Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

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Month: April 2007 (page 1 of 3)

“Full Frontal Feminism” Author, Jessica Valenti: The IM Interview


Jessica Valenti and me at the Full Frontal Feminism book party
A prediction: Full Frontal Feminism, the debut book from Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti, is going to change young girls’ lives, and help replenish the ranks of the feminist movement. While political elders continue to fumble and stumble in their attempts to connect with young voters, and soon-to-be voters, Valenti’s “Young Woman’s Guide To Why Feminism Matters” succeeds by talking straight and not down.
LiberalOasis interviewed Valenti via IM on April 29 about the book, the state of feminism and anti-feminism, her straight talk on teen sex, and how to deal with “porn culture.” An edited transcript is below:
LiberalOasis: So, isn’t feminism dead?
Jessica Valenti: hahahaha
JV: nope, still here
LO: Time Magazine said you were dead, like, 10 years ago. After Ally McBeal.
JV: Time magazine can suck it
JV: if feminism were dead, why would so many people be trying to kill it?
JV: i mean, there are organizations dedicated to beating feminism down (IWF, CWA, etc)
JV: so if feminism wasn’t seen as a powerful force, i doubt they’d be putting so much cash into these orgs
JV: you better put in that time mag can suck it comment
LO: LiberalOasis is a family-friendly website
JV: damn you
LO: Kate O’Beirne, when she was plugging her book “Women Who Make The World Worse,” said: “Too many people think feminism is a spent force … They don’t realize how influential the feminist agenda is. The feminist ideology is in our schools, on our campuses. We certainly saw that with the trouble Larry Summers at Harvard got into. Boy, was that brutal…”
LO: “When he said very unremarkable things at an academic conference and we saw what a grip Harvard is into the feminists. Enormously influential on Capitol Hill.”…
LO: …”They’re the kind of women who have hyped the phony gender gap in politics to intimidate politicians into thinking that they represent American women.”
JV: i think as a whole this is typical
JV: it’s either, feminism is dead OR feminism is dangerous and it’s coming for your kids!
JV: they really need to make up their mind
JV: and i also think the idea of some nefarious feminist agenda is hysterical
LO: Is feminism as influential, and insidious, as Kate O’Bierne claims?

JV: i think feminism is influential, though not as influential as it should be
JV: though certainly not insidious
JV: i mean, jeez, what’s wrong about an agenda that says women are people and deserve equal rights?
JV: is this really so frigging controversial?
LO: It seems like some conservatives, like O”Bierne, are trying to shift the argument, embracing equality in general, but then saying things like “…they have gotten such mileage out of the phony gender gap. The kind of women who promote that in order to paint America as a discriminatory country…”
JV: right
JV: well that’s what folks like the iwf do
JV: they paint themselves as the “real” feminists
JV: “don’t worry, gals–we have all the rights we need! those ‘radical’ feminists are just whining!”
JV: and let’s face it, america IS a discriminatory country
JV: and the pay gap isn’t phony–i think that’s the worst anti-feminist argument ever
JV: because real women, women who work and see the inequality, aren’t going to fall for that line
LO: Do you think folks like O’Bierne are having any success in holding the feminist movement back?

JV: no
JV: but i think they’re maintaining the status quo of anti-feminism
JV: and i think that women speaking out against feminists is a really easy way to get media attention
JV: any book that says sexism doesn’t exist or that has a regressive message, like women LIKE making less money and don’t want jobs–that’s going to be a book that gets a lot of play
LO: What does that say about the media?
JV: that they suck
JV: no, it says that they’re catering to the men who want to hear that shit and to the women who will get pissed
JV: i mean, media backlash against feminism is nothing new
LO: Now, in your book, you have some critical things to say about the leadership in the feminist movement…
JV: yes…
JV: i just think we could all be doing a better job
JV: especially when it comes to reaching out to younger women
LO: …is the Veteran Feminists of America going to come after you like the Black Crusaders did against Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock?
JV: i’ve been watching my back
JV: no, i think that leaders in the feminist movement probably don’t care much about what I have to say–they’re busy doing their own thing!
JV: but i would say that i’ve gotten a lot of positive emails and notes of support from veteran feminists
JV: and i don’t think generational tension is necessarily a bad thing–we all want the same thing at the end of the day
LO: So your concern is not part of an ideological split?
JV: no i don’t think so.
JV: i think that i just wish folks in positions of power were doing more to be inclusive of young feminists and doing better outreach
JV i think that we’re all fighting for the same things…but that maybe we have different ways of going about it
JV: and that some more mainstream leaders or organizations don’t realize that working together on things like messaging and outreach would probably benefit all of us
JV: i think that feminist orgs have a very specific way of going about things–and for good reason. they’ve been having to deal with bullshit backlash for a long time
JV: so they play it “safe” in a way
JV: but that’s just one woman’s opinion
LO: Why shouldn’t young feminists defer to those who are more experienced? What do young feminists bring to the table?
JV: I think we can have conversations with, and work with more experienced feminists without having to defer to them
JV: and i think with issues like outreach, and messaging to young women–other young feminists are doing more successful work than our predecessors
LO: is that because you don’t play it “safe”?
JV: i think so, yeah
JV: but also…we know how to speak to each other in a way that’s not patronizing
JV: i think there’s a language of “you’re taking your rights for granted” or “you don’t know how good you’ve got it” that’s happened…and it’s not very helpful
LO: Everyone in politics wants the secret to reaching out to young women…
LO: …what do you got?

