Man: reduced or not?

Saturday, 28 March 2015 08:44 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Ben Yagoda wrote to ask about the reduced or unreduced pronunciation of man ([mən] vs. [mæn]) in noun compounds: policeman, fireman, garbage man, mailman, gunman, lineman, etc.

I don't know of any scholarly treatments of this precise subject. For an extensive discussion of the textual history and distribution of man- compounds, you can read Kirsti Peitsara "MAN-Compounds in English", Selected Proceedings of the 2005 Symposium on New Approaches in English Historical Lexis. And for some background discussion on the relations among structure, sense, and stress in such phrases, see Mark Liberman & Richard Sproat, "The Stress and Structure of Modified Noun Phrases in English", in Sag & Szabolsci eds., Lexical Matters, 1992. But I don't know of any discussion of (for example) why the -man in policeman is reduced, while the -man in mailman isn't. (Those are my judgments, anyhow, and Merriam-Webster's agrees with me…)

So I'm throwing the floor open for contributions from readers.

My own judgments divide (a small sample of) these words up this way:

mən     clansman, clergyman, fireman, gentleman, gunman, journeyman, lineman, oarsman, policeman, postman
mæn     anchorman, caveman, garbageman, frogman, handyman, madman, mailman, taxman, weatherman

Though it wouldn't surprise me to learn that I vary in how I actually pronounce e.g. gunman. Anyhow, the distinction looks pretty arbitrary to me, in synchronic terms — maybe the history is a clue… (again).

Preparing for Holy Week [Radio Readings]

Saturday, 28 March 2015 05:55 pm
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Posted by Leah Libresco

You can listen to “Fights in Good Faith,” my weekly radio program, streaming today at 5pm ET and tomorrow (Sun) at 1pm.  I’ll update this post when the episode is available to download and stream. Every week, I put up a “Radio Readings” post, so you can track down the books, articles, and (this week) failed Lenten penances [Read More...]
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Posted by Derica


Photo of Blake Brockington, by Zechariah Sanders via

Photo of Blake Brockington by Zechariah Sanders, via

The transgender youth activist Blake Brockington passed away this week, at 18 years old, as the result of suicide. Last year, Blake graduated from East Mecklenburg High School where he was crowned homecoming king. His win was the first for an openly transgender student in Charlotte, North Carolina. Earlier this year, Blake spoke about his experience transitioning and coming out in a Charlotte Observer feature, and described the stress and negative attention that followed his nationally recongnized homecoming win. “Really hateful things were said on the internet. It was hard. I saw how narrow-minded the world really is.”

After high school, Blake was active in Black Lives Matter protests, and was a speaker at his local Transgender Day of Remembrance rally. Blake would also post such smart insights on sexuality, race, and how we might break the gender binary to his Tumblr. Here’s just one example of his brilliance, which he shared alongside some pictures of himself wearing “spinerooni skirts”:

After trying to come into myself, I decided to try killing every piece of me that was feminine because I was introduced to this “masculinity requirement” to pass as male and to be “trans enough” in general. For the past year and a half, I’ve been telling a lot of my friends to BREAK THE BINARY and I’m finally at a point where I have started to ease myself into physically expressing the boy inside. I’m very happy about this because I feel like, not only as a transman, but as a transman of color, my community isn’t generally happy about bois that are okay with their “femininity”, but I am finally realizing that I can’t really kill the person that I already am. I shouldn’t stop myself from feeling cute as fuck just because other people might not feel comfortable with it. It will probably take time until I can wear this out and about, but I am proud of myself for being able to put this on and take these pictures and make this post and not care too much about it.
I’m still a KING.
Blake (he/him/his)

Rest in peace, Blake.

For all the heartbreaking news this week, there was also a well-deserved celebration of the greatest tennis player in United States’ history. As part of Serena Williams’ Vogue magazine cover story, the supreme made her own playful version of Beyoncé’s “7/11” music video. I have nothing but heart eyes emoji LOVE for this, and you can watch it above.
Map of Nigeria and its borders, via the BBC.

Map of Nigeria and its borders, via the BBC.

I was saddened to learn that Boko Haram has kidnapped an estimated 500 people from Damasak in northern Nigeria. Residents of the town report that around 50 women and children were also killed. Facts around the tragedy are unclear, with some news outlets reporting the victims were women and children, and others reporting they were boys, while the Nigerian government flat out denies the truth of Damasak residents’ claims. Almost a year ago, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 girls in Chibok, and they are still missing. It’s horrifying that children continue to be the victims of an insurgent group’s violent campaign.

Photos of Joey Casselberry  (left), and Mo'ne Davis (right), via

Photos of Joey Casselberry (left), and Mo’ne Davis (right), via

Insults can be difficult to forgive, which is why I admire Little League star Mo’ne Davis’s response to an awful slur from Bloomsbury University baseball player Joey Casselberry. When Casselberry lost his place on the team for his comments, Mo’ne went out of her way to ask the university to reinstate him. Her comments on ESPN’s SportsCenter show how gracious she is: “Everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance.”

Photo of Zayn Malik, via MTV.

Photo of Zayn Malik, via MTV.

The departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction has had people everywhere feeling caught on the wrong end of a momentous break-up. Although it doesn’t make us feel much less distraught, in his first interview since leaving 1D, Zayn promises that it’s not us, it’s him: He’s been unhappy under the spotlight for a while, but was sticking it out for the sake of the fans. My heart has been warmed by 1D fans’ support of Malik’s decision to “be by [himself] for a bit.” Congratulations, Zayn, for being strong enough to take a step back from the allure of 1D’s pop dictatorship. Do whatever makes you grin that heart-thawing grin!

Photo of a woman enjoying a Big Mac printed duvet cover, via Adweek.

Photo of a woman enjoying a Big Mac printed duvet cover, via Adweek.

At a McWalk fashion show in Stockholm, Sweden, the trailblazing fast food chain (or ‘disgusting communist pig’, if you’re more of a Taco Bell kind of animal) McDonalds released a Big Mac-themed collection of bedspreads, wallpaper, athletic leggings, and THERMAL UNDERWEAR. Tbh, what else could keep you more comfy than underwear emblazoned with America’s favorite slab of meat? That’s what I thought.

Photo of Grace Jones performing in 1980, via Billboard.

Photo of Grace Jones performing in 1980, via Billboard magazine.

BBC Film has commissioned a documentary about Grace Jones, aka one of the greatest people to ever exist on this earth. There’s no word yet on the official release date, but I’m so excited to see what’s in store. If you aren’t familiar with Grace, YOU NEED TO BECOME FAMILIAR. Some people say that the ’70s and ’80s were Grace’s peak. During that time she became popular in New York social circles, and she was super influential in fashion, music, and art scenes. But I would argue that Grace Jones has never left her prime. Anyway, it’s time for me to dance it out to “Slave to the Rhythm” for a few hours while I calm down from this wonderful news.

The actress Karidja Touré photographed by Bruno Werzinski, via Teen Vogue magazine.

The actress Karidja Touré photographed by Bruno Werzinski, via Teen Vogue magazine.

The breakout star of the movie Girlhood Karidja Touré, is featured in Teen Vogue‘s April issue. In the interview, Karidja talks about shopping, traveling to promote the film, and reveals how she got the part. The actress was spotted at an amusement park—of all places—and asked to come in for auditions. The rest is history; very very cool history, at that.

Photo of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny as Dana Scully and Fox Mulder in the X-Files, via NPR.

Photo of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny as Dana Scully and Fox Mulder in the X-Files, via NPR.

X-PHILES REJOICE! My heart grew a million sizes this week when Fox announced that The X-Files will return for a run of 6 episodes. The show follows FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder as they investigate paranormal phenomena and a government conspiracy to conceal the knowledge of aliens from the public. Maybe these new episodes will tie up Season 9’s loose ends. Like, what happened with the alien colonization of earth that was scheduled for 2012? What became of their son William? And does Mulder still snack on sunflower seeds? Here’s hoping all questions will be answered, and that the new series does justice to the original!

Photo of the founders of Butchbaby & Co., Michelle Janayea (top) and Vanessa Newman (bottom), via Colorlines.

Photo of the founders of Butchbaby & Co., Michelle Janayea (top) and Vanessa Newman (bottom), via Colorlines.

Two entrepreneurs are creating maternity wear for masculine, queer, and trans people. Butchbaby & Co. CEO Vanessa Newman, and Chief Designer Michelle Janayea, specialize in clothing that allows people to stay true to themselves while they grow a baby person in their bellies. Their ethos—”don’t change just because your body does”—came out of Newman’s realization that one day she would want to have a child, and wear clothes designed to fit the person she is.

Illustration by Michela Buttignol, via the New York Times.

Illustration by Michela Buttignol, via the New York Times.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, the actress, director, and envoy to the United Nations, Angelina Jolie Pitt revealed that she has undergone surgery to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. She took this decision after receiving blood test results that indicated possible precancerous cell activity. I think it’s brave of Jolie Pitt to share her story with other women.

Photo via the Guardian.

Photo via the Guardian.

Literary gift to humanity that she is, Margaret Atwood wrote an awesome piece for the Guardian about how much she loves Game of Thrones. The essay is a nerd-out sesh of the highest order. Atwood reveals that she is on Team Targaryen—because you can’t not be rooting for the Mother of Dragons.

Prurient’s new track “Dragonflies to Sew You Up” was named Best New Track by Pitchfork this week. Listen to it above—it’s the kind of music that feeds your innermost misery…but in a comforting way. ♦

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Posted by Rachel Held Evans

Today I am thrilled to share a guest post from a woman of valor I have long admired—Margaret Feinberg. Margaret is a popular Bible teacher and speaker whose books, including The Organic God, The Sacred Echo, Scouting the Divine, and Wonderstruck and their corresponding Bible studies, have sold nearly one million copies. In July 2013, Margaret was diagnosed with cancer. She shares her harrowing journey in her latest book and Bible study, Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears.  You can learn more at Follow Margaret on Twitter @mafeinberg.


Many Christians argue that being joyful is better than being happy—and they’re dead wrong. 

Over the years, I’ve listened to countless sermons suggesting that joy is the ultimate prize and happiness is a booby trap. Steer clear. Those cheery feelings are waiting for an opportune moment to pull a bait-and-switch on you. And you’ll be sorry. 

Perhaps the pastor never put it in those terms, but that felt like the takeaway. 

Joy rises above circumstances. Happiness will sink you. 

I spent decades giving the stink eye to happiness and waiting for joy to take up residence in my life. But I was never confident if joy was at home in me. Maybe she was napping in the guest room or hiding in a closet. 

Joy always felt elusive. 

Three years ago, I decided to reexamine all I’d be taught. I paired studying the more than 400 references to joy and happiness throughout the Scripture with recent scientific studies on the subject. My research soon confirmed what the Scriptures tell us, namely, that many of the things we think will bring us happiness don’t. Contrary to people’s most common responses, money doesn’t bring happiness. Once a person’s most basic needs, including food, water, shelter, clothing, and health, are met, additional money has little power to increase happiness.(i) 

Studies reveal that each of us is born with a set point for happiness. Though significant life events like losing a loved one or winning the lottery may result in temporary depression or elation, most people return to their happiness set point, which they oscillate around over the course of their life. 

Genetics account for approximately 50 of a person’s happiness set point, and life circumstances such as gender, ethnicity, marital status, occupation, and religious affiliation account influence another 10 percent. But the remaining is a product of the way we think and act.(ii)  

This suggests that though you and I have different natural dispositions, we can push ourselves toward the high or low end of our “set point” based on our thoughts and actions. 

Now an abusive or toxic environment will override anyone’s happiness set point. The impact of violence, injustice, malnutrition, and extreme poverty cannot be trivialized. But assuming a person’s basic needs are being met, scientists are studying what external factors can bump up a person’s happiness set point. 

They’ve discovered the things that actually bring happiness are long-term loving relationships, strong social connections, the opportunity to pursue meaningful work, a sense of optimism and openness to new experiences, as well as a spiritual belief or identification with an issue or idea larger than oneself.(iii) 

I was fascinated that very items scientists identify as increasing our level of happiness are the very things that God calls us to as followers of Christ. 

As we fulfill the great command to love God and love others, our long-term relations and connections to other will naturally grow stronger and deeper (Matthew 27:37-39). When we keep our eyes on God in our workplace, we naturally find more meaning and satisfaction in our labor (Colossians 3:24). As we walk in greater levels of faith, hope, and love, we can’t help but grow in optimism and a willingness to try new things (1 Corinthians 13:13). And those who give themselves fully to God will be filled with an inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8).

The research led me deeper into the Scripture where I began asking:

What if we can’t experience a fullness of joy apart from happiness? 

What if the reason we have joy is not in spite of our circumstances but because of them? 

What if the reason joy feels so elusive is because our definition of joy is too narrow? 

I’m now convinced the writers of the Bible would say we have joy because of our great circumstances. As children of God, we are drenched in the grace and mercy of God. Joy and happiness walk hand in hand. You can’t give the stink eye one—you give it to both. 

In fact, Scripture reveals joy as a spectrum of emotions, actions, and responses that includes happiness, gladness, cheer, merriment, delighting, dancing, shouting, exulting, rejoicing, laughing, playing, brightening, blessing and being blessed, taking pleasure in and being well pleased.

Discovering the fullness of joy means opening ourselves to the wide spectrum of ways God has wired us to experience it. Suddenly, joy isn’t elusive, but every day. It’s slips into our prayers when we say gracias. It tumbles in rumbles of laughter and dances when we lift our voice in praise. It curls on the couch as we embrace moments of deep shalom. 

Throughout the Old Testament, the Hebrew word ‘asher describes a person pronounced “happy” or “blessed.” This word often appears within the context of the flourishing of God’s people: “Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 144:15).

Throughout the New Testament, the Greek word makarios describes someone who is “happy” or “blessed” and is used. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” can be understood as “Happy” are the poor in spirit. Jesus promised the makarios life when he said, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 3:17, KJV).

But here’s the dark irony. 

I spent an entire year studying joy and happiness. With only two weeks remaining until I turned in a manuscript that included these discoveries, I felt a lump on my chest. 

I soon discovered I had breast cancer. 

The diagnosis trashed my book. I had been pursuing and activating joy in my life in the relatively good times, now I had to do it in the midst of darkness, depression, torturous pain. 

No one signs up for that assignment. No one. 

But let’s be honest. Sooner or later we all find ourselves on a battlefield of life. Sometimes you pick the fight. Sometimes the fight picks you. Mine was a diagnosis. Maybe yours is divorce, foreclosure, unemployment, or the death of someone you adored. 

In these moments, we must choose how we respond. Anger. Bitterness. Cynicism. Slipping into a funk no one can rescue us from. 

What if we chose to fight back with joy? 

Over the last 20 months, I’ve been learning through great suffering and torture that more than whimsy, joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles. Because sometimes you have to poke holes in the darkness until it bleeds light. 

If you like your joy sugary sweet, you’re going to hate Fight Back With Joy. 

And honestly? I’m okay with that.

If you like your joy served up gritty, honesty and real, then you just might find a new friend and kindred spirit. 

Because to lay hold of this deeper, richer joy, we’re going to have to let go of what we thought we knew to discover what God wants to give us. 

iii.Braun, Stephen. The Science of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Mood. (New York: John Wiley & Sons), 2000. pp. 35-36. 


Fed Up: Women Fast-Food Workers Fight Back

Saturday, 28 March 2015 02:00 pm
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Posted by Michelle Chen

LawThis March, for Women’s History Month, the Ms. Blog is profiling Wonder Women who have made history—and those who are making history right now. Join us each day as we bring you the stories of iconic and soon-to-be-famous feminist change-makers.

This article, celebrating the heroes of the fast-food workers movement, originally appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Ms. Click here to get a copy!

When she walked into that first meeting last summer, after a coworker urged her to attend, Nancy Salgado wasn’t sure what she would hear. Then she watched as other women in the room came forward to tell their stories, and realized that she was listening to her own. They talked about feeling trapped in their jobs, the humiliation of being bullied by managers, the struggle to make ends meet with only part-time hours, a paycheck that’s never enough to cover the bills. They shared the daily frustrations of reporting for their shifts exhausted and anxious, and always being expected to provide service with a smile.

Looking at the room full of workers from Chicago’s fast-food chains, Salgado, 27, a no-nonsense, 10-year veteran of McDonald’s, observed, “Wow, there’s a lot of McDonald’s workers with different issues, but in the end it’s the same story: We’re not getting paid enough. We’re worried about how are we gonna feed our kids tomorrow, how are we gonna pay the rent. And respect…that was one of the biggest issues.”

Their common experiences, and the stories shared in that room, sparked a kind of kinetic energy, and a similar charge was pulsing through many such worker meetings across the country. Several weeks later, on Aug. 1, Salgado walked off the job in solidarity with those workers, joining a nationwide campaign demanding better pay and working conditions in fast food. The demonstrations have now crystallized into a grassroots movement for $15-an-hour wages (more than twice the current federal minimum) and the right to form a union without retaliation—unprecedented demands from employees who are usually expected to do nothing but take orders.

