Tag Archives: Katie Couric

Katie Couric and the Transgender Community

23 Jan

Katie CouricI need to thank my friends Nel Ward and Jodi Sisson, both of whom have amazing voices for social justice, for inspiring me to write this story.  I have always appreciated Katie Couric, never more than when she interviewed Sarah Palin. Couric was one of the very few who actually approached Palin as a journalist, for which I will always be grateful. Sadly, this story brings up many questions for me around Couric’s intent and impact on the targeted transgender population.

Katie hosted  Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) and model Carmen Carrera. While there was a little space for each woman to talk about their current respective projects, Couric seemed unpleasantly focused on genitalia and sadly kept showing pictures of Carrera in bandages — a constant reminder of surgery. What a sad loss of the opportunity for Couric to have demonstrated some solidarity with the transgender community. Can we focus on “hearts not parts?”

What was lovely was how Laverne Cox handled the interview.  She was exceedingly gracious and did a marvelous job of highlighting her activism within the LGBTQ community. Brava!

I don’t want to judge Couric too harshly here. I don’t presume to know the workings of her heart. I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt and allow for: perhaps she was trying to set the stage for Cox and Carrera to educate the general population around transgender issues and how transgender people have to navigate the world very differently from cisgender people. I hope this was the case, and that Couric was just clumsy in this attempt.  Cox does a marvelous job of addressing the bizarre focus on genitalia:

That preoccupation…objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people’s lives is that so often we’re targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community and our unemployment rate is twice the national average…When we focus on transition, we don’t get to talk about those things.

Perfectly stated. Again, I will challenge us all to focus on Hearts Not Parts! Ms. Couric, if I have in any way misrepresented you, I welcome your feedback.

Sadly, we have more concrete evidence of transphobia, which Cox addressed, in Louisiana. Councilman Ron Webb of Shreveport, LA said: “The Bible tells you homosexuals are an abomination” adding that he “does not socialize with LGBT people,” in his opposition to a bill that would protect LGBT people from discrimination. Webb was using his bible as a weapon to justify his bigotry.  Fortunately, Pamela Raintree, a transgender woman, addresses Webb in a most eloquent way and causing Webb to withdraw his opposition:

“Leviticus 20:13 states, ‘If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, they shall surely put him to death,'” Raintree began. “I brought the first stone, Mr. Webb, in case that your Bible talk isn’t just a smoke screen for personal prejudices.”

Well done, Ms. Raintree!  Fortunately, here in Portland, Oregon we have several organizations that support transgender people, including TransActive, which supports transgender youth.

Hero of the Week Award: September 28, French President François Hollande

28 Sep

Hero of the Week

What a delight to celebrate a world leader taking a strong international stand for basic human rights. French President François Hollande made an historic speech at the United Nations this week. Using his own nation as an example, he discussed the obligation of leaders to fight for universal human rights and freedoms.

France will continue to engage in all these struggles: for the abolition of the death penalty, for women’s rights to equality and dignity, for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality, which should not be recognised as a crime but, on the contrary, recognized as a sexual orientation.

All member countries have the obligation to guarantee the security of their citizens, and if one nation adheres to this obligation, it is then imperative that we, the United Nations, facilitate the necessary means to make that guarantee. These are the issues that France will lead and defend in the United Nations. I say this with seriousness. When there is paralysis… and inaction, then injustice and intolerance can find their place.

Well said, Mr. President! How nice to see that France replaced Sarkozy with someone truly presidential. Let’s hope American voters are smart enough not to do the opposite this November.

Honorable mention this week goes to two women who shared their personal struggles to help improve the lives of thousands. Katie Couric revealed her youthful battle with bulimia in an interview. A few days later, Lady Gaga expanded on her Born This Way foundation to include victims of poor body image, discussing her battles with anorexia and bulimia because she “felt like a freak.” Let’s hope that the courage and leadership they have shown help remove stigma and move the dialog forward productively.

Glass Ceiling: Death of Women’s Movement?

8 Sep

I need to thank my friend Jen Lockett for inspiring me to write this post. When Jill Abramson became the first woman ever to hold the position of Executive Editor of the New York Times this past Tuesday, I began to reflect upon how solid the glass ceiling remains for women generally. This makes me think of Marx: “Progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.”  Given the number of positions that have yet to be held by women and by the bizarre number of women who vote against women’s issues alongside John Boehner and his misogynistic minions, also called the House of Representatives, I worry that the still much-needed women’s movement is dead, or in need of resuscitation.

Here are some examples of significant positions yet to be held by women:

White House chief of staff: I’m hopeful that we will see a pro-woman woman in this position within the next five years.

News network president: Here I am not as optimistic. I was elated when Katie Couric became the first female to anchor the nightly news on CBS solo, but she was replaced by a man and apparently the major networks remain an all boys club.

Supreme Court Chief Justice: Let’s face it; this will not happen while Scalia, Thomas, and Alito are living, and you can’t kill the undead.

United States President: I really would like to see this happen in my lifetime but allow me this one caveat: I would rather eat my own spleen with a rusty spoon than see a vicious homophobic anti-woman like Michele Bachmann take the office of POTUS.  Am I the only one that finds it somewhat shameful that we are of the last Western Countries to have a women head of government?

