Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Het Men's Wrongs, and Women's and LGBT Rights: CODE RED tackles the issues

image of button is from here

What follows is a cross-post from CODE RED. For more information or to contact CODE RED, note this contact information:

   Twitter: @redforgender

Guyana Launches Men’s Affairs Bureau to Tackle Homosexuality, Address Domestic Violence

Guyana launched its Men’s Affairs Bureau last month. To my knowledge, it is the only Caribbean country to have one. If the trend by which Caribbean Women’s Bureau quickly became Gender Bureaux in the 1990s and 2000s is any indication, more Caribbean countries may be following the lead of Guyana. Even in the absence of a men’s affairs bureau other Caribbean countries have used their Bureaux of Gender Affairs to address what they deemed to be important issues for men. For example, “in Trinidad & Tobago on March 8 2001, a female minister and former Minister of Culture and Gender Affairs, announced that the state would establish an anti-horning unit to create jobs for men so that women would not have to horn them” (Barriteau 2003).

From the media reports of the launch, attended by no less than the President himself, it appears that the Men’s Affairs Bureau is intended to address at least the three following things:

1) Domestic Violence

The establishment of this bureau was born of the recognition that in this whole effort to address violence against women, we were perhaps failing to address a necessary component, the men – who are in most cases, the abusers – thus making our efforts less than holistic.” (Minister of Human Services)

2) Prevent Male Homosexuality

“We don’t want every young male child to start thinking that that is ok; I am not going to say the word. If we don’t want them to think that, then we need to start providing a community of men where they can get together and discuss male problems in a strong masculine environment. (President of Guyana)

3) Restore Men to their rightful place

Caribbean sociology scholar Linden Lewis who has done work in the area of Men and Masculinities Studies outlined his concerns with the Men’s Affairs Bureau:

Quite apart from distancing themselves from such backward thinking, regrettably speakers at the launch of MAB seemed to embrace the idea of restoring a particular kind of gender order. One speaker talked about honouring men and giving them their place in society. These are not words of reassurance of gender collaboration. Rather the expression of such an intent is more in sync with the notion of returning men to a place of dominance. Furthermore, the remarks about some unspecified process that leads to effeminacy could only be regarded as ill informed and unhelpful. These remarks are also at odds with the expressed idea of respecting people’s sexual orientation and not persecuting them for the same.

The anti-homosexual rhetoric goes hand in hand with the need for men to be restored to their rightful place. It is the re-inscription of heteropatriarchy. The need to address domestic violence also dovetails with this agenda which seeks to preserve male dominance but rid it of it pathological excesses. What is expected to emerge is a gentler, kinder patriarchy. But a patriarchy nonetheless.

There are many issues facing Caribbean men which need to be addressed. However, it seems that Caribbean governments are unable to address men’s issues outside of a framework of re-inscribing male dominance. For example, if the intention is to ensure men’s right to a good life why is men’s violence toward each other not on the agenda? Is there anything else which claims more young Caribbean men’s lives?

The Men’s Affairs Bureau intends to foster small discussion groups of men across the country. Is it wishful thinking to expect that these groups will move beyond the ill-informed anti-woman, anti-homosexual, misogynistic rhetoric of the launch ceremony and focus on how men can and do contribute towards a more equitable and just society?

At CODE RED we have been able to foster dialogue among and between Caribbean women and men who are committed to everyone’s right to a good life. We hope that our state mechanisms for ensuring gender equality will arrive at some ability to do the same.

It is worth noting, however, that Women’s Affairs Bureaux in the Caribbean (perhaps with only the exception of Barbados) came out of the tireless hard work of women/feminist activists who insisted that the state respond to the needs of women. These bureaux have traditionally been under-staffed, under-funded, its employees grossly over-worked and underpaid, “institutionalised to fail” and construed as “illegal”. So while we hope that the MAB will prove to be a progressive institution we are not for a moment ignorant of the gender politics of its establishment!

Join CODE RED for gender justice on facebook or follow us on twitter. By redforgender, on April 10, 2011

The U.S. White Gay Media Gets It Wrong and Racist... again.

image is from here

My emotional and political ties to women in and from the Caribbean goes back close to thirty years, beginning with reading the work of Audre Lorde and Michelle Cliff and continues through to my current connection to CODE RED, a blog whose posts I'm very eager to share here. This is not the first time I've posted about CODE RED here at A.R.P., and it surely won't be the last.
image of book cover is from here
image of book cover is from here

What follows is re-printed here by permission, with great thanks to everyone at CODE RED. Please click on the title below to link back. And please note the other contacts here:

   Twitter: @redforgender

Whose Caribbean?/What are we all hollering for?

