In her review of Nancy Friday's most recent book on women's sexual fantasies ["Different Strokes," January 14], Judith Levine says of sex books she looked at as a child, "Some were even kinky, like the illustrated handbook on sex for the disabled."
Disabled people having sex is per se "kinky"? Sex "for" the disabled? (Rather than between people expressing their sexualness?) "The disabled"? (A phrase that objectifies, connotes radical differences and distance.)
Articles in the Voice specifically about disability (most recently, by Nat Hentoff and Mary Johnson) have tended to respect and understand disability. But frequently, offhand remarks appear in other articles and in reviews that demonstrate an absence of recognition that disability is political, not an oddity or an individual misfortune. This is a curious, harmful absence in people presumably on the left. I attribute it to the depth of terror disability arouses in non-disabled people, as well as the profundity of personal change needed to acknowledge that there is such a thing as ableism, and to learn about, recognize, and challenge its manifestations.
I'm not asking for censorship of such remarks, but I am asking for editing that sends a piece back to the writer pointing out ableism, and asking the writer whether he or she wants to stay with what they've written. As it is now, readers never know when they are going to be hit with a piece of flying mud.
Judith Levine Replies:
I regret very much having committed an offhand act of ableism. Ms. Smith is correct that prejudices of the body run deep, and I thank her for calling me on mine.
An Inclusive Litany
[Ed.: Among presidents, such a questionable mode of expression was by no means unique to Bush. At the height of the Cold War in 1963, President John F. Kennedy made a famous speech in West Berlin: "All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, Ich bin ein Berliner." Although inclusion of the article, ein, made the phrase translate roughly as "I am a doughnut," German crowds enthusiastically cheered Kennedy's ringing declaration of principle.]
How about a whale film entitled Talking to Beluga? Instead of the usual gang of whale scientists, why not ask a few creative artists up to the Arctic and film them attempting to communicate with one of these fascinating, beautiful, most intelligent, and least known creatures on the planet? Invite a guitarist, a rap musician, a ceremonialist, a synchronized swimmer, an ice sculptor, a psychic, a chanting Tibetan lama. A tap dancer on a metal raft. Or a neon artist. Be sure to let the whales themselves initiate the interaction.
The Somerville Municipal Employee's Union filed a grievance against the city, saying department supervisors had taken food in the past and that the city did not have a written policy saying the practice was unacceptable. An arbiter found in favor of the two fired workers, and ordered the city to rehire them and pay them back wages, about $25,000 each.
Somerville's mayor, Michael Capuano, sent a letter to city workers clarifying the city's policy. He wrote, "Simply put—if you steal, you will be fired. I apologize to you for having to state such an obvious policy to all employees... I trust you, but an arbiter has ruled that the law says I must take this action if the City is going to take action against the very few thieves among us. Thank you for your understanding."
Two days after the ruling, the Morristown Headquarters Plaza Hotel offered to enroll 41-year-old Richard Kreimer, the homeless man who originally filed suit against the library with the help of the ACLU, in its job program for the homeless. Kreimer refused. He decided instead to stay in the library, even after he had won almost $250,000 in his lawsuit. "Now that I've won the library suit," Kreimer exclaimed, "my demands will go higher. To the victor belongs the spoils."
The statement that women are oppressed is frequently met with the claim that men are oppressed too. We hear that oppressing is oppressive to those who oppress as well as to those they oppress. Some men cite as evidence of their oppression their much-advertised inability to cry. It is tough, we are told, to be masculine. When the stresses and frustrations of being a man are cited as evidence that oppressors are oppressed by their oppressing, the word "oppression" is being stretched to meaninglessness; it is treated as though its scope includes any and all human experience of limitation or suffering, no matter the cause, degree or consequence.
Frye also comments on the practice, among some men, of opening doors for women:
The gallant gestures have no practical meaning. Their meaning is symbolic. The door-opening and similar services provided are services which really are needed by people who are for one reason or another incapacitated—unwell, burdened with parcels, etc. So the message is that women are incapable. The detachment of the acts from the concrete realities of what women need and do not need is a vehicle for the message that women's actual needs and interests are unimportant or irrelevant. Finally, these gestures imitate the behavior of servants towards masters and thus mock women, who are in most respects the servants and caretakers of men. The message of the false helpfulness of male gallantry is female dependence, the invisibility or insignificance of women, and contempt for women.[Ed.: Complaining of exclusion, oppressed groups monopolize by forming their own exclusive clubs based on their oppression.]
The exclusion sparked lunch meetings of the feminist studies department, talking about "how to deal with uncooperative and disruptive male students." "I definitely wasn't a disruptive student," Kerkhoven replied.