I do realize and appreciate that we are making progress in the area of women’s rights as we must simultaneously work to eradicate racism, ageism, and all other forms of oppression. I do look for more strong voices, both female and male, working for the women’s movement. For those that are paying attention, I have also tagged this post LGBTQ, for I cannot underscore enough the connection between misogyny and homophobia and the interconnectedness between all forms of oppression.

Here is more information you can read about the glass ceiling.

How Many Wrongs Make You Right(-wing)?

30 Jan

The Querulous Quartet Try to Trump Truth

Just saying something doesn’t make it so. Unless, apparently, you bloviate from the Right wing. Don’t get me wrong, there are idiots and fact-averse blowhards left, right, and center. It is particularly creepy, however, to see the culture of “don’t bother me with facts” that has become a replacement of logic on the Right. This culture started with the bumblings of Reagan and the insidious architecture of Gingrigh. It perpetuated through the pseudo-christian machinations of Dobson and Buchanan. Today it is exemplified by that Querulous Quartet: Beck, O’Reilly, Limbaugh, and Palin.

I had an embarrassment of riches when choosing examples:

  • First, there’s the recent Bill O’Reilly hypocrisy over the use of Nazi rhetoric (good summary here). If anyone else does it, it’s abominable. If Bill does it, he’s taken out of context. If people don’t buy that, he just repeats it REALLY LOUD. That’ll make it true.
  • Republican leaders in Congress maintain that the Affordable Care Act is Socialism while gladly accepting their own generous government-sponsored health care.
  • How about the invention of the phrase “activist judge” to describe anyone who does something the Right doesn’t like, going to such extremes as ousting judges for doing their jobs. Of course, pretending that corporations are people isn’t activist at all.
  • A great non-fact is the myth of the leftist media. The pundits cry “First Amendment” when Juan Williams is fired for violating his contract and shriek ‘BIAS” when Katie Couric actually dares to interview Sarah Palin. Meanwhile, FauxNews dominates in the ratings and corporate-owned news outlets put profits ahead of stories.
  • Of course, the good old First Amendment doesn’t matter if you want to censor an art exhibit. It’s especially handy if you can pretend that it was publicly funded (even though it wasn’t). That’s right out of the “public broadcasting is all government funded” playbook of lies.
  • It’s also fun to argue that “homophobia” isn’t a real word, unless, of course, you can take a test online that proves you aren’t a homophobe when you spread lies and vicious invective against the LGBT community for a living.

Pundits and politicians on the Right are happy to create these deceptions to reinforce their worldview. If questioned by anyone, they scream about the left trying to silence them, which would be laughable if it weren’t so tragically, transparently false.

Ask for a fact, get a talking point, never a simple response or an honest “I don’t know.” Sadly, the American public are more and more like Yahoos, snatching up the non-facts like they were the last McNugget in the box.

This is especially apparent when you look at public responses in online forums of any sort. Leftist commenters are capable of being strident and rude just like anyone else, but they tend to at least try to make a supportable point. The rightward comments come straight from the great bible of non-facts.

A great example pops up any time a forum starts dealing with gay rights issues. A simple kiss on a popular television program turns into an opportunity for a screeching double-standard about affection. A conversation about the wrongful dismissal of a gay student teacher summons up the old “why must the gays always bring up the bedroom?” canard, ignoring the fact that it’s the Right that seems strangely obsessed with sex whenever the word gay pops up. More insidiously, playing the bedroom card skirts the central fact that the agenda is control over civil rights, not real concern about propriety.

Right-wing bloggers are as prone to play the “because I said so” card as the pundits and the prowlers. Recently, the blog NW Republican took exception to our Bigot of the Week award. The thrust of the initial post was that the word “bigot” is loaded and mean-spirited. When commenters pointed out that the word was used in context and with substantiation, the reply of the blogger was quite telling:

“MY POINT WAS NOT TO DEBATE THE ISSUES IN THE VARIOUS POSTS.”

That’s right, the context and the issues aren’t relevant. All that matters is that the blogger found the certain words “loaded” even though they were used in contexts that substantiated them, linking back to the words and deeds of the people who were discussed. Ironically, he simultaneously labelled the bigot award as fascism, quite a loaded word in itself. The whole comment thread is a great case study in the Right-wing approach to argument. Point your finger, scream a label and a talking point, and ignore any facts that are presented. Those who debate you are mean-spirited fascists who use loaded language. The actual issues at hand are not relevant.

Arguing with someone who takes the non-fact, because-I-say-so approach to discourse begins to feel like Heinlein’s quip:

“Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

Bonus points to our regular readers Jan (PenguinLad) and Lex (WebWordWarrior) for offering the singing lessons in this particular sty.

As futile as arguing with the unreasoning may be, we must not lose heart. In fact, we cannot afford to do so. Although we might prefer not to, we must gaze into the darkness presented by the non-facts. We cannot stop the Right from playing the “because I said so” game, but we can counter it by making sure the facts are out there. If we give up, the narrative is theirs, and we cannot afford to let them decide what rights we’ll get to have if everyone begins to believe that the can choose their own facts.

Women’s History: January 7

7 Jan

January 7, 1955, Marian Anderson is the first African-American woman to sing at the Metropolitan Opera.  Anderson was one of the most famous American contraltos of the 20th Century.  With the aid of President Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, in 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Happy Birthday, Katie Couric.  I will always love her for this moment with Sarah Palin.

Happy Birthday, Zora Neale Hurston, pioneering scholar of African American folklore.

Quote of the day:

    Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they have come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing, until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.  Zora Neale Hurston

 

 

%d bloggers like this: