Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mumsnet appreciates feminist brilliance. Catharine A. MacKinnon on Gender Crime: a podcast

photo of Catharine A. MacKinnon is from here

There are so many men in the world who could learn a thing or fifty from Catharine A. MacKinnon, about justice, equality, humanity, and the political condition of being a woman. She is, to me, one of the most intellectually, legally, and politically brilliant women on Earth. I have found all of her work so deeply humane, rooted in reality, committed to justice for women across class and race, and also unwilling to engage in meaningless and needless academic abstractionism for the sake of selling books on theory, as so many "gender theorists" do. So, brava to Ms. MacKinnon!

I found the following link on Mumsnet. It's so refreshing to see a space online that respects women and respects radical feminism too. Please click *here* to link to them. What follows are the comments from that website. And below that, the original website's links to the podcast. MacKinnon speaks for fifteen minutes. Please take that amount of time to hear what she has to say and behold compassionate, fierce intellectual greatness.
Sun 27-Mar-11 12:50:35
Sun 27-Mar-11 15:55:23
Great stuff, thanks for posting this Prolesworth.
It's so exciting to hear feminism in action. Loved it when she said philosophers should engage in reality more. Also, the interviewer going "what about Belle de Jour" when she was talking about how prostitution is a gender crime, and her slapping him (nicely) down pointing out how men are very attached to the idea of the myth of women's choice in prostitution. Also the male belief that the ultimate in female freedom looks like a woman selling herself sexually to men.

Sun 27-Mar-11 15:56:51
(Feminism in action being Mackinnon's work at the International Criminal Court on gender crimes, and also her earlier work on sexual harassment - all coming from feminist analysis and understanding and all applied to make the world a better place for women)
Mon 28-Mar-11 09:26:55
What a brilliant woman she is. I liked her point about the way rape law focuses on physical force but fails to recognise social force. She's an extremely clear thinker and communicator. More Catharine Mackinnon on the airwaves, I say!

Here's the info from the Philosophy Bites website:

In this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast Catharine MacKinnon talks to Nigel Warburton about the concept of Gender Crime. Philosophy Bites is made in association with the Institute of Philosophy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

If you don't yet think U.S. and UK Capitalist Racist Atrocious Patriarchy isn't thoroughly corrupt, see this...

This, people, is CRAP, in all it's ugly glory--making poor people pay taxes when multi-billion dollar corporations pay nothing, get tax breaks, and rob the people of the U.S., the UK, and the world of much-needed resources to survive. If this isn't outrageous, what is it? Please organise in the streets, in front of corrupt corporate offices and businesses, and don't let corporations rob from poor working people and the middle class to give to the richest of the rich. It will always be marginalised women who are hurt most by racist capitalist patriarchy, by CRAP, because that's what the economic-social-political system is designed to do.

The financial institutions, including the IMF and World Bank, including Wall Street, and the U.S. military and NATO forces, and Western patriarchies are all fused together into one willfully evil system that is globalised and murderous without regard for human, non-human animal, or any other Life. Proof follows. But just listen to any Indigenous women activists and activist women in the Global South to find out the deeper truths, of just how ecocidal, genocidal, and gynocidal all of this is. If it looks like CRAP, smells like CRAP, and feels like CRAP, guess what? It's CRAP.

Stop men from ruling. Stop whites from ruling. That's be a good place to start.

Please click on the title below to link back to Democracy Now!

“This is Economic Treason”: 500,000 March in London Protesting Public Spending Cuts and Corporate Tax Dodgers

As many as 500,000 protesters marched in London on Saturday to protest Britain’s deepest cuts to public spending since World War II. The protests come after U.K. officials estimated corporate taxes would be reduced even as it tackles a $235 billion deficit and plans to cut more than 300,000 public sector jobs. Meanwhile, in the United States protesters gathered in 40 cities on Saturday to oppose tax cuts for the wealthy amid budget cuts to public services. We broadcast a video report from the streets of London and speak to British journalist Johann Hari and Allison Kilkenny of Citizen Radio in New York.

Report by Brandon Jourdan, filed from the streets of London with Marianne Maeckelbergh.
Johann Hari, British journalist and columnist for The Independent of London.
Allison Kilkenny, co-host of Citizen Radio. She has been blogging in The Nation about the US Uncut movement.

"Stop These Massacres" demands Malalai Joya, on Democracy Now! 28 March 2011 ECD

Now, these 10 years, they changed my country to the center of the drugs. Since 2001 until now, 4,400 percent opium increased in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is now the second most corrupt country in the world. There’s $2 billion the government of Karzai received from the so-called international community, but on there, my people even don’t have enough food to eat. More than 80 percent people are now jobless in Afghanistan and suffer from many other miseries.

It seems the shedding the blood of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan was not enough for U.S. government, that now, under the shadow or umbrella of U.N. now, invade Libya, as well, under the beautiful banner of women’s rights, human rights. And again, my message to justice-loving people of U.S., around the world, is that, please raise your voice against this wrong policy. When you see that while Obama’s administration raise hue and cry against Gaddafi regime and its crimes, but in the meantime supporting the dirtiest, much more dirty Gaddafi regime in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Israel, in Saudi Arabia, in many other countries.
-- Malalai Joya
Malalai Joya and the women of RAWA are among my living sheroes. May they live long and full lives and see their country unoccupied by the U.S. terrorists.

Please click on the title below to link back to the source web page at Democracy Now! which is where the quote above and all that follows is from.

"Stop These Massacres": Ex-Afghan Parliamentarian Malayia Joya Calls for End to U.S. Occupation of Afghanistan


Former Afghan member of parliament, Malalai Joya, joins us for her first broadcast interview since arriving in the United States on Friday after officials initially denied her application for a travel visa. Her visa was approved Thursday following a protest campaign that included letters from the American Civil Liberties Union and nine members of Congress. Asked why the United States at first refused her visit, Joya says, “I’m talking about the blind bombardment of the U.S.A.-NATO forces, these occupiers, about the occupation of my country... These are, I think, the reasons that the U.S. and NATO, they’re afraid of me.” [includes rush transcript]

Malalai Joya, former Afghan member of parliament and outspoken critic of warlords, fundamentalists, the Taliban, and of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. She is touring the United States to promote the second edition of her autobiography, A Woman Among Warlords.

