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Archive for the ‘Gender and Sexuality’ Category



Let Them Talk: The Piano Prince

May2

by: on May 2nd, 2016 | No Comments »

If I asked you to name a prodigiously talented, extravagantly flamboyant, African American, sexually fluid musician with a body like an exclamation point and a taste for the rococo whose premature death left the world a little grayer, of course you’d say “Prince,”and you’d be right. Or half-right.

Every since Prince’s April 21st death was reported – ever since a tidal wave of mourning began to gather force, leaving testimonies and tributes and tall tales in its wake – I’ve been thinking surfing the Zeitgeist, thinking about James Booker.

If you don’t know Booker’s music or his story, start with the 2013 film Bayou Maharajah (it streams from all the usual sources), which traces the pianist-singer’s life from its 1939 start, his coming up in the home of Baptist-minister parents in Bay St. Louis, Louisiana, to its sad, sorry end in an emergency room waiting-area in New Orleans’ Charity Hospital, where he was born. His story is full of twisted luck and uncanny moments: the film’s sequence where a dozen friends relate contradictory stories of how Booker lost his eye. The sequence where Harry Connick, Jr., demonstrates Booker’s baroquely syncopated piano technique, which Connick as a child studied firsthand (Connick, Sr. was a New Orleans District Attorney who traded Booker a get-out-of-jail-free card for his son’s piano lessons). The sequence where a young guitarist struggling to keep up with Booker onstage describes how the musician maintained his almost unfollowable pace – more notes than any ten fingers could possible play – all the while trying on a succession of glitter-studded eyepatches, hoping to find the one that most appeal to a man in the audience he hoped to attract.

After his 1954 debut as “Little Booker,” he played with just about everybody from Fats Domino to Freddy King, Aretha Franklin, even Ringo Starr and the Doobie Brothers before issuing an amazing string of live and studio albums, many solo. Booker taught Dr. John to play the organ. He studied classical piano as a child. He played a version of “The Minute Waltz” (dubbing it “The Black Minute Waltz”), a ton of standards (I love his “Angel Eyes,” for instance) adaptations of pop songs (Doc Pomus’ “Lonely Avenue”), classic blues like “St. James Infirmary,” and original songs like the mysteriously allusive “Papa Was a Rascal,” opened and closed by these lines:

There was a sweet white woman down in Savanna GA
She made love to my daddy in front of the KKK.

You know we all got to watch out for the CIA.

Booker’s addiction to opiates started in childhood, in the aftermath of a terrible and traumatic auto accident. In 1970, he spent time in Angola for drug possession. The rest of his life he rode a surreal roller-coaster: successful gigs in the U.S. and Europe; throwing it away by ditching recording sessions to get high as soon as he got paid; worshipped by astounded fellow musicians; treated like dirt by every racist, homophobic institution that crossed his path. Knowing how good he was made it all worse. By Booker’s last years, he was seeing the CIA around every corner, tapping into not only his deeds but his thoughts. You can call it paranoia, and it would be hard to argue with that, except to say that the thicket of everyday hostility a black, gay, one-eyed, drug-addicted musician would be expected to hack his way through in mid-twentieth century America could make it very hard to see the world as a welcoming place.

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Mothers, Daughters and the Democratic Primaries

Feb17

by: Eli Zaretsky on February 17th, 2016 | Comments Off

Feminist leader Gloria Steinem. Source: Ms. Foundation for Women

Editor’s Note: Tikkun does not endorse any political candidate.

In “Not Their Mother’s Candidate,” in last Sunday’s New York Times, Susan Faludi purports to situate the difference between women who support Clinton and women who support Sanders in terms of the history of American feminism. According to Faludi the conflict is one between “mothers” and “daughters,” which first appeared among feminists in the 1920s. The “mothers” of today (Madeleine Albright, Gloria Steinem) call for loyalty among women; the “daughters” (the flappers then; unnamed today) pursue personal liberation rather than group loyalty. One is almost finished with the article before one realizes that in fact it is another twisted pro-Clinton intervention, based on the assumption that Sanders is not electable.

I will not here explain why Sanders might prove more electable than Hillary Clinton. I will not discuss her potentially devastating weaknesses such as the underestimated, email problem or her enabling of her husband’s rapacious sexual career, which will certainly be at the center of the election, should she prove to be the candidate. Nor will I argue the case that a defeat of Sanders, if accompanied by a renewal of the left, might prove preferable to a continuation of today’s regime of lies and falsehoods, just as the defeat of Goldwater in 1964 led to the right’s successful insurgency from that time on. Rather, I want to take up Faludi’s misuse of the history of feminism.

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Intimate Violence, Societal Violence: Online Exclusives

Feb17

by: Tikkun Staff on February 17th, 2016 | Comments Off

Tikkun's Winter 2016 issue. On stands now!

These online exclusives are freely accessible articles that are part of an ongoing special series associated with Tikkun’s Winter 2016 print issue Intimate Violence, Societal Violence. These pieces represent a range of sophisticated, multi-faceted perspectives on intimate partner violence. Taken as a whole the pieces work to challenge the dogmas and ideological blind-spots that silence victims, while opening up space for creative and nuanced approaches to healing for both the abusers and the abused.