Salgado, a single parent of a 7-year-old and a toddler, was initially nervous about how her boss would react. “McDonald’s is the job I depend on to bring food to my kids, to pay off my bills and rent, you know?…I was like, ‘What if they do fire me?’” But that morning, she said a “little prayer” and ventured out with several coworkers to join the series of coordinated short-term strikes at iconic chain eateries. Fast-food workers joined labor activists and retail workers in a festive march down Chicago streets, brightly clad in loud red shirts, carrying picket signs declaring “We Are Worth More” and “Valemo Más,” and bringing buoyant disruption to local stores and restaurants. Though many of the fast-food walkouts have involved just a few workers, the momentum crested into a cascade of one-day strikes on Aug. 29, hitting 60 cities, including New York, Detroit, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

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Over the past several months, the phrase “Do you want fries with that?” has been drowned out by new slogans, such as “Fight for 15” and “Fast Food Forward,” viral brand names for dozens of locally organized campaigns aimed at building collective power among kitchen staff, cashiers and other low-wage food-service workers. With the backing of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the country’s largest unions, as well as local community groups, fast-food-worker organizing committees have emerged in dozens of cities, using community gatherings, social media and public protests to seed an uprising in a notoriously downtrodden workforce.

No one is under the illusion that the fast-food industry will capitulate easily, especially since the mammoth size and diffuse structure of the franchise-based industry makes unionizing nearly impossible. But the protests and unauthorized strikes of the past year mark a powerful activist surge in a sector that is generally dismissed as the quintessential dead-end job.

Feminizing Fast Food

Willietta Dukes prides herself on being a familiar face at her restaurant. As a guest ambassador at a Burger King in Durham, N.C., she greets families, makes sure they’re being served properly, and though technically not a manager, helps oversee the kitchen and serving areas. Food service is something of a family tradition for her. Her mother earned a decent living as a school cafeteria worker, and she has worked in fast food most of her adult life, supporting two sons on her own. But these days, at 40, she’s struggling just to support herself on fast-food wages, sometimes turning to food stamps to get by. After recently losing her home to eviction, she has moved in with her now-grown son, who, like many others in her community, also works at a local food shop.

Dukes works about 24 hours a week, over a few part-time shifts, and is always on call to pick up extra hours. She has little choice but to take whatever hours her boss offers, even when the call comes abruptly at night just hours after she finished a day shift.

To the management, “we don’t matter,” Dukes says. “It’s about their volume, about getting their product out and covering their store. Our needs are secondary to theirs.” But underneath the prim uniforms are real people—single parents, laid-off factory workers, immigrants and college grads—all with needs and hopes that chafe against the industry’s harsh production model of churning out the cheapest food using the cheapest labor.

According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the median hourly wage for one of the most common fast-food jobs—frontline food preparation—is just under $9, woefully inadequate for a household with children. Subsequently, 40 percent of low-wage workers do not have health insurance. Without health insurance or paid sick leave, any medical problem can tip a family into crisis. Even everyday expenses can leave workers straining to make impossible choices about basic needs.

For Alisha Snider, a 26-year-old single mother in St. Louis, earning $7.35 an hour as a cashier at Wendy’s leaves her with a painfully limited menu of options. Sometimes she can cover some predictable expenses, like buying clothes for her kids, but only if she can put off the electricity bill for another month before getting a disconnection warning. Even then, she will have to choose which of her children to buy for; all three at once is impossible. If her wages were raised to $15 an hour, she says, “I wouldn’t have to leave one child off, or two kids off; the other ones have to wait till I get paid again.”

The insultingly low pay is exacerbated by a harsh workplace atmosphere that makes staff feel disrespected, Snider says. But despite daily frustrations with the arduous labor conditions, she says, “some people just take it, because they’re like me. They don’t have anywhere else to go.” Other jobs available in her area, she adds, pay about the same as Wendy’s.

Sonia Acuña, a 43-year-old kitchen worker in Chicago, cobbles together a living by combining shifts at two different McDonald’s branches, adding up to less than $9 an hour. She says her non-stop workday is made even longer by a bullying manager who sometimes denies bathroom breaks. Her pay supports a 5-year-old daughter—whom she typically has time to see only two hours a day—and her other children still living in Mexico, from whom she is separated indefinitely. In this industry, she says, “there’s a lot of women suffering, a lot of women making sacrifices for their families.”

With wages too low to lift them out of poverty, fast-food workers who must also navigate the welfare system face another dilemma: being both too poor and not poor enough. Dukes, for example, struggles to work enough hours at Burger King to cover basic living expenses, but the more hours she clocks, the closer she gets to the income limit for a federal food subsidy. “If I make extra money, they’re gonna cut back …There’s always a catch to it,” she says.

Seeing the paradox facing women among the working poor drove Martin Rafanan to become a community organizer for the St. Louis fast-food worker campaign, St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35, or STL 735 ($7.35 is the local minimum wage). In his previous job running a local women’s homeless shelter, he observed that a large portion of his clients worked at least part-time, many in fast-food jobs, yet their income was so inadequate they simply couldn’t afford to move out of the shelter. The low wage kept them homeless. “It’s heartbreaking,” Rafanan says of women dealing with homelessness. “Seven dollars and thirty-five cents an hour is just not enough to help a person with the basic necessities of life and to… address the needs of their children as well.”

On top of paying their workers too little, fast-food employers often rob them of what little they have. According to a report by the Fast Food Forward campaign, more than 8 in 10 workers surveyed said their employer had committed wage theft at least once, commonly by forcing them to work through breaks or shorting them on overtime.

Running Faster, Never Catching Up

Fast-food corporations’ marketing campaigns tout the opportunities they provide for employees to “work their way up” to managerial positions. Communities of color eat more often at fast-food restaurants such as Burger King and McDonald’s, and those companies feature diversity recruitment initiatives ostensibly aimed at bringing women and people of color into management.

In reality, only about 2 percent of fast-food employees are actually labeled managers, and just below 10 percent are ranked as “supervisors.” Most are “frontline” workers, largely women, who might toil for years in lower-ranked food-preparation positions, with an hourly median wage of about $9. Even those who move up to frontline supervisory positions typically earn only about $13 an hour. Gender stratification pervades all levels of the industry, with women concentrated in the lower-ranked occupations and men outnumbering women in frontline supervisor and managerial positions.

“The fast-food industry is an incredibly flat industry,” says NELP attorney Tsedeye Gebreselassie. For the typical lowest-paid workers, she explains, “there’s no opportunity for advancement because there’s no job at the top.”

The social divides of the fast-food sector encapsulate deep social inequities that reflect the “feminization of poverty” in the post-industrial economy. Some of the gender segmentation in the workforce, such as women’s prevalence in food service and domestic work, reflects stereotypes about “women’s work.” But even within a single workplace, women tend to get stuck in lower positions while men dominate managerial jobs, reinforcing barriers to advancement in segregated fields. These inequalities may actually have intensified during the current so-called economic recovery; recent data suggest that real wages are declining, especially in service jobs, and that despite some overall job growth, precarious, low-wage jobs are on the rise, even as stable positions with decent pay decline.

Being a woman in the food business is a source of pride and pain for Dukes. As she sees it, experience as a mother makes her better with customers—“We know how to nurture!”—and guests have complemented her on how good she is with kids. Her bosses are less appreciative. “That’s what really makes me mad, because they don’t pay me for what I’m worth,” she says. She sees the fight for decent jobs as a fight for working-poor women. “We’re the ones on the front lines; we’re the ones on the back lines. But the men sit in the office. They do the paperwork. They run around in their big cars to get their bonuses.”

Looking back on what she’s brought to her workplace all these years, she says, “I think we deserve more as women and as mothers and as workers.”

Raising the Floor

Jonathan Westin, the director of New York City’s Fast Food Forward campaign, says the $200 billion-a-year fast-food industry has no excuses not to grant workers’ basic demands. “They have everything within their power… to afford better wages for workers, to treat people with respect and to lift people out of poverty,” he says. “They make billions and billions of dollars every year in profits, off the backs of workers, and they can figure out a way to pay their workers more.”

One way to make corporations pay is by raising the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 an hour. (For tipped restaurant workers—like servers, who, unsurprisingly, are mostly women—the minimum wage is an absurdly low $2.13). Some states and cities have enacted higher local minimums, and California is set to claim the highest state minimum in 2016, when the hourly minimum will be $10. But neither state nor federal base wages are anywhere near enough to sustain a typical household. As a result, a large portion of fast-food workers rely on public assistance such as food stamps and welfare payments—essentially shifting the social cost of corporate profits onto taxpayers. Due to inflation and congressional inaction (the last vote to raise the minimum wage was back in 2007), the purchasing power of a minimum-wage worker’s paycheck today is 33 percent lower than what the same job provided in 1968.

