The lady doth indeed protest

“Let it go,” I’ve told myself for hours and hours.  “It’s not worth the emotional and mental effort to respond,” I’ve said to myself.  “And,” I reminded myself, “never feed the trolls.”

And usually I can heed that advice when the trolls are clearly trolls, jumping out from dark cyber corners with such vile ugliness that you know every other stable intellect in view is rolling their eyes at them.  But what do you do with a troll that smiles and shakes your hand and travels in the same social-political circles?  With a troll that would not necessarily be universally identified as such?

Almost from the moment Mavis Taintor announced her candidacy as a Democrat aiming to challenge Dave LaRock for the 33rd House Delegate seat, Matthew Gallelli [and a few other “progressive” folks] launched a negative campaign of innuendo, rumor, and “facts” stripped of context in order to persuade people that Mavis was some kind of trojan horse, a “fake” democrat who for some reason was hell-bent on robbing Tia Walbridge of her evidently preordained right to be the Democratic candidate simply because Tia had announced first.   For the most part, myself and others who were taking the time to learn about both candidates ignored this nonsense.

For my part, I met and researched both candidates.  Even before either had announced their candidacy, I had already made a personal vow to myself that I would dedicate myself to unseating LaRock in 2017.  18 months ago, my seventeen year old came and told me that she was a transgender young woman.  I had no inkling that such a revelation was coming.  It has been quite a learning process for our entire family.  I am proud of my daughter for claiming her truth and living authentically.  And I am also very, very scared for her.  In the last year and one half I have learned:

“Statistics documenting transgender people’s experience of sexual violence indicate shockingly high levels of sexual abuse and assault. One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.1 Some reports estimate that transgender survivors may experience rates of sexual assault up to 66 percent, often coupled with physical assaults or abuse.2 This indicates that the majority of transgender individuals are living with the aftermath of trauma and the fear of possible repeat victimization.”

I have learned:

Transgender people are four times more likely than the general population to report living in extreme poverty, making less than $10,000 per year, a standing that sometimes pushes them to enter the dangerous trade of sex work. Nearly 80% of transgender people report experiencing harassment at school when they were young. As adults, some report being physically assaulted trains and buses, in retail stores and restaurants.

I have learned that “90% of transgender people had experienced harassment in the workplace.”

I have witnessed the election of Donald Trump and saw him prioritize – within his first month in office — dismantling the federal protections for transgender students that were established by the Obama administration.

And I have seen my elected representative repeatedly display bigotry when describing LGBTQ people as “abnormal,” exhibiting “bad behavior,” and “inappropriate”  LaRock is quoted in newspapers as saying, “There is an abundance of credible information indicating that the homosexual and transgender lifestyles are harmful to kids and adults.[i]  And, that “a Board of Supervisors’ proposed resolution to recognize LGBT Pride Month in Loudoun ‘promotes homosexuality and gender confusion to people of all ages’ and could be ‘used to promote, affirm and recruit young school-aged children to those lifestyles.’ “  He has called homosexuality and being transgender a “treatable disorder”  and repeatedly uses disavowed and discredited “research” to prop up his claims that children need to be protected from this “lifestyle.”

It is my opinion that any person that holds the above views is unqualified in principle to represent his fellow Americans.  It is a moral abomination that this man is my and my daughter’s elected representative.  Not only does he not represent our interests, his beliefs are a clear and present danger to my daughter and other transgender people.  My support of the Taintor campaign is deeply personal and not colored by any theoretical or “political” interests.

Unseating LaRock was and is my sole criteria in determining which candidate I chose to support, with my time, with my money, and with my voice.   After careful consideration, I chose to support Mavis Taintor and I have made an effort to share with others, both personally and publicly, why.  In doing so, I have attracted the persistent attention of Matthew Gallelli and other Wallbridge supporters.  Rather than explain why they are supporting Tia, they repeatedly share the same out-of-context accusations against Mavis, over and over, despite myself and others explaining and refuting those accusations explicitly and point by point.

This, in itself, is tiresome but it is their right.  And frankly I was content to let these conversations speak for themselves, allowing other readers the opportunity to hear both sides and come to their own conclusions.

Until twice in the last 12 hours, Matthew Gallelli posted some iteration of “the lady doth protest too much” in my direction.

Yes, I protest, Mr. Gallelli.  I protest your glib and superficial and slimy innuendo posted over and over and over again and your continued inability to actually make a substantive claim that you can articulate and defend.   I protest you using these tactics in a Democratic primary at a time when people of good conscience are resisting forces that want to divide us and harm the most vulnerable amongst us and undermine our basic democratic institutions.

