Latin America should be examined. we should see this as an example of the continuation of the policy in service of the project of empire. we can't assume the general public to know this history. but if they did, would anything change? according to her critique of Kant, no. so then, what is the point?

her solution seems to be that we need to be vigilant and "engage in constant criticism". but what is the goal of criticism and intellectual vigilance if
the truth and rationalism have no connection to how we act? is that what she is claiming? or is she saying that assuming that being rational=being ant-war is a false assumption? i really am not sure.

i think she is discussing ideology and the role of consciousness in social change without using that language overtly, but i am not sure what her claim is here exactly.

she also asks feminists to constantly critique "democracy", "diversity", individualism and to recognize the role of US ideology in promoting an imperialist agenda that is at odds with radical feminism.

an example of what she means is given when she suggests that violence against women needs to go beyond a discussion of violence between individuals and include state violence, torture, prison violence and capital punishment

she concludes by discussing the case of Assata Shakur, a political prisoner who fled to Cuba and wishes to return to the US and asks feminists to "get involved" and to utilize a feminism that engages in a critique of conceptual tools we use to 'enact transformation'.

Feminism and War: Confronting U.S. Imperialism: Introduction

Here are my notes so far, if you are reading along, please let me know if there are any confusing terms that need to be defined and i'll see if i can help decode. this is the starting point of the book, as laid out in the introduction:

-the book came out of a Feminism and War conference in Syracuse University in October 2006

-U.S. military budget at the time: 1/2 Trillion $ a year

-U.S. military casualties at the time: 3000+, Iraqi civilian casualties: 60 a day from bombs or gunfire

"The administration of President George W. Bush had explicitly argued that U.S. intervention argued would promote the cause of women's liberation in those countries (Iraq, Afghanistan), thus claiming a 'feminist' motivation for U.S. military aggression."

-what does it mean that women are being used as a justification/motivation for war?
what are the assumptions here? does feminism support women in the military?
the first footnote of the chapter lists several statements, articles, books by feminists exploring thess questions, starting in 2001, including one by RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan)

the conference (and the book) shows that the relationship between feminism and war is "contested and complex". what are "women's interests"? how do we understand and pursue them? "war" must be examined in term of 'world economic globalization', as a tool of imperialism, etc.

-how is feminism used as justification/legitimacy for imperialism and war? also explore constructions of race, gender, sexuality, class etc in this context

"Given the centrality of US imperial wars in the world today, it is impossible to understand 'feminism and war' on a global scale without understanding the specificities of the racist, hetero-sexist, and masculinized practices and ideologies mobilized by a USA in pursuit of economic and political hegemony" (2)
therefore, the imperial wars in the middle-east should be examined in terms of the recent history of US foreign policy/wars since WW2 (Guatemala, Cuba, Vietnam, El Salvador, Sudan to name a few)

This book intends to examine the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as examples of the US "on rescue missions in the name of democracy and 'civilization'". What does democracy actually mean, given this situation? What is feminism in this setting? What particular forms of racism, colonialism are being enacted here? How are images of sexuality and gender being used to further this agenda? What is the reality of how war is impacting women's lives in these countries? How is the image of the Western female soldier being used to further this agenda? Which females are seen as "helpless" and which as "liberated"? What is the actual reality of what is happening?

Conclusion: feminism needs to have an anti-imperialist, anti-racist lens.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Sex Revolts by Simon Reynolds and Joy Press

Ok, so I found this book at the library and I was super excited about because it's basically a combination of my two favorite things, punk histories and gender theory, and it's co-written by Simon Reynolds who wrote one of my favorite books Rip it up and Start again so yeah. This book bills itself as gender theory in rock and roll and it's divided into three parts, two about dudes (basically) and one part about ladies. First of all, this book is flamingly hetero-normative which was kind of frustrating. Anyway.

The first part "rebel misogynies" mainly talks about the rebel stereotype, breaking it down into a bunch of sub-rebels I guess. I really liked this part of the book. It covers hyper-masculinity, boastfulness, wanderlust, drugs, warriors, the absence, fear of and marginalisation of women, making connections from beat poets to the rolling stones to 60's garage rock to nick cave. LOTS of talk about oedipal stuff. It was interesting to read about the roles of women in rock through the context of rebel misogyny, as in these are the roles that women play in the music of these dudes.