Reflecting general patterns of inequality, a minimum-wage hike would especially benefit women. But the National Restaurant Association, representing brands like McDonald’s, Jamba Juice, Subway and Panera, sees workers’ gains as a drain on profits. The industry lobbies fiercely against local, state and national minimum-wage legislation, claiming the pay boost would cause job losses and hurt businesses. Meanwhile, the CEO of McDonald’s raked in about $13.8 million in fiscal 2012, an estimated 737 times what the average fast-food worker earned.

Another, perhaps more direct, route to transforming the industry would be pressuring individual corporations to raise wages and allow unionization. While the $15 wage demand goes well beyond the federal minimum, it highlights the concept of a living wage—an income that covers a household’s basic needs, like food and housing. Campaigns to improve overall job quality for low-income workers often center on a living-wage demand. And some cities have enacted living-wage ordinances to ensure that government contractors pay decent wages.

Spurring private fast-food companies to raise wages so dramatically would likely require massive worker mobilization, which points to the need for unions and collective bargaining. But in fast food, where workers have long lacked any organized labor representation, unionizing one restaurant, much less the whole sector, remains a Herculean task. Advocates are wary that employers may retaliate against workers who organize, and the certification process for unionization votes is notoriously difficult under existing labor laws that favor corporations over unions.

Despite the dwindling membership of traditional unions, growing desperation could make fast food ripe for a labor uprising. Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley, says that, as more workers fall into precarious, poverty-wage jobs, their frustration is fueling mass mobilization. “They’re starting to understand [that] on their own, they have no power. It’s only collectively that they can have power,” she says. Labor advocates note that unionization particularly helps margin- alized workers. Unions, which typically enable collective bargaining over pay and working conditions, are linked to higher earnings and critical job benefits that women and people of color often lack, such as health care and paid sick leave.

The fast-food movement is now feeling around for its next steps. There has been intense debate among labor activists about whether the campaigns should seek a more centralized agenda in alignment with SEIU, or drive toward workplace-based advocacy. Whatever road the workers take, the movement has already broadened horizons for low-wage labor organizing, and its media splash has put the face of today’s low-wage worker—one that’s less white, more female and struggling harder than ever—into the foreground of public consciousness.

In fact, although the structural oppression of low-wage workers is in many ways a women’s problem, labor activism is itself becoming “feminized.” Over the past year, while fast-food women were rising up, their peers at Walmart organized against gender discrimination, in addition to participating in one-day strike actions in several cities. At the same time, domestic workers were campaigning—successfully!— for reforms to extend federal labor protections to housekeepers, nannies and care workers; 15 states—recently joined by California—already provide such protections as minimum wage and overtime pay.

These women’s courage reprises a rich legacy of women in labor: The “mill girls” of Lowell, Mass., led one of the nation’s first major strikes in the 19th century, and the immigrant women of New York’s garment factories increased participation in industrial unions in the early 20th century.

As they open a new labor battlefront in fast food, campaigners so far have reported no major incidents of workers being penalized for their protests. But stories of subtle repercussions have surfaced. Dukes began publicly organizing her coworkers and led a walkout in August (her son, a McDonald’s worker, marched with her), and since then, she says, her boss has seemed quicker to write her up for disciplinary violations. But Dukes is undeterred. “I didn’t come this far to stop now,” she says, adding that in her current circumstances, “I don’t feel like I have anything else to lose…I lost my home. What else can they really take from me?”

In Chicago, Salgado says the management has not only refrained from retaliating against strikers, but has actually started treating staff with more respect. Yet the real reward she says she’s gained from the movement is a fresh sense of solidarity with other mothers like her. “We bond together,” she says, “because we come united. … One of the strongest things I’ve learned in this organization is that being united as a family gives you a lot of strength to move forward.”

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Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times and associate editor at CultureStrike. She is also a coproducer of the Asia Pacific Forum radio show and studies history at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

See You at the Pepperdine Lectures

Saturday, 28 March 2015 05:00 am
[syndicated profile] experimentaltheology_feed

Posted by Richard Beck

If it's not already on your radar screen I hope to see you in a few weeks at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures held on the Pepperdine campus in Malibu, CA May 5th-8th. Some of the people speaking at PBL this year are David Kinnaman, Scot McKnight and Nadia Boltz-Weber.

As for me you can catch my act in a few different places. At night I'm co-hosting two evening sessions (Wednesday and Thursday nights) with my friend Mark Love. The Wednesday night session is entitled "Whirlwind in a Thorn Tree: The Music and Theology of Johnny Cash."

On Tuesday morning at 9:30 I'll also be a part of the "Lost in the Right Direction" conversation being hosted by David Todd Harmon from Mana Nutrition.

Finally, my most in-depth session will be on Friday morning as one of the 8:30 In-Depth Tracks. The title of the session is "Angelic Troublemakers: Spiritual Warfare for Progressives and Doubters" which is also the title of my fourth book (due out next year).

You can find out more and register for PBL here. Hope to see you there!

Lesbian Duplex 14: An Open Thread

Saturday, 28 March 2015 08:39 am
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Posted by Libby Anne

It’s time for another Lesbian Duplex thread! If you have a link or article or interesting thought that’s not relevant to an ongoing thread, you can share it here. If a conversation on another post has turned entirely off topic, you can bring it here also. Every so often, as the number of comments on a given Lesbian Duplex post becomes unmanageable, I put up a fresh post. I’ve added a “chatter” tab under my blog banner that will direct readers to these discussion threads, so no one will have to worry about digging for one. In any case, my comment policy lays out the house rules. Enjoy!


In case you’re unfamiliar with the backstory of this feature, the lesbian duplex has become a running joke on this blog since two of my posts on Debi’s book, Created To Be His Help Meet. For the backstory, you can take a look at these posts—read them Simper, Smile, and Giggle and Single Moms Turned Lesbian. The name suits these threads, because if Debi were right, we would all be lesbians living in duplexes!

- See more at:

Friday Playlist: Out With It

Saturday, 28 March 2015 03:00 am
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Posted by Staff

The tracks on this playlist fall into two categories: (1) Songs about how telling the truth, especially about yourself, can be a way to connect with other people; and (2) headphone anthems for times when you really wish someone would confess, own up to their lies, or just tell it to you straight!

Photo of heart-shaped bubble wrap, via Pinterest.

Illustration by Minna.

Illustration by Minna.

How Do We See Ourselves?

Saturday, 28 March 2015 12:19 am
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Posted by Jennifer Bermon


I take black-and-white photos of women and then ask them to write, in their own words, how they feel about the way they look in the photo. The woman’s photo and her words become one piece that stands on its own, with no editing and filtering. The viewer, first attracted to the photo, is then further drawn in by the emotions revealed by the words.

I first started this project when I was a student at Mills College, wanting to expose and explore the unrelenting negative comments that my friends made about the way they looked. These were intelligent, strong, beautiful women attending a women’s college. Yet they still felt the need to be thin and attractive in order to be accepted. I wanted to reveal their inner thoughts—those words that they shared with other women in private conversation. Instead of the standard research, articles and opinion polls, women’s voices emerge through their own words, allowing us to see how women see themselves. The exhibit also asks the question, “Is what these women see in the mirror a reflection of what society sees, or does what they see come from somewhere within?”

The participants so far include a history-making New York City firefighter, a woman who has sailed around the world twice, a NASA scientist, an award-winning actor, a rabbi, a judge, a high-school rower, a farmer, an Academy Award-winning screenplay writer and an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning television producer. Women in this project begin by examining their appearance, but delve deeper to explore how factors such as ethnicity, age, goals or upbringing have affected their lives and formed the mirror in which they see themselves. What better way to explore the source of women’s body image issues than to see and hear from women themselves?

Jennifer Bermon’s exhibition “Her / Self: Women in Their Own Words” is on display at dnj gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, Calif., until April 4. All images are from the exhibition with permission from the photographer.





Photo for Ms


Jennifer Bermon is a photographer, as well as a network television producer, specializing in documentaries, national news and newsmagazines. Her / Self has a Facebook page, and Bermon’s Twitter handle is @jenbermon.

Theme Song: See-Through Girls

Friday, 27 March 2015 11:00 pm
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Posted by See-Through Girls

Illustration by Annie.

Illustration by Annie.

The Smiths’ “Reel Around the Fountain” is the very first song on their very first record, the eponymous The Smiths; my favorite of all their LPs. It was released in 1984, so Morrissey obviously sounds WAY younger than the elder statesman we know and love, but his voice pulses with his own confidence, even as he sings about what sounds like a very…complex (and maybe even a little demoralizing—though it also sounds extra hot) romantic relationship.