I protest your tactics and your ethics, but most of all I protest your chauvinism and condescension.  How dare you?  This lady doth indeed protest, and if may allude to another literary work, next time when confronted with the choice I suggest you choose the tiger.  You may sustain less damage.

_________________________________________

 

[i] I will not, in this post, address the specious claim that the statistics I quote above about the bigotry and difficulties transgender people face are actual evidence that this assertion might be true. It is a ridiculous and logically faulty argument.  It is akin to claiming that being African-American is somehow inherently, essentially unhealthy and offering as evidence the fact that the African-Americans have been the victims of violence and discrimination. It is blaming the victim instead of the bigots.

Why Mavis Taintor Has My Vote

I want to thank Kamie Rambo Bledsoe for showing up on my personal time line and demonstrating in person the kind of narrow minded intolerance that if allowed to continue unchallenged will keep the Democratic party in the minority in the coming years in the VA State House.

I have a number of important points to make in this post and I hope if you care about who will be representing Virginia House District 33 in November you will carefully consider them all. Frankly, I hope if you care about the future of the Democratic Party you will carefully consider them all.

(1) I want it known for the record, I am not a paid employee of the Mavis Taintor campaign. I am personally volunteering over 20 hours a week (that is nearly full time for this stay-at-home parent of three children –two of them are struggling with health issues.) In fact, the Taintor campaign offered me a job which I declined explicitly (and my family could have used some money to help with medical bills, believe me) so that all of my Progressive friends and colleagues and collaborators in my community would know that what I am saying about the Mavis Taintor comes from my own heart and values and commitment.

(2) Kamie Rambo Bledsoe raised concerns on my page that have been circulating as gossip continuously since Mavis Taintor entered the race. I will address them substantively here.

(A) First, let’s get rid the petty and childish accusation that Mavis Taintor has “liked” Facebook pages of non-Progressive organizations and Republican politicians. This is such a ridiculous point that I cannot believe I’m having to address it. Many people follow all kinds of Facebook pages representing ideas they do not subscribe to because they care about the issues that those people or organizations address and want to keep tabs on what they are saying. If you are not informed about organizations that actively work to undermine the values that you care about, then you cannot effectively work to combat them. One cannot extrapolate from the fact that one follows an organization or an individual that one endorses that organization or individual. It is a ridiculous assumption. For example, I know plenty of progressives who keep track on what happens at Fox News and listens to their reports for the same reason. But I would not offer that as evidence that they support the values that Fox News tends to promote.

(B) Mavis is 71 years old. Which means she has been voting for longer than many of us have been alive. She identified as a Republican before the Moral Majority had such a stranglehold on the Republican Party. Back when New York Republicans were actually more socially Progressive and liberal than many Southern Democrats. To condemn her because she has evolved along with the evolution of politics in America is to assert the same kind of narrow-minded hyper-partisan frame of mind that keeps so much of American politics in gridlock today. It is intolerance and as such incompatible with progressive values. The truth is Mavis has been socially progressive her entire adult life. She has always been pro-choice. She marched against VietNam in the 70’s, she marched for women’s rights and equality in the 80’s, and she marched with a million moms for stricter gun control in 2000. She voted for Obama both times, and held a large fundraiser in her home for him. And she campaigned vigorously for Hillary.

(C) Kamie Rambo Bledsoe’s continued emphasis on Mavis’ two campaign contributions to Republican candidates is another example of her under-informed petty emphasis on appearance rather than substance. When Mavis Taintor gave a one-time contribution to Rudy Giuliani it was when he was a much respected and admired mayor and she lived in New York. Her one-time contribution to Ron Paul was at the request of her son. To condemn – or judge – fifty years of adult life based on these two acts is intolerance and pettiness of the highest order.

(D) Kamie Rambo Bledsoe, and the candidate she supports, seem to think that Mavis having a career in finance is sufficient reason, on its face, to disqualify Mavis from being a powerful advocate for progressive issues. Again, I find this intolerant, uninformed and narrow minded. Mavis was the first woman accepted into Citibank’s management training program. She spent her career breaking glass ceiling after glass ceiling, and, more importantly, mentoring, hiring, and promoting other women in finance. She spent her career lending to businesses small and large so that they could grow, hire more people, and fuel our economy. When Wall Street dirtied itself with speculation, derivatives and sketchy mortgages, she got out and started her own investment company. She invested safely and responsibly for her investors and she is proud of that.

(On a personal note, twenty years ago – long before I met Mavis – I was working for a nonprofit whose goal was to ensure that 100 million of the world’s poorest women had access to small [TINY] business loans so that they could earn income to send their children to school and work their way out of poverty. These were the world’s poorest women. Citibank foundation was the first large donor to this campaign with a contribution of $100,000. And the campaign did meet its global goal.)