As reported by the BBC:
“The United Nations General Assembly has voted to remove sexual orientation from a key resolution that calls on member countries to investigate extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions that are motivated by prejudice.”
Many Caribbean countries either voted against or abstained from the UN motion to eliminate sexual orientation from a list of protections which includes members of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities. Some US-based LGBT sites and blogs are arguing that “the Caribbean voted to kill gays”.

As the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission argued:
“This decision in the General Assembly flies in the face of the overwhelming evidence that people are routinely killed around the world because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, and renders these killings invisible or unimportant.”
The resolution is shameful and the Caribbean’s stance is indeed cowardly, disappointing and homophobic. However, reports like the one at the link below from the Dallas Voice smack of privilege and imperialism. It represents the Caribbean as a tourist playground and threatens to boycott travel to the region. I am reminded here of Jacqui Alexander’s essay “Imperial Desire/Sexual Utopias: White Gay Capital and Transnational Tourism” which demonstrates how both homosexual and state-endorsed heterosexual tourism have been exploitative, imperialist and renativizing.

The challenge really is to conceive of a politics which is larger than ourselves and larger than any single issue. We have witnessed increasing LGBT activism in at least one Caribbean territory. As Thomas Glave’s anthology insists this is Our Caribbean. Many of the Caribbean’s marginalised and disenfranchised are loving and living in this region (regardless of the lack of political will of governments to address entrenched inequities). There is never a single story. Especially when that story is an imperialist, nativizing one.


Response to the above post by another CODE RED member:

What are we all hollering for?

Sounds like Butler’s recent critique of secularism… Imperialism and racism repackaged under the guise of a ‘progressive’ outlook. In applying Butler’s writing to an examination of the ‘progressive’ posture of the US gay rights lobby, I find it intriguing that their outlook once again positions Caribbean peoples as uncivilised, primitive, backward and in need of redemption.

This is problematic. I believe that debates on homosexuality decreasingly centre on questions of morality and increasingly take on questions of national superiority, sovereignty and progress. Within this narrow framing, the struggle for the rights of gays becomes the ‘burden’ of a privileged and enlightened few.

Many parallels can be drawn between the American gay rights lobby and the British anti-slavery movement. Some planters argued that the quest for the abolition of slavery challenged the right of colonies to self-determination. Similarly, some who oppose homosexuality in the Caribbean argue that it is an European and North-American perversion that has been imposed on Caribbean societies.

Perhaps, I’m wrong… I have noticed that many who wish to appear as progressive within the Caribbean offer a merely cosmetic support to the rights of gays and lesbians in the region.

So I ask:

Should we ever take it upon ourselves to fight ‘on behalf of others’?

How do struggles for improvements in of the quality of lives become questions of national sovereignty and progress?

In all of the racket, can we in the Caribbean even recognise the voices of those that we claim to be fighting for or against anymore?

Have we lost track of what impelled us to fight in the first place?

Or will we all ultimately lose our voices or become voiceless?

It is always problematic to be debate an issue on terms that have been taken as given. There is little room to manoeuvre for those on either side of the debate. The same old answers to the same tired questions will always resurface…

Many Caribbean feminists echo Alexander’s work in calling for the removal of barriers to the attainment of full citizenship.

However, I believe that their aims and intentions, though similar on the surface, diverge sharply from those of the American gay rights lobby.

Members of social movements in the Caribbean should be vigilant about the alliances that they form. They should also interrogate the terms upon which they are asked to articulate their visions for social change. After all, if we as members of these movements advance our projects under the banner of progressiveness, then do we not (to play on Wynter’s terms) become complicit in ‘niggering’ and ‘nativising’ our own as well?

As my Dad says: When you see a group of people standing up and hollering, don’t assume that they are all shouting for the same thing…

So what are we all hollering for?


Will The Truth-tellers Please Come Forward, and Take Control of Our Media?

(For the transcript, on the truth of corporate capitalism and the U.S. government, see the end of this post.)

I live inside a country that has, as it's most foundational value, this: don't tell the truth about who we are and what we do.

With this at the root, all manner of atrocities spring up as winding, voracious, vile vines of  lies, deceptions, delusions, forms of denial, and defensive protection of power used so abusively that when anyone else even speaks of using power similarly, they are bombed to death or otherwise destroyed.