With her bandmates Al, Perry, and Zach in See-Through Girls, the singer (and Rookie writer/illustrator!) Annie Mok offers a different approach to the song: Her voice, though no less self-possessed, expresses the truth in the narrator’s account of what the heck is going on with their heart by highlighting the vulnerability in the song’s lyrics, straining and faltering where the emotions being expressed do the same. In short: It’s wonderful. Check it out below, and listen to more See-Through Girls right here.

AMY ROSE: When did you first hear “Reel Around the Fountain”?

ANNIE: I don’t remember the first time, but I remember being 14 or 15, and dancing to it in my room, and having an idea that there were things in the song that I didn’t understand; that seemed like they might be dirty.

Do you remember what those lines were?

Most of all, “Slap me on the patio.”

Yeah, what was that to you?!

I don’t know! I had a weird conception of sex, and I don’t think I had much of an understanding of what sex was because I was so heavily dissociative. I had a hard time envisioning sex. Even though I had seen porn, I did not make a lot of leaps at that age as in what kind of actions people tend to perform. So I didn’t really know what was happening.

Perry, left, and Zach. (And that's Annie in the lovely photo paired with the song, above.)

Photo of Perry, left, and Zach by D1L0. (And that’s Annie in the lovely photo paired with the song!)

What about the song appeals to you now?

Very similar things to then. The Smiths work on a lot of levels—but they first and foremost work on a very directly emotional level. When I was that age, the emotions of the song spoke very clearly to me, even when I didn’t understand it. Coming back to it, it’s still kind of the same thing, which is just this intense desire and this slow burn of the song and the drama of the song—of it being a crush that can’t manifest.

How do you put your own spin on it?

I changed some of the gender stuff in the lyrics. The one line I changed kind of wholesale was in the bridge, which is my favorite part. There’s, “Take me to the haven of your bed / was something that you never said” and I’ve been singing, “Take me to the haven of your bed / was something you said under your breath.” As I’m singing it, even though I say “girl,” I’m still thinking of two gay men. So my conception of the song is that the protagonist knows that the other person would really like to get down, but won’t let themselves. [It’s] about an affair that the protagonist really kind of knows on a deep level could happen, but isn’t because of queerness.

Is there a specific way you try to convey that?

In the bridge, my voice rises a lot and gets very jumpy. To me, the bridge is when the song breaks and the protagonist has built himself to this point and he’s like, “I need this so bad, I can’t just talk about it anymore.”

Photo by Zach, left, and Al by D1L0.

Photo of Zach, left, and Al by D1L0.

So what about this speaks to trust? Do you think it’s this implicit plea from one person to another?

For me, it has more to do with the protagonist trusting his own desires. Because if you listen to The Smiths especially, all over that record, Morrissey’s narrators are struggling with sexuality, and they’re struggling with queerness. If you think about “Pretty Girls Make Graves,” the narrator of that song is like, I gave up on womanhood, I tried to kiss this girl, and it’s just not working. Nothing is resolved. [But in "Reel Around the Fountain"] when [the protagonist] says, “shove me on the patio, I’ll take it slowly”—that’s him giving in. That’s when you clearly see him feeling the desire in a more authentic way.

What else should people know about this cover of the song?

I just love the romance of it. I love everyone’s performance on it, so much. It’s a dream come true. It was the song for me when I was 14 in my bedroom listening to the Smiths. [It was] this outlet when I had very few outlets for the interior world that I was feeling, [and when] it was not safe for it to go anywhere else. In these songs, those feelings had a space to go. Being able to perform it with the band was intensely moving and powerful to me, and so was letting my voice do things it hadn’t done before, because it’s easier when you’re talking or going off other people’s words and melodies to learn new places to go. And also Al’s guitar and Perry’s bass and Zach’s drums [make this universe]—Al’s guitar really shimmers and makes the song breathe, which I love. ♦

Geographic idiom chains

Friday, 27 March 2015 09:29 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

From James Kirchner, in response to "The directed graph of stereotypical incomprehensibility", 1/15/2009 (as featured on 3/25/2015 in the Washington Post):

I found years ago that in Stuttgart, Germany, people said, "Es ist mir ein böhmisches Dorf," meaning, "It's a Czech village to me," (literally a Bohemian village). Then I went to work in the Czech Republic, where, as you accurately noted, they say, "Je mi španělská vesnice," i.e., "It's a Spanish village to me." (The Czechs also say, "It's colder than a German girl outside.")

The thing that's been fascinating me the last few years is who people speaking various languages say "goes Dutch". This was triggered by an idiom lesson I was teaching to a very charming, very popular young Ford engineer stationed near Detroit from Mexico City. She ran across the idiom "go Dutch" on the sheet, her eyes popped out, and she asked me what the tradition was here. I told her that usually the man pays for everything on a date. This was a sudden revelation for her. She had been insulting her American suitors by insisting on paying for everything herself, because in Mexico "se paga a la gringa." So the Mexicans say people in the US do that, and people in the US say the Dutch do it. Now I wonder who does it.

Other (mostly small) geo-idiom networks:

In Denmark, "Danish Pastries" are called "Vienna Bread" (wienerbrød).

Taking French leave is "leave of absence without permission or without announcing one's departure, including leaving a party without bidding farewell to the host". The corresponding term in French is filer à l'anglaise. The Wikipedia article indicates that other European languages/cultures divide up according to whether they attribute this behavior to the English (Czech, Italian, Polish, Russian, Walloon, and Hungarian) or to the French (German, Portuguese, Spanish).

Wikipedia indicates that syphilis was called the "French disease" in Italy, Poland, and Germany; the "Italian disease" in France; the "Spanish disease" in the Netherlands; the "Polish disease" in Russia; the "Christian disease" in Turkey; and the "British disease" in Tahiti.


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Posted by Eric Reitan

Should the conservative Christian baker be allowed to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding? Should the government pass new laws explicitly aimed at preserving her freedom to discriminate in this way?

As someone who believes in equality under the law, I will argue all day that the state is obligated to make civil marriage and the legal benefits that go with it available to same-sex couples (although I won't make that case here).

Because of this, I don't believe that agents of the state, acting as agents of the state, have a right to discriminate against same-sex couples even if their religion tells them to. They have a right to quit their job if the job duties conflict with their religious beliefs. But it seems to be a violation of church-state separation for the government to discriminate against same-sex couples based on sectarian religious beliefs. And if the state has no right to discriminate against same-sex couples, then neither do its agents when they act on behalf of the state.

But the conservative Christian baker is not an agent of the state. She's a private individual, free to be guided by sectarian religious convictions that can't and shouldn't dictate state practices. So, should she be free to discriminate? Should the state enact laws explicitly securing her that right?

As a Christian who believes in a sacred obligation to love our neighbors as ourselves, I will argue all day that deliberate discrimination against same-sex couples represents a serious failure to live up to the demands of the Christian love ethic (although I won't make that case here).

Because of this, I will argue that the Christian baker is confused about what her own faith requires. I will argue that were she true to the deepest meaning of Christian ethics, she would not discriminate against her same-sex neighbors in the way that she feels compelled to do. I will argue that, in the name of Christian conscience, she is living out teachings born of bigotry rather than the spirit of love, and so in the name of Christian conscience is doing the opposite of what Christ demands.

As a Christian, I think her decision to discriminate is deeply immoral. I think Jesus would weep. But the question isn't whether Jesus' love ethic permits her--a purported follower of Jesus--to do this. The question is whether the state should permit her to do it. More significantly, the question is whether the state should enact laws specifically designed to protect her freedom to do it.

As someone who believes the state should protect religious freedom and our right to act on religious conscience, I think the state has a duty--constrained only by other duties of comparable weight--to protect the freedom of individuals, acting as private citizens, to refuse to participate in activities that their religion tells them is wrong.

This is the place where laws like Indiana's new "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" get what ethical traction they have. These laws really are about the freedom to discriminate. We should be clear about that. But they are about freedom to discriminate in cases where such discrimination is mandated by one's religious convictions (however dubious they might be), and where one is not acting as an agent of the state.

It seems to me clear that a liberal democracy should protect the freedom to act on individual conscience--at least in the absence of some compelling state interest that justifies restricting it. If we are going to criticize these new "religious freedom" laws, we need to do so in a way that takes freedom of religious conscience seriously. And we can't base our criticisms on why the state and its agents shouldn't discriminate based on religious beliefs, or on why the religions at issue don't really call for such discrimination (even if these are legitimate arguments in their own right).

Instead, criticisms of such laws need to focus primarily on how protection of religious conscience is constrained by the broader duties of the state--and, I think, on the difference between business life and personal life, and the greater regulatory oversight that the state might legitimately have with respect to the former.

Let me begin with this second issue, because it lays the groundwork for thinking about the first.