There is a "logic" too to Dahmer's crime. Raised in a culture that condoned racial prejudice and despised homosexuals, Dahmer appeared to believe he could preserve a place in mainstream society—with all its furtive hopes of family, friends, and future—by destroying the evidence of his homosexuality. He killed his "lovers"—mostly blacks—dismembered them, and in some cases, may have devoured their remains. Crime is a logical, if messy, quick fix to the shortcomings of society. Is that the lesson then? That we get the criminals our societies deserve? Yes, of course.
From 1975 to 1980, before there were federal laws regulating the disposal of automobile lacquer thinner, and before the EPA defined what a hazardous waste was, Valek had hired a solvent recycling company rather than dispose of the 18 55-gallon drums himself, which would not have been illegal. He asked city officials for a referral contract and was given the name of Chatman Brothers, the company the city used for waste disposal.
If there were any lingering doubt as to the powerful symbolism Western cultures still attach to meat and machismo, the statistics linking domestic violence and quarrels over beef are both revealing and compelling. Authorities report that many men use "the absence of meat as a pretext for violence against women." Believing that they are being denied their maleness by being denied their meat, husbands often lash out at their spouses. Their rage is sometimes violent and uncontrollable. Said one battered wife, "It would start off with him being angry over a trivial little thing like cheese instead of meat on a sandwich." Another woman reported, "A month ago, he threw scalding water over me, leaving a scar on my right arm, all because I gave him a pie with potatoes and vegetables for his dinner, instead of fresh meat."
Greenpeace, the public interest organization, believes that the Iraqi death toll, civilian and military, before and after the war, may be as high as 198,000. Allied military dead are counted in the low hundreds. The disparity is huge and somewhat embarrassing. And that's commentary for this evening, Tom.
The widespread, persistent and increasing loss of wild birds (a high estimate of 976 million fatalities) from window collisions (not just winter feeders, but through the year, particularly during migration) contrasts sharply with the relatively meager losses from such catastrophes as oil spills, pesticides and collisions with vehicles. You did not go far enough in "Windows Near Bird Feeders Can Pose A Deadly Threat" (Science Times, December 31, 1991).
The Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Migratory Bird Management introduced me to the expert on this subject, Dan Klem, when I was preparing a booklet on backyard bird problems. Dr. Klem, an Associate Professor at Muhlenberg College, may be the only ornithologist to consider "plate glass predation" worthy of study. The results of his nearly two decades of research have been published in journals, including an article on prevention techniques for Living Bird, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's popular magazine, in 1985.
Dr. Klem's studies show that the scare techniques you mention, falcon silhouettes and owl decals, do not significantly reduce window deaths.
Homeowners can prevent a major cause of bird killing by requiring architects to use angled or nonreflective glass and by retrofitting windows with an external covering. Now that I know it's not just a few birds, I've chosen to cover my killer windows with bird netting.
—Heidi Hughes, Vice President, American Backyard Bird Society
The Texas Education Agency, which heavily influences textbook content nationwide, now requires a disclaimer placed next to the Mercator Projection and inclusion of comparison with other maps. "In our society," one critic claimed, "we unconsciously equate size with importance and even power, and if the third world countries are misrepresented, they are likely to be valued less." A spokesman for the National Council of Churches' publishing organization commented, "The political implications of this map are true, whereas the political implications of the Mercator map are false."
It has always been known that the Mercator Projection represents the earth's geography inaccurately—indeed, any two-dimensional projection of a spherical surface will be inaccurate in some way—but it is only recently that political implications have been attached to this fact. The Mercator Projection shifts its midpoint latitude line up from the equator, while keeping both latitude and longitude lines straight. The Peters Projection also keeps navigational lines straight, but while attempting to render area sizes equally, it grossly distorts the shape of land masses. Equatorial continents such as Africa and South America appear tall and thin, while polar regions appear short and wide.
Other projection methods address the problem by bending navigational lines. The Robinson Projection, used by the National Geographic Society, keeps latitude lines straight but bends longitude lines outward. The Van der Grinten Projection adapts this approach by bending latitude lines downward towards its center in an attempt to keep polar areas from receding into shapelessness. (One map using the Van der Grinten Projection sets the earth "upside-down"—that is, with Australia, South America, and Africa on "top"—to challenge students' orientation and prioritization of continents.) Employing a radically different method that solves many of these problems while causing others, the Interrupted Sinusoidal Projection cuts the earth into orange-peel-like segments, each segment joined at the equator. The Fuller/Dymaxion Projection divides the sphere into triangular segments, all of which are connected in a seemingly haphazard way that makes it difficult to orient one's self relative to other segments, and scrambles perception of latitude and longitude.