I live in a country that is actively engaged in at least three illegal wars--the U.S. government has never been especially honest or even clear about what "war" means, hence the one U.S. men wage against women within and beyond the U.S. is never called war by this country's not-so-gentle-men.

I live on land see as possess-able by the occupiers, the criminal, thieving aliens who have declared this THEIR home and THEIR land, as if no one was at home here before the european men came here to rape, enslave, and slaughter their way to the top of new hierarchical forms of civilisation, currently called CRAP by me, but called variations on white supremacist capitalist patriarchy by many people with heart and conscience, including bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, and Marimba Ani.

When the leaders, who are criminals, call workers who come from Mexico to the U.S. to work,  "illegal", this should sound an alarm that the murderers are running the prison.

The President, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the terribly vocal and influential lobbyists for corporate powers, the attorneys working for multi-nation-invading U.S. corporations, the patriarchal racist corporatised media, work hand-in-hand, with varying levels of agreement and collusion, to tell lies and pretend that's the truth, and to declare truth-tellers liars.

So, what we have is a country that can tell us all about how "Murderous" Mexico (the whole of the country??)  is, on the cover of the New York Review of Books, but cannot, in the pages of the New York Times, tell us exactly how murderous the U.S. military is, or how murderous men are to women. Nor can ABC, NBC, CBS, and FUX-with-our-heads tell us the truth about anything at all: nuclear power plant disasters, other ecocidal atrocities committed by rich corporations, gynocidal atrocities committed by men, racist-genocidal atrocities committed by the U.S. government, and so on.

We can be led to believe that infants and children who are Palestinian and Muslim and Arab will grow up to be terrorists, but not that the U.S. government and the Israeli government are terroristic and behave with no regard for human rights law at all.

We proclaim "whites", repeatedly, to be an endangered species in the U.S., as if governing wealthy white men have not been engaged in genocidal activities here for centuries.

All in all, I think it's wise to trust nothing coming out of the mouths of anyone who has lots and lots of structural, economic, institutional political power, and to believe, far more, those who do not, such as the realities described by women worldwide, about what men do, about what the U.S. does, and about what giant corporations do.

And when you hear anyone who is heterosexual blaming gay males and lesbians for anything being wrong, or hear men blaming women, or hear whites blaming Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous people, just know that there's a strong chance that there's some massive projection going on, and protection of abusive power, including the power to lie and be believed.