In her piece, “An Invitation to Community: Restorative Justice Circles for Intimate Partner Violence,” Emily Gaarder describes the empowering process of restorative justice and the profound effects of drawing upon community support for assistance in conflict resolution. In “Intimate Partner Violence & Intimate Partner Justice: How Spiritual Teachings Impact Both” The Reverend Al Miles challenges what he calls a “misuse of spiritual teachings,” noting that spiritual texts that support the oppression of women appear to directly contradict teachings within those same traditions which profess love, dignity, and mutual respect in intimate relationship. In “AfroLezfemcentric Perspectives on Coloring Gender and Queering Race” Aishah Shahidah Simmons calls for a holistic, intersectional approach to understanding issues of sexual violence, arguing that “we can’t continue to have conversations about racial profiling, policing, and mass incarceration that erase and ignore the role of gender and sexuality and the experiences of women and LGBTQIA people of color.” Building on the call for intersectional nuance in analysis of intimate partner violence, Venessa Garcia and Patrick McManimon discuss the ways in which occupying multiple marginalized identities complicates violence and the criminal justice system’s response to that violence in “Intersectionality and Intimate Part Violence: Barriers Women Face.” Below are excerpts from and links to these online exclusive articles.

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Clay Feet Abounding: The Presumption of Progressive Virtue

Dec23

by: on December 23rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

There’s a scandal swirling around progressive organizing circles right now.An impressively large number of women have come forward to accuse Trevor FitzGibbon, principal of a large and widely respected public relations firm employed by countless movement organizations, of sexual harrassment and sexual assault. Find the story on Vox and elsewhere.

The FitzGibbon charges have stimulated lively and painful discussions online and in person. Over the last few days, I’ve read dozens of posts from women who now feel invited, even impelled, to share stories of offenses committed against themselves and their colleagues. I’m certain the patterns will be familiar to you, dear readers: women who endured repeated humiliation but feared speaking out because of reprisals; women who spoke out and were ignored; women who rebuffed advances from men at work who had power over them, and found themselves tacitly stigmatized and denied opportunity until they moved on; women who were fed up to the breaking point with the daily repetition of mundane offenses – men who steal your ideas for their own, being ignored in meetings, casually offensive comments on one’s body or dress, and so on.

Before I move on, let me stipulate that women can be abusers and men can be victims too. It just doesn’t happen nearly so much as the other way round.

I recognize that gender-based offenses are widespread and can easily feel like a separate matter from all the other injuries of class, race, and so on we humans mete out. But the heart of the matter is always abuse rooted in power differentials, whether those stem from the instrinsic privilege granted white skin or male gender in this society, or from other gaps in social and personal status.

I’ve been engaged in social justice organizing for my entire adult life. At two critical points, I had to learn a lesson about the ubiquity of clay feet. The first was when as a young artist I was forced to recognize that great creative skill and capacity don’t equate to either goodness or kindness, that talent, self-love, and recognition from others can inflate egos to the bursting point. The second was when as a young organizer I was forced to recognize that working for a good cause doesn’t make you a good person, that a great love for The People and Justice as categories doesn’t guarantee that you will treat individual members of the species with compassion and respect – let alone justly.

The first step to addressing abuses of power is always the same: let go of the illusion that people whose politics you find virtuous are going to be more ethical, compassionate, or just in their behavior than people whose politics you find objectionable.People are people, full stop.

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Trans* People Murdered for Truth-Telling

Oct29

by: on October 29th, 2015 | Comments Off

Abolitionists jointed together to work for the immediate end to the institution of human slavery and the cessation of racial discrimination and segregation. They faced steep opposition from many quarters including a number of Christian denominations who asserted that sacred scripture not only condoned, but more importantly, mandated the practice of slavery.

 

Trans* People Murdered:

Alejandra Leos, Aniya Parker, Ashley (Michelle) Sherman, Betty Skinner,

Gizzy Fowler, Jennifer Laude, Kandy Hall, Brittany-Nicole Kidd-Stergis,

Young people conducted a number of sit-in demonstrations at Southern lunch counters to end Jim Crow laws of segregated public facilities, to the abusive taunts of onlookers and crashing batons of local police. Demonstrators faced imprisonment and the imposition of permanent criminal records.

Feminists formed a new wave in the fight for women’s suffrage against a high tide of obstructionism within a patriarchal system of male domination and misogyny, and an attitude that the enfranchisement of women would destroy Christianity and civilization itself.


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Women’s Rights and the Decline of the Global Culture Wars

Oct8

by: Jonathan Zimmerman on October 8th, 2015 | Comments Off

Last Sunday, at the United Nations, world leaders marked the 20th anniversary of the landmark Beijing accord on women’s rights. They celebrated women’s progress—especially in education, health, and labor—and underscored ongoing gender inequalities.

But they also condemned the jailing of female political dissidents in China, which co-hosted Sunday’s summit. And, most importantly, they didn’t debate abortion, contraception, or forced marriage. That might signal a decline of the global culture wars about gender and sexuality, which have defined the Beijing legacy since 1995.