If Mary, a conservative Christian and also a homemaker who bakes and decorates cakes as a hobby, is approached by her gay neighbors and asked to bake their wedding cake, there is no question in my mind that she should retain the right to refuse. Her right to do so is not under threat. As a private citizen, she shouldn't be compelled to act against her conscience--even if she can and should be challenged to rethink the substance of that conscience.

Yes, Mary, you have a right to say no based on your "Christian beliefs." No, Mary, I don't think Christ approves. Yes. Mary, I think you should be ashamed of yourself for refusing. If your neighbors shun you based on their conscience, good for them. But the choice is yours.

But now suppose that Mary has opened a bakery business. That business is part of the public sphere. The market system is a social strategy for maximizing the productivity of labor by allowing for the kind of specialization that increases competence but also makes people interdependent. To really do well at certain jobs, people need to specialize. But as soon as they specialize, they give up their independence. If you're a blacksmith, you can't eat the products of your labors. You become dependent on those who specialize in growing the food, just as they become dependent on you in various ways. When people agree to give up independence for the advantages that this sort of interdependence makes possible, a market system offers one particularly efficient way to exchange goods so that everyone has access to what they need.

Businesses are thus part of a complex set of social agreements that people have entered into for the sake of mutual benefit--a kind of social contract. And this means that when you enter the public sphere by opening a business, you are constrained by the social agreements that define that public sphere. In a free market, those constraints aren't arduous, but they aren't nonexistent, either.

One basic premise of such a business system is that people who choose to specialize give something up (the independence of the homesteader) and make a distinct contribution to the general welfare (through a specialized job) with the expectation that they will thereby become part of a system of interdependence in which their diverse needs can be met through purchases in the market. I contribute what I am good at, get paid for it, and can use that money to buy the things I want and need from those who are contributing what they are good at.

But what happens if I do this, and then find out that one of the things I need is unavailable to me--because others who have entered into this system of interdependence refuse to give it to me, or make it available only under certain arduous conditions? I have the money, but they won't sell to me (although they happily sell to others)--because of something to do with their private religious beliefs.

While it is clear that Mary should be free to refuse service to anyone in her role as a private citizen who bakes cakes for fun, it is far less clear that in her role as a member of this system of interdependence, she can refuse to serve anyone at any time for any reason. There might well be reasons that could justify her refusal--but her refusal is the sort of thing that stands in need of justification, given what might be called the social contract of the marketplace.

The question, then, is what is sufficient to justify her refusal. More precisely, is religious conscience sufficient to justify it?

Here's the problem. Suppose members of a minority group have given up the independence of the homesteader for the advantages of being part of the interdependent market system. They can, if you will, lay claim to the rights that come with participating in the social contract of the marketplace. But suppose their ability to exercise these rights--to access the advantages that come with participation in this system--would be significantly jeopardized were the majority free to discriminate based on their religious conscience. I'm envisioning here a religion whose values endorse a pattern of discriminatory behavior.

In that case, the business owner's presumptive right to act on religious conscience comes into conflict with the minority group's rights arising out of the social contract of the marketplace. And so the state, as an agent of the people collectively, may have a justification for precluding the discriminatory practices. The minority group's rights to equitable access to the goods of the market clash with the individual's claim on being free to act on a conscience that tells them to discriminate.

Do sexual minorities face this kind of situation? Would they be likely to face it in at least some communities were the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be enforced? If so, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would amount to the state taking a decisive stand against the right to equitable access to the goods of the marketplace in favor of the right to discriminate based on religious conscience. The state would be declaring that certain beneficiaries of a collective social agreement are allowed to behave in ways that deprive others of the promised benefits of that social agreement. And that, I think, would be a violation of the state's overall duties relative to its proper role in society.

This is the framework within which I think we need to think about policies like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. What does the act allow in terms of discriminatory behavior? Is there a danger, based on what it allows, that forms of discrimination will become sufficiently common to risk depriving some people of equitable access to the goods of the market--goods they have a presumptive right to expect based on their good faith participation in the system?

I think we could all agree (couldn't we?) that IF the answer to this last question is yes, then laws like the RFRA are unjust. If so, then we should focus our energies on deciding whether the answer is yes.
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Originally posted May 5, 2004.


Left Behind, pp. 45-46

Untold millions are still untold
Untold millions are outside the fold
Who will tell them of Jesus’ love
And the heav’nly mansions awaiting above?

So our man Rayford Steele has finished his “emergency duty,” which consisted of walking to the terminal of O’Hare airport instead of accepting a ride. Confronted with the chaos and carnage of multiple plane crashes, a lesser man — a Bernie Laplante – might have panicked and done something foolish, but not Steele. He surveyed the scene and his professional training kicked in. His duty was clear: he walked the other way.

Now, safely back at the terminal, “Rayford wanted more than anything to sit and talk with someone about what to make of this.”

Apparently, Hattie doesn’t count. The two of them just walked more than two miles together. Despite their long acquaintance — “They had spent time together, chatting for hours over drinks or dinner” — she’s still just a pretty girl and not really “someone” worth talking to.

In the terminal, “Everyone scurried about, trying to find some link to the outside world, to contact their families, and to get out of the airport.”


Heaven, like the pilot’s lounge at the airport, is not for everybody. The riff-raff aren’t allowed. That’s what makes it heavenly, right?

The cell-phoneless Rayford and Hattie join in the scurrying, splitting up to try to call their families.

Here again we see the storytelling mastery of Jerry Jenkins. He knows that what readers are longing for now is another passage on the logistics of telecommunications. And he delivers.

Steele makes his way to a pilot’s lounge where a “supervisor” alerts them that some special phone lines have been reserved, just for pilots. Steele gets in line with the privileged few.

Here LaHaye and Jenkins had me worried. Steele seemed to be in real peril. According to the Scream morality governing the world of Left Behind, accepting special privileges because of your status as a pilot is a grievous sin.

Hadn’t Steele just chewed out his copilot Smith for just such behavior? Smith accepted a ride back to the terminal, but Steele had refused — even despite the airline’s insistence. Yet now, with an airport full of people desperate to make phone calls, Steele happily jumps at the chance to use a special phone line and to “bypass the normal trunk lines out of here, so you won’t be competing with all of the pay phones in the terminal.”

But then I realized the difference between Smith’s actions and Steele’s. Smith accepted a ride in public. (“How would that look?” Steele had said.) But no one would know that Steele was bypassing the other callers on a privileged, pilots-only line. In the world of LB, it’s okay to use your privilege to get ahead as long as no one sees you do it.

Rayford got in line, beginning to feel the tension of having flown too long and known too little. Worse was the knowledge that he had a better idea than most of what had happened. If he was right, if it were true, he would not be getting an answer when he dialed home.

Here I caught a first whiff of what it is that really separates the Left Behind novels from most of the evangelical genre fiction that had gone before.

Evangelical Christianity, at its core, is radically inclusive. Evangelicals, born-againers, want everybody else to become born-again too.

Granted, this inclusivity isn’t always expressed in the most winsome or persuasive manner, but it’s the heart and soul of evangelicalism. As the Sunday school chorus quoted at the top of this post shows, the goal of evangelicals has traditionally been to reach out to the lost, to the “untold millions” of the unsaved.

Most evangelical fiction has conveyed this evangelistic impulse — albeit with the unfortunate awkwardness and fecklessness that characterizes too much of their evangelism. But that’s not what one finds in Left Behind. Here you find little concern — and even less of a sense of responsibility – for the plight of the untold millions. What one finds instead is a sense of triumphalism. Those “inside the fold” feel no sense of obligation to those on the outside — they are bad people who are getting what they deserve and the godly remnant gets to watch, more in delight than in sadness. This is a major theme of the book and one we’ll be exploring in more detail in the chapters to come.

Rayford realizes that he “had a better idea than most of what had happened,” yet he feels little obligation to share this news. At this point in the story Rayford is not yet a Christian himself, but his outlook doesn’t change greatly even after he becomes one. In Left Behind the gospel is not the good news of salvation to be shared with the untold millions. It is a secret to be treasured, hoarded and hidden under a bushel by the chosen few.

And what about those untold millions? They can go to Hell.

How to Stop Gossiping

Friday, 27 March 2015 07:00 pm
[syndicated profile] rookie_feed

Posted by Meredith

By Camille.

Illustration by Camille.

Gossip is sort of like chicken pox. Levied among a group, it spreads quickly and indiscriminately until everyone within reach is afflicted—but, thankfully, most of it has about a two-week lifespan before it goes away and life returns to normal (though you never really forget how miserable you felt while it was going down). Unlike chicken pox, which usually happens to a person once and never again, gossip is so pervasive that you’re absolutely guaranteed to be on the giving and receiving ends at some point, sometimes several times a week.