AMY GOODMAN: In Afghanistan, U.S.-led NATO forces fear increasing opposition after photographs of U.S. troops posing over dead Afghan civilians were published last week. The U.S. Army issued an apology after the images were published in the German news magazine Der Spiegel. Democracy Now! also broadcast the photos last week. And on Sunday, Rolling Stone magazine published similar images and videos in a special report on their website. The photographs are graphic and have been compared to the pictures that emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The soldiers in the photographs are on trial for forming a secret "kill team" in Afghanistan that murdered unarmed Afghan civilians at random and collected body parts. The images were entered as evidence into the trial.
NATO air strikes have also recently led to civilian deaths. On Friday, NATO air strikes killed seven civilians, including three children, in Helmand province. Earlier in the week, NATO says two civilians were accidentally killed in an air strike in the province of Khost. Two children were killed in another NATO attack last week, and nine boys died in another attack earlier this month.
To discuss the situation in Afghanistan, we’re joined by activist and former Afghan member of parliament, Malalai Joya. The U.S. government initially denied a travel visa to Joya, who has been a vocal critic of the war. Supporters in the U.S. then mounted a protest campaign that included letters from the ACLU, groups of writers and academics, and nine members of Congress, and a mass phone-in to the State Department last Wednesday. On Thursday, consular officials allowed Joya to re-apply without the normal waiting period, and her visa was approved.
Malalai Joya is an outspoken critic of warlords, fundamentalists, the Taliban, and of the US occupation of Afghanistan. She is touring the United States to promote the second edition of her autobiography, A Woman Among Warlords. In 2010, Time magazine named Joya one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She has survived numerous assassination attempts. And she’s joining us right now from Burlington, Vermont.
Malalai Joya, welcome to Democracy Now! First, why did the U.S. government deny you a visa to come into this country?
MALALAI JOYA: Hello, Amy and also to all listeners. Thanks for this interview.
Because I exposed the wrong policy of the U.S. government to justice-loving great people of the U.S., and also I informed them about the wrongdoing of their government, that they’re killing innocent people under the name of the so-called war on terror. And I tell to justice-loving people of the U.S. that their taxpayer money, billions of dollars that their government pay, goes into pocket of the warlords, drug lords and criminals, and now negotiating with the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, these terrorists, as well. So, they are not honest for our people. And I’m talking about the blind bombardment of the U.S.A.-NATO forces, these occupiers, about the occupation of my country to great people of the U.S. These are, I think, the reasons, briefly what I said, that the U.S. and NATO, they’re afraid of me, and now they denied to give me visa. But I’m happy and honored for peace-loving, justice-loving people of the U.S. who put pressure on their government and showed their solidarity with my people once again. And that’s why finally they gave me visa. And I came here to bring the message of my people against occupation, for democracy and peace.
AMY GOODMAN: Malalai, is it true that when you went to the U.S. embassy to get your visa when you were in Afghanistan, they said they were denying it because you were unemployed and live underground?
MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, it was true reasons. I think it was just a mere excuse, that. Also, it was not just something—surprise for me. I could expect that they will refuse to give me visa, because I exposed the wrong policy of these warmongers and their war crime, that what they are doing, under the name of democracy, women’s rights, human rights, against my people.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain the living underground. Are you living underground? And what does that mean?
MALALAI JOYA: Underground, yeah, because they are—not only me, most of my people, millions of Afghan, by presence of tens of thousands troops, they don’t have security, which is important, more than food and water. They suffer from injustice, corruption, joblessness, poverty and many other miseries. So, my life, after my speech in 2003, that has been changed, because of telling the truth and I exposed the mask of these fundamentalist warlords, who are a photocopy of the Taliban. And day by day, it is getting risky, because I never do compromise with them, I never sit silent. I even—they want to eliminate. That’s why I have to be underground.
Today, most of women of Afghanistan, not only me, even despite wearing burqa, we are not safe there. This disgusting burqa, which is symbol of oppression, today gives safety to many other Afghans, especially activist women. And despite burqa and bodyguard, not now safe, my life not safe in Afghanistan, as changing the houses. So many other obstacles, not only for me, for other democratic-minded parties, intellectuals, activists that we have, and still they are underground.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the situation today in Afghanistan, the series of killings of civilians that the U.S. has had to apologize for, the person in charge, General David Petraeus, having to issue an apology for the first time a few weeks ago, especially around the killing of children. What’s happening?
MALALAI JOYA: You know, our people now, they’re fed up from listening apologies from the White House, these warmongers and NATO governments, and also the puppet regime, mafia corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai. We want the end of this brutal war, this disgusting war, this occupation, as soon as possible. During these 10 years, tens of thousands innocent civilians has been killed, most of them innocent women, children and men. And even they—during these nine years of their occupation, they used white phosphorus cluster bomb. They are bombing our wedding parties. Maybe you heard, as you earlier mentioned the report of Der Spiegel, that even they insult with the dead bodies of my people; these occupation forces make fun with these dead bodies. And their government, when they kill innocent civilians, doing massacres, they pay $2,000, these bloody dollars, to each victim’s family, it means that the lives of Afghans is equal to $2,000 for these warmongers, and while most time my people reject these monies.
Unfortunately, when Obama took office, his first news for my people was more conflict, more war, because he says more troops in Afghanistan. And the result of this was more miseries, more massacres, more tragedies. And also, when compared with the Bush administration, 24 percent civilian deaths increase. And many other miseries, violence are still going on in my country. And for thousand time, the recent report proves that today in Afghanistan, especially these nine years, the killing of my people for them is like killing the birds. But unfortunately, mainstream media, always they slide the truths, and they shamelessly decrease the number of civilian deaths and call them insurgents, terrorists.
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned—you said the "die teams," what’s called the "kill team," the soldiers that are on trial right now in the United States, these photographs that Democracy Now! has broadcast, these horrendous photographs. And I urge people—I warn you, as we show these photographs, that Der Spiegel showed first, of these so-called kill teams that murdered unarmed Afghan civilians at random and collected body parts as trophies. How much attention is this getting in Afghanistan right now?
MALALAI JOYA: These photos, not only for Afghans, I believe for millions around the world as human being, for justice-loving people around the world, is heartbreaking. And it was not new for our Afghan people, as every day they are bombing, killing civilians, under the name of these terrorists, now negotiating with these fascist Taliban, terrorist Taliban, and also Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. These terrorists come in power, the situation will be more bloody, more disaster for my people.
That’s why every day when they are bombing, when our people know this news, there are many demonstration in Afghanistan. There are right now two kind of resistance in my country. One is the reactionary resistance of these terrorist Taliban that always mainstream media, U.S. government try to make a mountain out of a molehill. Another is resistance of ordinary Afghan people, the students of the universities, democratic-minded parties that we have. For example, Afghanistan Solidarity Party is a democratic-minded party, secular party, that recently they did a demonstration in different part of Afghanistan—in Mazar-i-Sharif, in Kabul, in Jalalabad, in Herat, in Farah province. Hundreds of people joined their demonstration with banners—"U.S. out of Afghanistan"—and against their brutalities, with the pictures of the victim civilians. But nobody listened to their voice, even not only the media in Afghanistan, which is not free and therefore this mafia media give report, also the mainstream media never give report the resistance of these people to justice-loving people around the world. They are the one who should be supported, these democratic-minded parties, intellectuals, activists that we have in Afghanistan. Still they are underground, but they never sit silent through struggle. Let’s support them as much as you can and put pressure on your government, that stop this wrongdoing, this war crime under the name of democracy and women’s rights.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about who exactly the U.S. is working with and negotiating right now with in Afghanistan? With all that is happening in Libya and the Middle East, it seems that Afghanistan, coverage of Afghanistan, has even fallen farther off the radar, if that’s possible, astounding that the U.S. is conducting such a war and there’s so little coverage of it in Afghanistan.
MALALAI JOYA: They want to negotiate with Taliban and also Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one bunch of terrorists like Northern Alliance who are mentally same like Taliban, only physically has been changed after 9/11. These warlords, their background, you can see on Human Rights Watch website. Many book has been written about them, like I Is for Infidel, Ghost Wars, Bleeding Afghanistan, like Devil’s Game book. If you read, it will help you to know better about these warlords who committed crimes against my people, the civil war from '92 to ’96, before domination of the Taliban. But after 9/11, they imposed on my people with the mask of democracy. That's why Afghanistan, day by day, goes from—the situation goes from worse to worse. And U.S. and NATO, especially U.S. government, created, supported these fundamentalists since Cold War and still don’t want to lose them.
And now these bunch of terrorists, that these 10 years, they become powerful, with suit and tie, with bloody hands. They invite another bunch of terrorists, like Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, that the U.S. government in the past put his name on the blacklist as a wanted criminal. Without to say apologies to my people, these terrorists invite them to join this mafia corrupt regime. Mullah Omar is not moderate, that your government—I mean, U.S. government says to justice-loving people of the U.S., around the world, "We are negotiating with moderate Talib." We have no moderate Talib. How do they recognize that when this terrorist is moderate, another one is a not moderate? And Mullah Omar is a terrorist, and if people wish, all of these bunch of killers, like Sayyaf, Rabbani, Qanooni, Mohaqiq, Dostum, Khalili, Ismail Khan, Gulabzoi, Olumi, many other killers who also right now already they are in power and have high posts in Karzai’s regime—they should be brought to the national—International Criminal Court for the war crimes that they committed for all of these brutalities.
Now, these 10 years, they changed my country to the center of the drugs. Since 2001 until now, 4,400 percent opium increased in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is now the second most corrupt country in the world. There’s $2 billion the government of Karzai received from the so-called international community, but on there, my people even don’t have enough food to eat. More than 80 percent people are now jobless in Afghanistan and suffer from many other miseries.
It seems the shedding the blood of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan was not enough for U.S. government, that now, under the shadow or umbrella of U.N. now, invade Libya, as well, under the beautiful banner of women’s rights, human rights. And again, my message to justice-loving people of U.S., around the world, is that, please raise your voice against this wrong policy. When you see that while Obama’s administration raise hue and cry against Gaddafi regime and its crimes, but in the meantime supporting the dirtiest, much more dirty Gaddafi regime in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Israel, in Saudi Arabia, in many other countries.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds, Malalai Joya. The withdrawal beginning in July, do you believe this will be happening? And what would it mean if U.S. troops left?
MALALAI JOYA: It is just big lies. From one hand, the U.S. and NATO, they tell—the fool not only Afghan people, their own people too, by telling, "We will leave by the middle of 2011." But form another side, a U.S. puppet regime, Karzai’s regime, is talking about permanent U.S. military bases in my country, which is clear they will not leave my country soon. They are there because of their own strategic regional and economic interests.
We want the withdrawal of the troops because their presence, they double our miseries, create more obstacles, problems for the justice-loving, democratic-minded parties that we have, intellectuals, innocent people of my country—day by day getting powerful, eliminate them. So we are squashed between three powerful enemies: warlords, Taliban, occupation forces. With the withdrawal of occupation forces, we will fight two internal enemies. If the occupation forces leave, stop arming the warlords and Taliban, the backbone of these criminals will break. And of course, fight against Taliban and warlords is not easy, but the hopeful point is that—positive point is that my people hate the Taliban and also the warlords. If U.S. and NATO let us a little bit breathe in peace, then we know what to do with our destiny.
They are telling you that "Civil war will happen if we leave Afghanistan," but nobody is talking about today’s civil war. As long as these occupation forces will be there, the worse civil war will be. Democracy never come by military invasion. Democracy never come by bombing, killing innocent civilians, by cluster bomb or white phosphorus. Anyway, we’re fed up from this occupation. Now, my message of my people is this: we don’t want anything good from you, just stop wrong thing, just stop these massacres, just stop support of these criminals, these terrorists. And in the meantime, I’m asking for the solidarity and support of justice-loving people around the world, their moral support, educational support, because it’s the key to world emancipation.
AMY GOODMAN: Malalai Joya, I want to thank you for being with us, former member of the Afghan parliament, has survived numerous assassination attempts. Her book is called A Woman Among Warlords. Malalai Joya was named by Time magazine one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dream of a Present Heaven: Imagine

John Lennon's song "Imagine" spoke to my heart when I was very young. How did I understand what it meant, I wonder? Perhaps that was the gift of his lyrics, strongly influenced by Yoko Ono's work in her book Grapefruit.

Men have organised civilisations in ways that make slavery, genocide, and rape crucial to some men's well-being. Surely many of us can gather our energies and transform what these men have made into something far more humane and sustainable. Can't we?

I know some very kind men, het men and bi men and gay men, who would be on board with this more humane world. I know far more women who have been working for decades to bring this world into our present, against great odds, with so many men calling them horrid names and threatening them in vicious ways.

It's time to wrest corrupt forms of power out of the hands of men who value destruction, oppression, and war more than creativity, humane being, and peace. It's been time for centuries.

The reason I don't think the problem is "men" exactly is because many men, not necessarily people who have called themselves that English term have lived on the Earth for thousands of years never inflicting the horrors on people we've seen in the last five hundred years especially. Whiteness is a new phenomenon and brings with it an especially horrid form of human being that finds slavery and genocide and rape to be politically necessary, sexually pleasurable, and economically profitable.

I have to believe that everyone who follows this blog believes the world can be better than it is, and that girls-in-slavery, Indigenous people being threatened with genocide worldwide, and white supremacy and capitalist patriarchy are not good for us, if "us" means "all life on Earth".

Please write in to say you agree that the world needs to be radically different than it is. And that Indigenous people ought not be threatened by non-Indigenous people; that women and girls ought not be threatened, exploited, and assaulted by het men; and that life on Earth can be in harmony. Not a bliss-only kind of harmony; but a harmony that doesn't make room for gross atrocities perpetrated by oppressive humans, in groups, against other groups seen and treated as inferior.

Dream strong and bring this dream to life. And if possible, stop harming people who are not the enemy. Stop abusing and exploiting people who are female. Stop threatening and scaring people who are oppressed. Stop using terms that make women into evil things, like b*tch or wh*re. All women are fully human. There's no such thing as a "b*tch" or a "wh*re", even while so many men and women believe there is.

To all men:
Treat all girls and women with respect and regard. If a woman has harmed you harshly, get out of her life and leave her alone. Treat all oppressed people as if your life was dependent on their well-being, because it is.