*          *          *
What follows is all from *here* at Democracy Now!
President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reached a last-minute budget deal on Friday, narrowly averting a government shutdown. The deal would cut roughly $38 billion from a federal budget expected to exceed $3.7 trillion this year. We speak to Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. "Many of us who supported President Obama just feel that he’s abandoned the field," Sachs says. "He’s left it to the right wing, which wants nothing more than taxes cut for the rich, whereas the American public is saying very clearly, in every opinion survey, one after another, if you want to close the deficit, go after taxes for the rich, raise them, cut military spending, cut the excess profits in the insurance industry and healthcare, do things that would really make a difference—don’t punish the poor." [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reached a last-minute budget deal Friday, narrowly averting a government shutdown. The deal would cut roughly $38 billion from a federal budget expected to exceed $3.7 trillion this year. Many details have yet to be worked out.
Much of the deal has not yet been made public. Known cuts include $13 billion from the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. The GOP won a stand-alone vote over barring Planned Parenthood from accessing federal funds. A vote on defunding public broadcasting was dropped, as was a ban on using Environmental Protection Agency funds to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama characterized some of the cuts as, quote, "painful."
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This agreement between Democrats and Republicans, on behalf of all Americans, is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them. And I certainly did that. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful.
AMY GOODMAN: White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe announced yesterday President Obama plans to release a long-term plan on reducing the nation’s deficit Wednesday. Speaking on Meet the Press, he said President Obama will insist the nation cannot afford to continue tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
SENIOR ADVISER DAVID PLOUFFE: Now, under the Republican congressional plan, people over $250,000 get over a trillion dollars in tax relief. So this is the important thing: you’re making a choice. You’re asking seniors, the middle class to pay more. You wouldn’t be having to do that if you weren’t giving the very, very wealthiest in this country just enormous tax relief.
AMY GOODMAN: Plouffe made it clear that the House Republicans’ alternative, crafted by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, was unacceptable. He said, "Ryan’s plan] might pass the House, but it’s not going to become law."
Obama is also expected to propose cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and changes to Social Security, a discussion he has largely left to Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
Well, to discuss the budget deal, we’re joined right now by leading economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. He is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia and also president and co-founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit group aimed at ending extreme global poverty. He’s the author of numerous books and articles on development and economic policy.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Your understanding of what this agreement is?
JEFFREY SACHS: Well, this is a miserable step in the wrong direction. It started last December, when Obama and the Republicans agreed to cut a trillion dollars of taxes by extending the Bush tax cuts. And now, even though the details aren’t even worked out, apparently, they’re slashing into programs for the poor. So this is all going in the wrong direction, and many of us who supported President Obama just feel that he’s abandoned the field. He’s left it to the right wing, which wants nothing more than taxes cut for the rich, whereas the American public is saying very clearly, in every opinion survey, one after another, if you want to close the deficit, go after taxes for the rich, raise them, cut military spending, cut the excess profits in the insurance industry and healthcare, do things that would really make a difference—don’t punish the poor. And yet, that’s what Obama is giving up right now. It’s absurd. And when Plouffe says, "Well, it’s unacceptable that the taxes on the rich have come down," the President not only agreed to that last December, but when they announced the compromise this weekend, he referred to that historic agreement last December. So the whole thing is a bit of a mass confusion, and I find it absurd.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the four proposals.
JEFFREY SACHS: I say that there really are four proposals on the table right now. One is the Ryan plan; that is the extreme right: just do anything, slash anything, hit the poor, in order to get the tax rates down on the rich. It’s a fraud. But they have momentum because Obama is not resisting.
Then there was Obama’s muddle, because he put forward a budget plan last month, after all, not only for fiscal year 2012, but a decade-long framework. He agreed to keep taxes so low on the rich that, in effect, his proposals, if you look at the fine print, would squeeze the so-called civilian discretionary budget, where education, where infrastructure, energy, climate would all be squeezed to an unmanageable small level.
Then there’s a new proposal that the Congressional Progressive Caucus put forward last week. Terrific. It’s called the People’s Budget. It actually responds to what the people want, and that is, raise taxes on the rich, raise taxes on the corporations that are getting away with absolute unbelievable—unbelievably abusive loopholes, cut military spending, preserve spending for the poor, for education, for investment and so forth.
Then there’s a fourth position. That’s the American public. You notice the American public isn’t asked by Congress or the President these days, but the American public speaks clearly in opinion survey after opinion survey. It says the rich have had a free ride, the corporations have been running our country, the spending on the military is completely unjustified, and we want a public option on healthcare. All large majorities, not one of them happening. Why? Because the lobbyists are in control, both of the White House and Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you’re not just talking about in control of the White House and Congress, but what about the press? When you talk about these opinion polls that show a very progressive America, this is not reflected across the networks when you watch TV.
JEFFREY SACHS: Well, first of all, Fox News is pure propaganda. We know that. But it’s just relentless propaganda, and people respond to it. To my mind, the Tea Party is nothing but a Fox News Channel propagandistic creation. This is Roger Ailes at work. So that’s one part of it. But it gets a lot of—lot of press.
Same thing with the Wall Street Journal editorial page. That’s our leading business press, but it’s so relentlessly phony and right wing on the editorial page that you never hear anything about the middle. It’s only about tax cuts. It’s all this drum beat to cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes.