The second part was more about psychedelic music and "the rebel" tiring of his ways and wanting to return to the womb (serious, SO much of this books ideas are based on oedipal things, however there is absolutely NO reference to the electra complex) At first this part was kind of interesting, but I felt like it quickly devolved into just a really long record review of can and my bloody valentine. It's weird to be reading theory when you can tell which bands the writer is super into and which things they're not. So overall, second part, whatevers.

The third part, which in the intro of the book was basically billed as the female theory part was HORRID. It spends a lot of time talking about female musicians not idolizing females so their music is in turn not female. This theory is stupid. I don't even wanna explain why. It brushes over riot grrrl in a short chapter, basically saying that the content was feminist but the music wasn't female, just a rip off of sixties garage rock, in turn being a ripoff of boy music, so it doesn't really matter. It did have some interesting things to say about the raincoats, and it did give them the crown of "true female music", so that was good, I guess, even though I don't really get or like the idea of "true female music". Basically this part of the book spent a lot of time being like "girls are just ripping off boys" and "girls want to be boys" and past that there wasn't a lot of ideas or theories, or even decent explanations and examples of said theories, just like kind of talking down, then it kind of just turned into a boner fest for suzanne vega, and throwing muses (serious, like two chapters worth on throwing muses). It was written in a way that it was part hugely long dumb record review and part sitting around being like "girls haven't gotten it"

so, in conclusion first part: yes! second part: eh... third part: fuck you.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hardcore California

i have been staring at this all week, remembering that this is how i found out about a lot of women-in-punk that i had missed out on in the 80's or had little knowledge of...not there is a ton of focus on this in the book, but that there are photographs, proof that women were a part of hardcore

what i hate about hardcore today, is how women's role in it hasn't seemed to change. you will still find very few female guitar players or singers in hardcore and a whole lot of bass players. there are not that many all female punk bands that are considered to be hardcore, but there continue to be a handful of groups who last for a short time and maybe make a demo tape. there are still a lot of women behind the scenes, putting on shows, taking pictures, putting together zines, cooking dinner for bands and all that.

hardcore reinvents itself over and over and over again, but the formula doesn't change and girls stay on the sidelines.


if girls started to take over hardcore, like they started to take over rock-n-roll in the early 90's, would everyone declare hardcore to be dead and move on to indy, pop, drum and bass, noise or electro-clash? if so, how long would we have to wait for hardcore to be legitimate again? 10 years, 20 years?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

torah reading, redux

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.just wanted to give an update on my torah reading. i added a couple books of commentary and am now listening to daily torah commentary podcasts on the same subject as what i am reading that day. it is a crazy discipline to keep up but i find it really interesting and provoking.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Punk rock: so what? edited by Roger Sabin

So this book bills itself as being a collection of essays about the cultural impact of punk, really the majority of the book talks about the sex pistols, which I get, because I realize that they tend to be THE punk band, you know what I mean? Like when mainstream culture thinks of punk they think of them. The problem with that being is I personally haven't really cared about the sex pistols since I was 12. It's interesting to read ideas of how they've influenced contemporary art and film, but at the same time a lot of it reads like a boner for the pistols record review. Oh, and it's a book out of england, so it's more in the context of the culture of england rather than the culture of the U.S. (duh). As far as the essays not about the sex pistols are concerned, a lot of them were really interesting. There were a couple about fashion and all the commodification that came with it, the differences between small town punks and city punks, there was one essay I really liked that talked about racism in punk and how there is this legacy of rock against racism and all that and this mythology that all that late 70's english punk was anti-racist but then has instances and examples of times when those bands or people did say and do fucked up things, and how there are all these anti-racist bands now that are influenced by that time period but how there are bands from that time period who basically started the trend of skinheads listening to punk.
Anyway, the book is split into two parts, the first being more about visual art culture, films, comic books, literature and the like and then the second half is about fashion and racism and current music and politics. I kind of spent the first feeling like they were streching it in trying to prove their points and that it was some space to talk about how great the sex pistols were, but for the most part I really liked the second half.