One day the Sun and the Earth will work together to turn everything we know into dust. The Earth, before that time, will find ways to regain balance and make itself a far more heavenly place than the hellish one it is currently. No matter how much cancer-causing radioactive elements, diseases, conditions of preventable suffering, and other forms of pain men unleash on the Earth, it will emerge healthy--but probably not with lots of people living here. But we don't all have to perish for Life to thrive on this planet. And the most humane beings and those of us who are caring of the Earth shouldn't be the first to go.

We just need to replace the powerfully corrupt anti-woman, anti-Indigenous people with caring, compassionate people who are able to challenge and change every social, economic, religious, and political system that requires organised harm. We have to be those people. We have to work together. Now.

Build loving relationships. Build loving communities. Build loving resistance movements. Build loving revolutions.


Biting the Hand That Beats You: notes on liberatory struggle

portrait of Harriet Tubman is from here

As I contemplate the history of white gay men's political struggles, as an agenda set by white gay men, in the U.S. and in other parts of the Western world, what I see is an effort to preserve capitalism, preserve white supremacy, and to preserve as well the terroristic and horrific realities that are men's dominance over women and masculinist (or patriarchal) dominance over and against feminism.

The fundamental wrong turn taken by the white gay men's movement for liberation was in mistaking personal sexual expression with collective political liberation, and with preserving male supremacist sexuality as a social right rather than seeing it as a social wrong. What gay men couldn't accept was what het men cannot accept: our humanity is not to be found only in what we do with our genitals; it's to be found in what we do, collectively, to root out all forms of misogyny and male supremacy from the Earth. Radical feminist Audre Lorde posited a view of sexuality that was fused to collective liberation, not to white and male supremacy and not to capitalism. Most English-speaking gay men of any color have completely ignored her.

In my adult lifetime, the collective liberation for girls, women, and gay men has never been a goal, an objective, an aim, of white gay men. And so white gay men remain allies of white het men, however much white het men despise and ridicule their gay white brothers.

Cast into this battle for proximity to the most lethal rulers of male supremacy are men of color across sexuality and women across sexuality and race. It should come as no surprise that women of color, collectively, have the least to lose and so are more likely to organise revolutionary resistance; that world's radical feminist leaders are largely of color, while not necessarily called radical or feminist, bears this out.

The challenge is usually the same: how to support liberation without also caressing the hand that beats you. To caress is not to desire. It may be an act of appeasement as much as anything else. It may be a calming gesture, designed to stop the hand from curling into a fist, for example.

Imagine, against much of known reality, that the world's people were rising up and that we collectively stopped feeding the Master; stopped working for him; stopped catering to him; stopped fearing him; stopped satisfying his needs for our collective subjugation. Imagine us all biting his hand, hard, until he stopped all his atrocious behaviors and became humane by doing so.

It is a requirement of the leaders of any tyrannical, oppressive, terroristic system to love, honor, and obey the Masters, whoever they are: whether they be whites, the rich, heterosexuals, or men. Those of us who are not them must either pretend to adore them or actually desire to be like them. When so few people hold so many corrupt and inhumane forms of power-over, it becomes difficult to organise movements of resistance that seek no compassion from the oppressors who kill callously and without mercy. Why it is we think mercy and compassion will one day dawn on the consciousness of the Masters is a complex matter to approach.

I believe we hope for this because we generally cannot seeing ourselves surviving with Him. We turn Him into a god, or a trinity of gods, and we turn Him into our Savior, our Rescuer, our Hero, our White Knight. That black nights typically allow for movement towards freedom is not typically mentioned in the White Man's fairy tales, even while Harriet Tubman knew this. Harriet noted, with an uncompromising and harsh honesty:
I freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves. [source: here]
Do we ask, of this quote, "Why does Harriet refer to other human beings as slaves? Doesn't that make them seem like they are only victims?" Do we ask, "Why can't we have a little fun with slavery, like performing in slavery drag?" Or, "Why don't we call just call it work-without-pay?" Or, "Why don't we acknowledge the dignity of those slaves who didn't know they were slaves even while they were; why don't we assume they liked being slaves and believe that for them, slavery was liberation?"

I'd like to point out that few people saw the dignity in human beings, including in slaves of a White Male Master, more than Harriet Tubman and other Black anti-slavery activists. To see the dignity in someone is to see that conditions which require their degradation are inhumane and must end.

In societies which honor and glorify White Men, we are left with myths such as the one that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. No, people: that was Harriet Tubman and so many of her sisters and brothers, including Frederick Douglass. The Black slaves, former slaves, and ex-slaves, fought for freedom. And they won it.

We fast forward only one hundred and sixty years or so, and we arrive at a time when slavery is more plentiful and resistance to it exists primarily among the slaves themselves. As it always has been. And I was part of a group on Facebook that wanted to pretend that if we called slavery "sex work", we could discuss how it could be liberating and healing. For whom? Surely not for the slaves. To believe slavery is a condition of liberation is to not see indignity at all. And to believe something called "sex work" can thrive justly while sexual slavery exists is to not understand the relationship between these realities.

The society I live in is a particularly cruel one, made more so by the fact that it presents itself as being so very good and honorable. President Obama this very week has entered war three against Asia and North Africa. He and his white brethren claim this as a necessity to prevent atrocities from national leaders, seeming to forget that we've been propping up the regimes of atrocity-maintaining leaders for decades, and longer. We prop up our own presidents, after all, and each and every one of them has engaged in some form of military or social warfare against people inhumanely and with brute and callous force.

What will it take for the masses of people to realise what slavery looks like, and what it requires of all of us who are and are not slaves? It requires one thing, especially: being grateful to the Master.

Enough of that. Let us rebel and let us not settle for anything short of our collective liberation that in no way resembles slavery.

Andrea Dworkin, a U.S. Amerikan radical feminist, looked to Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman as exemplary radical feminist sheroes. I recommend we all do the same.

Andrea also requested we do the following:  

"Remember. Resist. Do not comply."

But to remember, we must know what we are encouraged or forced to forget, such as exactly how much slavery there is, right now, and how many girls and women are slaves, whether to pimps, traffickers, boyfriends, or husbands. And how being incested, molested, raped, and battered feels, not just physically, but to the soul's bones. And how it feels to live without hope of ever getting out of poverty, or away from diseases delivered long ago by white men, straight, bi, and gay, who have seen the active protection of their entitlement and alleged right to have sex as far more important than their responsibility to care about consequences. I am speaking here about white men. People who are not white men have never had the same degree of entitlement or right to sex or to life. And the sexuality of anyone who isn't a white het man is demonised and stigmatised in many wretched ways, and is never status-giving in the eyes of white het men.

I just read this, a passage by Elizabeth Taylor that she requested not be published until after she passed on. It's about the early life of one man I wish I'd known, who Elizabeth Taylor did know and worked with in his last film. The actor was James Dean.
"I loved Jimmy. I'm going to tell you something, but it's off the record until I die. OK? When Jimmy was 11 and his mother passed away, he began to be molested by his minister. I think that haunted him the rest of his life. In fact, I know it did. We talked about it a lot. During Giant we'd stay up nights and talk and talk, and that was one of the things he confessed to me." (source: here)
I think about how this fact of his life is made so invisible--not primarily because it was held as a secret but because it is made into a shameful secret by the perpetrators, often enough. What was the relationship between being molested and driving so fast--was that because he felt, on some deep level, that his life wasn't moving forward that it didn't matter? Or was his thrill with speed underscored by a sense of being invincible? (He died in a terrible car crash, after being warned to slow down.) James Dean had to hide his sexual interest in men. He had to keep the reality of his sexual involvement with men a secret. How is this not a form of on-going sexual shame, and how does that shame entwine with the shame of being molested?

I am realising that the world operates, largely, by denying what is most atrocious--denying that it is happening, right now. Right this very moment. Things are happening to girls the world over that are horrific and terribly traumatic, that are bound to globally economic and political systems of ownership and exploitation ruled and governed by het men, many of them white. Mostly it seems to me that those of us who dream of a compassionate, caring world can bring it forth while ignoring the girl slaves altogether and by pretending they are in no way like us. Girls young and older, who have escaped, work to end sexual slavery because they must, in part because cannot deny its reality and to ignore atrocity while knowing it is happening around you is a form of criminal activity that has no sentence known to white het men--because white het men are participating so often in so much atrocity that they enjoy or benefit from. As for the rest of us:

Will we respond to Harriet Tubman's and Andrea Dworkin's calls to reveal liberatory truth through organised, sustained revolutionary action? That's not a rhetorical question. It is a legitimate question for all of us to answer, together. I'll ask the question a different way: How many hundreds of thousands of girls have to be enslaved before we collectively rise up and join with those girls to end all forms of slavery?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mostly Jewish and Italian Women Killed One Hundred Years Ago Today in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

First up, this video from Democracy Now!

All that follows is from AlterNet. Please click on the title below to link back. Thank you, Elissa Strauss, for writing this article.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory workers who died were hardworking, brave young women senselessly sent to an early death by unsafe conditions.

A man looks up at the building where the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire took place 100 years ago.
Photo Credit: AFP
Ever hear of the Grover Shoe Factory fire of 1905 when an industrial explosion killed 58 and injured 150 in Brockton, Massachusetts? Or the Port Chicago disaster at a naval ammunition warehouse in California in 1944 that killed 320? How about the Monongah mining disaster that took place in 1907 and, with a death toll of 362, is the worst in US history? Probably not.

These were all large-scale workplace tragedies that brought to light unsafe work conditions and led to labor reforms. But none of them has managed to capture even a fraction of the public’s attention or imagination given to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, in which 146 garment workers died 100 years ago today. 

Why Triangle? Part of the interest has to do with the fact that it happened in daylight in the middle of New York City in front of hundreds of witnesses (including Francis Perkins, who would later become President Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor) right at the time when the trade union movement was gaining steam. 
These factors certainly played into its quick canonization into American history, but I don’t think they’re it. The reason Triangle continues to fascinate is the girls, the innocent girls.
Nearly all the victims were young women, 129 out of the 146, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants, many of whom  leapt from the 9th floor, their long skirts billowing out in an almost angelic fashion as they fell to the ground.

