RBG, HUAC, and Beyonce: favorite things this week (26/52)

In terms of equality , there’s been a lot to celebrate this week.

supreme_court_abortionFirst, the Supreme Court decided that the regulations that Texas implemented state were illegal. You might remember Wendy Davis, she of the pink tennis shoes and the 11 hour filibuster? These regulations are what she was protesting. Her protest was ultimately unsuccessful, and in 2013 the Texas Senate Bill 5 implemented regulations such as the doctor having admitting privileges at local hospitals and that the clinic meet the same standards as other surgical health-care facilities. Texas had 41 abortion clinics before the bill was signed into law, today there are 18. The Supreme Court decided that the regulations presented an undue burden.

The inestimable Ruth Bader Ginsburg commented on the decision, which I quote at length. Because it’s RBG:

The Texas law called H. B. 2 inevitably will reduce the number of clinics and doctors allowed to provide abortion services. Texas argues that H. B. 2’s restrictions are constitutional because they protect the health of women who experience complications from abortions. In truth, complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous… Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements [such as] tonsillectomy, colonoscopy, and in-office dental surgery.

Given [these] realities, it is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions. When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety. So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H. B. 2 that do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion, cannot survive judicial inspection.

transgendermilitaryAnd if that wasn’t enough to make your little heart swell three sizes, the Pentagon kept the goodness rolling by ending the ban on transgender people being able to serve openly in the military.  Defense Secretary Ash Carter said

Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so. Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.

So happy 4th of July weekend! It’s been a good week to be an American.


A friend mentioned this podcast in passing last week, and I’ve gone all in. I started with the second season, which is all about HUAC Blacklist, and flew through seven episodes in the past few days.

Fun fact: John Garfield sold diaphragms in New York before he went to Hollywood. Who knew?

Favorite episodes (so far):
Tender Comrades: The Prehistory of the Blacklist
Blacklist Flashback: Bogey before Bacall
The African Queen: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn and John Huston
He Ran All The Way: John Garfield

Highly recommended. Add it to your rota and get a little smarter. (Also, politics are terrifying. I’m not sure I’m politically savvy enough to draw connections between Brexit, Trump’s proposed wall and his whole general insanity, and the conservative climate that led to HUAC… but listening to this over the weekend seemed very appropriate, as political rhetoric continues to spin out of control.)

Beyonce’s BET performance.

Beyonce sang “Freedom” from her album Lemonade at the BET awards. The performance starts out in a nearly dark auditorium with a thumping, martial beat. As the Formation dancers, in tribal paint and hair styles, march down the aisle, a recording of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech is played over the loudspeakers. The stage is a shallow pool of water that the dancers and Beyonce march through as she begins the anthem, and as she gets to the chorus, which swells into a powerful demand for freedom and a removal of chains, the dancers run, legs churning to create arcs of water that catch the light, flashing an image that is somewhere between water and flame and is wholly entrancing. Beyonce’s bodysuit has long fringe on the arms–when she holds her arms out straight, in front of the golden splashes of light, she looks like a Phoenix, strong and sure and utterly unconquerable.

Holy hell, was that powerful. I’m wondering how and if I can/should include some (and what part?) of the amazing #lemonadesyllabus in my next class. Truth? I feel presumptuous talking about race in class. I occupy a privileged position in our racist society, so I’m always at a remove from any experience of racism. I don’t have the authority of the standpoint. But I suppose that’s the point of assigning readings, not just lecturing all the time: it lets me cede the floor to brilliant women of color who know about racial oppression in ways that I can only abstractly understand. And a little more bell hooks on the syllabus? Not a bad thing.

What’d I miss? What’s been making your week wonderful? 

Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall

I saw President Obama speak today. 1.21.13 032

I voted for Obama. I pretty much skew liberal on everything. And I was absolutely blown away by his speech. 1.21.13 031

Particularly this part:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.

Seneca Falls, New York, was the location of an influential women’s rights convention in 1848: Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Frederick Douglas—and a few hundred others–argued the Declaration of Sentiments, a document that is considered one of, if not the, foundational document in the American woman’s suffrage movement. A woman’s right to vote was granted seventy-two years later with the Nineteenth Amendment.

Selma, Alabama, was the beginning point of a 1968 civil rights march. Some 600 citizens left Selma to march to Montgomery, the state capital, to protest the systematic denial of voting rights to the African-American community in Selma and other parts of the South. They were met with police violence after a mere six blocks and were driven back to Selma. Two days later, Martin Luther King, Jr, led a symbolic march to the bridge; two weeks later, with the support of the Federal District Court Judge, another march departed for Montgomery. By the time the group reached its destination, there were over 25,000 marchers. It resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which ensured federal oversight and protection of voting rights.

And Stonewall.

The Stonewall Inn was a club in Greenwich Village, New York, that served as the site of riots protesting the mistreatment of the gay community in 1969. After World War II, many Americans believed the way to recover from the devastation of war was a return to the pre-war social order. Women left the factory for the kitchen, birth rates exploded, white picket fences abounded. The cultural climate did not prove salutary to any minority group. The HUAC documents pinpointed homosexuals as particularly suspect, as they were “prone to blackmail.” Merely being suspected of homosexuality was enough to result in denial or discharge of a federal job or military discharge. Cross-dressing was outlawed. Universities purged tenured ranks of suspected homosexual professors. The American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disorder. All of this nation-wide social repression led to more liberal enclaves in a few large cities. Brutal police sweeps attempted to evict and exclude homosexual citizens from most gathering places. Stonewall Inn, run by the Mafia so excluded from the sweeps by paid-off police, was one of the frequently-safe places. In June of 1969, though, the police came through. Their attempt to arrest the homosexual patrons of the bar resulted in a riot that is considered the beginning of the gay and lesbian rights movement in the United States.1.21.13 002

Women have had the right to vote for almost a hundred years. There is considerable room for improvement in gender equality, but women have the right to vote.

We still have a lot of race inequality. But the first African-American president was sworn in today for the second time. This still reflects exceptionalism—the exceptional can succeed, the status quo applies to all others—but progress has been made.

And no one is arrested for being homosexual. But—and this is where I hope and believe that Obama’s comments were tending—homosexual subjects won’t have equality until they have the right that heterosexual subjects have: the right to marry the one they love.

So I absolutely loved what President Obama had to say today.

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