Appreciate a Female Comic Friday: Cameron Esposito

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I don’t even know where to start with how much I love Cameron Esposito.  She is hilarious.  She is out.  She has a fabulous sense of humor and applies it to the serious challenges that queer folks deal with in a way that makes it feel funny and more bearable.

Did I mention that I’m obsessed?  Here is some of her awesome standup work (content note for street harassment):

And here is one of my favorite videos of hers, part of what we can only hope will become an infinite buzzfeed series. Now go watch everything she’s ever made. You’re welcome.

DDhalP! A new column for disruptive, feminist advice

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Hello all disruptors!  Are you navigating issues of personal identity, racism, mental or sexual health, kink/poly relationships, and/or societal power dynamics, and feel like you have no one to talk to?  Could you use some advice on these or another challenge informed by intersectional feminism, but don’t know where to turn?

Fear not!

Disrupting Dinner Parties is starting an advice column: DDHalP!  Coming soon to a blog near you, a.k.a. starting now, you can email your questions or dilemmas to DDHALP@gmail.com and receive a compassionate, Super Feminist Reply.  There will soon also be a form on our site through which you can submit letters anonymously.

All questions or struggles related to intersectional feminism are welcome.  All submissions will be responded to by the DDP editor(s) with experiences most relevant to your concern.  Please note that we cannot offer any professional advice: just the kind you would get from an opinionated feminist friend.

Please note that advice submissions will be published along with their replies, in order to give context for our responses.  However, the identity of all submissions will remain ANONYMOUS.  If you provide any identifying information in your letter, such as your name or a friend’s name, contact info, or physical location, we will remove it.  We reserve the right to replace the names of all physical locations with Lord of the Rings landmarks as we see fit.

Promote a petition: Protect survivors of relationship violence

Content note for discussion of intimate partner violence, and for a semi-detailed account in the linked petition.

Greetings disruptors!

Today’s Promote a Petition is on a subject that is close to my heart: intimate partner violence.  There are a set of laws in place that have at least the potential to protect children from environments of abuse, though sadly these are often terribly or not at all enforced.  Yet for adult survivors of relationship violence, especially in South Carolina apparently, there is little if any legal protection even in principle.  As Melissa Walker, the petition’s author, painfully notes (please recall the content note for this article before clicking “Continue reading” — we are about to jump right to the heavy stuff): Continue reading

Book Review – Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English

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As a student, I read a lot. Out of all the books assigned for this week, one book especially stood out. It is not only a great read, but a crucial voice in the conversation about race in America. The book is Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English, written by John Russell Rickford and Russell John Rickford. Rickford and Rickford are father and son and together they present a text that draws forth facets of the black experience, the black identity and the black legacy through language. The authors, in their linguistic break down of Black English, which they also call African American Vernacular English (note the book was published in 2000), bring to life the language through narration of speech in every day contexts and through the testimony of black musicians, comedians, poets, writers, preachers and families. In this way, the text is more than just a linguistic guide, but also a guide to the lived and experienced history, struggle and resistance of being black in America.

Two themes the authors touched upon that I found particularly interesting was the use of quotations from various black people about Spoken Soul and its use, as well as the stout resistance the text itself has on the importance of Black English and its separation from “Standard English”.

Continue reading

Teens Need Families Too: A Chance to Advocate for Teens in Foster Care

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As someone who cares deeply about the plight of teens in the foster care system, the news that funding is being cut for recruitment for quality foster (and foster-to-adopt) homes for teenagers in foster care shocked and horrified me. One of the organizations that’s going to feel the biggest impact is called “You Gotta Believe,” and they do incredible work. Check them out here.

Rebecca of Fosterhood has compiled a good list of people to contact to advocate against funding cuts, and to support “You Gotta Believe” in particular, but I thought I’d clarify the contact list and add my personal comments.

via http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/05/08/1979891/congress-reintroduces-bill-to-end-lgbt-discrimination-in-adoption-and-foster-care/

It is essential to address all officials by their titles or “Honorable [Name].” Here’s the letter I’m sending:

To the Honorable [insert official here],

I am deeply concerned that it appears as though the Administration for Childrens Services (ACS) plans to discontinue all funding for specialized recruitment services for teens, which means that You Gotta Believe will not be funded by the city to do their critical work after 3/31.