JV: humor
JV: and candidness
LO: like Imus!
JV: EXACTLY like imus
JV he’s my feminist idol
JV: no really…i think things like feminist blogs are successful because they’re bringing it back to the personal
JV: and because they’re not dry or academic…they’re fun, funny, and community building
LO: so speaking of candidness…
JV: ya
LO: …perhaps the most bold part of Full Frontal Feminism is your unapologetic support of teens making up their own minds about sex

JV: true
JV: but, in a way, i don’t see why it’s bold–i think it’s necessary
LO: can the broader feminist movement get behind that without alienating those over 40?
JV: i think so, yeah.
JV: i mean, what’s controversial about wanting young people to make informed decisions?
JV: i think we have to go from framing teen sex as “well, they’re going to do it anyway”
JV: to a more positive view
JV: sex is a GOOD thing.
JV: even for some teenagers.
JV: i don’t see why we should talk about sex in a negative way and raise a generation of kids thinking that sex is dirty dirty dirty
JV: and i also don’t buy the “not emotionally ready” argument either
JV: sex can be confusing and emotional and overwhelming (or not) no matter what your age
JV: it depends on the person, and the level of information available to that person
LO: Are you opening up feminism to the charge that it encourages irresponsible behavior by kids, and taking power away from parents?
JV: i don’t think having sex is irresponsible, so no
JV: this is what i’m talking about–we talk about sex as “irresponsible”
JV: we talk about an at-risk teen as someone who maybe does drugs, drinks and…is sexually active
JV: having sex is not a dangerous activity like drinking or doing drugs–if you’re informed and protected
JV: and framing it as dangerous i think is dishonest and damaging

LO: How do you reconcile your support of teens making their own informed decisions about sex, with your criticism of Girls Gone Wild and related “porn culture” phenomena?

JV: well my criticism isn’t that girls are participating in that culture–but that they’re doing so uninformed
JV that’s my concern
JV: there’s a difference between making a sober, informed decision about your sexuality…
JV and i would say that it’s difficult to gauge just how “informed” young women are when they’re given all of the fucked up messages about sex
JV: but what i propose about the GGW stuff
JV: isn’t all of this finger wagging and telling young women they’re being taken advantage of
JV: but instead, engaging women
JV: and talking with them about their choices
LO: where?
JV: well, like on blogs for example!
JV: or when we write books aimed at young women…or aimed at parents for that matter
JV: instead of taking the “isn’t this terrible” approach
LO: So you don’t necessarily advocate having this sort of engagement in public schools?
JV: yes, i definitely do
JV: but i think that’s what comprehensive sex education does
JV: in that it doesn’t take a moral stance on sex
JV: which i think is really dangerous, esp for women
JV: because we’re taught that our ability to be moral agents is tied up with whether or not we have sex. which is just insane.
LO: What’s on the mind of the average 16 year old that feminism can speak to?
JV: i think the main thing feminism can speak to, that’s really huge in young women’s lives, is the almost indescribable feeling that there is something wrong with you
JV: when you grow up in a sexist society…you’re just inundated with all of this stuff that tells you you’re less than just by virtue of being a girl
JV: and if feminism can address anything in young women’s lives–i think that’s it. and i think it’s transformative.
Full Frontal Feminism is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books We Like, Powell’s and your local bookstore.