Then the mainstream, you know, basically, the New York Times, as far as I’m concerned, it just tries to protect its inside line to the White House. So, whatever the White House says, that’s what it reports. But it doesn’t report the fact that there’s a whole public opinion out there that needs to be covered. And I find that very, very sad.
AMY GOODMAN: But even outside of Fox, these discussions, for example, raising the issue of the military, that people recognize this as a huge drain on the budget, this is not raised, rarely in discussion.
JEFFREY SACHS: It’s true. When I am on talk shows and people talk about what to do, it’s all wringing your hands: "We have to cut entitlements, we have to cut entitlements." But the public is saying, "Can we get out of Afghanistan?" What an incredibly wrongheaded policy, wasting more than $100 billion a year, achieving nothing. But you’re right, this doesn’t get discussed.
AMY GOODMAN: And then, what about healthcare? What about these costs, and what can be done about it?
JEFFREY SACHS: Basically in healthcare, the U.S. has the most expensive system for what’s delivered of all the high-income countries. Why? Because we have this huge private sector health insurance industry. It’s hugely overmanned. Salaries are enormous. They spend a tremendous amount advertising, which doesn’t happen in other healthcare systems. Our specialists are paid way out of line with what happens in other countries. And that’s because we have a system that allows these huge costs, and then the government just pays a kind of cost-plus pricing, whereas a public option would get that under control and a system, called capitation, where basically insurance—or, health providers and public sector providers are responsible for the person and the family as a whole, not operation or procedure, one after another, that they get reimbursed for, is the much more efficient, low-cost way to do things.
All of it is to say, when the public option was taken off the table last year, despite a strong support of the public—and why did Obama take it off the table? Because the lobbyists told him to take it off the table. When that was taken off the table, we lost the chance to get healthcare costs under control. This is the problem. It’s lobbyists, morning 'til night. Whether it's lobbyists for healthcare, lobbyists for the financial sector, lobbyists for the war industry, and lobbyists for the tax cuts, they’re running Washington, both the White House and the Congress. And what the public wants—actually, the broad majority of the public—doesn’t get heard.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk more about the People’s Budget.
JEFFREY SACHS: The People’s Budget is a proposal of the leadership of 80 members of Congress, which is called the Progressive Caucus. I was so happy—
AMY GOODMAN: The largest caucus in Congress.
JEFFREY SACHS: I was so happy to see it when I saw it for the first time last week as it was being unveiled. I said, "Thank God. Something coming from Washington that makes sense," because they, too, have been crowded out. The White House has played a game, basically. If the far right is holding the agenda, the White House says, "We’ll be one step towards the center of the far right." But that means giving concession after concession after concession. What Obama is trying to do is to look reasonable, to look a little bit more reasonable than the extreme right. But to do so, he’s just compromising, compromising on core principles.
Then, finally comes the Congressional Progressive Caucus and says, "Stop it. Let’s do what the people really want." This is the wonderful thing about America. Sometimes you feel so frustrated: "What’s going on in this country?" as if everybody’s a Tea Partier. It’s not true. The broad majority of the public has very reasonable, very mainstream and compassionate views. They say, "Don’t slash for the poor. No, let’s start making the rich pay their due." That’s what the public says, the large majority. Who’s listening? Or who’s hearing them? The media keeps them out, by and large. And the White House and the Congress are dominated by the lobbies and by the concern about raising campaign funds. After all, President Obama is trying to raise a billion dollars for his 2012 election. Where is he going to get that? On Wall Street. Are they telling him, "Raise the taxes"? Unfortunately not.
AMY GOODMAN: What about House Speaker Boehner. What role is he playing in this?
JEFFREY SACHS: Well, the Republican Party is dominated by a absolutely obsessive single idea: slash anything, cut anything, as long as the taxes for our rich patrons come down. That’s the role he’s playing.
AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the different proposals as a—the taxes as a percentage of the GDP.
JEFFREY SACHS: Basically, right now, we’re collecting this year only 15 or 16 percent of our gross national income, or gross domestic product, as taxes. That’s not enough to pay for even the most basics of government, for Social Security, for Medicare or Medicaid, military, interest on the debt. And then you have all the rest government is needed for to help educate our children, to help keep our children safe, to have the infrastructure for productive economy, to address climate change and so forth. There’s no money for that right now.
The only way seriously to have government do what government needs to do for the American people is to raise revenues right now. Now, in a normal economic recovery, maybe our current tax system would go back up to 17 or 18 percent. Ryan’s proposal and Obama’s proposal is to stop somewhere 19 to 20 percent. But if you look at what we really need to have a normal country, we would have to be 23, 24 percent of GNP—that’s just basic arithmetic—to cover our core costs and to be able to face the needs of the American people for education, for roads that don’t collapse, for a climate that doesn’t get wrecked, for a modern energy system, for science and technology, for our competitiveness. So, this means tax—taxes on the rich and on the companies have to go up, if we’re going to have a normal country. But the Republicans are dead set against it. And until now, Obama has just compromised, compromised, compromised.
AMY GOODMAN: I know you have to go teach a class. How do you think President Obama has most failed the American people?
JEFFREY SACHS: He hasn’t led. His job in our constitutional system is to help show a way forward and help to explain, help to say why we need to go this way, not to stand in the back and then announce how historic an agreement is to slash taxes on the rich or how historic an agreement is to cut $38.5 billion that’s going to slash programs for the poor. That’s not his job. His job is to lead. That’s why we who supported him—I was one of them—expected something very, very different. Now, Wednesday, maybe he’s going to try again. We hear from Plouffe, OK, this time it’s for real. But if he comes out and does again what he’s been doing, I just think he’s lost the core, the heart, of the political movement that basically supported him to bring him to office.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeffrey Sachs, I want to thank you very much for being with us, leading economist, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, also president and co-founder of Millennium Promise Alliance.