This ends a contract for over 13 years, during which time they have licensed hundreds of homes and placed hundreds of our older youth in permanent loving families so they can grow into appreciated, loved and successful adults.  They are the only agency solely focused on working with older youth and providing them with lifetime families, not temporary foster homes that last only until the youth “age out.”

Teens desperately need these services and it is in the best interest of the city to continue to support its youth, no matter their origin or family status.

On a personal note, I, if I had been in the system (and almost was, though kin stepped in before that became necessary), would have been very hard to place. I was angry, gay,and learning disabled, and because I had a variety of people in my life who gave me tough love and supported me, I’m a healthy, loving adult who now works to make things better for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. You Gotta Believe helps kids like me, and they need the support of their city and elected officials.

Thank you for your attention to this extremely important matter.

Best,

[name]

And here are the people to contact–phone calls are even more effective than emails, so if you can, please call. You do not have to be a resident of NYC to contact any of these officials but it helps if you are.

Continue reading

Language Use in Healthcare

I’m a community health worker for a living, and one of my duties is to help host a quarterly meeting to get all the regional coordinators in my state together to talk about how to get our programs to more people, keep people engaged, and achieve the best outcomes for the people we serve. Sometimes these meetings are boring info sessions about marketing strategies and panel management* but sometimes, like this time, we get into the nitty-gritty of what we can do as health care educators to keep people in our programs and help them get the most out of them.

To my delight, at this meeting we had a conversation about how language affects access to programs, and managed to inject some feminism into a field that largely doesn’t engage with social justice practices.

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OMG What If Empire Was Even Queerer

There’s a hot new show on network television, and it’s a trailblazer. The Fox drama Empire- which follows the exploits of Lucious Lyon, his record label, and his family- is obliterating viewership records every single week. It is also stretching the minds of those viewers by taking a queer as fuck approach with its portrayals of sex and relationships in the Lyon family’s world.

The show has featured at least 4 central queer characters of color. AzMarie Livingston plays the role of Hakeem’s masculine-of-center bestie.  Hakeem and Camilla got us exploring the dynamics of a relationship with a significant age difference. Then there’s Andre and Rhonda, who are decidedly kinky and also have an open marriage.

All of this alternative-ness leaves me wanting more! So much so that sometimes, I’m disappointed when Empire doesn’t take advantage of an opportunity to further buck the hegemony, or show oppressed peoples thriving. But, a girl can dream. Here are some plot lines that I switched around in my head to make Empire even queer, inclusive, and representative of different types of relationships:

When Tiana was cool with Hakeem’s other girlfriend

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What happened: Young musical stars Hakeem and Tiana have a blossoming romantic relationship, and one that is very popular with their fanbase and the people in their lives. Hakeem’s dad Lucious invites Tiana over for dinner to formally introduce her to the family, and pre-teens across the country make websites declaring their love for the couple, known as ‘Takeem.’ Continue reading

Towards Better Fetish and Kink Conventions

I went to my first fetish convention not long ago. A fetish convention is where vendors, teachers, and kinksters come together to share skills, buy and sell fetish gear, and discuss issues in our community. They are, generally speaking, not spaces where people come to actually do kink or have sex.

I would say that I had a positive experience at the convention overall, but it could have had greater inclusiveness and diversity of opinion. Here are some concrete steps that I think kink conventions could take to become safer and more welcoming.

1. Train instructors on how to include everyone in their workshops.

The instructors at the workshops I attended varied a lot in their awareness of gender and sexuality issues. There were some instructors who always referred to genders as “male, female, or other,” and others who assumed the gender and pronouns of their students without asking first. There were some instructors who used examples of all kinds of gender combinations when they talked about kink scenes, and others who used only examples of heterosexual couples, and yet others who only referred to scenes with male tops.

This kind of awareness isn’t just about language, but also about who the instructors chose as their demo bottoms – the people on whom they performed the skills they were trying to teach. All of the workshops I attended that were led by male tops had demo bottoms who were cisgender, conventionally attractive white women.

To have a more inclusive kink convention, organizers should have a training for all instructors about how to talk about gender and sexuality, how to respect the genders and sexualities of workshop participants, and considerations for choosing a demo bottom.

2. Reach out to marginalized communities for organizers, vendors, and instructors.

You’ll never get diversity in any institution if you just sit back and wait for marginalized people to appear. The whole point is that there are barriers to inclusion that make it hard for them to join. It’s the responsibility of people in power to break down those barriers by reaching out.