Yes, it’s the innocent girls, as they are described in nearly every retelling of the day’s events, which make this story so absolute, so simple. The girls were innocent and the factory owners were guilty. Good and bad. White and black.
Now I hardly want to undermine the tragedy or question their victimhood, but I do think that the constant reference to their innocence is actually doing them a disservice.

Characterizing the girls this way implies purity and passivity. Virgins are innocent. Children are innocent. Women in need of the protection of men are innocent.  But the Triangle workers were none of this. 

These young women were well aware of their circumstances – working long hours in cramped quarters for meager pay – and prior to the fire fought hard against them. They participated in the New York Shirtwaist strike of 1909, also known as the Uprising of the 20,000, in which a struggle for better wages and working conditions brought them to the streets for months, where they endured verbal and physical abuse from company goons and the police. Over 700 girls were arrested. The improvements to worker safety laws that happened after Triangle were just as much a result of the work they did while alive, as in their horrible end.

I think maybe when Americans began to look back on Triangle -- when female participation in the workforce was starting to shrink -- these working women were seen as an anomaly; their mere presence in the workplace became part of the tragedy. 

But that wasn’t the case then. The majority of garment workers at the time, 70%, were immigrant women under twenty, many of whom brought experience with labor organizing with them from Europe. In fact, Triangle workers probably had more in common with young women today than ladies fifty years ago. These women were the adventurous ones; they crossed oceans, pursued careers in very demanding industries, and enjoyed spending their disposable income on things like pretty hats and nights out dancing with friends.

The perception of female innocence has certainly benefited women in violent or dangerous situations. This includes everything from the women-first strategy on the Titanic, to the Madres of the Plaza De Mayo, who were able to protest during Argentina’s Dirty War shielded by their status as innocent mothers, and to Femen, the topless protest movement in the Ukraine where a bare-chest provides a degree of political immunity. And even today, when a woman commits an atrocious crime, we search for a way to divert responsibility, reluctant to believe that a she could be innately violent.  But unfortunately this innocence tends to be bundled with a sense of passivity and inaction that, in the case of the Triangle workers, isn’t even historically accurate.

As a young Jewish woman whose grandparents worked in the shmatte business, it means a whole lot to me that the tragic fate of a group of young women is seen as a crucial moment in US history. Though I think it’s time to start remembering them for what they really were: brave and brassy young women, whose real legacy has nothing to do with their innocence.

Elissa Strauss is a freelance writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Salon, the Village Voice, The American Prospect, the New York Daily News, Tablet, and the Forward, where she is also a contributing editor to the Sisterhood blog.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Calling Boys "Girlie" Does and Means

image of "Maximo Oliveros" (a fictional character in an amazing Filipino movie linked to below) is from here
Revised on 25 March 2011 and revised significantly again on 29 March:

Years ago I wrote a piece, autobiographical, called "The Trauma of the Gendered Child". You can read that *here*. I wrote it before I knew being intergender was something I could say about myself. Since writing it, I've realised that my experience of childhood was not uncommon. Many children, female, male, and intersex, live our lives not feeling like we belong to the gender we are assigned to and forced to become, under penalty of rejection, scorn, and violence.

I'm aware of three movies which deal explicitly with issues of boys who behave in ways that make most het men uncomfortable (and, for different reasons, some gay men too). Those movies are The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, Breakfast With Scot, and Ma Vie En Rose. Each of these excellent movies deals with different issues related to being an non-masculinist boy. (Two of those links go to sites where the movies may be watched in full.) If you watch them, please pay attention to and compare the political, economic, regional, cultural, and social realities influencing the decisions of adults in accepting or not accepting their "feminine" boys.)

I believe there is emotional, psychological, and political trauma done to boys who are called "girlie" by their misogynistic-homophobic fathers (or, well, mothers, or other parent-figures). Socially, there is usually a knee-jerk misogynist, anti-girl reaction to this happening. What typically happens in liberal to progressive families and communities is that boys are told "you're not girlie" or "that's not girlie" or are otherwise encouraged to shore up their self-concept as a boy in some ways--including by believing that boys can do anything, no matter the gendered associations.

The misogyny beneath this approach, which I find myself caught in, is to not tackle, head on, the violence to girls of using the term "girlie". It shames boys, yes. But it shames girls too. It communicates to girls and boys that they are of less value, are worth-less, if they are like girls, as determined by misogynistic homophobes. It should surprise no one that most girls identify as girls--they don't have any choice. And the trouble with patriarchal, woman-hating gender tyranny and terrorism is that if girls are like girls--if girls are "girlie"--they too are not valued. There's no way to be a girl in a patriarchal society and be valued, socially, as much as boys and men are valued, if the boys and men are pro-patriarchal, misogynistic, and masculinist.

We live in tricky times, re: gender. If male children grow up being "feminine" we now have doctors and other "experts" telling us that they must be transsexual. Or gay. Or that there's something wrong with them that needs to be medically "fixed". There are far too many children being told there's something "not normal" about being girlie. But being feminine--as defined by patriarchs (and in the U.S. racist patriarchs)--is part of what is normal for boys and some girls too. It is normal even while it is a largely both a mandatory and manufactured concept in the minds of men. Some boys and girls are not feminine, are not masculine, and are not transsexual. And many transsexuals who transition M2F are also not "feminine" and don't desire to be, either. People, trans or not, simply are who they are: human, fine, healthy--except for the society that tells them they are not healthy or fine, or human. And to label children anything other than "normal" (re: gender and sexuality) for being "who they are" is a form of sexual violence, in the opinion of this blogger.

The point of the earlier essay was that labeling and enforcing a gender hierarchy in which "boylie" boys are valued and girls--whether like girls or boys--are not, is sexually traumatic, abusive, and sets children up to act out that violence against themselves and other children. Also against their mothers, often. Boys learn to hit to be masculine, for example, and can and do hit their mothers, especially if they've seen daddy or other men do it. Girls learn to be silent and self-deprecating, and too often self-abusive in other ways too.

I believe that any man who teaches his sons (or daughters) that they are not okay if they are "feminine" or "girlie" ought to be found guilty of psychological child sexual abuse. And any men who devalue their daughters because they are girls ought to be found guilty of the same thing. Because these actions by men do irreparable harm to children. And of course any het man who bullies his family, who is a terrorist or tyrant, who is a rapist and batterer of his female spouse, should never be allowed to be around children or women at all.

I think a healthy response to witnessing a child being told they are too feminine or too much like a girl is to note that there's nothing at all wrong with being "girlie".  That is essentially the message all children need to get, with confidence and social assurance: that there's nothing wrong with being who they are, intrinsically, even while we know that gendering children is social and political, designed to replicate male supremacy and female subordination, and that children absorb social messages about gender as it applies to them.

I hope children can grow up knowing that that girls being "boyie" and boys being "girlie" (or any other combo) doesn't make them transsexual any more than it makes them lesbian or gay. Being transsexual makes them transsexual. Being lesbian makes them lesbian. Being gay makes them gay. Those are complex social-psychological teenage to adult realities that, along with the labels heterosexual or bisexual, are not appropriate to put on pre-pubescent children, in my opinion. It's not that I think pre-pubescent children can't know who they are attracted to and don't learn how to be misogynistic and heterosexist. It's that coming out as a lesbian, as bi, or as gay, is a social experience, not a private intra-psychic one. It requires negotiating social, cultural, political spaces, not just private mental, psychological, emotional spaces. And to label small children as "gay" or "lesbian" or "het" is to layer onto them adult social/cultural ways of being that simply ought not be applied to young children, in my view. To reinforce ideas that being a feminine boy means he's going to be gay, or a non-feminine girl is already a lesbian is to participate in hetero/sexist stereotyping.

When adults proclaim "their" children to be heterosexual, for example, they are projecting or simply reinforcing gross heterosexism. To do so because their son likes sports and their daughter doesn't, is sexist nonsense. This, to me, is a form of psychic sexual violence against children as it leads children to feel bad about themselves if they end up not being heterosexual as homophobic patriarchs violently define and politically defend the term and it being "natural" among children.

And in my experience queer and non-queer communities are increasingly confused about this, to the detriment of queer and non-queer children. Because as soon as young children are labeled anything other than "normal", their understandings of themselves changes and begins to absorb self-concepts and negative feelings they see being attached to those terms. When adults, some of us realise that being "normal" is far from desirable. But I don't believe children are capable of forming strong self-concepts and confident senses of self if they are labeled or feel "abnormal". I personally would rather not be normal; but at age six or even at age sixteen, I wasn't entirely capable of genuinely wishing to be abnormal as a healthy rejection of the status quo.

Being transsexual isn't abnormal either. But, unlike being lesbian, bi, and gay, only a very few children are transsexual--although this will be socially, medically, and culturally determined. I witnessed the harm to teens and young adults who suffered the malpractice, most systematically through the 1990s in the U.S., of them being labeled as ADD and ADHD children. There is currently a social trend among some "specialised" mental health care workers and medical professionals, who are effectively pro-misogynistic and pro-heteropatriarchal, of labeling children both as non-transsexual when they are, or as transsexual when they're not. I've seen this over the decades done by het, bi, lesbian, and gay adults too--of deciding who their children are based on insufficient evidence, or biases from the dominant culture or alternative cultures parents live in.

I'd argue that sexual and gendered identities and conditions are so culturally relative that they can likely only be known and determined in later childhood or adulthood--and even then, as many of us know, such determinations shift with time across adulthood.

Being heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, transgender, intergender, or transsexual are largely social-cultural-political phenomena. We can note that being Two-Spirit, for example, isn't something any white medical professionals will likely determine anyone to be while they may determine some children, teens, and adults to be non-transsexual or transsexual. Does this mean no one is Two-Spirit? No. It means labels are ideological, cultural, and political. And for many decades, for centuries non-industrialised, Indigenist societies have had differing ways of acknowledging and honoring people who were not what white, English-speaking, Westerners call "straight" or "women" or "men". It is so easy for white, English-speaking Westerners to forget that "heterosexual" is not an acultural, ahistorical, or asocial reality. Not is being lesbian or gay. Nor is being "gendered"--whether non-transgender or transgender.

Each involves finding out what one's own experiences and feelings mean within the societies and cultures we grow up in. In some cases it means finding out about our cultural traditions that have been devalued or traditions that are being destroyed. Our understandings of ourselves--how we come to name ourselves--cannot be done outside of political, social, cultural realms, and young children are not really equipped to know all of that when so young.

Dominant Western society is heteropatriarchal, racist, and favors labeling children in ways that benefit adults, especially adults who profit by this labeling. To label pre-pubescent children in any way as being definitively sexual in one particular way is inhumane, even while it is required by heteropatriarchy: all children are presumed heterosexual until proven otherwise, for example. But, other than for political, cultural, and economic reasons, there's no need to label any young children, period. Children are "human"--and even that term has very culturally specific social and economic meaning.

In my opinion, children deserve to be encouraged to express themselves as they wish, in age-appropriate ways. This means protecting children from adult practices that are traumatic when imposed on or introduced into the lives of children in confusing and abusive ways.

If possible, keep all pornography away from children. And good luck with that. In my opinion, anyone who intentionally makes pornography or other graphic manifestations of racist, rapist society repeatedly available to children should be found guilty of child sexual abuse. I recognise that loving parents may need to show children adult images--not sexually graphic ones--to explain what is and is not appropriate for children to see. Given how pornographic many societies have become, one needn't go further than magazines like Maxim, Vogue, or Seventeen to find these images. Each contains plenty of examples of sexxxualised racism and misogyny. Children never "need" to see graphic, sexxxxually explicit pornography, for any reason, to become healthy adults. That children are so often made into sexxx-objects, disproportionately for white Western men, worldwide, ought to be beyond outrageous. It ought to be completely unacceptable, globally. But that means radically transforming all capitalist, patriarchal, and racist economic and social systems.

I've heard the details of the harm of girls being exposed to their fathers' pornography--written and depicted. Most women I know who have very painful sexual fantasies that are deeply troubling and shame-inducing to them were exposed to their fathers' pornography when young girls. That arranged exposure is also a form of psychological-sexual child abuse by the fathers. The girls I know who also grow up with deep conflict about their own sexuality and self-image are those exposed to normal racist misogynistic media, and those who are incested or molested by males in their families.

Het men, as a class of human beings, are dangerous to children because they are often enough predators and perpetrators of child sexual abuse and rape. They are dangerous to all children. And the denial about that is intense. This reality is displaced by het men onto gay men and lesbian women so that only the latter two groups of adults are stigmatised as "dangerous to children", including sexually.

Because of the sheer number of het-identified men, and also because they are not stigmatised as the most predatory population of adult "child molesters", "procurers", "traffickers", and slavers, this means het-identified and het-behaving men have infinitely more access to children than do gay men or lesbian women. I'm not saying any woman or man or transgender person is not capable of abusing children in many ways, including in overtly sexual ways. I'm saying that the population of adults who most perpetrate overtly psychological and gross sexual abuse against children is het men.

Het men who abuse their children emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually are usually not held accountable at all. That tells you a lot about het male supremacy, entitlements, privileges, and power over women and children.

Het men have way too much corrupt and abusive power in society. And the forms of power they have and exercise allows them to do whatever they want to do including anything that is abusive and irresponsible. This includes beating up their spouses, beating their children, raping their spouses, incesting their children, procuring and pimping girls and women, homophobically assaulting children and other men and women, and otherwise terrorising and degrading anyone around them who they can assault without being held accountable by the larger society.

What I hope is that from now on, when I hear of a boy being called "girlie" my response is to cheer, celebrate, and say "congratulations"!!! "Let's throw a girlie-boy party!" And let's not invite anyone who is likely to shame any child who isn't behaving in misogynistically, patriarchally (politically) correct ways.

What complicates this particular matter of gender and children is that toys and so many other products are manufactured in racist capitalist patriarchal societies, and are marketed to children with the understanding that being a girl means being submissive, and being a boy means being active and dominant. Most of what is marketed to girls is sold to ensure girls are submissive and subordinate to boys and men specifically. I think that the "girlie" and "boylie" things that C.R.A.P. manufactures are likely to be harmful to children in the context of living in a society in which male dominance and female submissiveness is normalised, naturalised, and sexxxualised.

As I discuss a bit in the essay linked to atop this post, I didn't neatly fit into any gendered category when growing up. I could play with dolls with a female cousin. I could also play chess with a male relative. In what sense is playing with a doll or playing chess "gendered"? Boys play with dolls, of course, but tend to be sold dolls that are soldiers or superheroes of some kind. It's difficult to know who one is when media and parents tell you there's only one choice.

It took me over forty years of living to come into my own identity as intergender, in part because the term and concept wasn't presented to me as a child, a teenager, or a young adult. We tend to call ourselves terms that are socially real. If a child is not traditionally gendered or sexed, they will likely be especially vulnerable to the terms adults around them use to describe and define them. I choose a term that is hopefully respectful of women and girls, that doesn't allow me, as a male person, to impose my self-naming over and against women and girls, and that honors women and girls as specific groups of people oppressed by men and boys in patriarchal societies from day one onward--as long as those people are perceived to be female by men.

I hope that children, teens, and adults are offered terms that don't make medical interventions necessary. This isn't to make medical intervention "wrong". It is to make it possible to understand our lives as ones which are more collectively politically shaped than individually medically fixed.

I want to thank all the women, and the few men, over the decades, who have refused to raise their children in oppressively gendered ways. Goddess bless you. But let's not forget that it will take collective, sustained, organised activism aimed at the radical transformation of the whole of these societies to ensure that those parents' good work keeps children emotionally, psychologically, politically, and spiritually healthy.

Boys who are identified by adults or peers as "feminine" are wonderful just as they are. They don't need harmful, misogynistic labels or Western patriarchal medical interventions to be wonderful. Spread the word.

Capitalism is Broke Because Rich White Het Men Are Looting It: Details here, by Catherine Austin Fitts

Corporate capitalism is dying, folks. And well it should. It only exists to make the rich richer and the poor and working and middle classes more and more exploited, traumatised, and insecure to the point of being terrified of losing home and livelihood. (Not only the middle class.) It only exists in the Global North to loot the Global South. It exists to enslave, rape, and murder women and girls. It profits by murdering the Earth and all live on it. If you don't accept this, you are living in denial. That's a requirement of corporate capitalism: you living in denial.

Please click on the title below to link back to the activist website which is where I found what follows.

Catherine Austin Fitts: The Looting Of America
Financial terrorism and the war on the middle class.
Former Assistant Secretary of Housing under George H.W. Bush Catherine Austin Fitts blows the whistle on how the financial terrorists have deliberately imploded the US economy and transferred gargantuan amounts of wealth offshore as a means of sacrificing the American middle class. Fitts documents how trillions of dollars went missing from government coffers in the 90′s and how she was personally targeted for exposing the fraud.

Fitts explains how every dollar of debt issued to service every war, building project, and government program since the American Revolution up to around 2 years ago -- around $12 trillion -- has been doubled again in just the last 18 months alone with the bank bailouts. "We're literally witnessing the leveraged buyout of a country and that's why I call it a financial coup d'état, and that's what the bailout is for," states Fitts.

Massive amounts of financial capital have been sucked out the United States and moved abroad, explains Fitts, ensuring that corporations have become more powerful than governments, changing the very structure of governance on the planet and ensuring we are ruled by private corporations. Pension and social security funds have also been stolen and moved offshore, leading to the end of fiscal responsibility and sovereignty as we know it.

Fitts explained how when she was in government she tried to encourage the creation of small businesses, new jobs and new skills to compete in a globalized world otherwise the American middle class was toast, only to be forced out by the feds using dirty tricks. The elite instead wanted Americans to take on more credit card, mortgage and auto debt that corporations and insurers knew they couldn't afford, while quietly moving their jobs abroad in the meantime.

She has an extremely sophisticated understanding of how the world's financial system works right down to the "inconvenient truth" that revenues from the illegal drug business are essential for propping up the big money market banks. (Not a theory. Proven over and over again in criminal court trials.)

Fitts' well thought out ideas about exactly what needs to be done to put the American economy powerfully back on course were not welcome in the crime-friendly Bush administration and she was driven from government.

In this fascinating interview, she talks about where things are ultimately headed, the the true nature of the threat we face, and what we can do to turn things around.

Feminist Action Alert: Men Buy and Rent Girls for Sexxxual Terrorism: Why Do We Allow It? Stop Sexual Slavery in Hawai'i and Everywhere Else


3/22/11 UPDATE: Revived Human-Trafficking bills have a new vehicle HB1003 HD2 SD1! Please urge Hawaii's legislature to support it!

There are few things on Earth as terroristic, vicious, and inhumane as men buying and renting girls for sexxx. Please click on the title below to link back to the source website for what follows. It is from Honolulu Weekly.
Cover image for Mar 23, 2011

How much is your daughter worth?

Without legislation, Hawai‘i will continue as a hub for sex crimes
Comes with video
Turns out that she came here through Mexico on a raft through the Rio Grande. Red flag number one–that’s not how Korean women typically enter the US.
Legal / Young girls in Hawaii are bought and sold as easily as pizza. They are ordered online, delivered to hostess bars, massage parlors and strip clubs and are even found wrapped up in gift boxes to be delivered to men as mail-order brides–“satisfaction guaranteed.”
It sounds like sensationalism, but it isn’t. One hundred and forty-six years after passage of the 13th Amendment, humans are still being sold for huge profits. Uprooted from their homes and stripped of their human rights, girls as young as 12 years old are sold into a criminal industry that has existed since antiquity. The question is, when will slavery in Hawaii end?

What looks like prostitution is not prostitution. What’s called human trafficking is nothing less than slavery. For modern-day abolitionists like Kathy Xian, the executive director for the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (PASS), the real world war is on the streets and online, and the worst crimes are committed against women and children.
“You have to understand,” says Xian, “the human brain doesn’t stop developing until around age 24 or 25. If these children suffer abuse and are recruited into this trade, it will affect their brain development. Our society blames the victim, instead of the ones who are really responsible–the pimps and the johns.”
According to International Crisis Aid statistics, between 100,000 and 300,000 children–primarily girls–are victims of the sex trade in the US. Instead of being helped, they are being prosecuted, thrown in juvenile detention and vilified. These jarring statistics mirror their shocking stories, and in Hawaii, sex slavery in hostess bars, strip clubs, sex clubs, and the buying and selling of women online, is skyrocketing. The pimps and johns run free, the sex businesses flourish, and children are abused and put behind bars.
Political theorist Hannah Arendt famously stated that “The calamity of the rightless is not that they are deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or of equality before the law. Their plight…is that no law exists for them.”
This couldn’t be more true in Hawaii. Victims of local sex crimes are re-criminalized due to the inexplicable lack of legislation that would otherwise protect them. Victims are often arrested and sent to jail, resulting in prostitution charges and a sentence that deprives them of the only thing they still possess–the faded possibility of a successful future. Instead, their pimp pays the $250–$1,000 fine, and they once again return to a life of fear.
First Lady Nancie Caraway, who was the director of Women’s Human Rights Projects at the Globalization Research Center, says it is essential to address the “supply and demand” factors of human trafficking.
“Trafficking is a labor problem, a public-health problem, a gender issue, a migration problem and a global criminal problem,” says Caraway in an anti-trafficking task force statement. “Our own consumer habits fuel global slavery.”

Defining Crimes

Human trafficking, in its most basic definition, is a crime against humanity; it is the act of exploiting a person through the use of force, coercion or manipulation.
At its core, it is the denial of liberty for the purpose of making money off of that person.
Sometimes it takes the form of forced labor, such as the recent Aloun Farms case, and can also be the sexual exploitation of a person. In other words, human trafficking is modern-day slavery.
Legally, the only difference between prostitution and sex trafficking is that the prostitute willingly engages in prostitution of her or his own volition.
“On a humanistic level, sex trafficking and prostitution are the same thing,” says Xian. “But for victims of sex trafficking, there is no free will in that equation. For the main reason that you still have the problem of re-victimizing victims as criminals.”
Poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunities are compelling factors that facilitate sex trafficking, but are not the root cause.
“Incest is boot camp for prostitution,” says Xian, quoting anti-trafficking activist Andrea Dworkin. Xian adds, “When you understand what happens to the victims, or see it first hand, you can’t walk away from that.”
While sexual exploitation of girls is well documented, boys are often overlooked. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), sex-trafficking can be linked to early childhood cases of incest and sex abuse, and most children are forced into the sex trade as early as age 12 or 13. By the time they’re 20, almost all are addicted to drugs or dead.

Debt Bondage: Aloun Farms

FBI Special Agent Tom Simon, one of the leading investigators in the Global Horizons case– the largest human trafficking case ever charged in US history, in which 400 Thai laborers were coerced into agricultural work–says that debt bondage occurs when captive workers–whether through sex or labor–are held against their will by their employers through threats and, all too often, violence.
In a recent interview, Simon said, “In the old days, they used to keep slaves in their place with whips and chains. Today, it is done with economic threats and intimidation.”
Local immigration attorney Clare Hanusz, who represents some of the defendants in the Aloun Farms and Global Horizons human trafficking cases, says that many times, women are manipulated into thinking that they are coming for legitimate jobs and then coerced into the sex trade in the form of hostess bars, parlors, strip clubs or prostitution rings to pay their recruitment fees.
Hanusz adds that debt bondage is one of the most common ways traffickers lure young women into believing they have no other choices.
“I represented a Korean woman working in a hostess bar,” says Hanusz. “She was arrested in an enforcement raid. She wasn’t charged criminally, actually she was not even working at that bar, but she was asked for identification, and all she had was a Korean passport.”
Hanusz says the woman was sent to the federal detention center and held without bond. After a phone call from another attorney, she found an interpretor and asked the Korean woman the details of how she made it to Honolulu.
“Turns out that she came here through Mexico on a raft through the Rio Grande,” she adds. “Red flag number one–that’s not how Korean women typically enter the US.
“That was her trafficker’s third attempt. Previously, she’d tried coming through Canada. She was coming to Honolulu to work at a hostess bar, but she did not know that was going to involve sexual services. She paid a recruiter a large amount of money. Here’s another example of a debt-bondage situation.”

Current Legislation

Hawaii is currently one of five states in America that has not passed a human trafficking state law, or laws effectively addressing human trafficking as a felony offense while protecting the victims. With current bills in legislation in South Dakota and Massachusetts, Hawaii may in fact become a trio of states remaining in which labor trafficking and sex trafficking will continue to thrive.
Xian, who has committed the last 10 years of her life to being a spokesperson for PASS, says “the law will only see what you tell it to see,” and “without proper legislation protecting the victims of human trafficking, nothing, in Hawaii, will change.”
House bills 576 and 577 would criminalize sex and labor trafficking, and Xian says that what PASS is asking for is a complete policy change.
“We want a mental, spiritual, physical paradigm shift of what [the law] historically sees as a crime, or who they see as criminals–the girls. [Law enforcers] want to retain the power, for various reasons, to choose who is a victim out of a pool of criminals. Current prostitution statutes criminalize victims.”
With the establishment of a state law, Xian says the crimes will be addressed while victims will be protected. Law enforcement will then have specific funding for programs designed to address the illegal trade and trafficking of humans. Without these statutes, citizens and law enforcement will not adequately study and assess the problem in Hawaii.

History Repeating

House bills 576 and 577 have been introduced, re-introduced, stalled and killed. Rep. Gilbert Keith-Agaran, who for many citizens is the “John Brown hope” of deciding whether or not the bill will live or die, originally decided not to schedule the bills for a hearing in time for them to reach the House floor.
In an interview, the Weekly asked him why he wouldn’t schedule the bill, and what he wanted to say to those who are pointing fingers.
“I decided to hear the bills that the prosecutor said would actually help. Those are the bills that I’m pushing forward this year.”
Keith-Agaran believes the debate about human trafficking needs to be an open one. “We need to decide if we are looking at this as a law enforcement issue, or as a paradigm that all prostitutes are victims. Because that seems to be part of the underlying issue. I think law enforcement certainly isn’t ready to say that [all prostitutes] are victims.”
The theory that prostitution is a choice, is something Xian fiercely disputes. She believes that to understand sex trafficking and prostitution, people must understand that when a prostituted person is treated like a criminal and arrested, their story never makes it past the first interrogative interview.
“Trust is thrown out the window,” she says, “and no substantive work can be done to track the real criminals–the pimp or trafficker who trains her to say what they want her to say, and the johns who abuse her.”
While the bills could be re-introduced next session, Keith-Agaran said they probably wouldn’t make it out of his committee this year. However, in another attempt to resurrect it, Sen. Suzanne Chun-Oakland and Rep. John Mizuno revived the human trafficking bill by adding it as an amendment to HB 1003–which relates to the Penal Code–a bill introduced by the governor.
“The language that the Senate Human Services committee has placed in its Senate Draft 1 of HB 1003 has not been posted,” says Keith-Agaran. “If Sen. Chun-Oakland inserted the contents of the labor trafficking bill (HB 577), I’ll look at the legislation…if it moves on towards conference, Sen. Clayton Hee’s Judiciary committee will need to make a decision and return it to the House.”
Keith-Agaran adds that HD 2 of HB 1003 contained important language proposed by Gov. Abercrombie and supported by law enforcement to provide greater protection to witnesses in domestic violence cases.
“I hope that Sen. Chun-Oakland left that language intact in her Senate Draft and simply added the trafficking language,” he says.
Says Xian, “If Sen. Hee does not schedule the bill for a hearing by next Thursday (3/31), we’re back in the same place, and the bill will die.”

What is the real cost?

In Honolulu a woman can sell for as little as $150 or as much as $10,000 for a single night. In countries like Thailand and Brazil, orphans and daughters from poor families have reportedly been sold as servants and sexual slaves for less than $100. After being sold in cities such as Belgrade and Yugoslavia, young girls are reportedly locked in rooms, fed one meal a day, tortured with cigarette burns and forced to have sex with up to a dozen men a day, seven days a week, until exhaustion or disease wipes out her market value. Her pimp makes his money back in less than a week.
In Victor Malarek’s book, Inside the New Global Sex Trade, he points out that prostitution sprang up in Bosnia in 1995 to serve the United Nations troops. Malarek highlights the irony of these supposed “emissaries of civilization” feeding a barbaric industry. The author gives descriptions of 60-year-old US military officers showing up at social events with their 14-year-old sex slaves.
In 2008, Nidia Casati of the International Organization for Migration, which helps sex slaves return home, said that Bosnian women are “bought and sold constantly. They sell women like animals.”
She reports that the young girls are forced to pay off the cost of their own sale. They earn from “$50 an hour to $500 for a night, but are paid between $100 and as little as $13 a month.”

Future of Hawaii

Without legislation, Hawaii will continue as an international hub for sex crimes. Young girls will be trafficked throughout Honolulu, and what was once a family-tourism destination will become a sex-tourism destination.
It is the girl, repeatedly forced into sex that is put behind bars. Until lawmakers are awakened to the horrors inflicted by human trafficking, the war on slavery in Hawaii will persist.

Resources: How You Can Help

Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (P.A.S.S.)
Hale Kipa, Youth Outreach
808-589-1829 x 200
Missing Child Center Hawaii

The Ugly Truth

“I was told by an acquaintance that I could work at his restaurant. I decided to accept his offer as I thought my family might improve their life if I sent them my salary. Soon after my arrival, I realized that I was sold. My life since then has been like that of an animal.
I was sold three times. I begged my last owner to let me go home but she said I owed her lots of money that I had to pay back by sleeping with customers. I was always scolded and forced to do all kinds of terrible things.
It is impossible to describe how horrible and miserable my life was. For six and a half months, I was totally controlled by her. Every day I had to go out and sleep with men. I had no physical or spiritual freedom. She threatened that wherever I escaped to, I would be traced and killed and so would my parents in Thailand.”
–Testimony by Sara P., a woman trafficked from Thailand, [polarisproject.org]


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dame Elizabeth Taylor (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011) dies at 79. May she rest in peace.

photograph of Elton John with Elizabeth Taylor, is from here
Elizabeth Taylor was a grand and bright star, a premiere Hollywood celebrity, who has always been in my life. I grew up watching her movies. But she most came to prominence for me when she became an AIDS activist. It was then she showed the depth of her humanity publicly, taking up a cause the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, wouldn't touch. Most people didn't want to discuss the AIDS crisis of the mid-1980s because it was so linked to U.S. gay men's sexual lives. And gay men's sex lives is something the U.S. still has a problem with. But Elizabeth understood as much as anyone, this was a matter of life and death. No time to be prudish. No time to postpone conversations or action to stop the spread of AIDS. Unfortunately, AIDS continues to take the lives of so many people, disproportionately poor now, and African, and Black, and female, which is also why most of white Amerikkka won't discuss it.