(3) I identify as an old fashioned “bleeding heart liberal” and am politically as progressive as they come. I am the mother of black children and white children, gay children and a transgender daughter. I have dedicated myself completely to getting Mavis Taintor elected because I BELIEVE SHE CAN BEAT LAROCK. What Kamie Rambo Bledsoe and others seem to forget is that VA House District #33 is much larger than Loudoun County. This district is 2/3rd as red as it gets. Even if EVERY Democrat came out to vote in November, it would not be enough to guarantee a Democratic victory. In order to defeat LaRock, we need a candidate with the experience, the perspective, the flexibility, and the strength to appeal to Independent and Republican voters. That is just the hard cold truth. We also need a candidate to who can raise the nearly 1 million dollars it is estimated it will take to counter the money that LaRock and the GOP will pour into the race. The candidate that can do this is Mavis Taintor and that is why I will vote for her on June 13th and why I am asking you to do so as well.

Finally, if you would like the opportunity to meet with Mavis face-to-face and ask her you own tough questions, please let me know NOW. I promise to make it happen.

Thank you for reading this, and for sharing it.

Monday, sidling up against me like a hungry cat. Friendly as long as i cooperate.

In response to: Fighting All the Battles at Once

In response to: Fighting All the Battles at Once

Oy.  Where to begin with this one?  I could take the time to try to read and re-read and digest it slowly and compost inside over days and weeks until I could sit at a keyboard and a garden of eloquent syllables spewed forth. [How most of my essays occur.]  But I don’t have time for that.  I want to respond now.  So, I think, in this case, I will try a point-by-point retort.

Faux mea culpa at front

At the onset, the writer confesses to what he knows will be the fundamental problem with his essay.  That it is a “white man’s writing about social justice movements.”  He knows, “I’m going to get shit wrong and probably piss people off.”  So you’ve been warned okay?  Okay.  I’ll just stop writing this essay in response then? No. I won’t. Because this mea culpa actually misses the point. He thinks a mere acknowledgement of his (implied) privilege is sufficient to inoculate him from a kyriarchal critique of his argument.  It is not. The fact that you know your point of view is inherently limited does not protect you from folks pointing out the ways that your analysis fails because of that limitation.  I just end up thinking, “Dude, maybe you should have had someone with a less privileged lens read and comment on your post before you published it.”   And, “Just because you acknowledge you might piss people off doesn’t excuse you from actually doing it.”

Cursory [mis]acknowledgment of kyriarchy

In the second paragraph, the author similarly thinks by acknowledging kyriarchy*, it excuses him from meaningfully wrestling with how to address it. YES, dismantling an overlapping system of oppressions and biases is an enormous challenge. YES it is a huge messy knot and you cannot start everywhere at once and you do, of course, have to start somewhere. But just acknowledging that does not excuse you from the messy difficult work of moving forward in a way that doesn’t perpetuate the problem.

But there is a larger problem: a fundamental misunderstanding of kyriarchy and truly progressive work. And that misunderstanding is actually rooted in the gap between the author’s proforma acknowledgement in his “white maleness” and his inability to deeply grasp its implications.  He writes:

Basically, we need to advance specific causes in order to create a better society, and while doing that we need to specifically spend attention, effort, and money on correcting disparities between citizens in how those causes’ benefits and participation are distributed.  This means that every progressive movement has a cause, and a meta-cause.

The author believes that any “specific cause,” (in this case science, but one assumes climate change, or poverty, or money in politics, or gerrymandering, or any other progressive cause would do for his analysis) is somehow addressable, solvable, critiqueable, advanceable in isolation from an analysis of class, race, gender, etc.  That “correcting disparities” is a separate (“meta”?) issue and not intimately, inherently, intrinsically linked to the actual root causes of the issue he is trying to isolate.  This is begging the question; there are libraries of writing and analysis by people far more knowledgeable than I that unequivocally dispute this assumption.

The author again acknowledges this in theory, placing himself on the “side of progressives” and pays lip service to these intrinsic connections.   Why do I dismissive it as lip service?  Good question.