There are so many reasons that people gossip. If you tend to only share mean-spirited gossip, maybe it’s because exchanging some nasty words about a person that annoys you can temporarily make you feel better. When you’re already feeling bad, there’s a certain childish joy in making someone feel worse than you. Non-malicious motivations include our species’ overwhelming love of being “first”—that is, feeling like we’ve got the jump on an interesting or funny tidbit about someone’s life (like how the paparazzi compete to publish the first photo of a celebrity baby, even though all babies kind of look the same, which is to say like weird little root vegetables). Gossip can be a bonding experience between new friends who know a third party—after all, you know you’ve got at least one thing in common, which means you might as well talk about that thing (and that thing’s crush, and that thing’s questionable choice of haircuts, et cetera, et cetera).

The anthropologist Robin Dunbar “has suggested that gossip is a vital evolutionary factor in the development of our brains; language came about because of the need to spread gossip, and not the other way round. Gossip allows us to talk about people who aren’t present; it also allows us to teach others how to relate to individuals they have never seen before.” In this way, gossip is important because it functions as a means by which to protect ourselves: lf you hear a dude has been sketchy to girls in the past, or you know from a close friend that someone you know cheats on tests, that could save you from a gnarly situation the next time that person texts you asking to hang out or study.

Unfortunately, most of the time, gossip isn’t done in the name of righting wrongs, as anyone who’s been a victim of it knows. You put your trust in a friend, you got burned, and now everybody knows your secrets. You’ve got to do damage control on your relationship with that person, as well as with the waiting public, whose whispers seem to follow everywhere you go. It’s embarrassing and exhausting and leaves you wondering if you can ever trust anyone again.

And then there’s the sticky situation you find yourself in if you’re the one caught doing the gossiping. You’ve taken someone’s personal information and made it public without their consent, violating your friend’s trust and ostensibly complicating their life even further. You fucked up, dude. And for what? The thrill of being the first to share a cool story? In an attempt to bond with new friends (whom I would seriously reconsider being friends with, if they’re the type that love to gossip)? Regardless, you’re going to have to do a lot of apologizing in the weeks to come—and prepare to not be trusted for a really, really long time.

Gossiping is so universal that engaging in it, though bad, doesn’t brand you forever as A Bad Person. With a little help, anyone can subvert their negative behavior patterns, or rise above all sorts of situations. It’s hard work, but necessary. Even Mother Theresa wrote prayers to help her to deal with the compelling pull of gossip:

These are the few ways we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one’s self.
To mind one’s own business.
Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
To avoid curiosity.
To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never to stand on one’s dignity.
To choose always the hardest.

Here is our Pokédex—Rookédex?—of gossips, complete with enough identifying information to help you spot each species in the wild. I’ve also listed possible face-saving solutions to help you recover if you suddenly find yourself a victim of loose lips. If you are the gossip, I’ve included recovery plans with advice on curbing your behavior (and many valid reasons you should knock it the hell off).

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Posted by Leah Libresco

— 1 — Here’s a heads up — the women who write at A Queer Calling are running a GoFundMe to raise money to train a service dog for Sarah (who has fast-progressing Meniere’s Disease).  I think some of you read their writings on hospitality, affection, vocation etc, so you may want to help them out. I [Read More...]
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Posted by Cathy Lynn Grossman | Religion News Service

Most young adults of every religion, race, and ethnicity support access to affordable contraception.

And 56 percent of people ages 18 to 35 say that in some situations, choosing to have abortion “is the most responsible decision that a woman can make.”

But, a new survey finds, the reasoning behind these millennial beliefs might surprise older adults who are more rooted in religious doctrines. Most young adults hold views on moral issues that are a long way from what some major religions preach on issues such as abortion and contraception.

For most millennials — including one in three who don’t identify with any particular religion — it’s all about personal circumstances, said Robert Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute.

“Millennials seem reluctant to make blanket black-and-white moral pronouncements about issues they see as complex,” said Jones.

On Friday (March 27), PRRI released a major survey, funded by the Ford Foundation, looking at the views of U.S. adults ages 18 to 35 on issues such as sexual behavior, gender identity, abortion, contraception, sexual assault on campus and more.

“What we see running through the answers is that where principles of fairness come up, millennials want to see equal access to health services, abortion and contraception. They think people should have individual freedom to make decisions,” said Jones.

Personal experience can color their views as well, said Jones. The survey found 8 percent of people said they themselves had an abortion and 36 percent know a close friend or family member who did. And nearly half of millennial women say they either have personally used emergency contraception such as Plan B (18 percent) or know a close friend or family member who as done so (29 percent). These are the contraception methods some critics consider abortifacients, or abortion-inducing.

Abortifacients were a key point in the Hobby Lobby case heard by the Supreme Court. In its ruling, the court allowed small businesses the right to opt out of providing insurance coverage for free contraception based on their religious objections to providing access to some — or any — forms of contraception. PRRI found 58 percent of millennials opposed the Supreme Court ruling. A mere 9 percent of millennials say contraception is morally wrong.

“Millennials seem reluctant to make blanket black-and-white moral pronouncements about issues they see as complex,” said Jones.

“They don’t only make legal allowances for circumstances, they also make moral allowances for people in difficult circumstances. It’s more about empathy than it is about autonomy.”

So, to the extent that religious authorities or doctrines are seen to make black-and-white statements, Jones said, “millennials are going to have a problem.”

For example, when Jones looked more closely at Catholics, whose church stands against all forms of artificial contraception, he found only 11 percent of all Catholics said it was morally wrong. Catholics, both men and women, fell right in line with millennials overall, with about 70 percent saying artificial contraception is morally acceptable and nearly two in 10 saying it depended on the situation.

The influence of white evangelicals on public opinion in the future may be muted by their small — and aging — numbers.

Millennials — including 87 percent of Catholic women and 79 percent of white Protestant women — also favor expanding access to contraception to women who cannot afford it.

But looking at access to contraception in economic terms revealed a split along the lines of religious identity.

With one exception, majorities of every major religious group, including 60 percent of Catholics, say access to contraception — the ability to control if or when they have children — is critical to a woman’s financial security.

But only 38 percent of white evangelicals said it was critical and 62 percent disagreed.

White evangelical millennials also stood out from other millennials on the issue of abortion:  80 percent of white evangelical millennials say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. That set them apart from majorities of black Protestants, white mainline Protestants, and white Catholics who all say it should be legal in all or most cases.

However, the influence of white evangelicals on public opinion in the future may be muted by their small — and aging — numbers. White evangelicals are the oldest of the major religious affiliations, with 49 percent of them age 50 and older. According to the PRRI survey, only 11 percent are millennials, a close parallel to young white mainline Protestants (10 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (10 percent).

A sampling of other findings:

  • Most millennials (73 percent) say sexual assault is somewhat or very common on college campuses and 53 percent say this is also the case on high school campuses.
  • One-quarter of millennials say that marriage has become old-fashioned and out of date, while 71 percent disagree.
  • Millennials fall into a four-way split on “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels. While 25 percent say they are exclusively “pro-life” and 27 percent say they’re “pro-choice,” 22 percent rebuff both labels and nearly 27 percent say that both labels describe them equally well.
  • 7 percent of millennials identify either as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

The survey of 2,314 U.S. adults was conducted online in both English and Spanish between Feb. 12 and Feb. 25. The margin of error for the overall survey is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Image courtesy of Thomas Lefebvre.

The post Millennials: The ‘Don’t Judge Generation’ on Sexual Morality appeared first on OnFaith.

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We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

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Posted by Lisa Hix

A young couple cuddles near a peony in a vase, which symbolizes their sexual connection, in a panel from Katsukawa Shunshō’s “Secret Games in the Spring Palace,” from the late 1770s. (From the John C. Weber Collection, image © John Bigelow Taylor)

A young couple cuddles near a peony in a vase, which symbolizes their sexual connection, in a panel from Katsukawa Shunshō’s “Secret Games in the Spring Palace,” from the late 1770s. (From the John C. Weber Collection, image © John Bigelow Taylor)

This article is excerpted with permission from Collectors Weekly

It’s difficult to get a window into the world of Edo-Period Japanese prostitutes without the gauzy romantic filter of the male gaze. The artworks in the new San Francisco Asian Art Museum exhibition, “Seduction: Japan’s Floating World,” were made by men for men, the patrons of the Yoshiwara pleasure district outside of Edo, which is now known as Tokyo. Every little detail of Yoshiwara—from the décor and fashion, to the delicacies served at teahouses, to the talents of courtesans, both sexual and intellectual—was engineered to sate a warlord’s every whim.