She was an activist, and for that and so much more, I appreciate her and remember her fondly.

All that follows is from the Los Angeles Times. The following article was written by Elaine Woo.Please click on the title just below to link back to the L.A. Times.

Elizabeth Taylor, legendary actress, dies at 79

Elizabeth Taylor, star of stage and screen who married multiple times, became a successful businesswoman and helped to pioneer the fight against AIDS, dies of congestive heart failure.

March 23, 2011, 6:57 a.m.

Elizabeth Taylor, the glamorous queen of American movie stardom, whose achievements as an actress were often overshadowed by her rapturous looks and real-life dramas, has died. She was 79.

Taylor died early Wednesday of congestive heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said publicist Sally Morrison. She had been hospitalized six weeks ago.

"My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor and love," her son Michael Wilding said in a statement. "Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world. Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman, and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished. We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts."

Photos: Taylor's films | her life | marriages

During a career that spanned six decades, the legendary beauty with lavender eyes won two Oscars and made more than 50 films, performing alongside such fabled leading men as Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Richard Burton, whom she married twice. She took her cues from a Who's Who of directors, including George Cukor, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, George Stevens, Vincente Minnelli and Mike Nichols.

Long after she faded from the screen, she remained a mesmerizing figure, blessed and cursed by the extraordinary celebrity that molded her life through its many phases: She was a child star who bloomed gracefully into an ingenue; a femme fatale on the screen and in life; a canny peddler of high-priced perfume; a pioneering activist in the fight against AIDS.

Some actresses, such as Katharine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman, won more awards and critical plaudits, but none matched Taylor's hold on the collective imagination. In the public's mind, she was the dark goddess for whom playing Cleopatra, as she did with such notoriety, required no great leap from reality.

Taylor, New York Times critic Vincent Canby once wrote, "has grown up in the full view of a voracious public for whom the triumphs and disasters of her personal life have automatically become extensions of her screen performances. She's different from the rest of us."

Her passions were legend. She loved to eat, which led to well-publicized battles with weight over the years. She loved men, dating many of the world's richest and most famous, including Frank Sinatra, Henry Kissinger and Malcolm Forbes, and married eight times, including the two visits to the altar with Burton.

She loved jewels, amassing huge and expensive baubles the way children collect toys.

"It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a big ring on Elizabeth Taylor's finger," Andy Warhol once mused about the woman who owned the 33-carat Krupp diamond ring — a gift from Burton that she wore daily. It broadcast to the world that she was a lady with an enormous lust for life.

But Taylor attracted misfortune too. According to one chronicler, she suffered more than 70 illnesses, injuries and accidents requiring hospitalization, including an appendectomy, an emergency tracheotomy, a punctured esophagus, a hysterectomy, dysentery, an ulcerated eye, smashed spinal discs, phlebitis, skin cancer and hip replacements. In 1997, she had a benign brain tumor removed. By her own count, she nearly died four times.

In 2004 she disclosed that she had congestive heart failure and crippling spinal problems that left her in constant pain. For much of her life she struggled with alcohol and prescription painkillers.

She was often described as the quintessential Tennessee Williams heroine, a characterization Taylor did not dispute.

It meant, she once told the Los Angeles Times, "steamy, full of drama. I'm sure they didn't mean it kindly. Tennessee's heroines are all fraught. They're all on the brink of disaster."

On the evening of Oct. 6, 1991, two dozen helicopters carrying paparazzi and reporters whirred in the skies above singer Michael Jackson's ranch in Santa Barbara County. Despite an armada of hot-air balloons launched as a shield against prying eyes, a parachutist wearing a camera on his helmet managed to land mere yards from the 59-year-old bride and her 39-year-old groom.

Thus were Taylor and construction worker Larry Fortensky wed — amid Hollywood hoopla and conjecture about whether the movie star's eighth walk down the aisle would be her last.

Who could know? The only sure thing was that Elizabeth Taylor adored men.

"I'm more of a man's woman," she once admitted. "With men, there's a kind of twinkle that comes out. I sashay up to a man. I walk up to a woman."

She was 17 when Husband No. 1 laid eyes on her. That was Conrad Nicholas Hilton Jr., the handsome scion of the Hilton hotel clan. Their 1950 marriage, burdened by Taylor's celebrity and Hilton's gambling, drinking and abusive behavior, lasted eight months.

No. 2 was Michael Wilding, a British actor 20 years her senior, whose gentleness offered Taylor a safe haven. They had two children: Michael Howard, born in 1953, and Christopher Edward, born in 1955. They were divorced in 1957 after five years.

No. 3 was Mike Todd, a flamboyant producer ("Around the World in 80 Days") who would be one of the two great loves of her life. After he delivered an hour-long monologue about why they should marry and a 30-carat diamond to seal the deal, they exchanged vows in 1957. They had been married slightly more than a year when, on March 22, 1958, Todd was killed in a plane crash in New Mexico, leaving Taylor a widow at 26.

Photos: Elizabeth Taylor on film

In the days following Todd's death, Eddie Fisher — the singing idol who was Todd's best friend and actress Debbie Reynolds' husband — spent long hours by Taylor's side, crying with her as they read through thousands of sympathy letters and telegrams. When mutual consolation turned into romance, Fisher broke up with Reynolds and married Taylor in 1959.

After the wedding, Taylor's career reached new peaks, but Fisher's flagged, creating an opening for the second great love of Taylor's life.

The future No. 5 met Taylor at a Sunday afternoon swim party. "She was, I decided, the most astonishingly self-contained, pulchritudinous, remote, removed, inaccessible woman I had ever seen," Burton wrote in a diary passage quoted in Melvyn Bragg's 1988 biography of the Welsh actor. She was, Burton said, "beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography."

He and Taylor began a tumultuous affair in Rome on the set of "Cleopatra," the epic about the Egyptian queen who dies for love. Because both were huge stars married to other people, their adultery caused a worldwide scandal. A member of Congress introduced a motion to ban them from the U.S., and the Vatican condemned their "erotic vagrancy."

Such bad press, Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons wrote, "ought to have killed them." Others joked that it only encouraged the besotted stars. After a two-year separation, Taylor divorced Fisher in early 1964 and married Burton.

Theirs was a marriage on a grand scale. She gave him a Van Gogh, he lavished her with priceless gems, including the behemoth Krupp diamond and a 25-carat, heart-shaped pendant of diamonds, rubies and emeralds originally made for the bride of the man who built the Taj Mahal. Burton also outbid shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis for a $1.1-million, 69-carat diamond ring from Cartier in New York that became known as the Taylor-Burton diamond.

America's most famous couple not only spent extravagantly, but also fought and drank to excess. When their union finally unraveled, Burton told the London Daily Mail: "You can't keep clapping a couple of sticks [of dynamite] together without expecting them to blow up." They were divorced by a Swiss court on June 26, 1974.

The next year they retied the knot before an African tribal chief in Botswana. Less than a year later, in 1976, they severed the tie in a Haitian divorce, but their love for each other continued.

Taylor said that if Burton had not had a fatal brain hemorrhage in Geneva in 1984 she probably would have wound up with him a third time. "I was still madly in love with him until the day he died," she said. Long after his death, she kept a copy of his last letter — penned three days before his death — in her bedside drawer. She allowed many of the letters to be published in the book "Furious Love" by Sam Kushner and Nancy Schoenberger (2010).

Husband No. 6 appeared when the screen goddess needed an escort for a dinner honoring Queen Elizabeth and then-President Ford. The British Embassy paired her with John Warner, a ruggedly handsome former secretary of the Navy and gentleman farmer from Virginia. They were married in 1976, and in 1978 he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Although Taylor had been a devoted campaigner, she found she was ill-suited for the role of political wife. While Warner spent long hours in Washington, she passed the time watching television and eating until her weight ballooned to 180 pounds on a 5-foot-4 frame. "I don't think I've ever been so alone in my life as when I was Mrs. Senator," she wrote in "Elizabeth Takes Off," her 1988 diet book-cum-autobiography.

Seeking relief in acting, she starred in a Broadway production of Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes" and spent a year on the road. In 1982 she officially canceled her run as the senator's wife and moved to a mansion in Bel-Air.

By the end of 1983, she was burned out, bloated and abusing alcohol and pills. Confronted by her family and close friend Roddy McDowall, she checked into the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, where she slept in a dormitory, went on clean-up detail and, as she later told writer Dominick Dunne, was "peeled down to the absolute core" in group therapy sessions. Her public announcement that she was being treated for substance abuse encouraged other celebrities, including Liza Minnelli, to disclose their own struggles.

A clean and sober Taylor held on to her newfound health for a few years, until pain from a crushed vertebra sent her back to pills and booze. According to an investigation some years later by the attorney general of California, her addictions were enabled by three of her personal doctors, who wrote more than 1,000 prescriptions over seven years for painkillers, tranquilizers, antidepressants and stimulants.

During her second visit to the Betty Ford Center in 1988, she met Fortensky, a twice-married construction worker who was seeking treatment for a drinking problem. After leaving the clinic, Taylor invited him to Bel-Air for weekend barbecues and attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with him. Later she would tell gossip columnist Liz Smith that she was attracted to Fortensky because "he wasn't a wimp, and I'm not a wimp."

After the wedding in 1991, Fortensky tried to resume his working man's routine, rising before dawn to head to his construction job. At the end of the day, he would park his dirty boots outside the mansion door, shower and sit down to dinner with his wife by 6 p.m. The regimen seemed exotic to Taylor, who told Life magazine in 1992: "I used to go to bed at 1 or 2 in the morning. Now we're in bed by 10 o'clock, and I have to admit I like it."

But the charm wore off after Fortensky stopped working. Citing irreconcilable differences, she filed for divorce in 1996 and swore off marriage.

"I don't want to be a sex symbol," she once said. "I would rather be a symbol of a woman who makes mistakes, perhaps, but a woman who loves."

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London of American parents on Feb. 27, 1932. Her mother, a former stage actress named Sara Sothern, and her father, art dealer Francis Taylor, gave her and brother Howard seaside holidays, servants and plenty of toys. Adults doted on little Elizabeth, who had luminous eyes, alabaster skin framed by raven-black tresses and a tiny birthmark on her right cheek that her mother highlighted with a cosmetic pencil.