The “Gingrich is a gonad” argument

Now the author gets to specific examples. The author suggests that if one is going to approach Newt Gingrich to support scientific funding, one might want not to discuss the other complicated messy things like race, and class and gender issues in science. “it is probably worthwhile to pretend social justice issues aren’t relevant.”  And this is where the author’s blind spot as a white man betrays him. So many unacknowledged assumptions in this paragraph of five sentences.  So much operating in denial of actual fact.  First, the author assumes that any kyriarchal analysis of science funding would essentially boil down to “affirmative action or civil rights ‘overreaches.’  (Yes. I understand the ironic use of the author’s quotation marks on the word “overreach.”) The reality is that 20 mins of googling reveals that gender, class, and race bias in the sciences is actually a fundamental structural problem that contaminates the integrity of scientific research.  This is not a new problem.  Twenty years ago in Psychology 100 I learned that all of the major psychological scales, indices, and theories used in the field were based on research that had — since the inception of the field of psychology — been done solely on men.  Yet the conclusions were applied unreflectively to the other 51% of humanity as well.  In fact, this morning’s google search revealed that this gender bias is still so prevalent that it extends to drug testing in animal research!  Check my footnotes** for some more easy to find examples in the fields of medical research and psychology.

Let me repeat my key point here.  A kyriarchal analysis of scientific research indicates that bias in the sciences is actually a fundamental structural problem that contaminates the integrity of scientific research.  There is no “cause” and “meta” cause distinction to be made here.  If you are passionate about protecting the integrity of science, of ensuring public support and funding for meaningful scientific research, an understanding of the ways race, gender, and class impact and are impacted by scientific research is intrinsic to the success of that effort.

To go back to our Newt Gingrich example, the author assumes Gingrich is incapable of understanding that quality, scientifically valuable research that will advance our medical and technological priorities as a nation must allow for the contribution of a diverse background of scientists with the mandate to study diverse populations.  I do not make this assumption.

The author continues to try to straddle what he already suspects is a hard to defend distinction when he writes:

But I fear that always leading with disparity and participation leaves us all flailing to do science with fewer resources than we might have. I suspect there is room for a phalanx of influential policy lobbyists for science for whom their sole advocacy is funding and policy, leaving social issues of race, gender, and other identities entirely to others. But the rest of us, and the masses of us, need to stand for the eradication of disparities.

Strange [and undefended] assumption that we are “always leading with disparity and participation.” In my brief and amatuer research this morning, I have already demonstrated that this is a false dichotomy; excellent science requires from its inception, in its theoretical foundations — when hypothesis and test subjects are first selected — an awareness of cultural, gender and race bias disparity.  One who advocates for funding of quality, meaningful scientific research must be clear that by definition this includes a kyriarchal critique of that science or it doesn’t pass the test of being quality, meaningful research.  The author’s statement that, “I suspect there is room for a phalanx of influential policy lobbyists for science for whom their sole advocacy is funding and policy, leaving social issues of race, gender, and other identities entirely to others.” indicates clearly that he doesn’t understand this.

Silence in not golden — nor pragmatic

The author writes: ”I think there is good reason for us, when we see influential policy lobbyists who leave disparities off of their list of advocacy priorities, to pause and refrain from vilification. We should not assume hostility to a social agenda simply because a person is tactically silent about it.”

Again, he reveals the degree to which his mea culpa about being a white man is superficial and belies a real understanding of what that means.  Any person anywhere who has actually experienced the impact of white privilege knows that silence is deadly. Silence is consent. Silence conspires with the oppressor and with instruments of oppression.  Silence emboldens the oppressor and invigorates the institutions of oppression.  I do not need to “assume hostility to a social agenda” from your silence; your silence is hostility to a social agenda, whether you actually feel hostile or not.

The author writes, “Progressives lose, often, because we fall upon each other for perceived insufficiencies of commitment to the cause.”  Do progressives hold one another to what seems to be impossibly high standard of ethics?  Do we fight amongst ourselves because we do not seem to accord one another’s causes with sufficient priority? Yes of course. But that observation is a far cry from the assertion that this is why we lose. (If, in fact, we are losing, from the larger, longer perspective.) I could argue that it is because each of us, as progressives, do not fully enough understand or embrace a kyriarchal lens that we distrust each other’s mutual commitments to our causes. If we all understood how intrinsically, fundamentally, the causes and effects of kyriarchy impacted each of our own “pet” causes, we would finally, deeply, perceive the degree to which we are all on the same side, fighting the same essential battle and that cross-issue respect, collaboration, strategy and mobilization is actually the only way to victory.

————-

The author doesn’t use this word.  The essay would be more credible and stronger if he did.  If you don’t know what if means, please look it up. It may sound technical but it is a key word that encapsulates an important concept that needs to be added to all our vocabularies.  You can’t think or fight a concept if you don’t have a word for it.

**   Why Medical Research Often Ignores Women ;  Gender bias in research: how does it affect evidence based medicine? ; Are your findings ‘WEIRD’?

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