We’re left with the client-commissioned pretty-girl scroll paintings by masters like Hishikawa Moronobu and Katsukawa Shunshō, as well as woodblock prints and guidebooks by commercial artists meant to lure repeat visitors through the red-light district gates. These often lush and colorful artworks are rife with romantic longing, from the images of interchangeable beauties with inscrutable expressions, to the layers of richly patterned textiles they wore, and the highly symbolic haiku poetry written about them. The showstopper of the exhibition is Moronobu’s nearly 58-foot-long handscroll painting “A Visit to the Yoshiwara,” which takes viewers on a tour of the pleasure district from the street vendors and the food being prepared to the high-ranking courtesans on parade and a couple cuddling under the covers in a teahouse.

Hishikawa Moronobu’s 58-foot-long handscroll “A Visit to the Yoshiwara” shows courtesans on display through lattice walls that resemble cages at a zoo. (From the John C. Weber Collection, image © John Bigelow Taylor)

Hishikawa Moronobu’s 58-foot-long handscroll “A Visit to the Yoshiwara” shows courtesans on display through lattice walls that resemble cages at a zoo. (From the John C. Weber Collection, image © John Bigelow Taylor)

The Yoshiwara pleasure district was just part of what the Japanese referred to as “ukiyo” or “the floating world,” which also included the Kabuki theaters of Edo. Originally, the Buddhist term “ukiyo” referred to the sorrow and grief caused by desire, which was seen as an impediment to enlightenment.

“In the Buddhist context, ‘ukiyo’ was written with characters that meant ‘suffering world,’ which is the concept that desire leads to suffering and that’s the root of all the problems in the world,” explains Laura W. Allen, the curator of Japanese art at the Asian Art Museum who originated “Seduction.” “In the 17th century, that term was turned on its head and the term ‘ukiyo’ was written with new characters to mean ‘floating world.’ The concept of the floating world was ignoring the problems that might have existed in a very strictly regulated society and abandoning yourself, bobbing along on the current of pleasure. Then it became associated with two particular sites in Edo, one of which was the Kabuki theater district, the other the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter. The art of the floating worlds ‘ukiyo-e,’ which means ‘floating world pictures,’ usually depicts those two subjects.”

But, of course, by and large, this free-floating sensation belonged to men. Allen suggests that we, as viewers, resist indulging in the fantasies of Yoshiwara prostitutes presented in the artworks, and instead, consider the real lives of the women portrayed. Unfortunately, no true records of the Edo-Period prostitutes’ personal thoughts and experiences exists—and with good reason. Publicizing the dark side of the pleasure district would have been bad for business.

“Don’t take these paintings at face value,” Allen says. “It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, yes, it’s a picture of a beautiful woman, wearing beautiful clothing.’ But it’s not a photograph. It’s some artist’s rendition, made to promote this particular world, which was driven by economics. The profiteers urged the production of more paintings, which continued to feed the frenzy for the Yoshiwara.

“The artwork is very much glamorized and idealized,” she continues. “I haven’t been to 17th-century Japan so I don’t know what it was actually like, and the women didn’t write about it, so we don’t have their firsthand accounts. To imagine it from a woman’s perspective, it must have been a very harsh reality. There’s been some modern scholarship that promotes the idea that the women working as prostitutes had an economic power that they might not have otherwise had. But I think the day-to-day reality of living in the Yoshiwara could not have been pleasant.”

For one thing, most of the women involved didn’t have a choice about their occupation. Born into impoverished farming or fishing villages, they were sold to brothels by desperate parents around the ages of 7 or 8. This tradition was rationalized by Confucian ideals that allowed the children to work out of a duty to their parents, who usually brokered 10-year contracts with the brothel owners that their girls would have to work off. The little girls would do daily chores at the brothels and tended to their “sister” courtesans, cleaning and delivering messages. In those early years, they’d learn the tricks of the trade, how to speak using manipulative language, to write “love letters,” and to fake tears with a bit of alum hidden in their collars.

If a child attendant proved she was gifted by age 11 or 12, she would be chosen for elite courtesan training, where she would learn etiquette and refined arts from masters, including how to play flute or a three-stringed instrument called a samisen, to sing, to paint, to write haiku, to write in calligraphy, to dance, to perform a tea ceremony, and how to play games like go, backgammon, and kickball. She would be well-read and literate in order to engage in stimulating conversation. While these are pleasurable activities and such talents would be a source of pride, these women weren’t encouraged to pursue them for their own fulfillment, but to make themselves more attractive to men.

In a detail from Utagawa Toyokuni’s hanging scroll, “Courtesan in Her Boudoir,” a woman puts herself back together after having sex. (From the John C. Weber Collection, image © John Bigelow Taylor)

In a detail from Utagawa Toyokuni’s hanging scroll, “Courtesan in Her Boudoir,” a woman puts herself back together after having sex. (From the John C. Weber Collection, image © John Bigelow Taylor)

“They would be trained in the very polite, cultural accomplishments of the type that aristocratic women would have,” Allen says. “The idea was that they were comparable to the wife of a daimyo [feudal lord] or a high-ranking samurai [warrior] in terms of their level of accomplishment. The elite courtesans were supposed to know all of the lady-like skills, and their skill level was keyed to how much space they would have in a brothel and how lavish their clothing was. It was a very carefully calibrated hierarchy.”

On the occasion of being accepted for courtesan training, the girl’s virginity would be sold to a client for a hefty sum. As a young teenage courtesan, her job would be to entertain patrons while they waited to meet with an elite courtesan. Her debt to the brothel would only increase as she rose through the ranks, as her luxurious and ever-changing wardrobe, which required as many as four or five layers of kimonos worn at a time, and the tips and fees for her attendants were her financial burden, too. Forced to work long hours even when they were sick or having their periods, the women of Yoshiwara had to make a daily quota, or they would be fined. The quotas would double on so-called holidays known as “monbi.”

“It was very difficult for them to buy out their contract because they were kept in debt the whole time, because they had to pay for all sorts of things.” Allen says. “They were very rarely able to escape unless they were basically ransomed by a man who wanted to take them out of that world.”

Competition for clients, ranking and celebrity status was fierce among the “sister” courtesans, who could be cruel to one another, not to speak of the abuse they suffered from their clients. After being abandoned by their families of origin, the girls lived with mistreatment by their new “families.” That said, it’s also true that prostitutes in some ways had a better life than the people in their farming villages back home—they had regular meals, clean clothes, access to education and an opportunity to become a star.

In the medieval period, Japanese Buddhist traditions, particularly among the lower classes, embraced casual sex and promiscuity. Even the myth of Japan’s creation involved two gods making love, which became part of the justification for selling girls into prostitution. Male promiscuity often extended to sex with other men, which was considered normal.

Women, however, didn’t benefit from Japan’s libertine attitude toward sex. The wives of the daimyo and high-ranking samurai, following Confucian ideals, were expected to dress modestly and served their husbands, while the feudal lords looked to courtesans to find passion and love. The clients wanted to believe that their favorite courtesans were in love with them, and they were sold as such. But the women working at these brothels weren’t expressing their own sexual desires or autonomy.

The pretty-girl hanging scroll art of the period often presents a courtesan pining for a lover, whereas guidebooks warn of “femme-fatale” courtesans faking pleasure or attraction, deceiving a hopeful heart. The art-and-poetry-infused 1660 guide book Mirror of the Yoshiwara pretends to be interviews with courtesans revealing how they fake orgasms or deal with unpleasant men, but they’re complete fiction—once again, they’re prostitutes’ stories filtered through a man’s perspective.

“That was the way men were led to think about the women, that they were these tricky femme fatales who could trap you,” Allen says. “They could pretend to be in love with you but not really be in love with you. Mirror of the Yoshiwara is fascinating to the extent that it creates an image of women who were very alluring. You really want to spend time with them, but at the same time, you need to be on your guard, which makes it all the sexier. Those sorts of stories were repeated again and again in books over the course of the centuries, passed down as being firsthand accounts. When you actually look into it, they’re far from that. They’re just received wisdom about what it’s like in the pleasure quarter.”

In reality, the high-ranking courtesans and low-ranking prostitutes all suffered from venereal disease and the hardships of bearing unwanted children. The courtesans in particular wore toxic lead makeup to whiten their faces, necks, hands, and feet. Many prostitutes died by age 20.

“From my perspective, there was a very elaborate mechanism for promoting this idealized vision of the world the courtesans and prostitutes lived in which didn’t necessarily in any way match up with the reality of it for them,” Allen says. “They had no one speaking for them. Very few images of Yoshiwara actually spoke the truth as they saw it.”

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Photos used with permission from the Asian Art Museum


Lisa Hix, an associate editor at, has worked for Yahoo!, Flavorpill, KQED online and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her work also appeared at Bitch, Jezebel, Bust and Glamour. Find her on Twitter at @lisahix.

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"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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