The Beijing agreement was the first international affirmation of women’s sexual autonomy, declaring that women have the right to “decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality.” And that was anathema to conservatives around the world, who saw it as a prescription for sexual license and an assault on traditional institutions. If all women were sexually independent, could parents no longer arrange their marriages? And would women also have the right to engage in sex outside of marriage, despite traditional religious prohibitions on the same?

Before the ink was dry on the Beijing accord, delegates from Muslim countries and the Vatican joined hands with American right-wing activists to condemn it. They also forged new organizations like the World Congress of Families, which galvanized conservatives around the globe–“the most orthodox of each group, people that are least likely to compromise,” as the WCF declared—to challenge the Beijing principles.


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An Open Letter to Bill Cosby

Aug7

by: on August 7th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

August 1, 2015

Dear Mr. Cosby,

I hope this letter finds you. I am counting on social media and the six degrees of separation between every human being on earth, that someone who reads this knows you or knows someone who knows someone who knows you and can forward it on to you. My purpose for writing is to make you aware of the principles of restorative justice, and I hope that you and your legal team will consider this approach within the context of the allegations of rape against you.

However, before I write about restorative justice, I want to thank you for the more than fifty years of comedy, creativity, education, and philanthropy that you have given to this world. I know you are familiar with Shakespeare’s line in the play Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.” It seems that at this time, the public wants to bury the good that you have done while you still walk the earth. I have not forgotten.

Over the years, I have enjoyed all of your television shows. When I was a girl, I watched I Spy on television with my parents. We enjoyed the chemistry between you and Robert Culp. After reading Mark Whitaker’s biography of you – Cosby: His Life and Times – I have a new appreciation for the show. Black actors and singers such as Ivan Dixon, Cicely Tyson, Eartha Kitt, and Nancy Wilson received national exposure thanks to their appearances on the show. My children and I watched The Cosby Show together. They watched The Electric Company and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. It seemed that life had come full circle when as an adult I was again watching you on television – this time the show was Cosby – with parents who were then retired. You have been part of the family.


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Pro-Choice for Christ

Aug3

by: Reina Gattuso on August 3rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

“When I introduce myself, I tell people I’m a sexologist and a minister. The most likely response is that people laugh,” says Reverend Debra Haffner. “They see those terms as oxymorons, kind of like ‘jumbo shrimp.’”

Haffner, the jumbo shrimp in question, is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. She is also the co-founder and president of the Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization that advocates for sexual health and education – including abortion and contraception access – in religious communities and beyond.

In a political landscape that seems destined to pit bibles against birth control for as long as the culture wars shall persist (see: Hobby Lobby), the Religious Institute is just one of numerous organizations advocating for contraceptive access, abortion rights, and LGBT rights motivated by – and not despite – Christian faith.

Considering where most Americans stand, this makes sense.

protesters hold signs to advocate for reproductive rights

Credit: Flickr / Dave Fayram

According to most major polls, a slim majority of American adults support abortion rights: 51 percent of American adults think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 43 percent think it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Yet some research suggests that Americans’ thinking on abortion is more complicated than this simple binary – and that more people than previously thought support the right to choose. Only a small minority of the public believes abortion should never be legal, and large majorities think that if a woman gets an abortion, the experience should be supportive, comfortable, and non-judgmental.

Americans’ stances on abortion are more complicated than the political rhetoric may lead us to believe. Our understanding of religion and reproductive rights should follow suit.

The majority of Americans are religious. Over 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, while 22.8 percent don’t identify with any particular religion at all. And despite the growth of these so-called “nones,” over 90 percent of Americans still believe in God.


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Marriage Equality

Jul8

by: Lynn Feinerman on July 8th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Get Married, Get Equal!

Credit: CreativeCommons / Victoria Pickering.

“Love is legal” tooted the headlines this past week, as we all rejoiced at the expanding vision of who is an “upstanding citizen.” Pride Day parades enthusiastically celebrated the inclusion of non-heterosexual love matches. As well they might.

For me, the most telling commentary on the SCOTUS decision was a one-liner: “Now it is no longer called ‘gay marriage,’ only ‘marriage.’” When I heard that line something in me realized that the gift the gay community may have given all of us is the framing of a vision of two EQUALS, two individual human beings, electing to establish an order in their relationship that has the potential to support the expansion and inclusion of community – a wider community, even deeper community, perhaps. Shall we say, a more enlightened love?

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Marriage Equality but One Paving Stone on Path Toward Social Justice

Jul7

by: on July 7th, 2015 | Comments Off

A sunset.

Credit: CreativeCommons / BMcIvr.

I have mixed emotions as I write these words on this truly historic day when the Supreme Court granted marriage equality to same-sex couples nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges, thereby striking down bans in the remaining fourteen states.

On one level, I am ecstatic that our love and our relationships now hold the same legal status as different sex couples with all the economic privileges, benefits, and responsibilities, as well as enhanced claims of non-birth partners in the raising of children. Especially for upcoming generations, most will not have to live with the extreme levels of scorn and the second-class legal status, which so many of us endured.

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