When she was 7, her family moved to Beverly Hills, where Francis managed an art gallery in the Beverly Hills Hotel. With her fetching little-woman looks and a mother who aggressively pushed her into auditions, Elizabeth was noticed by talent scouts and soon had a contract at Universal Pictures. In 1942 at age 10 she made her film debut in a little-noticed comedy, "There's One Born Every Minute." Soon she was earning more than her father, whose resentment of this fact deepened his reliance on alcohol and fueled occasional beatings of his daughter.

Photos: Elizabeth Taylor on film

"I stopped being a child the minute I started working in pictures," she told writer Paul Theroux in 1999.

She changed studios in 1943 when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was looking for a dog-loving English girl to play a small role in "Lassie Come Home." Elizabeth landed the part and became an MGM contract player.

Critics did not really take notice of her until MGM cast her in "National Velvet" as Velvet Brown, a girl who dreams of riding in England's Grand National steeplechase. "I wouldn't say she is particularly gifted as an actress," James Agee wrote in The Nation in 1944. "She strikes me, however, if I may resort to conservative statement, as being rapturously beautiful. I hardly know or care whether she can act or not."

After the success of "National Velvet," it was difficult for Taylor to call her life her own. Her contract, she said later, "made me an MGM chattel" for the next 18 years. The studio chose her roles, controlled her public appearances, picked her dates and stage-managed her first wedding. After a string of ingenue roles, she won her first romantic lead opposite Robert Taylor in the forgettable melodrama "Conspirator" (1950). She experienced enough success to be noticed by the Harvard Lampoon, which teased her for "so gallantly persisting in her career despite a total inability to act."

In 1951 she answered those skeptics with her work in "A Place in the Sun," directed by Stevens. Playing a restless, sexually eager society girl drawn to a young man from a lower-class background, Taylor won her first critical praise as an adult actress.

Shelley Winters, who played Taylor's lower-class rival in the movie, said in 1985 that "A Place in the Sun" was "still the best thing she ever did. Elizabeth had a depth and a simpleness which were really remarkable."

Stevens later hired her for another demanding role in "Giant" (1956), an epic about two generations of Texans. She played the wife of cattleman Rock Hudson, and James Dean, who died in a car crash before the movie was released, played a wild young ranch hand. Critics hailed her artistry, her "astonishing revelation of unsuspected gifts," the Times of London put it.

Her next three films would bring her Oscar nominations.

The first was for "Raintree County," a 1957 release directed by Edward Dmytryk, in which Taylor played a passionate Southern belle capable of madness.

The next nomination was for her portrayal of Maggie in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958). Taylor played the beautiful, sexually seething wife of Paul Newman, the alcoholic, latently homosexual son of a Mississippi plantation owner. Although the actress was widowed in the midst of filming when Todd's plane crashed, she managed to turn in a performance widely considered one of the best of her adult career.

"She was an intuitive actress," Newman said years later of the woman who never took an acting lesson. "I was always staggered by her ferocity, and how quickly she could tap into her emotions. It was a privilege to watch her."

Her third nomination recognized her work in "Suddenly Last Summer," another Williams story, which explored insanity, homosexuality and cannibalism. A commercial success like "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," it boosted Taylor into the box-office top 10 for the first time. She remained in the top 10 almost every year for the next decade.

In 1961 she won her first Oscar for her portrayal of a call girl in a tortured affair with a married man in "Butterfield 8." Although she hated the part and the script, she agreed to the role because it ended her contractual obligations to MGM.

Her next project was "Cleopatra" for Twentieth Century Fox. Taylor was loath to take the title role and set her asking price at $1 million. According to Fisher, she eventually earned $7 million after her percentages and other fees were paid.

With a record-breaking final price tag of $62 million, the film ushered in a new era of excess in Hollywood. It nearly bankrupted Fox, which was forced to sell its back lot bordering Beverly Hills to a developer, who turned those 200 acres into Century City.

The production also launched the most turbulent period of Taylor's life. She contracted pneumonia during filming in Rome and underwent an emergency tracheotomy. She was reported to be near death for days.

After she recovered and returned to the "Cleopatra" set, headlines around the world began to scream details of her affair with Burton. When the movie was finally released in 1963, the reviews were brutal, but audiences flocked to see its shameless-in-love stars.

Taylor co-starred with Burton in several more movies, including "The V.I.P.s" (1963); "The Sandpiper" (1965); "Doctor Faustus," "The Comedians" and "The Taming of the Shrew" (all 1967); "Boom!" (1968); "Under Milk Wood" and "Hammersmith Is Out" (both 1972); and an aptly titled television movie, "Divorce His, Divorce Hers" (1973). Critics found most of their collaborations unremarkable.

The exception came in 1966, when the ritzy couple were cast against type in Edward Albee's drama of marital angst, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Taylor gained 25 pounds and donned a gray wig and extra padding to play Martha, the frumpy, foul-mouthed, highly educated wife of Burton's henpecked college professor. She was reportedly terrified by the challenge of playing a role so far removed from her glamorous persona.

Nichols put the Burtons and the other two cast members — George Segal and Sandy Dennis — through weeks of private rehearsals and closed the set during filming. Gradually, Taylor said, she grew so comfortable in her "Martha suit" that it freed her acting.

Critics lavished praise on her performance, calling it the best of her career. The film won five Oscars, including Taylor's second for best actress. She also won awards from the National Board of Review, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the New York Film Critics Circle and what is now the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Photos: Elizabeth Taylor on film

Her next film, "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (1967) with Brando, showed more of Taylor as a serious actress, but it was followed by a torrent of bad movies that made it easy for critics to dismiss her again. Her voice, thin and inflexible, was considered one of her chief limitations.

Nonetheless, she played a surprisingly broad range of roles, including a rollicking performance as a bitchy wife in the 1972 movie "X Y & Zee." Critic Pauline Kael, writing in the New Yorker, said Taylor knocked "two fine performers [Michael Caine and Susannah York] right off the screen."

Taylor portrayed an aging movie star in "The Mirror Crack'd" (1980), an all-star adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel. She also dabbled in television movies and returned to the stage, earning mixed reviews on Broadway in 1981 in "The Little Foxes." In 1983, she reunited professionally with Burton in the Noel Coward farce "Private Lives," a play about a divorced couple whose romance is rekindled by a chance meeting. "Life doesn't imitate art in this 'Private Lives,'" the New York Times' Frank Rich wrote, "it obliterates it."

With her acting career in decline, she turned to business. In 1987 she introduced Elizabeth Taylor's Passion, a perfume sold in a purple, heart-shaped flask for $165 an ounce. It would eventually become the fourth-bestselling women's fragrance in America, grossing $70 million a year. In the 1990s she introduced another successful scent, White Diamonds.

Among her last acting jobs was the modest role of Fred Flintstone's mother-in-law in the 1994 release "The Flintstones," Universal's live-action version of the cartoon series. Critic Leonard Maltin called her performance "deliciously funny." She also lent her voice to a character on Fox Television's popular animated show "The Simpsons."

In 2001, she co-starred with Debbie Reynolds in the ABC movie "These Old Broads," in which Reynolds played an aging Hollywood actress and Taylor her agent. The movie — written by Carrie Fisher, Reynolds' daughter with the man who four decades earlier had left her for Taylor — brought a happy ending to one of Hollywood's most famous feuds.

Taylor said she would have relished more character roles but the market was limited for aging glamour queens. Neither could she slowly fade away: Her every move was still fodder for the tabloid press. "So I thought, if you're going to screw me over, I'll use you," she told Vanity Fair in 1992. "I could take the fame I'd resented so long and use it to do some good."

Taylor had many gay friends and, as the AIDS epidemic mushroomed, some of them were dying. In 1985, she became the most prominent celebrity to back what was then a most unfashionable cause. She agreed to chair the first major AIDS benefit, a fundraising dinner for the nonprofit AIDS Project Los Angeles.

She began calling her A-list friends to solicit their support. Some of Hollywood's biggest stars (Sinatra reportedly among them) turned her down. Taylor redoubled her efforts, aided along the way by the stunning announcement that Hudson, the handsome matinee idol and "Giant" co-star, had the dreaded disease.

Thanks to Taylor's high profile and public sympathy for Hudson, the star-studded AIDS fundraiser netted $1 million and attracted 2,500 guests, including former First Lady Betty Ford. Hudson was too ill to attend but used the occasion to release a major public statement about his illness.

Randy Shilts, who wrote the pioneering AIDS chronicle "And the Band Played On," said Taylor made a profound difference.

"Elizabeth Taylor got AIDS on 'Entertainment Tonight,' and you can't underestimate the value of that kind of exposure," Shilts said. "It made the disease something that respectable people could talk about."

Taylor went on to co-found, with Dr. Mathilde Krim, the first national organization devoted to backing AIDS research, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or AmFAR. In 1991 she formed the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which directly supports AIDS education and patient care. She denounced President George H.W. Bush, accusing him of inaction on AIDS; called for AIDS testing; and emphasized personal responsibility in prevention of the disease. "People shouldn't stop having sex — I'd be the last person in the world to advocate that — but safe sex," she said, "is important."

Her AIDS work brought her the Legion of Honor, France's highest civilian award, in 1987 and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1993.In 2000, Queen Elizabeth made her a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, an honor on the level of knighthood.

Through her various efforts she would eventually raise more than $270 million for AIDS prevention and care.

In late 2007 she made a rare return to the stage to raise another million in a benefit performance of A.R. Gurney's bittersweet play "Love Letters" at Paramount Studios. Striking Writers Guild members temporarily laid down their picket signs to allow Taylor and guests to support the event without guilt or rancor. After her moving reading brought the audience to its feet, the frail actress stood up from her wheelchair to acknowledge the ovation. She was still regal — and dripping diamonds.

In addition to her sons Michael and Christopher Wilding, Taylor is survived by daughters Liza Todd and Maria Burton, 10 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

Her family plans a privater funeral this week. Instead of flowers, contributions may be made to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation at elizabethtayloraidsfoundation.org. Personal messages can be posted to a Facebook tribute page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Elizabeth-Taylor-Tribute.

Photos: Elizabeth Taylor on film