There were definitely workshops geared specifically toward discussing issues like queer and trans* participation in kink communities, and those were headed up by people with those identities. But when I went to workshops about flogging or caning or anything not specifically about these issues, all of the instructors were heterosexual and cisgender – not to mention white. (And make no mistake; racism is a serious problem in the kink community.)

It’s not enough to recruit marginalized people to educate the powerful about their own issues. You have to recruit them to be a part of everything. That’s the only way to truly integrate a variety of perspectives.

3. Hold instructors accountable.

My most negative experience from the convention was when I was at a rope class practicing a tie, and one of the instructors stepped in and started redoing my knots without asking me or my demo bottom for permission. I was appalled, and I wanted to report his behavior, but he didn’t have a prominently featured name badge, so I had no idea how to identify him in my complaint.

Any instructor at a kink workshop should have a prominently placed name badge and state their name when they come and interact with you. There should be suggestions & complaints boxes everywhere with slips for general suggestions and for complaints about bad behavior, where you can write down the name of the offender. There should be clearly designated people whose job it is to help you in general and to handle complaints of bad behavior in specific. These people should be trained in how to handle cases of assault.

The more potentially dangerous an activity becomes, the more important it is to put safeguards in place, especially in the context of rape culture. I am a woman, my demo bottom was genderqueer, and the person who violated our boundaries was a man. Considerations of how to handle misconduct at kink events must take these dynamics into account.

4. Host critical dialogue.

I went to a couple of panels specifically aimed at female dominants, who are substantially more rare, or at the least less visible, than male dominants. But these panels turned out to be more like “how-to” guides for how women can navigate the kink scene and play as dominants. What I really wanted was a panel that discussed
issues like why most kinky photography features male dominants and female submissives, how women new to the kink scene get steered toward and groomed for a submissive role. In short, I wanted to discuss structural inequality in the kink community.

I think there’s a lot of resistance to this kind of critical dialogue in the scene because we get such bad press in the mainstream. Most people think of us as twisted, sick, emotionally damaged, and predatory. We want to have a space where we can celebrate everything that is good and beautiful about us. But celebration without
self-examination is nothing but empty chest-beating. Kink conventions should be a space where we can have critical conversations about our community.

A tale of two women: reclaiming the Purim narrative

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This guest post is written by Nechama L. Content note for mention of sexual coercion / assault

The holiday of Purim, beginning this evening at sundown, has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Growing up in an Orthodox synagogue, I was not allowed to lead services, read publicly from the Torah, sing too loudly (or at all, if men were present), or even see what was going on while services were happening: the Ark holding the written scrolls was kept on the men’s side of the mechitzah, an opaque barrier between the men’s and women’s sides of the sanctuary, so that men would not see us and be distracted from their prayer.  However, every year on Purim, women and children (pre- bar mitzvah age) were allowed to read publicly from the book of Esther, the scroll read to commemorate the events that inspired this holiday.

Even though it had to take place in a women’s-only reading, the women of my synagogue would gather together and prepare to chant the various sections the way that the men do with the Torah on all other weeks of the year.  We would lead a service together and for each other, in the same way that Vashti, the queen of King Ahashverosh in the Purim narrative, held a women’s only feast prior to being commanded by her king to debase herself in front of his courtiers.  It was the one day of the year in which I felt like a full participant in the Jewish life that was my entire life, though that’s a feeling that I didn’t fully realize until I left home and experienced more open communities.

Continue reading

What’s Next In College Sexual Assault Policy Reform? The Case For Emergency Contraception And Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

This is a guest post by Kailah Carden. Content note: This article is about campus sexual assault, however it does not contain any descriptions of assault.

Thanks to student activists, our country is paying unprecedented attention to the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. Students across the country have staged protests, filed Title IX complaints, and the Office of Civil Rights in the Federal Department of Education is currently investigating over 85 schools for non-compliance. As a result, institutions of higher education across the country are currently rewriting their sexual assault policies.

While the national attention and policy work is a welcome rupture in the status quo, the dominant discourse has been almost exclusively on reforming disciplinary procedures to hold perpetrators accountable. As a result, survivor’s health needs in the wake of sexual assault have been overlooked.  Continue reading

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