Memories of Gravel

Back in 2005, I had the pleasure of being on a MSNBC roundtable on Deep Throat with now-presidential debate superstar former Sen. Mike Gravel, while Sam Seder served as guest co-host. He didn’t take any crap then either. Check out the video at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday Talkshow Breakdown

Dubya’s veto of the Iraq bill is expected on Tuesday,
While the veto will be no surprise, it will still be a historic act, a monumental snubbing of the public will as expressed by Congress.
And there will be a need to put the event in proper context, and counter the spin that the veto is somehow good for the troops.
That spin will center on funding for troops in the field. But there is no dispute about that.
No one believes that a soldier already in the field should be deprived of necessities, and the bill that Bush will veto provides those resources.
But it’s not necessarily helpful to simply blame Bush for holding up those funds. It may be true, but again, that’s not the dispute.

The dispute is over strategy:
should we permanently occupy Iraq or not.
When Bush vetoes the bill, which includes a ban on funds for permanent bases, he should be called out for vetoing a strategy that would end the occupation.
On ABC’s This Week, Secretary of State Condi Rice provided fresh material to help make that case/
Rice tried to sound as if the White House believed in benchmarks for the Iraqi “government”
But faced with the prospect of benchmarks that are actually tied to consequences if the installed Iraqi leadership can’t meet them, Rice said:

The problem is that if you try and make consequences about these benchmarks, you’re tying the hands of General [David] Petreaus and the hands of Ambassador [to Iraq Ryan] Crocker


We’re happy to fill up their hands
with an occupation feeding a multi-party civil war, but we won’t tie their hands with expectation of progress.
In other words, we’ll support benchmarks, so long as they are completely cosmetic and meaningless and don’t lead to any “consequences” like troop redeployments.
If you’re bending over backwards to avoid anything that opens the door to leaving Iraq militarily, the only reasonable conclusion is you don’t ever want to leave Iraq militarily.
That’s what the veto will show.
The public and the majority in Congress want to leave Iraq. The White House and the congressional minority do not.

Laura Flanders This Sunday

I’ll be on Air America’s RadioNation with Laura Flanders this Sunday in the 8 PM ET hour, joining The Nation’s William Greider for a roundtable on the week in the media. Click here to listen online or find a station near you.

Unpurged Prosecutor Lets Frist Off the Hook

The US Attorney of the Southern District of New York has declined to file insider-trading charges against former Sen. Bill Frist.
Of course, this is a US Attorney who was not purged by the White House and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Just sayin’.

Why The Republicans Are In Trouble

Rudy Giuliani was stuck in 2004 when he attacked Dems for wanting to “go on defense” against terrorists. As were leading Dems for defensively responding that Rudy was being mean and divisive — instead of going on offense and attacking Republicans for their reckless, destabilizing foreign policy.
But it’s Rudy and his fellow Republicans that have the bigger problem.
I’ve written before that the conservative movement has yet to grasp why they lost in 2006.
A big part of it is that they’ve squandered their advantage on national security, thanks to the Iraq debacle.
Yet pretty much all of the Republican presidential candidates are advocating the continuation of the neocon track we’re on.
Rudy says “we will remain on offense” and not “wave the white flag on Iraq.” John McCain jokes about bombing Iran. Newt Gingrich talks of World War III.
Fred Dalton Thompson is stoking interest by blogging that “we are hearing demands that we abandon the people of the Middle East who have stood up to Islamo-fascism … If we retreat precipitously, the price for that betrayal will be paid first in blood and freedom by the Iranian people, the Kurds, the Afghanis, the secular Lebanese, the moderates in Pakistan and the Iraqis themselves.”
This remains the conservative worldview: that there is a singular “Islamofascist” army across the Arab/Muslim world that can only be defeated with brute force alone.
No understanding of the complex civil war in Iraq. No understanding of the Sunni-Shia and Arab-Persian divisions throughout the region. No understanding of the range of ideologies in the Iranian government.
No understanding of how attacking the wrong targets has created more terrorists. No understanding of the diplomatic openings currently available to resolve Arab differences with Israel, and our differences with Iran.
In the aftermath of 9/11, there was no interest among voters in understanding all these aspects of the Middle East.
But it’s a different story now.
After brute force alone proved woefully insufficient to achieve our objectives, there is little appetite for more crude bluster, little interest in permanently occupying Iraq and little interest in taking on more regime change.
If there was, Republicans could have successfully played the national security card again in 2006.
Yet the conservative base is unmoved, so convinced they are that our occupation of Iraq is the only thing preventing terrorists from coming here (logic that escapes those in London, Madrid and elsewhere.)
In turn, Republican candidates have little choice but to reflect this worldview, no matter how detached it is from reality, or how far away it is from the rest of the American electorate.
The best they can offer is a better managed descent into World War III.
That won’t be an easy thing for Republicans to fix in 2008. The issue of national security is too central, and the degree of detachment is too great.
However, Democrats would be wise to challenge this head on now, lest the eventual Republican nominee tries to disingenuously modulate his rhetoric next year.
The current GOP rhetoric should be held up to the light and challenged on its merits with a fully fleshed out alternate worldview.
So every voter will know, before the general election battle is joined, that every Republican candidate is promising more of the rotten same.

