History Lesson for Pat Robertson

via Think Progress » Pat Robertson Cites Haiti’s Earthquake As What Happens When You ‘Swear A Pact To The Devil’.

To paraphrase Woody Allen, if Jesus heard this, He would never stop throwing up!

On the Rachel Maddow show last night, the Haitian ambassador provided a history lesson for Robertson and other false prophets.

The only thing I would add is by Robertson’s logic, both the American and French revolutions were a “deal with the Devil” as the Haitians used these countries’ concepts of universal human rights as the underpinning of their revolt.  [except, unlike the U.S.A., Haiti abolished slavery]

Veterans Day Celebration: Where are the Women?

Earlier this week, my colleagues and I organized an event honoring women veterans at CCSU.   Our headliner was VA Commissioner Linda Spoonster Schwartz, who started her career during the Vietnam war. At that time, the military only permitted 2% of active duty personnel to be female.  So, Schwartz began her career as a contract nurse with no official military appointment.  She had to ask her CO for permission to marry, and was honorably discharged when she became pregnant with her daughter.  When Schwartz tried to join the Air Force reserves, she was told her pregnancy was a “disability” — but fortunately she was able to persuade the reserves to take her anyway.  A few years later, the Schwartz was invited to debate Phyllis Schlafly about the issue of women in combat. This was at the height of Stop ERA in the early 1980s, and the big bugaboo was the possibility that women would get drafted.  Schlafly asked Schwartz how she would feel if her daughter were drafted.  Schwartz said that she would be proud to have her daughter serve if it came to that.

Dr. Sally Haskell from the women’s healthcare service at the Connecticut VA Hospital talked about how it wasn’t until the early 1990s that VA hospitals began to open women’s health centers to address the needs of female veterans.  Even today, female veterans find that the VA is still designed primarily for men and are reluctant to go there.  Helen Hart-Gai, APRN, talked about her work counseling veterans with PSTD, many of whom have been sexually assaulted.  She said that female veterans report a higher rate of sexual assault than the general population, and that 54% of all women veterans say they have been sexually harassed.  Hart-Gai also said that she counsels male sexual assault victims — not just from the current wars, but from WWII and the Korean and Vietnam Wars as well.   These stories about sexual discrimination were confirmed by the two graduate students, Amy Otzel and Despina Mavroudis, who told their stories about serving in Iraq.

Attendance was sparse (disappointing — but understandable since it is the height of paper/exam frenzy) but the event was very informative and moving.

Our local paper, The New Britain Herald, ran stories on CCSU veterans and  Veterans Day events on campus.  I searched in vain for any reporting on our event, and, you guessed it, the coverage was all about teh menz.  So, the Herald will be getting a letter from me and my colleagues in WGSS!


Knitting Clio is Mad as Hell at Publisher’s Weekly

via She Writes, who tells us that Publishers Weekly included ZERO female authors in its list of best books of 2009.  The blog encourages us women writers to participate in  SHE WRITES DAY OF ACTION.  Here’s what they ask us to do, including my replies:

“By Friday, November 13th, please do three simple, but enormously powerful, things:

1) Post a blog on She Writes responding to the exclusion of women on PW’s list. Make your own list, as many of you have done already, or take this opportunity to reflect more broadly the ramifications of its women-cook-the-food-but-only-men-get-Michelin-stars message, and share your thoughts with us all. (More ideas on this to come.)”
Here is my contribution:
At my personal blog, Knitting Clio, I review the books I read with my book club. This year’s female authors and their books were:

A.S. Byatt, The Children’s Book

Gin Phillips, The Well and the Mine

Jennifer Scanlon, Bad Girls Go Everywhere

Lily Koppel, The Read Leather Diary

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half a Yellow Sun

Joyce Carol Oates, Wild Nights

Kate Walbert, A Short History of Women

All of these were excellent books, and Adichie’s was the best of all of them. Need I add she also won a prestigious MacArthur Award (aka the “genius” award)?

My book club has also read just about everything by Geraldine Brooks, and even got to hear give a fabulous lecture at a local synagogue earlier this fall.

I should also mention books published by my colleagues:

Mary Collins, American Idle: A Journey Through Our Sedentary Culture.

Karen Ritzenhoff and Katherine Hermes, Sex and Sexuality in a Feminist World.

Briann Greenfield, Out of the Attic: Inventing Antiques in Twentieth-Century New England.

Leah Glaser, Electrifying the Rural American West: Stories of Power, People, and Place.

“2) Buy a book written by a woman in 2009. Take a photo of yourself holding it. Post its cover on your page. Tell us what book you bought, and why.”
I just bought Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna because I love her work and can’t wait to read this latest novel.
“3) Invite five women writers you know to read your words and join us on She Writes.

Once you have posted your blog, send me the link at kamy@shewrites.com. We will send these links to entire community (5000+) on Saturday. We will send out a press release then too. If you are a well-known writer, you know how greatly we need your response, your leadership, and your help in spreading the word. If you aren’t, we greatly need your response and your leadership too. Use this platform as a platform of your own. What else is She Writes for?

Let’s make a statement that no one can ignore. Join us, BY FRIDAY, in our first-ever day of action, and we will do the rest. I’d like to see hundreds, if not thousands, of posts, and hundreds, if not thousands, of purchases. Vote with your voice and with your wallet. Push back. Make it good. Make it right.”

Once Again, Jail and Bail Fundraisers aren’t cool

As I wrote back in April, fundraisers that “arrest” and “jail” volunteers for fundraising purposes are tasteless and outrageous.  Imagine my shock and dismay when I arrived at church this morning to find that the rector  has agreed to have a “warrant” put out for a fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy Association (aka “Jerry’s Kids”)  hosted by a local restaurant.  I was so angry I wanted to say something during the announcements portion of the service but decided to hold my tongue and come up with a more coherent, constructive reaction to this.  So, here goes:

Dear Rev.

I am very disappointed to find that you have agreed to participate in the Jail and Bail fundraiser for MDA. Please understand that this is not an objection to the idea of helping out children with disabilities.  However, there are two major  problems with this fundraiser.  First of all is the whole notion of “jailing” someone for fun — sorry, but I fail to see anything funny about incarceration.  I’m sure you are aware of the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in his own home last summer, as well as the  experience of my colleague Ravi Shankar, who was arrested for “driving while brown” following a poetry event in Manhattan earlier this year. Unfortunately, this kind of racial profiling is all too common in America, and is part of the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination you spoke about so eloquently in your sermon today.  An event that makes fun of those who are wrongly imprisoned is, in my opinion, incredibly tasteless and insensitive.  When I was in high school, we had senior “slave auctions” for fundraisers.  Teachers wisely told us that these were offensive.  I consider “jail and bail” fundraisers to be just as outrageous.

The secondary issue has to do with the perspective on disability presented by the MDA, aka “Jerry’s Kids.” A number of disability rights activists have spoken out against Mr. Lewis’ work which tends to stigmatize persons with disabilities by making them into objects of pity.  This type of marginalization is perpetuated by the phrase in the fundraiser which calls neurodegenerative diseases “crimes.” For more on this issue, see the website The Trouble with Jerry: Pity Isn’t Progress.

I will leave it to you to decide whether to share these views with the congregation and/or continue to participate in the fundraiser.  I just thought I would let my views be known to you in the hope to educate you on these issues.