Permanent Bases Project: Dodd Edition

We’ve been able to get very Democratic presidential candidate to express opposition to permanent bases in Iraq, except for Sen. Chris Dodd. But Mike of Blue Hampshire recently got Dodd on the record:

Mike: There’s some concern about the bases we’ve built in Iraq, and whether the candidates are clear about whether we are turning those bases back over to the Iraqis or whether we would somehow retain posession of those?
Dodd: Well, my view is you don’t need American bases in Iraq. We’ve got plenty of base capacity in the region.
Mike: So you’d commit to “over-the-horizon” vs. continued —
Dodd: It’s a much preferable choice.

So we can say every Democrat running has expressed opposition to permanent bases, meaning none of them are campaigning on a continuation of neoconservative foreign policy objectives.
There’s still concern that the candidates may be fudging on this point — dishonestly claiming that any residual force dealing with training of Iraqis or counterterrorism would be limited and temporary.
But LiberalOasis would reiterate what was said hre earlier this month:

Whether or not they are fudging is a judgment call for individual voters to make based on the totality of their record.
And the best way for candidates to convince voters they are not fudging, is not to only say “no permanent bases” at selected venues, but to put it in the context of an overarching foreign policy vision — that is a direct contrast to the dangerous neocon vision — and make it a central focus of the campaign.

Now, won’t it be fun to ask the Republicans how they feel about permanent bases?

Bush’s Confidence

Why is Bush not listening to Republican Senators and even his own staff, and sticking by Alberto Gonzales?
As LiberalOasis wrote last month:

…grassroots pressure only goes so far with a president who doesn’t care about public opinion (and doesn’t want to fire folks who know where a lot of bodies are buried.)

Sunday Talkshow Breakdown

Some Republicans are pushing for Alberto Gonzales’ resignation, in hopes of ending media attention on the Prosecutor Purge scandal.
But on the Sunday shows, Democrats indicated that they would not consider a resignation a substitute for getting to the bottom of the Purge.
Sen. Patrick Leahy said on CBS’ Face The Nation:

…who would [Gonzales] be replaced with? If it’s going to be another person who is going to be really run by the White House, and if the White House is continued to be allowed to interfere with the criminal justice system throughout this country … then it does no good.

On CNN’s Late Edition, Sen. Ron Wyden subtly called out the GOP tactic:

I, for one, am concerned that some of the people who are saying he’s a dead man walking are essentially trying to have Mr. Gonzales walk the plank for the administration, when we still ought to be digging into exactly what the role of the White House was.

And Sen. Chuck Schumer, on Fox News Sunday, kept up the drumbeat for White House officials to testify

When Attorney General Gonzales says he doesn’t know what’s going on, and his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, says he doesn’t know what’s going on, or at least he didn’t compile the list, the deputy attorney general the same, and so do all the lower-level people who we’ve interviewed in private, the arrow seems to point at the White House more and more.
Someone had to come up with this scheme. And getting Karl Rove, getting Harriet Miers and other White House officials to testify is really essential.

Dems are smartly looking beyond any potential resignation, and setting the bar where it belongs.
Not on scalps for scalps sake, but on diving the truth of what happens and restoring the credibility of our system of justice.

Errington Thompson Show

On Saturday in the 9 AM ET hour, I’ll be on the Errington Thompson Show, airing on Asheville, NC’s 880 AM. Click here to listen online.

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